Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happy Halloween

Hey Kids,

Despite Dr. SenorC's prescription, this shit is pretty f'ng funny.


Friday, October 29, 2004

Lassie Ain't Got Shit on Me

So I've been in Denver learning about our nation's veterans' hearing aids. So Sue me. So I haven't posted. I take Senor C.'s frustration with blogs as a siren. Namely, I'm just going to post about news NOT RELATED to the election until the election is over. That includes my usual posting of World News, maybe some environmental news, and of course weird news! It starts now. Can we have more dogs as First Responders? Seriously, read this several times.

A dog saved a Washingtonian (that's 5th's Washington, not mine), by DIALING 911, BARKING INTO THE PHONE, and UNLOCKING THE FRONT DOOR FOR THE PARAMEDIC. Wow. This goes beyond man's best friend. Obviously our pets are usually more capable and more attached to us than we give them credit for, but this dog seriously revolutionized outside the box.

Cover Your Ass

Gas up your cars up on Saturday, just in case. Did you hear about the Osama video that was released today? Pray....

Gasp

Okay, so it took me less than a day to break my own doctor's orders. The rest of you (sans Ken, C.O, and skywalker) will probably shoot me, but here's a pro-Bush endorsement, and a very good one at that.

Megan Mcardle, libertarian extraordinaire, makes the longest, most lucid case for a Bush presidency that I've read. While I obviously don't agree with her entire assessment (most notably in environment, tax policy, budget, poverty policy, and the Supreme Court), her endorsement carries more weight than someone calling me an anti-American, terrorist hugging, atheist devil.

Doctor's Orders

Okay folks, I have one recommendation for you. STOP reading blogs between now and midnight on election day. The overly partisan tone, even at my favorite daily reads, are just pissing me off. Even reading pro-Kerry blogs make my blood boil. Maybe I've finally hit the saturation point when it comes to campaign rhetoric, truths and falsehoods alike. Just pray for it to end with a clear winner (which, in all likelihood, it won't) and that the country will be in one piece come Wednesday morning. See you guys on the flip side.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Head Bangers Balll

This has got to be the saddest argument in favor of voting for President Bush; it's from a Slate piece on who its employees and contributors are voting for:


Steven Landsburg, Economic Writer: Bush

If George Bush had chosen the racist David Duke as a running mate, I'd have voted against him, almost without regard to any other issue. Instead, John Kerry chose the xenophobe John Edwards as a running mate. I will therefore vote against John Kerry.

Duke thinks it's imperative to protect white jobs from black competition. Edwards thinks it's imperative to protect American jobs from foreign competition. There's not a dime's worth of moral difference there. While Duke would discriminate on the arbitrary basis of skin color, Edwards would discriminate on the arbitrary basis of birthplace. Either way, bigotry is bigotry, and appeals to base instincts should always be repudiated.

Bush's reckless spending and disregard for the truth had me almost ready to vote for Kerry - until Kerry picked his running mate. When the real David Duke ran against a corrupt felon for governor of Louisiana, the bumper stickers read, "Vote for the crook. It's important." Well, I'm voting for the reckless spendthrift. It's important again.


Literally, I read that and banged my head on my desk. Then, I re-read it just to make sure I read what I read and then banged my head on the desk. Then, I translated it into Indonesian and then re-translated it back into English just to make sure ... I banged my head. On a specific note: SenorC, this is the guy who wrote that tax article you mentioned.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Senseless Criticism: Shimizu vs. Shimizu

Thank you, Japan, for keeping me from sleeping right for what will probably be about a month. Last night I probably had about seven nightmares that I can rememeber, and I'm sure it's not going to end there! The subject of the terror is twofold: Ju-On and The Grudge, which for maximal effect and due to maximal stupidity I saw back to back. 5th and some other were in attendance and they seemed similarly shaken Because, as Edelstein said about another J-horror film, it "gave my willies the willies." Seriously.

First, Ju-On. It was the third iteration of the movie by Shimizu, the first two being TV and video versions. From the basic descriptions, I pretty much expected it to be the typical haunted-house movie. Wrong. While it's true that the house of focus in Ju-On is haunted in the sense that ghosts are there, it's more cursed. Meaning, when your ass crosses the threshold, those ghosts kill you. Whether you're in the house, in your apartment, in your office, or hiding behind a wall of newspaper and tape. The body count in Ju-On, needless to say, is enormous. No matter if they are police investigating the crimes or what, if they cross the threshold, it's over. The narrative format takes advantage of this by telling the story with time distortions. The order of events is shuffled around, and each section of it involves one of the characters, and has several of the others in it, but focuses with laser clarity on how the curse does them in. Shimizu keeps the movie interesting because the terrible experiences each person has are different. They see their own special version of the terrible ghost specters trying to kill them. Some of them go about their lives as if they're just imagining it, some become paranoid and try to hide behind taped up windows and darkness, others get killed so fast they don't have time to do either.

The visual effects themselves are good, but lo-fi by American horror standards. They do the job though. Particularly, the camera angles are effective, often hiding parts of the scene to leave your imagination to what horrible things are happening. Peripheral vision is also manipulated a lot, with things going on to the sides and edges of the camera. The constant and quick prancing through the screen of the trademark freaky little boy is also powerful. The one problem is the fragmentary nature of the narrative makes it difficult to discern the connections between the characters and the movie also lacks much explanation as to where the curse came from and its nature but in brief passing moments.

That was frightening enough. Then Shimizu, with the assistance of the seasoned Sam Raimi, decided to do his fourth version of this story. The Grudge, despite being based on Ju-On, turns out to be a completely different movie. Shimizu drastically trimmed the number of characters, combining several at a time. Sarah Michelle Gellar's character is essentially two (maybe three) of the Ju-On's characters in composite with their own unique spin. The body count is also considerably lower for this reason. The back story receives more attention, and the nature of the events is explained more thoroughly. For that reason, The Grudge hangs together more coherently. The trademark big scary sequences in The Grudge are also done better than in Ju-On in several cases, with more lavish special effects and quicker pacing. Most likely this is done from the director having extra experience choreographic these scenes and shooting a thinner and leaner movie. Several of the freakiest scenes, especially one involving three zombified Japanese school girls, are missing. And the crawling ghoul appears less often as well.

So which version is superior? It's difficult to say. I would say that in the pure quantity of freaky and scary moments, Ju-On clobbers The Grudge with way more death, scares, and jerky and disorienting narrative. In actual movie cohesiveness, though, The Grudge probably wins out. It also focuses a lot more on the few characters it does possess, rendering their deaths more effective. Especially the insertion of several American main characters experiencing a sort of stranger in a strange land gone worse effect creates more pathos. All the same, both will scare the holy shiznight out of you, and both are worth watching because while they're based of a similar story Shimizu goes in very different directions with the two stories.

Friday, October 22, 2004

One Down, Two To Go

Axis of Evil member endorses George W. Bush for President.

MAXIMize it!

Those jokers over at McSweeney's.

My personal favorite is the "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."

Hell Freezes Over

Drezner endorses Kerry. Andrew Sullivan, I'm looking your way.

McDraft

Here's a viable alternative to the draft; compulsory service in fast food. I would sign up for the Chicken and Biscuits Brigade.


Senseless Criticism: Michelinphobia

Allergies to trademarks? Worldwide plots involving the Russian mafia, a secret Otaku cabal, a Belgian advertising mogul, a surly Russian-American ex-CIA operative with friends in Echelon, antique calculators, 9/11, and mysterious pieces of film footage randomly appearing on the internet. Sounds like cyberpunk. It is, but not quite. The kicker is, as always, that it's set in present day. The even bigger kicker is, this interesting twister of a novel is by the great William Gibson (bloglink!) The book is Pattern Recognition, and it's received honors from El Wapo, the LA Times, and the NY Times.

As per some of Gibson's other works, this book is windy spiral of plot that's almost always uncertain. The main character, Cayce Pollard, shows up in London, drained by jet lag. She exhibits "phobias" or "allergies" to certain trademarks and other such corporate logos and wears clothing deliberately stripped of all such things. Due to her sensitivies, she's found a rather comfortable career as an advertising consultant, able to tell immediately whether a trademark or designs works or not. In her free time, she has one obsession: the footage. The footage is something she discusses in an online forum of mysterious other obsessors and consists of random fragments of film, all of a similar style and featuring the same two basic characters, that materializes on the web. On Footage Fetish Forum (F:F:F), she discusses with others theories about the footage, it's nature, and where it comes from. In the meantime, as part of her consultant job, she begins work for the Belgian mogul Hubertus Bigend (who constantly where's a cowboy hat). Soon he hires her to pursue the maker of the footage, which he believe is the most ingenious type of marketing he's ever seen (since there's actually no product, but it has still inspired a sort of underground movement). Cayce reluctantly accepts this mission to pursue her obsession.

