Saturday, August 30, 2008

Absorption

CBC:
Russia will absorb South Ossetia "in several years" or earlier, a position that was "firmly stated by both leaders," Gassiyev said.


Just like Kosovo, huh Alan? Wake up and smell the napalm. This ain't tit-for-tat. This is an act of Russian aggression that awaited a suitable Casus belli on the part of the Georgians, which Saakashvili gave them in spades, but does not change the fact that they eagerly awaited it. Please, please stop being so naive.

First, al-Sadr is a patriot. Now, Russia is modeling this Georgia issue on the former Yugoslavia. Puh. Leez.

Good is not an adverb

There was a story on the local news this morning about paying DC public school students for showing up and earning good marks. They interviewed a student who, by my guess, was a freshman or sophomore in high school. To paraphrase his remarks:

"Kids should want to do good in school. I don't think that the school should bribe them, they should want to do good."

His opinion on the issue, despite the incorrect use of good as an adverb, is a common one. I have no particular problem with paying kids to attend and do well. If that's what it takes in DC, then that's what it takes. Stating that the ideal world would be one in which all children like school and wouldn't need to be bribed is not really a solution. I want the sky to be a pleasant shade of lavender at all times, but it ain't gonna happen no matter how many times I state it.

One person called into a radio station the other day and said, "This doesn't prepare kids for the real world. If you don't show up to a job, they fire your butt." True, but how many people would show up to work IF THEY WEREN'T GETTING PAID?!

I do have two reservations. First, failing a kid would no longer mean summer school, but also a monetary loss. This will add all kinds of complications to the grading process. Perhaps teachers will pass poor kids just so they get the money regardless of their academic performance. This incentive to inflate grades will make determining the actual change in educational outcomes difficult if not impossible from grades alone. Second, the root cause of this problem is parenting. No amount of money is going to make up for poor or absent parenting.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Workout and the Weekend

FLG ran two miles today, in the rain again. Pushups, situps, and pullups will be done either later tonight or tomorrow night.

The FLGs are going out of town for the weekend. Will post again on Monday at the earliest. I would ask GEC to post in my absence, but he has been and will be out of town as well.

Disturbing

Too far

Feministing on Palin:
she's super anti-choice. The forced-pregnancy crowd is thrilled today! (She recently had her fifth child, who has Down's syndrome.)


Is it just me or is Feministing implying that Gov. Palin should have aborted her son because he has Down's syndrome?

Last time I checked, the United States did not have a coast on the Black Sea.

Ergo, the US Coast Guard should not have ships there.

Predictions

Prediction 1: Romney as Veep -- WRONG.

CNN:
Sen. John McCain has chosen Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket for the White House, the campaign said Friday.


If McCain thinks he is going to swing a majority of the scorned pro-Hillary vote, then he needs to have his head examined. But overall this is a good choice and makes either ticket a first -- African-American President or female Vice President. I still don't think it helps all that much, and Obama still wins, but my soothsaying has been proven faulty.

Cow gets head stuck in washing machine



I'm speechless. Full article here.

Underpants Gnomes

John E. Schwarz writes in today's Washington Post what sounds to me very much like a public policy version of the underpants gnomes scheme.

Tax. Spend. Create Great Jobs.


That should be more like:
Tax. ???????? Spend. ???????? Create Great Jobs.

This is the main thrust of the argument, economically speaking:
In [high startup cost] situations, government can, at the outset, supply a market that is otherwise missing and also help defray up-front costs for research, development and production. That is how the computer, semiconductor, laser and space communications industries got off the ground, to name just a few.


The problem here is determining what to spend the money on, and whether the present value of the future benefits is greater than the initial cost of government spending, both of which are difficult to do.

For those of you unfamiliar with the underpants gnomes scheme:

Quote of the day

Brooks:
And today we Democrats meet in Denver, a suburb of Boulder, a city whose motto is, “A Taxi? You Must be Dreaming.”


First, there are no taxis in Denver. Second, they add to the problem by thinking a glorified Main Street Trolley from Disneyland is a mass transit system. Lastly, Go Buffaloes! Beat the Rams!

Mrs. FLG is CU Alum, and FLG is, shall we say, an ex-student.


Oh, and you should read the rest of the Brooks column. It's hilarious.

A quick thought on the speech last night

I thought it was mediocre. Perhaps this is because his speeches are consistently so good, and I expected my mind to explode within my skull tonight. That said, if McCain had given a speech of that quality my head would have exploded.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Book Review III

Pergamon
By Fear and Loathing in Georgetown

FLG's third book, Pergamon, is only slightly better than the horror that is his sophomore work, A Door in Paris, and the insanity of his debut novel, Saving Uncle Jerry.

Pergamon takes place between 133 and 129 BC in the title city. The last Attalid king, Attalis III, dies without an heir and bequeaths the city to Rome. A con man named Aristonicus claims to be the bastard son of the dead king's father, Eumenes II. Aristonicus takes control of the city and usurps the name Eumenes III before Rome can enforce its writ. The city bubbles with intrigue, corruption, and assassination as the upstart attempts to defend his ill-gotten city from mighty Rome.

FLG chooses to tell the entire story from inside the confines of a brothel. While this literary technique offers limitless potential for bedside confessions, FLG spends too much time describing the depraved sexual activities of the brothel's powerful patrons and far too little time investigating what is happening outside the cathouse's walls. Indeed, the concept of the book seems irresistible -- politics and sex. Unfortunately, FLG was either too lazy to thoroughly investigate the historical events of the period so that he could weave a compelling historical fiction or is obsessed with the orgiastic life of an ancient whorehouse to the point of depravity.

