Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Politics”

I will disappoint you sooner or later.

A mild political prediction

centaur 0

acirema.png

In case you haven’t noticed (because you’ve been living under a rock), Donald Trump’s the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nominee. Seeing these three articles today, I noticed a common theme (other than that they’re all left leaning, but they’re not the only one seeing this, as you’ll see in a moment), and I’d like to make a prediction:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/23/opinion/coming-to-terms-with-donald.html?_r=0
Americans of all races, creeds and political persuasions are united today in the realization that, good grief, Donald Trump actually could become the Republican presidential nominee.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/national-review-donald-trump-debate_us_56a24a3ce4b0404eb8f14410
National Review's editors denounce Trump for shifting his political stances and describe him as "a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it underfoot in behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as the Donald himself.” … the magazine is paying a price in the short term for its anti-Trump issue, with the Republican National Committee disinviting it from a CNN debate next month.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-weigant/friday-talking-points_b_9057478.html?utm_hp_ref=politics
The essays were contradictory in their reasons for loathing Trump, and the editor himself was writing supportive words about Trump earlier this year, but never mind. Consistency is the hobgoblin of sane non-conservative pundits, after all ... We personally have long been predicting a Republican Party major freakout when they all woke up to the fact that Donald Trump has been their party's frontrunner all along. So we have to say that in the past few weeks (since this freakout has begun in earnest), we have been enjoying the fray from the sidelines.

My prediction?

My prediction is: cartoonist and pundit Scott Adams will point out that he predicted Trump’s rise all along. Scott's been chronicling Trump in his “Master Persuader” series, and if he doesn’t take the comment “the essays were contradictory in their reasons for loathing Trump” as a tell for persuasion, I’ll start wondering if Scott been replaced by a pod person:

http://blog.dilbert.com/post/135324448866/the-lucky-hitler-hypothesis-trump-persuasion A tell for a Master Persuader is the outlandishness of the criticisms. Jeb Bush is not a persuader, and no one accuses him of anything but running an ineffective campaign. No one believes Rand Paul is really an elf that makes cookies in a hollowed-out tree. But they would, if Paul were a master persuader instead of a policy wonk … Now compare Trump, Obama, and Hillary Clinton. Trump is routinely compared to Hitler. Obama is considered by many to be a Muslim sleeper cell. But Hillary Clinton is generally accused of ordinary flaws such as incompetence, dishonesty, etc. Clinton is not a master persuader. If she were, a third of the country would believe she is a practicing witch. A real one. And no, that is not a joke.

I don’t often agree with Scott Adams (mainly because he is well trained in what he calls the pseudoscience of hypnosis, but I’m trained in the science of cognitive psychology, and some of the things he thinks are true about how the mind works were refuted long ago; also, we have political differences), but he’s always, always entertaining.

-the Centaur

Perhaps I Spoke Too Soon …

centaur 0


20140725_201514_HDR.jpg

… when I claimed Scott Adams appeared to be right on the question of Donald Trump’s supposed meltdown. Scott, as you recall, claimed this was part of an elaborate three dimensional game of chess designed to trounce Carson, whereas I was claiming that Trump was possibly sabotaging his own campaign. Trump’s initial bounce and Carson’s stumble led me to award this to Adams.

Since then, Trump has publicly mocked a handicapped reporter, and demanded CNN cough up five million dollars to appear at the next debate. My predictive filter says Trump’s doing more self-sabotage. Scott’s filter says Trump will suffer a slight dip, then increase in the polls. Trump is actually just increasing in the polls, no dip. So, um, advantage to Scott, me, randomness?

My high school history teacher’s predictive filter would say, “Populist demagogues are always popular.”

Your predictive mileage may vary.

