Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Someone has to ...

Okay, I guess I'll get the ball rolling on last night's Republican Convention speeches by Senator McCain and Mayor Giuliani.

Basically, this is what I heard .... September 11th ... War on Terror ... Saddam Hussein ... September 11th ... War on Terror ... Saddam Hussein ... September 11th ... War on Terror ... President Bush ... September 11th ... September 11th ... September 11th ...

So, this is the concept I'm struggling with. The key note speeches last night focused on the President's leadership proceeding the attacks of September 11th and the subsequent war on terrorism. My initial reaction is, what was so extraordinary? Mayor Giuliani made anecdotal after anecdotal reference about the President's visit to NYC on September 14th, wouldn't have any President done that? Given the clear connection between the atrocities of September 11th and the Afghanistan's Taliban regime, wouldn't have any President decided to wage war against them? Is what President Bush did in reaction to September 11th extraordinary enough to re-elect him? I'm leaning to no.

By the way ... the point when Senator McCain made reference to Michael Moore while Michael Moore was in the convention hall was hi-larious. That was a perfect example of good natured politics.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Out Of Commission...For Now

Hello maniacal ones. Apparently, the United States Army doesn't care if their contractors fail to have internet access. Our system at work has been out of commission since Thursday, hence the dearth of blogging from my end. And the outlook for being reconnected at the office looks worse than Patrick Ramsey's throwing arm. Hopefully, we'll be back up sometime next week. Until then, my blog entries will be few and far between. Blogging relies on being up to date with the news; no news, no blogging. Especially if I'm at home and I won't have to fake like I'm doing work.

So, mighty maniacs, see if you can insult each other without me this week. I'll be watching the GOP convention when the West Wing, Justice League or the backlog of Angel episodes permit.

As for our new members, welcome Huong and Todd. They're still college students (translation: they still think that extracurriculars will get you laid), so egg them on to the maximum extent possible (e.g. "Huong doesn't like gay people, blacks, Jews, or college administrators unless their name is Dr Rodriguez" or "Todd believes that Jessica Simpson is a reincarnation of Janis Joplin, a certifiable musical genius, especially with that cover of everyone's favorite 'Top Gun' love song."). Let the fun and games begin.

Screw the baby boomers

A follow up post for below, but with a link. I'm no CATO libertarian, but this is an important issue for us lesser generations. And it isn't just Social Security. Every endeavor that adds to gov't debt screws us. Right now each of us owes roughly $23,000. Do you think the boomers care? Do you think they'll pay their share prior to retiring? The worst part about this is that it seems that young people look to the parties for guidance on the issue. The parties don't care, and don't represent our interests. They represent the majority of their members: old, financially irresponsible voters.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Retirement at 80?

Kerry, you dimwit. Way to be completely inflexible towards social security reform, you party line-hugging, kowtowing-to-the-AARP piece of sheit:

"A number of government studies have come to the conclusion that the baby boom wave will force the government to cut benefits, raise taxes or push back the retirement age to preserve the benefits."

Privatize damn it, PRI-VA-TIZE!!!!

Dog-O-Matic

Hey Kids,

So straight to the point, it's dogmatic bullshit like this pointed out in a Slate article about former Senator Bob Dole that makes me stay out of the Republican Party (among other things, my belief in systematic bias and my preference of "high-value" over "low-cost" when it comes to general economic policy). Slate got a hold of some tape from former Senator Dole's interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN that reveals that the former Senator believes what President Bush did with the political adds attacking Senator McCain's war record during the last round of Republican presidential primaries was fucked up. However, former Senator Dole pounces on Senator Kerry's war record like a good little GOP automaton. It's one thing to hold your party's line, it's another to compromise your personal beliefs; if what the President did against Senator McCain was wrong, why is it now alright when the target is a Democratic Senator?


Saturday, August 28, 2004

hi, my name is ...

huong. 5'5". asian (american), though the other way around is just as nice. uva. anthropology. graduating this spring, god willing. that's all you need, right?

so.......... how about our basketball team choking in athens, eh?



-huong

Poverty, Uninsured Numbers Up

An informational post:

"The number of Americans living in poverty or lacking health insurance rose for the third straight year in 2003, the Census Bureau announced yesterday, reflecting a job market that failed to match otherwise strong economic growth.

Overall, the median household income remained stagnant at $43,318, while the national poverty rate rose to 12.5 percent -- 35.9 million people -- last year, from 12.1 percent in 2002. Hit hardest were women, who for the first time since 1999 saw their earnings decline, and children. By the end of 2003, 12.9 million children lived in poverty.

As expected, the number of people without health insurance grew last year, to 45 million -- an increase to 15.6 percent from 15.2 percent. White adults, primarily in the South, accounted for most of the increase. The proportion of people receiving health insurance through an employer fell to 60.4 percent, the lowest level in a decade, from 61.3 percent."

Whoopie.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Grand Ayatollah Whupass (World Roundup)

Honestly. . .how many times has Ali Al-Sistani bailed our asses out of a jam. All success in Iraq is due to this man, whether George Bush wants to admit it or not. Not only was he kind enough to issue a fatwah banning Shiite resistance to the US liberating forces at the start of the war, but he has so far signaled his opposition to US policies with non-violent protests, and also demanded that Iraqis respect the interim government's authority until elections. Let's imagine Iraq real quick without those things. . .ah yes, I can see the smoking crater now! There's still plenty, and I mean plenty, of chaos left from the al-Sadr Adventure (tm), but we didn't have to: 1) level a holy site, 2) kill a lot of Shiites, and 3) lose a lot of our own soldiers. And we and the world, and Iraq should be happy with this. And we know who to thank. Can I kiss his ass enough? No, I can't, because it's moderate, responsible, intelligent Muslim clerics like him who will keep me from being drafted. The only problem is, it's more and more apparent that Iran could've been behind all of this, and is engaged in a fierce power struggle with the US over the place. Sistani's disdain for Iran's government is pretty known, and he may be the best voice to keep Iraq's Shiites independent, and their only true hope for escaping this battle of wills between the US and Iran over their future.

Aside from that, which is the big news, Greece is having its genitals handed to it by the IAAF because of doping. Most of the problem centers around a new generation of undetectable steroids. Terrorism more and more likely seems the culprit in the Russian plane crashes. That could be bad news for Putin, and indicate an escelation of either Al Qaeda activity in Russia, or Chechan militants, or both. The one piece of good news is a stronger bilateral relationship with Turkey. Karzai is becoming a certifiable lightning-rod in Afghanistan for using government resources to campaign for President. It's probably a nice preview of what it's going to be like when Allawi tries to run for President in Iraq. If anything, though, the fact that the election has become controversial in Afghanistan and that Karzai has opposition is probably a good thing. There's some evidence that at least a polyarchy and plurality of views and factions is developing in the troubled Afghanistan. That at least sows seeds of democracy and will help dictatorship from arising. The voter registration numbers, even for women, has been high so far even in the face of the violence. The Afghanis might finally be ready to become a real nation and not a puppet for the US, Russia, or Al Qaeda to play around with.

A separatist movement is also crippling Nigeria. These types of protests, the stay home ones, usually don't work but in Nigeria it's having a startling impact. Much of Africa is constantly wracked by these types of movements seeking to declare tribal autonomy and self-determination (Woodrow Wilson, I can't thank you enough for inserting that little screwjob into your 14 points), but this one has definitely taken a creative, non-violent, and damaging approach. The war in Congo could be about to start fresh, if a fragile peace isn't cobbled together. This and Sudan are real chances for the African Union to step up, but also real chances for it to be broken under the weight of these constant regional crises.

Don't Be Fuelish (Environmental Roundup!)

So, I'm bringing a new feature in here in my regular blogging, and that is a roundup of environmental news, because this has been a massive week for it and no one ever talks about it. So, from the back pages, here's what's been going on. Climate change has broken a lot of stories lately, as well as the strange effort of a certain California Governor to actually do positive environmental work. What a shocker, but yet it shows again how much of a break moderate R's are willing to break with the White House on a lot of issues.

First, this should've almost made headlines, if, you know, there weren't people dying in Iraq and more disasters caused by our Excusemaker-in-Chief. The White House has finally decided to fess up about the human role in Climate change. !!!!! Huh? What? How could that be? I thought they told me the weather was just chaotic? That this could all be explained away by a few studies that happen to, well, use a lot of corporate money and a little bit of ill-conceived science. The facts finally overwhelmed them I guess. And what's their response to this revelation. OF COURSE! MORE MEANINGLESS BUZZWORDS! From the makers of "Compassionate Conservatism," The "Clear Skies" Initiative, and The "Healthy Forests" Initiative, and ALL CHILDREN LEFT BEHIND, here comes a new one. It's called "cooperative conservation" Seriously. It's really called that. Eventually you have to wonder whether some conservative policy wonks at the Heritage Foundation probably roll around on the ground laughing their guts out. (Yeah, the only environmental issue they talk about is how it helps the environment to allow snowmobiles in parks. Why am I surprised they couldn't come up with anything better?) Anyway, cooperative conservation calls for the Federal government to cooperate more with private landowners and state and low governments for use of public lands regulations. That sounds sensible, but what it really means is that federal enforcement has been weakened even more by this new executive order. Basically now the government has to get permission to investigate problems with public lands. Yeah, it would work so much better if we "cooperated" with the suspects when serving search warrants and got advice on how we should investigate crime scenes. It's brilliant. . .oh no, wait, it's the opposite. . .

