Silent Archimedes

Archive for September, 2008

McCain’s political campaign moves all backfiring on him

Posted by silentarchimedes on September 30, 2008

The failed bailout plan is another in a long line of political campaign moves that has blown up in John McCain’s increasingly desperate campaign. Here are the top three:

Where is Sarah Palin?

Where is Sarah Palin?

1. Picking Sarah Palin as Vice-Presidential candidate – When McCain saw that a large amount of Hillary Clinton supporters were still upset at Obama’s handling of the VP vetting process and eventual selection of Joe Biden, he took that as an opportunity to kill three birds with one stone. To appease the Clinton supporters and disenchanted female voters by selecting a young female candidate. To fortify his maverick reputation by selecting someone no one expected and is a Washington outsider. And to excite his core conservative base by selecting someone who is pro-life and pro-gun.

This move worked for exactly one week. Although it did and still does excite his core constituency, he has instead turned off the independent voters, women and solidified Obama’s base. Palin has since been exposed as someone completely inexperienced and out of her league. McCain has had to retract several of her public statements. His campaign has hidden her from the public view for fear of her saying something to the detriment of his campaign. While Biden has performed over 100 public interviews since his selection, Palin has done less than 10. He has surrounded her with former Bush advisers in training her to follow his views instead of her own views.  Instead of a game changer, she has become a distraction and stress.

McCain hugs Bush

McCain hugs Bush

2. Choosing to use lies, misinformation and misdirections in campaign – McCain’s campaign has increasingly used devious tactics in attempts to dishonestly smear Obama. The lies and misinformation have been so obvious that the majority of the media and public have picked this up. McCain instead lambasted the media for being biased, and that has also backfired. Instead of talking about issues, the campaign has used misdirections and attacks instead of responding with what they would do. It is becoming increasingly clear that his campaign is being influenced by the ultra-aggressive campaign advisers from George Bush. The whole win at all costs is backfiring at a time when the country wants honest change and not the same ole political moves.

McCain suspends campaign

McCain suspends campaign

3. Suspending campaign to push for bailout plan – The latest move backfiring on McCain might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Because the public views Obama as someone better capable to address the economy, McCain had to do something to show he is more capable at handling the economy. Last week, he decided to suspend his campaign, including the scheduled Friday debate with Obama, to go to Washington and push for the bailout plan. What seemed like a focused move was seen by the media and public as purely a political move. It only accentuated his potential inability to handle multiple crises as president. People clamored that if he was president, he can’t just put one crisis on pause while he handles another. Additionally, the public especially wanted to see the candidates speak at a debate, at a critical time like this. They saw it as a cop-out by McCain to suspend the debate. To make matters worse, legislators from both parties in Washington saw him as a distraction to the experts dealing with the bailout plan. As the bailout neared for a likely success, McCain began attacks at Obama for not doing enough to help the bailout plan and began patting himself on the back for pushing for the plan. However, in a stunning final straw, the bailout plan was rejected in the House yesterday. More than 60% of his party voted against the plan that McCain said he aggressively pushed for. McCain’s ability to even convince his own party had failed miserably. The public was strongly against a plan that seemed to bail out Wall Street and not help the common people. It will be interesting to see the fallout from this in the coming polls.

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Denzel Washington plays the same character over and over again

Posted by silentarchimedes on September 29, 2008

I haven’t seen a Denzel Washington movie in a long time. The last one was probably Training Day. I am realizing why. It seems that in all his movies he plays the same character and I’m getting mixed up in which movie was what. Is it just me or does Denzel Washington play the same character over and over again? I mean just look at his mainstream movies since Devil in a Blue Dress!

For an actor who is known to have such range and be in so many critically and publicly acclaimed movies, you would think he would play a wider variety of roles. Of his 22 lead movies since 1995’s Devil in a Blue Dress, Washington has played a character that has some sort of police, federal or armed forces authority influence 15 times! That is close to 70% of the time! When you factor in his other authority roles as a drug lord in American Gangster, football coach in Remember the Titans, and police drama in John Q, Washington plays some sort of authority role 82% of the time (18 of 22 films)! Not to mention that Inside Man 2 has been announced.

The final question becomes, is Denzel Washington typecasted or does he prefer to play such roles? Why change? All his movies are highly rated and he’s still considered a great actor, for the most part. Crimson Tide continues to be one of my favorite movies.

22. 2009. The Taking of Pelham 123 Lieutenant

21. 2007. American Gangster – drug lord

20. 2007. Great Debaters – poet

19. 2006. Inside Manpolice detective

18. 2006. Deja VuATF agent

17. 2004. Man on Fireformer federal agent

16. 2004. Manchurian CandidateArmed Forces Captain

15. 2003. Out of Timepolice chief

14. 2002. Antwone FisherNavy psychiatrist

13. 2001. Training Daypolice detective

12. 2001. John Q – blue collar worker

11. 2000. Remember the Titans – football coach

10. 1999. The Bone Collectorpolice detective

9. 1999. The Hurricane – boxer

8. 1998. Fallen police detective

7. 1998. He Got Game – convict/father

6. 1998. The SiegeFBI Agent

5. 1996. Courage Under FireArmed Forces Lt. Colonel

4. 1996. The Preacher’s Wife – angel

3. 1995. Virtuosityex-cop

2. 1995. Crimson Tidenavy officer

1. 1995. Devil in a Blue Dresswar veteran

It seems like the really great actors are the ones that excel at a wide variety of roles. Ed Norton is a great example of this.

Posted in List, Movies, Observations, Poll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

McCain retracts Palin’s comments… again

Posted by silentarchimedes on September 28, 2008

The McCain-Palin camp is so afraid to leave Sarah Palin alone to speak her mind for fear of her saying something wrong and stupid, it is becoming a debacle for the Republican campaign. McCain was forced to retract Palin’s public statements that she would pursue unilateral strikes of terrorists into Pakistan if necessary.  “If that’s what we have to do stop the terrorists from coming any further in, absolutely, we should,” Palin said. This statement is in line with Obama’s strategy but against McCain’s. McCain had to retract her statements with a weak attempt to say that Palin and him were on the same page.