-the Centaur

What If I’m Wrong?

centaur 0

DSC01739.JPG

Recently I went on the record about a seemingly self-destructive speech by Donald Trump. By going on the record, you can test your predictions. For the benefit of those who don’t care a whit, I predicted (more or less) that Donald Trump was deliberately self-destructing (or laying the groundwork for it) and Scott Adams predicted Donald Trump was going after Carson. A little time has gone by; let’s look at those polls.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/2016_republican_presidential_nomination-3823.html
Screenshot 2015-11-22 21.42.30.png

By my scorecard, that’s Scott Adams 1, Anthony Francis, 0. Of course, time will tell, and things have happened recently to change the game (for example, 5 major terrorist attacks in 5 countries around the world, in which even I will admit Trump sounds better suited than Carson, sorry). But the hypothesis that he was deliberately self-destructing was at least premature, and the hypothesis that he’s trying to nail Carson seems good. Certainly, in the last few weeks, Trump’s popularity has risen to that of, say, Bernie Sanders, so he must be doing something right.

As Scott might remind you, it’s not good to bet against popular internet cartoonists. They might be right. On the other hand, I think the words “I was wrong” are three of the most beautiful words in the English language. They’re a sign of learning.

-the Centaur

Beirut and Paris

centaur 0

graveside.jpg

My heart, prayers and condolences go out to all those who lost their lives in the deadly attacks in Beirut and Paris yesterday, and to the families, friends and loved ones who are suffering in the aftermath of this outrage, which over the past few days killed almost 200 people in France and Lebanon. This has got to stop … but for now, you are all in my prayers.

Going on the Record about Donald Trump

centaur 0

americanflag.png

AS some of you may have noticed, real estate mogul Donald Trump is making his second (or third) run for the presidency (depending on how you count), and has been having quite a good show of it - topping many polls despite saying and doing a lot of things that would have doomed another candidate - such as disparaging American prisoners of war, associating immigrants with criminals, and, most recently, associating his opponents with pedophiles.

As a left-leaning moderate, I’m not fond of many of Donald Trump’s policies. But I am fond of Dilbert, and the excellent blog by Dilbert creator Scott Adams, in which Scott wrestles with many difficult and interesting ideas so you don’t have to (but you should). In the blog, Scott’s been chronicling Trump’s rise to power with what he calls the Master Wizard Hypothesis, which, in a nutshell, says that there are great techniques of persuasion, Trump is an acknowledged master, and most of the crazy things that Trump is doing are carefully engineered to get and keep your attention. Regardless of your politics, Scott says, you should pay attention to what Trump is doing, because you’re watching a master class in persuasion unfold on a national stage.

Scott, a trained hypnotist and student of persuasion himself, goes further to say that a Master Wizard’s persuasion often puts people into cognitive dissonance, where a person becomes uncomfortable when they are presented with information they don’t want to accept. Well, as a trained cognitive scientist, that characterization makes me a bit uncomfortable, because I see the conscious (or unconscious) persuasion embedded in that characterization, persuasion which is in the favor of someone trying to be a persuader: the framing is that someone presented with “information” is “feeling uncomfortable,” hence is being irrational. However, because one thing that can trigger discomfort is someone exhibiting a violation of what you perceive to be a standard, it’s also perfectly possible that you can feel uncomfortable confronted by new “information” that contradicts new beliefs not just because you are inconsistent … but because the presented “information" is wrong. So, in this argument, people could possibly just be upset with Trump not because he’s a Master Wizard … but because they sincerely disagree with him in their judgments about facts and policies.

As it happens, I’ve entertained for a while an alternate hypothesis about what’s been going on about Donald Trump, and it seems like it might be playing out. In fact, I’ve almost been scooped on it, so at first I wasn’t going to write anything. But Scott Adams has done something great with his hypotheses: he’s put his predictions about Trump on the table, so he can be proved wrong later. Feynman argued the same thing: you’ve got to stick your neck out far enough for it to get cut off in order to really see the truth. So, I wanted to go on the record about what I think’s going on with Donald Trump.