Then there's Governator Schwarzenegger. During the campaign he promised all kinds of environmental pledges, and guess what, he's actually following through! It doesn't surprise me all that much. Despite the ridiculousness of Arnold being a governor he hasn't been a politician long enough to realize he can break all his promises. And he also appointed a credentialed environmental activist to his EPA who has advised him since the campaigns. You can't call his plans unambitious either. Hard to take from a man who drives a Hummer, but he seems to have already made some positive moves and genuine headway on his "hydrogen highway" and plans to launch the "Don't Be Fuelish" campaign. And unlike "Whip Inflation" people might actually want to listen to how to increase their mileage and save money on gas. There's even a new electronics recycling program, albeit flawed. All in all, Schwarzenegger could turn out to be a strange hero for moderate Republicans, because he's broken the party line and from Bush on a number of issues and has been reasonably effective at getting things done, despite the "girly men" in his way.

Words from hardcore scientists say we're in a new era for the global environment, and the term is Anthropocene. Basically humans are starting to become a bigger influence on geology and climates than nature at this stage, which makes for a distinct break from all period of civilization before. That and the fact that the real impacts of global warming could be covered by the mask of air pollution.


oh, and hello

My name is skywalker. I've finally joined the club. A little introduction about me: I'm a dreamer (hence the name), a skeptic, an optimist, and a realist. If you think those can't mesh together into one person, you need more imagination. I don't much see the point in forming unchangeable opinions on most things, but once an opinion is formed its going to be tough to change it. As for the points I make, I seldom see any reason I can't argue anything I want, so if I'm in an argument with you I may simply be choosing my points depending on how I want to attack your position (as opposed to creating a position of my own). All in the hope of learning more. I'm always trying to learn more. I sometimes trash talk (all in jest), and never attack a person unless attacked. I just see no reason for personal attacks.

Lastly, I'm here because Senor C. won't leave me alone (the quirky buffoon that he is).

oh, and I really like irony. even better: ironic statements. I also like word play, walks by the beach and pina coladas. actually, I hate pina coladas. I also hate jaegermeister.

PSA2

btw, turn off your TV. Its no longer entertainment or news. More and more, its just a bunch of people instilling a desire within you to be someone/where else, and then graciously letting you know what stuff to buy, believe or do in order to closely approximate what or who they told you to be. oh, btw2, you'll never be what, where, or who you are told to become, so you'll keep coming back for more.

Public Service Announcement

All you fellow renters, don't listen to the song of the siren: Please just think before you buy a home if you plan to move out of it soon after (thinking its a good investment). If the market slides and you need to move, its likely that you will lose your equity and perhaps then some. I sometimes feel like some crazy street preacher, cause I tell everyone this. But I'm not the only one suggesting that prices can't stay inflating by so much for so long. There are at least three of us.

Some people, like this guy, seem unsure, but think about what he's saying. If we are in a bubble, then there's nothing backing it up. So even if Greenspan does think we might be in one, he also knows he can't pop it outright. Instead he must try to slowly let the air out of the bubble by letting people know that it might be already upon us.

The humble radical

Ok, read this proper publication. Its a real analysis of a mixed presidency. Mostly foreign policy, which is probably the actual deciding factor in this election (for once). Notice, no shrill cries or unabashed support for anyone. Perhaps a good model as to how we should be approaching all this. Cause there is the possibility that when some of us run out of the frying pan we might end up not only in the fire, but spilling all that flammable oil on top of us.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Lords of the Floor 2??

Sorry gents, but I absolutely had to post this.

I was obsessed with the Lords of the Floor breakdancing competition when it first aired. And during our email server crash today, I happened upon this website with the SEQUEL in .wmv glory. Remember the hip hop battles at UVa, aka Genesis? Imagine the same thing, except with every major hip hop sponsor, every major dancer and every hard core hip hop head on the West Coast, and that's LOTF.

If you can't appreciate breakdancing, you can't appreciate hip hop.

Not Your Average Ball Park

Frank Martin, not exactly a big fan of John Kerry, posts an anti-Kerry uppercut to the jaw. A reader (make that several readers) responds in kind:

So, I have to say that the way he's handling this SwiftVets thing is a great test of his character. It's a good example of how he'd lead. We have a president accused by world leaders of being worse than Hitler. He's been maligned by more slanderous communications than any president in recent history - largely from his own people. Michael Moore made an entire movie accusing him of being a lying murderer. And, he's mostly stayed the course and avoided ad hominem attacks on his enemies, even the French. Kerry has completely flipped out over a hand full of ads that most Americans would've never heard about had he not so badly reacted to them.

(Bloody freaking hell. Iowa, I'm looking your way.) Lets give credit where it's due here. The Bush team kept their hands relatively clean since almost the entire conservative and GOP establishment participated in the ad hominem reprisal.

UVA Opens New Library

The Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia is now OPEN!



UPDATE:

It looks like our friend skywalker is a bit jealous. Not every campus in the United States gets to join the club. By my count, there is only ONE reknowned architectural site in the state of Pennsylvania (that being Independence Hall in Philadelphia). Even perennial RM stepchild the Philippines claims FIVE. Where you at PSU?

Alright, we don't want our buddy skywalker to add RM to his list of banned websites, so we'll extend this one and only olive branch to our brother from the Lehigh Valley. Penn State can lay claim to at least SOME decent architecture. (There, are you happy now? Don't forget to clean those tears off of your computer screen.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

I'm Like Young LL, Cuz I'm Hard As Hell, Put the Game Down on Your Madamoiselle

Kerry has been making some boxing attempts at the SWBVFT, but it looks like now he's taking off the kid gloves.

Sending Cleland and Rassman to Bush's ranch with a letter. That's pretty gutsy PR, and deserves some prop. Now we're talking sharp like a razor under the tongue.

Still Better Than Ebonics

Boy, my family (of immigrants) really takes pride in the immigrant experience. Most email forwards they grace me with indulge in the ever-so-popular mocking of OTHER immigrants. Take this one for example courtesy of my uncle:

This is funny only if you're Asian. This was an assignment for a student who is taking English as a second language (ESL).


Lim Ah Toi was asked to make a sentence using 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 and 10. Not only did he do it from 1 to 10, he also did it backwards from 10 to 1.

"1 day I go 2 climb up a 3 outside a house to peep. But couple saw me, so I panic and 4 down. The man rush out and want to 5 with me. I run until I feel 6 and throw up. I go to 7-eleven and grab some 8 to throw at him. Then I took a 9 and try to stab him. 10 god he run away. So, I put the 9 back and pay for the 8 and left 7-eleven. Next day, I call my boss and say I am 6. He said 5, tomorrow also no need to come back 4 work. He also ask me to climb a 3 and jump down. I don't understand, I so nice 2 him but I don't know what he 1".

THE END...Lim Ah Toy graduated from his ESL class with honor.

It's About Bloody Time

Sistani's back, Sadr's gonna be in trouble...hey-yah, hey-yah, Sistani's BACK!

More Fun With CBO ...

Hey Wonk-a-holics,

I received a study in my inbox today from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In their study, CBPP analyzes data from the CBO report that came out recently about the President's tax cuts. Two points were of exceptional interest:

1) The CBO's conclusion that the tax cuts created a tax burden shift from high-income taxpayers to low- and middle-income taxpayers did not take into consideration two additional tax cuts championed by the President; bonus depreciation and the repeal of the estate tax. Needless to say, these two tax cuts primarily benefit the well-off.

2) The CBPP report includes a dynamic scoring analysis that assesses the tax cuts' "bang for buck" component.

On a completely different subject all together, does anyone know what happened to Jell-O Pudding Pops?



Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Email From Kerry HQ

Just received this via email. Rock on.

To: The Kerry-Edwards Campaign
From: Mark Mellman, Senior Strategist
Re: Where Bush-Cheney Needs To Be
Date: August 24, 2004

As a senior strategist for John Kerry, I have prepared this update for the campaign's most active supporters as we enter the crucial weeks ahead. It's clear that your support has put this campaign in such a strong position as we enter a critical period. Your hard work, activism, and contributions have allowed our campaign to match the Bush campaign on the airwaves and on the ground. I can report that all you've done is now paying off when it counts the most.

