Monday, November 28, 2005

Distraction: Modern Art is Crap

Via a friend of mine who wishes to remain anonymous, I bring you Modern Art is Crap, a website dedicated to showing why modern art sucks.

Blue elegyJimmy the retarded 3rd Grader's Art Project
From his "Blue Period"

In general, I don't like to dismiss entire genre's of art, music, literature, or anything. It's hard for me to do, as I tend to be very strident in my opinions. But every time I come up with an absolute, someone shows me a good counter example. For example, I used to really dislike all religious art, and for the most part, I still do. But then I realized that for centuries, generations of gifted artists had no choice but to use religion as their subject matter, and so now I'm willing to give religious art a second look.

But I go down to the National Mall about once or twice a month and usually visit one of the big museums when I'm in NYC as well, and I have yet to see a piece of modern art that speaks to me, or looks aesthetically pleasing, or has some sort of important artistic value. It is usually crap. What happened to learning how to paint a bowl a fruit perfectly before painting a person and then a landscape and then experimental art? Shouldn't an artist have to master the rules of classical art before they break them and create something new and different?

No doubt, there has to be some good modern art out there, and if you know of any, or can explain it to me in such a way to make me see it differently, please tell me.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Books: Free God's Debris

Scott Adams is giving away copies of his book, God's Debris, in pdf format.

I bought and read the book shortly after it was published in 2001. After reading it a couple of times, I gave it away to a friend. I then bought another copy, and gave it away as a gift. Last year I bought and read the pseudo sequel, The Religion War. I didn't think it was as good, but still enjoyed it, and ended up giving it away as a gift too. I will most likely buy another copy when I have the urge to read it again, and then give it away when I think one of my friends would enjoy it.

Both books are very similar to having a very interesting conversation with your favorite philosophy professor. I love the Greek classics, and this was very similar - though obviously in modern vernacular (for you fellow Hellenophiles out there, think Plato's Gorgias or Xenophon's Apology).

It's not as intellectually thorough as I would have liked, but my guess is that if Adams had been more rigorous, then it would cease to be entertaining to 99% of the people who read it.

Anywho, it's relatively short and a good read. I highly suggest it, and if you like it, you should buy a copy too.

cat on toilet
God's Debris in the Making

I'll be taking off for NY to celebrate Turkey Day. So blogging will be sparse until next week. Drive safe everyone.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Generosity in America

Dr. Samwick at Voxbaby draws our attention to the Catalogue for Philanthropy, which has released its annual Generosity Index...

You can view their list here, or you can have it in Excel format here.

Mississippi is #1 in their measure of generosity, followed by Arkansas, South Dakota, and various other relatively poorer states. The least generous state is New Hampshire, with other relatively richer states clustered at the bottom of the list.

The implication that is playing out in the media is clear, that poor people give more of their income then rich people.

New Englanders remain among the most tightfisted in the country when it comes to charitable giving while Bible Belt residents are among the most generous, according to an annual index.

This makes a certain amount of sense from a cultural point of view - poor people empathize with other poor people more and tend to be more religious, so it would make sense that they would be more charitable.

The problem is that, like most statistical indexes, this one is a misleading artifice, a total crock.

The Index is created from IRS data, by listing Average Adjusted Gross Income in one column, Average Itemized Charitable Deductions in a second column, creating a rank order for each, and then subtracting the rank order of the Income column from the rank order in the Charitable Deductions column. (It doesn't make sense to me either, and that's my point. Stay with me here).

It doesn't measure absolute charitable donations. Nor does it measure Income divided by Charitable Deductions. It measures the disparity between two rank orders, and then ranks that disparity, as this chart makes clear.

The problem with relative measures in general, and with relative measures based on rank order in particular, is that they skew the results. Even if New Hampshire were to increase its absolute charitable giving by 50%, it'd still end up in the middle of the rankings because of its proportional wealth and proportional giving compared to other states. Other problems, courtesy of the Boston Foundation (which is pissed that Massachusetts is ranked #49):

  • Average adjusted gross income is calculated for one group of people (all who filed income tax forms), while the average charitable deduction is calculated for a separate group —those who itemize their returns. Because the two groups are not the same, no meaningful ratio of generosity can be calculated using this data.

