software unAmerican

Language: The Debate and the Law

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.



The Debate: A Critique By Internet

Tonight I am critiquing the debate entirey by using Internet sources.


Spending 1

McCain says check out the CAGW website.[1] says:

CAGW has been criticized for its links to the tobacco industry and to lobbyists including Jack Abramoff.

Obama says $18 billion in earmark spending.[2] says:

For fiscal 2008, the budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense said there was $18.3 billion earmarked in spending bills. Citizens Against Government Waste came in at $17.2 billion. The Office of Management and Budget tallied earmarks at a mere $16.9 billion. In 2006, the Congressional Research Service, which used a different definition of “earmark” for each of the 11 spending bills it studied in that year, came up with over $67 billion.

McCain says pork has tripled in the past five years.  According to the aforementioned CAGW[3]:

Year Cost Count



















McCain says US has 2nd highest business tax in world @ 35%.[4] says:

U.S.’s combined federal-state statutory corporate tax rate (39.3%) is now well above the weighted average for both the member nations of the OECD (31.9%) and the larger G-7 countries (33.8%).

Obama says Biz actually pays one of lowest tax rates from loopholes.[5] says:

In 2005, 28 percent of large foreign companies doing business in the United States (those with more than $250 million in assets or $50 million in sales) paid no taxes.

Spending 2

Obama says end dependence on foreign oil with alternatives.[6] says:

According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), public transportation in the United States saves approximately 1.4 billion gallons of gasoline and about 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. Yet only 14 million Americans use public transportation daily while 88 percent of all trips in the United States are made by car—and many of those cars carry only one person.

McCain says eliminate ethanol subsidies.[7] says:

“Ethanol is a product that would not exist if Congress didn’t create an artificial market for it. No one would be willing to buy it,” McCain said in November 2003.


“I support ethanol and I think it is a vital, a vital alternative energy source not only because of our dependency on foreign oil but its greenhouse gas reduction effects,” he said in an August [2007] speech in Grinnell, Iowa, as reported by the Associated Press.

[Of course because Obama is doing so well in Iowa, he can safely resume his earlier stance – Ed.]

McCain says “spending freeze on everything but defense, VA, and entitlement programs.”  Internet has nothing to say.

McCain says “We’re sending $700 billion a year overseas … some of that money ends up in the hands of terrorist organizations.”[8] says:

Under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice in March, banana giant Chiquita Brands International acknowledged it had paid $1.7 million to Colombia’s paramilitary groups.

The Police Action in Iraq

McCain says he came back from Iraq in 2003 calling for a change in strategy.[9] says:

“When I say more troops, we need a lot more of certain skills, such as civil affairs capability, military police. We need more linguists,” McCain added. [August 2003]

Obama says Al Qaida is the strongest they have been since 2001.  Times of India[10] says:

In recent months Yemen has seen a series of attacks on security services and oil installations claimed by groups linked to al-Qaida, with two attacks on US targets in the past six months.

McCain says there’s a difference between a tactic and a strategy.[11] says:

Entry Word: method

Synonyms approach, fashion, form, manner, strategy, style, system, tack, tactics, technique, way

McCain says Admiral Mullen said Obama’s withdrawal plan is dangerous.[12] says:

WALLACE: But I’m asking you in the absence — forget about Obama. Forget about the politics. If I were to say to you, “Let’s set a time line of getting all of our combat troops out within two years,” what do you think would be the consequences of setting that kind of a time line?

MULLEN: I think the consequences could be very dangerous in that regard. I’m convinced at this point in time that coming — making reductions based on conditions on the ground are very important.

The War in Afghanistan

Obama says the poppy trade is exploding.[13] says:

Farmers in a country that ranks among the poorest in the world, Mullen said, have little choice but to cultivate poppy to sell to insurgents, who turn profits from opium trade on the black market despite Afghan drug laws and national drug controls.

McCain says he is not prepared to strike in Pakistan.[14] says:

McCain said the war in Iraq was part of the fight against Islamic extremism, “the greatest evil, probably, that this nation has ever faced.”

“Osama has been able to get out a message of hate and to recruit, instruct and motivate these jihadists,” McCain said, pledging again to nab al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden even if it means “following him to the gates of hell.”