By any standard, President Bush heads into his convention in a very weak position. His current position stems from the fact that voters judge the incumbent on his performance and on the state of the nation. By this measure, the president is in grave difficulty. To be counted a success, the Republican convention must fundamentally alter public attitudes on President Bush's stewardship of the country.

There are some basic benchmarks by which an incumbent's success can be measured as the campaign heads into the fall:

The average winning incumbent has had a job approval rating of 60%. Indeed, every incumbent who has won reelection has had his job approval in the mid-50's or higher at this point. In recent polling, Bush's average approval rating has been 48%. President Bush must emerge from his convention having dramatically altered public perception of his performance in office.
In recent years, when incumbents have gone on to victory, 52% of voters, on average, said the country was on the right track. Now, just 37% think things are moving in the right direction. Thus, President Bush must convince the electorate that the nation is in much better shape than voters now believe to be the case.
Every incumbent who has gone on to be reelected has had a double-digit lead at this point.
Following their conventions, the average elected incumbent has held a 16-point lead, while winning incumbents have led by an average of 27 points. Bush will need a very substantial bounce to reach the mark set by his successful predecessors.
Incumbents have enjoyed an average bounce in the vote margin of 8 points.
On average, incumbents' share of the two-party vote has declined by 4 points between their convention and Election Day.
President Bush has the opportunity to achieve an average, or even greater, bounce from his convention. Typically, elected incumbents go into their conventions with a 9-point lead, while incumbents who have gone on to win enter their conventions with a 21-point lead. Most current polls show the race quite close. This gives the president substantial room to bounce. By contrast, Senator Kerry entered his convention in a far stronger position than the average challenger. The average challenger goes into his convention 16 points behind, while Senator Kerry entered his convention with a 1-2 point lead. This gave Senator Kerry much less room to bounce.

However, as the data above makes clear, average is not enough for President Bush. Incumbents who went on to win reelection had an average lead of 27 points after their convention. Indeed, the average elected incumbent -- winners and losers -- had a lead of 16 points after their conventions. An average bounce would still leave Bush well below the historical mark set by other incumbents, particularly those who went on to victory.

Perhaps most important, the average elected incumbent experienced a 4-point drop in his share of the two-party vote from the post-convention polling to Election Day. Thus, to beat the odds, President Bush will need to be garnering 55% of the two-party vote after his convention. Anything less than that and the president will remain in grave political danger.

An 11-Month Calendar?

Sounds good to me, especially if we can steal an extra month away from all those high school miscreants occupying the choice seats at the movies!

Edumacation

School choice. Vouchers. No Child Left Behind. All of them buzz words in the ongoing discourse on education policy. Where do I stand? I can’t say that I wasn’t skeptical of the NCLB when it first came out, being a dedicated partisan at that moment. But over time, I’ve come to be less righteously indignant towards this particular Bush policy stance because of its status as a Bush policy stance. What’s changed? In contrast with my stance on vouchers, I believe that an opportunity exists for reform on the teaching end. I’ve met some ass-crappy teachers, teachers-in-training getting their certification through the Barbazon school for modeling, and school administrators who didn’t know the difference between their asshole and their elbow. Personal anecdotes that I’ve encountered and media coverage of teachers conducting themselves in ways that even convicted felons are ashamed of have really pulled me away from blinding, partisan agreement with every GOPers favorite teacher’s union, the National Education Association (NEA). The NEA (also known as a terrorist organization in some Republican circles), in keeping good faith with its staunch Democratic allies in Congress, maintains the same defense of the status quo that I once subscribed to.

But there comes a point where enough is enough, and unions, originally established to protect its members from “unfair treatment” by management, may be more prone to shield its bad teachers from the repercussions of their poor performance. While I’m not claiming to be an advocate of turning education over to the full might of market forces, we can go a long way towards improving our public school system if we hold our teachers to the highest standards AND force teachers to meet them. That’s the substance behind the NCLB and other accountability focused methods (including the Standards of Learning (SOLs) exams). Teaching to the exam? Detractors can apply that logic towards other standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT, APs, etc. But we’re talking about MINIMUM standards here, we’re not grooming every student in middle or high school to become rocket scientists or politicians for god’s sake. If students pass the fourth grade, don’t we want them to read at a fourth grade level? Why CAN'T we fire teachers for being of lesser quality than what's expected? I’ll leave the pedagogical discussions up to the real experts, but I’m just hoping we can eventually get some consensus on the merits of this one. Also, concerning the issue of underfunding the NCLB, that’s a completely different can of worms. This act isn’t coming with an outlet price tag, that much is certain.

As far as school vouchers and school choice are concerned, my opinion is markedly different. The NCLB should have been coined as a long-term solution, not one that cures everything wrong with the system overnight. There’s still quite a bit of contentious discussion on this topic, but again, the school system is a fairly entrenched institution and it will take time to adjust. The NCLB contains a time table setting deadlines for schools across the country to enhance their performance, so at its core, the NCLB maintains a small amount of flexibility. But now we have these little treats called vouchers, which take the concept of a school ‘adjustment period’ and throw it out the window, onto the grass, where Fido takes the mother of all craps on it. Vouchers seem to be a popular solution to our educational woes, but lets not forget that the popular solution isn't necessarily always the BEST one. If your child attends an underperforming school, you have the opportunity to take advantage of a federal subsidy to send your child to another, supposedly better school, more often than not a private institution. If school voucher detractors want to claim that voucher supporters are in it to convert everyone to Christianity, by all means continue to do so (Conspiracy theories are fun every once in a while.). But my main concern is this: If you take a population of school-aged kids, and allow their parents to make educational decisions for them, they may end up hurting their children’s chances along with every other child’s chances as well.

Lets start with a simple scenario of two schools: If there’s a mass exodus from the bad public school to the good private school, what do we have? At the private school where the student-teacher ratio was once low, we now have overcrowding. Where skilled teachers once had the opportunity to teach students of similar caliber, we now have students who may or may not be at the same academic level consuming more of the teacher’s time for catch-up or special instruction. Where the private school once had a relative abundance of teaching and physical resources, we now have disgruntled parents, dwindling materiale, etc., etc. And how about at the public school? Where we once had students sitting two to a desk, we now have underused capacity. Where we once had semi-gifted teachers who truly cared about their students, we now have teachers with low morale, feelings that ultimately trickle down to their work and home lives. Where we once had a public school only marginally in the red, we now have a public school faced with the possibility of closure because of its inefficiencies and poor reputation. Every school system will be in a state of constant flux, student rolls will skyrocket or plummet annually, and the kids who we were supposed to help initially, may be worse off because of it.

Understandably, I’m making a large number of assumptions and assertions lacking a LINK to empirical evidence (I'll fix this soon). But at this point, if vouchers are introduced without taking into consideration the kind of upheaval they could cause, we’re in for a stretch where schools across the board perform no better than the Red Sox in October. It’s obvious that a certain amount of pain is necessary to reform our flagging school system. What’s not obvious is the best course of action. Discussion concerning the NCLB, vouchers and other important education topics are ongoing.

Emulating Letterman

Not to be outdone by partisan Bush webbies, and since most of us here are Kerry supporters (reluctant or otherwise), attached is an extensive list comparing Bush's rhetoric to White House policy (notice how they TEND to conflict with one another). Which list looks longer to you, Bush's or Kerry's?

Gmail Anyone?

If anyone wants a gmail account let me know. I've got six invites left and counting. Anyone who posts to this blog regularly should be able to get their own account via the Blogger Dashboard. Enjoy the 2 gigs of inbox space.

High-Tech Hookers

Hey Kids,

I give props to Phillip Coons' blog and my constant battle with insomnia for this story:

Hookers-Only Web Site Keeps Tab On Undercover Police Officers

All I can say is, who knew there was organized sex?




Ground Rules

Attention to all uppity visitors (or those with a perverse hatred towards any contributor to this site), slander or the lack of decorum on ANY part of this blog will not be tolerated.

I established this blog for several reasons: 1) To relieve our symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder derived from 'Office Space'-like moments and extended periods of down time at work (which there seems to be much of with a new job); 2) To save articles I otherwise would have emailed to most people in my address book; 3) To serve as a forum for ANYONE that shares an interest with the site's contributors (as demonstrated by their daily, random musings); and 4) Because it's a free goddamn country and we can write about anything we want, whether it's coherent, stupid, superficial, or none of the above.

