Friday, May 26, 2006

Bush v Blair

Bush: New Haven, Connecticut
Blair: Edinburgh, Scotland
Edge: Blair

Real name
Bush: George Walker Bush
Blair: Anthony Charles Lynton Blair
Edge: Bush

Bush: 5’11
Blair: 6’
Edge: Blair

Hours per day in gym
Bush: at least two
Blair: unknown
Edge: Blair

Second language
Bush: Spanish
Blair: French
Edge: Blair (better to woo de women!)

Bush: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave
Blair: 10 Downing Street
Edge: Blair

Bush: Yale
Blair: Oxford
Edge: Blair

Speaking style
Bush: deliberate with Texas drawl
Blair: flowery and eloquent
Edge: Tie

Bush: silvery molded presidential look
Blair: fluffy thinning British royalty look
Edge: Bush

Ever on the Simpsons?
Bush: no
Blair: yes!
Edge: Blair

Action figure?
Bush: yes!
Blair: no
Edge: Bush

Bush: When I take action I’m not going to fire a $2 million missle at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt. It’s going to be decisive.
Blair: There is no meeting of minds, no point of understanding with such terror. Just a choice: Defeat it or be defeated by it. And defeat it we must.
Edge: Bush

Bush: Laura Welch
Blair: Cherie Booth
Edge: Blair, sorry, can’t deny the name Cherie

Bush: Cancer
Blair: Taurus
Edge: Blair

Bush: two
Blair: three
Edge: Blair

Ever had a moustache running for office?
Bush: unknown
Blair: yes!
Edge: Blair

Career before politics
Bush: owned the Texas Rangers, oil companies
Blair: college
Edge: Bush

Likes to be recognized as
Bush: a cowboy
Blair: a statesman
Edge: Bush

College group associated with
Bush: member of Skull and Bones
Blair: Guitarist in rock band Ugly Rumors
Edge: Blair

Followed in father’s footsteps
Bush: yes
Blair: no
Edge: Blair

Man Walks Across Country, America Captivated

A guy who was unemployed, depressed, and 400lbs, became a walking icon for America in a sort of slow-motion Forrest Gump-type experience. Why did Steve Vaught decide to walk across our great land? Because he was unhappy. Why was he unhappy? Because, in his own words, he was fat. And so Vaught, facing personal demons, a growing girth, and a looming divorce, decided to start walking.

Luckily this is America, the land where empty lives are forged every minute. The media and film crews picked up on the story and latched on. A website was born complete with t-shirts (of course), inspirational notes, and media buzz. Vaught completed his journey 13 months later but The Washington Post says he may have cheated.

“Interviews, online journals and a timeline of his progress provided by the documentary film crew have raised serious questions about whether Vaught in fact walked every inch of the way,” said a Post article on the odyssey. “Members of the film crew gave Vaught a camera (they didn't accompany him for the whole trek) and in one case, the film places him in Albuquerque one day and 117 miles to the east in Santa Rosa, N.M., the next.”

Even his wife, who has filed for divorce, wonders how he could have walked 117 miles in a single day. (That's like Pat Robertson leg-pressing 2000 lbs) "I know what he told me," said April, who spoke with her husband nearly every day of his cross-country journey. "He said, 'I walked all these miles around Albuquerque.' He skipped ahead to Santa Rosa and counted the miles in Albuquerque to getting to Santa Rosa."

Not to mention at one point in the trek Vaught flew back to Los Angeles for a two-week session with his personal trainer. Uh, what is that?

But I don't think the problem is with Vaught as much as it is with us. Really, whether he walked the whole way or not isn’t as important as why we were going to make this guy a hero in the first place? Why is it even news if a guy decides to walk across the country? Are we that desperate in this country for heroes? Sports, American Idol and SNL stars no longer do it for us? What do we need?

First of all, the idea has been done. Forrest Gump went soul searching; jogging back and fourth across the country after Jenny left him. It's all in the documentary "Forrest Gump." If your best idea has been done before on the silver screen, it’s not that great. Come on.

Secondly, the man was unemployed, overweight, with a marriage on the rocks. So, he did what any hero would do, take 13 months and walk across the country. Hello? If any one of us came up with that idea we’d be mocked and scorned, rightfully. He received a book deal and film crew.

Things have gone terribly wrong in this country. There’s not enough hazing or sober judgment or something. Why don’t people want to give more money to welfare? Because an unemployed man becomes an icon while prolonging his unemployment. Who wouldn’t like to walk across the country, see natural and historic landmarks, get away from the grind and get fit and find themselves along the way? Why doesn’t everyone do it? Because we have to work. If everyone did it the country would fall apart. This aint France! Luckily the rest of us are working, and donating, so that he can take the journey on behalf of all of us. What a bunch of crap.

I’d love to take 13 months off and get in great shape and get myself happy. I’d love to build a cabin in the woods and write poetry or sit on a mountain and meditate. Then, after finding myself, I’d love to ski down that mountain laughing hysterically. But I also have to live in the real world. I have to pay my bills and take care of the people I’m responsible for. That’s life. Am I a hero? No, I’m just a boring schmuck. Where’s my book deal? I’ll write it myself, “The Life of a Boring Schmuck: how I worked and put myself and my offspring through college.”

