ustoo Dead

Sites to see:

Essential
Almost Essential
From the Left
From the Right
Magazines and Journals
Various Weblogs and Pundits
Think Tanks
Data
Vast Right Wing Conspiracy
Shrill Leftist Garbage

 

Friday, January 30, 2004

Systems update 

Added trackback to the blog today. For those unfamiliar with this, it allows us to follow who is linking to our posts, kind of like a reverse bibloigraphy. We are perhaps being overly optimistic at this point in assuming others might want to link to our hollow verbosity, but we can dream.

-Ben  03:41 EST | |

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

State of the Union Redux 

Someone has cobbled the State of the Union into something so much more. About 90 seconds of video. Check it out

-Ben  12:06 EST | |

Contribution fun 

For anyone who has ever wondered how much money a political candidate has raised, who gave it to them and where, there's Open Secrets.org. For anyone who hasn't wondered about it, well, there's this.

-Ben  11:40 EST | |

Saturday, January 24, 2004

whom do you love? 

Ok, this thing says I should vote for Sharpton. Fortunately, Kerry is only a point behind. Also fortunate: it's just an internet matching survey. Unfortunate for it: I'm going to kick it's ass for suggesting I'm crazy. What's that, AOL president match? Oh, you want a piece of me...bring it on...

-Ben  23:31 EST | |

Watch out, it's the hipublicans 

Looks like young republicans are staging a coup of that nasty liberal establishment. Oh, and they are hip and fashion conscious and...ooh, scary. Thanks to Wonkette for the link.

-Ben  09:59 EST | |

Friday, January 23, 2004

PETA and Dead Animals 

I was just shopping at Hollywood and Highland (this is "Hollywood" to everyone who doesn't live in LA) and I noticed a billboard with a beautiful girl on it holding up the skinned body of a fox. It was a PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) ad and the caption said something like "This is the rest of your fur coat." Two things occurred to me when I saw this: 1)did PETA skin a fox just to make a point? 2)placing this ad in the most tourist-ridden spot in Los Angeles (instead of say, Rodeo Drive, where someone who lives here may actually be buying a fur coat) is so typically LA it's sickening. This is the moral equivalent of the guy at the football games who holds the sign with Bible verses on it. He doesn't expect any real response, but everyone is convinced he really believes in something because he's made a spectacle of himself. Even a radical political organization can't escape from being as sickeningly exhibitionistic as it's surroundings. Also, this is just the type of thing that fits in with the Los Angeles pseudo-morality. You will never see a billboard with aborted human fetuses on it (not that you should) or a "God Hates Fags" billboard from Fred Phelps (again, not that you should). Because being nice to animals is a trendy political campaign, though, I have to see a skinned fox on a billboard when I go shopping. I'm buying a fur coat next time.

-Matt  18:13 EST | |

closer and closer 

Look at the 'President, head-to head, WA' poll over at Survey USA. The only candidate who beats President Bush by their count is Kerry (49:48), but Dean, Clark and Edwards all fall within the +/-. I wonder if Rove and the wunderkids over at the RNC are getting scared yet. I wonder how this poll would look in other states. I wonder what is in store in the next 10 months. My god, I have never loved election season so much! I would love to see the internal polling numbers from the Bush campaign and from the various dem. campaigns.

-Ben  17:48 EST | |

Bashing the hopefuls 

Read this AP piece picked up by Fox News. Don't ask me why I was reading Fox News, just read it.

-Ben  02:02 EST | |

Thursday, January 22, 2004

And then I think? Electability?  

Dubya's Lunch
The president eats ribs in Roswell, N.M.
By Timothy Noah
Posted Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004, at 1:40 PM PT


Today's lunchtime press "pool" transcript from the Nothin' Fancy Café in Roswell, N.M., was scripted by Samuel Beckett. As part of Chatterbox's ongoing "objet trouvé" series, we reprint it below in its entirety:

Bush: I need some ribs.

Q: Mr. President, how are you?

Bush: I'm hungry and I'm going to order some ribs.

Q: What would you like?

Bush: Whatever you think I'd like.

Q: Sir, on homeland security, critics would say you simply haven't spent enough to keep the country secure.

Bush: My job is to secure the homeland and that's exactly what we're going to do. But I'm here to take somebody's order. That would be you, Stretch—what would you like? Put some of your high-priced money right here to try to help the local economy. You get paid a lot of money, you ought to be buying some food here. It's part of how the economy grows. You've got plenty of money in your pocket, and when you spend it, it drives the economy forward. So what would you like to eat?

Q: Right behind you, whatever you order.

Bush: I'm ordering ribs. David, do you need a rib?

Q: But Mr. President—

Bush: Stretch, thank you, this is not a press conference. This is my chance to help this lady put some money in her pocket. Let me explain how the economy works. When you spend money to buy food it helps this lady's business. It makes it more likely somebody is going to find work. So instead of asking questions, answer mine: Are you going to buy some food?

Q: Yes.

Bush: OK, good. What would you like?

Q: Ribs.

Bush: Ribs? Good. Let's order up some ribs.

Q: What do you think of the Democratic field, sir?

Bush: See, his job is to ask questions, he thinks my job is to answer every question he asks. I'm here to help this restaurant by buying some food. Terry, would you like something?

Q: An answer.

Q: Can we buy some questions?

Bush: Obviously these people—they make a lot of money and they're not going to spend much. I'm not saying they're overpaid, they're just not spending any money.

Q: Do you think it's all going to come down to national security, sir, this election?

Bush: One of the things David does, he asks a lot of questions, and they're good, generally.

-Ziggy Stardust  20:29 EST | |

Read this 

The Elusive Concept of Electability 

The ability to be elected: electability.

I'd love to look behind the curtains and see Bush's and the Dem's polling numbers. How do American voters decide who to vote for? This presumably dynamic and volatile decision process determines to a great extent how our country will be governed and yet does anyone really know what factors determine how voters act? Before the 2000 election there was much discussion of the vaunted academic models that used economic data to accurately predict the election outcomes of the last 40 years or so. Of course, those models were thought discredited by the Bush victory, but given Gore's popular vote victory, economic determinism may still hold crudely discounting for the wackiness of our electoral college (it does make for great Onion headlines though).

