Live from DNC: Bill Keeps It Short
8/27 9:15 pm PST
When he's on a script, you have to say Biden tells a helluva speech. The bit where he lowered his voice to talk about the poor poor people who needed the government to help them was really effective.
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Continuing my thoughts for a bit. As I was saying, it really strikes me, when I listen to these speeches, that a lot of what we're being promised is about what the government is going to do for us. None of what they want to do for us is undesirable, and I've always thought that the "left" makes a really basic mistake (for whatever reason) in assuming that the "right" doesn't think these things are desirable. It's not true. Free health care for everyone? Yeah, I'd love it. Everyone gets to go to college? Fine idea. Hell, I like teaching, it would be more chances to teach.
But then... how? There's an ad running for AARP's health care initiative, in which a family talks about how they went bankrupt, paying even just the differential between their mother's insurance coverage, and the cost of her care for a brain tumor. I don't doubt that's true. Maybe it would be better to have a governmental single-payer system like the UK? Well, maybe --- except the treatment they give for a brain tumor in the UK is steroids and information on how to compose a will. The AARP family have their wife and mother, and they're broke; in Britain they wouldn't be broke, just bereft.
But oh, we wouldn't do it that way. Okay, fine: tell me how you would do it, and what makes that different from all the other tries?
They want to save people from poverty, and I agree that would be wonderful, but how? As PJ O'Rourke pointed out, it doesn't appear to be anti-poverty programs; if we just took the amount of money spent to save people from poverty, divided it up among all the people below the poverty line, and sent them a check, they'd have so much money they'd no longer be in poverty.
So why is there still poverty?
They want everyone to have a good education, and I think that's a fine idea, but how? Giving them more money doesn't do it. As I pointed out with my CORS project piece, places like New York City already have enough money per student; it's no that they need more money to pay teachers, because they could pay teachers $200,000 a year and still have money left over on the current budgets. Why can't we pay the teachers enough? And why is it that it seems the more money per student, the poorer the results?
So why aren't the schools better?
These are really rhetorical questions. We know why there's still poverty: it's because for every dollar a poor person gets, the intervening layers of government spend close to two dollars. The New York City schools can't pay teachers enough because somewhere, somehow, of the $338,000 they pay for a 24-student class, nearly $300,000 is absorbed before they pay the teacher's salary.
There are some good reasons for it; government doesn't reward "success" in its ranks, or rather, the definition of success is different. Success in government is managing to spend all your money in a fiscal year and then successfully explaining that you need even more --- because the good effects haven't happened yet.
So if you've spent all your money and there are still poor people --- we need more. If we've spent all our school funding, and Johnny still can't read --- we need more.
Really, the reason a conservative is not a liberal is because, under it all, there's a suspicion that there is indeed some limit to what government can do for us.
When you're growing up, one of the big shocks is when you realize your parents aren't gods. They don't know everything. They can't make everything better. They might even not be smarter than you are.
All these speeches sound, to me, like the people speaking have never really gotten over the feeling that really good parents wouldn't have those failings; they want Government to be their good parent.
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Honestly, I know I've got a point in here, and it's not gelled yet for me. What I do know, though, is that I'm supposed to be on the Martha Zoller Show at 11:20 AM EDT --- 9:20 my time, and at the Convention. I'd better get to bed, so I'd better sign off.
Remember, still taking questions at Ask Charlie Anyhting. I won't be going to the RNC, but if you want to ask, I'll try to pass them along.
8/27 8:30 pm PST
The second topic Phil and I talked about was campaigns and campaign finance. Phil wants campaigns to be publicly financed, and he wants to make advertising for campaigns free. I pointed out that Obama had a chance to make his campaign publicly financed, and didn't; we didn't get far with that one. I wondered, if they made the New York Times give its space over to free campaign advertising, what would the Times do for revenue? "Well, it's complicated. But the government should do something."
And that's really the story I'm hearing here. Joe Biden is talking now, and he's promising to do something for people who have to pay for expensive gas -- but what? Well, the government should do something. He wants to do something for people whose houses are now underwater. Metaphorically, he hasn't hit Katrina yet. But I'm sure it's coming.
I don't have kids, but I was one once, and I have nieces and nephews. One of the things you see kids saying: They want Dad to do something. Now, Obama is telling us he's going to be Dad, and he's promising he's going to make it all better, using government.
I just wonder: how?
8/27 7:28 pm PST
You know, I don't think I'm suited to this liveblogging thing. Not that I'm necessarily supposed to be liveblogging, I just gave it sort of a try. Steve Green said the same things I thought, but better --- I'm just not that fast a thinker.
So let's stop and consider this for a bit.
I guess it seems to me like what is going on -- and I hate to say it this way -- is that it really seems to me to be, in a basic way, the kids vs. the grown-up. Or the Faithful versus the skeptical.
When I was talking with Phil, the guy from Michigan, today, that was something I really noticed. We talked about how things are with his company and at GM. One of his points, a good one, is when he quoted something John Dingell said. That was that GM isn't a car company, it's a health-care company that makes cars to pay for health care.
Now Phil, and by extension Dingell, is absolutely right: the way things stand today is that GM's biggest single obligation (or at least very nearly the biggest, as the biggest may well be payroll taxes) is health care obligations under their union contracts. This adds -- again according to Phil -- something like $1,500 to $1,800 to the cost of each car.
The thing is, while health care costs are infinitly flexible, the price someone will pay for a car isn't. Phil went on to the next step and pointed out that when you have that much of a cost per car, you tend to optimize to bigger cars, so that you have some profit left.
What's the solution? "The government should do something."
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Did the cheering for Joe Biden as VP sound pretty thin?