And guess what, in the process of accepting my responsibilities I found myself along the way. It turns out it is found in the last place you'd look: your life. Dust it off and spend time with it. That’s where the joy and fulfillment is. Work, take care of your family, enjoy the time you have. You don't have to walk across the country to figure that out. Who has the bigger problem? The person walking across the country to lose weight and find himself, or the person buying his t-shirts? Come on.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Pat Robertson's Robust, Living Thighs (and other thoughts)

Pat Robertson is not only the host of a daily, national TV show, head of a world-wide ministry, and predictor of world events, but he can leg-press 2,000lbs. Simply put: he's greater than you or me put together. What in God's name is the source of his amazing energy and power? His "age-defying" protein shake.*

Apparently, when not forecasting God's next move, or advocating political assignations, Robertson likes to hit the gym hard-core style and throw the weights around. For a little extra edge he has concocted a protein shake that can** grant you the strength of Sampson with flowing mane. According to, the shake can also help you "increase your energy and re-gain that youthful appearance! Pat Robertson’s Robust Living booklets have all the age-defying secrets you need to feel great!" So, just in-case God hasn't made you feel good enough about yourself, you can sip some of this shake and turn back the clock to better days, or strap on a set and get ripped in the gym.

The best part? It works. Robertson doesn't look a day over 76. He has also discovered there is virtually no limit to his leg pressing abilities.

According to the story, Robertson's leg-press workout had gone up to 1,400 lbs when his physician bet him he couldn't leg-press 2,000. "He worked up multiple reps of 1,400 pounds, 1,500 pounds, 1,600 pounds, 1,700, pounds, 1,800 pounds and 1,900 pounds. When 2,000 pounds was put on the machine two men got on either side and helped push the load up, and then let it down on Mr. Robertson, who pushed it up one rep and let it go back down again.***" Amen. And amen.

This gives Mr. Robertson the unofficial title of World's Strongest Thighs and also crushes the celebrity senior citizen record of 400 lbs held by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

The official world record, by the way, is 1335 lbs, by a Florida State University weightlifter whose capillaries burst in his eyes while making the press.

You can buy Robertson's shake by simply tuning in to his viewer-funded broadcast where he'll happily sell you some of his secrets as an extension of his tax-free ministry. The shake is now also available at GNCs everywhere.

For a clip Pat pressing 1,000 lbs, check it out here. His face looks like it's about to explode in holy fury, Raiders of the Lost Ark-style.

* Shake does not actually defy aging. Also available in pancake batter.
** Shake cannot increase your strength.
*** No F***ing way, man.

Duke Women in Solidarity

I read on that Duke’s women’s lacrosse team plans to start wearing sweatbands with “innocent” on them, a sign of support for the school’s men’s team.

"We want to win a national championship for ourselves but definitely also for the university and the men's team," junior Leigh Jester told the newspaper. "They don't really have a chance to play their season, which is a shame."

If for some reason you haven’t heard, the men’s season was cancelled after a stripper at a team party complained she was sexually assaulted. Since then three members of the team have been charged with sexual assault.

Personally, I think the sweatbands are a dumb idea. For one, the women wearing them don’t know anything more about the facts than anyone else. This is—at most—wishful thinking. The only people who know what happened for sure are the stripper and men at the party who invited her. But it does prove one thing: there’s solidarity in membership.

I guess I’m surprised that women, at a top college, who I assume hope to be taken seriously and treated as equals either as athletes or career professionals, would go out of their way to support men who—at best—hired an exotic dancer to perform for them at one of their team parties. Doesn’t this act—at best—degrade women in general? Life, if not college, should teach you that some things are more imporant than team spirit.

The full article can be found here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

This day last year Jeff Gordon turned in the most memorable moment of the Cubs' season when he mangled "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and was booed. In case you missed it here's the clip. Every time NASCAR drivers are asked to do something special at a baseball stadium they end up stinking up the place.

It is widely debated if this performance was worse than Ozzie Osbourne's infamous rendition in-which he was incoherent through most of the song. That was at least entertaining. Perhaps Osbourne was doing a Harry Caray impression. Hey, let me hear ya! A one...a two...a three...!

Check it Out!

So, I was doing a little research on economic development and I came across the government's Economic Development Administration page. There's a news section which lists recent imporant events and achievements. Take a look!

*tumble weed rolls by*

Happy Birthday Bob Dylan

Happy Birthday Bob Dylan, 65 today. You were born Robert Allen Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota, raised in Hibbing, Minnesota, and became the shaggy-haired guitar and harmonica playing icon revered by millions. You came on the scene in the 1960s and established yourself as the voice for American unrest, the anti-war and the civil rights movements with songs like “The Times They are A-Changin’” and “Blowing in the Wind.”

In a unique way your music combined folk, politics, social commentary, and literature, expanding pop music’s boundaries. After listening to your “Freewheelin” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’” album the Beatles realized that entire albums of boy-meets-girl songs were now outdated. Because of you things were never the same.

You continue to write songs and tour to this day and in 2004 “Chronicles Vol. 1” the first part of your autobiography was released to wide acclaim. Your place in American and European culture is unique, but you are specifically known as the measuring stick for songwriting.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Game Behind the Game

If you read Sports Illustrated you might be familiar with Tom Verducci. He’s SI’s top baseball writer, and the post-steroid guardian of all things good and pure about baseball. Along those lines his primary job requirement seems to be vehemently bashing steroid user Barry Bonds during his march towards Babe Ruth’s home run mark of 714.

This year alone he has written no less than seven articles on Bonds, all extremely negative. Now Bonds has tied Ruth at 714, what does Verducci have to say? “There will come a day when Barry Bonds leaves baseball, and everything about the game will be the better for it.” That’s just the start of his newest piece entitled “Legacy of lies.”

In the article Verducci calls Bonds a fraud, talks about his deceit and fabrications, and ponders his “shallow soul.” Yes, it’s good business bat Barry around these days. He was never a popular player but two things have turned up the rhetorical heat. First was the release of the book “Game of Shadows” which revealed evidence of Bonds’ steroid use, giving credibility to what everyone had suspected. Second is Bonds’ aforementioned juxtaposition with American sports icon Babe Ruth. The fact that a steroid user might eclipse the greatest player ever is awkward for baseball, if not good copy.