“She would not…she understands and has stated repeatedly that we’re not going to do anything except in America’s national security interest,” McCain told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos of Palin. “In all due respect, people going around and… sticking a microphone while conversations are being held, and then all of a sudden that’s—that’s a person’s position… This is a free country, but I don’t think most Americans think that that’s a definitive policy statement made by Governor Palin.”

McCain emphasized Sunday, Palin “shares” his view on the matter.

Is he kidding? Sticking a microphone while conversations are being held? Jeesh… That is lame. And in other words, don’t listen to her. Listen to me. And by shares his views, it means she can’t voice her own views. What i say goes.

They better get her on the same page as them soon. The VP debate is in a few days, unless they try to delay the debate until after the elections. This is such a joke.

Source: CNN McCain retract’s Palin’s Pakistan comments

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Interesting 2008 baseball regular season comes to a close

Posted by silentarchimedes on September 28, 2008

As the 2008 baseball season comes to a close for many teams today, there have been some interesting firsts, same storylines, and sad endings.

FIRSTS

Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays

1. Tampa Bay Rays makes playoffs for first time in franchise history – Not only that, it was the first time they had a winning record. It was the first time they had over 70 wins, 80 wins, and 90 wins. It was the first time they had the best home record in the majors. It was the first time they finished first in the vaunted AL East over the Red Sox and Yankees. Could it have been due to removing the “Devil” from their name in the offseason? 🙂

2. Francisco Rodriguez shatters saves record – Rodriguez shatters Bobby Thigpen’s single season saves record of 57 from 17 years ago. His 62 saves is the first time a reliever broke 60 saves in one season. Both were 26 years old. However, Rodriguez had 7 blown saves this season (compared to Mariano Rivera’s one). He could have had close to 70 saves had he been more consistent.

Ichiro Suzuki

Ichiro Suzuki

3. Ichiro and A-Rod reach baseball milestones – Ichiro Suzuki became the first player in over a century to have eight consecutive 200-hit seasons. Meanwhile, A-Rod became the first player to record at least 35 homers in a season for 11 straight years. He also tied Babe Ruth with 12 career seasons of having over 35 homers.

4. Instant replay – Near the end of the season, MLB decided to install instant replay for questionable home run calls. It has been used several times since, and has been involved in overturning calls on the field.

SAME STORYLINES

1. Joe Torre makes playoffs for the 13th consecutive year – After leading the Yankees to 12 straight postseason appearances in 12 years as their manager from 1996-2007, Torre was let go and signed with the Dodgers. He led them to the NL West Title in September.

2. Yankees continue winning ways – Although the Yankees did not make the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, some of their winning streaks continued. They now have 17 consecutive seasons with over 75+ wins (for strike shortened 1994 and 1995 seasons a winning percentage of .460 was used) and 16 consecutive seasons with a winning record; both major league bests.

3. Red Sox continue winning ways – Although the Red Sox haven’t been as prolific and consistent at making the playoffs due to the dominance of their division rival Yankees, they have put up consistently winning seasons. They are second to the Yankees in consecutive winning seasons with 75+ wins (16) and a winning record (11).

Can this be reused for 2008?

Can this be reused for 2008?

4. Mets continue their late-season futility – Although the Mets have had success the past 9 years, they continually show futility at the most important times of each season. Besides losing the Subway Series to their crosstown rival Yankees in 2000, they also lost in the playoffs in 2006. However, the past two seasons have been most depressing. In 2007, the  Mets had a 7 game NL East division lead with 17 games left to play. They proceeded to lose 12 of their final 17 games to lose the title to the Phillies and miss the playoffs. By some measures, it is considered the second worst collapse in baseball history. The 2008 season is seeing a smaller collapse. Having a 3.5 game lead against the Phillies for the division title again with 17 games to go, the Mets won only 7 of their next 17, while the Phils won 12 of their next 15. The Phillies clinched the division once again. To make matters worse, the Mets lost their final game while the Brewers win their last one  to grab the wild-card and leave the Mets out of the playoffs once again.

5. Small market teams continue losing ways – Besides the Rays, most small market teams continued their non-playoff appearances. The Montreal Expos – Washington Nationals have a major league leading 27 consecutive seasons without a postseason appearance. The Brewers in second with 25 consecutive seasons ended that drought with a win today and a Mets loss to grab the wild card berth. The Royals (23), Pirates (16), Blue Jays (15), Reds (13) and Orioles (11) all continue their futility.

6. Another season, another surprise team or two – This year the Tampa Rays and Brewers have been the surprise teams. 2007 saw the Indians and Diamondbacks. 2006 were the Twins and Athletics. 2005 were the White Sox and Braves. 2004 was the Dodgers. 2003 was the Marlins. And 2002 saw the Expos do relatively well.

ENDINGS

The old and new Yankee Stadiums

The old and new Yankee Stadiums

1. Yankees miss the playoffs for first time in 13 years – Ever since the Yankees became the first AL wild card team to make the playoffs in 1995, they have not missed it until this year. In those 13 years of postseason play, they won 4 World Championships, 6 AL Pennants, 10 AL East titles and 3 Wild Card berths. They had a combined record of 1252 – 832; a MLB best .594 winning percentage. They had 3 no-hitters, of which 2 were perfect games. They had one Rookie of the Year, two Manager of the Year, one Cy Young, one Comeback Player of the Year, and two Most Valuable Player of the Year awards in that time span.

2. Two stadiums come to a close – Both the Yankees and Mets will be playing in new stadiums to start the 2009 season. Although most people are happy Shea Stadium is being torn down, the demise of Yankee Stadium and its rich history is more symbolic.

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Obama beats McCain in first presidential debate

Posted by silentarchimedes on September 27, 2008

A quick list of my observations of the debate last night:

Presidential Debate

First Presidential Debate

1. McCain was too high on himself – Everyone knows that McCain is more experienced than Obama when it comes to foreign policy. I was more interested in what he was going to do with that experience when he becomes president. However, he kept referring to the past and his record. He must have said that he was proud of himself at least four times during the debate. Although more experience usually indicates better judgment, it becomes a negative when your long track record is inconsistent and is associated with the negatives of the past eight years. McCain made it seem like that his experiences should be the sole reason to vote for him and not Obama. We know what you have done. The question is what will you do for change.

