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, April 30, 2004

A Day Without A Mexican 

There's a new film opening that poses this question: what would happen if all the Latinos in Southern California just disappeared one day? The movie poster I saw was one of the most f'ed up things I've seen, but I think this film could actually be worth seeing, having read the website.

-Matt  13:23 EST | |

Thursday, April 29, 2004

He speaks so well 

From the 9/11 Commission:

Another of the panel's Republicans, John F. Lehman, Navy secretary in the Reagan administration, said Mr. Bush had answered the panel's questions with little hesitation or need for assistance from Mr. Cheney or Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel, who attended the session along with two other White House lawyers.

I would call this feint praise, but it's coming from a Republican. How did we get to the point where the president is congratulated for being able to answer questions without help?

-Daddy Brooklyn  23:25 EST | |

No mas 

Much like Ziggyg, I will have to study diligently for the next few weeks so I don't suck on my upcoming test. I know, I know, I should've started studying in December, but what fun would that have been? Anyway, Ben, Matt, Paul, Alex, (Jad?), please post some stuff so I can have an occasional distraction from studying.

-Daddy Brooklyn  22:32 EST | |

The Revolution will not be blogged 

George Packer writes:
"First, a confession: I hate blogs. I'm also addicted to them. Hours dissolve into nothing when I suit up and dematerialize into the political blogosphere, first visiting one of the larger, nearer online opinion diaries — talkingpointsmemo.com, andrewsullivan.com, kausfiles.com — then beaming myself outward along rays of pixelated light to dozens of satellites and lesser stars, Calpundit, InstaPundit, OxBlog, each one radiant with links to other galaxies — online newspapers and magazines with deep, deep archives, think-tank websites, hundred-page electronic reports in PDF — until I'm light-years from the point of departure and can rescue myself only by summoning the will to disconnect from the whole artificial universe....

...Blogs came along to feed off this fascination with the interior mechanics of politics. Many bloggers emerged from the ranks of the press itself; unlike the elite press corps, though, anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can blog. This is potentially the most radical innovation of the form: It opens up political journalism to a vast marketplace of competitors, reminiscent of earlier ages of pamphleteering. It also restores unvarnished opinion, for better and worse, to a central place in political writing. Insult and invective were the stock-in-trade of the English political essayists of the 18th century, and of their American counterparts during the early years of the republic (when bimbo eruptions made their first appearance in press coverage of presidential campaigns). The explosion of blogs has blown a needed hole in the sealed rooms of the major editorial pages and the Sunday talk shows. It has also affected political reporting, by forcing Washington journalists accustomed to the caution of the mainstream to follow less traveled tributaries — for example, the examination of President Bush's National Guard service was partly pushed along by evidence laid out for reporters by Calpundit."

-Daddy Brooklyn  22:28 EST | |

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Deny everything 

Bush and Cheney will talk to the 9/11 Commission side-by-side tomorrow morning--but there will be no offiicial record of what they say. Why is this?

Legal scholars said the lack of an official transcript would give the White House some deniability and make it more difficult to use the president's words as evidence in a future suit against the government.

"It gives them more maneuverability in case someone slips up or says something he regrets," Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University, said.

Oh, yeah. You can't trust Bush not to say something stupid.

UPDATE: The professional writers at the Times voice my concerns better than I can.

-Daddy Brooklyn  16:23 EST | |

Who is ripping off whom?  

Despite the insurmountable challenge the English language presents me, I am still making posts.

In an effort to cure my boredom, I recently met with a marine recruiter. The recruiting materials I left with made me feel (a) old and (b) wimpy.

Interestingly, I got a CD-rom video from the leathernecks that was like a marine version of Kanye West's video for "through the wire". You see a bulletin board with photos and marine shit, and the camera goes to certain poloraids, lingering on them as they come to life. There's no copyright info on the cd-rom, so it would be interesting to know which came first, and if they had any influence on the other. If the marines were going to rip off a music video, there are worse choices (sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel, indigo Girls etc) but also much better ones (shake it like a salt shaker by Yin Yang Twins) for the purposes of recruiting. And if Mr. West if ripping off the marines, WTF?

-paul  10:08 EST | |

Stereotyping: Red v. Blue 

An interesting series of articles from the WaPo that ran Sun through Tue

Political Split Is Pervasive
For a Conservative, Life Is Sweet in Sugar Land, Tex.
A Liberal Life in the City by the Bay

Part one focuses on the even political split between red and blue in the US today. In parts two and trree, the author has found and profiled two of the most politically and culturally polarized families in the nation.

It's worth a read

-Ben  06:55 EST | |

New MoveOn Ad 

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Why you're smoking crack if you live in Manhattan 

An average of almost $5,000 per month for a three bedroom below 100th street!

"Though still far below the peaks of early 2001, the average rent on a one-bedroom apartment below 100th Street in Manhattan has increased 3 percent to $2,333 from $2,268 in April of last year, Mr. Heiberger said. A three-bedroom apartment averages $4,795, up from $4,605 last April. Vacancy rates have meanwhile slipped from 2.35 percent last April to 1.76 percent now."

-Daddy Brooklyn  17:28 EST | |

Monday, April 26, 2004

Get your war on 

From this cartoon:

[Bush's] mind is like one of those spinning cages where you pull out the winning lottery numbers--but there's only four goddamn little balls in his cage: "Freedom", "Democracy", "Terror", and "Stay the Course." He opens his mouth, one of the balls drops out. That's not a conversation, that's Keno.

-Daddy Brooklyn  22:21 EST | |

I can't believe they're actually doing this 

I understand the need for missile defense research, but given our current technology it's more or less agreed upon by everyone (including the Pentagon) that missile defense absolutely cannot work against a real target (the past successes have been rigged.)

Why, oh why, in this era of massive budget deficits is the government spending money--"$10 billion more on missile defense next year and $53 billion in the next five years"--to deploy a missile shield that doesn't even work in theory, much less in practice?

As Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) noted in a recent speech, Bush would spend twice as much on missile defense as on customs and border protection in the Department of Homeland Security. In exchange, Americans will get "a rudimentary and uncertain defense against an unlikely long-range missile attack."

-Daddy Brooklyn  21:52 EST | |

A Brief Hiatus 

So I have finals beginning next week, and my more responsible and diligent peers have been preparing for weeks. So I need to get going. And an essential element of studying will be to give up my blogging habit. Mostly that means not reading, but it also entails a break from my--admittedly meager--postings as well. But, do not despair, on May 13th I will be back and back big. Yes, I may even attempt to challenge Mark for most prolific poster on this site. Enjoy...

-Ziggy Stardust  18:40 EST | |

Do Iraqis lack souls? 

Mark Kleinman has what I take to be the definitive post on the controversy (in the blogsphere anyway) regarding Bush's coded election phrase/messed-up theology/nuanced psychological position.



-Ziggy Stardust  18:37 EST | |

The meritocracy we live in 

Makes me want to move to Norway.

To the Editor:

Re "As Wealthy Fill Top Colleges, Concerns Grow Over Fairness" (front page, April 22): A few years ago, I overheard some students discussing their investments right before class. I asked the class how many had stock portfolios. More than two-thirds of the class raised their hands.

Elite colleges have always served the wealthy and have historically given lip service to promoting economic diversity. It isn't just that the wealthy student is better prepared. At these institutions, children of wealthy families, often with mediocre academic skills, are given preference for admission.

If colleges and universities wanted to open the doors to the middle class and the poor, they could flip this policy around: end preferential admission for the wealthy and start giving preferential admission to those from modest economic backgrounds.

STUART ROJSTACZER
Palo Alto, Calif., April 22, 2004
The writer is an associate professor of environmental science at Duke University.

-Daddy Brooklyn  17:49 EST | |

When will we have sane drug laws? 

Eric Schlosser argues for pot legalization.

Under federal law it is illegal to possess any amount of marijuana anywhere in the United States. Penalties for a first marijuana offense range from probation to life without parole. Although 11 states have decriminalized marijuana, most still have tough laws against the drug. In Louisiana, selling one ounce can lead to a 20-year prison sentence. In Washington State, supplying any amount of marijuana brings a recommended prison sentence of five years.

About 700,000 people were arrested in the United States for violating marijuana laws in 2002 (the most recent year for which statistics are available) — more than were arrested for heroin or cocaine. Almost 90 percent of these marijuana arrests were for simple possession, a crime that in most cases is a misdemeanor. But even a misdemeanor conviction can easily lead to time in jail, the suspension of a driver's license, the loss of a job. And in many states possession of an ounce is a felony. Those convicted of a marijuana felony, even if they are disabled, can be prohibited from receiving federal welfare payments or food stamps. Convicted murderers and rapists, however, are still eligible for those benefits....

...Here's an idea: people who smoke too much marijuana should be treated the same way as people who drink too much alcohol. They need help, not the threat of arrest, imprisonment and unemployment.