And so Verducci is now busy calling everyone to accountability for this injustice. No one will escape his wrath, not Bonds, not commissioner Bud Selig, and not the baseball owners. Verducci rails about what everyone knows, that baseball turned a blind eye to alleged steroid use because of what it produced: more home runs. As evident by the fascination with the Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa home run battle in 1998 it was believed home runs sold tickets. That set the tone for baseball for the next eight years: don’t ask too many questions about steroids.

Luckily baseball had watchdogs like Verducci on the scene in 1998 to closely scrutinize the action. But wait, the one now yelling “crucify him” the loudest once gave approval to baseball’s new—highly speculated—power game. In his 1998 “Year in Review” Verducci said the home run chase was “uplifting” and said McGwire should be MVP. Verducci wrote, “The 70 home runs you know about. But McGwire also had the seventh-best slugging percentage of all time (.752), the best in 71 years; set a National League record for walks (162); led the league in on-base percentage (.470); and, above all, did it with a humility that made baseball seem once again like the national pastime.” A heartwarming tale!

But by 2002 Verducci said he knew steroids in baseball were a big story. He wrote “Totally Juiced” an article which is credited with opening the public’s eyes to the scandal. In it he wrote “Mark McGwire was cheered in every park on his march to 70 home runs in 1998 by fans hardly concerned about his reluctant admission that he'd used androstendione, an over-the-counter supplement that reputedly has the muscle-building effects of steroids.” Fans hardly concerned? Or sportswriters? Does anyone now doubt, thanks to his embarrassing non-testimony before Congress, that McGwire was on steroids in 1998? But at the time Sportswriters like Verducci were too busy sniffing his jock to ask any questions.

By 2005, Thanks to what “Totally Juiced” started, it was all over. Congress stepped in last season to investigate steroids. McGwire took the fifth. Congress then ordered baseball to get tough on steroids. Since then players like Rafiel Palmerio have tested positive. Reporters like Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, who now face jail time for their work, broke open the Bonds story in “Game of Shadows.” And McGwire, once a sportswriter’s cash cow, has gone down in flames, devoured by the very writers who happily sold many articles fueled by his home runs, and Verducci is baseball’s Chief Justice. What a difference eight years makes.

In the 2006 Sports Illustrated baseball preview Verducci was busy gushing about another player: Albert Pujols. He elevated Pujols and those like him as an example of the pure, clean baseball, the kind America wants. Times change. Meanwhile Pujols is on a pace to set a new single season home-run mark and he has been on Sport’s Illustrated’s cover twice since the season started. Rest assured Verducci will be there to enjoy every moment.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Runaway Bride + Sir Paul?

The wedding is off for Jennifer Wilbanks and John Mason. You probably know Wilbanks better as the wide-eyed Runaway Bride, the woman who captured the nation’s attention while faking her own kidnapping to get out of her own wedding. Wilbanks skipped out on Mason and 600 guests on April 22, 2005. She then flew to Vegas and ended up in Albuquerque, N.M. She then told 911 that she had been kidnapped by a Hispanic couple and sexually assaulted. The Hispanic community has rebounded strongly but Wilbanks now has a runaway groom on her hands.

Maybe the most amazing aspect of this story is that Mason took her back after the entire faux escapade. But last Friday it was reported that Mason is breaking up with Wilbanks. What took this guy so long? Where were this guy’s friends? Hello! You’re 33 years old, when a woman fakes an abduction to get away from you it’s time to step up and end it. Maybe he was holding on for that lucrative book deal Wilbanks was reported to have inked.

What does the future hold for The Runaway Bride? Well, Paul McCartney is about to be single himself. Somebody hook these two kids up! You think I'm crazy don't you? Well, I happen to think if you can achieve infamy--complete with face on a t-shirt and book deal--for staging your own abduction, dating a Beatle doesn't seem like such a stretch. Besides, Sir Paul will be on the rebound.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

DaVinci Code Makes Jesus, Critics Cry

First of all, what’s with all the Christian complaining about the “DaVinci Code”? I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in America who hasn’t read it (and proud) so is it really news that Jesus’ divinity is denied in the book? Haven’t millions already read the book and been exposed to that? Do we really need to organize boycotts and will it do any good anyway? It’s fiction, people. OK? It’s not theology.

I’m also tired of Christian leaders who are annoyed because the movie has propelled people to ask questions about Jesus. Isn’t that a good thing? The worst thing for you would be if no one even cared enough to talk about him. But Jesus seems to be safely on everyone’s mind these days. I would call it a Jesus obsession from everyone from atheists to fundamentalists. Christian leaders: be happy about that and start building bridges.

But, perhaps God has already ensured that no one will take the movie seriously. Tom Hanks and Ron Howard have stunned everyone by creating a venerable stink bomb out of the wildly popular Dan Brown novel. (by the way is anyone else sick of Ian McKellen chewing the scenery?) “Code” has been released and is already widely panned. Is this divine intervention? Have the prayers of the faithful been answered? I guess the lesson is if you want to get the most out of this story do like Christians and read the book.

Speaking of Jesus, Pat Robertson has declared that God has warned him that a tsunami might hit the West Coast in 2006. “If I heard the Lord right about 2006, the coasts of America will be lashed by storms," Robertson said May 8. On Wednesday, he added, "There well may be something as bad as a tsunami in the Pacific Northwest." If you heard someone on the street utter that very same remark you’d gather your family together and cross over to the other side. Stay away from the crazy man! What really amazes me is that this even makes news. There really is no downside for Robertson. If a tsunami does happen to hit he looks like a prophet. If it doesn’t his followers wont notice anyway.

