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Rants

Sometimes you just gotta let loose

Does Anyone Else Have a Problem with this?

I've been listening intently to the debate on just how much of a fascist Bush gets to be because he claims we are at war. So he claims he can eavesdrop on anyone without oversight as long as he assures us that he will only target the bad people.

The problem I have with this today is mostly that people keep acting like the terrorists embody some sort of new, horrible threat to the United States.

1 - terrorists are not new. Indeed, the vast majority of military encounters throughout history have been between asymmetrical forces -- which is to say "conventional" army vs. "unconventional" forces. To say differently: whenever someone invades someone else, the invader has to deal with guerrilla warfare. Duh. To act as though "unconventional" warfare is new is to totally forget that "unconventional" warfare is far more prevalent in warfare than "conventional" warfare. Thus, let's stop pretending this is new. If the United States military is surprised at the kind of war it has to fight - then it is blatantly incompetent. No surprise there Rummy.

2 - terrorists are not the scariest enemy ever. Seriously, as a society, we just spent decades cowed by the red menace. Decades fearing that one side or the other would nuke the entire planet, leaving roaches with big (literally shit-eating) grins! Now we fear the occasional attack, that though heinous will certainly not come close to the scale of destruction which we feared for the previous 40 years! One would rationally think this is an improvement. Time to read 1984 again.

Iraq News

A common critique of news coming out of Iraq is that it is too negative. Administration officials often accuse the media of presenting a doom and gloom picture of Iraq while troops are presenting a more positive vision. MPR's midday covered the subject today and Knight-Ridder's former bureau chief in Baghdad said that basically troops new to the area tend to have high hopes but over time they get dashed. The longer a person is there, the more pessimistic they become generally.

The main problem I have with this critique of the news is that it is a critique at all. This is what the news is. Duh. What do local news report on but the worst things to happen over the previous 24 hours? Isn't this the point of modern news?

Propaganda in Iraq

The U.S. war in Iraq: can they do a worse job? Yes. Inconceivable though it may seem, I will be shocked if the U.S. does not continue to disappoint us. Wow. What a bunch of morons.

So these idiots have decided to pay Iraqi papers to run U.S.-friendly articles. And now everyone know about this program. Wondeful. These people appear to be fundamentally incapable of understanding any term longer than a few months or at best one year.

Let's just totally disregard the problems that this raises with regard to the sanctity of notions such as "freedom of the press" because the people making this decision are filled with contempt for such notions. So I'll avoid going off about the importance of a free press.

Let's just focus on this one fact. From now on, anytime an article is printed in Iraq which praises the United States, many people will not believe it because they will wonder who got paid to promote it. Those who already hated the U.S. have another reason and the perhaps 10 people who were on the fence have been pushed off. Brilliant.

Beware Photo Scammers

As a photographer, I have often scouted the internet for cheap deal on cameras and lenses. Photo enthusiast mags warn of places which advertise incredibly low prices but turn out to be scammers. In many situations, these NY based companies contact you after the order is confirmed in order to intimidate you into buying extra batteries or phony warranties or other items. One such place, PriceRitePhoto (which may also call itself C&A Marketing or theCameraMall.com) has recently made the news for its unethical practices. The link is to a blog post detailing the issues.

The interesting thing is that this retailer did not have a negative rating. Either a number of people did not mind their high pressure unsolicited calls or no one bothered to rate them negatvely. Also possible is that some of these stores have found ways to post multiple positive feedback in order to boost their average. If evaluating a store, be sure to look at the extremes. If a store has a middle or even high average score, it could be due to a bunch of high rates balancing out many low ratings. If a store has a number of people ranking it as low as possible, stay away.

A helpful comment to that post notes that if you are about to do business over the internet for a deal that seems to good to be true, try doing a google search on the company name + scam. It can give you an idea of whether others have had bad experiences with the seller.

O'Reilly on Fuel

Caught much of the O'Reilly Factor tonight on Fox. It was interesting - I tuned in as he was castigating the Gov of Louisiana and the Bush Administration for their handling of the Katrina relief effort.

He went on to criticize those who are aiding the United States - saying that other countries have not done enough to help us. This is a change from the standard conservative line that other countries never aid us when natural disasters occur on our soil.

He started off with the list of who has donated how much. Leading the list was Kuwait. He proceeded to suggest they are paying us back for saving their necks in '91. Then the Saudis - they aren't giving enough according to him (I believe they were donating a quarter of a billion dollars). He also suggested they are only helping to aid their public image in the United States.