2. McCain was very condescending towards Obama – This is related to the first point. If Obama had failed miserably in his foreign policy answers last night, McCain would get a pass at sounding condescending and patronizing towards Obama. However, Obama definitely held his own last night. The result is McCain seemed like an old man scolding a young man. He would speak in this higher pitch whisper when he was in his “I’m smarter and more experienced than you” rants. What made it worse is that in his quest to show that Obama was dumber than him in foreign policy, McCain made several incorrect assertions. He made fun of Obama for not knowing the difference between tactic and strategy when in fact he was the one that was wrong (as explained by many analysts on the news networks).

3. Obama was too nice – Obama is too nice of a man. He must have said “John is right” in some form or another at least eight times during the debate. McCain gave him several openings for Obama to throw a strong punch, but he resisted. When McCain asked Obama what was his definition of rich, Obama should have responded, “someone who has 12 cars and 7 houses.” Even as McCain continued his condescending rants, Obama stayed nice and imperturbed. Sometimes one would like to see a little more offensive emotion from him. We are sick of political ploys, lies and trying to pull the cover over the public.

4. Where was Palin?? – After the debate was over, both the VP candidates, Biden and Palin, were invited by the major television networks to give their assessment of the debate. Biden accepted all the networks invitations. However, Palin was nowhere to be seen! She declined all invitations. Instead, surrogates like  Rudy Guiliani were used to represent her. All it reminded me was how inexperienced she is and that even if McCain was indeed better than Obama on foreign policy, I would rather vote for Obama  and Biden then know that Palin is one heartbeat away from becoming Commander in Chief. She has been pretty incognito since her RNC bounce. I personally treat that as an insult. America is in the heart of a major election campaign and one of the major VP candidates is being kept away from the public for obvious reasons.

5. Did McCain even know Obama was on the stage with him? – Not once did McCain look at Obama during the debate. Obama engaged McCain, Jim Lehrer and even spoke to the camera and the public. McCain spent the entire debate talking directly to Lehrer. Even when he lambasted Obama or the rare times he talked about what he would do, it was towards Lehrer. Even when Obama was talking to McCain, McCain always looked down at the podium. Show your opponent some respect. The tactics, and yes, I mean tactics, used by McCain have been dishonest, condescending and downright conceited. Here is a funny comic about this.

Conclusion

Overall, I think the general public feels the same about me as most polls showed Obama slightly winning the debate. It wasn’t a knockout blow by Obama. It might have even been a tie because Obama was too even-keeled. However, when the topic is McCain’s specialty, a tie is considered a win for Obama. Obama was professional, suscinct and knowledgeable. McCain sounded like what has been wrong with America the past eight years; the I’m better than you mentality. Next week’s vice presidential debate between Biden and Palin should be even more interesting. The question is does Palin show up or one of her surrogates?

Posted in List, Opinion, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Current Statistics for NFL Cornerbacks Inadequate

Posted by silentarchimedes on September 22, 2008

Charles Woodson

Charles Woodson

Al Harris

Al Harris

After reading about Al Harris of the Packers possibly being done for the season due to a likely ruptured spleen, I went and checked his and his teammate, Charles Woodson’s career stats. The article said that they form one of the most formidable cornerback (CB) tandems in the NFL. If you don’t watch the Packers regularly, it’s hard to verify except to compare stats with other CBs.  However, when you look at the stat categories for a defensive back, it doesn’t show the effectiveness of the player. Deion Sanders, arguably the best cornerback ever in NFL history, has a statbox similar to many CBs and  thus makes it difficult to conclude his greatness. Let’s look at ESPN and NFL.com’s stats of Charles Woodson’s career:

ESPN – Charles Woodson Career Defense Stats
YEAR TEAM G TOT SOLO AST PD SACK FF REC INT YDS TD
1998 OAK 16 62 59 3 20 0.0 2 0 5 118 1
1999 OAK 16 61 51 10 15 0.0 0 0 1 15 1
2000 OAK 16 76 63 13 13 0.0 3 0 4 36 0
2001 OAK 16 52 39 13 10 2.0 1 0 1 64 0
2002 OAK 8 33 31 2 4 0.0 4 0 1 3 0
2003 OAK 15 69 56 13 8 1.0 1 0 3 67 0
2004 OAK 13 73 58 15 9 2.5 2 0 1 25 0
2005 OAK 6 30 26 4 4 0.0 1 0 1 0 0
2006 GNB 16 62 51 11 20 1.0 3 0 8 61 1
2007 GNB 14 63 52 11 9 0.0 0 0 4 48 1
2008 GNB 3 7 7 0 6 0.0 0 0 2 41 1
Career 139 588 493 95 118 6.5 17 0 31 478 5

NFL.com – Charles Woodson Career Defensive Stats
Tackles Interceptions
Year Team G Total Solo Ast Sck SFTY PDef Int TDs Yds Avg Lng
2008 Green Bay Packers 3 7 7 0 0.0 0 6 2 1 41 20.5 41T
2007 Green Bay Packers 14 63 52 11 0.0 0 9 4 1 48 12.0 46T
2006 Green Bay Packers 16 59 48 11 1.0 0 12 8 1 61 7.6 23T
2005 Oakland Raiders 6 30 26 4 0.0 3 1 0 0 0.0 0
2004 Oakland Raiders 13 73 58 15 2.5 8 1 0 25 25.0 25
2003 Oakland Raiders 15 69 56 13 1.0 5 3 0 67 22.3 51
2002 Oakland Raiders 8 33 31 2 0.0 3 1 0 3 3.0 3
2001 Oakland Raiders 16 52 39 13 2.0 9 1 0 64 64.0 34
2000 Oakland Raiders 16 0.0 0 4 0 36 9.0 23
1999 Oakland Raiders 16 0.0 0 0 1 1 15 15.0 15T
1998 Oakland Raiders 16 0.0 0 0 5 1 118 23.6 46T
TOTAL 139 386 317 69 6.5 0 55 31 5 478 51

The two sets of stats are essentially the same. We can rule out several of the categories as obviously  being bad indicators of how well a secondary player plays – touchdowns (TDs), sacks (SCK) safeties (SFTY), forced fumbles and recoveries (FF, REC). As a matter of fact, most of those are in either ESPN’s or NFL’s and not both, which confirms them as bad indicators. So, let’s focus on the three stat groups that have traditionally been used to assess the efficiency of CBs (and even safeties) – tackles, interceptions,  and passes defended (PD, PDef).