Other notable Pat Robertson predictions include a 1980 Russian invasion of Israel, the end of the world in 1982, an economic collapse anytime between 1983 and 1985, a meteor strike on a gay-rights parade in 1998, and social security reform by 2008. God usually talks to Robertson during his annual prayer retreat. In 2004 Robertson emerged with news that Bush was going to win re-election in a “blowout.” Well, he was partially right. Is Pat Robertson a deeply troubled man who has used wild predictions and theories to accumulate wealth and power from simple minded yet well-meaning Americans? Or is this post an example of how there is a war on Christianity afoot? I guess your answer depends on how often God talks to you.

In lighter news, David Spade and Heather Locklear are breaking up. Wait, they were together?! How is this even possible? Spade must be incredible in the sack. His list of former hook-ups is legendary. As an aside, this story brings up two pop-culture ideas. I predict an indi-film project entitled, “David Spade’s Love Life” and t-shirts being sold with “Former David Spade Girlfriend” printed on them. Mr. Robertson, can you confirm this?

Paul McCartney also should have sought a pre-marital prediction from Robertson. It’s splitzville for he and Heather Mills. They blame the media for their breakup. Who are they kidding? No one has cared about Paul McCartney for twenty years…and that’s being generous. Personally, I blame Paul’s age and immense fortune. Mills stands to get between $350 and $750 million dollars in the divorce. Plus, she can now date a man who is NOT 69. Win-win.

Catch you cats on the flip-flop.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bush to Illegals: Bring it On

The president gave a speech last night outlining his immigration plan. I missed it because I was golfing but that doesn’t mean I don’t care! I heard the highlights and analysis on National Public Radio afterwards. The major component of his speech was already known to all: that he wants to use the National Guard in some kind of assistance role to help secure the border. My reaction contained two thoughts. One: there’s the president, reaching for his hammer again, and two: oh God, Bill O’Reilly was right!

First of all, about the hammer. Abraham Maslow was fond of saying “If you only have a hammer you tend to see every problem as a nail.” His point was how you deal with problems often distorts your perception of problems. You might remember a previous post in-which I wrote about Condi Rice versus Iran. My take was that the White House really has only has one tool in its tool box—the military--and it sees every problem as an object requiring brute force. Terrorism? Get the hammer. Bird Flu? We’ll enforce quarantine with the hammer. Hurricane recovery? Where’s my hammer? Iran? Don’t make me get my hammer! Immigration? Hammer time.

And then there’s Bill O’Reilly. I really don’t mind O’Reilly. In fact, from 2000-2001 I watched his show quite a bit. Sure, he’s a strident conservative but I don’t put him in the knee-jerk category. One thing I remember is he always advocated using the military on the border. It looks like his ship finally came in and yesterday he let us know that because we did not heed his wisdom millions of illegal workers have crossed into our country. Bill also said nothing was done sooner because of pressure from big business.

What Bill is referring to are businesses which profit off of exploiting desperate and illegal workers from Mexico. Since those workers are not citizens they do not have to pay them minimum wage or offer them benefits. They can coerce them with the threat of deportation. All of this is well-known, but the employers aren’t worried. It’s good for business. They’ve gotten away with it for years. How much have you heard about their role in this immigration affair? But, sometimes what’s good for business is also a human rights violation. The results are the immigration marches you’ve been seeing on the news. This problem will be silent no more.

Now we’re getting serious about solving it. You know we are because we’re pulling the hammer out and putting troops on the border. But this will not solve the problem. Their presence may help a little but until we address the root causes of the immigration it will be largely a wasted effort. The root causes are found in the equation that there is little economic opportunity in Mexico and so the workers come here to work. They can’t get in the country legally, so we hire them illegally for all of the reasons I outlined above. Why grant them citizenship when that would hurt our bottom line? Until we address the issues of employers hiring illegal workers and our sting immigration laws, we’ll always have an illegal immigration problem.

O’Reilly said last night that the liberal press has “no solution to anything” and if you don’t know that by now “you never will.” But maybe the liberal press has more tools in its box than just a hammer. Maybe that’s what conservatives don’t understand.

Cracking down on those businesses that employ illegal workers is absolutely necessary. They’re creating the demand Mexicans are coming over to fill and exploiting them in the process. We should also expand our immigration laws so that business can get the workers they need legally. This also ensures that the workers have rights and can’t be underpaid and mistreated. Yeah, that might mean that businesses who once relied on cheap labor to produce their products might take a hit in the form of higher operating expenses. But I’ll bet we can overcome this problem. Cotton is still produced in the south without the help of free slave labor.

Admittedly, this solution is not as sexy as bringing out the hammer and putting troops in armored Hummers along the border. I’m as American as the next person, and I know how we all love a good military presence. I served in the Air Force, and I also know capable the military is. The National Guard will go help on the border, even if they are stretched incredibly thin. But this is not the solution to illegal immigration. If they will risk their lives to cross the desert to get here to work then fences and troops will not stop them.

It comes down to what is right. It starts by honoring human rights, by making sure businesses follow the law, and by not withholding citizenship to because they are willing to work for less than minimum wage. I’m sure we have smart people in influential positions who can put this into action. We did put a man on the moon, right? We conjured up the idea of a free and Democratic Iraq. We’re asked to believe that seed will bloom in the hash desert sand. Imagine what we can accomplish when we stop viewing every problem as a nail.

Monday, May 15, 2006

New Tax Cuts Reviewed

On Friday congress approved a third round of tax cuts supplementing two previous packages from 2001 and 2003. President Bush is expected to sign the new package. The two main elements of the plan are an extension, through 2010, on the 15% tax rates on capital gains and dividends, and increasing the alternative minimum tax (AMT) threshold. The scent of tax cuts will no-doubt prove timely as gas prices continue to rise for the summer and the 2006 election season heats up.