The trip she finds herself going on involves a scuffle with an ex-industrial spy named Dorotea (who confronts her with her greatest fear, the Michelin Man), a failed entrepreneur named Boone Chu, the elusive footagehead Parkaboy, the alcoholic intelligence genius Hobbs and his obsession with old calculators, and two daughters of a Russian oil billionaire. It traverses London, Tokyo, Moscow, and Paris. Cayce also receives strange messages and contact with a phantom of her father, who disappeared without a trace on the morning of 9/11. It's a thriller that involves bizarre encounter after bizarre encounter and has an interesting ending. I enjoyed this novel a lot, especially Gibson's trademark fragmentary and wandering style. It's sophisticated.

In the end though, it didn't leave me with much. This book was fun, but to me didn't contain any real insights, any real total innovations, or any real hidden messages or statements. Maybe I'm not postmodern enough for it, but in the end I expected a globetrotting adventure like this that involved the internet, advertising, marketing, industrial espionage, 9/11 and Russia to have some master narrative it was trying to tell about our times. Sadly, it didn't. But then again, maybe it's true that our times really are so disjointed that you can't really grab one out of them. So it goes, but that would be my one criticism of it. Otherwise, it's one helluva read.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Re: Crimson Pride

Okay, I knew I needed more than the comments box on this one ...

Yeah, I read that article. I need to look at his math 'cause I don't really agree with his incidence analysis. Check out this and this report.

However, I felt his argument was more normative, against progressive tax structures in general; completely valid as a personal policy preference (which of course, I disagree with). From his article, he seems to infer that he champions a flat tax under the guise of horizontal equity:

"My own opinion is that the rich already pay too much - it seems patently unfair to ask anyone to pay over 30 times as much as his neighbors (unless he receives 30 times as much in government services, which strikes me as implausible)."

I depart with him 'cause I believe you also need to consider vertical equity when it comes to tax policy.

However, I do agree with him on his point that:

"Well, you might say, at least everyone got a tax cut. But that's true only under a ridiculously literal interpretation of the term "tax cut." In fact, federal spending has increased dramatically under President Bush (with only a small fraction of that spending attributable to the war). Sooner or later, somebody's going to have to pay for all that spending, which means that just as the president's been cutting the taxes of today, he's been raising the taxes of tomorrow."

Someone's going to have to pay and it appears it's going to be my future children, Felix and Daphne.

Calling on Crimson Pride

Hey 5th, I've got another tax debate for you:

"My own opinion is that the rich already pay too much—it seems patently unfair to ask anyone to pay over 30 times as much as his neighbors (unless he receives 30 times as much in government services, which strikes me as implausible). If you share my sense of fairness, you'll join me in condemning the president's tax policy.

But if, on the other hand, you believe that the tax system should soak the rich even more than it already does—or, to put it more genteelly, that the tax system should be more progressive than it already is—if, in other words, you are a mainstream Democrat—then George W. Bush is your guy."


Ketchup Watch

Blathering Blatherskite! Everyone's favorite 'African-American' is at it again, and this time she's channeling Hillary.

"Well, you know, I don't know Laura Bush. But she seems to be calm, and she has a sparkle in her eye, which is good," Heinz Kerry said in a USA Today interview published Tuesday. "But I don't know that she's ever had a real job -- I mean, since she's been grown up."

Memo to Karl Rove: THK is your last, best hope for bringing down JFK once and for all (Okay, not 'last'. Okay, not 'best' either.).

Another One Bites the Dust

Sully linked to this, but it's worth posting all the same. Another Republican of some prominence is horrified by C-Plus Augustus.

Oh yeah, and why did they take Lowe out last night? Sure, when Martinez took the mound he through total fireballs after awhile but those first two runs they got off him almost made me have a heart attack! But whatever, the Yankees are gone. However it happened it's a miracle from heaven.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Poor John Kerry

No one told him soccer is not meant to be played wearing a helmet.

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Oh, my bad. That's his hair.

(post also syndicated to Shepherd's Pie)


Freedom Costs a Buck Oh Five

I could roundup the criticism of Team America, but this link will link to appropriate other sources. There's been a lot of hemming and hawing about this movie, and it's been highly politicized. Left-wingers look approvingly on the insult of macho topgunism, but decry the portrayal of the Film Actors Guild (snick snick) as in an alliance with Kim Jong Il. Right-wingers, well pretty much the opposite. Also, the whole dicks, pussies, and assholes speech in the movie is often looked at as a vindication of Bush's policy. Some others, who hopelessly want to just enjoy films and entertainment this election and (probably like most of us) are growing at the same time more agitated about this and more weary just want to write the whole thing off as a Jerry Bruckheimer parody. I'm fine with that interpretation, myself. I mean, come on, "America, Fuck Yeah!" It's so perfect.

There's one thing that troubles me, though. One line of criticism bashes Stone and Parker (I mean this movie isn't without flaws, you can insult it all you want) as being nihilists. Why? Because they insult and mock all sides. So they must be nihilists. Both sides look on Matt Stone and Trey Parker and want to shout at them, as it's become popular to do nowadays, "You're Either With Us or You're With the Terrorists" (right) or "You're Either With Us or You're With the Fascists" (left). It's this line of criticism that has me terrified. And While I singled out good old Ebert, he's not alone with that sentiment. It's as if by the fact that the few unsophisticated statements in Team America and trying to lampoon both sides as absurdly lost in their own dogmas, that they've committed some atrocious sin. So why is it a bad thing to see some of the absurdity in both sides? Why is the middle and skepticism suddenly nihilism? Is there no room for anything but extremes left in this country, even when it comes to the arts?

Honestly people. While at times I'm very partisan, there's nothing wrong with skepticism. There's nothing wrong with looking at both sides right now and saying "what a bunch of maroons," because honestly both sides are a bunch of maroons. If anything, the haughty full scale attack on the right and left in Team America is what we need more of. You have to see things like that to feel self-aware at all. It's the fact that right and left both want to claim Parker and Stone and that those who can't see a clear allegiance get irritated that shows we've grown too entrenched in viewing things we do. Chris Rock is right, political parties have become little more than gangs now, gangs that demand allegiance and won't let anyone straddle the sides or refuse to take a side in this political gangwar. And that analogy isn't just right, it showcases how juvenile this country is in it's juvenile reaction to a pretty juvenile movie.

And really, if you watch this thing it definitely is more of a Jerry Bruckheimer slammer than political movie anyway.

Terrorist Toolbar

Google saves lives!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A Little Rumor I'm starting:

This guy has already been hired by Marion Barry for get-out-the-vote efforts in the next D.C. mayoral election. Pass it around.


Voter fraud case traced to Defiance County registrations volunteer
124 registrations falsified, allegedly for crack cocaine
Staton


Mary Poppins. Jeffrey Dahmer. Janet Jackson. Chad Staton.

Defiance County elections officials were confident the first three hadn't moved to their small community. But the fourth one lived there, and - in exchange for crack cocaine - tried to falsely submit the first three names and more than 100 others onto the county's voter registration rolls, police said.

Now Mr. Staton, 22, of Defiance, faces a felony charge of false registration in a case that has quickly gained national attention as part of a hotly contested presidential battle that's attracted a flurry of new voter registrations across the country - and a flurry of complaints of voter registration fraud.

Defiance County Sheriff David Westrick said that Mr. Staton was working on behalf of a Toledo woman, Georgianne Pitts, to register new voters. She, in turn, was working on behalf of the NAACP National Voter Fund, which was formed by the NAACP in 2000 to register new voters.

Sheriff Westrick said that Pitts, 41, of Toledo, admitted she gave Mr. Staton crack cocaine in lieu of cash for supplying her with completed voter registration forms. The sheriff declined to say how much crack cocaine Pitts supplied Mr. Staton, or to say whether Pitts knew that the forms Mr. Staton gave her were falsified.

"That remains under investigation," he said.

Defiance County sheriff's deputies and Toledo police searched Pitts' home on Woodland Avenue and found drug paraphernalia and voter registration forms, the sheriff said.




My Fellow Americans

This inspires much faith in my countrymen. "Some call you the idiotic, I call you my base."

One Eyed Monster (World Roundup)

Islamist Cyclops Supreme Abu Hamza was charged with 19 criminal counts in British Court today. Most of it involves clear examples of shouting "fire" in a crowded theater, or more appropriately, shouting "jihad" in a mosque. Essentially the man clearly incited and advocating murdering people, and in Britain that's a clearly defined crime. Sometimes it must be nice not to have a First Amendment so you can clearly wipe out Thug Wizards like this piece of misguided garbage. But again, here's an inconvenient example of success in the WOT through law enforcement (like almost all of the key successes ARE through law enforcement).