For reference, here’s what I think people are saying about Donald Trump:

  • Malignant Narcissist Theory: Donald Trump is an insufferable blowhard who’s doing well because he’s an outrageous bully with an ego so enormous he’s resistant to normal modes of shame, and is airing all the dirty laundry of the Republican party that the politer and saner politicians with greater experience have tried to sweep under the rug. Many political analysts hold this theory, and assume Trump will eventually implode somewhere between the debates and the campaign trail because the majority of Republican voters, and certainly most Democratic voters, will never vote for him (and there’s data for that). The idea, you see, is that roughly twenty five percent of people is the most who’d ever vote Trump, so he’s maxed out.
  • Master Wizard Hypothesis: Donald Trump is a highly experienced, well-trained businessman, expert at the art of the deal and his own brand management, who’s mastered a semi-secret art of persuasion. His campaign is a sequence of carefully crafted stunts designed to implode his opponents, one by one, because Donald Trump has no shame, merely a cold, calculating, highly trained brain designed to put the whammy on people, slowly convincing them to turn his way so he can ultimately get his way. Scott Adams believes this, and has analyzed in depth how many seemingly weird things Trump does actually make a lot of sense.
  • Tell It Like It Is Hypothesis: Donald Trump is a smart, intelligent, conservative man who’s gotten fed up with the way things are going in this country, like many other conservatives, and is gaining popularity because (a) he’s saying what many conservatives are thinking (b) he’s telling it like it is, without a filter (c) he’s got a lot of experience running a successful business and (d) now he’s applying his decades of experience to politics, hopefully making America great again.   

These all seem like alternatives, but they’re actually closer than you think. They’re all based on the idea that Trump has no shame (which isn’t likely true), has a lot of experience at business (which is almost certainly true), and is saying things that the Republican base wants to hear. The spectrum seems to be whether you think some of his more colorful antics are because he’s an arrogant bully (politicos), a skilled persuader (Adams), or a genuine conservative (the Republican base).

Now my hypothesis.

  • Genius Brand Management. Donald Trump is a billionaire whose greatest asset is his brand, and he’s an American who cares about his country. Running for President, while it costs money, gives Trump an enormous amount of free publicity - he’s getting an enormous force multiplier from all this media attention, far more than he could by building more hotels or casinos, starting another reality TV show, or running ads. While doing this, he decided to - sincerely - raise all the issues he really cares about in the election, or at least the things he cares about which resonate with Republican voters. Trump simultaneously gets an enormous brand uplift and sets the tone of the presidential campaign to be about issues which matter to him. If he’s elected, great: he’s run a mammoth multinational corporation, and can handle the Presidency. If not, he’ll bow out … just as he’s bowed out of every other flirtation at candidacy since 1988.

So, under this theory, Donald Trump would likely implode sometime between the debates and the campaign trail (where a majority of votes, not just topping a poll, matters, and a mammoth grassroots organization is needed), but regardless of whether he implodes, he’s going to have a huge uplift in his brand, and will have set the course of the campaign.

Last week, Trump appears to have imploded with a long winded speech, different from his usual polished self, in which he ranted about his opponents, outlined his policy approaches about just about everything, and ultimately finished with "How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?” His opponents have gone wild, and Janell Ross wrote an article which crystalized what I’d already been thinking: Donald Trump might be self-sabotaging. You read it there first, folks, but just so I would have the opportunity to be proved wrong, here’s what the other people predict.

  • Malignant Narcissist Hypothesis: The arrogant blowhard’s finally imploding. Example: at HuffPo.
  • Master Wizard Hypothesis: Trump’s now moving against Carson. See Scott Adams’ analysis, in which he points out Trump’s engineered a linguistic kill shot comparing Ben Carson’s pathological temper to incurable pedophilia.
  • Tell It Like It Is Hypothesis: Trump is just speaking from his heart, and won’t be hurt by telling it like it is. See this New York Times article "Republican strategists in the state were skeptical that Mr. Trump’s latest over-the-top outburst would seriously erode his support."