TACKLES

Charles Woodson attempts to tackle Plaxico Burress of the NY Giants

Charles Woodson attempts to tackle Plaxico Burress of the NY Giants

Tackles are a tricky statistic because they can mean two things. It might mean the receiver he was covering just made a big catch against him and he had to tackle him. It might mean a running back ran into the secondary and he made a great open field tackle. If he had a large number of tackles it could mean he is very active and covers a huge swath of the field, or… it could mean that he is a bad pass coverage guy and the opponents keep targeting him. Thus, it is difficult to really put any emphasis on any of the tackle categories; total, solo, and assisted.

INTERCEPTIONS

Interceptions have a similar problem. A CB having no interceptions in a game gives no clues in whether he played a good or bad game. Interceptions also have a lot to do with luck and situation. It really doesn’t show the skill of a secondary back. Additionally, interceptions are rare and normalizing the statistic to per game would not solve the problem. Interceptions are a worse stat than sacks for a defensive back  (DB) because interceptions can only occur if a pass is directed at his coverage area, whereas a DB or a defensive tackle rushes the quarterback a majority of the game.

PASSES DEFENDED

Passes defended is a potentially good statistic. It shows that when a pass is directed at the CB, was he successful at preventing the pass from being completed by the offense. It shows a skill that he is legally (with no penalty) in the area and provided excellent coverage to defend the pass. So what is the problem? The problem is that it is not normalized. What does it mean when a cornerback defended two passes in a game? There is nothing to compare it to. It could mean two passes were directed at him and he knocked both down, for a 100% efficiency, or it could mean 10 passes came at him and he knocked only two down, for a 20% efficiency. Two completely different results. But what do you normalize it to?

NEW STATISTIC – PASSES DEFENDED EFFICIENCY

CB Aaron Ross intercepts a pass

CB Aaron Ross intercepts a pass

Just like an average and ERA in baseball, or a yards after catch (YAC) and rushing average in football, we need something that normalizes the stat against all other games and players. One way would be to divide the passes defended in a game by the number of passes directed at him in that same game. This would give us a pass defended efficiency average per game (PDE). Another option would be to divide the number of total passes defended in the season by the number of total passes directed at him in the season (PDE). The latter one is a better statistic because it would remove anomalies such as games in which only a few passes are directed at him and his PDE in that game is either 0% or 100%. However, what makes this stat difficult to record is determining the number of passes directed at a specific CB. In times when a CB plays zone or steps up to tackle or defend another player, it’s hard to say is the pass directed at him. Or if there are multiple defenders in the area, what do you do? Also, some passes are difficult to determine its intended target. Maybe this can be a statistic recorded for the secondary.

NEW STATISTIC – AVERAGE PASSES DIRECTED TOWARDS

Another statistic is to determine the percentage of passes in a game directed at a CB. In many cases a quarterback will target the CB that is most vulnerable. This would show up in this statistic. However, a quarterback will also target his best receiver regardless of who the CB is. That means a less than stellar CB on a less than stellar receiver will have a low percentage of passes directed at him. That does not mean he is a good CB.

Deion Sanders

Deion Sanders

NEW STATISTIC – AVERAGE CATCH YARDS AGAINST

Just like the running back has the average yards per rush, the wide receiver has the average yards per catch, and the quarterback has the average yards per pass attempt, we need a statistic for the defense.  They already have average yards per rush against and possibly an average yards per catch, but it is for the whole defense and accounts for tight ends, running backs, and wide receivers. There needs to be a statistic for  average yards per catch against each specific CB or at least for the whole secondary. As a fan, it’s sometimes very difficult to watch when a timid CB plays at least 10 yards off his receiver and gives up an easy catch and run.

CONCLUSION

The biggest problem is trying to normalize a statistic. With the way defensive schemes are used, many times it’s not just one person responsible for a catch but multiple players. However, that happens on offense also, such as determining whether a pass is the fault of the quarterback or its intended target. Quarterback stats drop even when they make perfect passes but the receiver drops the ball. What we realize though is that these stats usually evens out, and the best quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers have high numbers  compared to worse QBs. A similar reliable statistic must be created and tracked in order to determine how well a cornerback plays.

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Book Review: Coraline (Graphic Novel version)

Posted by silentarchimedes on September 19, 2008

Coraline

Coraline

I like graphic novels a lot. Ever since I was a kid, I used to like to read the Disney graphic novels. I’m not referring to Marvel and DC comic books. I don’t like that style of drawing. It’s too serious. I like the cutesy and friendly characters and environment. It’s hard to find these types of novels when you are an adult. The best ones I’ve read are the ones in the Bone series, by Jeff Smith. If you get a chance, you should definitely read the compendium, Bone: One Volume Edition.

Anyways, the local library had few choices left after Bone to read. They fall into three categories, superhero comic-style, anime or modern weird artsy comics. Based on a whim, I decided to head to the juvenile section. Low and behold, there was a nice stack of cutesy graphic novels, including the Disney ones I like. One of the ones I took out is the subject of this review, Coraline, the graphic novel adaptation of the magical national bestseller. It is by Neil Gaiman, and apparently he is a pretty prolific children’s author.

When I decided to write this review, I was wondering if I should write it in the context of  an adult reading a children’s novel, or more in how I thought children would like it. I still don’t know, but I’ll just write my opinions regardless. I guess it doesn’t really matter, because the book is a fun read. I can definitely see why 339 reviewers gave it a 4.5 out of 5 on Amazon. For a kid reading it, it’s dark and suspenseful with lots of interesting characters.