Economists agree that the tax cut is aimed at businesses, investors, and15 million upper-middle-income taxpayers.

Investors will continue to pay a 15% rate on capital gains and most dividends through 2010.

The upper-middle-class gets a reduction in the AMT which was originally created in 1969 to prevent the rich from paying no taxes. Since it was not indexed for inflation it now threatens 15 million upper-middle-class tax payers, generally those who make over $160,000. The minimum income on this tax will be increased so fewer will have to pay the tax.

Middle-income couples with children are also seen as winners. Since the 2001 tax cuts they have had their income tax rates lowered and their child tax credit doubled.

An analysis by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center estimates that millionaires would save an average of $42,000, while people earning less than $50,000 would save less than $50.

Economists have pointed out that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts have always sharply favored upper-income Americans. It is no secret that a core Republican philosophy is to ease the burden on business and investors in the hope that those savings will result eventual benefits to those in lower income levels in the form of cheaper goods or job growth; a principle known as “trickle down” or “supply side” economics. Economists credit the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts as at least one reason why the economy has improved.

However, the biggest problem most experts see is the growing disparity between the amount the government has spent since 2001 and the amount it has brought in. Many believe this deficit needs to be addressed immediately, but this current plan now extends the tax cuts through 2010. Can our deficit troubles be overcome by a strong economy? Most experts do not think so. They say what is needed is responsible government spending coupled with adequate income.

Regardless, the latest round of tax cuts will play a hand in the 2006 elections. There will be plenty of talk about how you’re better off because of your tax cut. But that appears to be more abstract than it sounds. If you’re like the majority of Americans you probably wont see any noticeable decrease in the amount of taxes you pay. But the result may also be that you get off unemployment because more businesses, now saving even more on taxes, can afford to hire your services.

It comes down to how much should we pay in taxes? Republicans usually want less and they want to pass the savings on to businesses and upper-class Americans who own and invest in business. Democrats generally believe in more taxes with the money going to fund social programs. Which way is better? Is what is good for business always what is good for the average American?

When troubled we are often encouraged to ask: what would Jesus do? Would Jesus favor supply-side benefits favoring the rich and business owners? Or would he expect Christians, as his body, to do what he did during his earthly ministry: heal the sick and feed the poor? This country is obviously a good place to do business. If good business is supposed to trickle down to the lowest levels, why do we have so many living in poverty?

The economy may be growing but the poverty rate rose in 2005 for the fourth year in a row, up to 12.7%. In America 21.9% of children live in poverty. That is the highest rate of any modern country except for Mexico. Meanwhile France, which can hardly be accused of having a supply-side policy and lean taxes, has 7.5% of its children in poverty.
So, I fail to see how the benefits of supply side economics-- which may help business, and may spur the economy— reach the lowest levels of society.

What we should be concerned about is what works. Some countries take it on the chin, they accept higher taxes to fund social programs that fight poverty by equipping workers and funding education. Tax codes that favor rich investors may be good for business, but that does not automatically mean they are good for the poor. Personally, I don’t think corporations are a good place to look for benevolence. Their job is to make a profit. They will take that extra tax saving and hire you only if you can help them make a profit. You’ll be one more mine worker given a gas mask that hasn’t been inspected because it costs too much. Until you see some benefit in taxes: a tax break so you can finish school, or a social program to help you do so, you’ll be at the company’s mercy. And when they're done with you they're done.

What’s good for you is good for business, not the other way around. An equipped worker can ensure his best interests, and is also a better asset to the company. You should be able to run your own life and your own career and the taxes you pay should help you do so. The question you should ask is: who gets empowered by the money I pay the government? The answer should be: you.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Another Bush in 2008?

What happens when a terrible president affirms someone else's presidential qualifications? Doubt. What happens when it's George W. Bush commenting on his brother Jeb's presidential abilities? Heart failure. Today, the president said his brother would make “a great president.” Not doubt this has caused a high level of freaking out among liberals, and the rest of the world. But I am confident America will take the affirmation with a grain of salt considering the man who said it obviously has no idea what it takes to be a great president. Now that I think about it, I think it was another example of the President’s sense of humor. Good one, Mr. President! He did admit he wasn’t sure what Jeb was going to do.

Another Bush in 2008? Sean Hannity can only hope! Though not nearly as buff as his brother, Jeb still has the bloodline Americans love to elect. Are the Republicans planning on going with the family has won 3 out of the last 5 presidential elections? Why not, right? We're almost back to where we started in 1776: under a monarchy wasting money on far flung adventures funded from our pockets, and a socio-religious system oppressing the minority. But who's panicking?

Bush is known for giving enthusiastic qualifications. Other people who have received public accolades from the president: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, George Tenent Michael Brown, and Michael Chertoff.

Monday, May 08, 2006

M:I:III and the Poochie Principle

Was that an explosion? An ambulance on its way to the ER? No, the sound you heard this morning was "Mission: Impossible III" crashing to Earth. The flick, chosen to lead off the 2006 summer movie orgy, has returned with a disappointing $48 million in ticket sales for its first three days. And, believe me, you can hear the emergency sirens going off around the entertainment industry. The death knell is already sounding. Why? Because last summer was a disappointing season in ticket sales for the industry. Can you even remember a movie you saw last summer (other than Star Wars: Episode Three)?

What went wrong with Mission: Impossible III? (from here on out referred to by the keen acronym M:I:III). It seemed to have a lot going for it: action, mystery, spy drama, explosions, Tom Cruise running… I haven’t seen the movie so what I offer up now will be based strictly on the best type of blogging evidence: conjecture and other web pages.