-Daddy Brooklyn  17:12 EST | |

Sunday, April 25, 2004

A three republic solution for Iraq 

Josh Marshall gave a warm review to an article in The New York Review of Books by Peter W. Galbraith called How to Get Out of Iraq. It's well worth reading for the summary of Iraq under Hussein and the list of mistakes made in the occupation. Though his solution calling for three republics bound by a weak federal government is hardly novel and he glosses over the details that everyone says makes this impossible. I like the idea of a three republic solution, but there are so many intractable problems associated with it that it's hard to believe it will happen. He describes the three republics as

...self-governing, financially self-sustaining, and with their own territorial military and police forces. The central government would have a weak presidency rotating among the republics, with responsibilities limited to foreign affairs, monetary policy, and some coordination of defense policy. While resources would be owned by the republics, some sharing of oil revenues would be essential, since an impoverished Sunni region is in no one's interest.

For starters, what mechanism is there to convince Sunni leaders that they would actually see their share of the oil revenue? Turkey would object to a Kurdish Republic and would the three republics really "coordinate" on defense policy if Turkey invaded the new Kurdistan? Would you resettle the Sunnis and Shiites who find themselves in the wrong republics or would they just live as minorities?

-Daddy Brooklyn  23:41 EST | |

Clever 

I'm not a big fan of Maureen Dowd, but I love this double entendre in her current column: "In Bushworld, it makes sense to press for transparency in Mr. and Mrs. Rival while cultivating your own opacity."

From dictionary.com:
o·pac·i·ty
n. pl. o·pac·i·ties

  1. The quality or state of being opaque.
  2. Something opaque.


    1. Obscurity; impenetrability.
    2. Dullness of mind.


-Daddy Brooklyn  12:58 EST | |

Saturday, April 24, 2004

From the world of Video Games  

When I'm not at Barnes and Noble buying books that make me look smart to visitors, I'm playing video games [why can't I get ahead?].

I thought that readers of this blog would be interested to know that there is a video game in which you track Osama Bin Laden, and challenge him to a Kung Fu fight (no joke). As an extra on the game, you can watch a video of a guy doing the robot and rapping. The rap has such phat rhymes as "Hey Bin Laden, I'm comin' for you!/Gonna cap your ass on my PS 2" and "Osama Bin Laden! Where you be Hay-den [hiding]?!"

-paul  15:32 EST | |

Please contribute your comments 

Do you think Teresa Heinz Kerry should make her tax returns public? The Times and some nobody at The Weekly Standard think she should.

-Daddy Brooklyn  14:44 EST | |

Iraq injuries 

From yahoo! news:
The Pentagon announced Friday that 595 U.S. soldiers have been wounded in the past two weeks, raising the total number of troops wounded in combat to 3,864 since the start of the conflict.
A damn lot of injuries. How many, i wonder, are severe (i.e. loss of limb, paralysis, etc). Nice to see that the number is being released, though. I think the pentagon has been quieter about this than it has been about the deaths. I would be interested to see the ratio of casualties:injuries for this war as compared to others. I imagine that it is lower than in the past because of improvements in trauma care (same assumption used with the declind in murder rates without change in violent crome).

-Ben  08:38 EST | |

Survey says: 

I was just looking over a new PIPA/Pew survey on American's perceptions about Iraq's pre-war WMD capabilities and Iraq's involvement with 9/11.

I find two things very interesting. Number one, beliefs about Iraq's WMD capabilities and involvement with 9/11 have not changed much since early '03. Over half of the population continues to believe that there was an Iraq/Al Queda connection and 45% believe that such a link has been found (down from 52% last sumer). On the WMD front, 60% believe that before the war, Iraq either had weapons of mass destruction or had a major program in place to produce them. Fortunately, only 15% believe today (compared to 34% last may) that WMD or major programs actually have been found.

Two, no one seems to agree on what the Bush administration is telling us:
When asked “Is it your impression the Bush administration has or has not been saying that the US has found clear evidence Saddam Hussein was working closely with the al Qaeda terrorist organization?” 56% said the administration has been saying this, while 41% said it has not.
Has the administration really been saying this? Not specifically. Also,
A substantial minority (38%) also perceived the administration “has been saying that the US has found clear evidence that Iraq had WMD”
Substantial indeed, given that there has been no such evidence.

Those who believe that Iraq did have WMD and that Iraq was a supporter of Al Queda stated overwhelmingly(75%) that they intend to vote for Bush in November (57% who believe the Al Queda theory and 74% in the WMD camp would support Bush).

Plus, no one has a clue what the "experts" are saying:
Only 34% said it was their impression that “experts mostly agree Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, though it may have had some programs for developing them.” A 65% majority said either that “experts mostly agree that Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction” (30%) or that “experts are evenly divided on the question” (35%).
The expert thing matters. 72% of those who believe "the experts mostly agree Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda" would vote for Bush and "those who perceived experts as saying that Iraq had WMD, 72% said they would vote for Bush."

It is a given that many in this sample are republicans and would vote for Bush even if he'd started a Nuclear war with Mars. However, I expect that there is substantial population in there that are either independants or democrats. These are the ones I am worried about. Despite the best efforts of the so-called "liberal media," they have been misled by the constant dodging of Bush, McClellan, and the rest of the gang. Today, they believe that Bush is a strong leader on defense and national security, while Kerry is a flip-flopping surrender monkey. As a result, they will cast their vote for Bush.

Now, I'll get to the point: National security is issue numero uno in the upcoming election. People's perceptions about the Iraq war is likely to be a determining factor in November. This Pew survey shows that there is a lot of confusion among the public about whether we went to war for the right reasons, of for any good reason at all. It's time for some serious education.

-Ben  06:19 EST | |

Friday, April 23, 2004

Who's really ahead? 

There's been a ton of Democratic handwringing over all of the recent polls (I'm too lazy to link to them) that show Bush gaining (or at least not losing) popularity even amid all of his recent problems. But if you look closer at the same polls, Kerry is still strong in swing states. The ABC news poll for just swing states has Kerry "ahead of Bush by 2 points in these states with Nader thrown into the mix and drawing a ridiculous 7 percent."

So the polls aren't as bad for Kerry as they seem at first glance. Bush can get as popular as he wants in Wyoming, but he needs to win the purple states, which Kerry is doing quite well in. Ryan Lizza has even more compelling reasons on why Kerry is well-positioned in the race.

Now on to that crackhead Nader. Kerry is up by two points with Nader drawing 7 POINTS! What is Ralph doing? A few weeks ago Nader was blathering about how he was only going to get votes from disgruntled Republicans, but now he's angling for the anti-war vote. Does he think these people would be voting for Bush if he weren't in the race?

-Daddy Brooklyn  12:15 EST | |

Just come out and say it 

The Weekly Standard, that pinnacle of conservative journalism, published a pointless article "reviewing" a restaurant that's partially owned by either John Kerry or his wife. But the writing was too insipid to be a real restaurant review. Could it have been a forum to launch unsubstantiated attacks on Kerry? Let's look at the subtext:

Still, according to the 2002 disclosure form, one of the two has an "ownership interest in Thyme Square Restaurant" valued between $250,001 and $500,000. In 2002 that interest earned less than $201 in income.

Yes, restaurants tend to lose money. You should have some evidence if you want to accuse the Kerrys of tax fraud. The restaurant was deemed "crunchy" because there was a brochure that said, "There is Joy in My Mouth Now: School Lunches that Nourish Body and Soul." Apparently the writers of this brochure think that school lunches should include organic fruits and vegetables. Crunchy indeed.

The restaurant serves vegan and "vegan optional food." And you were going to trust Kerry to prosecute the war on terror. A man who loses money running a crunchy restaurant couldn't possibly want to invade Iran next. Even more damning, the waiter says "mens"--could John kerry (or his wife) be employing a known homosexual? What will the terrorists think? Maybe this will require some more reporting.

The writer lists some menu choices (appetizers under $10, entrees less than $15, that's cheaper then Applebees) and concludes that Kerrry is rich and just not mainstream enough for the average Joe:

As I paid the check, it struck me that, in its own way, Thyme Square is a metaphor for life under a possible Kerry administration. It's concerned about the environment. It's multicultural (multilateral?). It's more Ketchum, Idaho, the swanky resort town where Kerry vacationed recently, than Austin, Texas. And the food is great--if you can afford it.

What couldn't we "afford" under Kerry that we can under Bush? Bush runs the biggest budget deficit in the history of the world, angers our allies, and invades a country that has nothing to do with 9/11 and Al-Qaida while he lets real threats linger.

-Daddy Brooklyn  11:39 EST | |

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Rhapsody 

For four months I've been telling everyone I meet how awesome Rhapsody is. This Slate reviewer agrees. (Although he understates the number of albums Rhapsody actually has.)

-Daddy Brooklyn  06:56 EST | |

I can't believe they publish this garbage 

From the op-ed page of a very influential newspaper:

Americans do not think Mr. Bush has a persona to dazzle history, they think he is the average American man, but the average American man as they understand the term: straight shooter, hard worker, decent, America-loving, God-loving.

They can tell he is not doing it all by polls and focus groups. If he were doing it by polls and focus groups he wouldn't have defied the U.N., invaded Iraq, and pursued its democracy. He would have talked instead about nuance, multilateral negotiations and the need for child safety seats in SUVs. He moved on Iraq because he thought it was right and it would make the world safer. You can agree or disagree with him, but it is hard to doubt his guts, his seriousness and his commitment. And Americans respect guts, seriousness and commitment.

