Thursday, August 28, 2008

Scary thought - Putin and I think along the same lines.

At the risk of becoming the "Russia guy" (we have/had contributors who are more experienced on the subject):

Vladimir Putin made explicit what I have implied many times before (albeit I implied that the Russians were motivated, as they seemingly escalated this conflict).

I think it is obvious, though CNN did a good job of not assigning one candidate or another to Putin's remarks, that the candidate this helps is John McCain. It is clearly a bold statement for someone of his position to make, and smacks of conspiracy theorism.

On the smart/stupid scale (1 = smart, 10=stupid), where does this rank amongst diplomatic statements? I say six, if only because its interesting and even though one is 95% certain its not true, you still have a ridiculously high percentage (5%) that thinks, 'Well, maybe...'

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Means Testing

Tammy Duckworth just made some comments at the DNC against how great it is that Obama rejects means testing in veterans benefits, as opposed to John McCain. She emotionally pointed out that no one asked us how much soldiers made before they bled for the country, and no one should ask them that afterwards.

I'm trying to parse that emotionally loaded plea, but it seems devoid of actual content. I can't actually figure out why the left is against means testing. If you have a billion dollars in benefits, why wouldn't you want to get those funds to those who need them? Why would you want poor veterans to suffer so that you can provide benefits to rich veterans?

I'm surprised the health care proposals aren't means tested either. Why am I being asked to help pay for health care for someone who makes more than I do?

The left mystifies me on other rationing and economic issues as well (well, in some sense, all economics is rationing). If the overwhelming consensus of economic research suggests that the minimum wage hurts the working poor (it does), you'd expect a pro-working-poor left to oppose the minimum wage (they don't).

Is the left trying to cut off the poor to spite the right?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Manifest Destiny for Caucasians

A recent election map from has Obama and McCain in a relatively tight race with multiple states displaying 'swing' status. There are multiple opportunities for the map to change in the coming 2.5 months, from Vice Presidential selections, to blunders, but I want to focus on one issue that seems to be deteriorating - the power struggle with Russia.

MSN is reporting that Russia is canceling all military cooperation with NATO, and Yahoo! News reported that the White House is 'demanding' that Russian forces leave Georgia 'now'. I only point this out to stress the point that while this current issue may be solved diplomatically in the coming months, it may not, and regardless of the outcome with Georgia, Russia is emphatically declaring that it intends to be a thorn in the foreign policy side of the next U.S. President.

Two points:
1. Russian motives?
2. Thoughts of U.S. citizens?

1. One can only speculate as to what the motives of Russia could be. I have probably watched too many Tom Clancy movies, but I can't shake the feeling that this brusque type of diplomacy is meant to destabilize the race for the U.S. presidency. It may be nothing more than an attempt at Russian manifest destiny, but if it is, I feel it could have been done more gracefully.

2. How will this affect the average U.S. citizen. I think the average citizen will probably place foreign policy higher up the list of issues in terms of importance. From media reporting on the two candidates, they can (fairly or not) be pared down to McCain = no nonsense, tough talking, Obama = all options, diplomatic. The question is, does Russia have a stake in one candidate winning over the other? Do they believe by starting (and possibly stringing out) the conflict with Georgia so close to an election cycle, that they might hold an advantage in geopolitical negotiations throughout the Caucasus?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

-5 CHA from the Bloc GM!

Well, I have played McCain apologist for awhile here and will continue to do so (because no one else will), but now he has gone after my people.

The one thing that always frustrated me more than anything about John McCain was his inability to keep his stories straight. He claimed in his book to recite members of the Green Bay Packers' linemen names to confuse Viet Cong prison guards, only to switch it to the Pittsburgh Steelers' linemen when in Pennsylvania. Also, while "(speaking) to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, John McCain said the 21st Century GI Bill was 'the result' of his efforts, although he had opposed it and didn’t vote on it." (Kansas City Star, 8/20/2008).

He is probably not attempting to be dishonest, but anytime someone questions his perception or memory regarding previous quotes/issues, he throws the POW card on the table. Memo to John: I know you were a POW. I respect you were a POW. Find another defense mechanism/comeback. You can still use it. But for goodness sakes, mix it up a little!

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Empire Strikes Back

Are we seeing a return of the Iron Curtain? While Russia may have had every right to respond (even with force) to Georgia's attempt to bring South Ossetia back into its national borders, it brought nearly unanimous scorn upon itself with the amount of force it decided to deploy. Thousands of innocent civilians in Georgia have been killed with rampaging Ossetians (technically Russian citizens if using the "Russia was defending its citizens" argument) even reportedly pouring gasoline on cattle and other livestock and setting them on fire (NPR - 8/14/2008).

Even if a military response was warranted/justified, the Russian military has a duty to protect the non-combatants (within reason), but the opposite appears to be true. Add to this the report from the AP that Poland stands to be at risk due to their support of an American backed missile defense system, and the Russians appear to be speaking very loudly and carrying a very big stick.

The question is why? What happens to make this the ideal time for this brand of diplomacy? The conflict with Georgia was started by Georgia, but do the comments by General Nogovitsyn do anything but create a further air of distrust between the two superpowers? A spokesman for the Pentagon has already stated "earlier U.S. offers for broad cooperation with Moscow on the missile defense program may be reevaluated considering the latest developments". That wouldn't appear to work in Russia's favor, unless the Medvedev/Putin pairing believes that it is time to remove the concepts of glasnost and perestroika from the Russian diplomatic vocabulary.

On Thursday, August 14th, Toomas Hendrik Ilves (president of Estonia) noted on NPR that the paradigm of Russia staying at bay and not attacking its neighbors had been in place since 1991, and is now shattered. It may be time to reconsider this thought geopolitically.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Obama on Language

Barack Obama recently misused "nonplussed", prompting buzz about his supposed elitism.

