The second Presidential Debate was yet another fail for science

We have now had three hours of Presidential level debates and an hour and a half of Vice Presidential debates. And how much time was devoted to any serious discussion of any of the plethora of issues important to our nation and rooted in science have their been? By my estimation, diddly shit.

The closest we’ve gotten have been repeated, vague nods towards “green energy,” all of which were more concerned with the economy than with anything else. This, by the way, was only in the most recent debate. The first debate was devoted – to the extent that any particular focus could be considered present in the moderation – on economic issues. Most of which were so vague and wonky that I doubt anybody got much out of that debate besides the fact the Obama stunk the joint out.

We have one and a half hours of debating to go before America makes her decision. And that debate will focus on foreign policy. No where in this so far discussion has there been:

  • Climate change
  • STEM education funding
  • The space program
  • Our underfunded planetary science program
  • Technology, security and medical records
  • Cybercrime and terrorism
  • The Internet and Net Neutrality
  • Mobile bandwidth
  • The role of science and religion in public policy making
  • Vaccinations and public policy

What else have we missed out on? And for what? An hour and a half long, meandering debate primarily about the deficit neither man will realistically cut. And binders. Which, while nothing short of entertaining, aren’t exactly an exercise deep-delving public policy cogitation.

Hope you’ve all heard enough to make up your minds, people. Because this is pretty much all you get.


A Word About Autism

I wanted to write one last post for the evening to mention one relatively minor point brought up towards the end of the debate.  It was not something that affects me directly, but since my wife is a teacher who deals with these types of issues, it still offended me.  I’m hoping to update this post with the video.  I may have misheard.

Sarah Palin has a child with Down’s Syndrome.  John McCain said she knows what it’s like to have a kid with Autism.  Autism and Down’s Syndrome could not possibly be more different.  One is a physical developmental disabiility and one is a mental developmental disability.  They have about as much in common as a club foot has with color blindness.  Even that comparison is simply inadequate.

I find it quite offensive that John McCain chose to use this line of discourse when he clearly does not understand either issue.  It has the effect of drawing a line of false equivalence between two barely understood disorders when I’m sure those who deal with Down’s and Autism on a personal level would prefer clarity.

But again, this is not a personal issue and I don’t want to come off as too shrill.  I just think it’s important to bring up.

Update: Here’s the video.  He starts in at about 4 minutes, while swerving wildly between the lines trying to make his case for education reform.  I’m not entirely sure what he thinks Autism necessarily has to do with education reform in the first place.  It is true that Autistic kids have some extra needs in terms of their education, but it’s not because Autism is any kind of learning disability, specifically.  And it certainly isn’t Down’s Syndrome, though McCain clearly seems to think it is:



Post-Debate Wrapup

I have every single debate thought John McCain did a better job than public opinion polls later support, so I will be restrained in my remarks.  Still, I don’t think there’s any doubt that this particular McCain performance was easily his best.  What good that does him remains to be seen.  I suspect not much.  Fine punches landed along the way, but the narrative from this debate is probably going to be very unhelpful, indeed.

And I think that all future candidates to the presidency would be wise to work on their laughs, lest they come out as unendingly creepy as John McCain comes across more often than not in these debates.  It’s just weird.  More than one talking head has mentioned tone on both PBS and MSNBC (yeah, I’m a leftie).  I’m not sure if that’s what they’re talking about, or when he seemed petulant on the Ayers issue.  Also, when did Clinton ever mention Ayers by name?  I don’t remember that at all, and she pissed me off nightly.

As Michael Beshloss was just commenting on PBS, the Ayers thing did come up and it did hurt McCain.  But I don’t think I could have imagined how badly it hurt him.  This is where the narrative gets away from McCain.  And boy, did it ever.  For him to have said that he is “categorically” proud of his supporters at his rallies was just devastatingly bad form.  He’s basically saying that everybody – no matter what they say, no matter how many of them the Secret Service has to investigate – is perfectly OK by him.  That’s insane.

Moreover, for John McCain to insist that his campaign isn’t negative and that he’s not running negative ads is a problem also.  A huge plurality of Americans agree that McCain’s campaign is negative and seem to blame him for the chaos at his rallies.  I tend to agree with this assessment, but it’s interesting to see such large majorities of Americans sharing this view.  McCain denying all of this is basically telling the majority of Americans that they’re wrong.  Not only is it bald-faced lying, but it’s bald-faced lying to people who already know the truth.