Still, I am baffled by the seeming disconnect between the perceptions of Bush as a leader by a good majority of the electorate and the actual state of the union. Alas, that is a bigger problem than one blog post.

More soon on electability and inaccurate perceptions...

-Ziggy Stardust  20:22 EST | |

response to Ziggys "The Race and the Coverage" 

Let me start by saying that right now, I'm leaning towards a Kerry, Clark, Edwards, Dean ordering of my personal favorites. I don't think that an E.J. Dionne or Josh Lyman ticket would not be so great, but maybe Sam Seaborn as candidate with Josh Lyman as compaign director and E.J. Dionne running communications or policy... now that would be a good campaign. The cynic in me expects that yes, there are people out there who need to be reminded when the election is and that this is an election year. Maybe there are some who need reminding that we hold elections in this country. It seems a folly to me that we spend time worrying about who can beat Bush, when we should be worrying about who is the best candidate for the country, in terms of his policy positions and leadership ability, not simply his ability to win or some ill-defined concept of 'electability'. Arnold won handily in california, but I have a suspicion that he was not the best, most experienced leader in the field.

The press can not accurately cover a primary or a final race without influencing the outcomes. The only way of actually doing that would be to forbid all voters from discussing politics and setting each in a private room with candidate info prior to casting a vote. That way, there would be no discussion, no harraunging, no swaying a person's opinion for any reason other than issues.

Obviously, this is impossible. One of those beautiful things about our country is the level of public debate spurned in part by our outspoken, sometimes shrill media. Unfortunately, this debate has the tendancy to sometimes sway people's opinion on a candidate or an issue in a way that they might not choose if they understood all sides appropriately.

What is the press' responsibility in all of this? They must give creedance to all likely candidates, not just those they believe will win, are the most entertaining, and get the highest ratings (Arnold again here). The media must cover the issues being discussed in a fair and balanced (honestly fair and balanced, not fair and balanced Fox News style) manner. They must give time to the issues. If a survey shows that 70% of people feel taxes are the most important issue in the race, should the media devote 70% of ther issue coverage to taxes? I think not. The press must devote enough time as is needed to give the public an understanding of issues. It is for the candidates to decide what their message will be and how much time will be devoted to what issues, not the press. Running with different coverage based on a perception of what the public wants to see is a mistake and a violation of public trust all too often comitted by today's press.

One thing that really pisses me off is election night coverage. Can we please, please, please, please, please at least bar the press from declaring candidates as winner before they have actually won? If I had my way, no voting numbers would be released until all polls are closed acrossed the country. I hate that election returns in California might be affected because a given candidate is doing well in the east (voters in Cali see that their candidate is winning handily in the eastern states and say 'well, it doesn't matter if I vote, my guy won'). Steps should be taken to limit these influences at least.

Of course, none of the above would matter much if we could raise the level of voter engagement. An issue for a different day.

Late update
Am I being nieve, or maybe misunderstanding things, when I suggest that a cnadidate should be chosen more on his stance and experience, than on his ability to win? After reconsidering, I've realized that an ability to win is important in a candidate(duh). I think what I am asking is how much that should figure into ones first impressions of a candidate. Whichever candidate wins the primaries can not win if he is not electable... but he might win if he favors, say, privitization of social security.

Also, I think that war cry of Dean's during his Iowa concession speech might be the thing that sinks his campaign. I've seen the damn thing no less than three times during about an hour of TV watching (all news) today and every time, it gives me chills.

-Ben  15:08 EST | |

What I Want To Do When I Grow Up 

1. Professor of Law or Philosophy
2. Lawyer for Civil Rights organization
3. Political Strategist
4. Foreign Service Officer
5. Lawyer for International Human Rights NGO
6. DA or Public Defender
7. Journalist- political or foreign

Can anyone help me narrow these down?

-Ziggy Stardust  02:08 EST | |

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Find this girl 

As the fluff-piece reporter on this blog, I feel I must share with you something I heard on the radio in LA this morning. Apparently there's this girl who will write things on her breasts and post the picture on her website for the low, low price of $10.

-Matt  08:50 EST | |

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Usually I am all for democracy...  

The race and the coverage 

So Gephardt is out, and it is now a four-man race among Clark, Dean, Edwards and Kerry. Personally, ala the Republican in Slate's stable, Mickey Kaus, my favorites in descending order would be: Kerry, Edwards, Clark and Dean. But that is if the American people were just letting me decide who'd lead and then I'd probably reach out and grab E.J. Dionne, Josh Lyman or someone (yes, again, the love-affair). So, politically, I am in favor of whomever has the best shot of beating President Bush (do you ever wonder why pundits often place the useless phrase "in November" when discussing the election? Is there a group of people following the election who need to be told when the general election is held? But I digress...). And the game of guessing who will best match-up against Bush in eleven months is a folly that employs many people; to attempt to guess what traits, positions, history, etc. will be most important in an ever faster changing political fun house is fraught with uncertainty (known and unknown unknowables to quote my least favorite epistemologist).

But this prediction must be done, at least by the voters who act strategically (aside: Fuck you, Nader voters) when casting their votes in the primaries. And this prediction is influenced heavily by the horse-race analysis of the media ("Kerry is flailing," "Dean is unstoppable," "Edwards is surging," "Clark is best in head-to-head match-ups against Bust," etc.). My worry is that since this analysis is often going to be inaccurate and misleading, how can the press actively cover a primary race without influencing too greatly the outcomes?