Burma on the road to democracy? I don't think so. Khin Nyut, who seemed committed to some level of reconciliation with the opposition, was canned by the junta. Probably to be replaced with worse. Khin Nyut was highly corrupt though, and involved in all kinds of trafficking activity, so maybe that will end. But probably not. For those who didn't know it, Burma is the classical definition of a mess. I actually saw Aung San Suu Kyi speak one time at UVA back during the divestment push and he was a moving man. That all his efforts are about to be jeopardized because the only person who seemed willing to move a deal was a dirty thief (and probably worse) is a shame.

In China, it looks like some more movement away from their increasingly foolish retro-Stalinist policies. Independent courts? WHO KNEW! China Reform beat the pants of a state-owned developer, who sued them, and then China Reform actually was vindicated. Perhaps the "constitution" of China isn't such a sham at all and people are starting to take rule of law there seriously.

You'd think that a multi-national force of Muslim troops from MidEast countries assigned to guard UN workers holding elections in Iraq sounds like a great idea, would you? Well, Bush doesn't. How constructive. Another piece of good news, though, Somalia has a President! Finally there could be an end to all the warlords. There is still going to be a crackdown on the remnants of the militias, but Kenya has done an excellent job spearheading the peacetalks and uniting the fragmented country.

Gag Order

Oops. I completely forgot this particular event was taking place today. I'd like a barf bag please. From a previous email:

"If women shut their purses and didn't shop for a day, would the Economy
suffer? The idea gets tested on Oct. 19 by 85 Broads, a Networking
group founded in 1999 by Janet Hanson, who worked for Goldman
Sachs-headquartered at 85 Broad St.

Business Week has learned that 85 Broads is asking its
4,000-plus members in 450 companies, colleges, and B-schools not to
spend that day. Hanson says the "buycott" will show the gap between
women's purchasing power and their under representation in boardrooms
and executive suites. Members plan to spread the word to friends and to
women on college campuses. Women control $3.3 trillion in yearly
consumer spending, 44% of national spending - a sum that isn't just
symbolic.

According to Business Week, the U.S. economy has become increasingly
female-driven...

Did you know that women in the U.S.:
1) Control $3.3 TRILLION in annual consumer spending?
2) Make 62% of all car purchases?
3) Take more than 50% of all business trips?
4) Control over 50% of the personal wealth in this country?

UNFORTUNATELY, WOMEN'S PURCHASING POWER STILL HASN'T TRANSLATED INTO
ECONOMIC POWER.

According to Catalyst, only 6 CEO's in the Fortune 500 are women, 12.4%
are board directors, and 5.2% are among the top earners in the country.
On TUESDAY, OCTOBER 19th, we invite you to leave your checkbook and
credit cards at home as a symbolic gesture that we no longer "buy" the
glacial pace of change for working women in America. Instead of
shopping, go for a walk in the park, write a letter to a friend, enjoy
a museum, or help someone in need.

PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDARS AND TELL YOUR FRIENDS."

Into the Lion's Den

Thanks for bringing me aboard, guys.

I'll try not to disappoint. I won't soap up your backs with those little loofa things, but otherwise we'll see how much of an O'Reilly-like asshat I can be. In all seriousness though, I try to be fair and not take cheap shots, but I can roll with that too as my latest volley of emails with my liberal friends can attest.

About me: I'm from Maryland, born and raised. I'm a pretty solid conservative but have a distaste for insane ideological extremism. I'm a UMd. alumnus, and damn proud of it. That's about it for now. Thanks again for the soapbox.




Tangled Records

It's always struck me odd in this election how we have two candidates tangled up. Basically Kerry is only viewed, ONLY viewed, as his pre 9/11 self, and Bush is only viewed as his post 9/11 self. Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly makes the case that we should think about the possibility that, you know, MAYBE Kerry's mindset changed after 9/11. After all, Bush has gotten a free pass on everything he said in the 2000 election and all his promises and all of his advisors too from that logic. But, again, Kerry receives no such consideration. We never obsess over the fiscal mess Bush left Texas in, or the environmental state he left Texas in, or his "no nation building" pledge in the 2000 debates, or . . . Rumsfeld and Saddam shaking hands!

Honestly. Kerry is battered for voting against Gulf War I when the current Secretary of Defense saw to it that Saddam had weapons to fight it in the first place. That's fine. I'll say Rumsfeld probably understands the error of his ways now, and so do all those in the Bush administration. They probably feel immense guilt at having armed a madman back then and that's also in large part what Gulf War II is about. I grant them that. It's okay with me, because it was A DIFFERENT GEOPOLITICAL SITUATION. Just like post 9/11 it's A DIFFERENT GEOPOLITICAL SITUATION. If I can excuse something like that, why are we obsessing over these votes cast, i'll say again, in A DIFFERENT GEOPOLITICAL SITUATION? Sure Kerry made some bad calls, you know like voting against Cold War relic weapon systems and cutting intelligence (which many people didn't think we needed as much of after the Cold War). Sure he voted against some tax cuts. But that was in a different era, just like a lot of things Bush's people (Negroponte) did. They accuse Kerry of suffering from a pre-9/11 mentality. . .and their evidence? Pre 9/11 votes! Surprise, surprise.

Money in Mouth

Ladies and Gentlemen of Restless Mania ... I think we should have some forecasting fun and put our money where are mouth is ... it's time to predict the Presidential Election! I say that whoever is closest gets to hold the Restless Mania Championship Belt.

The 5th's call ....

Popular Vote: Kerry - 52%; Bush - 48%
Electoral College: Kerry - between 299 and 272; Bush - between 241 and 268





Monday, October 18, 2004

Unkind

"In the Oval Office in December 2002, the president met with a few ranking senators and members of the House, both Republicans and Democrats. In those days, there were high hopes that the United States-sponsored ''road map'' for the Israelis and Palestinians would be a pathway to peace, and the discussion that wintry day was, in part, about countries providing peacekeeping forces in the region. The problem, everyone agreed, was that a number of European countries, like France and Germany, had armies that were not trusted by either the Israelis or Palestinians. One congressman -- the Hungarian-born Tom Lantos, a Democrat from California and the only Holocaust survivor in Congress -- mentioned that the Scandinavian countries were viewed more positively. Lantos went on to describe for the president how the Swedish Army might be an ideal candidate to anchor a small peacekeeping force on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Sweden has a well-trained force of about 25,000. The president looked at him appraisingly, several people in the room recall.
''I don't know why you're talking about Sweden,'' Bush said. ''They're the neutral one. They don't have an army.''
Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: ''Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They're the ones that are historically neutral, without an army.'' Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.
Bush held to his view. ''No, no, it's Sweden that has no army.''
The room went silent, until someone changed the subject.
A few weeks later, members of Congress and their spouses gathered with administration officials and other dignitaries for the White House Christmas party. The president saw Lantos and grabbed him by the shoulder. ''You were right,'' he said, with bonhomie. ''Sweden does have an army.''
This story was told to me by one of the senators in the Oval Office that December day, Joe Biden. Lantos, a liberal Democrat, would not comment about it. In general, people who meet with Bush will not discuss their encounters. (Lantos, through a spokesman, says it is a longstanding policy of his not to discuss Oval Office meetings.) "


Nuff said

Bowing to Boeing (Government Muck of the Week)

A year ago, the news was abuzz (at least the toolish government news), about the Boeing Tanker Lease. McCain was on top of it, and largely responsible for its explosion, as he is always a crusader against revolving-door based scandals. At the time I had a conversation with a colleague who had worked at Air Force. She described her frustrations with the Air Force to me, because the Air Force justified new planes, equipment, parts, and specs all with the phrase "Because Boeing says we need it." Well well. Hooray for outsourcing the Pentagon.

With Druyun's revolving door conviction and now that she's due to begin serving jail time any day now, it's worth bringing up again. For those of you who don't know the details, the hyperlinks can bring you up to speed. The gist basically involved a $29.8 multi-billion dollar lease of 100 tankers to replace the mid-air fueling tankers in the air force. The Armed Services Committee, when confronted with this proposal, asked the obvious question. "Why?" They were supplied with no good answer, which stunk to high hell. After vicious probing by my two favorite Republicans, John Warner and John McCain, they found a trail of emails basically where Air Force procurement personnel continually asked Boeing to please give it good reason to do this, which in turn led to the realization that the whole thing was not only untenable and financially idiotic, but was Boeing's idea in the first place and they were basically taking the Air Force, Uncle Sam, and the taxpayers along for the ride.

The scandal led to a 500 million dollar fine for Boeing, and caused Boeing's CEO to resign. The revolving door has always been a tricky issue, especially with the Department of Defense, and aside from that the sheer dominance of what the government's requirements and needs are by the profit motives of the private contractors they've become completely dependent on, as showcased in this Center for Public Integrity report on "The Shadow Pentagon". Last week I pontificated briefly on how decision-making in the government has become difficult because of massive outsourcing, brought on partially by the enormous deficiencies of personnel regulations. Boeing is a testimony to that, and so is the Tanker Lease. It's happening today, and it will continue to happen, in large part due to the fact that government itself has lost the institutional capacities for decision-making, and must put these decisions (in the tons of Advisory and Assistance Contracts I've processed in the past month alone) in the hands of, in the words of Citizen Kane, "money mad pirates."