And she goes on: "The Democrats and their nominee say on one day that Mr. Bush ignored terrorism, and on the next that he exaggerated the threat." No, he ignored al-Qaida, but he exaggerated the threat from Iraq. These possibilities aren't mutually exclusive. "They say his administration didn't give enough time to planning Iraq, then they say he was obsessed with Iraq." He was obsessed with invading Iraq, but he didn't properly plan the occupation (Come on, that's really not even in dispute.) "They say he's dimwitted and gullible, then they say he's evil and calculating." Yes, yes, yes, no.

How can anyone be convinced by this reasoning?

-Daddy Brooklyn  06:26 EST | |

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Find out who donates to Bush 

This website has tons of information on private political donations that go direct to candidates. You can get maps of cities that show how much each building contributed to a candidate. In Manhattan the largest donor to Bush is the Goldman Sachs Building (which I work across from). The Upper West Side is full of Democrat supporters. You can click on an address to see who donated from there, you can view a donation map by county, and you can look people up by name to see who they donated to. If you type in William Gates or George Bush you can see which punkass candidate they're supporting.

I know that many of you (Matt, Ziggy, Ben) saw these graphics in the Atlantic last month, but the website is even better.

-Daddy Brooklyn  17:38 EST | |

Newspaper Scandal  

I was shock and appalled to read that USA Today has a 2 million/day readership. I don't know what to say. WHO THE HELL READS USA TODAY? Where do you buy it? Do people say "I saw this article in USA Today..." and then talk about it? What motivates a person to buy USA Today? What can you possibly hope to get out of reading it? The sense of security of knowing you won't have to sound-out any words? Do you sit at home in a suit after you buy it and read from it, pretending to be a local TV News Anchor? Are you late to a pirate convention and need a makeshift hat, model boat, and fake monocular? Do you buy it to "look busy" when sitting in a public place and conducting malfeasant acts of self-pleasure? I'm sure all of these are reasons. But do 2 million people have reasons like these?

-paul  11:24 EST | |

I can't remember the last time I was this excited to see a film... 

Not that any of you like Quentin Tarantino, but he's "presenting" a film by one of my favorite directors and it opens pretty soon (June in the cool cities; later elsewhere). The movie is called Hero and it stars Jet Li. It's directed by Zhang Yimou, the director of one of the best films ever made -- Raise the Red Lantern.

-Matt  09:24 EST | |

Gerrymandering ruled legal 

The Supreme court ruled yesterday that the latest bout of texas redistricting does not violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Apparently, what it came down to was the terms of the lawsuit, which claimed that the texas legislature could not change the rules to require that only a majority (50%) and not a super majority (66%), as before, be required to approve redistricting. The decision and opinions are not up on the court's website yet.

At what point is this illegal? Obviously, changing districts so that their overwhelming majority is white republicans, thereby making any other vote inconsequential, is not a problem. What if the democrats were in a position to do the same thing and did it? There'd be hell to pay.

The new districts will change the D:R spread of Texas U.S. congressional representatives from the current 16:16 to as much as 9:23. Now, I'll cede this: in the 2000 presidential election, 66% of texas voters went right and 26% went left. However, these same voters, in 2002, alloted half of their congressional seats to dems and half to republicans. You could come out and say that the new 9:23 spread accurately reflects Texas' partisan scene. I will come back, then and argue that the voters have a right to decide who should represent them through voting, not through slimy, underhanded changing of district boundaries. I should think that the 16:16 layout in 2002 was an accurate representation of the voters desire to try and keep some of the power of the other branches in check. Otherwise why didn't the state go 9:23 in the first place? Then you say "because he districts weren't properly representative." And we go around in circles.

Would any one who knows anyting at all about election law care to chime in on this one?

-Ben  01:31 EST | |

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Universal suffrage 

A poll reported yesterday reveals that one-third of registered American voters disagree with the statement, "The Middle East is less stable as a consequence of the war." Maybe there should be some basic test you have to pass to be eligible to vote.

-Daddy Brooklyn  00:19 EST | |

Monday, April 19, 2004

Fleischer vs. McClellan 

Not even a fair fight. Fleischer was too gangster. If you ever saw Ari Fleischer, Bush's old press secretary, in action you'd know that he could dodge questions like nobody else. It was funny and fascinating to watch him stonewall, adumbrate, and just plain lie until the press would give up.

William Saletan had a good piece on the eight ways Fleischer dodged questions.
Michael Kinsley wrote this:

Fleischer speaks a sort of Imperial Court English, in which any question, no matter how specific, is parried with general assurances that the emperor is keenly aware and deeply concerned and firmly resolved and infallibly right and the people are fully supportive and further information should be sought elsewhere.

Of course, I hate hate hate Bush, but I could still watch Fleischer and be amazed that he could stymy a whole room full of reporters in the middle of a scandal (which scandal? take your pick).

Scott McClellan, the new press secretary, lacks Fleischer's talents and he pays for it. Jonathan Chait compares (this article is really good) the two here:

McClellan's ineptitude is made all the more noticeable by the contrast it poses with Ari Fleischer, his syrup-tongued predecessor. Fleischer could spin elaborate webs of obfuscation, leaving the press corps mystified and docile, albeit somewhat resentful as well. Every sentence he uttered came out in the same bored affectation. The most outrageous lie sounded, in his telling, like a truism so obvious it barely deserved mentioning.

Fleischer's genius was that he would spend a few minutes giving an answer that be close to answering the question without really answering it. The reporters wouldn't know that they'd been played until the press conference was over. Contrast this with McClellan who offers flat one sentence denials and then he gets pounded on follow up questions.

Here McClellan obviously ducked a question for five minutes--this never would've happened to Fleischer.

-Daddy Brooklyn  21:17 EST | |

A note on "Human Ugliness Week"  

This week is the week the world remembers the Holocaust. Today is the 9 year aniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing. Tomorrow is Hitler's birthday, and the 5 year aniversary of Columbine.

I make this proposal wanting in no way to diminish the observance of the tragedy of the Holocaust.

But how about a "human ugliness week"? We can commemerate EVERYTHING! Rwanda (early april, 1994), the LA riots (April 29th, 1993[?]), my birthday (april 30th, 1980) the present events already included in human ugliness week.

This will impress on non-smokers the need for a day in the middle of the week to get high.

Happy 4:20 yuppies.

-paul  12:41 EST | |

The Propriety of Propaganda?  

In a moment of unflinching cynicism and flinching ethics, I thought, "Hey, who cares if Kerry's 'index' is some artifact of rhetoric".

People are stupid. If the mass of people have willed themselves to put their feet up in the proverbial stirrups and take whatever is given, why shouldn't Kerry be as manipulative as Bush? Let's design an inscrutable algorithm thats visible output 'proves' Bush is leading a poor effort against terrorism. (He got a whopping 209! the top of the scale! Holy Shit! Vote Kerry!) If this gets people to believe in a truth they would otherwise discount because they lack the capacity or info to see this on their own…

What is wrong with this? If we have some duty to pay attention, are we guilty of some wrong if we manipulate those who have neglected their duty? I know something is wrong with this but...

If you are campaigning, isn't it in your interest to tell the most lies you can get out? This will tie up your opponent with making counterclaims, while you can spend time positively stating "policy". I remember an anecdote in a Hunter Thompson piece about Andrew Jackson accusing his opponent of being a pig fucker, simply so the man would have to say "I am not a pig fucker". This story may not be real. But that doesn't matter.

Any thoughts?

-paul  12:24 EST | |

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Matt, did you read this? 

The middle class misery index 

A recent Kerry press release touted the fact that George Bush isn't doing so well according to the Middle Class Misery Index. Some of the data is pretty damning, but I'm troubled that I've never heard of this thing. It seems like an ad hoc metric invented by the Kerry campaign and then trumped up to sound official (has anyone ever heard of it?). There's plenty of standard economic data that the Kerry team can use to show just how bad the Bush presidency has been.

Update: Ben just commented that Greg Easterbrook wrote about the Middle Class Misery Index before I did. Easterbrook prefers the standard misery index, which you get by adding the unemployment rate and the inflation rate together, because "unemployment and inflation are both leading indicators with widely agreed-upon meaning."

Well, I don't quite agree. The unemployment rate only counts those who are unemployed and looking for jobs, thus the unemployment rate doesn't reflect the people who have quit looking for work because of the net 2.6 million job loss during Bush's president. This net job loss sounds bad, but it sounds even worse when you realize that "to keep up with population growth, the U.S. needs to add about 110,000 jobs per month."

Current low interest and inflation rates are in part caused by our recent economic malaise and they aren't necessarily a good thing. (By the way, annualized CPI inflation is up to 5.1%, so it's not so low anymore.) My point is, you can't take some combination of economic statistics and come up with a magic bullet metric for determining the health of the economy. The economy is affected by too many things to be described so simply.

-Daddy Brooklyn  13:39 EST | |

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Oh, that definition of hardworking individuals 

I second Ziggy's support for the Decembrist.