  • The use of itemized returns adds doubt to any conclusions because while only 20 percent of residents in some states itemize their returns, the proportion in other states rises as high as 40 percent. In specific, 21 percent of residents of Mississippi filed itemized returns while 37 percent of Massachusetts residents did the same. This reflects a much higher cost of living in Massachusetts. In particular, the cost of housing in the Bay State is significantly higher than in Mississippi which would encourage more residents to itemize their returns. This underscores important differences in standards of living that have an influence on giving.

  • Also, tax returns do not capture the total income of all the residents of a state, and itemized tax returns do not capture the total charitable contribution they make. Those who are not required to file an income tax return, for example, are lost to the calculation of the Index.

The moral of this story is, don't believe any number you ever read unless you understand how it is tabulated.

Now why would they do this, when even a cursory examination of their methods show how shoddy their reasoning is? They do this because it is an easy way to create the product that they want (a fifty state listing) that generates publicity and spurs the wealthiest potential givers to give more. As an additional insult, they don't even include the District of Columbia and its 550,000 tax paying, charitably giving citizens. Screw you, Catalogue for Philanthropy!

Incidentally, Dr. Samwick was briefly the Chief Economist for the Bush administration. While I usually disagree with his opinions, he's a very honest and intellectually thorough conservative, and Voxbaby is a weekly part of my blogging.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Demotivational Friday: Retirement

Darth Vader Retirement Demotivational Poster
Friday. Huzzah.

I thought the text was a little too small, so I reformatted it. It looks oddly shaped, but its easier to read...

I have a bad case of the flu or something, and I had this one done last week anyway, so this is it as far as me and blogging until next week. Have a good weekend. Send chicken soup and ginger ale to my apartment.


Thursday, November 17, 2005

Funny Picture

Remove the cigar, and it kinda looks like me.

Distraction: Star Wars Cake

Someone combined a Star Wars montage with "The Distance," a good but horribly overplayed song by one of my favorite bands, Cake. Enjoy the link.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Article: Video Games = Crack

The magazine New Scientist has posted an article entitled Gaming Fanatics Show Hallmarks of Drug Addiction:

Excessive computer gaming has the hallmarks of addiction, suggests new experiments on "drug memory". The researchers argue it should be classified as such, enabling “addicts” to start seeking help.


Learning is recognised as an important underlying mechanism of addiction. In becoming addicted, people start to associate cues that are normally neutral with the object of their craving. To a crack addict, for instance, a building in which they have used the drug is more than just a place they have been – it becomes a trigger for craving and can, on its own, reignite a need to use the drug again after months of abstinence.


They compared 15 men in their 20s who admitted that gaming had chased other activities – such as work and socialising – out of their lives, and 15 game-playing but otherwise healthy controls.

They showed them a variety of visual cues and asked the volunteers to rate how they felt about the images. All had normal reactions to neutral images, such as chairs, and even to alcohol-related images, despite the fact that all the participants drank alcohol.

But excessive computer game players showed classic signs of craving when they were presented with freeze-frames from some of their favourite games – they desperately wanted to play, expected to feel better once they did, and fully intended to indulge again as soon as possible.

In another test, the researchers monitored the response of a large muscle in the eye, to see how much the volunteers could be startled while looking at a game-related image. Scientists theorise that the most pleasing stimuli prompts the smallest of startle reflexes. They found that excessive game players could not be easily startled, unlike the controls.

This article is asinine for a variety of reasons...

First of all, their sample size was 15, with a control of an additional 15 people. 15 people for a clinical trial is meaningless. Its the number of people you give a new drug before you start a real clinical trial just to make sure that the drug doesn't make their head explode - after you test it on rats to see if it makes their heads explode.

Second, its printed in, which might as well be called McScience, and have a clown with a test tube experimenting on anthropomorphic McNuggets as a mascot. It packages things that sound interesting for non-serious readers with a scientific interest in a Value Meal of grease and fat, with little substance. If the results had merit, then NewScientist would be reporting on how a serious peer reviewed scientific journal had published results showing how video games are like drugs.