REVIEW

Graphic Style of P. Craig Russell

Graphic Style of P. Craig Russell

The story is about a girl, Coraline, whose family moves into this huge house in the middle of nowhere. The mansion, which used to be a single house, has been divided into four flats. One is occupied by her family. Another is occupied by two old ladies. A third is occupied by an eccentric old man. The fourth one is empty, and the door that used to connect to Coraline’s flat has since been blocked by a wall of bricks. The adventure begins when one night Coraline discovers the wall is gone and when she walks through, many surprises await her. It is not an empty flat but a new world with many interesting characters and twists and turns. My first reaction, as with most people’s, is that this sounds eerily similar to the beginning of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and even Alice in Wonderland. Gaiman must have taken some inspiration from those tales since the C.S. Lewis book was written in 1950 and the Lewis Carroll book was written in 1865, and Coraline was written in 2002. However, as with these alternate world adventures, it’s not so much how they got to the other world, but what is in the other world, what it represents, and what is the journey. The one Coraline explores is definitely unique in its nature. It is dark and suspenseful. Gaiman does a very good job at portraying this through the use of interesting characters with unemotional yet unexpected ways of speaking. The purpose of Coraline in the alternate world is easy to understand, and motivating for the audience to want to root for her and join her.

However, what is lacking in this book, is the development of Coraline. Although she calls herself an explorer, and at times in the journey she reminds herself to be brave, there is not enough expected emotions out of her. She is too even-keeled, too brave, and shows no outwardly signs of fright or surprise throughout the book. It’s fine for other characters to demonstrate this emotionless behavior, but the reader wants to associate with Coraline and the fear of her journey. Although this might be Gaiman’s way of not scaring children readers too much, or maybe to make the story even more dark, but I found it a bit distancing. I didn’t feel the fear I should because I didn’t think Coraline was scared enough. I don’t remember being that brave when I was a kid. Then again, Alice and the Pevensie kids also were not scared. However, they went into alternate worlds that were very fantastically friendly to children. Why be scared of a cute Cheshire cat, or a talking faun. There was also a lack of explanation for some of the other characters in the alternate world, which lessens the motivation for Coraline’s journey. The ending is also somewhat anti-climactic as it doesn’t fully tie all loose ends together.

These points might just be an adult going too deep in analysis of a children’s book. It is very likely that young readers do not need such deep character development and sensible stories. Even with these flaws, the book was a fun read. The graphic style of P. Craig Russell is very enjoyable. The colors are vibrant, the good characters normal and calm, while the bad characters are mysterious and dark. I will give two ratings for this book, one for children and one for adults.

8 out of 10 Black Cats

Children's Rating: 8 out of 10 Black Cats

6 out of 10 Dead Rats

Adult Rating: 6 out of 10 Dead Rats

Posted in Books, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

My Independent Assessment: Is Sarah Palin Qualified to be Vice President of the United States?

Posted by silentarchimedes on September 18, 2008

I had been writing this long assessment of Sarah Palin and whether she was qualified to be Vice President or even President. However, I have since stopped writing it for several reasons. One, it got to a point where it was pretty depressing writing so many negative things about someone. It would not be construed as an independent assessment, and purely a biased lambasting of her. Two, it seems like no matter what I said, I wasn’t going to be convincing anyone, since all the news on her is pretty  much out in the public. Either you don’t like her or you like her because people you don’t like like her. And finally, it seems like the initial weeks of excitement over her is over, and the trendlines are reverting back to normalcy and logic. That being said, I post what I had written, and leave it at that.

==== Unfinished post below ====

This whole Sarah Palin pick as John McCain’s vice presidential (VP) candidate is really bothering me. I still don’t understand how someone so inexperienced and controversial can reignite the presidential race and give the McCain/Palin ticket its first lead ever. Well, if I am an independent pragmatist, it’s time for me to do some unbiased analysis. I have obviously had an Obama tilt this time around, but being an independent does not mean you vote for a third party every election. At least for me, it means I choose a candidate based on the important issues affecting me and the country at that time and who I think is best equipped to resolve those issues, regardless of political party.

So, it’s time to see Palin from both sides of the argument. To lay all the issues surrounding her and decide if each one is unrelated to her potential as VP or if they are possible landmines. And do an unbiased assessment of whether Sarah Palin is a legitimate person to hold the second highest position in our country. Well, vice-president is second highest mostly by name, considering their only official duty based on the Constitution is to serve as the President of the Senate. The Constitution assigns no executive powers to the VP) and the role only becomes important if the president dies, since the VP is the first to take office.

If you have read my Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt? Who had the greater Olympic achievement, I will try to be as unbiased as possible. As a matter of fact, I went to my Phelps or Bolt assessment with the belief that Bolt would win. instead my assessment concluded otherwise. As I type this sentence, I have no idea what the result will be, and yes, my initial bias is that Palin is not a legitimate VP candidate.

So, let’s begin!


Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin

SARAH PALIN

Name: Sarah Louise Heath Palin
Job: GOVERNOR OF ALASKA

Assumed office December 4, 2006

Party: Republican (1982-present)
Born: February 11, 1964 (age 44)

Sandpoint, Idaho, U.S.

Spouse: Todd Palin (since 1988)
Children: Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, Trig
Residence: Wasilla, Alaska
Degrees: B.S. communications-journalism

University of Idaho

Religion: Pentecostal Christian


First, some formalities. To be vice president of the United States, an individual must:

  • be a natural born U.S. citizen
  • not be younger than 35
  • have lived in the U.S. for at least 14 years
  • not be “constitutionally ineligible to the office of President”

The last point requires her to have to be eligible for the office of President. The presidential requirements are:

  • be a natural-born citizen of the United States;
  • be at least thirty-five years old;
  • have been a permanent resident in the United States for at least fourteen years.
  • not disqualified by the Senate

A president has a two-term limit, but a VP can serve as VP for unlimited number of terms.


The Assessment


This is how the assessment will go. I will go through every single issue I have read about Palin from the media supporting her and against her. I will then give the issue one of seven possible scores, with the question of how it affects her qualification to be VP of the United States:

+3. Strongly helps her
+2. Helps her
+1. Slightly helps her
0. Has no affect on qualification as VP
-1. Slightly against her
-2. Against her
-3. Strongly against her

Obviously, there will be issues in which it is too subjective to give an unbiased score. For example, the fact that she is pro-life should have no bearing on her qualification as VP. These issues that are too subjective will fall into this category. I will still discuss these issues though.