Posts by RM contributors can be as profanity-laced as possible. Hell, anyone who has been invited to contribute can write a daily entry about the virtues of the word 'FUCK' for all I care. Additionally, anyone who happens to drop by RM (whether by referral from another website - the majority of visitors - or by viewing my AOL IM profile - applicable to unstable NYU grads with a penchant for hating all things Virginian) and feels the need to comment may do so, but within certain limits. The editor(s) reserve the right to edit or delete comments which serve no other purpose than to ATTEMPT to piss me off. Otherwise, everyone's opinion is welcome.

So sayeth the Lord, understand?

Now, now children, behave yourselves. Cross me a second time and you'll be forced to face the consequences of your actions.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Two Certainties: Taxes and More Taxes

I didn't want to have to enter this fight, but considering most of what I studied in undergrad is taxation economics, here goes. I'd like to bring up another line of argument. You guys talk endless about equity and efficiency, but what you're really missing (and what everyone neglects), is the BENEFITS EQUITY principle. THAT is actually what Adam Smith points out in WON too. Fact is, the people that benefit from a service should pay according to how much they benefit. That in a sense is the economics holy grail, and it's where I part with 5th and a lot of lefties who want to stress vertical.

What you must do for benefits equity is actually tax poor people, because they use services, DAMMIT. So they should pay some taxes! Not only that, but it actually makes government more accountable because poor people who use services are paying money for it and don't want to see the money wasted. This is easy at state and local levels (which is why they are superior governments), but nearly impossible at national level. Now for another argument against National Sales Tax. Fact is, when it's used, it actually tends to increase the markup MORE than the amount of the tax. . . that's right. . .MORE! The reason is markets are not perfectly competitive, and therefore it distorts the game theory equilibriums of the way firms behave and set prices. Lots of work has been done on this by Rosen (EMPIRICAL STUDIES, PEOPLE) and also Anderson and Kreider. Most of the assumptions and models about where the burden of sales taxes go involve some kind of fiction related to perfectly elastic/inelastic supply/demand. In reality, it's more a fact of monopolistic competition and monopsonistic buying power. This means sales taxes cause chaos in industries and the competitive dynamics of different firms, and it even can tend to put firms that have a higher cost of production OUT OF BUSINESS because those with lower costs take their market share when the price rises with sales tax. One could argue this is efficiency enhancing because it gets rid of dead weight, but you NEVER know where the innovation in a market comes from, and sometimes its from startups, which tend to be higher cost.

Follow me? Didn't think so. I could draw a lot of game theory Cournot and Bertrand Price Equilibriums but I'll spare all of you who are still awake from that stuff.

Also, to briefly defend 5th. . .he's right in one sense, EXCEPT IN 401(K) and IRAs. You ARE taxed on principle, just read the screed on the National Sales Tax called Fundamentals of Tax Reform. You're taxed WHEN YOU EARN IT, unless you happen to slip it into one of the tax exempt accounts. That's why conservatives rant on and on about the double taxation of SAVINGS, or, the more crazy ones, THE INFINITE TAXATION of Savings, because it's taxed at the beginning and then each time you earn interest (CAVEAT: UNLESS IT GOES INTO A TAX EXEMPT ACCOUNT, THEN YOU'RE TAXED AT THE END). So you're lumped with an income tax once always, unless you follow before mentioned CAVEAT, and then you're lumped later when you take it out. THE DOUBLE TAXATION in dividends and investment is what TheCrimsonPride mentions.

Truth is, I advocate a moderate position that we should go with a CONSUMPTION tax, not a sales tax, but one that actually taxes income you consume, and exempts all income placed in savings accounts. This is what Thomas Hobbes had in mind when he said that one should always tax people for the resources they take from society (consumption) and not what they contribute (income). This would be closer to a benefits principle, and should include all forms of services and goods paid for, so richer people get to share more of the burden too. This is not quite the same as a sales tax, but a superior version, and does a better job at what the sales tax aims at. Flat taxes, there's no good argument against unless you believe in the declining marginal utility of income, but that's economic heresy to speak of. I don't nearly swing as liberal as 5th on his position on taxes, in which he's downright communist, but I think a national sales tax as the SOLE SOURCE of revenue goes too far and is too dramatic a change. Fundamental Tax Reform in the direction of a consumption tax is better. AND NO REBATES. . .Keep that benefits equity alive!

I never even applied to an Ivy League school, because I didn't want that kind of debt. Not only that, but it's too cold up north. . .brrrr. . .going to Syracuse for a year nearly killed me. . .no way I could've lived with any of those other New England Ivy League schools.

Me eat now.

Kerry's August Woes

Read the link and explain to me why I'm voting for Kerry. General election or not, maybe it's time for JFK to shake up his campaign team. It worked during the primaries, so what's to say mixing things up a bit at headquarters won't help following a month of missteps and gaffes up the wazoo?

Tax Gauntlet: The Smack Back

Okay, it appears that Senor C has drunken too much of the Kool-Aid. The Cato Institute has a lot of meaningful and well thought out ideas to bring into the overall political and economical debates, however, its views on taxation have always been lacking.

First, a national sales tax would be incredibly regressive. Generally, it is estimated and accepted that low-income spend 3/4 of their income on items subject to general sales taxes; middle-income families spend about half of their income on such items; and high-income families spend around 1/6 of their income on taxable goods. Put another way, a 6% sales tax would be the equivalent of an income tax with a 4.5% rate on low-income people (3/4 of 6%), a 3% rate on middle-income families (half of 6%) and 1% for high-income families (1/6 of 6%). Why Uncle 5th? Why do poor people pay more of their income on sales taxes than the richies? Glad you asked, now put the Kool-Aid down ... Think of the goods that have a sales tax; clothing, CDs, feminine hygiene products, bags of Cheetos, etc ... these are things that consume the majority of low-income household budgets. Now, think of things high-income people spend their money on compared to what low-income people don't; accountant fees, dry cleaning, high-speed internet access, etc ... These items are not taxed. In essence, low-income people spend more of their budget on taxable goods relative to high-income people therefore, a national sales tax would bitch slap the poor while giving the wealthy of high-five.

But 5th, Cato said they would then advocate for a national sales tax rebate. I say to this, sorry, kid, heard this story before. Prior to the massive tax reform that occurred in 1986, taxpayers were able to deduct a portion of their sales taxes paid on their federal income taxes. This sales tax deduction was eliminated because it was too complicated to administer. Also, this doesn't address the issue of cash flow - a 15% national sales tax would of course increase the retail price of taxable goods by 15%. What good is a sales tax rebate if you need to buy clothes, band aids an other essential, yet taxed, items now? A 15% markup surely wouldn't help ...

Also, notice something else about Cato's analysis - they advocate the elimination of corporate income taxes, capital gains taxes and the estate and gift tax. These taxes happen to be the taxes that are paid primarily by the wealthiest taxpayers. So, by instituting a national sales tax and eliminating these aforementioned taxes, Cato advocates for not only bitch slapping the poor while giving wealthy people a high-five, they further advocate giving the wealthy a cool, tasty beverage on a hot day while the poor watch.

Hey Kids ... turns out I was mistaken about my original take on the term "double taxation", thanks to our friend, TheCrimsonPride, for pointing out the error in his/her bitter "why did I major in mythological folklore and now my brilliance is wasted at Barnes & Noble" kind of way. He/She was really sweet to write. So ... here's the corrected argument: Senor C, double taxation refers to the same earnings being taxed at two different levels - at the corporate level when it's taxed as corporate income and at the sharholder level as a dividend. Double taxation can also occur when foreign investments are taxed in the foreign country than brought back to the US. I concur with the good folks at Cato on this, double taxation should be eliminated. As shareholders, these people are owners in a company and should share in the company's profits accordingly; they shouldn't be punished for actually accepting these profits. It's okay to sip some Kool Aid, just don't consume it with wreckless abandon, afterall, Cato does have a cool looking building. Once again, thanks to TheCrimsonPride for the comments. Good luck on your thesis about the Griffin and it's importance on the cultural development of ancient Mongolia. I'm sure that will come in handy for you one day. I'm rooting for ya.

Bottom line, people shouldn't be punished by the tax code because they can't afford to spend their money on non-taxable goods and services. Taxes should be based on ability to pay, not ability to consume. (Adam Smith, the papa of our liberal economic system, also advocates taxation on the ability to pay principle in his book The Wealth of Nations). Also, it shouldn't matter how you make your income, whether by asking mid-west mommas if they want fries with that or by investing, everyone needs to pay their taxes; that's what us wonkies refer to as horizontal equity.




Tax Gauntlet

Since two of our esteemed members are well-versed in tax policy, I wanted to throw down on the issue of a National Sales Tax. I am certainly not a beneficiary of courses in the economics of taxation, but my basic understanding has served me well to date. Some choice passages from a piece from the Cato Institute:

"The individual and corporate income tax, the capital gains tax, and the estate and gift taxes would all be eliminated. In their place, a new national sales tax (NST) of 15 percent would be charged on the final purchase of all goods and services at the retail level. There would be a universal rebate for every household that would in effect exempt all consumption up to the poverty level. Households with total expenditures at and below the poverty level would therefore receive a rebate for every penny they paid for the NST."