Obama says that McCain said we could muddle through Afghanistan.  YouTube[15] says:

“I’m not as concerned [about Afghanistan] as I am about Iraq today, obviously”, McCain said, “… in the long term we may muddle through in Afghanistan.” Guy Fawkes Day, 2003


Both say we cannot tolerate, afford, or allow for the Iranians to develop nuclear fission weaponry.[16] says:

It is therefore safe to infer that his populist message of economic equality struck a chord with the downtrodden who were more interested in bread and butter, and for whom Rafsanjani’s rhetoric about political and cultural liberalisation and improving relations with the US had little appeal. Rather, at a time when Iran is facing intense pressure from the US over its nuclear programme, any talk of improving relations with the latter was unlikely to have gone down well with the staunchly nationalist Iranian people.

Both argued about Kissinger’s position on Iran and whether there should be talks with them.  McCain characterized Obama’s position as one of throwing an orgy for Ahmadinejad while Obama characterizes his own position as having preparatory talks with Iran with the possibility of brokering a deal and eventual Presidential talks.[17] says:

Kissinger, speaking Monday at George Washington University along with four other former U.S. State Department secretaries, said the next president should initiate high-level discussions with Iran “without conditions,” ABC News reported.

[Ed: There is a history of diplomacy when dealing with someone like Ahmadinejah, where if they have to bow and kiss the ring… you have to let them save face or you’ll get nowhere.  But most of the time if they can come out looking strong before their daughters and sons, they will back down and go along.  I cut the rest of the section on Iran because obviously most Americans and especially those involved in politics are not ethically mature enough to be the “bigger man” in such a scenario.  If the bombs may fall, the smaller men will surely perish and the meek shalt inherit the earth.]


McCain says that Russia is run by the KGB.[18] says:

While Putin proudly acknowledges his time in the KGB, others do not, yet their résumés are filled with postings that former KGB officials cite as common covers for the intelligence agency.

Obama says we can’t drill our way to energy independence.[19] says:

Over the next four years, we are likely to witness the greatest mass exodus of vehicles off America’s highways in history. By 2012, there should be some 10 million fewer vehicles on American roadways than there are today—a decline that dwarfs all previous adjustments including those during the two OPEC oil shocks.

Another September 11, 2001 Attack on the USA

McCain says we can’t leave Iraq because Al-Qaida will move in.[20] says:

In a world of bad options, a phased withdrawal is the least bad one out there.


With the U.S. drawing down, Iraq would diminish as a focal point of anti-Americanism. With most U.S. troops exiting the region, Washington would have more leverage with Iran, which has continued its march toward nuclear weapons while the U.S. has been bogged down in Iraq. And most important of all, the U.S. would regain the military, economic and intellectual bandwidth it once employed to advance its interests elsewhere and start rebuilding its reputation overseas.

Obama says we have weakened our capacity to project power around the world because we’ve been focused on Iraq.’s response above (2nd graf) is a response to this as well.

McCain says Obama hasn’t admitted the surge succeeded.[21] says:

As recently as July, the Democratic presidential candidate declined to rate the surge a success, but said it had helped reduce violence in the country. […] Obama acknowledged the 2007 increase in U.S. troops has benefited the Iraqi people.

“I think that the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated,” Obama said while refusing to retract his initial opposition to the surge. “I’ve already said it’s succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.”

McCain also said the veterans support him.[22] says:

The fiercely anti-war Ron Paul, though he suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination months ago, has received more than four times McCain’s haul.

In closing, McCain said he helped to resolve the Vietnam POW/MIA issue.  The Nation[23] says:

The PAVE SPIKE file has never been declassified.


Well, that’s that.  One down, two and a half (Veep candidate debates only count as half debates) to go.

Hope you enjoyed the internet’s commentary.