Sayanora OLN!

Choice in cable? I've talked about this for a long time. If someone offered me the chance, I can easily think of the five channels I'd pick (and none of them would ABC, CBS, or NBC, or CNN for that matter). Why subject me to all the programming I don't want and keep raising a "basic" package in price and channels everytime? The fact, for one, that part of my cable bill money goes to Fox News disgusts me. And the fact that I help fund OLN, G4, and Pax is just irritating. Why not let me be a consumer and have some choice, even if it in the end I might have to pay more PER CHANNEL than I do now.

Turns out a la carte cable programming is a touchy issue. It's a telecom industry nightmare because it would involve imposing actual regulations on a completely unregulated market. And, it's become wrapped up with. . .civil rights? That's right, somehow the issue of minority programming became part of the equation. That is, AFTER the cable company lobbies contributed huge amounts of money to these foundations, of course. The issue has become so muddled now that it's unlikely any movement will be achieved in the near future, which is a sad loss.

Now, I'm normally one to think Telecom laws and regulations on the whole are pretty asinine. Most of the time they turn out to be anti-competitive and create little room for innovation and lots of room for high prices. There's potential here, as there is sometimes with regulatory environments, to actually CREATE competition, if not amongst cable providers then amongst the channels. In this case I'd argue that imposing a regulation of this variety actually makes cable channels MORE competitive with one another and MORE market-based by not just affecting their advertising dollars but also their collection of cable fees. Lastly, even the advertising would be helped in the end by audience segmentation. Marketing would be more clear cut because they would have a better idea what consumers of a given channel are like since they paid for the channel and aren't just surfing. Just a thought. If we don't keep the FCC around for stuff like this, then what use are they?

My Favorite Danny...

...and his last name is not Snyder.

Drezner is on the verge of promising his vote to the Kerry folks. The clincher for me:

Given the foreign policy stakes in this election, I prefer a leader who has a good decision-making process, even if his foreign policy instincts are skewed in a direction I don't like, over a leader who has a bad decision-making process, even if his foreign policy instincts are skewed in a direction I do like.

If Bush gets re-elected, he and his team will view it as a vindication for all of their policy decisions to date. Whatever groupthink occurred in the first term would pale besides the groupthink that would dominate the second term. Given the tactical and strategic errors in judgment that this administration has made, I have to lean towards Kerry.


Someone give this guy a lollipop, STAT!

Monday Morning Quarterback

So not too long ago I posted suggesting that UVA was going to beat the holy stuffing out of FSU. This is me eating humble pie. There were two Seminoles in particular that made UVA once again rue the day they made it into the top ten: Wyatt Sexton and Ernie Sims. Sexton has clearly shown that Rix was the no talent hack we all knew he was. Why would Bowden ever start Rix with a weapon like Sexton in his arsenal? The old man's just stubborn I guess. Sims continuously tore up Hagans for an ungodly amount (4) of sacks. Ouch. And the fact that Hagans and Elton Brown got injured is not good.

FSU is flying high now, and it probably helped Miami capture the BCS position and will keep them hold it, since Miami beat FSU and FSU just beat another top ten team. That and the moon is in the 8th house and a butterfly in South America is flapping its wings or whatever important parts of the BCS equation there are.

Temple of Boom?

Remember in the late 90's, when KRS-One was back in mainstream hip-hop as a rapper/writer/educator (you know the days when I picked up breakdancing as a before/during/after-school activity)? I always thought his hip-hop temple concept, where attendees would learn about the 4 elements of hip-hop, was a neat idea. He’s one of my favorite Old School rappers from the great 80s and I was elated that he was finding success again in the community.

But according to the folks over at VodkaPundit, me thinks that KRS-One might be smoking a bit of the chronic:

If Osama bin Laden ever buys a rap album, he'll probably start with a CD by KRS-One.

The hip-hop anarchist has declared his solidarity with al-Qaida by asserting that he and other African-Americans "cheered when 9-11 happened," reports the New York Daily News.

The rapper, real name Kris Parker, defiled the memory of those who died in the terrorist attacks as he spouted off at a recent New Yorker Festival panel discussion.

"I say that proudly," the Boogie Down Productions founder went on, insisting that, before the attack, security guards kept Blacks out of the World Trade Center "because of the way we talk and dress.

"So when the planes hit the building, we were like, 'Mmmm - justice.' "
The atrocity of 9-11 "doesn't affect us the hip-hop community," he said. "9-11 happened to them, not us," he added, explaining that by "them" he meant "the rich ... those who are oppressing us. RCA or BMG, Universal, the radio stations."

Parker also sneered at efforts by other rappers to get young people to vote.
"Voting in a corrupt society adds more corruption," he added. "America has to commit suicide if the world is to be a better place."


Check out the Comments section and my defense of the hip-hop art form, NOT KRS's words. There are definitely some cracked out fools posting to that thread.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Everybody Needs a Glass of Water Today

To chase the hate away! All right, something happened to me today that is definitely blog worthy. I got up very early this morning after a late night at the Big Hunt in Dupont to go put Kerry-Edwards and Moran signs out at a park in Alexandria, not too far from the Landmark Mall. The event was Family Fall Day at Armistead Booth Park, so I figured it was about as low-impact as possible. As I'm putting these out at the street, I hear a car screech to a halt behind me. The driver abruptly honked his horn. When I turned to see what the fuss was all about, there was a mild-mannered 60 or so year old man there wearing a sweater and some typical gray old man pants. He then flicked me off. Flipped me the bird. Gave me the one fingered-salute.

Wow. As I continued to put up these Moran and Kerry-Edwards signs I could only shake my head. This is one hell of an election, and I just got a first-hand piece of it. I especially think this is funny, because he did it WITH CHILDREN STANDING NEARBY who definitely saw the incident and giggled.

Friday, October 15, 2004

No, YOUR Daughter's Gay

Okay, so I mentioned that I thought Kerry's citation of Cheney's lesbian daughter was in poor taste. I still stand by that remark, BUT there's something to be said about the GOP reaction. The Cheney's and the rest of the GOP attack dogs are aching to beat the tar out of Kerry, but why is this ire not directed at anyone else? Edwards commited the same low blow in his debate with tricky Dicky, and so did everyone's favorite GOP Senate candidate from Illinois.

'cough' HYPOCRITES 'cough'.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

A Fisking (Sort of)

Vodkapundit's got an angry post up about a Demo. memo encouraging operatives to wreak havoc at the polls. See the below fisking for my post-venting rebuttal (sort of):

If Drudge has it right, then the Kerry-Edwards campaign is going to do its damnedest to turn our fine nation into a banana republic.

From the headshot on your website, I never thought you’d have a problem with their clothing line.

To these guys, winning office is more important than the sanctity of elections. Holding power is more important than the Constitution.

Much like Tom Delay and his meddling in the redistricting of Texas? Holding power isn’t more important than the Constitution, but discrimination (via the FMA) is? Tsk, tsk. And whatever happened to the balancing power of checks and balances? You may be eager to bring the fight to the terrorists (heck I was in favor of the Iraq war myself), but taking power away from those that wield the power recklessly, I think that’s of utmost importance in this election.

Much as I despise at least half of what most Republicans stand for, they don't seem nearly as willing to trash the system they're trying to run. Too many Democrats, especially at the national level, just don't care that our system, our nation is far more important than any single election.

Your argument would be more credible if we didn’t already know you to be a single-issue voter Stephen. Is there anything more important than our nation? A bottle of Stolichnya perhaps?

I could mention the Lautenberg Trick in New Jersey. Or Gore's ballot shenanigans in Florida. Or the voter-registration fraud currently going on in Colorado, Nevada, and elsewhere. Or the Democrats' successful call to bring election observers into this country. Bring them in from where, Venezuela? Hey, no big deal sullying the reputation of the world's oldest continuously-functioning democracy, just so long as we can make the Republicans look bad, right?

Do you honestly think that these ‘observers’ will scrutinize Republican conduct while completely overlooking the actions of Democrats? Please. I fully expect many Dems to perpetuate the negative stereotype that Americans are all idiots too.

The rules don't matter. The reputation of the country doesn't matter. The political health of the nation doesn't matter. Power matters.

Introducing Tim “the Toolman” Taylor everybody… arf, arf, arf!

I don't mean to say that Republicans haven't used dirty tricks, or won't in the future. But I have yet to see them pull anything as crass as replacing a losing candidate with a more-popular one just weeks before election day, and in violation of state law. I have yet to see Republicans calling on the world's most corrupt international organization, run largely by apparatchiks from the world's most brutal dictatorships, to pass judgment on how we run our elections.