8/27 6:57 pm PST
Okay, a little more calm reflection here. If only because, unlike Steve, I don't drink, so I'm not properly fortified to listen to this.
First thought: Holy crap, that's the shortest speech he's ever given. Did they have snipers on him, or what?
(The commentators say that he went three times his alloted time and didn't cover the topics he was supposed to cover. I guess three times his alloted time is something.)
Certainly we've seen what the basic ideas of the campaign we're going to see, though. It's clear that nothing that happened in the last eight years happened unless it's bad. AIDS --- Bush didn't have much to do with the advances that Bono liked so much. The military is too tired --- but that doesn't have anything to do with the massive reductions in Clinton's term.
On the other hand, there was just an ad for American Carol with Neville Chamberlain. Was that John Cleese? ... Oh, no, Oliver Muirhead. ... I hate listening to Sean Hannity, though. Even when I agree with him, it's like listening to someone run a tape about 10 percent too fast. Over to Fox Business, then maybe CSPAN.
It's always interesting to listen to Dick Morris comment. He's talking to Neil Cavuto. He doesn't like the Clintons (one can imagine why) and he wants to hurt them. Okay. What's really interesting, though, is his tactical insight.
8/27 6:38 pm PST
Got home about 6:58, and the phone was ringing off the hook. Someone passed around the rumor I met Michelle Malkin. Yes, she's at least as cute in person as on TV.
Listening to Clinton talk, and God, it's just a target rich environment. He wants to talk about "cronyism": Um, Mark Rich? About the overstressed military? Um, why is it there's no more U.S. military to do the job? He's got to be kidding.
Well, not with this audience; they know where the applause lines are.
"They want us to reward them for the last eight years with another four years." Well, yeah. Better that than four years of redistributive waffling.
8/27 3:15 pm PST
Read Day 2 of Charlie's Diary here.
THE James Lileks.
Is that cool or what?
Rode in on the bus with a Michigan Delegate and had a chance to talk with him and ask some questions, including a couple of the Ask Anyone questions. He had some fun stuff to say. His name is Phillip Reid; he's from North Oakland Michigan, and a Clinton delegate. I asked him how that was going.
He told me he'd started out as an Edwards man, then moved to Clinton. I was curious because I'd heard CNN reporting that Clinton had released her delegates, so I asked him.
"No, as far as I know we're still bound. I support Obama, but I'm a Clinton delegate and I'll vote for her." This was before the announcement this afternoon.
I asked him about the PUMAs, and he said, "I think, at the core, it's racism. It would be really unproductive to say it."
I reminded him at this point that I am press, but he continued.
"It would be extremely unproductive to say 'you are racist', but I really think that's it."
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I thought this was a good chance to ask some "Ask Anything" questions.
Clarice asks: "How's the food?"
Phil: "Have you ever been to any major sports arena? It's the same as any big arena --- hot dogs, little individual pizzas. The only thing is, it's just sodas and stuff to drink, no beer."
Dana asks: "What could Obama say that could make you vote for McCain?"
Phil: "Nothing. Absolutely nothing."
So, we're about to run out to see a protest march. Have fun everyone. More to come.
8/27 09:30 am
Okay, this is going to be somewhat quick. My feet are better and I don't think PJM is going to let me get away with reporting from my living room couch another day.
Some updates on yesterday
A number of people have said very, very kind things about me in the last 24 hours. Thank you everyone; there really are too many to link easily. But please, everyone link to this post, as I'd really like it to come high up the list for ... well, he who will no longer be named.
Andrew Marcus at Founding Bloggers took a great picture of me with Michelle. Unfortunately, it's a really good picture and high rez, and I can't upload it to Google Docs where I do this stuff. I'll have to have the PJM guys manipulate it to fit better.
The deal with my feet, and the reason I never quite got out yesterday, is that after walking probably 15 miles in the mall area, I ended up walking something like 3 miles home from the bus stop Monday night. That meant a lot of walking. I developed blisters on my feet. Then they developed blisters. By the time I got home and got my shoes off, the backs of both feet were like raw hamburger, and my white socks were mostly red.
Memo to self: the Doc Martens may have been a bad idea.
A little math geekery
There's something that really is a pet peeve of mine. Today's news was that Gallup has McCain leading Obama by two points in the daily tracking poll. The Gallup folks say it much better: "Obama, McCain Highly Competitive for Independent Vote." The only thing is, there's sampling error -- a small group of people may, just randomly, not match the population as a whole.
Say, for example, I put 500 red marbles and 500 blue marbles into a bucket and mixed them thoroughly, then picked out 10 marbles, eyes closed, no cheating. The chances that I'd pick out exactly 5 of each color are pretty small; more likely I'd get 6/4 or 7/3. That sampling error: if we get 6 of one and 4 of the other, we can't tell whether that means the marbles are 50-50 or 60-40. So when, as now, a poll has a 2 percent margin of error, and the candidates are within 2 points, all you know is you can't tell that from being absolutely equal, or even 2 points in the other direction. It would be just flipping a coin.
The trends, however, don't look good for Obama at all. It would appear that the more the voters know of Obama and the company he keeps, the less they like him. This is legitimate to say; the more samples you have --- like the many days in a row --- the better your estimate. For McCain to keep ahead for several days would mean that those random errors cancel out.
Denver PD and Michelle Malkin
I did get a call from the Denver PD's convention task force about the Michelle dust-up. The spokesman, a Lt. Saundier, told me that the behavior of the police at the Mint on Monday was not acceptable procedure, and he invited both Michelle and me to file charges. In addition, after the convention is over, he invited me to file an internal affairs complaint. We'll be sending them links to the video and our coverage.
Don't Forget 'Ask Charlie Anything'
I'm still looking for questions; I'll have some new answers later today. So send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.