I will then add up the scores and calculate an average. A positive score would indicate she is qualified enough to be VP. A negative score would indicate the opposite. A final discussion will ensue. I am hoping that as this election campaign continues, I will keep adding to this assessment and modifying the score. If you  have feedback or other issues, please feel free to comment.


The Issues


1. Does vice-presidential pick even matter? – In past presidential campaigns, the vice president has not had a major impact on the eventual outcome of the election. For example, the elder George Bush won the 1988 election even with the ill-advised selection of Dan Quayle. However, there have been campaigns where the selection of the vice president blunted their momentum. One recent example is Ross Perot’s independent campaign of 1992. Because Perot was a third party, the selection of his VP was of utmost interest, since it would clear up the Perot platform. His selection of slow-footed retired Vice Admiral James Stockdale definitely slowed his momentum all the way through the elections.

So does John McCain’s selection of the VP matter? YES. And that’s a resounding yes. The biggest reason is the concern of McCain’s health and age. If McCain wins the election, he will be 72 years old. Based on the 2007 estimates of the CIA World Factbook, the life expectancy of a male in the United States is 75.15. However, this is the expectancy of all ages. If we get into the details, according to the CDC reports, white males born in 1900 have a life expectancy of 46.6, and those born in 1950 have an expectancy of 66.5. Based on the trend that life expectancy increases based on birth dates closer to today (those born in 2005 can expect to live to 75.7),  we can extrapolate the life expectancy of while males born in 1936, the year McCain was born in. Let’s just say it is below 60 years old. McCain is already 12 years beyond his expected life.

To add further more concerns, McCain has battled melanoma, a malignant form of skin cancer. Although he is cancer-free for seven years and his medical records indicate a strong heart and general good health, concerns still persist. We also do not know the long-lasting trauma he experienced in four years of torture and isolation as a POW.

From a logical point of view, the concerns are strong enough to warrant deeper analysis of the vice presidential pick. This is either good or bad for Sarah Palin. The fact that most people do not know anything about her, she has the opportunity to paint her own picture. On the other hand, her inexperience and skeletons would be under the microscope more. As we know about the media, negative things will be blown out of proportion while positive things will be more likely ignored. I give this a negative for her because she is being scrutinized more as a potential presidential candidate than a VP candidate, which means higher standards. Any extra scrutiny of politicians is always a negative because of the attention and spin the media can take.

Score: -2. Against her


2. Honesty – I know honesty is not one of the first words associated with politicians, but it is nonetheless an important characteristic of campaigns. Politicians that have been forthright have usually done better overall. As a society we tend to treat liars worse than dumb people. Barry Bonds is a perfect example. So, after a few weeks as VP candidate, is Palin honest? Let’s look at some issues that she and her camp had publicly released, only to later admit they were false:

Now issues that are obviously lies, but the Palin camp continues to publicly push or defend:

  • She said no to the Bridge to Nowhere. She has been trumping this for the past two weeks. Most independent sources said she supported the bridge and only changed her mind after Congress denied the request and the Bridge had already become a national laughingstock. On Gibson’s interview, she explained that the $200 million was still given to Alaska, but she said no to the bridge and spent it elsewhere. Whaat?!
  • She says Obama will raise taxes. All independent sources say this is false. Over 90% of people’s taxes will be reduced on Obama’s plan. Palin’s reason for cotinuing saying this? She says Obama voted no 94 times on bills Bush wanted to cut taxes. This is an obvious twist of truth because Obama voted no to Bush’s tax cuts because they focused on the rich.
  • She billed the state of Alaska $17,059 for travel when the whole time she was working at home. Although this is technically allowed, it is very frowned upon. Her camp has defended this based on technicalities. That’s what politicians do, look for loopholes.
  • She says she is a reformer who worked to end the “abuses of earmark spending in Congress. The truth is the earmarks she requested have been more per person than any other state! This is Alaska! According to the Gibson interview, Alaska gets over $200/person in earmarks, while Obama’s Illinois only gets $20/person in earmarks! She received $27 million of earmarks for her Wasilla town of 7,000! She also hired a lobbyist for Wasilla in her second term!

Score: -3. Strongly against her


3. Family Issues – This is a tough issue, only because I do think family issues get the benefit of doubt in terms of privacy. However, when Palin started exploiting her family publicly, all issues became game. She put a video of her 7-year old daughter on her campaign website telling people to vote for her mother. Then she paraded her entire family at the end of her RNC speech. So let’s look at the most prominent family issues and how it should affect her qualification:

  • Down-syndrome baby – This is a tough one. Slight credit must be given to her to knowingly carry the burden of having a down syndrome baby. However, her decision making must be questioned. To be fair, I cite a British source mother25plus.co.uk that states the risk of a 43 year old mother having a Down Syndrome baby is 1 in 49, compared to 1 in 1351 for 25 year olds and 1 in 384 for 35 year olds. The U.S. stats are a little better. The question must be asked, with already four kids, isn’t birth control a responsible decision for a 43 year old mother? Recent research has also hinted the father’s increasing age is also a risk in the baby having Down Syndrome. When we look at it this way, it would be even more detrimental to her character if she had an abortion on a DS baby she took the risks to have.
  • Pregnant teen daughter – This is a huge negative because of the fact that Palin is suppose to represent family values. One cannot twist the logic or divert attention to the comfort that she’s a regular person with normal problems. The facts are the facts, her 17-year old high school senior daughter is pregnant with her high school boyfriend. Just because they plan to get married does not change the act. Has this family heard of contraceptives? It’s interesting to note that Sarah’s daughter’s brother will only be one year older than her own child.
  • Todd Palin member of Alaskan Independence Party for 8  years – While the Palins were married, Todd was part of a political party that advocates the independence of Alaska from the United States. Although he is now a registered Republican, this can’t help what people view of him.
  • Her marriage was an elopement

However, these four issues can be seen differently, as witnessed by supporters of Palin. Although people can mention the lack of responsibility in the first two issues, we do not have concrete evidence of how and why a couple would want a fifth baby. Thus, this is only a slight negative.