Simplification of the federal tax code? Removal of bias against savings and investment by eliminating double taxation? The elimination of the IRS? Sounds like a dream to me, but is it too good to be true (things like this typically are)? Some numbers would be helpful.

Rationality Still Exists

Steve Haner's got it right on Virginia's transportation woes, and he employs a worthwhile example from the past for us history-challenged Virginians.

Senseless Criticism: Blind Tapdancer Zatoichi

This weekend I ventured on up to one of my favorite theaters in the DC Metro Area, the ol' Dupont Circle 5! I've seen a lot of quality films there, amongst them Osama and City of God. Both powerful things. I went to see it with 5th, so perhaps he'll way in as well. It was the REMAKE, read REMAKE, of Blind Swordsman Zatoichi, which I haven't seen, but which 5th tells me is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. But, the overall message: A total brainfuck. That's right. But in a good way, at least I think so, though I can't be sure. . .

First of all, I was in a bizarre state of mind seeing it because it took me an hour and 15 minutes to get to Dupont from Crystal City. . .thank you single tracking! I swear Gallery Place must have been built on the remains of a cursed Satanic church of some kind. Anyway, the movie was interesting. As usual, for Japanese samurai flicks, there was a lot of blood spray, leading to almost Kill Bill-esque moments. The action was fast. Nowhere in this movie were their drawn out swordfights, which was a curiosity. Almost all duels were decided instantly or within a few strokes. Even some of the more climactic battles turned on only three or four sword strokes (or one for one particularly important one), which made the dynamic unusual and the action lightning-fast. This was a strength of the movie, because the action sequences, while numerous, were extremely short and fast so they didn't get tiresome at all.

So, enough of choreography. The characters I think were the core strength of what made this movie entertaining. Zatoichi was a cryptic and compelling character, played awesomely by the always awesome Beat Takeshi. The man never misses a step in his roles, and in this one he's decidedly not the standard badass tough guy. He seemed good-natured, quiet, and actually really funny at times, which made him a compelling hero in the story and a constant mystery. Also, he seemed to basically switch modes and turn into a merciless killer when the cause demanded it, which is always how I imagine samurai and ronin would have to be. Hatori, the ronin bodyguard, was also a convincing character. Obviously doing what he did just for cash, but otherwise someone who could've been a decent guy. That's at least the message you take away. The supporting cast of Aunt Oume, the geishas Okinu and Osei, are all well defined characters that you get a lot of backstory of. The nephew, Shinkichi, is brilliant. I have honestly NEVER seen a better comic relief actor in my life in an action movie (as loosely as this fits into "action"). And Ginzo is a sculpted, menacing, and smart villain. All in all, every character in this movie is acted well and it elevates it more to the status of a drama (or comedy) than an action movie.

Now for the weirdness. Up until now, you probably thought this sounded like a normal enough movie, but Takeshi Kitano throws in so much random stuff that it's almost hard to make it out in the chaos. First of all, there is a gang of farmers that is basically like the Japanese version of Stomp, constantly pounding away with pickaxes and glopping in the mud to syncopated beats to create music in the movies. Then there's all the non-sequiturs involving dancing transvestites and gender-confusion, then there's Shinkichi's wearing makeup episode. The comic non-sequiturs of Shinkichi are practically a movie on their own! Then there's the mentally handicapped samurai wannabe who charges through the movie repeatedly with a spear screaming and ends up having no role in the plot whatsoever. . .Then there's the gigantic line dancing and tapdancing finale at the end as Zatoichi finishes off the remaining ganglords which is just mind-boggling. Seriously, it's about ten minutes of straight tapdancing. . . .All of these things were, well, INTERESTING, and added lots of flavor, but they really made it hard to focus on the movie and sometimes really were very distracting. All in all worth seeing though. Tapdancing samurais. . .that alone should make it worthwhile to you.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Ann Coulter Who?

I've been researching this whole Michelle Malkin shitstorm surrounding her new book supporting Japanese internment. Well, in rapid fashion, the artsy Left have provided the rest of us with some hilarious photoshop work. See this link, and scroll down to see a sampling of 'interpretations' of Malkin's book cover. My favorite one is shown below.

UVA Drops to #2

Inconceivable!! Tied with the University of Michigan??!! In what dimension??!! (Happy Note to Self: Tech still sucks.)

UVa spin and expert analysis of the fallout here.

Random Drunk Spots: The McFratten's Mythical Happy Hour

All right, to any of you who have ever been to McFadden's at Foggy Bottom, you'll know that there's nothing very exceptional about it. But, one of the more peculiar things about it has always been that there is a random hot girl on patrol with a clipboard. She asks if you'd like to win a happy hour with unlimited drinks for up to 40 of your friends, then asks you for all your personal information. I always assumed it was a scam and an easy way to get people's private info.

I was wrong. It does exist! Someone I know won one yesterday and it was silly. You pay $10 and get to have unlimited drinks for that from 6-8. I don't know exactly how many drinks I had. But I DO know it was at least 7. I'm still feeling the aftershock . . . I salute you, McFratten's. . .those happy hours you give away are truly magical. Privacy be damned!

His Ass BETTER Report For Duty

A Promises List for John Forbes Kerry. My favorite items:

Kerry Promises to 'Reopen' White House to Minorities

No wonder Colin Powell never gets his opinions heard.

Kerry Promises to Create 10 Million Jobs

We should probably re-elect Bush and have him lose another 8.8 million jobs with his economic policies first (That's the only way I foresee a job creation number of 10 million). Are we sure Kerry never did coke?

Skim these articles first. Afterwards, remind me again why I'm voting for this guy.

Real Time: The Filipino Ann Coulter

(I meant to comment on last Friday's installment of Real Time with Bill Maher. Unfortunately, I never got around to it. But, since I was planning to comment on guest Michelle Malkin, better late than never, right?)

On the August 13 episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, in attendance that night were D.L Hughley, Michelle Malkin, and Congressman Rahm Emanuel. D.L. is actually one of the more informed actor/comics to frequent the show and former Clinton golden boy, Rahm, is an up and comer in the House. But here we have Ms. Malkin, the conservative voice for this particular episode, and her performance, shall we say, elicited Ann Coulter-like wretching reponses from the audiences. Poor girl. She was pushed beyond her limit, at her wits end!

Topic of note: Racial profiling (A subject on which Maher and Malkin actually agree). More on this item after reading Malkin's book, In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror.

And following last week's debacle on Real Time, this week Malkin was invited to appear on Hardball. I've typically been an unscrutinizing fan of Chris Matthews (Does anyone else wonder how he landed his wife?), but this visit to merely promote her book went a bit awry. I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to guests with the minority opinion on political shows. For shame Mr. Matthews, for shame.

As a notable aside: I've never followed the exploits of Maureen Dowd at the NYT, but Stephen Green takes it upon himself to do so. Maureen Dowd, one of Vodkapundit's favorite punching bags, appeared on Real Time this past Friday evening as well. Luckily for the audience (and me), Maureen only made an appearance via satellite. From my experience, I can honestly say that listening to the exchange between Dowd and Maher was one of the most excruciating media experiences of my life. She provided little valuable insight, and Maher was visibly horrified by the complete lack of energy and substance from his esteemd guest from the Times. I highly doubt that the Real Time producers will ever invite such a huge snoozer back for another round of soporific, late night television.

Gay Bankruptcy

So, here's an interesting article out of the Seattle Times. It's a story about a lesbian couple that attempted to file bankruptcy as a married couple, however, their "married status" was debunked by a federal judge because of the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996.

This is a perfect example of how sometimes the full implications of a given policy aren't thoroughly thought out. I seriously doubt members of Congress that voted for DOMA even thought about issues such as bankruptcy hearings. Look before you leap.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Kerry Works It

Hey Wonketeers, y'all ready for some wonk-o-liscious fun? I knew you were ...

Your good buddy, The 5th, is in complete awe and reverence at Senator John Kerry's politico super powers - he pulled off one of the best politically strategic moves I have witnessed. Today, the New York Times reported that Senator Kerry attacked President Bush about the whole Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads that attempt to discredit the Senator's service in Vietnam. However, that wasn't the brilliant part ... Senator Kerry, prior to attacking the President about those Swift Boat kids, denounced a MoveOn PAC sponsored ad that discredits the President's Vietnam era service at the Texas Air National Guard. Essentially, the Senator took that thang, flipped it and reversed it.