Pelosi, Abortion, and Augustine

John over at Upturned Earth investigates Nancy Pelosi's difficulty in using Augustine to justify her pro-choice position.

This is the man who said, "Give me chastity and continence, but not yet." So, I do wonder what his positions would be if he were alive today, but I wonder the same thing about all Doctors of the Church.

On a somewhat related note, I saw this book in the Georgetown University Press catalog.
The Sexual Person
Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology
Todd A. Salzman, Michael G. Lawler

Two principles capture the essence of the official Catholic position on the morality of sexuality: first, that any human genital act must occur within the framework of heterosexual marriage; second, each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life. In this comprehensive overview of Catholicism and sexuality, theologians Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler examine and challenge these principles. Remaining firmly within the Catholic tradition, they contend that the church is being inconsistent in its teaching by adopting a dynamic, historically conscious anthropology and worldview on social ethics and the interpretation of scripture while adopting a static, classicist anthropology and worldview on sexual ethics.

Predictions

FLG is still standing by his February predictions.

From Feb 8th:
The Plastic Presidential Superhero has dropped out of the race. Two possible motives, beyond he couldn't win. First, he is setting himself up for the next race by appearing statesman-like. Second, setting himself up for veep on McCain ticket.

Let's look at the second one. Romney offers definite advantages to a McCain ticket. He has a better understanding of economics and business than McCain. He doesn't have the creationist i-don't-believe-in-evolution baggage of Huckabee. He could consolidate support among conservatives. (This is only relevant versus Obama. Against Hillary they will rally anyway.)

The problem arises from the personal relationship between McCain and Romney. I don't think they like each other personally, so this is a tough sell. Versus Clinton he won't do it. Versus Obama look for a McCain-Romney ticket.


From February 19th:
Barring an unexpected catastrophe, ie a Machiavellian plot by the Clintons on the same order of magnitude as Sideshow Bob's stolen Springfield mayoral election, Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States. McCain can't beat him.

In the market for a UAV?

You can buy a cool one here.

I'd want mine armed to the teeth.

HT: Danger Room

Geography Memorization Tricks

FLG, like all School of Foreign Service graduates, had to take the Map of the Modern World exam. He created some memory devices to assist with the exam. No, not memory palaces, just devices.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are in alphabetical order from north to south.

Paraguay is landlocked, and Uruguay is on the coast. Therefore, one has to parachute into Paraguay.

I have others, which I will post later.

Sex in Second Life

Is described by Miss Self-Important with this simile:
the whole process is about as stimulating as a corporate PowerPoint presentation


I am disappointed, however, that the link I sent her the other day appears to have been too late to be incorporated into her article.

Police say Kimberly Jernigan, 33, from North Carolina, planned to kidnap her virtual ex-boyfriend to start a new life together and broke into his apartment armed with handcuffs, duct tape, Taser and BB guns. She also brought along her dog.

Ms Jernigan met the Delaware man while playing Second Life, a "virtual 3-D world" where participants have animated avatars. Ms Jernigan's boyfriend was a lion while she was a virtual woman.

Workout

Today, I went for a 4 mile run in the rain. That is the farthest I
have run since I played lacrosse in high school.

Missile Defense

From George Will's column today:
Reuel Marc Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute notes, Democrats will eventually embrace missile defense in Europe because they "will have nowhere else to go short of pre-emptive strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities."


The Democrats will empathize with Iran, project rational behavior onto its leaders, and then argue that MAD will work. I happen to agree that the Iranians are rational, but that is irrelevant. Democrats would project rationality regardless. Lastly, and more importantly, neither MAD nor missile defense will mitigate the immediate and dangerous emergence of additional nuclear powers in the region. Saudi Arabia immediately comes to mind.

Scenes from my youth

Kermit the frog and friends could return in the first new Muppet Show TV series for 27 years.

Hip-Hip-Hooray!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Blogroll update

To my blogroll, I have added The Feast of Nemesis, which I found through Naked Villainy, which I found through The Port Stands At Your Elbow, which I found through Irish Elk. Or something like that.

Also, I will have to investigate the process whereby Fear and Loathing in Georgetown can be promoted from Villainous Blogger into the Legion of Villainy. My guess is that GEC can get us promoted using credit for prior experience. He's uber-villainous.

A conversation with my boss

Boss: Where do you want to be in 5 years?

Me: Same place I want to be tomorrow -- Wailea.

Boss: No, seriously.

Me: You think I'm joking?

Catwoman

Sir Basil Seal, besides having titled his blog with the coolest name in the blogosphere (Is Saki required reading in the UK?), has definitively settled the Catwoman issue.

Two things that sound cooler than they actually are

Space marines and air pirates (French)

Work

I have been spending the day in my cubicle at the Ministry of Love watching France 24, reading about Israeli supersuits, and generally doing everything except serious work.

Sho'nuff -- The Shogun of Harlem



Julius Carry, the actor who played Sho'nuff, sadly died a few days ago.

I like this commercial

My Spanish isn't that great, so I am not really sure what they are talking about in this ad. But I like it a lot.

Nun Beauty Pageant Update

It's been called off.

Inflation

CNN:
A survey of top economists shows that many are growing more concerned about inflation and slightly less worried about mortgage and credit market problems.


My January prediction that the Fed will raise interest rates steeply in June-Sept of this year probably won't come true, but that is only because so-called professional economists have their heads up their asses until it is too late. FLG, aren't these people educated and paid to know more about econ then you? Yes, but they are also data people. They wait for hard data, which takes time to be gathered and analyzed. This keeps them behind the curve. One needs data to make important decisions. No doubt about that. However, professional economists, meaning their aggregate opinion, are great at analyzing what happened last year or quarter, but seem to be really oblivious to what is going on in the economy today. Put down the green eyeshade and visit the mall or something. If it is busy and there are lots of bags, then the economy is doing okay. Lowering interest rates causes inflation when the malls are busy.