The current post in the Decembrist refers to Tom Delay ordering The Treasury Department, in an apparent violation of the law, to analyze how John Kerry's tax plan would affect "Hardworking Individuals and Married Couples," who were defined as "individuals and married couples with taxable income exceeding $200,000." I know that some satire has been written here lately, but this isn't a joke. Really. "Hardworking Individuals and Married Couples" was a category defined this way in a Treasury Department press release.

The Treasury Department didn't factor in Kerry's middle class tax cut proposal--apparently the middle class aren't hardworking.

-Daddy Brooklyn  15:57 EST | |

Another essential read 

Mark Schmitt used to work for Bill Bradley and now directs public policy research at the Open Society Institute. He writes The Decemberist which is a must read for those serious political types. His posts are less frequent than most bloggers, but they are far richer and more thoughtful (and he lives in Brooklyn!).

I highly recommend!

-Ziggy Stardust  15:43 EST | |

Kerry's Vietnam Service 

A man who served with Kerry wrote a less than complimentary, though seemingly fair, appraisal of him.

-Daddy Brooklyn  15:00 EST | |

Friday, April 16, 2004

In case you think about these things as much as I do 

Charlie Cook's current electoral college breakdown:
Solid Dem (86 EV): DC, CT, HI, MD, MA, NJ, NY, RI
Likely Dem(79 EV): CA, IL, VT
Lean Dem(63 EV): DE, ME, MI, OR, PA, WA

Toss Up (99 EV): FL, IA, MN, MO, ME, NH, OH, NM, WI

Lean Bush(30 EV): AZ, AK, CO, WV
Likely Bush(71 EV): GA, KY, LA, NC, TN, VA
Solid Bush(110 EV): AL, AK, ID, IN, KS, MS, MT, NE, ND, OK, SC, SD, TX, UT, WY


Solid + likely + lean Dem = 228 EV
Solid + likely + lean Bush = 211 EV
Minimum up for grabs: 99 EV

-Ben  18:34 EST | |

Additional announcements from Rumsfeld 

Paul missed a few things that were in Rumsfeld's press release:

-Anyone who gets kidnapped is officially "with the terrorists".

-The date troops can go home is now tied to Halliburton's stock price.

-The name Sadr sounds too "French".

-Troops may leave Iraq immediately if they agree to invade Tehran on their way home.

-The Iraqi governing council will be replaced with sock puppets.

-Daddy Brooklyn  14:58 EST | |

Fighting for cheap gas 

Andrew Sullivan on why gas taxes should go up and the National Review's response.

Sullivan's fifth point on the need for energy dependence from the Middle East is his most convincing and the NR only offers a blatant straw person counter-argument to it and then comes back with justification for it in the next paragraph. The NR is not very convincing indeed.

I'm puzzled by what the "broader strategy for breaking OPEC" would be. Does it involve invading every OPEC country?

(How's this for weak praise: This is article was probably the most reasonable thing I've ever read in the National Review.)

-Daddy Brooklyn  14:02 EST | |

Why do Bush's aides keep on betraying him? 

Maybe it's because "every counterterrorism expert the White House hires...becomes so disgusted with the mix of incompetence and mendacity that is the White House’s counterterrorism policy that he eventually quits and then immediately sets about trying to drive the president from office."

-Daddy Brooklyn  13:45 EST | |

Benedict Arnold CEOs 

I was surprised when my friend Alex, The Benedict Arnold CEO, received a tax break--he didn't have to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes--for shipping high paying jobs overseas, thereby condemning several Americans to poverty. (Just kidding Alex.) I guess it wouldn't make sense to collect payroll taxes from companies who hire workers abroad, but there are other ways that outsourcing is tax advantaged.

This article, written by a partisan journalist who isn't an expert in economics, makes me think that there might be something right with Kerry's economic plan:

The most attractive aspect of Kerry's plan is that it harnesses some crowd-pleasing protectionist rhetoric that Kerry has indulged in--initially to counter Howard Dean--to an unexpectedly reasonable reform...Kerry doesn't propose that tariffs be hiked, import quotas be imposed, or anything like that. He simply says that the government should stop giving corporations an incentive to ship jobs overseas. Rather than tamper with market imperatives, he wants to restore them.

He's not proposing a tax increase, "to keep the plan 'revenue neutral,' Kerry offsets the increased revenues from abroad with a 5 percent cut in the overall corporate tax rate." He just wants to let the market determine where labor is employed.

-Daddy Brooklyn  12:14 EST | |

The poor are stupid. Aren't you glad you aren't poor and stupid? Volume 1 

Dodge and Bankone have new ads on TV intentioned to assert the title of this post. As a former fastfood employee and cashier, I find these ads in the poorest taste, and ringing of the ugliest notes of spite and disgust the upper middle class hoist on lower-class service personnel. Seeing this type of crap makes me almost waver from my lifetime love of capitalism and dream dark dreams of the hammer and sickle.

Bankone's spot features a witless fool of a cashier, annoying the wealthy customers at what appears to be pottery barn by complementing their credit card designs. What a delight! She'll never have credit card, she's too poor and stupid. What a truism! Sometimes, when I buy a $75 punch bowl, I am deeply angered and repelled that a peasant such as a cashier would dare imagine from drunkenness or syphilis that I care at all about her opinion. Nice Card? Yeah, a lot of my stuff is nice.

Everyone who enjoyed the commercial [on the level of "oh cashiers sure are fruity! Boy are they bothersome when they're friendly" or any other] can go to hell.

Too harsh? What does ultimate 'nice guy' Jesus have to say on this matter?

"And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:24

-paul  12:03 EST | |

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Tax day 

This is for all of those people who bloviate about the need to cut government spending--especially discretionary spending. Now the small government "Libertarian" types overwhelmingly reside in states that are massive net federal debtors, but that's not really important. The point is that there isn't much discretionary spending that can be cut.

The OMB budget figures say that for 2004 the budget is $2.3 trillion while the deficit is $521 billion (which is very big by almost any historical or theoretical metric). The Grover Norquist fans believe that the budget could be balanced if the "welfare queens" would only get jobs and The National Endowment for the Arts were disbanded. If you can add and subtract this argument falls apart. Non-defense discretionary spending is $475 billion. That's everything the federal government does (Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, HHS, Homeland Security, HUD, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, Veterans Affairs, Corps of Engineers, EPA, Office of the President, GSA, international aid, Judicial, Legislative, NASA, NSF, SBA, and the Social Security Administration) besides defense, social security and Medicare. If you really want to reduce the budget you have to cut defense (which won't happpen when we're spoiling for wars everywhere), social security, or Medicare. This isn't gonna happen anytime soon.

I have to say I'm quite glad that the U.S. Government plans to spend $994 million (let's just call it a billion) to support "Healthy Marriages" from 2005-2014.

-Daddy Brooklyn  12:23 EST | |

Other Changes Rumsfield will be making... 

It was announced that Rummy wants to suprise our demoralized military personel with an extra 3 months of service. Here are some other changes that aren't being reported.

- Soliders surviving the extra 3 months get a Bush/Cheney 04 foam cup caddy and bumper sticker.

- Recipients of sophisticated prosthetics officially designated "6 Million Dollar Men".

- Al Quida operatives and iraqi insurgents will now be called "charlie".

- Jimi Hendrix's "The Watchtower" to be played on loud speakers at army bases 24 hours a day.

- Anyone mentioning Langston Hughes to be shot on sight.

- Free heroin.

-paul  11:09 EST | |

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Are we in trouble? 

I won't name names, but this might not be so good...

-Lucky  21:44 EST | |

The Post-Modern President 

George W. Bush has in the past been lampooned as a dullard. Now we see that he is indeed quite savvy. To see this counterintuitive claim, you need the proper framework of interpretation.

Now, as a president of course he has been a failure. But what of GWB: the performance artist? or even, the philosopher king? Consider the way he has radically subjugated the constrained notion of "truth" generally used in politics at his "press conference performance". In a work reminiscent of the Nietzschen superman as devotee of Foucault, he took questions to mean what he wished, boldly disregarding any cage of interpretation that the asker may have tried to assert. With a blank, glazed stare he is able to tread downward on entrenched notions of "meaning" and "intention" more powerfully than the multitude of like minded philosophers, artists, and morons.

He powerfully refuses to be forced to think like "the rest of us" think. Like a gamboling jester, he grins and declares "we will hold the round square in our lifetime!” Standing up at the State of the Union and asserting a known falsehood, he challenges any and all to constrain his right to interpret truth and falsehood at will, no matter who they are. He is the philosopher king of 50% of Americans, pontificating what they shall take as truth the moment he speaks it into being.

If you are reading republican party, I need a job in 2005.

-paul  15:04 EST | |

The Philosophy of George W. Bush, President and epistemologist 

William Saletan demonstrates that Bush has a theory of knowledge, albeit one that is strongly counter-intuitive. [Full disclosure, I took one epistemology class as an undergrad and so all that follows is a vague recollection. If I am making any mistakes, please feel free to call me on them... like you wouldn't anyway.]