Since you don’t like Plan A, you choose Plan B instead: Improving our image by keeping our sitting President in office for another four years?

I have yet to see the Republicans encouraging their own to commit fraud by shouting "Fraud!" where none yet exists, putting at risk everything we've built here in the last 228 years.

Instead they’re encouraging discrimination (228 years), religious indoctrination (228 years), a renewal of the Cold War (60+ years), fiscal disaster (10 years)…

Because, in the end, that's what the national Democrats are doing: They're trying, however inadvertently, to destroy the Republic in order to rule it.

That’s very Fight Club-esque of them. I don’t really understand why more Frat guys aren’t backing the Dems. Anyone got polling numbers on this demo.?

Democracy is the free market of political systems. And like any free market, it can't function without some basic level of trust. That trust comes, slowly, from hammering out rules even competitors can live with. That trust comes, with difficulty, by honoring those rules, even when your candidate doesn't win. That trust exists in relatively few places around the world.

That’s the same line my dad used to feed me about relationships and marriage. Too bad my parents are divorced now.

That trust is hard to come by – and it's easy to lose. Ask the German voters of 1933. Or the people who voted in Afghanistan's first-ever presidential election last week. Or the people of Iraq, whose lives are, quite literally, on the line as they try to make something decent of their nation.

You’re assuming the electorate had trust to begin with. Tell me Mr. Green, if voters trusted the voting system so much, why do less than 50% show up to fill out their ballots on election day? Obviously, many Americans abandoned the political process precisely because there was no trust in the system. Who’s to blame for this distrust? Don’t tell me it’s the sole responsibility of the Democratic Party.

The system, the trust, is far more important than anything else. It's more important than the White House, or Congress, or Social Security, or jobs, or even the Terror War. Our Constitution is rigged to make it hard for any party to screw things up in the short time of four years.

Oh but they can, when they have no opposition party to balance their agenda.

There's always another election around the corner, if you think the current crop of office-holders is screwing things up – that's the beauty of our system.

Too bad mid-term elections have even less voter turnout than Presidential election years. And what if I wanted to vote for a continuation of party stewardship in the White House, BUT wanted someone else besides the incumbent? Our system is about as beautiful as Teresa Heinz-Kerry in a bathing suit.

But maybe there won't be another election, if you cause the people to lose faith that elections work. I was raised in a very Republican family. The first election I could vote in was 1988, and I voted straight-ticket Republican. But only the one time. I grew up – I learned that my own convictions were more important than party affiliation. I learned that my own estimation of individual candidates was more important than whether they had a D or an R next to their names. Since then, I've voted for a lot of Democrats, including for President.

I voted against abortion before I voted for it too. You flip-flopper.

Now, I know this is an angry essay. However, I don't mean to imply that all Democrats are evil and all Republicans are sweetness and light. Far from it. But for the first time in 16 years, I'm going to vote Republican straight down the line. If I have to punish a couple of local Democrats I'm fond of, then so be it, but I have to try to get a point across: The national Democratic Party is bad for this country.

Actually, I think you’re implying that all anti-war Democrats are evil. Point well taken, BUT I’m not so sure you should substitute your typical stress-relieving regimen of a martini a day, instead opting for the unconventional voting booth rampage. Stick to what works!

I don't say that because of their policies, which I probably agree with more than I do the Republicans. But because their tactics would cause more harm to this country than the Federal Marriage Amendment, the Republican budget deficit, and Congress's corporate tax giveaways, combined.
I'm just one guy; I don't expect my vote to mean much. But the Democrats are willing to treat – in advance - my vote, and all it represents, with feigned contempt. So I can't, in return, treat the Democrats with anything less than genuine contempt.


And Republicans are willing to respond to my opinions with accusations of being un-American, treasonous, or un-Godly. And I plan to respond in kind.

Behind The Music

If you've ever wondered why musicians seem to come and go with the tides, I've finally got an answer for you. Okay, well Rolling Stone has the answer, I'll just link to the story:

"This breakdown of the cost of a typical major-label release by the independent market-research firm Almighty Institute of Music Retail shows where the money goes for a new album with a list price of $15.99."

$0.17 Musicians' unions
$0.80 Packaging/manufacturing
$0.82 Publishing royalties
$0.80 Retail profit
$0.90 Distribution
$1.60 Artists' royalties
$1.70 Label profit
$2.40 Marketing/promotion
$2.91 Label overhead
$3.89 Retail overhead

The Burning Bush (Second Book of Asswhupping 3:16)

Or, Robert's Rules of Evisceration

I'll fire the first salvo. "America's Newspaper," The Washington Times, says Bush ripped Kerry. In the famous one-note chant of the world's greatest political commentator and my spiritual advisor: "WRONG!" I present as evidence the following things, with a screed to follow.

Contention 1: Will Saletan and Chris Suellentrop AND Dana Stevens call it for Kerry. Slate is a left-leaning political online mag, so that's no big surprise, but we all no Suellentrop and Saletan were both thoroughly dismayed at Kerry's last performance and this time find him much better.

Contention 2: A random Style Columnist from El WaPo says it best: "Bush Grins, Spins But Doesn't Win" in which Tom Shales describes Bush as "giggily." Did anyone else also notice his constant palm-pounding of the podium looked a lot like, oh, I don't know, A FORMER COMMUNIST DICTATOR? I think it's fair to compare Bush to Khrushchev, myself. Not Hitler, that's just crazy talk, but perhaps a capitalist, American Khrushchev.

Contention 3: Instapolls. CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll has Kerry up. A CBS poll has Kerry up at 39%, with only 25% calling it a Bush win and 36% calling it a tie. And, lastly, an ABC poll has it basically at a dead heat, with 42-41-14 Kerry-Bush-Tie, with a primarily REPUBLICAN sample. Ouch.

The bottom line is this. Bush had a hard time defending himself, especially on fiscal issues. Before the debate, they had the whole notion that they would decide to abandon the tired message of calling Kerry a flip-flopper and label him a Massachusetts liberal who is "out of the mainstream." If anything, Kerry made that task difficult last night, because what he said was very mainstream, and for the most part, moderate. Everytime Bush tried to paint Kerry with a red, Communist hammer and sickle it just wasn't panning out. Also, Bush clearly has caused so much government red-ink and expanded and produced new programs, he doesn't have the Conservative ground to stand on in order to call the other guy a liberal. Kerry also parried a lot of Bush's harder blows with minimal damage. Calling him out on Pell Grants and Job Training was another hard hit, since Bush has had a net decrease in office to those programs.

In all, Bush turned in his best performance so far last night, but Kerry did too. Xenophobia, Warrior Prince had a great line stating that "both parties are going to come out of this saying their guy was at the top of his game." Last night I think we just found out whose game is better, even if it took a long time for him to realize his potential (not unlike a certain favorite literary character of mine).

And They're Off

Mr. Kerry, you won my vote last night, ten times over. I was not only waiting for the domestic policy debate, I was anxious, I was ready to explode. I knew you possessed the skill to run circles around C-plus Augustus, and his simpleton nature. You’ve already participated in two prior debates with a man who couldn’t tell the difference between a doorknob and the button that could launch our nukes. And boy did you EVER (finally) deliver.

Where do I begin? You cleaned Bush’s clock by citing that Pell Grants were up because more families were economically qualified, not because the government had expanded educational opportunity. You used the health benefits of senators and congressmen to your advantage, and successfully parried when Bush tried to assail you for the cost (citing his usage of the same line when defending his budget busting Medicare bill). You made yourself look like the shepherd and made Bush look like a sheep by taking religion and fusing it with your policy work, citing both John F. Kennedy and Bible passages.

I wasn’t too happy with your answers on the social security question. I admit, I’m for privatizing social security, but my stance aside, your answer was empty and came across as pandering. I also remember hearing a gaffe during your answer on illegal immigration. You said, even middle easterners are entering America illegally. Did you mean terrorists as I hope you did, or was that an acceptance of some type of covert racial profiling? Please clarify.

Bush, you didn’t do so bad either. Last night’s debate was your best performance yet. Some pundits have chided you for returning to your record on education and the NCLB as a way of changing the subject. To hell with them. I thought you were rather adept at framing the NCLB as not only an education act, but as a jobs creation act as well, because in the long run, that's one of the many benefits the NCLB could provide. You called Kerry out on many points quite effectively, but I’m sorry to say that Kerry dealt more hooks and uppercuts to your body blows and jabs. You also got reamed on the assault weapons issue. For God’s sake, Kerry quoted Osama’s terrorist handbook! How do you come back after that????

Two things I will chide Kerry for: I wasn’t happy when he mentioned Cheney’s lesbian daughter. It came across as underhanded, overly-opportunistic and unnecessary. Andrew Sullivan disagrees with me on that point, but I’ll stick to my guns. In addition, the joke about marrying up . . . I’m still not sure how that played in “flyover country”, but I sensed a twinge of arrogance in that remark.