Quote of the day

XX Factor:
Hillary has always been polarizing—a lightning rod for right-wingers to organize, unite, and crusade against. Putting her at the head of the ticket would have been suicide for the Democratic Party. What she would have achieved for women becoming the first woman candidate for president would likely have cost the Democrats the election


Somebody gets it over there.

Pirate Fighters

Strategy Page:
The U.S. Central Command has established a Maritime Security Patrol Area in the Gulf of Aden, under the command of a Canadian Commodore. The UN authorized this two months ago. A squadron of warships (from several countries), plus maritime patrol aircraft, will begin watching the areas that have suffered the most pirate activity.


I still contend that France should take care of this all by herself.

MILFs in the Phillipines



Strategy Page:
The army has captured fifteen MILF camps in the south, and driven over 500 MILF fighters into the bush.


500 MILFs into the bush?

Unfortunately, the MILF to which they refer is the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

In case you didn't know

Reports of Cheryl Miller's death have been greatly exaggerated.

Anastole

My previous post about Alexander reminded me of the word anastole.

anastole - The Greek name for a hairstyle in which the hair is brushed up from the forehead, arranged wreath-like around the face, and typical in portraits of Alexander the Great (356-323)

Siwah

No Reservations is a great show if you like food or traveling. Last night, Anthony Bourdain was in Egypt. Anyway, he spent one night with a group of Bedouins, and started talking about the desert and how serene and yet deadly it is. I immediately thought of Alexander's trip to Siwah during which he almost died and, according to most accounts, was miraculously saved by birds.

In Bruges

Mrs. FLG and I watched In Bruges the other day. She doesn't like dark comedies, so she didn't like it. I like dark comedies, and I only sorta liked it. I laughed the hardest from 1:00 to 1:15 or so in the video below.

Current Reading

L'Étranger and Illusions perdues finally arrived from Amazon France. It didn't really take all that long, I was just filled with anticipation.

Good Emperor Statue

Telegraph:
The head, right arm and lower legs of a huge statue of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius have been uncovered by archaeologists in the ancient city of Sagalassos in Turkey.


Marcus Aurelius was one of the Five Good Emperors, and a Stoic philosopher. However, he is probably most well-known as the character Richard Harris played in Gladiator.

Other motives

This piece in Le Monde argues that the conflict between Russia and Georgia might have been caused by Moscow's desire to control Central Asian oil and gas.

Tout ce qui déstabilise la Géorgie, étape importante sur la route de transit du pétrole et du gaz de la Caspienne vers l'Europe est bon pour les Russes.


Translation:
Anything that destabilizes Georgia, an important stage for oil and gas from Caspian to Europe, is good for the Russia.

This should be obvious to anybody who knows anything about the region, and given Moscow's use of cutting off oil and gas as a geopolitical tool it casts serious doubts on Russia's supposed peaceful motives. (I question the entire pan-Slavic justification anyway, and the idea that Russia has the best interests of aspiring autonomous regions in mind is laughable.)

However, it is still not in the national interest of the United States to get involved militarily. Europe may have more pressing interests, but they lack the wherewithal to do much militarily. Again, a reason why NATO must be abolished. The crutch of American military protection constrains European defense of their interests. In this case, as in probably 90% of potential cases, Europe's interests broadly mirror those of the US. If Europe had a viable military and force projection power, then they could be putting serious military pressure on the Russians.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Correspondence

An astute reader writes in response to the previous post:

You have at least three obsessions. Pirates, robots, & sex with inanimate objects.


Updated with links. There were complaints.

Blog Analysis

Characteristics of a good blog from 43 folders via UD

FLG will engage in some navel gazing here.

1) Good blogs have a voice. Who wrote this? What is their name? What can I figure out about who they are that they have never overtly told me? What’s their personality like and what do they have to contribute — even when it’s “just” curation. What tics and foibles fascinate make me about this blog and the person who makes it? Most importantly: what obsesses this person?


I have no idea what one can figure out about me from this blog. An obsession?

2) Good blogs reflect focused obsessions. People start real blogs because they think about something a lot. Maybe even five things. But, their brain so overflows with curiosity about a family of topics that they can’t stop reading and writing about it. They make and consume smart forebrain porn. So: where do this person’s obsessions take them?


Shit. Do repeated demands for the abolishment of NATO count?

3) Good blogs are the product of “Attention times Interest.” A blog shows me where someone’s attention tends to go. Then, on some level, they encourage me to follow the evolution of their interest through a day or a year. There’s a story here. Ethical “via” links make it easy for me to follow their specific trail of attention, then join them for a walk made out of words.


My attention and interest? They're like a blind man with a shotgun. No story. Just random shooting.

4) Good blog posts are made of paragraphs. Blog posts are written, not defecated. They show some level of craft, thinking, and continuity beyond the word count mandated by the Owner of Your Plantation. If a blog has fixed limits on post minimums and maximums? It’s not a blog: it’s a website that hires writers. Which is fine. But, it’s not really a blog.


Are you kidding me? Paragraphs? Next, you will say sentence fragments are out.

5) Good “non-post” blogs have style and curation. Some of the best blogs use unusual formats, employ only photos and video, or utilize the list format to artistic effect. I regret there are not more blogs that see format as the container for creativity — rather than an excuse to write less or link without context more
.

Oh boy.

