Shocked and Persuaded

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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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Convenient Thomas Jefferson Fidelity

I just received an amazingly convenient reading of Thomas Jefferson today and I would like for the record to address some of the convenient stuff. First I am listing my rebuttal and below you will find the quotes from the email. Enjoy!

To All
I just can’t let this lauding of some of TJ’s work go without parsing the other side of the story.
First
OK I understand the admiration for TJ as I have tons myself, but keep in mind he was a willing owner of slaves.
ALSO
Second
This idea that there are tons of folks out there not willing to work and looking for those that are to bail them out is nonsense. The people that received the biggest bail out weren’t the bottom half or bottom 99% it was the top 0.001Percenters. Look at AIG, Goldman, Citi, hedge funds galore. They got bailed out because much of what we feel is sacrosanct about capitalism failed that is undeniable. I for one would be happy to work full-time for way less than the folks at the Big Banksters get paid PER WEEK!! But because the financial industry collapsed under CDOs, CDSs, leverage, and real-estate BS I can’t get a job and I know tons of folks like me. This argument that this all comes down to Obama and it is all his fault is so much nonsense if you believe honestly that what just happened stems from the last 2 years IN ISOLATION your crazy and need heavy dose of rationality. I know Socialists, I know Marxists, I know liberals and conservatives. Obama is hardly a left-winger and would laugh at the thought of embracing socialism I am sure. Read the rest of this entry »

Giffords and Judge Roll Would Be Ashamed

In the wake of the horrible and senseless actions in Tucson last weekend I was not surprised but definitely fearful of what the response would be among the political elites. Instead of hearing them say we need to get out into our communities more and spend less time wining and dining lobbyists and the political punditocracy in DC or make a pledge to stop bullshitting us about everything from the country’s long-term fiscal and monetary stability to Peak Oil….WE GET people like Robert Brady a Democratic Pennsylvanian congressman proposing Political Exceptionalism laws. Read the rest of this entry »

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).

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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
Or
4. 3.2 million at 5%, 2.1% of FY 2011 budget deficit
wargamestax
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%
Or
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.

Efficient Marketeer And The Rest Be Damned

This is something I wrote in response to an article by Dr. Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya at Project Syndicate. I love this site and really the thinkers and practitioners run the ideological gradient. Read the rest of this entry »

From the How Petty Can U B Department

This from a recent article about the schism between the Anglicans of England lead by Rowan Williams and the boys of the Holy See lead by Pope Benedict XVI:

“The trouble with the Anglican Church is that it has adopted a parliamentary model and one that presumes change and presumes everyone can have a say…I think it’s become a kind of fascist democracy.” from Reverend John Broadhurst an Anglican traditionalist Read the rest of this entry »

Smoking Gun Syndrome

Newsflash: The Government Accountability Office has decided to reopen the investigation that found Dr. Bruce Ivins solely responsible for the post-911 anthrax scare that killed 5 people.

In reading this note in The Times I found myself thinking back to the origin of the phrase smoking gun and why we as Americans are so consumed with finding single individuals to blame large-scale tragedies, screw-ups, and nefarious activities. Read the rest of this entry »

Microphone Checka…1, 2 Checka!

Re: a recent (and largely awesome) editorial in The Times by Brent Staples addressing the phenomena of cutting and pasting senior theses.

Mr. Staples should have stopped while he was ahead. I was thoroughly enjoying his piece on the wrote nature of higher education these days and the lack of any type of synthetic analysis, with students swallowing and spitting up information in no particular order and with zero continuity. However, upon arriving at the closing of this piece I was amazed to see the author distill rap musicians (his analogy) down robots “sampling” “…beats and refrains from the works of others.” Tell that to some of the great wordsmiths this country has ever produced like Q-Tip & Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest, Rakim of Eric B. & Rakim, Gang Starr’s Guru, or my personal favorites EPMD. If Mr. Staples meant to say that DJs sampled beats and refrains he should have said so. The greatest rap MCs are true American treasures and deserve the respect we afford our favorite rock n’ rollers, jazz musicians, and country stars. CHECK YOURSELF MR. Staples!

Image Of The Day

Thanks to a great article by Nelson D. Schwartz in The New York Times. Can you believe this?

eudebtweb

Of course we have been doing the same here in the US since September of 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed. This type of mixing and matching would make even the most devious street hustler blush given the trickle down, up, left, and right of a group of greedy bankers and profligate sovereign governments. The idea that this type of thing couldn’t have been stopped is nonsense and to go one step further the Greenspanian idea that you don’t prick a bubble is pure hubris mixed with a large dose of Cigarette Smoking Man “After all, villains don’t think they are villains”.

What was it that John Maynard Keynes said about capitalism run wild. Oh yeah…Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.

Well say what you want about Lord Keynes politics and the bastardization of his work and theories by the left and the right, but the fact remains we have never seen a paradigm proved so faulty, so often, in so many disparate economies, and with so many casualties than we have with Capitalism. Don’t even think I am espousing Socialism across the board I am not and would never, but a reexamination of the facts when they change should lead us to change our minds about Capitalism as it’s universal application is clearly misguided and when you wipe away the muck and bombast very dangerous for lots of folks.

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Todays Master of the Obvious

Two stories in the news that are like duh!!!

1. Tanning causes skin cancer? Are you kidding me?

2. The southern legal system is racially asymmetrical.

Do we need to conduct studies and spend tons of money researching the obvious?

Should we make laws to prevent underage tanning booth use or excessive use across the board? OR is this simply a case of caveat emptor.

The question that really needs to be asked is how do the eight southern states studied in #2 compare to the rest of the country? My worry is that they aren’t the outliers those of us in the “liberal north” would hope they are/were. I had a friend I worked with while landscaping in Connecticut when I was a kid named Eddie Brown and he was (is?) a black man from South Carolina. Anyway I remember asking him if racism was worse in the north or the south. He immediately said it was worse in the north, because at least in the south everyone knew where everyone stood. As he said “Our women didn’t sleep with their men and we didn’t sleep with their women.” However, in the north as he pointed out he was put off by the fact that when I or others he worked with asked a customer if we could use their bathroom they said absolutely, but when he asked there was an ever so slight hesitation and even when obliged he was “monitored” as he put it. So, my point is that we rip on the south and deservedly so in many instances, but as we are seeing with the couched criticism of President Obama from all over the country there is latent racism everywhere and it will not be resolved if we continue to pillory the south while not looking in our own bathroom mirrors.