My initial feeling is that the coverage can't help but in part determine the outcome of the race both overtly when expressing the conventional wisdom of who is doing best (and therefore better suited to do well in the general election) and also inadvertently through a whole litany of journalistic sins that objectivists (those perhaps well-meaning but wrong-headed persons who believe, or just wish, that there is a perfectly objective vantage point and that it is accessible to the journalist) bemoan and all critical observers are wary of committing (including but not limited to the bias of personal preference that all individuals possess and can contain with varying degrees of success as well as acquiescence to the attempts by campaign staffs to control "the message"). All of this meta-media critique can be overblown, but I also think that the press does the public a disservice by not announcing and attempting to implement conscious and transparent controls to limit the implicit and hidden influences of press coverage of a political campaign.

The 2000 election comes immediately to mind as an example the major campaign themes from the press determining unfairly the perceptions of the American public. To offer as a serious and nonpartisan accusation that Gore was a chronic liar or that his public misstatements were somehow worse than Bush's blatant and repeated lies regarding almost every policy position he had, is one of the more shameful and depressing moments of contemporary American politics. And it won Bush the, ahem, "election." (God, I hate the anti-democratic electoral college and all those well-meaning but ignorant civics teachers out there who blather incoherently about "state interests" as if those metaphorical interests made the viciously anti-democratic electoral scheme somehow more palatable, but I digress again...)

So what will be the story in the upcoming weeks and how will it affect voter behavior in the primaries? I would assume that all of the major media institutions in this country are thinking hard about their coverage; I just wish they'd do us a favor and let us know what they decide.

-Ziggy Stardust  01:13 EST | |

Sunday, January 18, 2004

MoveOn cencelled 

CBS will not air the MoveOn.org Bush in 30 Seconds campaigh ad during the Super Bowl. Why not? CBS does not "run advertisements on controversial issues of public importance" during the Super Bowl. Only breasts and beer are appropriate on football's highest holy day.

-Ben  17:21 EST | |

what's your impression? 

From Mark's post earlier today, go to that same page and scroll down to the "candidate impressions" table. Notice how polarizing Dean is compared to the other front-runners.

-Ben  16:25 EST | |

various numbers 

Zogby (1/15-17)
Kerry 24%
Dean: 23%
Gephardt: 19%
Edwards: 18%
MoE: +/-4.5%
n: 502 "likely caucus voters "

SurveyUSA (1/16):
Dean: 24%
Edwards: 22%
Kerry: 21%
Gephardt: 20%
MoE: +/-4.9%
n: 428 "Certain Caucus-goers"

Polling Report.com (1/13-16):
Kerry: 26%
Edwards: 23%
Dean: 20%
Gephardt: 18%
MoE: not given (why not?)
n: not given (again, why the hell not?)

I think this thing is too close to call.

-Ben  15:29 EST | |

Kerry? 

Election fun 

Ever want to compare different candidate's positions on different issues? This utility allows you to select an issue and see what they all have to say. ARG has an electoral vote calculator so everyone can see how the math could add up to the dem's having a snowball's chance. Finally, this site has more candidate and position info. I hope this helps you waste some time.

-Ben  12:42 EST | |

ineptitude, inanity, indecision 

Great piece in the Washington Monthly. Author Nicholas Confessore asks: what the hell happened to democratic leadership? Gives a rundown of leadership in the past, why there is no cohesive leadership today and how there might be an establishment again in the future.

-Ben  12:14 EST | |

Friday, January 16, 2004

Why Fridays and Tuesdays are such a pleasure 

E.J. Dionne may be the best columnist writing in America today. His humanity, his perspective, and his humility all come together in columns that are important but never vitriolic. Read him.

Today's column is especially useful in comparing our President's space, well, not "plan" exactly, maybe it is a goal(?) with our nation's needs.

-Ziggy Stardust  15:31 EST | |

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Holy crap, 

look how tight the Iowa caucas is getting. I think I'd like to take back what I said about writing these guys off.

-Ben  17:42 EST | |

Egads, baseball caps and rock music of all things 

Just when you thought that nothing could be more of a parody of itself than the Bush administration comes this gem from the Victorian era. Thanks to Curmudgeonly Clerk.

-Ziggy Stardust  01:24 EST | |

wow part II 

Doug, I'm not kidding. It is not so much the prospsect of a dismally expensive Moon base or Mars Hilton or Pluto whatever or attack on Planet X that excites me about this NASA thing. More, I am enticed by the chance to reorganize the space program, reevaluate the failing and maybe pointless shuttle program, and give a good face back to the program that has has Americans looking to the stars for so many years.

The space program was a great source of national pride for many years and without the innovations to which it gave birth, we would be without the global telecommunications network that allows me to watch satellite cable while writing this email and chatting on my cellphone. Granted, the Cold War that drove the early days of the space program is over, but one can not deny the benefits gained from it. And yes, Mars missions and Moon missions and pretty much 99.9% of what needs to be done in space can be done relatively economically via un-manned flight.

But what about that 0.01%? That is the amount that got us th the point where so much else can get done with robots. All of the research and development that gave birth to the space program was started in attempts to put men in space. Any future leaps will come about for the same reasons. To be able to say 'look what we did, aren't we cool?' America was proud when her sons went to the Moon. She will be prouder when her sons and daughters return from Mars.

Admittedly, I have my head in the clouds here. I love the space program with all it's talk about new frontieers, exploration and 'boldly going where no man has gone before' (ok, that was Star Trek, but never mind). Let's get realisitc. I am not advocating spending 50% or even 5% of our GDP on this thing. We have drugs and guns and education and welfare and Iraqi reconstruction and prisons and forengn aid and AIDS and tax relief and about a hundred things to worry about first. Easterbrook is right to say that President Bush's proposal is untenable and rediculously expensive. Because of the costs, I don't think we will be going to Mars or building a moon base on track with the President's proposal. Such a rediculous cost will never be approved (god hopes). I do, however, think it is a good idea to look in that direction.

As for the political cost of this...it is going to gain Bush some popularity. The space program is still a happy place in our popular conscience and boosting it looks good for Bush.

-Ben  00:21 EST | |

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Ummm... yeah, this space thing better not win him any votes 

Ben, you're kidding, right? You're not really excited about this blatant (and piss-poor, I hope) attempt at a non-partisan electoral advantage. I'd spend some time ranting, but Easterbrook does here.