For a while, Democrats have been begging the Senator to go after the President about the Swift Boat ads, however he waited until the right moment and that moment came when MoveOn PAC came out with its ads. The Senator then denounced the MoveOn PAC ads and then claimed that the Swift Boat guys were nothing but the President's stooges and challenged him to denounce the Swift Boat ads. Just f'ng brilliant. Momma was right, patience is a virtue.

Then, came the icing on the cake, Senator Kerry then said that if the President really wanted to bring their war records into the full shine of the political spotlight, then to "bring it on" - which is the President's catch phrase. Wow, talk about being beaten with your own shoe.

Simply brilliant and I mean single tear drop brilliant.

Toilet Reading

That's right, I read the Washington Times in the bathroom at work. Go figure, a conservative newspaper reader at a military base? Well, it looks like Olympians aren't just in it for the glory after all:

"There's less than $100 worth of gold in the most coveted of Olympic medals, but winning one can mean hitting the jackpot — especially for athletes from developing countries.


Romanian gold medalists will receive tax-free bonuses of $50,000 — twice what U.S. champions will get. Iraq's new government has pledged $25,000 per gold. And Kenya's winners will get flat-screen TVs and washing machines along with cash."


The financial benefits of winning a gold medal at the Olympics may actually make up for the lack of friends, mounting debt and mental problems of a childhood built around high-level, competitive sports. Oh yeah I forgot, them economic conditions in developing countries ain't so great neither.

Justice LEEgue

Background: I formerly worked as a professional tolerance-nazi and ethnic identity guru. While I will admit that the job was at once very fulfilling, (obviously castigated by conservative buddies of mine) I grew up in the ideological sense after being removed from my old position for over a year. More on what this ‘growth’ has lead me to become in a later post. What brought about this Senor C history lesson? Well, the following article brought back memories of the golden age of mindless, leftist thought (i.e. undergrad):

"U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson said that reporters for the Associated Press, the Cable News Network, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times must tell attorneys for Wen Ho Lee the names of federal officials who gave them confidential information about the former nuclear-weapons scientist. The judge fined the news organizations $500 a day each until they provide the names, but said payments can be delayed pending appeals."

Remember Wen Ho Lee? We discussed his plight amidst debates regarding racial profiling and Asian American stereotypes. While my leftist-hardline stance on racial profiling is not as strong as it once was, I can’t help but cheer for a guy who was obviously wronged at a time when relations with the Chinese were tepid at best. Sure, he speaks English about as well as the drive-thru operator at Taco Bell. Sure, it’s easy to single him out of a group of uber-patriotic nuclear scientists. Sure, he wasn’t exactly perfect in handling floppy disks with sensitive information. But these news outlets took out front page stories to label this guy as a traitor to the country, when in the end an investigation exonerated him of all major charges. Now these media honchos are on Wen Ho Lee’s shitlist as well as Judge Jackson’s. My opinion? Make ‘em eat that crow until it hurts Mr. Lee.

mMmMm ... Tastes Like Chicken!

"It was perhaps due to their drunkenness. They probably didn't know what they were eating."

Now I have had my fair share of drinks, but never to the point where I was so drunk that I ended up eating something like this! Those crazy filipinos are always entertaining. You can't help but to love them.

Next Up: Are we going to witness the second (or third, or fourth, or ...) coming of Neon Deion?

The Keyes to Victory!

I guess he voted against it BEFORE he voted for it. . .(Thanks to the guys over at Volokh for this one)

Alan Keyes determined and insatiable quest to destroy his legacy and be remembered as hypocrite grows by the second.

Rumble in the Middle East

The reigning world champion in Judo, an Iranian, somehow managed to show up at the first Summer Games of the new millenium overweight and therefore ineligible to compete. Ironically enough, Iran's gov't was protesting to the IOC that an Iranian should not be forced to compete against an Israeli because Iran does not recognize Israel as a country and has banned any contact with it. Arash Miresmaeili, the Iranian Judo world champion, is now being hailed as a hero and the "true" world champion in Iran and the gov't is rewarding him, and other Iranian athletes who boycott competition against Israel, with a $115,000 bonus!

How can the IOC simply stand by and not take any action towards the Iranian Olympic Committee for such behavior? Granted the IOC tries to maintain neutrality in the spirit of the Games and falls back on ceremony instead of politics, but when one country so blatently defies the Olympic charter, the IOC cannot simply turn the other cheek. The Olympics do not belong to any one nation and therefore no country has the right to say with whom it will compete and the like. If a country is invited to the Olympics, it has the same rights as any other nation that is competing to fair and just competition without fear of discrimination and hatred. This is the true spirit of the Olympic Games.

The author of the article argues that Iran's Olympic officials should be stripped of their credentials but athletes who conform to the Olympic charter should be allowed to stay and compete. I say that the entire nation, regardless of who is at fault, should be banned from the Games until it can agree to compete with the true Olympic spirit at heart. It is absolutely ridiculous to think that one country can try to enter the Olympics and try to dictate the terms of peaceful competition. The silence of the IOC on such political matters is what will spawn the future demise of the Olympic Games as we know them.


Next up: Filipino cannibals slaughter and serve their own kin at a wedding.

Sadring Iron (World Roundup)

Through the haze of the quadruple espresso and Freddie Hubbard's "Red Clay", I bring you some weekly world news. . .So Sadr and his little rebellion have surrendered. No, they haven't surrendered. Or perhaps Sadr would like to put it as a Kerryism "I surrendered to the Iraqi government before I declared war against it." Seriously, though, is it this or this? I'd appreciate some clarity. Obviously his "surrender" which was, of course, delivered by aides (who the hell are these aides, and are they associated with Sadr at all? do they talk to him? are they simply like the geeky kids in high school pretending to be friends with the cool kids?) was a Travestshamockery. It's pure rascalism. Also, a US adventure into Sadr city got REAL bloody. It's down to the wire now. Again, we're faced with the no-win choice of letting a cleric continue his revolution or leveling a holy site and potentially producing more. It's like death by axe or machete. . .the question isn't that you're going to die but which one is going to be the more unpleasant way! Here's a great profile of a British casualty in Basra, which should give Americans some incite into why there's more than just our own people dying in Iraq.

Oh, yeah, and the UN has reacted to the situation in Sudan by stepping up. . .aid? One's reminded of a Dave Chapelle sketch. Black George Bush: "You don't like it? Then sanction me. Sanction me with your army. Oh wait, you don't have one?" Sigh. Poor UN. They will fight the genocidal scourge wherever it may exist with armies of unarmed aid workers. Meanwhile, Learned Dees recounts the situation in the Congo is truly a disaster of epic and historical proportions after his recent testimony to Congress. No one can solve it, or for that matter, has seriously tried, and aid and resources are stolen or siphoned away by Uganda and Rwanda. The interview with Dees brings to the fore an important issue of international media coverage: is the media capable of focusing on more than one international crisis at a time? The civil wars in Africa and genocides that happened has ruined or ended millions and millions of lives, but is devoid of any coverage in the US and washed out by Iraq and to a lesser extent the disaster in Sudan outside of the US.

One piece of good news from Africa: LAND REFORM! Germany is finally living up to some of its colonialist/former imperial sins and helping to set Namibia right. This kind of thing is probably the only real way to set massive regions of Africa right. The land distribution in most countries wasn't established by anything remotely resembling market forces, so the notion of markets developing in its wake is absurd without some land reform activity. Let's hope what's happening in Namibia will spread, and that other former colonial powers follow Germany's positive example in this area.

Venezuala's vote smacks of fraud, but they're still stuck with Chavez again. Looks like Castro has a nice comfortable buddy to prop himself up on for awhile longer. Carter's audit will hold the final pronouncement. My guess is that there was probably some tampering, but who knows if it really made a difference. Chavez obviously leaves a bad taste in the mouth of Bushies, but he does have a degree of popularity and a following that they can't just wish away. And, did anyone know about the Maoist guerillas in Nepal? I had no idea, and I'm a total world news crack fiend! I didn't know Maosit guerillas still existed. This honestly sounds serious! Shutting down a capital? And the way the violence has gone you could almost call this some kind of insurgency or civil war.

Better dispatch Ollie North. . .

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Jesus IS My Homeboy

Inquiring minds want to know: How would Jesus vote?

"Jesus was not one to take sides on political issues," said Derek Davis, director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University in Waco.

So Jesus would fit in quite well with the 18-29 year old crowd of the non-voting apathetics? Plausible, but not quite. According to another expert:

"Interestingly, Jesus never sided with any of. . .groups but remained above such earthly disputes," Davis said. "This does not mean we should do the same. He was God. We are mere humans."

This perspective leads us to believe that Jesus would be a MODERATE. By extension it also means that moderates are more than human. It make so much sense now.

News Flash

If Jurassic Park 4 is eventually made and moviegoers actually purchase tickets, the audience will be treated to dinosaur on dinosaur violence. The film's star(s): An elite commando unit of genetically enhanced dinosaur warriors, fighting on behalf of the humans. Wow.