This is nothing but the repetition of the stereotype that video games are bad because they cause violence, make you fat, cause diabetes, etc. All of these are based on the correlation = causation fallacy. Just because two things occur together, doesn't mean one causes the other.

In reality, video games are essentially the same as watching television, going to the movies, knitting, or any other popular and sedentary activity. You know what would stop your kids from being obese drug addict-like murderers? Get up off your ass and parent them for a change. Exercise together, sign them up for activities then make them go, make them get a part time blue collar job, and don't buy them hundreds of dollars worth of toys and games that encourage them to lock themselves in their room with the lights out and the door locked.

Finally, at least the researchers seem to understand basic psychology:

Grüsser says that addictions stem from relying too heavily on one coping strategy, which eventually becomes the only activity that can activate the dopamine system and bring a person relief. “It’s the same mechanism in all addicts,” she says.

"Coping strategy" is just the politically correct way of saying defense mechanism. Defense mechanisms are a set of unconscious ways to protect one's personality from unpleasant thoughts and realities which may otherwise cause anxiety. My favorites are altruism, intellectualization, and humor. But the most common are avoidance, denial, and sublimation. When something sucks in our lives and we can't change it, it causes stress, and to avoid dealing with it we do other stuff that makes us feel good - whether its eating, video games, sex, sports, music, art, or anything else you do to deal with stress.

The larger point is, defense mechanisms don't solve the unpleasant realities of our lives. They just get us through the day. Playing video games is no worse then any other defense mechanism, and they are certainly better then many others, like drugs.

A better title for this article would be, "Don't Do Too Much of Anything." Using any defense mechanism too often is likely to lead to unhealthy outcomes, regardless of the content of the mechanism. Eat too much and you get fat. Diet too much and you develop anorexia. Read too much and you lose out on developing social skills. Have sex too much and you risk a bevy of issues. (And you should email me). Hesiod was right, "Observe due measure, moderation is best in all things."

Equating video games with drug use or the host of other social ills facing our country is missing the point. Instead of looking for someone to blame, why don't we look for what causes the anxiety that people are avoiding?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

On Futility

Jay over at Wizbang wrote an interesting post:

Last weekend, I mocked a bunch of liberals in Massachusetts who were trying to get a ballot question on whether the governor should bring Bay State National Guardsmen home from Iraq. I pointed out the futility of this action -- once troops are nationalized, governors have no power over them whatsoever. But that got me thinking about something.

Liberals tend to do a lot of things that I consider silly and futile. They call for Bush to be impeached or resign. They apologize to the world for our exercising our democratic rights. They find utterly futile ways of protesting that do nothing but royally piss off those they are trying to "persuade."

Jay is quite happy about this because he is conservative.

I, sadly, have to agree - even though I wish it wasn't so. Having worked for progressive causes for over ten years now, I have come up with this rough categorization scheme of different types of liberal activists...

  • Dilettantes: Sympathy for liberal causes runs deep for most Americans - equality, privacy, opportunity, higher wages, decent health care - but most rarely act on them. For many, the internet is beginning to change this. But for most, it hasn't. They may donate money, volunteer occasionally, or post on Daily Kos. They will almost always vote, and can have a significant impact on local primaries. Often they will start uncomfortable conversations over Thanksgiving dinner. But these "activists" have never really accomplished anything substantial, and are prone to view futile activities (blogging, online petitions, showing up to couple of protests) as activism.

  • Shooting Stars: 99% of liberal college students fall into this category. They read Eichmann in Jerusalem, Silent Spring, or The Yellow Wallpaper, and suddenly discover how unjust the world is (or how cute the hippie who sits next to them in Women's Studies 201 is). They join campus organizations, volunteer on local campaigns, and generally spend more time on activism then any other type of liberal activist, albeit for a very limited period of their lives. Most of these are futile activities, unconnected to an attainable goal. However, once college (or grad/law school) ends, most have to deal with the realities of student loans and getting a real job. Some will genuinely be changed by the power of ideas and the ability to create positive social change, and will nobly dedicate their lives to liberal causes. Most will become Dilettantes or Ossified.