-Ziggy Stardust  22:18 EST | |

Win a Date With Tad Hamilton 

Why didn't I find THIS sooner (see "Where Was This When I Was 13")? It could've made life so much more interesting in college. Plus, girls LOVE guys who are taken. What a fool I've been.

-Matt  20:42 EST | |

CU students trying to ruin CU degree 

As we're all alums of the University of Colorado, I thought I would give you a little update on some of the goings-on from our old alma mater, dear. It seems that, once again, CU Boulder tops the list of party schools, at least according to The Princeton Review. I'm certain there will be disagreement here, but I see nothing at all wrong with this distinction. I like to party and think that partying gets a bad rap. Of course, for me, college was about little else. For two current students, this "honor" of being appointed number one party school in the nation is a dubious distinction. They feel that it makes their degrees worth less than "normal." Personally, I think they're jackasses, but, then again, I'm using my degree to... be a gambler. You see my point.

-Matt  20:18 EST | |

Wow 

I am going to sound like a little kid here, but I am excited to hear about Bush's proposals for NASA. Basically, he calls for retiring the Shuttle fleet, completing the ISS, and returning to the Moon. A new manned exploration vehicle wil be built, the shuttles will be retired.

I have a problem with a few things about this, to be sure. For one, the new vehicle will not carry cargo, only people and thus limits the versitility of a US space program.

Never mind that there is no practical use for a moon base, or for the manned space program in general. I like this thing bacause it is just plain cool. Rocket ships and astronauts and explosions and Neil armstrong and Buzz aldrin and Tom Hanks and all the 'ooh...come here big boy'. It turns me on.

-Ben  17:05 EST | |

Jan. polling numbers 

Polling report.com has some interesting numbers out on the presidental race.

Three basic types of polls are presented, from several sources.

1)When asked something like "if the election were held today, would you vote for George Bush, vote against him, or are you waiting to see who the Democratic candidate is?" the numbers break down to approxtimately 40% for Bush, 30% against Bush and 30% waiting to see.

2)Asked "would you like to see G.W. Bush reelected?" we get approxtimately 50% for reelection, 45% against and 5% undecided.

3)Asked "if the election were today, would you vote for the Republican, G.W. Bush, or the Democrat, (Dean, Clark, Kerry, or Gephardt), who would you vote for?" Bush stays in the mid 50%'s, while the others stay at ~40%. Among the Dems, Dean is slightly ahead.

What about it, then? Contrary to my prior belief (that the dems are screwed in Nov.), this will be a close race. Please don't remind me that the incumbent has an advantage in these situations.

Number 3 suggests that all four democratic front-runners are neck and neck, and that no one candidate has an overwhelming voice behind him. I expect that the choice of candidate will make all the difference here. We need someone who can court those swing voters.

What are we waiting for? A strong candidate, for one. Who can rally the troops? Numbers for the primaries suggest that Dean has the candidacy in the bag, but I've heard that Clark's numbers in NH are quickly on the rise. Would Clark be a better candidate? I don't know. Should we write off Kerry and Gephardt? Leiberman? Edwards? Probably. Who is the best candidate for the country? My answer: a democrat; the right answer: not Bush. Which candidate is most likely to defeat bush? I fear Dean's image as an arrogant intellectual, and a reactionary with a temper. This could sink him if he becomes our man.

If the undecided are going to swing towards a dem, several things will have to happen. The economy needs to stay stagnant. The situation in Iraq must remain sticky (standard disclaimer: I do not wish for either of these things to happen). A candidate needs to emerge who can at least appear center-leaning enough to court some of the independants who may be more likely to vote for the incumbent than for a latte-drinking, volvo driving yuppie. A likely candidate will probably also need to be in support of the war in Iraq.

Wouldn't it be nice if there were some right-leaning independant candidate in this thing to steal votes away from Bush? Where is Ross Perot when you need him? Where's the Libertarian candidate? Come on, people. Help us out here.

-Ben  01:14 EST | |

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

When Moveon is smarter than your likely presidential candidate... 

Dean criticizes and attacks a farmer who questioned him at a press event. He even went so far as to mock the New Testament's most well-know aphorisms "Love thy Neighbor." Meanwhile, Moveon selects a tasteful and potentially effective ad and plans to raise enough money to show it during the Super Bowl. Damn it, Dean, pay attention! If even Moveon can moderate its image for the general public, don't you think you could for the general election?

-Ziggy Stardust  22:50 EST | |

Chenged font 

In case you can not immediately tell, I changed the font of the site in response to Matt's inquiry. When I started this thing, I read a few interesting things on font styles and the like, the most interesting being this one from webmonkey. Most interesting cocktail party tidbit: A san-serif font is a plain type font whose letters have no feet or tails (think arial), while a serif font has feet(most famous serif font: times new roman). It is generally agreed among typographers that for reading more than a few lines, a serif font is best, becaise the feet tend to carry the lines on a page, that is to say that it is easier for the reader's eyes to stay on a line of text. For headings, bullets and tings that should stand out or be remembered, a san-serif font will generally be more memorable and likely to stand out. Just some interesting trivia to help quell whatever boredom you might be suffering right now.

Update @ 1145pm
Thanks to Doug's griping, I've changed it back. In order to get a font set that will look good on all computers, I am going to have to work on it a little bit more. Stay tuned.

-Ben  22:41 EST | |

Font 

Not to diverge from the very important topics at hand, but could we maybe get a new font for the body of this blog; one in which the italics don't look horrible? I'd like to add emphasis to my statements, but I refuse to lower my aesthetic standards to do so. I'm speaking mostly to Ben, the blogmaster, but if any of you disagree, by all means, speak up.

-Matt  13:56 EST | |

Starving For Justice 

OR: Why I haven't eaten in days.