In epistemology, coherence and foundationalism are two distinct theories of knowledge. Theories of knowledge attempt to explain what we can and do KNOW. Knowledge is traditionally defined as a justified true belief. What constitutes "having a belief" is fairly uncontroversial, but claims of justification and truth are deeply contested by those who spend their time thinking about them.

Foundationalism tries to ground true beliefs on necessarily true claims, foundations if you will, that are self-evident. Descartes tried to build a foundation of true belief based on self-knowledge and the "clear and distinct perception" of God's benign will (he was really worried about an evil deceiver fucking with his perceptions--an aside: in my experience the demon is usually called alcohol). The trouble is finding some agreed upon self-evident truths and then deducing from them all of our knowledge. It is far, far more complicated than this, but this is sufficient for my admittedly minor point.

Coherence theory attempts to justify knowledge, not upon a secure foundation, but in a web of corresponding claims. Basically, if we can make a big enough web of knowledge claims that are internally consistent, then that can be used as evidence that the claims are true. But internal consistency, while necessary, isn't sufficient (and this is where Bush fails); in addition to internal consistency, coherence also demands external consistency. Your web cannot actually just exclude unpleasant or contradictory facts and still claim to be justified.

Alas, for us, Bush's web of beliefs, while no doubt sincerely held, have almost nothing to do with the real world. Sure, there are uncertainties regarding the truth values of any empirical claims, but if every single empirical data point refutes, contradicts or is otherwise inconsistent with your belief system, something is wrong. And something is deeply, deeply wrong with this administration.

-Ziggy Stardust  13:49 EST | |

The press conference 

After watching the press conference I can say that I've never disliked Bush more than I do right now. A minor irritation for me was the gleam of accomplishment in his eye when he remembered a name or approximated the pronunciation of a big word well enough to be understood. He can't help his speech problems and trouble with details. What gets me is his childlike reasoning (how many tautologies can one guy get away with in an hour?) and reliance on meaningless platitudes like "stay the course" when he's asked serious questions about serious problems.

Occasionally Bush descended into complete logical chaos, like when he was asked why he initially said that Iraqi oil revenue would cover most of the costs of the occupation and reconstruction and he responded by saying, "The oil revenues, they're bigger than we thought they would be..." What??? Then why aren't they paying for the whole occupation rather than almost none of it?

Most of the questions from reporters were too long and open-ended and they didn't ask the logical follow up questions. When someone did ask a good question that required a definitive response, like why Bush and Cheney insist on appearing together before the 9/11 Commission (this was asked three times by two different reporters), Bush blatantly refused to answer the question.

William Saletan says most of my complaints with the news conference better than I can.

-Daddy Brooklyn  13:11 EST | |

A political beat reporter who does it right 

Given my recent (poorly received) tirade against political journalists, I should acknowledge when a reporter nails a story. The LAT's Ron Brownstein wrote a damn fine article today.

He makes the important, if seemingly obvious, point that Bush is all about the ends and never about the means. This should be a meta-narrative for the Kerry campaign. Regardless of ideological disagreements, the gross and blithe incompetence with which this Administration has pursued its goals should give more than just pause to even its most strident supporters.

-Ziggy Stardust  13:00 EST | |

A sexually debased chicken sandwich  

Burger King has made the unconventional move of selling its chicken sandwich with a website that makes you feel dirty.

Want it your way? Burger King. Have you been craving fast food, but want to be able to see a man in a chicken costume and garter belts posing sexually in a dirty living room to seal the deal? Burger King.

Not only does this have the air of a particularly dirty porno sight, but it is very reminiscent of a scene Kubrick wisely left out of the shining in which a man makes another man in a dog suit caper stupidly before sexually degrading him.

Maybe there next campaign will involve a shirtless, 300 lbs man in a leather mask whipping the hell out of some french fries, or having the staff remove unwanted lettuce from your sandwich with there labia. Who knows?

-paul  11:01 EST | |

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Campaign commercials 

A fair and balanced (for real) look at presidential campaign commercials. The Internet is the only way I can watch campaign commercials since for decades it's been a foregone conclusion that my state would go to Kerry.

-Daddy Brooklyn  18:42 EST | |

How can I meet a nice Marxist Guerrilla?  

Like the Neil Young song "Heart of Gold," I find myself on a as-yet fruitless quest for the ideal mate. While not as widely traveled as Mr. Young, I know where I will look for love: Colombia.

The Economist this month features a picture of an attractive, female FARC commando of roughly my age. Like the living synthesis of a sappy romance and some Rambo movie too stupid to be made, I will spend my life pursuing this girl's heart.

A female FARC soldier is my ideal match. She is a progressive who is interested in the plight of the common man, but still a defender of traditional values. She's a career woman, working for a forward-thinking leader in the world of value-added agricultural products [cashflows for FARC are similar to ConAgra]. She could probably help me host the most balls-to-the-wall [anyone recognize this slang?]awesome party ever.

The problem is, I haven't the foggiest about how to win this girl's love. My facial hair, within a couple of weeks, could be made to appear quite Che-like. Is that enough? My guess: no. Also, I'm a bourgeois pig. I did make a mild effort at a People's Revolution on my last day at Starbucks, but it met with little popular support, and involved little action beyond sloganeering.

Any help would be appreciated.

-paul  15:20 EST | |

Bait and switch 

Will these people ever stop conflating pre-invasion Iraqis with terrorists who would attack the U.S.?

First Brooks lays out the aggressive Shultz approach to fighting terrorism then the cautious Weinberger philosophy. No problems yet. He lambasts the 9/11 Commission for being Shultzian Monday morning quarterbacks when it comes to fighting Al Qaeda pre-9/11, then he says,

Then you look at the debate over Iraq and suddenly you see the same second-guessers posing as Weinbergerians. The U.S. should have been more cautious. We should have had concrete evidence about W.M.D.'s before invading Iraq.

This is disingenuous. The problem is that (pre-invasion) Iraq didn't pose a threat, terrorist or otherwise, to the U.S. If the administration was worried about terrorism, they should've been thinking about Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iran. If nuclear weapons were the problem, they should've focused on Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea. Sure, Hussein was paying suicide bombers in Israel, but he was hardly the only one, and this was and is the only established link between Iraq and terrorism.

The way Brooks closes his column kills me:

Worse yet, the administration never bothered to educate the American people on the nature of war amid uncertainty. The president did not stress beforehand that it was necessary to act, even though some of his suppositions would inevitably prove to be incorrect...Twenty years ago we had a leader who treated us like adults, mature enough to cope with harsh uncertainties. Now we're talked to as if we're children, which, if you look at the hypocrisy-laden terror debate, is about what we deserve.

Were any of his suppositions correct? Granted, there's a lot of hypocrisy in the national security debate, but pretending that the U.S. had to invade Iraq is the best example.

-Daddy Brooklyn  12:34 EST | |

Monday, April 12, 2004

Gambling Update 

That dude I posted about who was betting his life savings on roulette won. Story here.

-Matt  13:51 EST | |

Stereotypes 

Funny 

From Slate's ad report card:

When Bob Dylan shows up in a Victoria's Secret commercial, it immediately triggers three questions. The first is: Am I hallucinating? Seriously, I think I'm hallucinating—can you see Bob Dylan, and did you eat the same shrimp I ate? The second is: Why on earth would Bob Dylan do this? And the third, and perhaps most puzzling, is: Why on earth would Victoria's Secret do this?

-Daddy Brooklyn  12:57 EST | |

Which side is he on? 

Today I learned that Bill Gates gave the maximum amount to Bush's re-election campaign. This is surprising to me since Microsoft is the parent company of the liberal (with a few very notable exceptions) and uniformly excellent opinion site slate.com. Granted the maximum contribution is only $2,000, which is inconsequential for both Bush and Gates, so maybe Gates was just trying to get in good with the presumptive favorite in the presidential election. It would be more interesting if Gates donated to any PACs. I'm not sure about this.

-Daddy Brooklyn  12:49 EST | |

A Poll for Our Readers 

It seems that every week provides more evidence of the duplicity and mendacity of the current Administration. So my question to you, dear read, is this:

What negative allegation against the Bush administration that proved to be true would shock or surprise you? Is there anything that you'd consider beyond the pale? What won't they do?

Thoughts?

-Ziggy Stardust  01:21 EST | |

I thought the hunting trip was bad 

First the hunting trip and now this. I hope Scalia doesn't have Bob Hebert killed for writing about this in such a high profile column. (I would like to thank Ziggy for working as my research assistant on this post.)

-Daddy Brooklyn  01:01 EST | |

Sunday, April 11, 2004

The real security threats 

During the past few days there has been a ton of speculation about what the Bush administration could have done to stop the 9/11 attacks from occurring. I care less about this and more about the scary realization that the Bush administration has not focused on the real dangers that the U.S. faces. This old (pre-Iraq invasion) article from the Atlantic is just as correct today as it was two years ago:

We should not become so fixated on Iraq that we ignore the greater dangers: Al Qaeda, loose nuclear materials in Russia and elsewhere, and nuclear proliferation. House Republicans have idiotically refused to provide adequate funding to secure nuclear stockpiles abroad.