  • Ossified: These are people who were once liberal activists, usually Shooting Stars, but now have day jobs and families that conflict with being an activist. They settle down, work for a private company, and worry more about their 401K plan then the next election. Due to the busyness of work and family life, they rarely take part in any activism anymore, and when they do, they are often futile activities (which often require little effort). Due to tight budgets (kids, mortgage, etc.) they rarely contribute to any causes. Usually they still vote for liberal candidates and keep up with news. Sometimes they worry about their property taxes or grow old and uncomfortable with cultural liberalism (especially as it relates to sex/sexuality/sexual orientation) and they turn into moderates or conservatives. Occasionally, they can be roused by a particular social movement or liberal candidate, but this rarely happens once their youthful idealism fades. Most Baby Boomers who took part in the 60's are now Ossified.

  • Organized: The heart of liberalism in America - normal working Americans who are organized by or otherwise regularly active in a larger group committed to social change. The largest of these are unions, local Democratic parties, and faith based organizations, with a few notable non-profits and political organizations. Most have normal lives and families. But they also take an active part in creating social change through organized activities. Insiders often overlook (or fail to include in their ill fated political machinations) the importance of the social aspect of being organized - its fun to hang out with your friends and do stuff. It's a great way to meet new people, have a beer, feel good about yourself, and put your beliefs into practice. But when this becomes the main focus of the activism, Organized activists fall prey to the futility problem. Going to a event once a month to talk about how much you hate Bush with ten other people who hate Bush doesn't accomplish anything.

  • Apparatchik: These are former Shooting Stars or Organized activists who now run the organizations built on liberal accomplishments. Most government employees, social workers, public interest lawyers, and many people who work for non-profits and faith based organizations are apparatchik. They are highly educated, and are usually experts in their field (poverty, civil rights, abortion, etc.) Their defining characteristic is that they rarely have an impact on changing society - rather, they tend to be very active in perpetuating the status quo, usually because they control the government agencies and organizations that have domain over their policy niche. This is often a very good thing, as many previous liberal accomplishments have had a huge positive impact on American society and require a large cadre of professionals to administer - Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Unemployment Insurance, FDIC, SEC, NLRB, plus Planned Parenthood, NAACP, ACLU, and dozens of other organizations provide crucial regulation and services. But they rarely have a positive agenda for social change other then "give us more money." Sometimes they are barriers to liberal change, as their jobs are often directly tied to maintaining laws and programs in their current arrangement. While they rarely take part in futile activism, their jobs tend to be very Sisyphean.

  • Insiders: Elected and appointed officials or others who hold positions of power, and the people who work for them or attempt to directly influence them. Generally, you have to either be born into this group (Bush, Gore, Taft, Kennedy) or dedicate your career to politics in order to get into it. As individuals, Insiders have the most power. But they are also the most subject to the fundamental reality of democratic politics - facing voters in the next election - so many otherwise liberal activists moderate their positions in order to hold onto power. Even activists who are not elected usually have to put their liberal beliefs aside because they work for a more powerful Insider who is. A few Insiders lead powerful membership organizations (NARAL, AFL-CIO, Sierra Club) or have lots of money, which allows them to remain unabashedly liberal. As a group, Insiders are the most responsible for positive incremental changes, but only when Democrats are in power. When they are out of power, they mostly defend previous liberal accomplishments. They are almost never responsible for liberal social movements, but will follow or cater to them once they are big enough. Insiders are extremely knowledgeable about almost every aspect of politics, but are often insulated from the rank and filed Organized activists and normal voters outside of whatever constituency elected them.

Its important to note that these categories are not mutually exclusive, nor are they static. You can belong to more then one group simultaneously, and liberal activists will often cycle through some or even all of these groups over the course of their lives.

These categories are built on my personal observations, so maybe I'm completely wrong or blinded by my limited experiences. If so, tell me how, but back it up with a reason why.