As I'm sure you're all aware, there's been a grocery workers strike in SoCal for several months now. For the last two months, the UFCW has graciously refrained from picketing Ralph's chain, instead focusing on VONS, Pavilions, and Albertsons, allowing us lazy people at least one major supermarket that we can frequent. I'll admit that I have gone to Ralph's a couple times since the strike, but now I'm faced with a refreshed moral dillemma. The way this strike first began, as I understand it, is that the UFCW had a beef with management at VONS, Pavilions, and Albertson's in SoCal over healthcare for it's workers. They decided to go on strike. As a show of "corporate solidarity," Krogers, who owns Ralph's, decided to force it's union workers to stop working at it's stores (lock out). Sounds to me like they're trying to break the union for grocery stores in Southern California (I don't actually think that's possible, but this has been going on since Oct. 11, 2003). After recent talks have broken down, the strike is now back in place at every grocery store, including Ralph's.
Now, this may not seem like something fascinating to those of you in a world devoid of chain grocery markets (NYC), but for me it really is a problem. I have to go to Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, neither of which have the items I want at the prices I want. Though I have very mixed feelings about unions, I have no mixed feelings about people, and I feel bad for the "workers" who haven't worked in three-and-a-half months because they don't want to pay exorbitant prices for healthcare. I can justify shopping at Ralph's when I just have to deal with poorly-trained scabs, but I refuse to go shopping when I have to cross a picket line and, in so doing, basically tell these people that I couldn't care less about them.

I guess I'll just waste away into nothing. This may be the last post I make, as I am no longer strong enough to type (this is an elaborate, and possibly terribly unfunny hoax -- my job feeds me well every day just for coming in).

P.S. -- What the hell is "corporate solidarity" anyway? Can a company fire everyone just because they do the same job as another company whose worker's have a disagreement with management?

-Matt  13:27 EST | |

Monday, January 12, 2004

Tax hikes 

So most of the Democratic candidates are making a big deal of their plans to repeal some or all of Bush's tax cuts. This is politically unpopular, but of course it's necessary (just ask the IMF).

Now the president can't unilaterally raise taxes and as much as I wish otherwise, both houses of congress are probably going to be controlled by Republicans for quite some time. So why not downplay the tax increases for now since they aren't going to happen anytime soon? When the day of reckoning is closer, that is, when the dollar is falling (thank God our government's debt is dollar denominated), capital is fleeing, and we need to close the budget deficit, then raising taxes will be much easier from a political standpoint.

-Daddy Brooklyn  18:47 EST | |

Attack ad material 

Is anybody else worried that Dean is going to get the nomination and then a few poorly chosen (sometimes televised) comments are going to sink him? On camera he mentioned the theory that Bush was told by the Saudis about looming attacks and did nothing. And even worse, he equivocated when asked if he believed the theory.

Dean is undeniably very smart. It should be clear that when sealing one's gubernatorial records your stated reason shouldn't be, "Well, there are future political considerations. We didn't want anything embarrassing appearing in the papers at a critical time in any future endeavor."

If he's nominated, Dean should win or lose the election based on his proposed policies and his record. I'm afraid he's given his opponents to much fodder for simple-minded, yet effective attack ads. For some reason, he's already easily painted as a liberal who is outside of the mainstream, when his record doesn't support the charge. His recent comments haven't helped him any.

-Daddy Brooklyn  18:30 EST | |

"War-of-Choice Distraction" 

Mentioned in the LAT and WashPo and summarized in Today's Papers, the Army War College just published a report on the war on terrorism that called the invasion of Iraq unnecessary and a distraction. Although not officially endorsed by the College, it does make interesting reading (Ed note: Especially compared to property readings for class).

-Ziggy Stardust  12:58 EST | |

More information of the Arar torture case 

Here is a link to Canada's Amnesty International story.

The Center for Constitutional Rights has launched an investigation (perhaps I should try to work for them this summer...).

Mainstream story in the WashPo. Sad how this sort of story didn't seem to have any legs.

Oh, this makes it better: "The United States says the Ottawa man was sent to Syria, a country U.S. President George W. Bush said on Nov. 5 has "a legacy of torture," after being assured that Arar would not be harmed."

Since Syria said they wouldn't torture Mr. Arar, then it makes sense that the CIA felt that Syria was in the best position to, er, "investigate?"

The unbelievable aspect of this story is that it was never a big deal; apparently American media outlets didn't judge it to be a bigger story and, really, would Americans be that upset- sadly I fear not...

-Ziggy Stardust  00:25 EST | |

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Stunned and Outraged! 

If this is true, I have never been more ashamed and embarrassed to be an American. The purposeful "rendering" of suspected terrorists by America to nations that practice brutal torture has been mentioned before in the mainstream press (see this article in the Atlantic Monthly), but not in this amount of detail. I will keep searching to see if I can find out more sources or information. (My apologies for the lack of indention, I have yet to figure out how.)

"On Sept. 26, 2002, U.S. immigration officials seized a Syrian-born Canadian at Kennedy International Airport, because his name had come up on an international watch list for possible terrorists. What happened next is chilling.

Maher Arar was about to change planes on his way home to Canada after visiting his wife's family in Tunisia when he was pulled aside for questioning. He was not a terrorist. He had no terrorist connections, but his name was on the list, so he was detained for questioning. Not ordinary, polite questioning, but abusive, insulting, degrading questioning by the immigration service, the FBI and the New York City Police Department.

He asked for a lawyer and was told he could not have one. He asked to call his family, but phone calls were not permitted. Instead, he was clapped into shackles and, for several days, made to "disappear." His family was frantic.

Finally, he was allowed to make a call. His government expected that Arar's right of safe passage under its passport would be respected. But it wasn't. Arar denied any connection to terrorists. He was not accused of any crimes, but U.S. agents wanted him questioned further by someone whose methods might be more persuasive than theirs.

So, they put Arar on a private plane and flew him to Washington, D.C. There, a new team, presumably from the CIA, took over and delivered him, by way of Jordan, to Syrian interrogators. This covert operation was legal, our Justice Department later claimed, because Arar is also a citizen of Syria by birth. The fact that he was a Canadian traveling on a Canadian passport, with a wife, two children and job in Canada, and had not lived in Syria for 16 years, was ignored. The Justice Department wanted him to be questioned by Syrian military intelligence, whose interrogation methods our government has repeatedly condemned.