And now my take:

  • Genius Brand Management: Trump, having watched campaigns since the eighties, is fully aware that at one point half of Republican voters said they would never vote for him, and that falling behind Carson at this point could cost him the jockeying position he needs to get the nomination. So he makes an impassioned plea for attention, simultaneously trashing his rival as a last ditch hope, giving his brand one last spike - and reiterating what he thinks is important about the campaign.

As Scott might say, I remind you I don’t know who’s going to be President. I’d be a dumb man to bet against the author of Dilbert; I literally have his book on systems versus goals on my desk at work. (I haven’t gotten to it yet, but soon - I get the gist from his blog). And other politicos certainly are more practiced at this than me; I’ve only been following politics closely since, oh, when Bush was running. Bush Senior. The first time. Remember, against Reagan? I do.

SO anyway, the best hypothesis will win, because you can’t fake reality any way whatsoever. I’m going on the record saying I think Trump is bowing out of the race. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. But if Trump has started to bow out, I’ll think about my Genius Brand Management hypothesis, recall that I said to myself that a smart man wouldn’t just use all this free publicity to pump his brand, but to make a statement to the American people about what he cared about. And then I’ll think about this phrase from his speech:

"I've really enjoyed being with you," Trump said. "It's sad in many ways because we're talking about so many negative topics, but in certain ways it's beautiful. It's beautiful."

Sure sounds to me like someone who has issues he cares about, bowing out after he’s said his peace.

-the Centaur

An Outrage, But Hardly a Surprise

centaur 0

NhXQqR54nB8FNqCbC3aR7y-tzcU2OALTjtp-I6dVXt7m=w1137-h640-no.jpg

Recently one of my friends in the Treehouse Writers' group alerted me to the article "Sexism in publishing: my novel wasn't the problem, it was me, Catherine" in the Guardian. You should read it, but the punchline:

In an essay for Jezebel, Nichols reveals how after she sent out her novel to 50 agents, she received just two manuscript requests. But when she set up a new email address under a male name, and submitted the same covering letter and pages to 50 agents, it was requested 17 times.

“He is eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book. Fully a third of the agents who saw his query wanted to see more, where my numbers never did shift from one in 25,” writes Nichols. “The judgments about my work that had seemed as solid as the walls of my house had turned out to be meaningless. My novel wasn’t the problem, it was me – Catherine.”

Catherine Nichols' original article is up at Jezebel under the title Homme de Plume - go check it out - but the point of raising the article was to gather people's opinions. The exchange went something like this: "Opinions?" "Outrage?"

Yes, it's outrageous, but hardly a surprise. I've heard stories like this again and again from many women writers. (Amusingly, or perhaps horrifyingly, the program I writing this in, Ecto, just spell-corrected "women writers" to "some writers," so perhaps the problem is more pervasive than I thought). Science fiction authors Andre Norton, James Tiptree, Jr., C.J. Cherryh, Paul Ashwell and CL Moore all hid their genders behind male and neutral pseudonyms to help sell their work. Behind the scenes, prejudice against women authors is pervasive - and I'm not even referring to the disparaging opinions of the conscious misogynists who'll freely tell you they don't like fiction written by women, or the discriminatory actions of the unconsciously prejudiced who simply don't buy fiction written by women, but instead calculated discrimination, sometimes on the part of women authors, editors and publishers themselves, who feel the need to hide their gender to make sure their stories sell.

I am a guy, so I've never been faced with the problem of having to choose between acknowledging or suppress my own gender in the face of the prejudices of those who would disparage my existence. (Though I have gotten a slight amount of flak for being a male paranormal romance author, we got around that by calling my work "urban fantasy," which my editor thought was a better description anyway). As a business decision, I respect any woman (or man) who chooses a pseudonym that will better market their work. My friend Trisha Wooldridge edits under Trisha Wooldridge, but writes under T. J. Wooldridge, not because publishers won't buy it, but because her publisher believes some of the young boys to whom her YA is aimed are less likely to read books by female authors. The counterexample might be J. K. Rowling, but even she is listed as J. K. Rowling and not Joanne because her publishers were worried young boys wouldn't buy their books. She's made something like a kabillion dollars under the name J. K. Rowling, so that wasn't a poor business decision (interestingly, Ecto just spell-corrected "decision" to "deception") but we'll never know how well she would have done had the Harry Potter series been published under the name "Joanne Rowling".