Overall, I’d declare the debate as an oversized win for Kerry. The polls seem to agree with me. Drezner and Green don’t, while Sullivan tries to toe the line. Any thoughts?

UPDATE: Alas, I forgot to include Kerry's mention of the newly passed corporate tax bill. Lowering tariffs on imported ceiling fans from China, that was a slap in the face to you Mr. Zell Miller. Well done.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Implausible Deniability

Staunch Moderate discusses how people like Senor C hold politicians to impossible standards. No matter what they do or say or how hard they try one fault of them or another is found and hammered into the stratosphere, eclipsing everything else about them.

Particularly good is this:

"The truth is, we hold politicians to impossible standards. Bush mispronounces words, and he's considered a moron. Gore never mispronounces anything -- from years of political experience -- and he's called robotic. Kerry tries to appear presidential, and people say he's elitist. Clinton comes across as suave and clear, and he gets the nickname "Slick Willy"."

Hear that, Senor C? Maybe that's why John Kerry wouldn't ever win a debate to Senor C even if he found an answer to the Iraq problem, recruited 100,000 French soldiers to fight in the war on terror, converted Osama Bin Laden to Christianity, and devised a way to balance the budget without raising taxes, and did it all during a debate while juggling flaming penguins in under 30 seconds. You might say that's impossible, but it's just as likely as Senor C ever saying anything positive about the man.

Electoral Urban Legend

Wow. Who should I root for on Halloween? It's high time that this curse comes to an end. Go 'Skins!

Money for Nothing

What's a million dollars between friends? Apparently it means a different political affiliation.

Leave it the folks over at Slate to flesh out the class divisions among political parties. Lets see, the rich favor the GOP while the SUPER rich lean Democrat. Now, if we could only get rid of that accursed McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. Then we could have George Soros bankroll the entire Democratic Party!

While we're on the subject of _illionaires, we should probably mention the latest tax bill that's been passed by our ever-so-knowledgeable legislators. I guess they've already forgotten about their overdue bills.

Lastly, gentrification is Pee Wee's playhouse word of the day. Downtown DC and Crystal City the new hot spots? These two pseudo-urban hubs seem to be undergoing a commerical renaissance of their own. According to WaPo, several new retail and restaurant chains will be moving in as new tenants to previously vacated spaces. I wonder how many Starbuck's they'll be able to fit in over at Gallery Place. My guess is five.

Suicide Paq (World Roundup)

The headliner this weekend and early this week is quite obviously the Afghani success the recent election delivered. It was flawed, it was imperfect, but it was a giant leap forward for a country run by Islamofascists. That said, there are some warning signs and issues that Karzai is going to have to tackle stat. The politics of difference is of course a prime one. As C-Plus Augustus struts the stage and brags about how he's single-handedly brough the idea of democracy into the Arab World and is the only one capable of delivering its messianic panacea, he's ignoring important cultural issues. It's easy to see things from a Western perspective how democracy might want, but too often parties aren't even organized in the developing world and in the South (talking globally, not nationally) along the lines of issues and ideologies, but ethnic groupings, nationalisms, and tribal allegiances. This is an issue in these elections, and will continue to be for the Afghans. Controlling it and channeling it in constructive ways is a challenge. Another important one is the proposed NATO takeover. Not only is this important for Iraq, but for the future of the alliance. NATO has been peacekeeping in Afghanistan while the US rages in the combat missions, and the push is to integrate the two. That's not going to happen easily. If NATO was to come into Iraq, that dichotomy and integration issue would be repeated. Some hardcore diplomacy is needed, especially since Germany is the second largest player in Afghanistan and isn't easy to please.

Aside from the Afghanistan route, Japan is having problems with suicide pacts. The story and situation either sound like the plot of one of those new Japanese supernatural thrillers or lifted directly from anime. Some see it as a sign of crumbling society. It sure isn't a good one any way you look at it, especially when the internet is helping it to gain steam. Also, it's been finally publicized by the IAEA that Taiwan wanted nukes. Looks like the program ended in the 80s, but with that kind of nuclear proliferation program unknown for so long, it's a serious issue how many other countries might be cooking up the initial stages for WMDs that we're not paying attention to. It's easy for something like an Iran, Iraq, or North Korea to attract the IAEA's glare, but what about more peripheral players?

Iraqi health care is in a dismal state post-war. The strain put on it by this conflict is unbelievable, and the deaths resulting from inadequate care aren't helping the growing warzone there. Saudi women don't get the vote (shock), and of course because they're segregated it's unlikely such a thing will be contemplated any time soon. Bush also gets the failing grade from 650 foreign policy experts. That's a lot! You can claim about institutions and elites, but a number like that is staggering.

Land Reform is heating up in Nambia (The Namibian). President Nujoma has proposed expropriating lands from foreign "absentee landlords." While it may be needed to solve growing food problems and is a positive step to undoing legacies of colonialism, it could go the Zimbabwe route. That would be a disaster in discouraging foreign investment and retard some possible growth. Not like land reform is ever simple and conventional, though. As directly communist as the issue may seem in taking land and redistributing it, the titanic estates of colonial landlords left a huge legacy of inequality in Africa that has kept the markets in a problematic dynamic since. Then there's Nigerian oil and President Obasanjo (This Day). He avoided a civil war only to end up with one of the country's largest labor strikes. Out of the frying pan, into the magma! Corruption is being revealed already by the string of events in this labor strike, and more will probably come as a result. The government is hoping it can intimidate the workers into submission, but we'll see how long the rising world oil crisis keeps their "we don't negotiate with workers" tactic going.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Exiled Frozen Pork

So, the Congress' latest corporate tax bill reminds of me a story ... when Mr. Proliferation and I were exiled to the frozen tundra of upstate New York (where we pretty much went an entire year drunk, sobering up just enough to earn a degree in wonk stuff), I was the head of a student group. As head of this group, I decided to throw a luau to celebrate the end of our exile. Now, in throwing this luau, we purchased and roasted an entire pig. There was enough pork to feed legions upon legions of people. After said luau, there were mass quantities of pulled pork left. I took it home, 'cause, well, pulled pork is tasty. I ate pulled pork for one week straight, breakfast, lunch and dinner. I couldn't finish and didn't feel quite right in the stomach area for a good while. What about the Congress' corporate tax bill? It's nothing but a shit load of pork that the American people are going to have a hard time dealing with. Anyone who has ever complained about special interests dictating policy and the subsequent mess that is our national tax law should be outraged.

Also, to bring things full circle, a portion of the corporate pork in this legislation will go to the aforementioned frozen tundra:

"One provision, whose supporters included Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, would provide $231 billion in tax breaks for special "green bonds" to finance four big shopping malls. One of those malls is Destiny USA, a $2.2 billion project planned for Syracuse." (from the NYT articled linked above).


Elementary

Jay Matthews is the owner of one of the most underappreciated columns in WaPo, Class Struggle, a column on educational topics. Today's issue asks the difficult question: Should Colleges Have Quotas for Asian Americans?

The answer: Of bloody course not. Mr. Chin, Matthews' arch nemesis of this particular article, makes the assertion that if not for various LEGAL racial preferences, the composition of student bodies at highly selective schools would consist of a higher concentration of Asian and Asian American students.

Now before we go on, I should probably clarify my position. I have been, and will continue to be an ardent supporter of affirmative action. Why, you ask? Because the educational system doesn't reward merit across the board, because merit is such a loosely defined term and because the admissions process is one of the most subjective processes that people ever encounter.

I agree that the execution of affirmative action policies, in many cases, is often poor. I agree that racial preferences don't exactly facilitate an environment where everyone is singing 'Kumbabya' around a fire. Affirmative action is merely one element of the great (but imperfect) equalizing process of college admissions. College admissions would cease to be such a subjective process if we had true national educational standards (will never happen because of state governments, even with NCLB), and if those of us with knowledge of the system stopped gaming it for our and our children's advantage.

Asians in particular have an affinity for the hard sciences and engineering and less of one for the liberal arts. If you were smart (and didn't mind gaming the system like everyone else), you'd submit less applications with an undecided major or an engineering major, and submit more with drama or sociology penciled in as a propsective concentration. Then, once you're in, pull the old switcheroo and transfer.

I Heart "Eternal Sunshine..."

If a man is measured by the strength of his character, is a movie character measured by the strength of the man playing him? Yesterday, I purchased “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, starring Jim Carrey, Kate Winslett, and Mark Ruffalo, among others. I’m not the biggest art house fan, but on occasion I will diverge from the usual Senor C fare, and try something a little more off kilter. Sure, it didn’t hurt that countless reviews have given this flick six or more stars on a four star scale, but other people’s opinions don’t necessarily qualify or disqualify a movie from my To View list. I popped the DVD into my player with no preconceptions as to what I was about to see, and boy did this film ever hit a home run.