The Syrians locked Arar in an underground cell the size of a grave: 3 feet wide, 6 feet long, 7 feet high. Then they questioned him, under torture, repeatedly, for 10 months. Finally, when it was obvious that their prisoner had no terrorist ties, they let him go, 40 pounds lighter, with a pronounced limp and chronic nightmares (SFgate.com, 1.4.04, Chris Pyle)."

Brad Delong has commented several times on this case. I am not sure why the more mainstream media outlets haven't picked up on the story. It shocks and saddens me.

God, I hope a dem wins this election!

-Ziggy Stardust  23:51 EST | |

read... 

...an interview with Howard Dean. Yeah, stupid, I know. But somehow also funny.

-Ben  23:20 EST | |

Another Recommendation 

If your legal interests lean to the more practical (not THAT practical but somewhat anyway), I highly recommend Punishment Theory blog, a group blog of law and philosophy professors who post and extensively comment on issues regarding (wouldn't you know it) punishment. I took a philosophy of law seminar on punishment as an undergrad and was both intrigued and dismayed by the lack of a coherent and comprehensive rationale for punishment that enjoyed wide-spread support. One of the reasons I am looking forward to my criminal law class this term is the opportunity to pursue further the question of what justifies legal punishment.

The traditional justifications for a legal imposition of harms (fines, imprisonment, and even death) that are normally considered to be wrong are (unsurprisingly, given the necessary reliance on normative moral theory) either consequential or deontological with a smattering of educational, communicative and virtue theories as well. Consequential theories of punishment, as one would expect, argue that punishment, for a number of reasons including deterrence and protection, produces better outcomes than non-punishment. Deontological, or retribution, theories of punishment argue that punishment is a good in itself and can be justified by an appeal to an understanding of wrong-doing and the appropriate response. See here for an excellent introductory essay to punishment.

All major theories of punishment, however, have substantial and potentially fatal objections to them. In the case of consequentialism, there is the classic mob hypothetical in which much aggregate good would be created by the imprisonment or execution of an innocent person to quell an angry mob. This scenario obviously violates a deeply felt principle of justice that only the guilty be punished, but a consequential theory of punishment does not seem to account for justice in the individual sense. More complexly, retribution or any desert-grounded theory of punishment faces the difficult burden of offering a satisfactory theory of moral responsibility that accounts for moral luck, the natural lottery and many other seemingly morally neutral determinants of human action. Of course, this is a philosophical problem much larger than that of punishment, but our incomplete (at best) understanding of responsibility does pose substantial problems for the eye-for-an-eye crowd.

Anyway, punishment's moral justifications are an important and often ignored element of the criminal justice system. Maybe this semester will point me to some answers.

-Ziggy Stardust  16:37 EST | |

An Introduction to Legal Theory 

Lawrence Solum's Legal Theory blog is a useful site for information and comment on the goings on in the world of jurisprudence (a world I know we all wish we moved in). And one of the more valuable things Prof. Solum does is his Legal Theory Lexicon which is a series of postings on topics of interest and importance in legal and political philosophy. I highly recommend it.

-Ziggy Stardust  16:09 EST | |

Where are you? 

The 10 regions of US politics: a fascinating look at US demographics from an electoral standpoint. Thanks to Doug for showing me this.

-Ben  12:45 EST | |

Saturday, January 10, 2004

JAGDISH'S NEW BOOK 

I'm writing from Seattle. For some reason I don't have access to the various icons that allow you to create things like hyperlinks and titles. I'm not sure if this is because technology in Seattle isn't sufficiently advanced for these things or because PowerBooks aren't modern enough. Whatever.

I was doing a little reading on the plane and I came across a review of a new book by one my favorite economists. Who doesn't have favorite economists? Should be an interesting read (the book or the review) for those interested in globalization. I can't make hyperlinks (I forgot the HTML) so I'll just paste in the link. [fixed it - Ben]

-Daddy Brooklyn  18:00 EST | |

Friday, January 09, 2004

WE ARE DOING BETTER THAN 1890'S TENEMENT HOUSING! 

"Crowding is quite rare; only 2.5 percent of all households and 5.7 percent of poor households are crowded with more than one person per room.7 By contrast, social reformer Jacob Riis, writing on tenement living conditions around 1890 in New York City, described crowded families living with four or five persons per room and some 20 square feet of living space per person."

Admittedly, this is a bad, almost incoherent measure of poverty in America, but when you are trying to put the rosiest spin possible, nothing is a stretch for the Heritage Foundation. This report tries to argue that poor Americans aren't really poor. I'd be more specific in my analysis if the Center for American Progress hadn't already done a remarkable job.

I told Brandon, my roommate, about the Heritage, er, report and he commented "that there are no cats in America."

Amen.

-Ziggy Stardust  14:39 EST | |

WHAT DOES HOWARD DEAN HAVE IN COMMON WITH ME? 

"I think Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading ...,'' and the woman continues, "... body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont where it belongs.'' (end of the paragraph of this BBC report).

So I would raise taxes (even keep the estate tax since I am such a radical, you know), expand government (my knee-jerk leftist leanings just won't let me drop this whole "quality education and decent health care" hobby horse), I love lattes, sushi, and the NYT, and I think that some Hollywood movies are great and others crappy pap (like anyone, I suppose). But I don't drive or have body piercing and have never been to Vermont.

I guess Dean and I aren't soulmates. But, shit, Stephen Moore and I would probably get into fisticuffs if I ever saw the bastard/powerbroker (I am pretty sure this isn't illegal to say- at least it doesn't fit the textbook definition of assualt).

I first saw this story through Election Law which, yes, I read.

So no more italics; I agree they look bad.

-Ziggy Stardust  09:23 EST | |

Already mixing it up... 