And because we'll never know, I feel it's high time that female authors got known for writing under their own names.   

Now, intellectual honesty demands I unload a bit of critical thinking that's nagging at me. In this day and age, when we can't trust anything on the Internet, when real ongoing tragedies are muddled by people writing and publishing fake stories to push what would be otherwise legitimate agendas for which there's already enough real horrific evidence - I'm looking at you, Rolling Stone - we should always get a nagging feeling about this kind of story: a story where someone complains that the system is stacked against them. For example, in Bait and Switch Barbara Ehrenreich tried to expose the perils of job hunting … by lying about her resume, and then writing a book about how surprised she was she didn't get hired by any of the people she was lying to. (Hint, liars, just because it's not socially acceptable to call someone a liar doesn't mean we're not totally on to you - and yes, I mean you, you personally, the individual(s) who are lying to me and thinking they're getting away with it because I smile and nod politely.)

In particular, whenever someone complains that they're having difficulty getting published, there always (or should be) this nagging suspicion in the back of your mind that the problem might be with the material, not the process - according to legend, one SF author who was having trouble getting published once called up Harlan Ellison (yes, THAT Harlan Ellison) and asked why he was having trouble getting published, to which Harlan responded, "Okay, write this down. You ready? You aren't getting published because your stories suck. Got it? Peace out." Actually, Harlan probably didn't say "peace out," and there may have been more curse words or HARSH TONAL INFLECTIONS that I simply can't represent typographically without violating the Peace Treaty of Unicode. So there's this gut reaction that makes us want to say, "so what if someone couldn't get published?"

But, taking her story at face value, what happened with Catherine Nichols was the precise opposite of what happened to Barbara Ehrenreich. When she started lying about her name, which in theory should have made things harder for her … she instead started getting more responses, which makes the prejudice against her seem even stronger. Even the initial situation she was in - getting rejections from over 50 publishers and agents - is something that happens over and over again in the history of publishing … but sooner or later, even the most patient stone is worn away. Legendary writing teacher John Gardner had a similar thought: "The writer sends out, and sends again, and again and again, and the rejections keep coming, whether printed slips or letters, and so at last the moment comes when many a promising writer folds his wings and drops." Or, in Nichols' own words:

To some degree, I was being conditioned like a lab animal against ambition. My book was getting at least a few of those rejections because it was big, not because it was bad. George [her pseudonym], I imagine, would have been getting his “clever”s all along and would be writing something enormous now. In theory, the results of my experiment are vindicating, but I feel furious at having spent so much time in that ridiculous little cage, where so many people with the wrong kind of name are burning out their energy and intelligence. My name—Catherine—sounds as white and as relatively authoritative as any distinctly feminine name could, so I can only assume that changing other ethnic and class markers would have even more striking effects.

So we're crushing women writers … or worse, pre-judging their works. The Jezebel article quotes Norman Mailer:

In 1998, Prose had dubbed bias against women’s writing “gynobibliophobia”, citing Norman Mailer’s comment that “I can only say that the sniffs I get from the ink of the women are always fey, old-hat, Quaintsy Goysy, tiny, too dykily psychotic, crippled, creepish, fashionable, frigid, outer-Baroque, maquillé in mannequin’s whimsy, or else bright and stillborn”.

Now, I don't know what Mailer was sniffing, but now that the quote is free floating, let me just say that if he can cram the ink from Gertrude Stein, Ayn Rand, Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, Patricia Briggs, Donna Tartt, Agatha Christie, J. K. Rowling and Laurell Hamilton into the same bundle of fey, old-hat smells, he must have a hell of a nose.