So even as I type, my opinion is swinging quite widely towards a resounding Obama win.  The only caveat is the abortion discussion.  This is an issue that has been fostered as a Republican wedge issue for a reason.  There is no way to make this issue work for Democrats, even if a majority of Americans agree with their position.  It’s just an unpleasant topic for which there is overwhelming enthusiasm on the Right and very little on the Left.  It was a mistake for Barack Obama to have allowed the discussion of Supreme Court Justices to swing so far into this territory.

But once again, we shall have to see what the early voting says.  My prediction this time around is another resounding win for Obama.

And let me say again: fuck Joe.


Live Blogging Debate Thread

9:01.  Here we go!

9:04 ~ John McCain is still going after the plan to buy up bad mortgages.  That means the tax payer gets hosed for the extra cost of the mortgage we bought it at compared to what we renegotiate the mortgage at.  That’s preposterous.  Especially since home values will not stop dropping simply because you’ve bought up the loans.

9:07 ~ Obama isn’t backing down on his plans to reform health care.  Good for him.  It’s stupid to expect that the government should spend less in a recession: when the government spends, it takes your tax dollars and puts them into the economy which is currently starved for capital.  That’s precisely what we need.

9:11 ~ Ding, ding, ding!!!  “Class Warfare!”  Do I have to chug a beer, now?

9:13 ~ It’s Conservative Dog Whistle Night at the old debate.  Now we’re talking the old canard about corporations paying more taxes than in any other country.  That assumes they actually pay their taxes.  But they don’t have all those accountants for no reason at all.


9:19 ~ Hey, everybody!!  Head down to the Strassenberg Planetarium and check out their “Overhead Projector” sitting in the middle of the room.  You’ll want to leave your PowerPoint slides at home, though.  It’s not that type of overhead projector.

9:21 ~ Gotta say: McCain’s looking pretty fiesty tonight.  That’s good for him as long as he sticks to spending and earmarks.

9:24 ~ John, it’s not clear you’ve disagreed with the president at all.  And insisting that it is when the American people disagree with you borders on insulting their intelligence.

9:26 ~ Oh, man.  The town hall meeting thing again.  Obama made me call him a racist.  He made me.  Oh, and once again: Barry Goldwater and Jack Kennedy did not actually do what they agreed to do.  Jack was shot.

9:30 ~ Critcizing a health care plan is not an attack ad.  Calling someone a terrorist is.  Surprised I would have to say that.

9:32 ~ Go Obama!  Hit him.  Everyone knows McCain is full of shit and now he’s struggling to interrupt.

9:33 ~ “Catagorically!”  He “Catagorically” approves of the people at his rallies.  Jesus age, it’s fucking Mana from heaven.  I say again that he’s actually insulting the intelligence of the majority of people.  We’re not talking about the veterans wearing hats, John, and you know it.  It’s about the “kill him.”

9:38 ~ We’ll have to go to the tape, but I don’t remember Hillary Clinton questioning the Ayers thing at all.  I’m looking at you, C&L and TPM!

9:40 ~ Why is Obama not guilty of “paling around” with college professors and deans?

9:41 ~ Ooh, snap!  Obama hits McCain across the face and forced McCain to make a big deal out of the Ayers “relationship” he just said he didn’t care about.

9:45 ~ “Women and other performers?”  You mean, like strippers?  John’s mysogeny seeps through?  The American people have gotten to know Sarah Palin, it’s true John.  And they’ve roundly rejected her.

9:47 ~ Ooh, damn!  Obama points out John’s spending freeze’s effect on Autism programs.  Pretty cold, man.

9:50 ~ My wife tells me I’m wrong, but I swear John’s been getting the first shot at more questions.

9:52 ~ Considering the size of the problem, it’s unreasonable to expect a specific number on the issue of energy independence in four years.  Ten years is the only interval for which reasonable goals can be set.

9:54 ~ You’re looking a little pissy, there John.  Careful.

9:57 ~ Don’t get me wrong, I think trade policy is important. But it’s basically a wash in a debate because it’s too much stuff and too many working parts.  It’s nice, though, that Obama mentioned labor rights.

10:02 ~ A lot of John McCain’s proposals for getting Americans healthier involve costing an awful lot of money.

10:05 ~ John McCain’s health care proposals are just a loser of a position.  Period.  No one is stupid enough to think they can afford health insurance for $5000 a year.  If we could, we wouldn’t be talking about any of this in the first place.

10:08  OK, I’m just going to say this: fuck Joe.  I’m sick of Joe.  Did anyone vet Joe to find out if he’s an asshole or not?