Note the emphasis on nuclear weapons. A nuclear attack on a city would make 9/11 and every suicide bombing seem trivial. This (excellent) old article from Slate makes the point that the term WMD, which groups biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons together is not that useful. Biological and chemical weapons are notoriously hard to use and aren't even in the same ballpark as nuclear weapons when it comes to destructive power. Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against the Kurds with terrifying results, but the circumstances in which they were delivered (hours of strafing from aircraft) were such that conventional explosives probably would've done more damage.

Before the war the Bush administration argued (some would say disingenuously) that Iraq had WMD, but they were really arguing that Iraq possessed banned chemical weapons and long range missiles--there definitely wasn't any proof that Iraq had an advanced nuclear program. Likewise, Iraq wasn't exporting missile technology either.

Unfortunately we have a president who has said "you can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam" and he and Dick Cheney are excruciatingly slow to concede that Iraq had essentially nothing to do with international terrorism. Another thing, the people who are attacking U.S. troops in Iraq right now are being called terrorists--they're not. They're fighting an occupying army. To conflate people who resist a foreign army with terrorists who would attack civilians on U.S. soil is dishonest.

Iraq wasn't supporting terrorism against the U.S. nor were they developing weapons for export. The war in Iraq has cost a staggering amount of money, resulted in thousands of deaths, decreased support for the U.S. among our ostensible allies (whose intelligence and cooperation we need to stop terrorist attacks), caused another generation of Muslims to hate the U.S., and what do we have to show for it? We lose time and international diplomatic capital in pursuing a war against Iraq, Al Qaeda finds refuge and possibly opium profits in an increasingly lawless Afghanistan, Pakistan exports nuclear technology, Iran, Libya, and North Korea import it, and there are still massive amounts of poorly secured nuclear weapons in Russia. Additionally, Al Qaeda conducts terrorist attacks more frequently now than they did before 9/11. The U.S. faces the same security threats of two years ago, but they're exacerbated by the ill will felt toward the U.S. all over the globe and two years of doing nothing about them.

-Daddy Brooklyn  19:47 EST | |

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Why the New Yorker is so great 

This essay by Josh Marshall is just the latest example of why the NEW YORKER is the most informative and engaging magazine published in America. [well, duh, roars the crowd].

Marshall's argument is made through a review of recent books describing and encouraging a new American empire. Marshall's analysis is that instead of making a new empire, the current Administration has weakened the old one. A basic premise and one that's probably not too controversial unless you only get your news from Condi and Andy. The breadth of the current Administration's ignorance and incompetence is going to be one hell of a story to tell in the coming years, but the real doozy will be how the American public was duped (and continually duped, if approval ratings are any measure).

Dear god I hope Kerry wins.

-Ziggy Stardust  19:45 EST | |

Gamblers have the greatest stories 

This, from the Las Vegas Advisor:

Brit to Bet it All at Hard Rock

Ashley Revell, a 32-year-old Londoner who's sold all his belongings including his clothes, will don a rented tux and bet his life's savings -- about $138,000 -- on a single spin of the roulette wheel at the Hard Rock this Sunday. A film crew from Britain's Sky One television will tape the live event, which begins at 1 pm PST and is open to the public. Win or lose, the crew will follow Revell for a month afterward for a short reality series called "Double or Nothing." Assuming two zeros and everything else being on the square, the guy's a 20-18 underdog.

For a review of the new film Shade and my personal thoughts on gambling, visit my blog.

-Matt  09:36 EST | |

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Why we started this 

Back in the day Ben, Ziggy, and I would trade emails all day with tips on interesting things to read (in lieu of doing whatever we should've been doing). These links plus our comments were getting too messy, so Ben whipped up this blog to sort it all out. In this vein, I have to say that the New Yorker is extremely good this week. Hersh on Afghanistan is superb, thought provoking and available online. Philip Gourevitch's piece about the fight between moderate and insane Republicans in the PA Senate race is very good--trouble is that it's not online. Hendrick Hertzberg's article about Rice and the 9/11 Commission is one of the best I've read.

Update: Is anyone else horrified that Ken Starr spent almost five times as much money to investigate Clinton than the 9/11 Commission has been allotted?

-Daddy Brooklyn  12:49 EST | |

Rave reviews 

I finally got my damn TNR in the mail (I refuse to read something online that I already subscribe to in print). I can now say that Ziggy, E.J. Dionne, and I all agree that Leon Wieseltier's essay is very good. (Ziggy: I think that Dionne's opinion matters far more than ours does, but I'm glad that I'm usually on his side.)

-Daddy Brooklyn  12:43 EST | |

Have you heard about this? 

It seems like the 9/11 commission ought to look into this some more.

-Daddy Brooklyn  12:38 EST | |

Out of town 

Folks- I will be out of town and away from the internet entirely *SOB* until monday. I will be back then with more pointless rambling and non-partisen suggesterey.

If, that is, I don't die from lack of connectivity. It will be an intruiging experiment: "Can a modern twenty-something live without an internet connection for a few days?"

Hypothesis: no

-Ben  03:28 EST | |

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

McCain, Clinton (Bill or Hillary), and other useless speculation when the primaries are over... 

Wouldn't it suck to have to do research and analysis of political issues? Wouldn't it be really hard and time consuming to fact check politicians' claims and examine their veracity and applicability? Can you imagine the public actually caring?

Given the above, journalists and pundits (definition: "journalists who don't have to even pretend to care about the facts) are going to speculate, ruminate, and gossip about all sorts of process and horse-race questions during an election campaign. This is both easy and fun, especially since there are no consequences to saying ridiculous and silly things, not to mention being completely wrong.

It's not that I don't enjoy the a good alcohol-fueled debate over who should be running-mate, far from it. But I do worry that when this college dorm bull session-level discourse is the only political discourse, we as a polity end-up with, well, end-up with President Bush.

-Ziggy Stardust  17:19 EST | |

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

McCain vs. Rove 

Just me rambling here and maybe playing devil's advocate a little. I don't see why it's clear that a Kerry/McCain ticket is strong. McCain ran against Bush in 2000 and he was smeared very effectively by the same people he'd run against in 2004.

I don't know how popular McCain is with veterans overall, but there are sizable groups of veterans who hate him. He is positively anti-union--this would hurt in the rust belt swings states where as I understand it a lot of people line up with Dems on labor but with Republicans on moral issues. If the heathen Democrat aren't pro-labor then they don't have much to offer there.

Speaking of moral issues, McCain is anti-abortion. I'm not comfortable with an anti-abortion VP. Are you? Bush and McCain are both pro-life, but Nader isn't, and I'm sure he wouldn't hesitate to point this out.

John McCain was part of the Keating Five. If he runs and starts talking about compaign finance reform (which he definitely would), Bush will bring up the Keating Five and McCain will sound like a flip-flopping hypocrite who can't be trusted.

I admire a lot of things about McCain, especially his anti-pork agenda, but he's not a Democrat. He's bad (from my point of view) on abortion, the environment, civil liberties, and international affairs (he's a HAWK). I'm sorta pro-labor and sorta not, but I know that he won't be popular at all with labor who have tenuous ties to Democrats at best. His fiscal austerity is nice, but he was also against tax cuts, which means that Bush will spend millions of dollars saying that McCain is for tax increases (up is down, right is left, I know). If McCain runs with Kerry the Democratic party has lost its soul (okay, that's stupid rhetoric, but by nominating McCain the Dems will have compromised on many important isssues) and this could push liberal voters to Nader.

-Daddy Brooklyn  18:30 EST | |

JFKII 

I am going to begin refering to John Kerry as "John F. Kerry", or "J.F. Kerry." It will evoke images of those glorious Kennedy days in the minds of even the rightest of the right.

-Ben  17:23 EST | |

Never McCain? 

According the the Boston Globe (a paper that has my constantly growing respect), Many Kerry's aides contend that John McCain will be given serious consideration for the veep seat.

Come on people, put down your partisan sticks and give it some consideration- An ally in the white house who can wrangle the right into favor for important policies. And, as Kevin Drum of Political Animal put it "On many of the issues that McCain really cares about he's practically a Democrat already, and on the others either the president has little real power (abortion) or would likely follow a pretty centrist course anyway (Iraq)."

I don't think we'd be selling our souls here.

-Ben  17:15 EST | |

Bush quite the businessman, the far right, and Windows 

OK, in reverse order:

You'll have to cut and paste the links into your browser. Why? Because Blogger thinks it's too cool to add the freaking link function for Safari, Opera, and other oh-so-sweet MAC browsers. See? SEE?!? Bastards who don't make things compatible hurt us all [I gave it a quick and dirty fix-ed].

So, to practice, check this out: http://www.RightWingEye.com. Entertaining, but the little elements of fact are a bit scary. You NY boys who were thinking of applying for the show being parodied, you should enjoy this.

And finally, see: http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36~53~2065122,00.html. This comes your way from your (currently) token real-estate friend, although I'm not sure managing the operation of a mechanical bull is really real estate. Anyhow, 155 acres near Crested Butte going for a mere $875. i don't think anyone needs any help seeing that something is clearly very wrong. You'll realize, however, that it isn't that abnormal when you factor in that BUSH was part of the deal.

Happy cutting and pasting!