But Mailer's quote, which bins an enormous amount of disparate reactions into a single judgment, looks like a textbook example of unconscious bias. As Malcolm Gladwell details in Blink, psychological priming prior to an event can literally change our experience of it: if I give you a drink in a Pepsi can instead of a Coke can, your taste experience will be literally different even if it's the same soda. This seems a bit crazy, unless you change the game a bit further and make the labels Vanilla Pepsi and Coke Zero: you can start to see that how the same soda could seem flat if it lacks an expected flavor, or too sweet if you are expecting an artificial sweetener. These unconscious expectations can lead to a haloing effect, where if you already think someone's a genius, you're more likely to credit them with more genius, when in someone else it may seem eccentricity or arrogance. The only solution to this kind of unconscious bias, according to Gladwell, is to expose yourself to more and more of the unfamiliar stimulus, so that it seems natural, rather than foreign.

So I feel it's high time not only that female authors should feel free to write under their own names, but also that the rest of us should feel free to start reading them.

I'm never going to tell someone not to use a pseudonym. There are a dozen reasons to do it, from business decisions to personal privacy to exploring different personas. There's something weirdly thrilling about Catherine Nichols' description of her male pseudonym, her "homme de plume," whom she imagined “as a sort of reptilian Michael Fassbender-looking guy, drinking whiskey and walking around train yards at night while I did the work.”

But no-one should have to hide their gender just to get published. No-one, man or woman; but since women are having most of the trouble, that's where our society needs to do most of its work. Or, to give (almost) the last word to Catherine:

The agents themselves were both men and women, which is not surprising because bias would hardly have a chance to damage people if it weren’t pervasive. It’s not something a few people do to everyone else. It goes through all the ways we think of ourselves and each other.

So it's something we should all work on. That's your homework, folks: step out of your circle and read something different.

-the Centaur

Pictured: Some art by my wife, Sandi Billingsley, who thinks a lot about male and female personas and the cages we're put in.

Why Bipartisanship is Dead

centaur 0

fadedflag2.png

Ever feel like bipartisanship is dead and the two parties can't agree on anything? Well, there's a reason for that: even if they agree, they can't pass anything. The House of Representatives has a rule which says the only bills that can be brought to the House floor are ones approved of by the majority of the majority party:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2012/12/30/168309508/fiscal-cliff-debate-why-the-very-few-rule-the-many-in-congress

But having enough votes is not enough. In fact, it is likely the package will not even be brought to the floor for debate and a vote. How can this be? Even if a majority of the whole House (Republicans and Democrats) were prepared to swallow the Senate deal, they won't get a chance unless Speaker John Boehner brings it to the floor. And Boehner probably won't. He has adopted a rule that no measure will be voted on unless it is supported by a majority of the majority party — that is, his party, the Republicans.

Now, I understand that there are many people, particularly on the right, who believe the job of politics is not to get good things done, but to prevent the government from doing bad things. So this kind of stalemate may seem appropriate. But for people on the left and right who just want to get to consensus, find a solution and move on, it seems crazy.

Even if John Boehner, Speaker of the House, came to agreement with President Barack Obama about the latest crisis, even if a overwhelming majority of the House and the Senate agreed with him, a minority of House representatives could prevent a deal from being reached. The Senate is in the same state: if a single senator filibusters a bill, it takes a supermajority of senators to break it - essentially, again blocking the country's progress based on a minority.

I strongly believe in the rights of the minority. I used to say "the majority is always wrong". But I've come to understand partisans, who put allegiance to their party over the good of the country, are almost always more wrong than the majority. Three procedural rules make partisans a grave danger to our republic: closed political primaries (so only partisans can be nominated by their parties), the House majority of the majority rule, and Senate filibusters.

Time to end all three of these, so we can move forward on things a majority of the country can agree on.