6) Good blogs are weird. Blogs make fart noises and occasionally vex readers with the degree to which the blogger’s obsession will inevitably diverge from the reader’s. If this isn’t happening every few weeks, the blogger is either bored, half-assing, or taking new medication.


Weird, check. Now you're talkin'.

7) Good blogs make you want to start your own blog. At some point, everyone wants to kill the Buddha and make their own obsessions the focus. This is good. It means you care.


Fear and Loathing in Georgetown made Alan start the Occasional Dissident, so check.

8) Good blogs try. I’ve come to believe that creative life in the first-world comes down to those who try just a little bit harder. Then, there’s the other 98%. They’re still eating the free continental breakfast over at FriendFeed. A good blog is written by a blogger who thinks longer, works harder, and obsesses more. Ultimately, a good blogger tries. That’s why “good” is getting rare.


You want me to try? I've been trying to get somebody to take over in a Dread Pirate Roberts-esque succession plan for months. Does that count?

9) Good blogs know when to break their own rules. Duh. I made a list, didn’t I? Yes. I did. Big fan.


I break the rules all the time.

Conclusion: Failed.

It can't be as bad as Yoko Ono.

Telegraph:
Not content with running a country and a media empire, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has decided to take on another challenge - recording love songs.


Or can it?

English Class

Miss Self Important is the latest in a relatively long line, okay one other person, to heap steaming scorn on this piece written by an English teacher in yesterday's Washington Post.

The Return

I am glad to see Prof. D has returned to blogging.

Des medailles d'or

Telegraph:
Nicolas Sarkozy has lumped together all of the 87 gold medals won by EU countries at the Beijing Games to declare a triumph for Europe over China and the United States.


Je pense qu'il est fou.

I hate red light cameras

Did I mention that I hate red light cameras?

Thank you, sir. May I have another?

BBC:
The Irish Republic may need to hold a second referendum on the EU's Lisbon Treaty, despite its rejection by voters in June, an Irish minister says.

Irish Europe Minister Dick Roche said that "because we've already had a referendum on this issue I think the people will have to be consulted".


I find the idea that the people might not be consulted after rejecting the referendum to be elitist and offensive.

Current Reading

I have added Cicero's The Republic and The Laws to my current reading. I am going to attempt to complete all the reading recommended by the Georgetown PhD program in political theory. The list was courtesy of GEC, of course. I've probably read about 10% of it already, so this should only take 2-3 years.

Correspondence

Since you are so smart and don't like Biden who should Obama have chosen?


Kathleen Sebelius

It placates the man-hating wing of the Democratic Party without putting the radioactive Hillary name on the ticket. They keep talking about how choosing Biden was big ball because it wasn't a cynical guy from a swing state choice. Nope. Biden is a geriatric white man whose resume while impressive is relatively average considering how long he has been in office. Plus, he is really, really boring. I might have mentioned that before.

Even so, FLG, isn't he more experienced that Kathleen Sebelius? Sure, but who cares? If this was only about experience, then McCain would win in a landslide and Biden or, more probably, Bill Richardson would be the Democratic nominee.

Kathleen Sebelius would have been the winner-take-all pick.

I am really smart

...because I always spelled it supercede. I had no idea that was wrong until 5 minutes ago.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Russia, Georgia, and US Grand Strategy

According to the IHT, Russia isn't abiding by the terms of the French agreement.
As the Russian Army withdrew most of its forces from Georgia, it was becoming ever more clear on Friday that Moscow had no intention of restoring what once was — either on the ground or diplomatically.


What a shock. Meanwhile, Saakashvili proves again that he is either an idiot or crazy.

Despite all Georgia's setbacks in the last two weeks, Saakashvili vowed anew to restore Georgia's territorial integrity — restating an ambition that had helped propel Georgia into a clash with its much more powerful neighbor to the north.


So, what do we have? We have a leader of a democratic nation acting like an idiot or crazy, and Russia trying to extend its sphere of influence.

Who is right? Neither. What should the US do militarily? Jack shit. What does this mean for Eastern Europe? Become a member of the EU pronto. Russia would be idiotic to attack an EU member, and I don't think NATO should be the solution.

On a related note, Alan has a 3,100 word post over at The Occasional Dissident, which correctly points out that Georgia started the conflict (Let's not forget that the Russians shot down a drone over Abkhazia in April, so it's not like Russia innocently responded to provocation.) and then dubiously compares the Russian intervention in Georgia to the West's intervention in former Yugoslavia. He addressed the Eastern European issue, specifically Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, thusly:

No one has shown that Russia is prepared or willing to invade those states, nor has anyone credibly alleged that Russia has actual plans to do so now or ever.


Alan words are correct, but they are carefully circumscribed. Invasion is not the only way if influencing or even attacking another nation.

Strategy Page:
Georgia is not just being invaded by Russian troops, it is also being hammered on the Internet, with the same Cyber War techniques Russia used against Estonia last year. Russia was accused of causing great financial harm to Estonia via Cyber War attacks.


Russia did not physically invade Estonia, but a cyberattack on a country as reliant on technology as Estonia is a serious threat to their security. Russia is pursuing a policy of influence in its near abroad. Some say that the Monroe Doctrine is much the same thing in the Western Hemisphere, and that this either justifies the Russian's policy or makes the US hypocritical. Those people are naive morons. First, it is different from the Monroe Doctrine in a fundamental way -- Russia lacks the wherewithal to prevent the continuation of the Monroe Doctrine, whereas we can stop Russia. Second, the pursuit of national interest will result in hypocritical actions sometimes. Demanding that a country always acts the way it demands of others, while admirable, is foolish.