Score: -1. Slightly against her


4. Personal Issues – This differs from family issues in that these issues are directly related to herself.

5. Education – It has been reported that she received her Bachelor of Science in Communications-Journalism from the University of Idaho. However, it has not been fully reported that before going to the University of Idaho, she spent her first college semester at Hawaii Pacific College, transferring in 1983 to North Idaho College and then to the University of Idaho. She attended Matanuska-Susitna College in Alaska for one term, returning to the University of Idaho to complete her Bachelor of Science degree in communicationsjournalism, graduating in 1987.[17][18] As much as people tout that she is a normal person, we should still hold our leaders to higher standards. Nothing against the schools she attended, but she can’t seem to make up her mind.

She has no higher college degree. I value education greatly and I think this is a huge negative. She also used her degree in journalism to become a sports reporter for KTUU-TV in Anchorage, Alaska.[19] She also helped in her husband’s commercial fishing family business.

Score: -3. Strongly against her


5. Domestic Policy Experience – Let’s look at her career and each job in detail:

  • Sports reporter for KTUU-TV – OK, this obviously gave her no pertinent experience whatsoever.
  • City council of Wasilla – She was elected twice. Overall she did a decent job as she curtailed bar hours by two hours and was concerned with sales tax spending. However, her campaign manager stated Palin said in 1995 that the book Daddy’s Roommate should be removed from the shelves of the local library although she had not read the book.
  • First Term as Mayor of Wasilla – Let’s be serious here. I come from a town in New Jersey of over 20,000 people. No one knows or cares for the mayor. Palin was mayor of a town that had 6,300 people at the end of her second term. Even as mayor, there were some warning signs: (1) although she did not request for any specific books to be banned, she did inquire about the possibility to the city librarian, Mary Emmons. Emmons was against it and was later fired by Palin. Palin had to rescind the firing the next day due to strong public support for Emmons. (2) Her firing of Police Chief Stambaugh led to a lawsuit against Palin. Stambaugh claimed that he was fired because he was against concealed weapons and that Palin said the NRA didn’t like him. The lawsuit was dismissed more on abuse of power than fairness. The judge said the mayor can fire city employees for any reason, including political ones. — However, she did do some amazing things as mayor. She cut property taxes by 75% and eliminated personal property and business inventory taxes. She built new bike paths, funded storm-water treatment in order to protect freshwater resources. She reduced spending by stopping construction on a new library and city hall. She won re-election with 74% of the vote.
  • Second Term as Mayor of Wasilla – During her second term as mayor, Palin introduced a ballot measure proposing the construction of a municipal sports center to be financed by a 0.5% sales tax increase.[46] The $14.7 million Wasilla Multi-Use Sports Complex was built on time and under budget, but the city lost an additional $1.3 million due to an eminent domain lawsuit caused by a failure to obtain legal ownership of the property before beginning construction.[46]She also hired the Anchorage-based lobbying firm of Robertson, Monagle & Eastaugh to lobby for earmarks for Wasilla. The effort was led by Steven Silver, a former chief of staff for Senator Ted Stevens,[47] and it secured nearly $27 million in funds. The earmarks included $500,000 for a youth shelter, $1.9 million for a transportation hub, $900,000 for sewer repairs, and $15 million for a rail project linking Wasilla and the ski resort community of Girdwood.[48] Some of the earmarks were criticized by Senator McCain in 2001 and 2002.[49]


6. Foregin Policy Experience – This is probably her weakest experience. Palin made a well-documented trip to Kuwait and Germany last year to visit U.S. troops, and over time, the governor and her staff have revealed she also visited Canada and Mexico. Meanwhile, her aides clarified that a purported visit to Ireland was little more than a refueling stop during her trip to the Middle East. This is the extent of her international travel! She is 43 years old and made one international trip! She hasn’t even been to Russia, Alaska’s western neighbor. As a matter of fact, she had to get a passport last year just to make her trip to Kuwait. After her nomination, Palin was hunkered down with Republican foreign policy experts to brush her up on foreign policy. This is very frightening that a potential VP has to learn foreign policy on the campaign trail. That means her views will be dictated by those that are teaching her. Most of the people teaching her? Bush related members. This does not bode well for any change in Bush’s foreign policy.

Palin has so far been unwilling to go deep into foreign policy issues; most likely because she doesn’t have the experience to form an opinion yet. Her first opinion was a very recent hawkish comment that she would consider going to war with Russia in order to defend Georgia!!! The fact that she cited the NATO treaty as the reason is naive (Georgia’s not even in NATO yet). The U.S. would be very wise not going to war with Russia, the second most nuclear power in the world, over Georgia.

In the Gibson interview, Palin was very general in her responses to foreign policy questions. She was very vague and Gibson had to emphasize several times that she was not answering the question. She also did not know what the Bush Doctrine was.

(Opinion) I can’t stress how scary and unfathomable this point is. At a time when America’s foreign policy has caused so much animosity from the rest of the world, is a VP with no foreign policy experience at all the right choice? Considering McCain is closely tied to Bush’s foreign policy, this does not mean change at all. I must admit, it is getting tough to be unbiased. I haven’t even written half of my assessment yet, and so far it’s been all negatives. I need to look up positives of her.

Score: -3. Strongly against her


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The Republican platform against big government just doesn’t fly

Posted by silentarchimedes on September 18, 2008

So what have we learned since Reagonomics in the 1980s?

  • Individuals cannot be trusted to handle all their money by themselves. In a capitalistic “I want it now” society, putting too much power in individuals has led to through the roof personal debts of all kinds. Credit card debt has mortgaged each individual’s future for the present. Taking on unaffordable mortgages has dramatically increased foreclosures and personal bankruptices in this country. Horribly managed personal retirements accounts, such as 401Ks and IRAs,  have seen individuals lose their entire life savings (think Enron, Lucent, MCI, AIG, etc).
  • Corporations, or superhumans, cannot be trusted to look out for the interests of individuals and society. The main goal of corporations is to make money. It is not to help society. Of course they still do because helping society creates a better image of them, and thus can lead to better sales. Corporations are run by greedy managers whose huge salaries are usually not tied to performance anyways. Even if the company tanks they are usually given nice little golden parachutes. Management of Enron, MCI and other companies simply lied and drove the companies into the ground. They did not care about their own employees at all.