  1. Citizens Against Government Waste – Wikipedia
  2. The Budget According to McCain
  3. Citizens Against Government Waste: Pork Barrel Report
  4. The Tax Foundation – Comparing International Corporate Tax Rates
  5. Corporate Taxes |
  6. Public Transportation – Fast Track to Fewer Emissions and Energy Independence
  7. John McCain flip-flops on ethanol on the Iowa campaign trail – November 13, 2006 –
  8. Terrorism and Bananas in Colombia – TIME
  9. John McCain’s real war record | Salon News
  10. Al-Qaida finds new bastion in Yemen: The Times of India
  11. method – Synonyms from the Merriam-Webster Online Thesaurus
  12. – Transcript Adm. Mullen on Fox News Sunday
  13. Hawaii Reporter – Narcotics Trade Fuels Afghanistan Insurgency
  14. JS Online: McCain promises to battle ‘radical Islamic extremism’
  15. YouTube – John McCain: Speech 11/05/03
  16. Elections in Iran –
  17. Kissinger: Open direct Iran talks –
  18. How Putin and his ex-KGB pals took over Russia’s economy. – Sep. 9, 2008 –
  19. StrategEcon: Heading for the Exit Lane
  20. How to Leave Iraq – TIME
  21. – Obama: Surge Succeeded Beyond ‘Wildest Dreams’ – Election HQ
  22. OpenSecrets | Troops Deployed Abroad Give 6:1 to Obama – Capital Eye
  23. The Nation – Why Has John McCain Blocked Info on MIAs?

Res Ipsa Loquitur: Campaign Ads and Facts

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.


McCain Picked Pygmalion

Palin is just Pygmalion with some letters removed, and the treatment she’s getting is probably not far off from that of Eliza Doolittle.  I can’t respect a candidate that needs to be taken off and sculpted into an “acceptable” speaker for the media interviews.

This is just pathetic and it shows what I’ve believed all along: the Palin pick was the shrewdest piece of political theater I’ve seen in my lifetime.  Not because it was a good move (it still looks to turn out as a disaster).  It was shrewd simply because of the amount of attention it garnered.  And continues to garner.

It reminds me a lot of the old Vandals song, “And Then She Spoke…,” which includes one of my favorite lines: “if she don’t shut up / I’m gonna throw up / all over her shoes.”  Point is that for now she’s not opened her mouth in this campaign without it being prepared.  She hasn’t had to show her true personality.

And that is the real mark of Pygmalion: Doolittle was covered in a cake of makeup so thick that her original person was lost.  The same is being attempted on Palin.



The Issues of the Campaign (Websites)

I was looking today at the two candidates’ websites, at their issues and noticed something odd. John McCain’s website puts education dead last on the issues page. So, I decided to compare it to Barack Obama’s website.


McCain Issue List
McCain Issue List

McCain’s site lists 12 items on its menu one of which links to the index of the issues (16 on the index page itself).  The disconnect between the menu and the index:

The page calls it Immigration, the list calls it Border Security

Judicial Philosophy, National Heritage, and Agricultural Policies don’t appear on the list but do appear on the index

Education is 6th on the list, but 16th on the index, way at the bottom.

The ordering of the issues can only reasonably be assumed to have something to do with his or his campaign’s priorities or the issues’ perceived impacts with the voters.  Putting education damned last with no rhyme or reason sends a clear message, which is oddly exactly what Obama has proclaimed of late: It’s like these guys take pride in being ignorant.

McCain’s site has far fewer issues listed than Obama’s in the first place and I doubt he even knows what kinds of things would fall under a Women Issues heading.  He’s got a Human Dignity & Life or Sanctity of Life issues section (depending whether you consult the list or index; he’s got consistency issues as well).  But that doesn’t include things like equal pay or glass ceiling or day care in the workplace, for example.


Obama Issue List
Obama Issue List

His site mirrors the list on the index.  The issues are alphabetically listed.  The minor difference comes with the index page linking to a PDF on his policy at the top while the list places it at the bottom.  Also the list contains a link to Additional Issues that the index page does not.  Oh, and another minor difference: the index page leaves off Women.  Maybe that’s because the alphabetical listing would have put women at the bottom, but I’m not sure.

Obama’s only real flaw is, ahem, LEAVING OFF WOMEN.  Other than that the two are identical.  And alphabetical which justifies the order.  Women should be on the index page even if you have to rename them to Females to give them higher billing, dammit.

The Obama campaign is obviously more tactful and sensitive to making good choices about even minor details like the order of a list.  They understand that arbitrary ordering can only lead to people judging that order and the motives behind it.  They also understand that these issues aren’t one-off shots each standing on their own and that they effect each other and need addressing.  They’re taking a wider look at the world that the McCain camp probably dismisses quite readily, being from the truly elitest party.


Anyway, this has been a brief look at the issues list and issues index page for both the campaign websites.  Boiled down to a single-digit integer between 0 and 9 (from a pure design standpoint discounting the content of the issue items themselves) I’d give McCain’s list and index a 4 and Barack Obama’s a 7.