-Lucky  12:49 EST | |

Taking God Seriously 

Leon Wieseltier has an excellent essay in TNR this week. (I think the link is stable and available to non-subscribers, please let me know if it isn't). The essay begins with the Supreme Court arguments last week regarding the use of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge. He, as well I, finds it quite odd that the most religious (or, more accurately, the most self-proclaimed religious) believers on the Court are the one's who are seeking to minimize the significance of the meaning of the contested phrase. Wieseltier quotes Kierkegaard that ""The melancholy have the best sense of the comic, the opulent often the best sense of the rustic, the dissolute often the best sense of the moral, and the doubter often the best sense of the religious (Either/Or)." And in this case, it is the atheist before the Court who takes the words "under God" most seriously.

More on this to come...

-Ziggy Stardust  10:30 EST | |

Engineering Evolution 

Maybe this would be a better post for my own blog, but I wanted to get some feedback on this because I have extraordinarily mixed feelings. In the latest Atlantic Monthly, Michael J. Sandal in the cover piece entitled "The Case Against Perfection" argues that developing the ability to pick and choose characteristics for offspring should be avoided because it takes something away from the experience of parenthood. He likens it to the hyperparenting of today and the striving of parents to make their kids into the perfect athlete, student, etc. with little regard for the child's well-being or interest in said pursuits. The crux of his argument is that parenting today offers a unique opportunity to have to deal with and love a person whose characteristics cannot be predetermined, and therefore cannot be prepared for or tailor-made for the individual parent. It forces a person to relate to someone who may not be like them and to learn from that experience (a lesson for the world at large, the author argues, and I agree). But I see the other side of this issue, put forth by the bioethicists, which seem to be portrayed as little Mengeles throughout the piece. I think that humanity could have an extraordinary opportunity to engineer a version of it's species which is superior to itself and can do much greater things than most humans today can do. Think of what the world would be like if everyone possessed the same intelligence (god, voting would almost be worthwhile in this world). The problem, as with all really powerful things is two-fold: 1. In America, if it CAN be done, it WILL be done (okay, this is true of humanity, we're just more obvious about it). It's not like we're going to start thinking about consequences now. So, in my opinion, regardless of the outcry, it will be possible in the future to determine the height, sex, intelligence, athletic ability, etc. of your offspring. 2. Though it could be used for amazing things, the power will not only be used for such things. Nuclear power is really an amazing energy source (with unbelievably horrible drawbacks) and it never needed to be used to kill people, but it was used that way. I guess my quandry is this. At the brink of an age when the world of humanity can be made more perfect, is it in the interest of humanity to make it so? I'm leaning towards NO, on the grounds of the following mythology: I really should get the source on this, but I know that there is (probably more than) one creation story that says that the first time god created the world it was perfect (this was made more famous by The Matrix: Revolutions, but I'm certain some dogma preceded this context -- if you know, tell me). The world didn't work. Humans couldn't function in a society that was perfect because it was too... boring... for our minds to comprehend. We needed evil to make things interesting. I think there is some truth in this, as I recognize that the things I love about the people around me are not the perfect aspects, but the little unique "flaws" and quirks. If everyone was a great athlete, great thinker, great artist, etc., I think that we would lose one of the things that makes humans incredible -- the motivation we have to strive for something better. Anyway, I'd love to hear thoughts on this.

-Matt  10:21 EST | |

Movieoke 

Why did this start in NY? Seems like it should've started in LA, a place that actually makes crappy movies everyone can quote by heart. Also, I'm jealous, because I'd be damn good at this.

-Matt  10:18 EST | |

Monday, April 05, 2004

McCain the Democrat? 

Ben these numbers from Kaus are for you.

On the other hand, he's, what do you call them... a Republican. His 2002 ratings, with Kerry's in parenthesis:

Americans for Democratic Action (liberal): 20 (85)
ACLU: 0 (60)
AFSCME (labor): 29 (88)
LCV (environmental): 41 (94)
Concord (pro-balanced budget): 95 (65)
National Taxpayer's Union (anti-tax): 75 (18)
Chamber of Commerce: 79 (55)
Christian Coalition: 79 (55)


I hear the party discipline argument, but even discounting that factor, I don't think it gets McCain back into reasonable Democratic territory. (btw: I really like McCain and admire his integrity, but a 0 from the ACLU! He's not one of us.)

-Daddy Brooklyn  20:15 EST | |

Who gets the money? 

Today Bob Hebert wrote about who was reaping the beneftis of productivity growth in the U.S. economy. Not surprisingly, it's not labor:

"This is the first time we've ever had a case where two years into a recovery, corporate profits got a larger share of the growth of national income than labor did. Normally labor gets about 65 percent and corporate profits about 15 to 18 percent. This time profits got 41 percent and labor [meaning all forms of employee compensation, including wages, benefits, salaries and the percentage of payroll taxes paid by employers] got 38 percent."

Normally productivity gains increase the marginal product of labor and real wages must go up. In this case the rising corporate profits benefit already wealthy people since they're the ones holding the stocks that shoot up or pay dividends. For those people who say that everyone benefits when stocks go up because over 50% of American households own stocks, my response to you is, "shut up." (If Bill O'Relily can do it, then so can I.) You need to look at the actual distribution of stock ownership and then you'll see that very rich people own the staggering majority of the equity wealth in this country. How will his rising income inequality be addressed? I imagine tax cuts for rich people will be proposed.

-Daddy Brooklyn  19:39 EST | |

And you thought I drank a lot of coffee... 

This story comes from the always entertaining Brad DeLong.

-Ziggy Stardust  19:32 EST | |

From Immigration to Mars 

On Bush's lack of follow-through after high profile proposals.

Could these dead-in-the water proposals have been motivated by pandering? Impossible--Bush says what he means and means what he says.

This is from Today's Papers:

Meanwhile, inside the Post notes says that Bush is going to announce a plan today to double the number of workers who complete federally funded job training—from 200,000 to 400,000—but won't propose increased funding. Instead, the administration said it will pay for the extra training through cuts in "federal red tape."

So we've got another ambitious federal proposal that has no chance of getting funding. You can be sure this is going nowhere, though Bush will take credit for proposing it.

-Daddy Brooklyn  13:06 EST | |

Colorado in play? 

An article from the Rocly Mountain News postulating that colorado might be in play for Kerry.

The gist: Recent local polls have Bush 49, Kerry 40 with 4.9MoE, Salazar will mobilize Democrats and Hispanics without similar counterweight on the right, state demography is shifting leftward, the Kerry campaign is considering throwing money at the state and putting paid organizers in place.

Trivia: Diana Degette and Mark Udall are in charge of Kerry's Colorado campaign

On an unrelated note, Kerry/McCain is starting to have a nice ring to it.

-Ben  12:17 EST | |

Denationalization 

Yes it's 12:59 AM and yes I have to work tomorrow. Much like you, I'm addicted to reading interesting things on the Internet. This article discusses the "'Thank God for America' public" along with those who "abandon their commitment to their nation and their fellow citizens and argue the moral superiority of identifying with humanity at large."

The most interesting sections are "The Patriotic Public" and "Unrepresentative Democracy."

-Daddy Brooklyn  00:58 EST | |

What happens next? 

The headline reads "7 U.S. Soldiers Die in Iraq as a Shiite Militia Rises Up." Ziggy and I were just talking about this and I don't think the headline sufficiently describes how scary the Shiite uprising is. I'll offer the caveat that I don't know much about the situation (I only hold degrees in math, my job has nothing to do with the Middle East, and it's also late and I haven't thought about this much), but I'm wondering what will happen if the U.S. military withdraws? A Shia/Sunni civil war seems likely? I imagine that the Kurds would declare independence and if that happened a Turkish invasion would almost certainly follow. Also, I don't think Iran would sit idly by while all of this unfolded. All of these outcomes would be very bloody.

Juan Cole has interesting thoughts on the matter.

-Daddy Brooklyn  00:06 EST | |

Sunday, April 04, 2004

A Little too Damn smug 

The editorials in The Economist are either so predictable that they could have been written by a machine or they're nauseatingly self-important like this one. Here they're lamenting the fact that they no longer have the anarchists as a worthy foe:

As the mouthpiece of global capitalism, The Economist might be expected to rejoice at the movement's discomfort. Not at all. Everybody needs an opponent to keep him on his toes. The sight of nose-studded mohican-haired louts who hadn't seen a bath in a month wreaking havoc in the City served to remind the foot-soldiers of capitalism of the chaos that their daily grind was helping to hold back...If street protest is too arduous for the membership, should it not think of outsourcing its more strenuous activities to the immigrants who already do most of Britain's tougher jobs? Taking that argument further, if domestic apathy is the problem, perhaps the answer is offshoring. A Mayday protest organised in, say, Libya or North Korea would really make a splash.

Of course they have to downplay the good outcomes of protestors' efforts:

Given that the anti-globalisation movement has lent ideas to capitalism—at the mushier end of corporate social responsibility, for instance, where fear and conscience meet to try to placate the mob—capitalism should surely return the favour in anti-globalisation's dark days.

-Daddy Brooklyn  15:35 EST | |

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Welcome...to the world of the future. 