So if individuals and corporations are not to be trusted, who is left? The federal government. However, Reagonomics has also shown that the Feds are also just as incompetent at looking out for the interests of the individual. National debt, deficit, dollar, and whatever other metric you want to use has gone in the completely wrong direction with larger government involvement. The current financial crisis, the housing bubble, and the dot com bubble have all been directly due to horrible decisions of the Feds.

If all three are undependable to take care of money and society, then who’s left? Who to trust? Is a big government better or a small government? One thing we have known is that the Feds have done some nice things in the past, when it actually stood for something. The Social Security program was a great idea, and only became an impending financial crisis because of the irresponsibility of recent administrations. The national highway system is still the best in the world. If we can put an administration that is trustworthy and seriously believes in solving the domestic problems of this country, the Feds are our best choice. A big responsible government in this day and age is our only chance to solve the upcoming crises we will have on our hands. Those crises include faltering infrastructure, national debt, slowing technological competition, education, Social Security, Medicaid/Medicare, crime, poverty, global warming, etc etc. There is no way a small government will be able to handle all these problems.

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Diversify investments you must! Or AIG you will become…

Posted by silentarchimedes on September 17, 2008

American International Group, Inc.

American International Group, Inc.

The fall of AIG (American International Group, Inc.) will be studied in economics classes for many many years to come. It is such a precipitous fall that it’s another one of those corporate stories where employees and investors alike get blindsided. However, as with most of these corporate tragedies, there are always warning signs leading up to the collapse. When the federal goverment announced yesterday they were bailing out AIG by infusing $85 billion to take control of 79.9% of it, it marked the biggest victim in the latest credit/mortgage/insurance crisis. Since AIG is the biggest insurance company in America, it had some of the most exposure to credit and financial services. This should have been a warning sign when other icons like Bear Stearns collapsed. As a matter of fact, when the bailout by J.P. Morgan was announced on March 24, 2008, AIG actually rose over $1. It did drop a few dollars in the next few days but because the entire market was down. This shows how little investors know about the financial details of a corporation. Here is the AIG chart:

AIG's quick fall from over $50 to $2

AIG Daily Chart - the quick collapse from $50 to $1

Ever since I started investing out of college during the peak of the dot com era, all the advice kept saying was to diversify your investments. To invest in very stable and safe companies that provided stable returns to balance the riskier investments. They suggested to invest in General Electric (GE), and Proctor and Gamble (PG), Philip Morris (PM), and, yup, AIG. As we know, GE has also had its troubles since Jeff Immelt took over for the legendary Jack Welch as CEO. But the collapse of AIG has to be one of the most shocking ever. Just look at AIG’s performance since 1985:

AIG Stock Chart - 1985 to current

AIG Stock Chart - 1985 to current

However, the point of diversifying is well taken. It just shows that not any one company is immune to troubles at a macro and micro level. That such stable entitites as AIG and GE can also hit walls. That you have to do your research and do it well. That even if you do do your research there is still risk. The fall of AIG also reminds us of two other great corporate tragedies, Lucent Technologies (LU, and now ALU), and Enron. Although AIG’s troubles have more to do with macro-issues such as the financial industry and the world credit crunch, an implosion as I’d like to call it, Lucent’s and Enron’s were more of a micro-level collapse, an explosion as I’d like to call it. Lucent’s collapse had more to do with management’s inability to sustain sales in a tech bubble and using ill-advised methods, such as loans to companies with no prospects of profit, to its own customers. Enron’s collapse was similar in that management used devious and sleight of hand tricks to show improving sales, even when analysts began doubting them.

Lucent chart before buyout by Alcatel

Lucent chart before buyout by Alcatel - From high of $80 in 1999 to under $1

The collapse of Enron

The collapse of Enron

The fed bailout of AIG is ironic. One can argue that the AIG troubles are the fault of the Feds to begin with. This whole mortgage and credit crunch crisis can be laid at the foot of Alan Greenspan and the dollar making Fed machine. When the dot com burst and 9/11 occurred, the U.S. went into a recession. The most historically logical thing to do would have been to just let the economy play itself out. The craziness of the dot com bubble was not correctly monitored by the Feds, else people would not have lost all their fortunes to paper money. So if the Feds did not get involved during greedy times, why get involved during recessionary times? It was very poor management. So instead of letting the recession play itself out, the Greenspan Feds simply pumped more and more dollars into the economy and dramatically decreased the regulations required for access to credit. The huge amount of extra credit in the economy created the housing bubble which burst and the credit crunch ensued. What will be interesting is what Ben Bernanke and the Feds do now. Does he bail out the economy again at the expense of our future or does he play tough and do the right thing? So far, the Bernanke Feds have given mixed signals. They’ve been trying to play a slightly tougher hand than Greenspan, by saying no more bailouts. But saying and doing are two different things. Since then they have bailed out Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and now AIG. All three, way too big to let fail. Although they decided to leave interest rates alone this week, we will see how much moxie they have when the markets keep falling while inflation keeps rising. Additionally, it appears that the annual summer correction of gold and oil is over. It will be interesting to see what happens as we head into winter.

So what is the moral of this story? Yes, one must diversify its investments. However, do not just diversify in specific corporations and industries. Also diversify into mutual funds, bonds, and CDs. Diversify in non-dollar investments, like gold, silver, other commodities, and currencies. The economic times of America will be very very unpredictable in the next ten to twenty years as globalization plays itself out. America will either remain alone at the top of the economic ladder, or new leaders such as the rising East, like China and India, become competing economic behemoths. Be in position to capitalize on this. Read books about it. For suggestions click on the Economics category to the left of my blog. I have been reading economic books like crazy lately and writing reviews on them. Let me know if you have any questions , suggestions or comments.

Happy investing!

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