10:12  ~ Is there any fool in the United States who thinks that nominating a Supreme Court Justice isn’t about their idiology?  What bullshit.  From both of them.

10:19 ~ Once again, I realize that the SCOTUS is important and so is abortion, but is this the issue of the hour?

10:21 ~ Education.  I hate education discussions.  Nothing good will ever come of it.

10:25 ~ Education competition is irrelevant when public schools are already behind the eight ball.  Fund the schools.  And what the fuck is this “direct to teaching without certification” bullshit?  How is that a good idea?

10:29 ~ That 9000 parents wanted their kids enrolled in charter schools does not mean it worked.  And by the way, if we’re to hold ourselves to D.C. standards, I weep for the future.

10:31 ~ For the record: Sarah Palin has a child with Down’s Syndrome.  Autism and Down’s have nothing whatsoever to do with one another. It’s not exactly flattering to equate all disabilities as though the differences don’t matter.

10:35 ~ John McCain talks about himself in his closing remarks, Barack Obama talks about you.  Whose approach do you prefer?


Pre Debate Expectations

Going into the debate, Shields and Brooks on PBS were analyzing the issues and the needs for both candidates and I was flabbergasted to discover that David Brooks suggested that McCain continue going negative and aggressive tonight.  Wow.  I certainly hope McCain follows that advice.  His numbers have gone into the toilet since going negative, as I suspected would be the case.  McCain the Straight Talk Express guy would never have gone there and McCain the 2008 Republican Candidate has broken the spell for an awful lot of Americans.

John McCain’s best shot at this is to convince people that – regardless of what they’ve seen in the very recent past – he’s still the Straight Talk Express Guy.  He needs to find some way to tug at the heartstrings of his former supporters and make them feel something for him again other that disappointment and disgust.

Yet there is the dare that’s been hanging over this debate since the last.  Why didn’t John McCain press the Ayers issue when before and after the debate, it has become the signature issue of every rally?  McCain promised to raise the issue in Debate 2, he didn’t.  He insisted that the flow of the conversation prevented it.  I’ve used that line before.  Now he’s made the promise a second time.  Can he possibly not follow though tonight and look like anything other than – count on this website for the candor you’re looking for – a pussy?

Seems like he’s damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t, to me.  Let’s wait and see how he manages to spin things.  The old dog might still have a few tricks before the night is over.


Discretion as Republican Foreign Policy: The Debate Analysis

It is an oft-cited contradiction that the Republican Party generally and John McCain specifically live and die by the appearance of a muscular, one might say braggadocio foreign policy, but that Senator McCain’s biggest knock on Senator Obama has repeatedly been over Obama’s stated intent to get Osama bin-Laden even if he’s in Pakistan and the Pakistani’s cannot or will not go after him.  But in last night’s debate, that contradiction was thrown into what I saw as even sharper relief when juxtaposed with McCain’s response to a question about Russia:


He saw “a K, a G, and a B.”  I’m finding it difficult to understand why it is so important to use discretion when working with the Pakistanis – a nation which, after all, gets material support from the United States – but no such discretion is required when dealing with the only nation sitting on as many nuclear weapons as we are.

Can someone help me out, here?


Debate Wrapup: Please Speak in Complete Sentences

I didn’t bother live blogging this debate because frankly, I wasn’t all that interested.  I’m watching anyway, because I’m an addict.

My general impression of this debate is that Senator John McCain should really have sat down more, because he looks old when he walks around.  That, and he’s not making much sense.  He’s not really speaking in complete sentences most of the time and he’s bobbing and weaving from topic to topic in a very, . . .  well, eratic. . . . way.  This was supposed to have been his venue, as indeed the last debate’s topic of foreign policy was supposed to have been his subject.

One thing about this format which is not helping John McCain is that he’s used to actual town hall meetings where humor is rewarded with laughter.  In this case, reaction is not allowed.  Thus his jokes fall flat, even if they might have worked in other situations.  It’s also worth pointing out that his town hall meetings are filled with his supporters, which is not the case with this debate.

I found it interesting when they got to the “McCain Doctrine/Obama Doctine” silliness (what the hell is up with Tom Brokaw, anyway?) that McCain kept trying to project himself as the “cool hand,” when that is far from his current impression with the American people.  That doesn’t seem to be a winning position for John McCain and it takes away from him his chief strength in the campaign, which is his foreign policy experience.