I just watched the "A" side of Michel Gondry's music videos collection on the Director's Series DVD and I now have to add him to my list of all-time most brilliant people ever. A list which includes, in no particular order, Luis Bunuel, especially for Un Chien Andalou and L'age d'Or; Michael Almereyda for the only watchable version of Hamlet ever put on film; David Lynch, especially for Mulholland Drive; Spike Jonze for anything and everything he has ever touched; Leni Riefenstahl, the best Nazi there was; Altman, for everything; Brakhage, the only man on this list I've ever met; and Spielberg, but only for Minority Report.
But I digress.
This is the man responsible for such videos as The White Stripes' "Fell In Love With a Girl" video (the lego video) and "Dead Leaves & The Dirty Ground" video. Also, he's done "Star Guitar" by the Chemical Brothers and "Come Into My World" by Kylie Minogue. I have a feeling like I'm pissing into the wind here with this post, but I'm going to continue anyway. What makes these videos so interesting is their obsession with cycles and reflexivity. He uses the camera and film tricks (not to mention an optical printer -- a lot) to turn the world of his focus into a world that mimics not the real world, but the world of the mind. In "Dead Leaves & The Dirty Ground," the spectator feels as though he can see the thoughts of the protagonist through Gondry's use of projection for events that (seemingly) occurred in the protagonist's past. In "Come Into My World," the world cycles, but is not refreshed, in a way similar to the world of the song. In this way, the events that occur in cycle begin to back-up on each other and mingle in a way that is both interesting and terrifying (also, creating tension in a way similar to the build-up of the rhythm of the song). What if you just kept meeting yourself over and over and over doing exactly the same thing?
Anyhow, check this out if you get the opportunity. It's like watching a moving painting (very much like watching Brakhage's films).

-Matt  06:23 EST | |

Hi. I'm Matt, a professional gambler who just happened to meet these three guys at the bar. I don't know as much as they do about, er, stuff, but I may have something to say about stuff they don't know as much about. Anyhow, my vote for the italics thing is the same as Mark's. They look like crap.

-Matt  02:16 EST | |

Thursday, January 08, 2004

DISGUST!

This might be the most disgusting article I have read in the National Review. I don't honestly know where to start. Ugh. Anyway, thanks to Atrios for the spot.

-Ziggy Stardust  16:42 EST | |

I think we should call a vote on a very important matter. Matt, you can vote, but if the vote goes 2 to 2 then my vote counts double. I don't think we should put the names of publications like the WSJ in italics. The way it's rendered on blogger looks crappy.

Rise to vote sir.

-Daddy Brooklyn  08:10 EST | |

SOMETHING THAT GIVES ME HOPE IN THE DARKEST NIGHTS OF WINTER

I know nothing is more interesting that electoral math and this posting from &c. stregthens me almost as much as a hearty stout... er, I am going to bed.

Contra the above posting, Chait responds.

-Ziggy Stardust  00:44 EST | |

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

A POTENTIALLY INTERESTING INTELLECTUAL EXERCISE

So Mark just suggested that part of this blog be devoted to our responses to right-wing rags like the WSJ op-ed page and the Weekly Standard (although, honestly, the hate-filled stupidity of such publications like the NR or Colorado Springs' very own Gazette are more representative of the genre). I think this is damn good exercise in navel-gazing (since who the hell else reads this blog or cares what my friends and I think?), but it may be taking the WSJ, etc. too seriously. I have long-held that the WSJ's op-ed pages (please, I must emphasize, the WSJ is a fine newspaper with an op-ed page that would be comical if not for its influence) are basically The Onion for people in on the joke. Rich people don't actually believe the drivel that is written (see Mark's analysis below); rather, they like being rich and don't give a shit about other people. Really.

But, be that as it may, my pet theory has not been accepted in the broader public discourse... yet. And so we'll try out this Spinsanity thing by guys with jobs (or, in my case, debt-incurring studies).

And, yes, my politics are very left-wing, but that won't prevent me from bitching about Michael Moore (god, don't get me started on Bowling for Columbine), the Nation and, well, the DLC. But more rarely because the Nation is clumsy and ineffective while the WSJ is influential. Both Moore the centrist democrats are more influential, barely, but they are also far more right (correct as well as perhaps ideological in the DLC's case) than anything the Right produces. Yes, Moore is sloppy, disingenuous at best and a buffoon. But his heart is in the right place and that counts for a lot.

-Ziggy Stardust  19:08 EST | |

The WSJ weighed in on Clark's tax plan today.

http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110004516

I have no problem with them co-opting the definition of "tax reform"--that's their business and I appreciate when politically charged terms are clearly definied. I do have a problem with this straw person argument:

High marginal rates--the rates on the next dollar of income earned--matter because they are a disincentive to work and invest. Mr. Clark says so himself. His own Web site summary brags that his tax cut for "lower-income parents" is "pro-growth" because it would reduce "marginal tax rates that provide a disincentive for millions of taxpayers to work." Chew on that for a second. Apparently Mr. Clark thinks that higher marginal rates are irrelevant for higher-income earners, though in fact those taxpayers are precisely the ones most able to shift or shelter income.

I doubt Mr. Clark thinks high marginal tax rates (MTRs) are irrelevant to the decisions of the rich. He probably thinks that income inequality is a problem and this is a way to address it. Sure, high MTRs cause people to pursue tax shields more aggesively, but shouldn't we just work on eliminating the shields then?

Okay, here is the section that really gets me.

We realize the mythology of a "regressive" tax system is useful in selling tax hikes, but the general needs a better researcher. A new IRS paper on the "distribution of individual income and taxes, 1979-2001" shows that the rich are paying a far greater share than they did 20 years ago. We quote: "The share of income taxes accounted for by the top 1% also climbed steadily in this period, from initially at 19.75%" for 1979, "before rising to 36.3% for 2000." The authors conclude: "The progressive nature of the individual income tax system is clearly demonstrated."