Industry analyst Brandon Grey at said he expected the movie to kick off with about $70 million in sales, that’s where the previous two movies opened at. "A truly successful sequel needs to open bigger than its predecessor," Gray said, noting that follow-up movies usually burn out more quickly. People in the entertainment industry are worried. Last year “Batman Begins” kicked off what would be a lackluster year in summer ticket sales with a $48.7 million dollar opening.

First of all, the problem isn’t quality. gives M:I:III a 73% rating, which is strong. (Rotten Tomatoes takes all of a movie's review ratings and averages them out.) Apparently most reviewers like the movie. The site’s consensus says “faced-paced, with eye-popping stunts and special effects, the latest Mission: Impossible installment delivers everything an action fan could as for. A thrilling summer popcorn flick.” Plus, come on, Philip S. Hoffman is the bad-guy. Winner!

The problem was also not Cruise’s eccentric behavior. Experts feared that Cruise’s outspoken and controversial Scientology opinions, odd couch-jumping behavior on Oprah, and strict handling of bride Katie Holme’s labor, would all hurt ticket sales. After all, last year after Russell Crowe threw a telephone at a hotel employee the acclaimed movie Cinderella Man in-which he starred bombed. But even after a year of odd-headlines from Cruise the demographics for M:I:III were exactly where expected.

So, what’s the deal? M:I:III was hurt by the Poochie Principle.

This is a principle I’ve created inspired by the famous Simpsons’s character Poochie The Rocking Dog—an ill-conceived, cliché ridden, corporate creation spawned to boost Itchy and Scratchy’s falling ratings. The principle states that there's often an inverse correlation between hype and quality. What went wrong with Poochie is what often goes wrong with movies: a sleek exterior and buzz words can not fix a bad project. And, what's more, people are now conditioned to see hype and become suspicious.

What do you think of when you see M:I:III ? I see a movie that’s trying too hard. It’s too buzz-friendly. It’s too slick. Come on, this is a summer movie. It should survive on the force of its many exploding cars, not the sleekness of its title. M:I:III is too cool for school, man. It looks like the “X-Games”, something that’s supposed to be edgy and current but is really fueled by companies looking to line their pockets from your willingness to believe the hype.

Let’s face it Hollywood doesn’t know what to do. There’s a lot to lose with big summer movies so they’re going to remake old movies (Poseidon), add sequels (M:I:III, X-Men: III), and, out of almost sheer obligation, dig up old super heroes (Superman: Returns). Essentially, they’ll take as few chances as possible, while producing colons at an alarming rate. The only impossible mission here is coming up with a creative idea and not ruining it with inane hype. Mission: Impossible III may be a great movie, but M:I:III looks like a dog. And with M:I:III’s numbers, despite solid reviews, it seems like people are growing wary of too much hype.

The Poochie Principle is alive and well. It's in effect all around us. A great example was Woodstock 94 and Woodstock 99, a hyped up mess that, unlike it's patriarch, will be remembered as an embarrasment. Woodstock 69 was a groundbreaking and unique event that spoke for something. Superflurous hype was not needed. Leave it up to corporations to try to tap into that again. People are learning: all that glitters is not gold.

We're constantly fed garbage and told to believe it's quality. Where's the wreckage that was the XFL? Is that Ashlee Simpson wailing away on the radio? What's Joey up to these days? People are getting turned off and M:I:III may be the sad story of a good movie that got hurt by the backlash.

Poochie started off like a standard dog. The boss hated it. “He’s supposed to have attitude!” he screamed. The artist didn’t understand. “You know, attitude! Uh…sunglasses!” Then they put him in a hip-hop context, added a surfboard, and Rastafied him by 10%. Finally, the artist blackened Poochie’s sunglasses and the transformation was complete.

What could possibly go wrong? Poochie was killed off after one show, declaring to the viewers that he had to return to his home planet. Hollywood had better do the same with all the hype. Want people to come to the theater? Treat them as intelligent beings. Make quality movies and let them speak for themselves.

Iran's Dear President Bush Letter

Dear Mr. President Bush,

Greetings, how are you? On behalf of the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and their Supreme Leader, I, President Mahmouud Ahmadinejad, send you greetings. I hope this letter finds you well. I truly hope we can reach a peaceful resolution to this sticky situation we are in. I believe mutual respect, like fission, is elusive but not unattainable.

We are not too different, you and I. We both honor traditions and embrace our destiny. We both also understand the precarious nature of world events. Yes, one day you're up and the next you are down. This, I need not tell you, is unlike gas prices. Ah, yes, petroleum, has its dark grip on us all, doesn't it? Demand keeps going up and up and recent unsettling events here in the Middle East have really sent the price skyward! But I will not point any fingers because you understand all of this, Mr. President. I know you are no fool. We are both men of oil. And we know it will not last forever, that it can be, literally and figuratively, a dirty business. That is why I'm sure you can understand why Iran believes it is no less than sovereign right to have nuclear power. Why should we be at the whims of that Petrol? You've seen what it can do. Fortunes have been made from it, but many have also died for it.

I'm sure you can also understand, in light of recent circumstances with our neighbor Iraq, how important nuclear power is to Iran. To explain to you the value of it would be only to insult your intelligence. We saw how India and Pakistan, neither of whom signed the NPT, were granted gracious respect and treatment after achieving fission. Once vagabonds, now preeminent guests at the most important party in history. It is the secret password to the clubhouse. We know. Indeed, it is the mark by which any modern country is measured. Saddam did not have it, angered the wrong people, and now Saddam sits in a pen on trial. The world teaches hard lessons. It is a brutal taskmaster. But we have learned graciously.