Another strategy which has come to a level of silliness is the whole “you don’t tell people you’re going to bomb Pakistan” business.  Implicit in that discussion is that John McCain also accepts the premise, but thinks you shouldn’t talk about it.  Then why is he bringing it up again and again in the debates?  I find it equally strange that he doesn’t want to talk about what he’ll do in Pakistan but he is willing to call out the Prime Minister of Russia as a cretin.  Russia, you might remember, is one of those more powerful nations.

I think this debate once again comes down to a basic draw which benefits Barack Obama once again.  There’s really nothing about this debate that hurts either candidate, necessarily, but there’s also nothing that benefits John McCain at all.  Barack has once again done his calm, cool and collected best, while John McCain has seemed a bit rash at minimum and definitely old.


The Dregs

OK, so I understand that I’m going to seem insulting to a lot of people.  If this is your first time here, you should know that such behaviour are something of a forte of this website:

Tuesday’s match-up at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., will be moderated by NBC’s Tom Brokaw, with the questions to be culled from a group of 100 to 150 uncommitted likely voters in the audience and another one-third to come via the Internet. The Gallup Organization — as in past debates like this — has the job of making sure the questioners reflect the demographic makeup of the nation.

Undecided voters.  Man, are we ever into the dregs with this bunch.  How could anybody whose been paying any attention at all be undecided at this point?  What could there possibly be to be undecided about?  And why are the questions of people who so obviously don’t really care more important than questions from those of us who do?  Why are they so important?  Is it out of line to ask such questions?  I don’t give a rat’s ass if it is.

I’m assuming the people in the audience just kind of wandered off the mall promenade, lured in with a promise of free slurpees, Hollister gear and Coldplay MP3s.  Some of them were even too lazy to get dressed and show up in the studio; they’re sitting at home, naked from the waist down, responding from the Internet.  That’s a finger on the pulse of America if ever there was one.  Unfortunately, that finger is blocking the flow of the morphine drip. . . .



Here’s some interesting stats for ya.  Citizen Media conducted a poll of last night’s debate viewers.  There’s a bunch of interesting numbers, but this one is really something.  Of those who watched the debate, by the viewer’s declared candidate, what channel did you watch? :

Of the people who declared themselves Obama supporters, the mix of channels is pretty even and wide spread among many different channels. Among declared McCain voters? Nuttin’ but Fox, baby.


Early MSNBC Polls Calling it for Biden

Wow.  I honestly didn’t expect it.  No links, yet, but Olbermann is reporting that the debate goes to Biden in the Court of Public Opinion.


Post Debate Wrapup

This is a much more difficult debate to score than the first presidential one.  The reason is simple: there really weren’t many punches landed in the presidential, but there were tons on both sides in this one.

But I have to say, whomever ends best often wins, in the opinion race.  I got very worried for a minute because towards the end, Sarah Palin really started scoring some serious points.  But Joe’s response about his child stole the thunder of Palin, not that he was using it, but it did.  And his ending was supreme in its reach into Middle America.  I think it was probably very effective.

Very few people expected Sarah Palin to be specific about anything, and she didn’t disappoint.  But worse, she couldn’t answer questions and decided to just say whatever she wanted to whenever she wanted to.  I don’t think it came off well.  That’s especially true for the answer to the question of “what is your biggest flaw.”  No one expects an honest self-critique, but you have to couch it in some sort of humility, like Joe did.  It was out of control.

We’ll have to see what the big replays are to know who won.  But as I watch Tweety on MSNBC, it seems like the pundit class is not pleased at all with her performance.

I should probably mention the expectations game.  On this level, I’d say Sarah Palin mostly won. She didn’t come off as a drooling idiot, which is definitely an improvement.  But was it enough?  I’m not sure.  If you’re looking for competence, you have to say that she didn’t even bother most of the time to even play by the rules of the debate because she couldn’t answer the questions.

But she definitely got some serious shots in towards the end and she definitely proved herself quite a skilled debate competitor.  No one can take that away from her.

The trouble for the campaign is that the recent downturn in the polls had nothing much to do with Palin, even though her numbers have dropped along side the ticket.  The problem has been the economy and John McCain’s erratic, irrational responses.  On this level, Biden did tremendously.  Much better than I’ve ever seen him, in fact.  His ability to speak to the problems of Middle America in a real way – as opposed to Palin’s patronizing and placating way – was a force to be reckoned with.

If the American people are looking for answers – and I’m pretty sure they are – then the Biden responses, which dripped with fact and figure, must have come off well.  If they’re looking for style over substance, Palin wins.

Again, we shall see.