Book Em Dan-o

Dear Potential Terrorists,

I suggest you give up before we decide to eat you for dinner. Honestly, doesn't the rest of world have anything better to do than waste their free time on plans to attack the US? If any terrorists read this blog, I'd like to hear from you: Convince me I'm an infidel, and maybe, just maybe I won't make it a point to give you the third degree all the time.

In the immortal words of Omarion, formerly of B2K: "YOU, just got served."

Sincerely,

Senor C

A Reflection of Leadership

While some of us at RM will admit to struggling with serious mental issues, we ultimately take pride in our moderate (but cynical) take on politics. It's pretty obvious that most of us will be voting for John Kerry come November. I personally consider myself a voter on the margin: If not for what I see as a huge leadership deficiency in George Bush outside of the war on terror (his advantage on this topic is currently waning), I'm not so sure I'd still be hell bent on supporting Kerry. I wasn't particulary impressed by Kerry's performance at the DNC, and I expect a similarly disappointing showing by Bush at the RNC.

I think we can all agree that these partisan shindigs are really just image-tweaking shams. If not for the necessary political positioning and the national consequences of the elections, I'd most likely hold these events in the same regard as Renaissance minstrel shows or preseason football games: Enjoyable to watch after consuming a few beers, but ultimately of little worth to real people.

Today's "Surprise, Surprise" Fact:

There is one GLARING distinction between the DNC and the RNC regarding the bloggers who've been invited to each conference. See the following links for a list of bloggers at the DNC as well as those to attend the RNC. Not only is the DNC list of bloggers about 4 times longer than the RNC's (allowing for more varied perspectives), the DNC knowingly invited bloggers with critical views. What gives Mister GOP? Scared that someone will publish an entry with biting commentary critical of the President? Can't get past the GOP creed of protect the President's image at all cost? Or are you scared that you may actually be losing the election to this man?

My response to thee: You f***ing wusses.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Back In The Straddle Again

Fareed likes nuance

Oh, and here's a great parody of those Swift Boat Veterans from Salon.

Bush for Blogs!

Apparently our president blogs to his heart's content:

"Just got back from a lunch with Colin and Adil Moussa (one of Prince Saud al-Faisal's guys). Colin wants the Saudis to send some troops to Najaf—so some of the soldiers are Arab, I guess. This Moussa guy sure wears a lot of jewelry. A golden chain, a golden ring with his initials or something, and some other sparkling stuff—kinda effeminate. Anyway, best of luck in Iraq, Iyad."

This probably explains the severe case of ADD that he seems to be battling regulary. I sense an intervention coming soon...

Next Stop, Obamaville

Slavery reparations? Alan Keyes, are you insane? Looks like Mr. Keyes won't be going to Washington after all. At least not by way of the fiscal conservative ship.

Charter Massacre

So, the big bad charter schools suffered a major blow in the latest study. Apparently, they're performing worse than kids at public schools in standardized tests. That's broken down by city vs. city, race, income, and virtually every comparison possible and it still broadcasts the same problem.

Charter schools are a great idea in theory. . .why? Because they create some form of market competition with public schools. The only problem is grounding this in reality. Charter schools, to compete with public schools, shirk some of the regulations and develop a specialization to distinctify themselves. This specialization may actually, on the ground, be more of a LIMITATION than an INNOVATION. A focus on science, or math, or arts, may detract from the general intellectual development and account for some of these deficiencies. (Insert random plug for a well-rounded education here). Basically kids studying science or math all the time may not have the same level of intelligence as kids forced to study and confront everything. Just a conjecture.

In all, this is discouraging news for the charter school boosters.

Monday, August 16, 2004

SOMEBODY Needs a glass of water today

To chase the hate away. I mean, wow. I'm speechless. Apparently this is International Breaking News too. And there's some more assorted Bruce-hating here, here, and, for those of you who may want to know what other pinko liberal things to avoid, look here!

Springsteen, Ronstadt, even Don Henley have caught flack at concerts. The funniest thing on that boycott liberalism site is some of the things they target. The Bourne Supremacy? Is it because of Julia Stiles? Or is it because Damon is associated with Affleck? And that they want to boycott all of Lions Gates Films because of F9/11, even Open Water? Wow, the hate is never ending! It's like hate within hate within hate within hate!

Adopt A Sniper

I'm guessing elementary and high school students will be discouraged from counting this program towards their service hour requirements.

Schools Gone Wild!

As one of the chosen few UVA alumni to receive a condensed version of nationwide UVA news, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a story about America's 25 Hot Schools. Lucky us, another guide to colleges and another pointless ranking system. Because of my incessant pride and an overly developed sense of educational elitism, below I've listed a few choice selections from this piece, along with some colorful (read mocking) commentary:

HOTTEST BIG 10 SCHOOL - Northwestern University

Feeling sorry for the Midwest, Newsweek editors decided at the last minute to give the swing states something to cheer for besides their local football team. Now if only John Kerry could get the college teams straight.

HOTTEST LIBRARY - Harvard University

Maybe this is an inside joke amongst the Harvard alums at Newsweek. But seriously, does this listing need ANY mocking commentary from me?

HOTTEST RIDING SCHOOL - Hollins University

I only listed this entry so that Virginians will end their constant UVa-bashing. Come on, spread the hate. There's another school's reputation that must be tarnished!

HOTTEST FOR FITNESS - University of Virginia

Ah yes, my alma mater. Come to UVA! Unlike the rest our competitors in the top tier of national universities, we have fit, intelligent women with southern accents! This should be the admission office's main selling point for visiting men, and vice versa for women.

HOTTEST FOR DIVERSITY - Wesleyan University

If you're caucasian, and have no problem feeling even guiltier about the problems the master race has caused, come to Wesleyan! Where everyone BUT the Man can work towards success!

HOTTEST FOR DOUBLE MAJORS - Rice University

Suffering from a lack of focus? Do you have a dearth of career goals? Here's a campus that encourages workaholism and ridiculously high standards! And they're not even an Ivy, GASP...

HOTTEST FOR ENTREPRENEURS - Pennsylvania State University

Since our buddy Skywalker has yet to post ANYTHING, we at RM would like to take upon ourselves to call him out. PENN STATE FOOTBALL BLOWS!!!!! You may be able to start your own business and be mildly successful at navigating the market. But when it comes to sports, there's nothing sadder than watching the play-action over in State College, PA.

HOTTEST FOR INDIVIDUALISTS - Oberlin College

We don't like standards at Oberlin College. That's probably why Newsweek listed OC in the first place, because neither do they.

HOTTEST FOR CITY HATERS - Cornell University

For rising isolationists. Depression sets in during week one, and lasts until the local medical center fulfills your Zoloft presciption!

HOTTEST FOR SURF-AND-SKI - University of California, Santa Barbara

UCSB is the school to visit if your goal is to emulate Zack, Kelly, Slater, Screech and the rest of the gang from Bayside. Cowabunga dude!!!!

Random Web Trash: The Angus Diet

So, you've probably all seen those BK Commercials for the Angus Diet right? As funny as they are, and how well they make fun of infomercials and motivational speakers everywhere, there's a small tagline afterwards to a website. Saturday, while sitting in my Crystal City apartment afflicted by what appears to be an early fall allergy season (thanks extra mild summer, really I mean it. . .) I decided to check it out.

Sweet Jesus H. Monkeychrist! This site is hilarious. I thought it would just be some offshoot of the burger king site, but it is SOOOO much more elaborate. Not only does it have a hilarious "bio" of "Dr. Angus" (who coincidentally was the first super-hand model) but a load of hilarious image collages and sounds. Normally I'm not the type to look at websites referenced on commercials, but this is worth checking out. It just adds a whole new level to ad campaigns for new sandwiches to create an entire philosophy around it complete with fictional characters and biographies. I have to give BK some respect here

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Alien vs. Predator

See my review of Paul WS Anderson's latest sci-fi flick. Thumbs up or thumbs down? I can't really say that I hated the movie. As Mr. Proliferation opined, "It was a lot better than I expected." Which, on a scale involving a movie with the Aliens, is pretty damn high. Hopefully I can crank out a review for "25th Hour" before bedtime, but it's highly unlikely.

UPDATE: Yglesias takes issue with the lack of hat-wearing in the movie. He's got a point.

Friday, August 13, 2004

More about the CBO and Holtz-Eakin

Yes, the CBO is actually Congress' budget estimating arm. They're crucially important and many a Congressman's pet project have been struck down by their mighty analyses. The Director is currently Holtz-Eakin, who was a Professor at the Maxwell School, where I went to grad school. Solid, well-respected, guy in the academic world and, as he points out, an appointee of the Republican Congress. He's constantly challenged the rosy budget deficit projections of the White House's toolish OMB and has generally been a fairly independent thinker when compared to a lot of those appointees floating around out there.