Iran is no threat to you and our rhetoric about Israel is just old in-fighting. You have a brother. Did you wrestle and fight? Did you claw at each other's eyes and bite fingers? Did you hate him the way only brothers can hate? But also love the way only brothers can love? Boys will be boys.
I hope we can have some face-time together, perhaps a summit. I would like that, always fun.
I know you are a man who loves nicknames, so, I insist you call me "Max." Let's face it, we both know it's lonely at the top. It's not easy to be misunderstood. I too grow weary constantly having my vision questioned. I must defend myself to acolytes? People are so shortsighted sometimes. I know you know how I feel.

In closing, remember your traditions. Never stop honoring them. Never turn away. Seize your God-given destiny. Hold on to these and in the end you will find favor.


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ("Max")
Islamic Republic of Iran

Who do you think will win "American Idol"?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Meet Today's Modern Activist

Some of you may know who Marc (no “K”) Ecko (no “H”) is. Most of you probably don’t and this has Mr. Echo very upset. You see he’s not just the founder of Ecko clothing. He not just the man who has been included on Details list of “Most Powerful Men Under 38” (38?), DNR’s “Power 100 List” and Crain’s New York Business “40 Under 40” list. He's also the man who has a message to get out about free speech.

For starters released the graffiti-themed video game “Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure” to lackluster reviews. But, to really get your attention, he created a video of himself tagging the engine of Air Force One with the words “Still Free.” By the way, the video can be seen on his web page

Why? What's his message? He claims to have tagged the aircraft in protest to laws against outdoor art--like graffiti. But the video was just a hoax. As the website explains it was created “to induce you, the viewer of the video, to think critically about freedom of expression and speech and the government's responses to the same.”

I don’t get it.

Ecko also generated controversy in Toronto when he revealed himself (revealed, like Batman) to be behind the spray painting of letter X’s on everything from sidewalks to businesses. He claimed to have expressed himself in this way to promote his then-upcoming grafitti-themed video game.

But what I find most ammusing about Ecko’s whole graffiti free speech campaign is the legal disclaimer found on his web-site.

Marc Ecko Enterprises does not condone illegal activity, acts of vandalism, or the destruction of other people's property. We do, however, advocate freedom of expression, graffiti as a recognized art form and the protection of consumer rights regardless of age, race, religion or political affiliation.

Yes, Ecko represents a new brand of rebel: one that comes complete with a legal disclaimer. Today's hip, modern protestor withdraws support and protests just enough to not break the law or get in trouble. Enter: the legal disclaimer which, by definition, is a repudiation or denial of responsibility or connection. Ahh, the perfect tool for the person who wants to be socially active yet keep his franchise safe and sound. I’m sure we can all look forward to free thinkers promoting progressive ideas with their legal disclaimer close at hand. I for one welcome the new trend. I felt protest messages to be too sincere, their reprocusion far too real.

This made me wonder what if all great protestors had waited for their legal team to write a disclaimer before getting the word out?

I have a dream*

*Martin Luther King does not condone illegal activity, acts of vandalism, or the destruction of other people’s property.

We the people...*

*Thomas Jefferson does not condone illegal activity, acts of vandalism, or the destruction of other people’s property.

Give me liberty or give me death!*
All we are saying is give peace a chance.*
The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion. *

Wow, protest messages in conjunction with legal disclaimers seem totally lame. It kind of takes the sting out of the message. But let’s face it, corporations are never going to get behind someone who does not have a legal disclaimer. It’s just too damn risky!

Fat Cat: “We’re terribly sorry, Mr. King, we can’t be a sponsor at your next march until you have a legal disclaimer. You understand, right?”

Fat Cat: “Mr. X, we can’t print any more t-shirts until you have a legal disclaimer. You understand, right?”

And it’s a good thing that Ecko only adheres to “recognized art” as his form of expression. Otherwise maybe his activities would be considered vandalism or just annoying. Exactly which organization sanctions what art is “recognized” and what is not? Isn’t that kind of value judgment about artistic expression itself at odds with the nature of art? Not to mention free speech?

I’m sad that even our protests or our message has to be approved by a legal team. I guess for any protest message to be worth anything it must go the way of big business: hype, mission statements, and legal disclaimers. (see: Woodstock '94, Woodstock '99) There's something wrong with our generation. Something is very, very wrong with us.

Personally, I think we should demand more from our modern activists. I propose a boycott on their products—their DVDs, their t-shirts, their bumper stickers, their mailing lists—until they toss those legal disclaimers out. You don’t need The Man to approve of your message, dude. That’s the whole point.*

*Thoughtalarm does not condone illegal activity, acts of vandalism, or the destruction of other people’s property.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Bush, Cheney, Iran, Blaine, Cruise all Compete for My Headline

Whew, there’s a lot going on today. For starters, the president has promised to veto a spending bill. You don’t believe me do you? You probably don’t believe me because, well, he’s never vetoed anything. Congress passed an emergency spending bill but tagged on an extra $15 billion. Bush, to uphold a conservative value of fiscal responsibility, says he will veto. Better late than never I guess. Congress to Bush: Bring it on.

In slightly more believable news Dick Cheney has offended an entire country, and by “country” I mean Russia. And by “Dick Cheney” I mean Dick Cheney Defender of Civil Liberties. Today he accused Russia of smacking down political and religious rights. Cheney also accused Russia of using its oil reserves as a tool of blackmail. Meanwhile the United States is seeking Russia’s cooperation in punishing Iran. I know, I know, we don't need the Russians when we can unleash our Vice President on the unsuspecting world.

Speaking of Iran, it criticized a proposed U.N. resolution on its nuclear program that carries the threat of sanctions. Iran’s top U.N. envoy Ambassador Javad Zarif said it was regrettable the United States, Britain and France were taking a confrontational approach because "there are a multitude of possibilities for finding a peaceful resolution." Ambassador Zarif gave no indication of what those possibilities are.