Now if the contribution of the top 1% of income earners to the tax base has risen so much, doesn't that suggest, nay, logically require, an absolutely staggering rise in income inequality that should be alleviated by a more progressive tax system? (this increase is of course verified by every study out there) Also, declaring an entire tax system progressive by looking at just the top 1% of the payers is (damn near self-evidently) stupid since by definition you're only talking about 1% of the payers. It's doubly stupid when you realize that the federal tax system need by aggressively progressive (I'll coin that term) since nearly every other tax Americans face is regressive. I forgot who did the study (it came out about a year ago, Ben/Ziggy help me out) that demonstrated that across broad swathes of taxpayers (e.g., quintiles) the entire tax system, meaning federal, state, sales, excise, ane everything else taxes was essentially proportional.

-Daddy Brooklyn  18:17 EST | |

PERSONAL NOTICE OF SUCH A TRIVIAL NATURE THAT NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD CONTINUE TO READ.

I got a chest of drawers today. Yep, almost six months after moving to Brooklyn I finally have a place for my clothes other than the box they moved in. A big step I am sure you'll all agree. Even more surprising may be my fervent efforts at cleaning and organizing my room. Hell, I am even wearing clean jeans that don't even have holes in them. I really should have done this earlier, it would have made Leigh so happy.

I think we can all agree that I am a poor imitation of an adult, not even close to being a grown-ass-man, save for the body hair I guess. I hope Chris Rock doesn't notice my immaturity when we (Mark, Brandon and myself) go see him later this month.

-Ziggy Stardust  15:02 EST | |

Sign number 2,345 that the apocalypse is upon us: my good friend, Matt, posted a response to my last entry. Now this is how blogs seem to work, nothing surprising here; rather, the coming of the end is foretold by the fact that we (all those technologically "superior" persons anyway) have regressed again in communicative efficiency. [Ed. Note: Did you really just write that last sentence? Yes, yes I did. Oh, and this stylistic, er, crutch is from Kausfiles.] First we had speech, then writing, then writing at a distance, then speech at a distance, now we are back to writing at a distance, but not even with each other, but publicly where the intended recipient may or may not notice it. Geez. (I don't know why I didn't say "Christ" but it felt weird).

-Ziggy Stardust  14:53 EST | |

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Maybe someday there will be no need for mass media. Tidbits can just be posted in blogs, these can be linked to by other blogs, which will in turn be linked to by other blogs and on and on in to the vast hugeness of cyberspace. Any information or story could be found by simply clicking through the appropriate number of blogs. I am of course being hopelessly cheeky here, but it occours to me just how odd this whole blog sphere thing is.

-Ben  00:44 EST | |

You aren't as good as you think you are and you probably know it. See this courtesy of Crooked Timber.

-Ziggy Stardust  00:43 EST | |

Monday, January 05, 2004

I like him more and more. Wes Clark unveiled a new tax plan(summary). Basically, He is offering large amounts oftax relief to the middle and lower class families. A family of 2 earning under $50,000 a year would pay no income tax. It would give a $2000 per child cut for up to three children for families earning under $100,000/yr income. It also raises the EITC by roughly 30% for childless adults and would come second to a repeal of the Bush tax cut.

Clark proposes paying for this by adding 5% in income tax to those with incomes over $1 million, and by "closing coorporate loopholes". This includes an elimination of the hole allowing American companies moving their headquarters overseas to earn big tax breaks. There would be no increase in capitol gains tax or in tax on the first $1 million of income. This is on top of Clark's proposal to raise the minimum wage to $7/hr by 2007. Good now with the domestic policy, but I am still wish to hear more about Clark's foreign agenda.

Peruse the full policy here.

-Ben  20:53 EST | |

So Mark really wants to see The Battle of Algiers and I do as well (ha, Ben, that's what you get for not living in NYC). The Pentagon screened the movie last year presumably because there was some relevance between the French occupation of Algeria and our very own occupation of Iraq. I have not seen the movie, but Hitch has (in a Cuban revolutionary camp no less) and has written a scathing review claiming that the movie contains nothing of relevance for our current situation. I wonder...

-Ziggy Stardust  13:55 EST | |

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Hard numbers on the total cost of the Bush Tax cuts and the cuts broken down by income group. I'll concede that it gives well needed benefit to the middle class, but it seems that more cuts for the lowest earners could provide some much needed help right now(and always).

-Ben  12:48 EST | |

(Mark writing here)

How I hate faux-historical districts. The new buildings by the Hudson River Park are such terrible copies of the original buildings. They kind of reminds me of the outdoor mall at Flatirons, not because Flatirons is going for a retro feel, but because both are made from materials that are supposed to look sturdy but are really cheap and ephemeral.

This article is great, especially the part where the new residents of faux-historical neighborhoods lament the disappearance of "working-class charm" from their neighborhood.

Read it here

-Ben  12:00 EST | |

Friday, January 02, 2004

A trial run for this, the newest of an uncountable number of blogs. Here, three friends who read entirely too much will discuss politics, current events, media, government policy, foreign affairs, pop culture, philosophy, law, literature, science, economics, and whatever else tickles our fancy. If we ever have readers other than ourselves, I hope they enjoy it. -b

-Ben  02:08 EST | |

About us:

This weblog is an ongoing, if periodic, effort by several friends to stay in touch, in reading material, and in ideas.

Lucky Luciano is a former Italian Stallion real estate hustler and Benedict Arnold CEO turned shady lawyer-to-be. He lives in Denver.

Ben is a Paramedic and would-be philantropist who lives in Denver. He knows everything about nothing.

Fuzzy Dunlop lives in Manhattan. He is more than capable of standing up to the stresses of a high crime urban environment.

Jess is a teacher. But have YOU given her an apple? No, you haven't. You should be ashamed of yourself. This crazy feminist currently rests her copy of Awakening in Jersey City.

Matt is a pariah, iconoclast, and professor of gambling living in Oakland.

Miguel Sanchez is not Lionel Hutz.

Daddy Brooklyn lives in Brooklyn. He hates Republicans, though he wouldn't mind being ensconced in the landed elite of New York City.

Paul just smoked my eyelids and punched my cigarette.

Ziggy Stardust has no past.

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