I would also be very interested to read how a conservative categorizes conservative activists - and wonder if they would be similarly brutally honest about it.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Government: GOP Pulls Budget Reconciliation Bill

You might have read about this in the news:

In a strong sign of splintered loyalty, House Republican leaders postponed the vote on a contentious budget bill late Thursday in the face of universal Democratic opposition and wavering support from GOP lawmakers.

House Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) conceded that GOP leaders did not have the votes necessary to pass the sweeping reconciliation bill, which seeks to cut around $50 billion in federal spending while reorganizing some federal programs, such as Medicaid, and making funding changes to others like student loans, food stamps and pension insurance.

The purpose of the budget reconciliation process is to pass the annual budget for each government agency. It's an arcane and optional process, but its been used a lot in recent decades for two important reasons. It must be "deficit neutral" - i.e. you cannot increase spending without offsetting it with cuts or tax increases. And it cannot be filibustered in the Senate. So it is often used to make unpopular cuts or pass controversial measures that would otherwise be killed. It's very unusual that the majority would have to postpone a vote on the process like this.

This news is interesting to me for several reasons...

First, it shows that the Republicans really don't have their act together. Budget reconciliation is the basketball equivalent of a foul shot - there's really nothing the other team can do to stop you, and if you don't score some points its due to your own ineptness.

It also shows the importance of public opinion, and modern public opinion polls. Bush currently has a 36% approval rating. As I've written before, unless an opinion is directly linked to an imminent social action (such as voting in the near future, or purchasing an item) that opinion is essentially meaningless quantitatively. There are no elections until November of 2006. No one is in danger of loosing their seat, right now. And in politics, a whole lot can change in a few hours, and everything could be different in one year. Bush's approval today could be 1% or 100% and it doesn't really matter, because it doesn't accurately predict anything that will actually happen in the world.

But because people believe that its important, they react accordingly, thus creating a self fulfilling prophecy. Moderates believe Bush is unpopular (he is, right now). They fear that unpopularity will cause them to loose their election. So they distance themselves from their party, and run as "an independent, moderate Senator who puts the needs of his constituents before his loyalty to the party blah blah blah." But in doing so, they damage the reputation and strength of their own party, thus discouraging their base, and tarnishing the Republican brand as a selling point. Would you buy Diet Coke if it ran ads distancing itself from regular Coke, and promising to be more like Pepsi? While this often makes sense for individual politicians from a tactical sense, it makes it impossible for the party to run a nation wide campaign based on common issues, goals, and message. Democrats have been very guilty of this for about thirty years. Maybe longer.

And finally, this is interesting to me because many anti-poverty programs that I work on are caught up in this process. Republican leaders want to drastically cut them to make room to extend tax cuts for the wealthy. If it fails or if Republican leaders have to cut a deal with moderates to get the sausage through the grinder, then my life and the lives of working Americans everywhere will be much better for it.

So thank you, Republican self delusion! Whatever you do, don't take any statistics courses. And ignore the man behind the curtain.


Friday, November 11, 2005

Demotivational Friday: Dreams

If you don't know what this is about, scroll down and read my post on it. Thanks to Qui Gonn Jesse for other good suggestions:

Lesbian Cheerleaders:

The truth is like finding out about Santa, isn't it?


Like Pizza, even when it's bad, it's still pretty good.


Millions of Fantasies ruined with a single picture.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Statistics: Living Arrangements

New Census papers on Living Arrangements for Children in 2002, and Families and Living Arrangements in 2002 are out. Both require Adobe Acrobat.

Living Arrangements of Children
In 2002, 72 million children under age 18 lived in the United States—representing 26 percent of the country‚’s civilian noninstitutionalized population. In recent decades, the percentage of children living with both parents has dropped, while the percentage living with a single parent increased (Figure 1). In 2002, 69 percent of children lived with two parents, while 23 percent lived with only their mother and 5 percent lived with only their father. Four percent of children lived without either parent.