This is not to say that countries can constantly act hypocritically. There is a limit beyond which people begin to rebel or stop listening. This is actually the fatal flaw of the neoconservatism. After the fall of the USSR, the United States became the sole superpower. Realist international relations theory says that the others should have risen to counter the US to balance power. They didn't immediately for largely two reasons. First, it's costly. Second, the US was a generally benign superpower. As long as the US played by the rules and don't go off half-cocked everybody was happy to let the American taxpayer pay for keeping the global political and economic system safe. A formula for the decision goes something like this:

(probability that the US will negatively impact my security) X (how much it will impact my security) = cost to expend towards balancing the US

From 1992 until somewhere between 2001 and 2003, the cost of balancing was much higher than the probability and scale of impact by the US. Iraq changed things.

Iraq showed that the US was not going to always play by the global rules, and more importantly wasn't completely predictable. Strategically speaking, the Iraq invasion came out of nowhere.

Was the US right to invade Iraq? At the time, I was convinced it was. I truly believed Saddam had WMDs, and I knew he was a bastard. I also knew that Iraq did not pose a threat to the US proper, but was a long-term threat to US national interests in the region. Again, for the US perspective this was reasonable thing to do. I still think it was the right thing to do. The issue was the process of starting it.

The Bush Administration was so gung-ho to get it done that they screwed the diplomatic lead-up to the war. The root cause was the neoconservative idea that the US was the most powerful nation on Earth and must use all of that power to promote democracy and freedom at all times. They, quite frankly, pushed too hard, too fast. Were the French a bunch of paid off whores blocking the issue? Absolutely. But that is part of the diplomatic process. You deal with that shit before you just up and invade. Yes, it's annoying and distracts from the main issue, but that is the price of keeping people from trying to balance your power.

So, the grand strategy of the US going forward should be a mixture neoconservatism and realism. In practice, this means keeping neoconservative principles always in mind, i.e. democracy and freedom promotion, while balancing the national security interest specifics of each particular case. We must recognize that military action, while appealing because of the illusion of its simplicity, is not the way to promote democracy. Neoconservatives far too often presume that because the US can do something to promote democracy or freedom that it therefore must. Furthermore, we cannot ignore the international process even if it constrains us sometimes. We can ignore it, but we have to realize we can only ignore so much. Even the world's superpower only has so much leeway.

Georgia, while a democracy, is not strategically important to the US beyond oil pipelines and the general promote democracy goal. However, the Caucasus is a rough neighborhood and the risks are way too high for straight democracy promotion. Lastly, Russian belligerence in its near abroad is the result of Russia thinking in Cold War terms, not the US.

Nun Beauty Pagent

Telegraph:
A beauty pageant for nuns called "Miss Sister Italy" will be launched next month in the southern Italian diocese of Modragone.

Father Antonio Rungi, who is organising the pageant, said he expected around 1,000 contestants to enter.

"Nuns are above all women and beauty is a gift from God," Father Rungi told the daily Corriere della Sera.


I wonder what Irish Elk, Robbo, or Mr. and Mrs. P, whom I have collectively and lovingly dubbed the Catholic Blog Mafia, will have to say.

Orangina Animal Stippers

Telegraph:
An Orangina advert in which animals wearing tiny bikinis and gyrate around poles has drawn complaints from viewers.


I found the ad odd, maybe funny, but not offensive. To see it, go here, click on the island's billboard (les pubs), then les films, then version 1'45.

American University of Iraq

Apparently, Dr. Joshua Mitchell, who was until very recently a Georgetown Professor, is Provost and Acting Chancellor. He will be sorely missed.

Also, Christopher Hitchens wants people to send books there.

I do believe that many people wish they could do something positive and make a contribution, however small, to the effort to build democracy in Iraq. And I have a suggestion. In the northern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniya, the American University of Iraq has just opened its doors. And it is appealing for people to donate books.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Clintons

CNN:
"Set aside that Obama said she'd be on anybody's short list, set aside anybody's feelings on whether she was deliberately snubbed and the pros and cons of whether it should be her," a former Clinton strategist told CNN's Candy Crowley. "Focus on the politics of it and you have about a quarter of Clinton loyalists still not joining the caravan…for God's sake, not to even make a show of taking her seriously is flatly stupid."


They still won't accept that they lost, and are going to be a major thorn in Obama's side until the election. Perhaps it will continue during his first term. They are going to undermine him, and this stupid Oprah-esque female empowerment roll call for coming in second place bullshit is just the beginning. They are petty, self-absorbed, and self-deluded people and their expulsion from American politics cannot arrive soon enough.

Quote of the day

Le Monde:
Selon mes informations, si les Russes bougent, c'est à la vitesse d'un escargot.


Translation:
According to my information, if the Russians are moving, it's at a snail's pace. --Gen. John Craddock, NATO Supreme Allied Commander.

This doesn't surprise me. I just like that the quotation contains the word escargot. It's a rare day that permits me to quote that word in reference to international military affairs.

This week's workouts

Pushups and situps are up to 6x25 on M/W/F. Pullups are supposed to be 2x8, but I just can't get to that level yet. Will try my best on those.

Runs are 2 miles on Monday, 3 on Tuesday, off Wednesday, 4 miles Thursday, and 2 miles Friday. Thursday will be tough.

Oil: Biggest drop in 17 years

Article here.

Oil prices plummeted Friday, erasing the previous session's spike, as the dollar strengthened and investors worried that a decline in demand will spread outside the United States.


Blame the Fed for the high price of gasoline over the past few months. Ignore the grumblings of professional economists to the contrary.

Beer pong? Yes. Beer bong? No.