Debate Thread

Visitors please note: refresh your browser every so often to see this thread updated.  Thanks, and enjoy!

Debate starts in ten, finishing up Survivor.  I can’t wait to see what happens!

Oh, yeah: I think Ace’s accent is fake.  There.  I said it.

8:59 ~ OMG, someone just rickrolled MSNBC!  “Never gonna give you up” sign behind Keith Olbermann prior to the debate.  It’s gonna be a good night, I can tell.

9:06 ~ Yes, Sarah Palin.  Fear.  Fear of your party.  John McCain’s bipartisan solution?

9:08 ~ OK, new rule: Vice Presidents and vice presidential nominees are not allowed to give the camera the wink and the gun.

9:10 ~ It’s not the American people’s fault that the economy is in trouble, but we should take it on ourselves to fix it?  So sez Sarah.

9:14 ~ Go Joe!!!  Nail her to the wall.  And she’s “still on the tax thing.”  And she admits she won’t answer questions?  WTF?

9:18 ~ Clearly, Sarah Palin does not know what patritoism is.  It may or may not be patriotic to pay taxes, but it surely isn’t telling government to fuck off.  Nothing wrong with that, necessarily, but it’s not patriotic.


9:23 ~ She’s trying very hard to stick to her talking points and it’s causing her to veer off the subject wildly.

9:27 ~ TIMBER!!!  She’s comin’ down soon.  The windfall tax thing shook her, good.  Joe’s really stickin it to her.

9:27 ~  What did Sarah Palin just say she and John agree to?  I gotta rewind the tape when I get a chance.

9:31 ~ “It’s just God hugging us closer.”  If you’re not willing to talk about what’s causing the problem, how can you fix it?  Meanwhile, if you’re wanting to limit emissions, doesn’t that mean you by proxy acknowledge the cause is man made?  Yeah!  What Joe just said!

9:34 ~ Largest and most expensive infrastructure project in Alaska?  How expensive?  How does it compare to the Bridge to Nowhere.

9:37 ~ Same sex mariage question is a sticky one, its good to see that both candidates have some sensitivity to the subject.  Even if Sarah Palin merely pays it lip service, it’s good to see that Conservatives in this country are forced to do that much.

9:42 ~ “With all due respect, I didn’t hear a plan.”  Uh-oh, she’s stuttering and talking about “retreat.”  Falling back to talking points and it’s obvious she is.

9:47 ~ I do wonder if people are interested in the fact that Joe Biden is answering questions and Sarah Palin is repeating talking points?  I’ve seen people (John Kerry) win debates and lose the election (sorta), because people aren’t really listening.  Is that what’s happening now?

Sarah Palin just comitted John McCain to “diplomacy” with Iran.  More than once, now.  “Hard work by serious people.”  Goes to my point: we need serious people.

9:54 ~ Is Joe advocating changing the regiems of Lebanon and West Bank?

9:55 ~ Palin ducks another one, asserting that the Bush Administration hasn’t failed in the Middle East (it has), but not saying why.  She also just ducked out of saying when using nuclear weapons is acceptable by talking about Iran.

10:02 ~ NOoooo!  Don’t talk about authorizing the war!!

10:03 ~ Snarky biatch!

10:06 ~ Note to Joe: stop defending, start attacking.  She’s got you in her sights.

10:08 ~ Sneaking in the Bush Doctrine was a good choice.

10:09 ~ And again calling herself a maverick.  That’s incredibly sad.

10:10 ~ Wait, she was asked to say what she’d do if McCain died.  Instead, she just pitched herself for president on entirely separate grounds.  “Wasila Main Street.”  Which, by the way, is probably twenty feet long.  Joe’s gotten back to his Scranton roots, which is good.

10:15 ~ Palin is dancing around the Vice President’s role, but she insists that there is “flexibility.”  Actually, the Vice President’s role is not defined.  Strictly speaking, that means he doesn’t have one.

10:19 ~ “Shining city on the hill” is from a sermon.  That’s a religious song.  Sung in a church.  Idiot.

10:21 ~ Joe’s speech about his family is probably the most powerful thing I’ve seen in presidential politics.  Sarah Palin’s response is quite hollow in comparison.  More talking points and buzz words.  Thank goodness, she’s returning to type.

10:24 ~ Joe’s fighting back hard and looking passionate and I think he’s probably reaching a lot of people.

10:25 ~ Joe’s baiting with Roe. (v Wade, not fish eggs.)

10:30 ~ “And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. . . ” Oyie.

10:32 ~ That was an amazing wrapup from Joe Biden.