But like the loss of a Muslim outreach director, it's hard to fit this into the bigger picture. What does it mean when he uses college words, but in the wrong sense? Is that elitist, or plebian?

Me, I'm just smart enough to use words like "nonplussed" incorrectly, so I'm starting to really identify with Barack. I just feel like he's the only candidate I could kick back and enjoy a fancy import with at some obscure microbrewery.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Energy Independence Myth

Speaking about the folly of ethanol recently, someone responded, "Well, we need to get off foreign oil."


Robert Bryce put together a list of myths about energy independence a few months back, it's worth mentioning again as we head towards the election.

My favorite: "[T]he two largest suppliers of crude to the U.S. market are Canada and Mexico -- neither exactly known as a belligerent terrorist haven."

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Quotable Doctorow: Cory Doctorow Interviewed by Chicago Tribune

I'm convinced Cory Doctorow (pictured in a ridiculous costume at right) is filled with good advice on every subject. I've included some of his quotes from a recent interview by Steve Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

On e-books:

[P]eople don’t read long works on screens if they have the choice, not because screens aren’t good enough but because computers are too distracting. ...I don’t buy that screens are hard, because otherwise people wouldn’t play World of Warcraft for 20 hours at a stretch or read their Email for 20 hours.

On violence and video games:
[The Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho's] roommate [said], "We always thought he was weird because he never wanted to play video games." Yet it’s still a truism that violent video games must be responsible for Virginia Tech.

On free software advocacy:
They say a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged. You know, a free software advocate is a Mac user who's found his data locked in.

On design:
Beautiful things are more functional. ...I’ve become a Normanist.

On successful blogging:
We [at BoingBoing] write headlines that are intended to be parsed well by search engines and by people with RSS readers. So we eschew cleverness. I don’t know if you saw the San Francisco Chronicle the day after the Sept. 11 attacks? It was the plane crashing into the building and, you know, 200-point type, “Bastards,” with an exclamation point. It’s a beautiful cover for print. On the Web, you search for ‘Sept. 11 attacks,” you get 50 search results. The first 49 say, things like “an in-depth analysis of the Sept. 11 attack,” and the 50th one says “Bastards!” You’re not going to click on the 50th one.

On aesthetics:
If you’re not making art that’s meant to be copied, you’re not making art for the 21st Century.

UPDATE: Trimmed it down a bit to make it more readable. Check out the interview for the rest of the great quotes.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

John McCain and Celebrity

McCain compared Obama to Paris Hilton in a recent ad attacking Obama's celebrity status. Paris's unimaginably rich parents, donors to the McCain campaign, weren't fans. Paris herself recently fired back in her own attack ad against McCain, calling him "The oldest celebrity in the world, old enough to remember when dancing was a sin."

rc3 linked to John McCain's IMDB page today. It might be an interesting talking point for anyone worried about the role of celebrity in a campaign.

Below is a clip featuring some of John McCain's best work, right next to Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in The Wedding Crashers.

By one measure, McCain's celebrity status is much greater than Barack Obama's. John McCain has a Kevin Bacon number of 2, Barack Obama's Kevin Bacon number is undefined.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Phil Kline Should Resign in Shame (a guest post by Omar)

Phil Kline should resign.

Imagine living in a state where the punishment for murder was 20 years in prison; the punishment for raping someone before murdering them was 25 years in prison; and the punishment for kidnapping, raping, and murdering someone was 30 years in prison.

Now imagine a man named X has kidnapped, raped and murdered a woman. The District Attorney builds his case against X. The case against X is overwhelming: including surveillance tapes, fingerprints, DNA, etc. X’s defense attorneys fear that their client will get 30 years in prison. So, in an effort to help their client they suggest to the district attorney that their client would confess if sentenced to only 20 years in prison. The district attorney decides that this would save everyone the trouble of a long trial and agrees.

Has justice been served? Has the law the district attorney sworn to uphold been defended?

Can’t the parents (or anyone else in the community) complain thus: Why is this murderer / rapist / kidnapper only receiving the punishment reserved for murderers? Isn’t X getting away with rape and kidnapping? And isn’t he getting away with it by simply using his confession as a bargaining chip?

Indeed, if punishment is essentially a “price” system, (do the crime, do the time), then criminal X may have reasoned (long before he met his attorneys) that he would go out and commit murder, rape and kidnapping, and then if caught use his confession to try to only pay the price for murder. No doubt X hoped to get away with 3 crimes; but after copping a plea for a reduced confession he will take comfort in the fact that he got away with 2.

In the state of Kansas we reserve capital punishment only for the most heinous of crimes. Our laws do not allow us to put “mere” murderers to death--but our laws do maintain that capital punishment is the appropriate punishment for murderers who rape or kidnap their victims first. Edward Hall did all 3 to Kelsey Smith. And our district attorney let Edward Hall cop a plea to avoid capital punishment. Allowing criminals to cop a plea may be a common practice. But these crimes were too heinous for Edward Hall to be allowed to plea bargain his way out of being punished for all of his crimes. Our district attorney let Edward Hall get away with rape and kidnapping.

Phil Kline should resign in shame.

UPDATE: Phil Kline was defeated in the Republican Primary on Tuesday. It appears his days as DA in Johnson County are numbered.

Selectable Output Control: How the MPAA Wants to Break Your Entertainment System

BoingBoing posted a short video explaining the MPAA's proposal for Selectable Output Control.

It must take a ton of effort to be so consistently anti-consumer, the MPAA is a really amazing organization.