Hoya:
The ban on drinking paraphernalia has been revised to now allow beer pong tables, though the working group’s suggestion to allow beer funnels was not accepted. Olson said he decided that while beer funnels “are still too dangerous to allow, students living on campus who are over the legal age are allowed to posses, and play beer pong.”


Why is the University even entertaining this shit? Just ban it altogether and leave it that way. I can't believe they are giving in. Want to drink? Go to a bar. Wanna play beer pong? Live off-campus.

Obama-Biden '08

Old School Warfare

It's good to know that the US Navy maintains its boarding pike skillz.

Friday, August 22, 2008

SOS

Kinda like Scathing Online Schoolmarm, but offline and in legal trouble.

Telegraph:
Two obsessive grammarians who changed a historical handpainted sign at the Grand Canyon national park have been sentenced to probation for vandalism.

Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson, both 28, had spent this spring travelling across the United States correcting errors on government signposts.

Using a marker, he replaced an erroneous apostrophe and added a comma to the yellow lettering on a black fibreboard sign.

Brooks on Biden

NYTimes:
Biden’s conversational style is tiresome to some, but it has one outstanding feature. He is direct. No matter who you are, he tells you exactly what he thinks, before he tells it to you a second, third and fourth time.


Black hole of verbose ennui I tell you. Don't pick him.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Biden and the Veep Slot

I will keep this short because the VP thing does not intrigue me.

Whatever charisma Obama has will be sucked into a black hole of verbose ennui by Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr should he be chosen for the ticket. Yeah, yeah, he is experienced and knows foreign policy. Great. But he is also long-winded and boring. Make him Secretary of State if you must, but for fuck's sake don't make him your VP.

CGI

Spam

Subject from a SPAM email FLG received today:
shingles herpes date

Where do I sign-up?

Yellow Submarine

Today, I realized that Yellow Submarine is not that good of a song outside of the context of the cartoon.  However, I have a new found appreciation for We Can Work It Out.

If somebody asks if you are a god, you say YES!

Telegraph:
Nepal's "living goddess" has been told that she must go to school, after the supreme court branded the custom of worshipping a virgin child outdated.

The centuries-old custom involves a girl being chosen at the age of three, locking her in a palace and worshipping her until she starts menstruating, at which point a new goddess is chosen.


Who comes up with this shit?

Morons and Lemonade

From John Schwenkler comes this:

“Lemonade stands are technically illegal, but they don’t last long enough to do anything about,” said Manning.


That's your position? You would crackdown on little kids' lemonade stands if you could? What's next? Inspecting apple pies? Oh, wait. You want to put your foot in your mouth once more?

“I wish everyone would follow the rules and not be just self-centered,” said Manning.


You sound like a bureaucratic pinhead Mr. Mayor, and I hope the good people of Clayton throw your pedantic ass out on the street.

Military Training

I found this interesting. I hadn't given much thought to the idea that training to take over South Ossetia would be different from fighting the traditional Russian Army, but it makes perfect sense. Although, the Georgians would still have been up shit's creek even if they had trained to fight a Russian response.

Iraq Update

WSJ:
U.S. and Iraqi negotiators reached agreement on a security deal that calls for American military forces to leave Iraq's cities by next summer as a prelude to a full withdrawal from the country, according to senior American officials.

The draft agreement sets 2011 as the date by which all remaining U.S. troops will leave Iraq, according to Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Haj Humood and other people familiar with the matter.

Quote of the day

Cohen:
In my lifetime, conditions have grown immeasurably better, freer and more prosperous for a majority of humanity, yet hand-wringing about the miserable remains the reflex mode for most [media] coverage of planet earth.

Veep Choices

I quite frankly don't understand the fascination with the Vice Presidential selections. It is of almost no importance to me who they choose except that they are capable of fulfilling the office of President. Clearly, this is more important on the McCain ticket. Otherwise, I just don't give a shit. Vice Presidents just don't matter. Even if Vice Presidents are powerful in certain administrations, they are power only by the president's choice or acquiescence. So, if Dick Cheney is an all powerful supervillian, then it is really President Bush's fault.

I think this is more about the media's politics as sport fascination that the American people.

China

Nicolas Kristof seems to see the pieces, but can't put them together.

Now it will be our turn to scramble to compete with a rising Asia.

This transition to Chinese dominance will be a difficult process for the entire international community, made more so by China’s prickly nationalism. China still sees the world through the prism of guochi, or national humiliation, and among some young Chinese success sometimes seems to have produced not so much national self-confidence as cockiness.


Agreed.

President Bush was roundly criticized for attending the Beijing Olympics, but, in retrospect, I think he was right to attend. The most important bilateral relationship in the world in the coming years will be the one between China and the United States, and Mr. Bush won enormous good will from the Chinese people by showing up.


Right, but then...

Having won that political capital, though, Mr. Bush didn’t spend it. Mr. Bush should have spoken out more forcefully on behalf of human rights, including urging Beijing to stop shipping the weapons used for genocide in Darfur.


Everybody, including the Chinese, are talking about the Olympics as a coming out party. So, the games are like China's sweet sixteen party or, if you prefer, quinceanera. It was important that President Bush made an appearance. However, speaking out more forcefully at the games would have been like spitting in the punch and calling the guest of honor fat. It wouldn't have been good form. Hopefully, President Bush's appearance will buy him, and perhaps the next president, the ability to influence China on these issues in the future, but let's not get our hopes up too high.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Econ-nerd Humor

NYTimes:
The residuals are clearly non-normal, and the specification of the model is incorrect.


I found that funny.

Whoa Nelly!

MSNBC:
The NCAA banned the horse-collar tackle from college football.

