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Language: The Debate and the Law

Just a few rambling sections about the debate, the country, the law, and formal language.

Stractics and Tagegy

Elizabeth mentions that they looked up the difference between strategy and tactics during the debates too.  And I thought Obama was supposed to be the intellectual here.  Oh, campaign posturing, you’ve fooled me again!

My understanding is that the plural, tactics, is equivalent to strategy.  The singular, tactic, would be equivalent to stratagem except the latter has the connotation of trickery or deception, which is a subset of tactics and strategies.

This election has seen many stratagem of attacking the opponent over language.  We’ve seen metaphors involving swine, doctrines that redefine themselves by an egg timer (and somehow remained owned by their minter), and so on.

It is obvious that neither candidate is familiar with the principle of charity nor do they believe winning on the issues alone is more important than winning.

Come Guy Fawkes Day, the cheese stands alone.  With all 300 million of us standing in a big circle.  That is the level of maturity our political landscape has devolved into.  Hi-ho, the derry-o!

How to Create Good Law

Even in the midst of a financial market meltdown the question on the tip of their tongues is “How do we show off?”  So McCain straps on his bullet-proof vest and charges into the fray.  Obama talks some sense about regulations, but seems to favor a bailout nonetheless.

Meanwhile, we’ve still got soldiers trying to stop the violence of two foreign lands and no real consolidated plan to stop buying all this oil.  We’ve still got millions without health insurance, one heartbeat away from bankruptcy.  Our electricity grid is aging.  Our internet service sucks.  Our transportation system is regressive.  Our tax structure is about as sensible as Ahmadinejad (again, in many ways caused more by perception than any intrinsic conviction).

One of the big problems is that we still legislate using 20th (err, 18th) century methods: a bill is born, and the staples fly until a simple three-section bill turns into a 200-section monstrosity. Then, as Obama said about funding the troops during the debate, a disagreement about something like time-tables (or in the case of the update to FISA that Obama voted for, illegal immunity for telecommunications companies) may force a voter’s hand either way.

In software we call the concept of having a module or class directed at a single, specific task “cohersion.”  When a bill focuses on everything from Iraq funding to the drinking age to a resolution praising the latest Pixar film we call that “coincidental cohesion.”  We should have law created according to the same principles that govern (proper) software engineering.

What’s more, we should have a context free language that describes the law.  That is the kind of thing that might drag me back to school some day.


Election 08: Prediction Time

My prediction for outcome of the 2008 Election for President.

Update: Addressed reader criticism below.

Ah, well here were are on a nice Saturday in September: fall television is to start soon, and the debates as well.

It’s also about time I place my prediction for the outcome of this election for President.  I know I talked about the possibility of the two major candidates garnering prime numbers of electoral votes, but I don’t think we can make it happen unless South Carolina or Kentucky (or else some exotic exchange) occurs.

For that reason I am stating now, for the record, that my prediction of the upcoming election is: 273 to 265 Barack Obama will win.

My swing on this is actually pretty wide. On the outside for Obama winning would be 338 to 200 with the big differences being if Obama pulled off Florida and Ohio (in my prediction he loses both). On the inside, McCain could win at 278 to 260 but this is assuming he gets Colorado and New Hampshire.  And still grabs Ohio and Florida.

It will probably stay pretty close, though.  I expect Barack Obama to be our next president.

Update: Some readers have noticed that my prediction happens to align with the current numbers from  That is just coincidence.

While I do use that site to get a view of the polls, my methodology is actually to look at the long-term trend while electoral-vote happens to look at the best, most recent consensus of the polls.  I’m disposed to believe that if a given state thinks one way for the majority of the time, they will continue to think that way until some major event causes them to change their minds.  And don’t say “Like 9/11?” because as far as I can tell the only thing that changed on 9/11 was the the level of reckless abandon the government had to spend our money on security theater.

No, try instead looking at some of the concepts addressed in philosophy of science and the psychology books dealing with modifying behavior.  Or maybe even that pop-psych book The Tipping Point (which I have not read, so don’t blame me if that suggestion is way off).  Until enough evidence has amassed to lead one to face an alternative conclusion, one will generally stay on the same track.

A body in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.  A body at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. A republican-leaning state will tend to vote republican unless acted upon by a sufficient event.  A democratically-inclined state will tend to vote democratically unless acted upon by a sufficient event. That is, if nothing major happens between now and Guy Fawkes Day Eve, then with a small margin of error for battleground states (which I’ve already erred on the side of caution in tallying) my prediction will hold.

Whether the current situation on Wall Street will be that event that could cause some changes, we will see.  Whether other things will happen between now and then that will push things around and shake things up, we will see.

Res Ipsa Loquitur: Campaign Ads and Facts

McCain’s gonna be something for Halloween, alright. Wrong is what. Ho ho ho.

Today some links.

McCain-Palin Distorts Our Finding: was used in a recent campaign advertisement for John S. McCain and Sarah L. H. Palin.  Problem is, according to, the use of their quote and their name is a distortion of reality.

… we’ve also asked that “the editorial integrity of the article be preserved” and told those who use our items that “you should not edit the original in such a way as to alter the message.”

Hell.  That’s something that you can learn in just about any school in America.  What’s wrong with these people?  Good, old-fashioned, down-home, American editorial prowess is too much for them?  And they want to lead our country?  God help us, God dammit, if they manage to pull this one off.

What’s John McCain gonna be for Halloween?  Wrong.

PCL: Campaign 2008: This is one I probably should have known about by now, but I’m glad to have found.  The Stanford Political Communication Lab publishes the official ads of the presidential campaigns.  A good resource if you don’t watch a lot of ads on tv.

Well, two is a nice, round number.  So that’s what you get for today.  Enjoy.