Interesting points related to this data:
  • The children of single and no-parent households are far more likely to live in poverty then the children of two-parent households. As long as single and no-parent households continue to rise, it is likely that poverty will continue to rise. I don't subscribe to the "poverty is caused by the breakdown of the family" argument. But this is evidence to reinforce that view, for good or for ill.

  • Children of single parents are less likely to get married, and more likely to get divorced if they do marry. The growth of single parent households is self perpetuating.

  • Single parents are much more likely to vote Democratic (and lower income, so its hard to disentangle these two). They also tend to be much less religious and much more liberal. Is the Emerging Democratic Majority one that no one wants to talk about for risk of being un-PC?

I work on welfare policy for a living. I've been appalled by rising poverty rates in the last four years, and firmly believe that poverty is to a large degree the result of political and economic policies. But as long as one third of children are being raised in single and no-parent households, and that number continues to rise, it is unlikely that we ever defeat poverty in our lifetimes.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Distraction: Zip Code Map

From Ben Fry (what will those wacky folks at MIT think of next) I present a zip code map. In case you were wondering how zip codes work or where a particular zip code is, here you go.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Distraction: Panthers Cheerleaders

No doubt you've already read this:

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Two Carolina Panthers cheerleaders were arrested after a bar dispute that broke out early Sunday after patrons complained the women were having sex in a bathroom stall, a police arrest report said.


The women were locked in a stall at about 2:10 a.m. Sunday when other patrons got angry they were taking so long in the bathroom, the police report said. The women left the stall, and one began arguing with another patron of Banana Joe's, eventually hitting that patron in the face with a closed fist, police said.

Lesbian Panthers Cheerleaders

Normally I stay away from stories like this. I know that I'm alone in the world of strait men on this, but lesbian sex fantasies really don't do anything for me. But once I saw their photos and mug shots on Wizbang, I knew that they were destined to be a Demotivational Friday.

The only question is, how will I caption them? Suggestions, anyone?

Also, I don't know who the photographer is for the Panthers, but I must say that he or she is much more skilled then the photographer at the Tampa Police Department. Of course, the girls weren't helping themselves by frowning. Remember the lesson of Tom Delay - always smile in a mug shot! You never know when it will end up on The Smoking Gun.

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Article: SUV backover deaths: What can be done?

This story and commentary comes from a good friend of mine who wishes to remain anonymous:

I know this isn't supposed to be funny, but I can't get past the paragraph that starts "It's called bye bye syndrome."

Yes, grandma chooses to drive around in something the size of a small army tank, and the little snots go bye bye.

You also have to love the headline "What can be done about backover deaths?" Well, I can think of two things:

1)Don't make consumer cars that are so big you can't see behind you.

2) For the parents of the kids claimed by 'bye bye syndrome' to actually watch their kids and say "Grandma can't see behind her, so you can't run out into the driveway."

I have thought for a couple of years that the editors of have mortifyingly funny senses of humor. Last year a man that worked for Sara Lee got murdered and stuffed in a freezer and the headline was "Sara Lee Executive Found Stuffed in Freezer" while that actually happened, the headline is hilarious. Not as funny as "we call it the bye bye syndrome' but still funny.
I agree wholeheartedly. My friend has also been a huge influence on my desire to have children, or rather, not to have children. Don't get me wrong, I still love kids, grew up in a big family, and instinctively want a big family. But the overwhelming evidence is that people are stupid, and children are even dumber. So why make more?


Today is Election Day. If you don't vote, you have no right to complain. Vote.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Distraction: Photoshop Goodness

The news feed website, my inspiration for Demotivational Friday, recently ran a Photoshop contest:

I, for one, welcome our new Jack Thompson overlord, and suggest that we use Photoshop to take violent video games and make them non-violent.

The results were hilarious.

My favorites...

If you have no idea what this is referring to, go over to Penny Arcade and Ctr-Alt-Del and read through the blog archives. Heads up though, they're often NSFW.

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Demotivational Friday: Ignorance

Demotivational Poster Ignorance
I have no idea where I stole this picture from, its been sitting on my hard drive for too long. If it was you, please let me know, and I'll give you credit. The joke, as you might know, is stolen from a Far Side comic.