-the Centaur

Dawn of a new day

centaur 0

election2012over.png

The 2012 election season is over. Win or lose, be proud of yourselves, Americans. You made your choice.

Win or lose, be proud of yourselves, Americans. You made a difference.

God bless America? God bless democracy.

-the Centaur

Vote Yourself!

centaur 0

vote2012thanks.jpg

Yes, the election is OVER today ... but the outcome is up to YOU!

vote2012lick.png

My wife and I have an election evening ritual to review all the candidates and make our decisions.

IMG_20121106_021436.jpg

To find out where to vote, check out Google's Voting Guide, which will tell you where the polling places are, who's up for election, and what the referenda are in your district, if any. Since we're in California, we also used resources like the KQED Proposition Guide, the San Jose Mercury News endorsements, and the LA Times endorsements - less for the endorsement value than the discussions they prompted. For some more obscure races, the Smart Voter site and simple Googling helped.

vote2012envelopes.jpg

I've already stated my reasons why I think Obama should remain President:

... the left of us are going to vote for the guy who passed healthcare reform, repealed don’t-ask-don’t-tell, ended the war in Iraq, repaired our relations with the world, and made a good-faith effort to close Guantanamo, and the moderates among us are going to vote for the guy who saved the auto industry, passed the stimulus, refused to prosecute those who were prosecuting the war on terror, repeated Bush’s surge trick in Afghanistan, piffed Osama bin Laden, and finally put the smackdown on Gaddafi the way Reagan wanted to oh so many years ago.

And in the same article, I outlined why I have a hard time voting for Republicans for the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, or for California state offices - though I think they make swell governors and have voted for a few of them myself, and they can be excellent local representatives. (Though I mostly voted for Democrats this time).

vote2012murky.jpg

The propositions are a murkier matter: I recommend voting against the deceptive Proposition 38, which says it provides money for schools but will actually most likely cause a loss of six billion dollars to schools, against Proposition 31 which is a grab-all reform of the state legislature, against Proposition 32 which is bankrolled by corporations in an attempt to prevent unions from doing the same kind of bankrolling, and in favor of the backwards Proposition 40, where a yes vote actually means to leave the new election districts the way they are - and even the backers of the measure have backed off their support (meaning, even the people who wanted you to vote no now want you to vote yes). For the bulk of the rest of them, it depends on your feelings about contentious issues like the size of government, the food labeling, and capital punishment. Vote your (well-informed) conscience.

IMG_20121104_220838.jpg

But vote! Because, remember, cats can't vote ...

IMG_20121104_103248.jpg

And if they could, it would be just for more food.

-the Centaur

Pictured: our vote by mail ballots, which enable us to vote the night before and walk the ballots over to the polling place at our leisure. Go democracy! Hooray America! And if you're not in a democracy like America's, you should think about getting yourself one!

Involves politics, but not really political

centaur 0
Andrew Breitbart is dead at 43. He was apparently a conservative commentator; I wasn't too familiar with him except for some of the scandals he broke. But the point, as John Scalzi said, is that he was 43. I'm used to hearing about accomplished people who are much younger than I am ... Larry Page, Britney Spears, Christopher Paolini, that last born when I entered high school. Occasionally people in that age bracket die. It's a damn shame, everyone says, they died so young. But when Andrew Breitbart died, while it was clear that he died young - to the point of spawning (what at first appear to be ridiculous) conspiracy theories - no-one is too surprised. Because a male's chance of dying of a heart attack triples when you move up to 35-44 year age bracket, and triples again when you roll over into 45-54. I'd enter some snark about white males like myself being worse off, but it doesn't seem to be the case. So Andrew's about the right age where people should start worrying about dying of a heart attack. So am I. God speed, Andrew. And may God be with us all. -the Centaur Pictured: a memento mori featuring my cat, Caesar, curling up in the lap of luxury next to the skull of one of his less evolutionarily successful distant relatives. Looks like Caesar had an easier time taking down that giraffe than his buddy there.