For those of you who are reading this blog...  

As Big Brother becomes a reality in so many aspects of our lives, it is possible to track how many people look at our blog. So we're aware of the two of you [note: I've just checked and it's up to three - Ed.]. And we have a request: make comments. It would be interesting to hear what other people have to say about these topics.

Thanks,
The Management

-Ziggy Stardust  12:35 EST | |

Great article on outsourcing 

Anybody who reads the papers or took some economics classes can parrot the theoretical arguments for outsourcing. Brad DeLong and Stephen Cohen laudably go beyond the usual platitudes by recognizing the need for domestic structural adjustment monies and by addressing outsourcing's affect on income inequality and unemployment. A politician would (could?) never argue for outsourcing on the grounds that it helps eliminate poverty around the world--what surprises me is that the mainstream liberal economists don't mention this much either. The authors devote one short but compelling paragraph to this topic:

And, conversely, consider India. Put 10 million people in India to work at $26,000 a year providing white-collar services to the industrial core, and you have boosted India's standard of living by 50%. And you have displaced only 4% of the potential target industries, for there are 240 million service-sector workers in the First World today.

Personally, I don't care about the welfare of an American any more than an Indian. Thus, outsourcing's main appeal for me is that small decreases in American wealth could lift tens of millions of Indians out of wretched poverty. (One of the many things that infuriates me about Michael Moore is that he ignores trade gains that come out of thin air to help people in developing countries and are also beneficial (on net) to people in the U.S. Sure, he's okay with sending jobs overseas as soon as foreign workers have all of the protections that Americans enjoy, as if the equivalents of OSHA and the EPA are going to spring up around the world without some antecedent economic development. Selfish jingoistic protectionism disguised as liberal concern for the world's poor.)

This article also points out (but doesn't spend enough time on) two ovbious things that aren't often addressed: the wave of information technology fueled white collar outsourcing has neither really begun nor will the rhetoric about "Benedict Arnold C.E.O.s" necessarily make sense in the future. Compared to the number of jobs that will go overseas in the next few years, the number of jobs that should go overseas given the wage differentials between the U.S. and developing countries is staggering. Also, it used to be that American companies had to face the domestic consequences of sending jobs overseas. In the future, multi-national corporations will simultaneously produce and sell goods and services and employ people in countries all over the world. No longer will corporations even think of working to assuage the pain in the Flint Michigans of the United States. In addition to the WTO, they will have customers, national level regulatory bodies, and shareholders to satisfy all over the world.

-Daddy Brooklyn  10:46 EST | |

Friday, April 02, 2004

Look out, outer space 

Got this through Kos

The US is back in the star wars program. This satellite will have technology on it that will carry out experiments whose outcome will help future anti ballistic missile-missiles to distinguish between a rocket and it's exhaust (apparently the tail pipe looks just like the rest of the thing). To be sure, it is interesting technology that may well contribute to development of what might arguably someday be an indespensible part of our national defense aparratus (especially when the aliens come, those damn slimy aliens).

The problem? The satellite also contains a 'kill vehicle' that destroys targets by "...[taking] advantage of the kinetic energy of objects traveling through low-Earth orbit (which move at several times the speed of a bullet) to disable or destroy an oncoming missile or another orbiting satellite." Yeah, I don't really know what that means, either so don't feel bad, but I am searching for more info and I will update later. But I digress...the point of this post is that the inclusion of the kill vehicle may be a violation of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and some others the US has signed whose text expressly prohibits construction of space based weapons platforms. But hell, the Anti-ballistic Missile treaty was no big thing, so why not pull out of these, too.

Oh, I almost forgot... the article mentioned a DoD panel chaired by Donald Rumsfeld whose conclusions in Jan 2001 were that "the likelihood of an attack on U.S. space systems needed to be taken seriously to prevent another "space Pearl Harbor.""

Say that out loud a couple of times "Space Pearl Harbor" "Space Pearl Harbor" "Space Pearl Harbor." I'm sorry, that is just so funny to me. "Space Pearl Harbor" Yeah, definately priority number one.

Far more important then Al Quaeda.

-Ben  15:37 EST | |

Thursday, April 01, 2004

The Flip-Flops of President Bush? 

The Bush campaign is already doing a good job painting John Kerry as a waffler. What about Bush? This page provides useful ammo to any Kerry supporter whose candidate is accused of flip-flopping. A preview: Homeland Security, creationof the 9/11 commission, and gay marriage.

-Ben  17:16 EST | |

From the dregs of society department 

Could this be the next Britney Aguilera (Josh is rolling in his grave, I know, and he's not even dead)? I just witnessed this skanky little 13-year-old's newest video on MTV, complete with her "Boys Stink" baby-tee and her "classmates" dancing in the hallway behind her (no "schoolgirl" outfit, though -- don't want to be too close to Britney). She sings this poppy song about heartbreak and the guy who made her feel a way she "never imagined she could feel" and promptly broke her heart like the bastard eighth-grader he is (I'm sorry, but I don't believe a 13-year-old can yet be embittered by love or lack thereof). She is on Aaliyah's label, though, and the only reason I can surmise for this little girl being on an actual artist's label is that said artist is dead and can't make decisions anymore.

Just wanted to keep you people who are only informed through reading up-to-date with the plebian culture in case you run into a member of the unwashed masses and conversation is unavoidable.

-Matt  16:24 EST | |

Liberal talk radio fans unite 

So, Air America, this much lauded "progressive" radio network. On air talent is led by the man himself, Al Franken, who towers over others like Janeane Garofalo and Chuck D. I hope this thing takes off.

On another note, why do so many seem to interchange "progressive" and "liberal." To say this implies that there are no progressive conservatives (yes, those two words are contradictory), and I suspect there are.

-Ben  15:56 EST | |

Will Gay Marriage break social security? 

Many conservatives types have argued that gay marriage wil bankrupt social security because of the increasing demand for survivor benefits. (This is usually a throw-in argument after appeals to "natural law", "traditional families", and good old-fashioned bigotry are made.)

On his website Andrew Sullivan links to this New Republic article, where the author estimates the increased demand for survivor benefits if gay marriage is made legal.

I agree with the conclusion--that the impact would be small--but his "analysis" is overly complex and just plain bad. He makes some technical sounding assumptions that result in him effectively assuming that the U.S. doesn't change demographically over time. Fortunately, the people who plan social security do assume that population age distributions and lifespans change over time. To arrive at an upper bound on on the increased demand for survivor benefits, all you would have to do is take 3% (or whatever percentage of the population is gay, is 3% right?) of the predicted survivor benefit payments and presto, you have a good upper bound on the cost. Survivor benefits are about 10% of social security disbursements, so it's pretty clear that at most same sex marriage would add .3% to social security's total cost, but wait, it would be even cheaper.

The implicit assumptions I made here are that gay people would marry in the same proportions as straight people and that among married gay couples, their demand for survivor benefits would be the same as married straight couples. The first assumption is most likely wrong and the second is shown to be false at the end of the same TNR article mentioned above. Both of these assumptions are off in ways that lead to overestimates of the total impact on social security.

-Daddy Brooklyn  14:01 EST | |

Would the Bush Administration attack someone's credibility inaccurately? 

Wonkette's post on the David Letterman "bored kid thing" is funny. Is it something that the Bush Administration should care about?

Apparently...

-Ziggy Stardust  10:09 EST | |

Hey, that's what I was thinking (special NYT letter to the editor edtion): 

Yes, I shamelessly stole the headline style from Brad Delong.


To the Editor:

So Ralph Nader has detected a "liberal virus" in the many, nearly identical pleas that he not run for president (front page, March 31). There's a name for this virus: logic.

DOUG MUDER
Nashua, N.H., March 31, 2004

Well put, sir.

-Ziggy Stardust  09:48 EST | |

Excellent as Usual 

Josh Marshall on the 9/11 Commission. (Scroll down to where it says "I am a little surprised...")

-Daddy Brooklyn  08:43 EST | |

Neck Face the Goat Sucker 

I've been seeing these Neck Face tags all over the city for more than a year now. They're on the steps of the DeKalb Ave Station and everywhere on the LES. The New Yorker explains it all.

-Daddy Brooklyn  08:27 EST | |

Assault rifles and road blocks 

On my way to work I walk by The Stock Exchange every day (okay, I don't work every day). I always thought the men with assault rifles and body armor were NYPD or at least they were acting on a request of the NYPD. Apparently it's okay for "a private entity to hire its own vigilante group to block a street." I'm gonna block off my street as soon as I save some money.

-Daddy Brooklyn  08:19 EST | |

Where the consul at? 

The International Court of Justice ordered the review of the sentences of 51 Mexicans on death row. Those America-Haters at Human Rights Watch said the ruling applied to 120 foreigners.

Good thing that Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas, made it clear that "the International Court of Justice does not have jurisdiction in Texas."

Forget about the travesty of justice here. From a purely selfish perspective, I find this is a little scary. As someone who travels abroad at every opportunity, I would like the U.S. consulate to be informed before I'm sentenced to death or life in prison for chewing gum.

-Daddy Brooklyn  07:39 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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