Moving along, he gets to the Japanese who have donated $1 million. I cannot validate these figures mind you, I am just repeating what he said. He actually said that if he were Bush, he would tell them to keep it. It's too little according to him. I wonder how much he has given to aid the families. He is willing to just turn $1 million in aid away.

I can only imagine how red faced and spittle prone O'Reilly would be if commentators on Indonesian networks criticized U.S. aid to that region in the same manner as O'Reilly. When we give aid, it is due to our deep humanitarian committment. When anyone else gives aid, it must be due to ulterior motives.

Sheesh.

He goes on to verbally attack an oil industry flack who claims there is nothing wrong with the profits made by oil companies during this time. I believe it was ExxonMobil who made profits of $33 billion last quarter. Profits.

O'Reilly's answer to this situation was two fold. One - Americans need to conserve more. To this O'Reilly proposes no one purchases gas on Sundays. Fits nicely into the Sabbath, I'm sure, but I doubt oil companies will mind if their sales drop Sunday and spike Monday. He also talks about conserving. Not much, no specifics from what I could tell, but he at least used the word.

Two was that oil companies should forego 20% of their profits ... to what, I don't know. But they should do something with them.

The problem here is that O'Reilly really doesn't understand the way the market works. When something like oil is in such high demand - as it was even before Katrina, if not quite so much - then the price goes up. This is important, because if the price is kept artificially low, then we use it all up too quickly. Now if you want to do something to punish companies who make all this money, then it would probably be better to look into the subsidies in the energy bill from our tax dollars to these major companies than to try to get back at them at the pump.

O'Reilly also misses the point of conservation. He wants to conserve gas to drop the demand a bit so that the price will drop. As soon as the price drops - we will no longer have incentive to conserve. We need to tax gas so we can subsidize alternatives to gas and therefore drop demand by developing cleaner, more efficient energies. Kerry claimed to understand this, but I really don't know that his energy bill would have been a different paradigm. We'll likely never know.

Still, it was nice to see O'Reilly using his abrasive style against the oil industry folks rather than the usual targets.

Gov and Katrina

As we become more aware of the devastation and response from Katrina, many people are starting to become angry at the government. Afterall, the very existence of government is supposed to be in helping people in situations such as these. The government exists to protect its citizens. Ideally from both disasters natural and foreign armies. Its other functions - regulating radio stations and such are nice ... but this is supposed to be its main function.

Our government is not fulfilling its main function. I understand that it is impractical to quickly rescue 1000 people from the convention center where they have had no water and food. I also understand that they should have left before the storm him. Yet it doesn't seem totally unreasonable for the government to be able to airlift some supplies to them.

Molly Ivins has a decent column (I don't often say that) in which she says

This is not "just politics" or blaming for political advantage. This is about the real consequences of what governments do and do not do about their responsibilities. And about who winds up paying the price for those policies.

The problem is that, as economists are wont to remind us, we live with limited resources and need to pick projects. The simple fact is that there is not enough money to go around for all the projects that seem worthwhile. People want to pay less in taxes, not more. Communities across this country take chances in putting off public works projects and hope disaster doesn't strike.

Yet, we can blame the government (and ourselves) when essential projects are neglected, and when the government totally biffs the recovery. That article details the list of government failures with brilliant 20/20 hindsight. This also details the government's failures.

Bush administration officials said they're proud of their efforts. Their first efforts emphasized rooftop rescues over providing food and water for already safe victims.

Evidence of ID?

I think I may actually have evidence in support of Intelligent Design.

  1. Humans brazenly pollute the air
  2. Climate begins warming
  3. Oceans warm slightly
  4. Hurricanes become more intense due to warmer oceans
  5. Hurricanes wreak havoc on oil industry in country most responsible for pollution
  6. Oil prices skyrocket forcing down demand

I reckon this is just another example of "What goes around, comes around." This can come off as brutally unsympathetic to those who were caught up in the hurricane. It is not meant in that vein. I offer deep sympathies to those who are weathering this disaster. I do hope this is an isolated storm and not a taste of what is approaching.

To be fair - and I, like Jon Stewart, always strive to be fair - there is a debate over whether increasing sea temps spur hurricanes. The folks at realclimate.org offer an assessment.

Hillary Still Sucks

So Hillary is introducing legislation that will fine stores that sell violent games to minors. This is a continuation of the outrage coming from neopuritans and friends over the "Hot Lunch" modfication which allows users to view sexually explicit animated characters.