Gay marriage is under attack in Massachusetts of all places. Voters wish to put an amendment on the 2008 ballot to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. This is an attempt to circumvent the court’s 2003 ruling which cleared the way for same-sex marriages. At this rate perhaps the best strategy is to pass an amendment defining gay marriage as a union between one man and one man or one woman and one woman, and the rest can just keep out if they don’t like it and leave them alone. You can be sexist and get on the Supreme Court. You can be a drunk, a drug user, a liar, a felon and get into government. But if you’re gay? You can’t even get married.

Like father like son? Rep. Patrick Kennedy, son of Ted Kennedy, crashed his car near the U.S. Capitol today at 3 a.m. I’m sure he was driving home after a late-night session on The Hill and will be cleared of any foul play.

M:I:III is in theaters. For those of you who don’t speak stupid, that’s Mission:Impossible:III. It's the KFC of movies, folks (remember the chain formerlly known as Kentuckey Fried Chicken?). When did everything get so short and cryptic? It's title minnimization. We've gone acronym crazy! It makes me want to ROTFLMAO.

And in the “Who Cares” category, David Blaine has submerged himself in water, enclosed in a spherical tank, in the middle of Manhattan. He plans on staying in the tank for one week. Why? Because chicks dig it. OK? Why else.

Happy Birthday George Will

Happy 65thbirthday today to a little luminary I like to call George F. Will. You were born in Champaign, Ill and educated at Trinity College, Oxford and Princeton. You taught political philosophy at Michgan State and the University of Toronto before entering journalism where you were editor of the National Review, and now Newsweek. In 1976 you won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. You are also a regular member of "This Week" on Sunday mornings and your intellectual brand of conservatism is well thought out and respected by those on both sides. Your best selling book, "Men at Work" was about baseball, and most importantly you are a die-hard Cubs fan.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Colbert Invited on Cheney Hunting Trip

If Steve Colbert insults the President at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner and no one reports about it did he ever make a sound? Colbert was the featured entertainer and roasted the president in a sarcastic speech. The press chose to leave out of all their headlines.

In case you missed it here it is.

What did receive coverage was the President's "twin act" where a Bush look-alike spoke alongside the President.

US to Iran: Hammer Time

There’s a Middle Eastern country pursuing nuclear weapons, releasing anti-Western statements, and using conservative Islam as a lightning rod for its people; and it’s the one next to the country we chose to invade in 2003. Now, in 2006, we’re being forced to take Iran very, very seriously.

Iran elected Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a conservative with religious views, president on August 3, 2005. His nationalistic rhetoric won the hearts and minds of his people, and I remarked then that his style reminded me of our own President. Tough-talking leaders with bold agendas seem to be all the rage these days. That is one area of American culture that is definitely catching on in other countries.

Since his election Ahmadinehjad has put Iran on everyone’s lips with a decisive vision to get his country nuclear power. The timeline is stunning: by April 2006 he announced that Iran had successfully refined uranium. Western countries, of course, are trying to convince Iran that nuclear power—and the fear of nuclear weapons—is not the right course. But so far Iran has been defiant and what are the West’s options? What if Iran doesn’t care what we think is best?

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently stated, “We believe that diplomacy has a chance to work, but we are going to work with whom ever we can, in whatever form we can, diplomatically, to try to bring the Iranians around.”

She then added, “Iran is not Iraq. I know that’s what’s on people’s minds but the circumstances are different. We don’t have 12 years of Security Council resolutions, a case where a state attacked its neighbor, tried to annex its neighbor as it (Iraq) did with Kuwait where we were still in a war after the armistice of 1991.”

No, Iran is not Iraq. America once had the support of the world behind it after 9/11, and Bush had the will of the American people. The diplomacy game with Iraq consisted of the White House making statements about Saddam Hussein’s lack of compliance with UN Resolutions requiring weapons inspectors to have access to suspected WMD production facilities. President Bush backed up the rhetoric with a military build-up and on November 8, 2002 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1441, giving Iraq one last chance to meet UN criteria or face the threat of force. Iraq complied but chief inspector Hans Blix wasn’t satisfied. The US invaded in March of 2003.

The Bush administration was making plans for Iraq as early as December 2001, in 2006 it seems to have no idea what to do with Iran other than the same tactics it used on its neighbor.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow once said that if your only tool is a hammer you tend to view every problem as a nail. I think the Bush administration has proven that it has only one tool in its box, and it has accomplished most—for better or worse—by hammering away at problems. But Iran is not that easy, and now we have to try the more passive and patient game of diplomacy. Hopefully Mrs. Rice has been reading up on how to use other tools because our hammer is currently on-loan in Iraq.
The United States is back at the UN demanding action against Iran, namely a resolution that would declare Iran a threat to international peace and security that would pave the way for sanctions and military measures. Sound familiar? The President told the media that “the diplomatic process is just beginning” but all I hear is a hammer.

It’s a sobering thing to think that we’ve spent $350 billion to stop the country that did not have WMDs, while Iran is developing nuclear power right next door. Ooops, huh? Yeah, we were pretty confident when it came to knocking Iraq over—a country barely able to defend itself before our awesome military might. And I think the shock and awe we were so gleeful about has become the imagery of a country determined to reshape the Middle East in its own image. And now Iran is posturing itself as the defender of that region, working hard to acquire the trump card that will force us to deal with it respectfully: nuclear power.

Consider the results of India’s nuclear ambition. India, a country which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, was ushered into the Nuclear club by President Bush in an agreement that would give it access to US civil nuclear technology while its military program will remain hidden. What did India lose by gaining nuclear power? And look what it has gained. Why are we stunned or angry when other countries attempt to do the same?