"What we're hearing from trainers and physicians is we're getting some back injuries when the ball carrier is immediately snapped to the ground by being jerked quickly,'' he said. "If the ball carrier is grabbed by the shoulder or jersey and just ridden to the ground over a couple of yards, that's not going to be a foul.''


Pussies.

Environmentalism

SweetGreen, a salad and yogurt shop opened by recently graduated Hoyas, appears to be doing well. I like the salads and the frozen yogurt is especially tasty.

They are apparently very environmentally conscious as well, for those of you who care about this sort of thing. The offer biodegradable utensils made from corn. I believe their veggies are organic. Heck, their takeaway menus contain wildflower seeds and can be planted. Their blog mentions "Green" stuff frequently.

That's great that they care about the environment, you say. Sure, except they keep the AC blasting and the fucking front door open all day. I grant you that it is a small place and it is difficult to enter and exit if the door when the door is opening and closing. And I think they buy all their electricity from wind power or some shit. Nevertheless, whatever environmental conscious activities they are engaged in do not make up for trying to cool all of M street when it is 99 degrees outside.

They do have some tasty yogurt though.

Workout Update

I forgot to mention that I ran 3 miles this morning, and will finish the rest of the workout this evening.

Will, if you are reading this...

Vox Populi has been real slow on several occasions today. You might want to feed the hamster powering your little section of the interwebs. Then again, it could be my section, but I don't think so.

South Ossetia repercussions in the Pacific?

This piece in the Guardian is interesting, but I think stretches the issue too far.

If Russia humiliates Georgia at little cost, it could inspire China to press Taiwan when the opportunity beckons. Taiwan's allies, like Georgia's, are eager to remain friends with the big player neighbour and not eager for a fight. If the current sunshine over the Taiwan Strait gives way to clouds, that could drive the little player to do something desperate, as Georgia did, before it loses whatever leverage it has, and China to take advantage of the opening.


First, the military capability of Taiwan vis-a-vis China is an order of magnitude different from the Georgia versus Russia situation. Taiwan won't go down easy at all. Second, Taiwan is a strategic issue for the United States. The protective umbrella of the United States is a huge part of many countries in the Pacific realm, and the US can't sell Taiwan down the river and still maintain its influence in the region. If the US let's Taiwan twist in the wind, then the US might as well cede all of Asia to the sole sphere of China.

This isn't about a domino theory of Communist expansion. The result would be more like the tributary system under Imperial China. Many countries would take Chinese talk about respecting other nations' sovereignty at face value, and rather than relying upon a distant, unwilling superpower, would throw their lot in with the Chinese.

So, the question is whether we are willing to cede a China Pacific Rim. That's what is at stake with a Chinese attack on Taiwan. Georgia, in contrast, is not a strategic concern of the United States beyond the meta foreign policy guideline of supporting former Soviet republics and vassals in their transition to democracy.

Have the French invented cloning?

Because how can Sarkozy be everywhere at the same time?

Le Figaro:
Le président français Nicolas Sarkozy est arrivé mercredi matin à Kaboul pour rendre hommage aux dix soldats français tués lundi dans des combats contre les talibans. L'attaque la plus meurtrière pour l'armée française depuis l'attentat contre l'immeuble le Drakkar à Beyrouth en 1983 (58 morts).

Bad Idea?

WaPo:
A National Research Council blue-ribbon panel of defense experts is recommending development and testing of a conventional warhead for submarine-launched intercontinental Trident missiles to give the president an alternative to using nuclear weapons for a prompt strike anywhere in the world.


GEC and I had a discussion about this months ago. Yeah, we are like so ahead of these so-called experts. Actually, we both read an academic paper on the topic. Anyway, our initial reaction was that this poses too high a risk of a accidental nuclear war. Russia or China, seeing the launch of a ballistic missile, would let slip the dogs of war. However, we both realized quickly, GEC faster than me, that a rational actor would let one missile go and pray it isn't nuclear tipped and aimed at their country. Why? Better to wait and pray than bring about certain Armageddon.

That said, I still don't know if it is a good idea. Sure, it gives the president the ability to strike anywhere on the planet almost instantaneously. But I am still not so sanguine because, call me crazy, a leader might not always be a perfectly rational actor when what looks like a nuclear tipped intercontinental ballistic missile has just been launched.

A little research into the antichrist

As I was looking for the article in which some crackpot religious fiction author declares that Obama can't be the antichrist for a response to Alpheus's long awaited blog post, I run across this doozy:
Most people who study the Bible think the Antichrist will be Jewish, as the Antichrist is supposed to build Jewish temples and put an end to Jewish suffering.

Yet Obama isn't Jewish. He was raised Muslim and is a self-proclaimed Christian.


That's right. The Jews are at the bottom of everything. However, this is not as surprising as them being at the bottom of the reptilian alien/masonic conspiracy because the people who killed Jesus will surely spawn the antichrist, obviously.

Also, notice -- Obama, not a Jew, (Good.), raised Muslim, (Bad.), says he's a Christian. (I don't believe him.)

Or am I reading too much into this?

Oh, I almost forgot. The antichrist will not only be one of those doublecrossing Jews, but gay to boot:
The Bible states the Antichrist will not desire women, which leaves most people to think the Antichrist will be homosexual or celibate.


I, however, think that assumes too much. Perhaps he will desire picnic tables or pumpkins.

Quote of the day

Friedman:
Eastern Europeans would be integrated into the West via membership in the European Union.


You mean an economic and political union would have been better for promoting democracy and stability in Europe than a military alliance whose usefulness disappeared with the fall of the USSR? Nooooo.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Max Payne

I know it was a video game, but the movie looks like it has potential. On the Marky Mark tip, if you haven't seen The Big Hit, check it out. I love that movie.