Middle Income Finger

In the spirit of another bashing of "C-plus Augustus" and the economy: A recently completed analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) finds that the national tax burden has eased among our country's must 'shit-outta-luck' demographic, wealthy Americans. "Where have the vanishing taxes gone?" you ask. Well, putting it simply, to me. And chances are to YOU as well.

"But wait, this report has to be politically motivated, after all, it is an election year." Not so fast children. For you ignorant folks out there, the CBO is a non-partisan government institution (It's no Center for American Progress). And to top it all off, the CBO is currently run by a Bush administration economonkey!

If I were Karl Rove, I'd tell Bush to start updating his resume right about now. The Bushies have finally realized that pain is its own virtue, in and of itself.

Waffle Man: Gold And Crispy, Bad Guys Are History

There's an enormous amount of gushing and conservgasms about C-Plus Augustus' "leadership" and "conviction." Truth is, he's not so much better than John Kerry and virtually every politician out there, who flip flops, waffles, and straddles any issue of real importance that needs work in this country.

American Progress has a little ditty called "Flip-flopper in Chief" that spells it out. So what if they are a liberal think-tank, this is all direct quotes.

Got a Decent Economy? I'll Trade Ya. . .

The trade deficit widens again. Not that it wasn't expected mind you. That's the trend, but of course. However, when it's 8.8 BILLION DOLLARS more than expected that's a red alert. Don't I remember something being said about how the weakening dollar would help us with exports? What's that? We actually just experienced the biggest plunge in exports in three years? How shocking! How absolutely APALLING!

This, on top of a slowdown in GDP, poor job gains, and a fall in consumer confidence means we've turned a corner, right? Yeah, we've turned a corner into a dark alley full of knife-wielding transvestites. . .

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Oh yeah, that's the stuff. . .

There have been a lot of comments thrown around about how we, as a human race, may be losing what many thought of as THE pardigmatic freedom, that of thought. The notion we could decide and think what we wanted, if not act on them. Well, with psychological drugs and things like that, many have argued that freedom and the concept of free choice and rational thought is being undermined, or "sedated" for lack of a better word. So now, a new terrifying development: Workaholic Juice! So if you take this drug, you work harder and stop being lazy, huh. . .Gee, I wonder when it's going to be mandatory, huh?

First they record our phone calls, then they read our internet traffic and e-mails to make sure we're not slacking off, I guess having us pop pills is the next step.

Never Again

My post about Harold and Kumar over at blogcritics.org was complete crap. In addition to my unforgiveable syntax and sentence structure, I COMPLETELY missed this oh-so-important fact. From a comment on Dan Drezner's site:

"Harold and Kumar: There's transgressive genius in the conceit of a Hindu on an epic quest for hamburgers and a Korean (Christian) in search of "Buddha" (i.e., high quality marijuana). And let's not forget the parallel quest of their neighbors -- Jews in search of the perfect hot dog. None of this is particularly remarked upon in the film, and in fact I got the sense that everyone in the audience where I saw the film completely missed it."

Genius. Absolute genius. I hope DD keeps his Indian co-conspirators as they contribute both levity and an added dose of pop culture subtext, not to mention distinct perspectives on international politics and policy.

Bumbling and Crumbling (World Roundup)

Lot of stuff has happened this week, needless to say. The Middle East beckons, with all the chaos, foolishness, and violence to fill 8 civil wars. First off, everyone's favorite hack/bum/liar/crook/turncoat Chalabi is at it again. The man has returned to Iraq, filed a lawsuit against Jordan, and of course DENIES ANY WRONGDOING. This guy is starting to look like the OJ of the Iraq War ("I'll find the real perpetrators, I swear!") Hitchens continues to back him like the outrageous pre-war Groupie he is. Not for a second has the man questioned anything and continues to act like the past 12 months never happened. He needs to stop fawning over a crooked Shiite businessman who did his best to disgrace us and waste our money and catch up on the facts, instead of his delusions.

Then there's Iraq itself, and that wacky, wild psycho al-Sadr. We may be winning the battle against this guy, but are we winning the war? There's rumors and some evidence Iran is fueling this guy's little revolucion, and if that's true who's to stop them from arming someone else? With Sistani, in poor health, we got problems. The Iraqis and Americans are bringing the hammer down on Najaf, at their own peril. The fighting still rages on in the other cities of Iraq with Sadr's militia, too. This could be a good idea, IF we knew there wouldn't be anymore and this ends with Sadr. My question is, does stopping him really have a chance at making a difference? Will someone else take up the slack? Will his martyrdom bring a new, emboldened set of crazies?

Lastly, there's been another indictment of Arafat by his own people. The opposition to him gets bolder and more official. There are a lot of Palestinians now realizing he is a main obstacle to their statehood, and increasingly ineffective and corrupt. I don't think the old man will last much longer. Israel wants him gone, his own people are fed up, and his health isn't the best. Soon he'll be the footnote of history he deserves to be. Relatedly, Yemeni Islamists continue their battle with the government, practically begging for the US to attack. This is a mess, though. And honestly, as I've said numerous times, we should've gone to Yemen instead of Iraq. Not only did OBL spend time there, but the government has been totally ineffective at stopping a vast Islamist movement that threatens to turn the country into another Taliban. It's close enough already. Oh, did I mention these guys don't have direct ties to Al-Qaeda? All the more scary.

The ugliness of Afghanistan and the situation there is spreading even further as Afghan heroine invades the UK. It's a big problem, and Blair and others are catching lots of flack for their slowness to move on it. Not only does it fund terrorists, support warlords, undermine the government, and of course further the evil of heroine itself, but it's nearly impossible to stop. Finally, Rumsfeld pays attention, I guess the situation has to get this bad before old "Skeletor" realizes, oops, we really didn't tie up all our loose ends did we? Sigh. . .

Lastly, the wordwide terror tactic of Car bombs and why it's nearly impossible to be prepared for one. US News explores it in detail and what kinds of things are usually done for this greatest enemy of all counterrorism experts and police.



Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Why The Right Still Frightens

Stephen Green's "Game Plan" post yesterday was brilliant. As I mentioned in my follow-up, I'm still an ardent supporter of the war. But a link our martini-drinking friend posted the following day (food for thought ONLY, I hope) is a prime example of what many Americans, myself included, continue to fear: Achieving our military objective while sacrificing our "soul". A few choice excerpts:

"[We] must modify [Islamist] culture and replace parts of it with our own..."

Why don't we teach them about the Final Solution while we're at it?

"First, we must kill the enemy wherever we find him. In particular, we should concentrate on killing imams, mullahs, ayatollahs and other clerical figures who preach jihad."

Making true believers ACT on their beliefs, right. I fear this may only significantly increase the terrorist ranks. While many Muslims may already adhere to the teachings of some of their more radical religious leaders, many radically-minded Muslims may well be content in living out their lives opposing the infidel short of becoming career suicide bombers (If anyone has numbers to prove otherwise, please send them my way).

"Instead of avoiding shrines, we should level them indiscriminately. If mosques encourage jihad, we should level them, too. We should announce quite clearly and calmly that, should any nuclear or chemical attack occur within the US, or against US interests abroad, we will respond by destroying Mecca and Medina utterly. And if it comes down to it, we should destroy Mecca and Medina utterly. Again, the idea is to make them wonder how their god could allow this."

Giving all Muslims around the world a reason to revolt, even the devout and peaceful ones.

"Finally, we should pull the gloves off completely and attack our enemies wherever and whenever we find them...Moqtada al-Sadr should be dead right about now. We should bomb Iranian military facilities where al Qaeda leaders are hiding, and should assassinate our enemies even in friendly or nominally-friendly countries. If this means that oil supplies are threatened, we should occupy the oilfields and ship the oil ourselves."

So much for the rules of engagement. Shouldn't we make an attempt to decrease our independence on foreign oil before championing this strategy? How about increasing the socioeconomic situations of the Middle East as opposed to subjecting them to the abject poverty that many of them already face? I suppose keeping American casualties low is of little importance to this guy.

"Yes, what I'm advocating is a total war of civilizations, exactly what bin Laden has asked for. I think we can take them, and do it convincingly. The alternative is to accustom ourselves to having our citizens periodically and randomly killed by these maniacs. I'm not willing to do that."

World War III anyone? This guy's trying to prove that Nostradamus was right (except in timing) as opposed to winning this war the RIGHT way. Too focused on how to win the war as opposed to the post-war planning maybe? While we may be able to take on the radical Muslim world, if we sacrifice our virtues for the sole purpose of defeating the enemy, we may find ourselves with even more of them after we claim: "Mission Accomplished".