The Supreme Absurdity of this remains that in order for someone to access this portion of the game, they need to download a patch off the internet. Of course, if this person has access to the internet, they have access to terabytes of actual human pornography which is much more appealing than what you can find in San Andreas.

But let's not get crazy by suggesting we be logical here. This is not about what is likely to happen, this is about people who are too damn lazy to take an interest in what video games their children are playing. They find it much easier to let politicans decide what is appropriate for their children. While this may be an exaggeration, I don't think it is that far from the truth.

As for the argument that violent video games promote violence - I have yet to see any actualy evidence of that assertion. People played Mario Brothers for years without breaking open random boxes looking for coins. While the Army famously uses some video games in some training scenarios, professional athletes do not consider playing video games to be an off-season work out. Playing FIFA has done nothing to improve my soccer game.

Hillary Clinton Loses GTA Vote

Okay, it looks like Hillary is trying become the Tipper Gore of the video game industry. Tipper Gore, of course, was one of the champions of labeling music CDs so that children would not be exposed to violent lyrics and we would therefore be spirited into a wonderful world where parents can continue to neglect their children who will no longer have any negative social tendencies.

It looks like Hillary Clinton and others have decided that the only reason we failed to reach this utopia is because devious companies began producing video games with objectionable content. Admittedly, Rock Star Games pushes the envelope with games that undoubtedly offend many. Their games are simulations of the real crime world and aside from being wonderfully creative, are gritty and realistic.

A recent mod allows players to gain access to graphic scenes of animated sex acts. As a result, Best Buy and Target are pulling the San Andreas game from the shelves. This is really annoying and a further sign that forces of political correctness again have aligned with neopuritanical folks to tell everyone else what their morals should be. These places sell DVDs which are rated R and therefore only able to be sold to those over 17. Yet they will not sell comparable video games. Screw them.

As for Clinton, suggesting that the U.S. Gov should waste money probing this San Andreas situation - well, this is a perfect example of why we have such a large government. Rather than taking an active roll in their kids lives, some people want the government to do the parenting for them - "protecting" all kids from content that an annoying minority find objectionable (not that any of them have played the game or experienced it first hand).

Looking on the brighter side, this blog skewers Katherine Kersten who is one of those very loud, annoying, neo puritans who has found her way onto the Strib's editorial page on a regular basis.

The Embattled Right...

I am sometimes confused about the mail I receive. I've given money to a number of odd causes - some of which might land me in trouble giving the wording of the PATRIOT Act - and have ended up a number of mailing lists I suppose.

I now find myself being cajoled by the NRA (yeah, the National Rifle Association). This is odd, not because I am an opponent of the 2nd Amendment (I am not, I think it is a lovely amendment in fact - and possibly the main reason we haven't been invaded by those militaristic Canucks of the North) but because I find them a reprehensible, heinous, and generally dishonest organization prone to grander, more irrational fits of passion over political issues than Green Party members. Sorry - that was cruel ... but a little bit funny.

At any rate, we were told that Bush had a mandate (I'll conveniently ignore the fact it was Bush and crew that told us about that mandate) after he won the last election. Republicans have the Executive Branch ... the Legislative Branch ... and will soon have appointed a rather conservative Judicial Branch. The NRA spent some $20 million in 2004 to make sure "the most anti-gun candidate ever" (Kerry) lost.

So what do I find in my mailbox? I will reproduce this verbatim.

Today I'm sending out this "Final Notice" to gun owners and freedom-loving Americans across the country to let you know that time is running out -- unless you act now, your Second Amendment rights are certain to be dismantled and destroyed by anti-gun politicians.

Whoever is coordinating their election donations needs to be fired. From what I can tell, their candidates seem to be winning of late while the NRA becomes more desperate.

Who exactly is dismantling these rights? Well it turns out that "they" have an ambitious strategy.

They are trying to end the sale of guns and ammo forever ... By filing an avalanche of bogus lawsuits against the American firearms industry blaming gun makers for the actions of violent criminal thugs.

I cringe when I think of who this is targeted toward. People around the country (more in certain areas that others) opening this and freaking out because "they" are going to end the sale of ammo FOREVER! Shit! Gotta stock up at Wal-Mart this weekend before the liberals have an ammo-burning party.

This sort of fear mongering is just bloody pathetic. And effective. I wonder how many people decided to send in their money after reading about the treaty which would "place every firearm you own under the thumb of anti-gun U.N. operatives." I'm not making this up. The thumbs of U.N. operatives? Aren't they too busy flying their black helicopters??

Many of these people are probably the same ones who think there is not enough evidence for global warming. Ahh the amazing power of faith.

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