I grew up watching Jim Carrey play such outlandish characters as Fire Marshall Bill on In Living Color and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think he’d be able to play such a restrained and steady leading man. His first stab at this type of role in “The Majestic” failed to produce a major critical or box office score, so I was skeptical of at least Carrey’s performance (Winslett et al, I confess, I had a bit more faith in). But from Act I, I knew this was to be a very different Jim Carrey than what I’m accustomed to. Carrey plays the role of Joel, a post break-up victim who yearns for nothing but the good old days with ex-girlfriend Clementine. Clementine, played by Kate Winslett, was Joel’s one-time eccentric soul mate, who had a fetish for dressing up potatoes and changing her hair color with every turn of the season. Clementine, in an act of impulsiveness, visits a clinic that specializes in memory erasures, attempting to wipe her brain clean of any memory of Joel. In an act of equally impulsive retaliation, Joel visits the same clinic to erase his mind of Clementine. What follows is one of the most original takes on love, break-ups and the rollercoaster ride of relationships that I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching.

Joel and Clementine are perfect examples of the simple romantic dichotomy of ‘It’ feeling so right and so wrong at the same time. Unless you live in a cave and actively refrain from human interaction, this movie should immediately strike a chord, whether it be through finding love in the strangest places, recovering from a relationship that was almost unreal, or finding a connection with the simplest of dreams. Joel and Clementine’s relationship was the combination of dozens of very distinct moments during the course of their courtship. We’re reminded that even just one memory can make a loved one’s embrace feel real again, while a single memory may also emotionally break someone still trying to outrun sorrow from the past.

I’ve come to greatly appreciate those films that toss the traditional linear approach to storytelling out the window, and instead opt for a circular or anarchical approach to exposition. Flashbacks were used appropriately, but at some points I couldn’t tell whether or not Joel was experiencing real déjà vu or whether he owned a sick sense of humor. I believe the intent was for the audience to react in such a manner, which is why the confusion continued until we finally understand what’s happening to our main character. Joel ends up regretting his decision to have his memories of Clementine erased, and what ensues is a plunge into cinematic brilliance: Joel’s brain rushes to hide the remaining memories of Clementine in other parts of his memory and subconscious. Needless to say, Joel’s quest brings about some interesting and largely embarrassing memories of his childhood that Clementine (the memory) enjoys to the fullest.

The absurdity of having a mind erasing service was subdued by the straight-faced performances of Tom Wilkinson, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst and Elijah Wood. It was their job to perform the memory changes in the story, and they acted less like neurological pioneers, and more like your everyday, disgruntled medical employees (Hopefully, the amount of pot-smoked in this film is not indicative of real life medical technicians when patients aren’t paying attention.). Their anything-but-normal portion of the story transpires in the real world, while Joel’s and Clementine are occupied with protecting themselves from erasure in the dream/unreal world. Confused yet? I was too for about the 10 minutes, until I realized that this wouldn’t have been a Jim Carrey movie without providing him an opportunity to act insane.

Like many of my contemporaries, “When Harry Met Sally” stood as my ideal for a romantic comedy. Very few movies labeled as a romance or a comedy, let alone a romantic comedy, could hold up to comparison with the Rob Reiner classic. But with Eternal Sunshine, my movie tastes may have experienced a paradigm shift. I didn’t end up looking for the happy ending, like all other films. All I wanted was for Joel and Clementine to have a second chance. This, in many peoples’ cases, is all one ever needs.

Jobbers (Goverment Muck of the Week)

Anyone who's worked in the federal government for a decent length of time has probably seen or heard of it. Someone goes through the months long process of hiring, is put in place, and is then out the door within a month or two, maybe less. Turnover in the government is downright absurd, and it's damaging when one considers the ridiculous, no more like LUDICROUS, process you have to go through here (cring with me, 5th). Hiring and firing done in a centralized manner with centralized rules for one of the biggest employers in the US isn't just idiotic, it's downright dangerous.

I've always been one to argue that each agency and department should conduct its own hiring and devise their own systems, and the Partnership for Public Service has made one hell of a case for me in their latest report. While all you contractors out there may argue again and again this just means the government should outsource more, remember how horrifying it would be if IBM was deciding what IT products should be bought with taxpayer money and then ordering some stuff from its own catalog, or that the Air Force buys a plane because Boeing says so (Disclaimer: I've seen this happen repeatedly already, and it's just a small and non-disturbing example of a large and disturbing systematic problem of no institutional capacity.)

Back to the subject at hand, write your Congressman and tell them to get rid of this bureaucratic leviathan. It's proven time and time again it writes obsolete and incompetent rules, cripples agency abilities to hire qualified candidates, prolongues the process to a glacial speed, and generally causes insanity (thx Screenhead) in those who have to work with it.

The Dirtiness Continues

Got milk?

A Disturbance In The Force

Hey Burger King execs, I see you've released a new commercial, arguably one of the most disturbing pieces of advertising I've seen in a very LONG time. The Burger King is back, and apparently he's arrived via a time capsule from the disco era. Maybe I'm reminded of mornings in college when I'd wake up, and lo and behold, the first thing I see when I open my eyes is Mr. Proliferation smiling at me. The long-term damage that situations such as the aforemetioned inflict upon one's psyche are unknown to me. BUT, I can at least say that I'm not the only one disturbed by a wake up call from a king with a molded, plastic head.

(My apologies for the Star Wars reference, but I've been up to my armpits in Star Wars reading, game playing and general hysteria of late.)

Saletan's Home Run

Frequent hotlink source (and Mr. Proliferation favorite) William Saletan hits the nail on the head. Kerry missed a HUGE opportunity on Friday night to cream Bush, which is reason enough to declare the second presidential debate as a win for Bush (i.e. Bush got away unchallenged, while providing multiple gaffes for us Saturday morning pundits). Mr. Proliferation and I disagree on the outcome (I was of course, half asleep for most of the debate), but Saletan is one of Mr. Proliferation's oft quoted writers from Slate. Any comments, hmm?

Photobloggers

Photobloggers seem to hold quite a sway in the DC area blogging scene. After seeing the following picture, it's easy to figure out why. Even with peoples' constant denunciations of the DC landscape and architecture, this town can often be downright gorgeous. Thanks to the folks (and fellow UVa grads) over at Capital Weather for this one.

United We Fall, Divided We Stand

Divided government. Even 5th's buddies over at the Cato InstituteM are jumping on the bandwagon. If you can't vote for Kerry on pure principle, the mere possibility of a divided government should serve as a deciding factor.

Those Crazy Baptists

Changing the Constitution to prevent a man and a man from marrying, faith-based initiatives, prevention of a Palestinian state, what will they think of next? How about a haunted house for Halloween. . .but instead of ghosts and ghouls we'll have John Kerry's idea of America?

Riiiiiight . . . (exactly)

Mean and Green (Environmental Roundup)

Hydrogen cars by the end of the next decade? Looks like it. The Polyfuel membrane is taking off and has been hugely successful. Behind it all, this hydrogen idea comes from research done from the GEMINI program. NASA continues to bring us more than Tang and Velcro. . .The day we can drive all day and produce water as pollution is coming soon. Part of me wonders what threat the Middle East would be if we had taken $200 Billion of Iraq money and dumped it into this. I think those who mock "energy independence" are naive, all it takes is luck and money.

Wangari Maathai gets recognition and is an interesting choice for the Nobel Peace prize. It was a dark horse award, and was full of politics. With all she's done, I guess it's no surprise she wants to invest the Prize money in more environmental programs! Her philosophy of using conservation to reduce conflict in Africa is an interesting thought. Many of the conflicts in Africa are resource-driven, so it would go a long way. Many of them are also ethnic or tribal-driven as well, though, so it probably wouldn't stop everything. Her movement, Green Belt (not the metro stop), has planted 30 million trees to fight deforestation. Here's hoping she plants 30 million more.

Global warming may have gotten a massive boost with the ridiculous CO2 jump. Where did this jump come from? It was higher than anything that could've happened given the actual car, power plant, or volcano emissions. One disturbing possibility is that it could be feedback. This should be a wake-up call, but it's not. After all, the Kyoto Protocol would "cost America jobs", so we should throw out all the rules! That gains jobs, right? Right? I guess not. If feedback is the culprit here, climate change will speed, famine will spread, and the time we have to act on this runs out even faster. But, after all, there's more important things at stake in this election, like seeing who's more willing to go to war faster.

Strengthen The Good

Visit STG some time today to learn more about this week's spotlight charity, 'Garden of Angels'.