Just a reminder to everyone on the planet - no one from this cite has ever earned a penny from it. God bless Fair Use Laws.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Article: Finland, Finland, Finland, the country where I'd like to be...

So apparently every year in Finland, the government publishes a list of everything everyone makes.

The richest person in the country is Aatos Erkko, the main owner of media house SanomaWSOY, with a personal fortune of 192 million euros. The top wage earner was Olli Riikala, an executive of U.S. General Electric, making 5.3 million euros.

5.3 million euros translates into about 4.4 million dollars. Compare this to the Forbes 400 list, where the poorest of the 400 richest people in America, Walter Herbert Shorenstein, is worth $900 million dollars. The richest, of course, is evil Microsoft Lord of the Pit Bill Gates, worth over $51 BILLION DOLLARS.

Bill Gates Lord of the Pit
Finland, by the way, has some of the highest quality of life indicators in the world.

Now, I'm not against money. I want more money. So do you. But it got me thinking - why doesn't our government publish a list of what everyone makes? I'll even go one farther - Why doesn't our government publish a list of what everyone makes and how much they paid in taxes each year? You could even add other categories, such as profession, job title, and how they earned their money.

Corruption in government contracting would disappear. It would make tax evasion much more difficult. It would lead to a fairer tax system, most likely a flat tax of some sort, as everyone would literally see what everyone else pays (I made the same amount of money as my neighbor, but I paid twice as much in taxes? What gives?) And it would lead to better wages - why should two people in the same company with the same job responsibilities and titles be paid differently? Gender? Race? Favoritism? And think of the entertainment value!

Just saying. The key to progress is knowledge. Transparency is the antiseptic to corruption.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Politics: Campaign Shenanigans

The best Virginia political site on the web, Not Larry Sabato, has posted a hilarious letter from a local Congressional race, where Republicans are complaining about the Democrat using an elephant logo on his yard signs:

Lauren Brown Sigler
Associate Counsel
Republican National Committee
310 First Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003

VIA FACSIMILE: (202) 863-8654

Ms. Sigler:

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you earlier today. I am writing to recap our conversation.

I am in receipt of your letter dated today. I respectfully disagree that we have utilized the official logo of the Republican National Committee. The image of the elephant we used in our vastly popular “Republicans for Ferguson” signs is one that we created with a blue body and white stroke and a white top with three upright stars. Your logo does not have stroke around the elephant and your stars are turned upside down, much like those in the Satanic tradition.

By no means am I accusing all Republicans of being Satanists. I personally know some who are not.

I understand that you may be alarmed by Mr. Ferguson’s popularity among centrist Republicans. May I humbly suggest you take that up with Delicate Dudley.

If the RNC would like to utilize the logo I created, sans Satanic references, I am certainly open to licensing discussions. Please be advised that if you use my logo without my permission (read compensation,) I will be forced to consider a legal remedy.


Joe Stanley
Campaign Manager

HA! The Republicans made a classic campaign mistake, talking to their opponents. You should never email, call, or come within 100 feet of your opponents or their campaign events. Ignore your opponent, and treat everything they say as a lie and a fabrication. Your job is to communicate your message directly to the voters. Don't complain to your opposite Campaign Manager. Complain directly to the press or in paid media, and make sure its something that sticks. Kudos to Joe Stanley for cleverly playing the Republicans.

FYI, Larry Sabato is a University of Virginia Professor and who is quoted in 90% of stories about Virginia politics. The reason why is that he basically repeats the obvious and confirms rumors, which often turn out to be completely unfounded.

The couple, expecting their first child, have been shopping for real estate around Charlottesville. British tabloids claim it's a done deal; we will only go so far as to report that they checked out at least one country estate a few weeks ago.

It was about that time that party officials started batting Affleck's name around. "It's spread pretty widely, at least in the political underground," University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato, Virginia's premier pundit, told Michael Shear, The Post's Richmond correspondent.

Thus the cleverly named (well, clever to me and the five other people in the world who follow this) Not Larry Sabato.