Shocked and Persuaded


Separating Fact From Fiction

Back Off Westboro Baptist Church

Last year we had a group of visitors here in Burlington from Topeka, Kansas affiliated with Fred Phelps‘ Westboro Baptist Church. For those not familiar this group you may be familiar with some of their pleasant slogans such as “God Hates Fags”, “Thank God For Dead Soldiers”, “Thank God for 9/11”, “Thank God for IEDs”, “Fags are Beasts, “God Hates Jews”, “Fags Doom Nations”, etc, etc. The list is long and oh so thoughtful. When this group came to Burlington they brought with them their signs and their children to protest Vermont being “most ‘gay’ friendly spot in DOOMED america.” This was not the first time they visited little ol’ Vermont they came a couple of years earlier to spew nonsense during the funeral of a Richmond man killed in Iraq by one of those IEDs they like to scream about so much.

During their most recent visit the anti-Westboro contingent was large, persistent, and peaceful following them from Montpelier to Burlington and all around town just letting them know we didn’t agree with their tactics or the hateful rhetoric that came forth from their mouths and those of their children. BUT I don’t know one person involved in the Burlington section of the anti-Westboro crew that thought they didn’t have the right to say what they wanted wherever they wanted. As common defense of Howard Stern goes: If you don’t like him change the station?

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Fun and Games Fueling Education

So I haven’t been posting in a while as I am looking for a job and working on a book. Anyway I have been playing around with what I am calling a “War Games Tax” that I describe below and it is one that if anyone reads this post I would love for you to pass it on to your congressional delegation. After reading it you are welcome to comment and I would be happy to share my data with anyone interested in this idea that I don’t think to many people could argue with. Cheers and I hope you enjoy the read!

I have been working some calculations trying to get at how much general education revenue could be conceivably generated if we taxed what I will broadly call “war games”, which include at this point “Call of Duty: Black Ops (PS3 & X360)”, “Halo: Reach (X360)”, and “God of War III/God of War Collection (PS3). All of these are top sellers for Activision (Call of Duty), Microsoft (Halo), and Sony Computers (God of War). Their average annual revenues are in toto $1.23 billion with “Halo” at $686 million leading the way and “God of War Collection” bringing up the rear at $29 million annually (Fig. 1).


Not a bad profit margin don’t you think? More importantly I was thinking that if there are so many people with the bravado to fight wars via their video consoles they wouldn’t have a problem paying a heavy tax on those games, which could be used to fund educational programs throughout the country. So I went about trying to gather up as much high-quality data as I could get on dollar sales, weekly units, and in order to come up with a progressive “War Games Tax” I used iCasualties data on a per 100,000 person basis across all fifty states+Washington, DC (no US territories due to high concentration of troops stationed there). I then used the per capita data – with Vermont being the highest (2.568) and Utah the lowest (0.486 per 100,000) – summed those values and converted them into percentages. I then multiplied the $1.23 billion figure across tax rates of 35%, 25%, 10%, and 5%, with the per 100,000 percentage conversions used to multiply across tax rate scenarios. If you do that the numbers are pretty staggering.
Lets just focus on Vermont for a second as a teaser for what we could extract from this pseudo-war profiteering that doesn’t get nearly the coverage that the explicit profiteers do. Vermont would be able to rely on an annual tax revenue of (Fig. 2):
1. 22.4 million at 35%, 14.9% of FY 2011 budget deficit
2. 16.0 million at 20%, 10.7% of FY 2011 budget deficit
3. 6.4 million at 10%, 4.3% of FY 2011 budget deficit
4. 3.2 million at 5%, 2.1% of FY 2011 budget deficit
While none of these numbers is eye watering they are not trivial either, with the top rate accounting for nearly 15% of the FY 2011 budget deficit. This is not a progressive or regressive tax idea, rather it is an anti-predatory tax idea with the folks that so flippantly turn on their video consoles to play the latest virtual War On Terror paying the heaviest price. What is wrong with that? New England alone would generate:
1. 55.3 million at 35%, average of 3.5% of FY 2011 budget deficit
2. 39.5 million at 20%
3. 15.8 million at 10%
4. 7.9 million at 5%

So as you can see this is not a panacea but is a step in the right direction AND unlike the much maligned soda-tax proposed by Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson in NY I would argue that there should be less resistance to a tax that takes money from people that like to play video games about war but wouldn’t be caught dead signing up to go to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, etc etc and puts that money in to the educational infrastructure of this country. I would like to see someone rail against this idea in public with the lights and cameras on.

Footing The Bill

Anyone want to? Wanna really pay the price for war(s)? Nope!

How much would you pay for the life of one of this country’s active duty men or women? Below I discuss what our government has decided their worth (Hint: Its less than the cost of two movie tickets!). Read the rest of this entry »

Fallen Update

The Department of Defense has identified 1,162 American service members who have died as a part of the Afghan war and related operations. It confirmed the death of the following American last week:

KING, Brandon M., 23, Pvt., Army; Tallahassee, Fla.; 101st Airborne Division.

According to

Iraq = 4,4412 US, 179 UK, and 139 Other > 4,730 Total

Afghanistan = 1,188 US, 322 UK, and 436 Other > 1,944 Total

The dial continues to move in the wrong direction in the latter and it is speeding up! GET OUT WHILE YOU STILL CAN MR. PRESIDENT!

The Cherry On Top! (aka Master of the Obvious Part Deux)

There really is no need to say any more as the title says it all.