"In 1996, while I had one eye on dinner and the other on the evening news, I heard a story that would change my life. I stood frozen as I listened to the reporter’s account of the tragedy…a newborn baby boy had been stuffed into a duffel bag and tossed from a speeding car along a freeway. I couldn’t move, I just kept thinking about this child and wondering how we could have become a society that just throws

their babies away as if they were a piece of trash.

I contacted the authorities and with the blessing of my family, I asked the Coroner’s office to release the baby to us for burial. While waiting for the investigation to end on this child, I learned that there was another newborn baby boy that had been found in a dumpster, and a little girl about two years of age, who was found washed up on a beach.

On August 26,1996, we had our first burial service for the three children. They were given the names of Matthew, Nathan and Dora. Each name means the same… a “Gift of God”.

In the beginning, this was an “act of love” from our family. As the word of what we were doing for these little ones spread, we knew that it was not enough for these children to touch just our hearts… we were being shown that God wanted their tiny footprints to touch the hearts of many more."

Friday, October 08, 2004

Dirty Boy! Dirty, Dirty Boy!

Will the C-Plus Augustus Entourage ever cease in its unending assault and corruption of Republican moderates? First Colin Powell, then John McCain, then Rudy Giuliani, now Mel Martinez. Old C-Plus is so dedicated to establishing his own credibility by getting moderates to sell out ad shill for him that in the process it seems he's only destroying their integrity and credibility by having them endorse a man who believes in so much they don't.

You know it's bad when even Jeb is apalled by your dirty campaign tactics, and you smear someone who was a House prosecutor during Bill Clinton's impeachment! Wow, I guess that's not far-right enough for you. . .Here's to Castor. Hopefully she'll tan his hide and bring another much-needed moderate democrat to high office instead of a screaming right-wing banshee of a man.

Friday Morning Quarterback

Ouch. For those of you who don't like college football and/or hate UVA, you might want to avert your eyes. While the score difference here was only 20 points, this was a beatdown. Make no mistake. Groh continues not to disappoint. I honestly thought poor Tommy Bowden was going to cry. Lee Corso and Co. couldn't stop singing UVA's praises.

I, like all UVA fans who have been severely disappointed by the likes of seemingly good teams and seemingly good coaches (Senor C sat out in front of that godforsaken stadium enough with me in lawn chairs and tents for hours to understand what I'm talking about), was skeptical about this season. I am no longer. When I witnessed Marques Haggans scramble like a madman and Whitehurst's terrified fear sprints into the backfield, I knew I was looking at real talent. And, in several occasions, monster-blocker Elton Brown, who is also a Hampton Roadsite like me, performed blocking stunts that bordered on the incredible. I especially like the three times I saw him shove one Clemson defender into another one, knocking both of them down in utterly cartoonish ways, as Pearman, Lundy, or whoever rushed for who knows how many first downs.

Ah, good times. Watch out Bobby Bowden. Groh is coming.

Death by Papers

If anyone knows about how damning paperwork, documents, and reports can be, it's my red-tape-slinging bureaucrat hiney. After all, I have an MPA (Master in Paperwork Assembly). The President seems to be finding out this week. There is, of course, the Iraq WMD report, which is fairly damning, then there's the payroll survey, which is also not so encouraging. The first, we all knew was coming when David Kay decided to give us a little truth-telling back in January. That's no surprise, but it does essentially mean Bush now can do nothing other than use the humanitarian argument for war, which is not so strong, or the Mickey Kaus crazy man waving a gun defense. That never worked completely for cops in the past though, and I doubt it'll work for the President.

The jobs report is more complicated. While Bush may use the hurricanes to explain the disappointing numbers again, the report itself actually addresses that. Bush's problem in all this was in his ridiculous assertion that his tax cuts would create a million jobs in one year, and even more before his administration ends. It was a classic example of setting the bar too high, and Kerry is doing the same with his claims in debate. Should John Kerry win, he's already promised so much he's setting himself up to be a disappointment probably bigger than Bush.

My guess is that Bush and his idiotic Neoconomic advisors didn't even realize that when they passed the last round of tax cuts they were actually changing the tax incentives behind the entire labor-capital production equation. By allowing more dividends, they encourage capital investment, it's true. The problem with hoping this is going to create jobs though is that it in fact encourages INVESTMENT IN CAPITAL, meaning a more capital-intensive mode of production. This means, of course, less labor. The price of capital, now that it is less tax, lowered relative to labor. This would, in theory, create a higher marginal product of labor and a higher wage. Problem is with the labor market growing every month more than the jobs that are added, we've got a supply that outstrips this lower demand, keeping wages stagnant. But that's just the thought of someone who only has a bachelor's degree in econ. Not to mention we're also going through a time of Joseph Schumpeter-like creative destruction in global free trade and markets, which actually will involve quite a few companies, like U.S. Airways go down as better business models and production methods are found and new markets and competition arrives. It's all in here and here.

What does it all mean? Well, for one thing both sides are going to be scrambling to cook up some deceiving talking points to spin these two problematic documents by the evening.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

A Moratorium

Apologies for the lack of posts from my side of the tracks of late. It seems the world is on the verge of the Apocalypse, as I have actual, semi-meaningful assignments to complete at work. AND they seem to be filtering in at a steady clip. My internet-less condo has cost me many opportunities to sift through media sites I'm accustomed to scanning. Yet all seems well with Mr. P, 5th and co., and they're manning the fort quite well. The one lunch break where I actually have some time to blog, and I'm forced to go to the bloody gas station because of a nearly flat tire.

Brilliant Corners

Michael Totten of Tech Central Station, one of the five undecided voters in the country, has examined the candidates through different lenses than normal. A while ago, he did the Republican case for Kerry. It's old, but it's good. Now, comes the Democratic case for Bush. I think these are thoughtful, very intelligent pieces because they illustrate how mixed-up and crazy ideology and political theory have become with the two parties, beginning with late Clinton and accelerating up to now.

Democrats used to be very internationalist, interventionist, human-rights advocating, nation-building conflict lovers. Remember Vietnam, Kosovo, Somalia? Republicans used to be pretty isolationist, and when they did attack it was to inflict the pain, get out, and chaos be damned! Remember Panama, Lebanon, Grenada, even Gulf War I? It's all mixed up now. Republicans were the realists, Democrats were the idealists, now the other way around. This is not even to take into account the incredible reversal of Democrats being Keynesians and Republicans being Neoclassicals, and now that being the other way around! Essentially both parties have attempted to steal each other's thunder and we are loose now in a political muck without even phony ideologies to prop it up, just soulless political opportunism.

Back to the TCS pieces, because of this you can view these candidates from so many different angles, and how they stand for remarkably different positions than both of their parties' traditions would suggest.

Start Your. . .Batteries? (Environmental Roundup)

I posted on Arnold recently, and his "hydrogen highway" initiative, and it actually looks like we're seeing some follow-through at Sunday's fuel cell rally. This hydrogen stuff might actually happen, and relatively soon thanks to none other than the leader of the 5th largest economy in the world's bizarrely-elected prowess. He's even gotten the manufacturers juiced about this. Honestly, the auto industry will probably be thrilled the day they are no longer associated with oil companies. Maybe I'm crazy, or maybe I'm just nostalgic for trashy action movies, but Arnold is starting to win me over with this. I think he's one of the only politicians we've seen recently who actually is a uniter and not a divider. What other Republican can you name who put an environmentalist in charge of their state EPA?

On other alternative energy fronts, Canadian wind power took a huge leap forward with Quebec's new radical investment. GE plans to premier new technology in these wind turbines to get around the problems of ice and cold in generating electricity. Again, we have some subnational government, just like California, taking the biggest strides. Quebec will be producing as much wind power as Canada as a whole! All the same, as uplifting a project it might be for Green People it's only going to generate 3% of Quebec's overall electricity. All the real wattage still comes from the usual nonrenewable suspects.

Bald Eagle Recovery has brought them off the endangered species list! Now we can get that car Cheney's probably been dreaming of that runs on bald eagle heads. . .The key seemed to be controlling pesticides and moving the birds around from Canada and other places. It's a strategy that might work for other endangered species. One surprise is that certain endangered birds do better with urbanization. Good news. But not in China! Trafficking and selling endangered species. . .reminds me (painfully) of "The Freshman." Kyoto is set to begin now that Russia has finally made up their minds and supported it, the question is whether it'll make any difference since the US is still the biggest polluter.

South Africa has some thoughts on climate change and 4x4s on beaches, trying to move to something resembling a path to sustainable development. Nigeria, though, doesn't at all. The Niger Delta is still a disaster, with people living in crushing poverty even after the cease fire there recently that stopped what could've been a full-scale Nigerian civil war (now we only have to worry about the oil worker strike). The Niger Delta's oil supplies are constantly tapped at no benefit to the people who live there. The resources have created constant tribal struggles, and it's doubtful this will just go away. There are desperate calls for action that something be done to conserve the oil exporting before it's all used up and tribes are whiped out in ensuing conflicts.