U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan

I wonder if Big (What a..) Dick Cheney knew about this one! He couldn’t have otherwise he would have insisted on a more concerted and muscular presence in Afghanistan throughout the War On Terror. Oh well chalk one up to good ol’ fashion Mullah Omar misdirection. Something tells me you will be hearing that Freeport-McMoRan (FCX)out of New Orleans will be getting their grubby nefarious hands involved in this operation given their robust play in the global copper market. Okay you heard it hear folks with FCX’s near monopoly on the global copper market and a large presence in gold we will absolutely see a strong push by them into this nascent opportunity. Just for the record FCX shares are currently trading at $65.26 on the NYSE, traded as high as $87 on January 8th, 11, and April 5th of this year, BUT are far below highs of $114 and 122 on October 10, 2007 and May 19, 2008, respectively. These two dates and the general peak in copper prices happened to coincide with a commercial and residential housing construction boom in China and lead some to believe that we had reached Peak Copper, although the latter has yet to be proven, but it stands to reason we will reach some sort of peak given the finite nature of copper availability, the world’s insatiable appetite for it, and the fact that last I checked creating it out of thin air ain’t an option! I will keep a keen eye on this and I suggest anyone reading this do the same as I demonstrated with an earlier posting on Roche and it’s share skyrocket in the weeks leading up to and after The Great H1N1 scare.


I would just say to the Pashtuns of Southern Afghanistan caveat emptor with Exhibit A being FCX’s Grasberg copper and gold mine in Indonesia, where the natives are restless and growing more so by the day. FCX is determined to see this mine to it’s complete exploitation given that it accounts for $4 Billion of FCX’s $6.5 Billion operating profit (i.e., Nearly 2/3). Some have even decided that peaceful protest is no longer helpful resorting instead to primitive but effective methods of “Message Delivery”. However, when the Indonesian government equips the mine bosses with a security force of 3,000 troops and police the odds are stacked against the indigenous peoples of Papua and Papua New Guinea (See Map courtesy of The Economist).


Fallen Update

The Department of Defense has identified 1,082 American service members who have died as a part of the Afghan war and related operations. It confirmed the deaths of the following Americans this week:

NEENAN, Brendan P., 21, Specialist, Army; Enterprise, Ala.; 82nd Airborne Division.

RANKEL, John K., 23, Sgt., Marines; Speedway, Ind.; First Marine Division. to date:

Afghanistan = US 1,108, UK 294, Other 416 = Total 1,787

HOWEVER if we look at some data compiled by Iraqi Body Count we see that the costs are being forced asymmetrically upon the Iraqi people. Now whether you believe in this endeavor or not a 23:1 Iraqi Civilian to US troop casualty ratio should not be acceptable. I mean leaving aside those of you with no pulse (i.e., Dick Cheney and Donny Rumsfeld). The data below demonstrates a disturbing trend albeit one that appears to be waning for the time being. However, that is only because the fight has shifted to Helmand and Kandahar in Afghanistan not because the war against terrorism is getting cleaner and more accurate or precise.

We are talking about over 101,036 civilians killed in Iraq alone and that doesn’t account for the poor access to data and medical records, which would most assuredly push this number up by at least 5-10%. It also doesn’t account for the even worse data for Afghanistan, which I am trying to find and will post here when I do. We have dehumanized Iraqis the same way McNamara, Johnson, and Kennedy dehumanized the Vietnamese. It is a shame this is what we have to do in order to kill someone. Doesn’t take much guts and it doesn’t take much planning just a complete and utter disregard for the human condition.


Fallen Update

The Department of Defense has identified 4,391 American service members who have died since the start of the Iraq war and 1,070 who have died as a part of the Afghan war and related operations. It confirmed the deaths of the following Americans yesterday:


CULVER, Ronald W. Jr., 44, Major, Army; Shreveport, La.; Second Squadron, 108th Cavalry.


BARTON, Christopher R., 22, Pfc., Army; Concord, N.C.; 101st Airborne Division. to date:

Iraq = 4,400 US, 179 UK, 139 Other = Total 4,718

Afghanistan = US 1,085, UK 288, Other 414 = Total 1,787

DOD-iCasualties to date:

Iraq = 9

Afghanistan = 15

Fallen Update

iCasualities is reporting 4,390 and 1,042 in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.

The UK is at 179 and 281, respectively, while “Other” is at 139 and 400.

The Department of Defense has identified 4,381 American service members who have died since the start of the Iraq war and 1,026 who have died as part of the Afghan war and related operations. It confirmed the deaths of the following Americans:


BLOUNT, William A., 21, Pfc., Army; Petal, Miss.; First Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, Second Brigade Combat Team.

COLLINS, Robert W., 24, First Lt., Army; Tyrone, Ga.; First Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, Second Brigade Combat Team.


BORIO, Roberto E. Diaz, 47, Sgt., Army; San Juan, P.R.; First Battalion, 65th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.

LACKEY, James B., 45, Senior Master Sgt., Air Force; Green Clove Springs, Fla.; Eighth Special Operations Squadron.

VOAS, Randell D., 43, Maj., Air Force; Lakeville, Minn.; Eighth Special Operations Squadron.

Iraq 4,379

The Department of Defense has identified 4,379 American service members who have died since the start of the Iraq war. It confirmed the death of the following American yesterday:

KRUIZE, Kurt E., 35, Sgt., Army; Hancock, Minn.; 367th Engineer Battalion.


The Department of Defense has identified 4,378 American service members who have died since the start of the Iraq war. It confirmed the death of the following American yesterday:

PACLEB, Raymond N., 31, Pfc., Army; Honolulu; First Battalion, 487th Field Artillery.