Death Race does not have Mark Wahlberg in it, but looks good, too.

Miss FLG

Yesterday, Mrs. FLG and I found out that we will be having a girl.

Papillon

The word means butterfly in French. Also, parking ticket, which if you think about it does kinda resemble a butterfly. Anyway, Robert Downey, Jr and Philip Seymour Hoffman look to be remaking the film of the same name. While I greatly admire and respect both of the actors, neither is Steve McQueen. So, let's just skip it. Okay guys?

Le Maghreb

Telegraph:
The bombing was the deadliest terrorist strike in the country in two years and bore the hallmarks of earlier attacks by al-Qa'eda in the Islamic Maghreb, a resurgent North African affiliate of the international Islamist network, although there was no immediate claim of responsibility.


Western European governments, particularly the French, are right to be concerned about the threat of al-Qaeda groups in North Africa. The threat of a terrorist group extending its reach and operations from Algeria to les banlieues is very real.

You have been a very bad bear

...and I hope you think about what you have done.

WaPo:
NATO allies said Tuesday there would be no "business as usual" with Moscow until Russian troops withdraw from all parts of Georgia, but members of the Western alliance disagreed on the extent to which Moscow should be more permanently isolated.


Maybe they should send a strongly worded letter to Moscow.

College Majors

Miss Self Important's recent GRE post got FLG thinking.

FLG majored in International Economics. He questioned this choice frequently. First, he is good at math, but doesn't enjoy math. Second, he hates memorizing things even more than doing math. So, rather than memorizing the solution to an equation, he derived it. This meant he was often short on time during tests which assumed memorization of certain formulas. Third, he enjoys political theory and history almost as much as economics. GEC, among others, questioned FLG's choice of major constantly. However, it was still the right choice.

A reasonably intelligent person can drop into a 400-level history or political philosophy class, do some extra background reading, and pass the class. This probably applies to graduate level classes as well. Nobody is going to drop into a 400-level econ class, do some background reading, and pass without having first done a shitload of calculus, statistics, and econometrics. They certainly aren't going to drop into a grad class and have any idea what's going on.

What are the direct, current benefits of the econ education now? None. But the challenge of a quantitative major was worth it, even if his grades suffered. FLG are you saying that an Econ degree is harder that Political Science, History, or English? Yes, at least it was for FLG, because writing papers wasn't as difficult for him as multivariate calculus.

Good news out of Paris

Le Monde:
Paris n'entend pas diminuer l'effort français en Afghanistan


They need to stay strong in the face of their casualties. All stereotypes to the contrary, the French are not cheese-eating surrender monkeys. Cheese-eating? yes. Surrender monkeys? No. In fact, their recent military and defense strategy reform proposals imply that they want to remain a relevant and serious fighting force in the world.

Quixotic

adj.; Derived from Don Quixote;
Definition: Drafting a resolution demanding anything from a permanent, veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council


It's the international relations version of windmill tilting.

Current Reading

So, I finally finished The Pillars of the Earth.

It was a bit long, and a few of the subplots became tiresome. Nevertheless, I really liked it. Also, I have updated my current reading with Balzac.

Inflation

CNN:
In another indication of growing inflation, wholesale prices increased in July to the highest annual rate in 27 years, according to a government report released Tuesday.


I still think that the Fed only put off a recession in 2008 for a bigger one in 2009 by slashing rates so quickly and deeply. Big mistake.

Despite the very real risk of worsening credit markets, the Fed should raise rates by 50 basis points.

They should stop and ask for directions

Danger Room:
Is Shi'ite terror group Hezbollah using submarines to run drugs in South and Central American waters ... and funneling the proceeds into the Middle East? Last month the Royal Navy's HMS Iron Duke (pictured), with Prince William on her crew, nabbed a suspicious submersible off of Mexico's Pacific coast. The Royal Navy painted the capture as a blow against "the flow of cocaine into Europe," but if we believe one U.S. admiral, it might also have been a hit on Hezbollah's finances.


Unlike most of you, my first question was --- What the fuck is the Royal Navy doing patrolling off the Mexican Coast? And not even the Caribbean coast, but the Pacific Coast? Even if I grant that the Royal Navy should be stalking the seas off of Mexico to stop drugs, wouldn't drugs bound for the UK be leaving on the Caribbean side?

And yes I know the US does the same shit.

Workout

Yesterday, I ran 3 miles, and did 5 x 25 pushup and situps. As well as 3 x 3 pull ups. I can't do 3 x 4 pullups yet.

More incompetence at the United States Air Force

Danger Room:
The Air Force is about to suspend its controversial effort to reorganize its forces to "dominate" cyberspace. The provisional, 8,000-man Cyber Command has been ordered to stop all activities, just weeks before it was supposed to be declared operational.

The suspension is yet another body blow to a service already reeling from a series of hits in recent months. Nuclear weapons have been mishandled; major contracts -- including one for a fleet of new tanker planes -- have been botched; the Air Force's civilian and military leaders have been ousted by the Secretary of Defense; a top general apparently committed suicide.


Somebody over there needs to get their fucking act together. Pronto.

Monday, August 18, 2008

And people wonder why no women have walked on the moon

...they're are too busy getting ready.

Women spend 136 days of their lives getting ready for a night out - enough time for an astronaut to fly to the moon and back 22 times.

Drinking Age

MSNBC:
College presidents from about 100 of the best-known U.S. universities, including Duke, Dartmouth and Ohio State, are calling on lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18, saying current laws actually encourage dangerous binge drinking on campus.


Smart move.

"There isn't that much difference in maturity between 21 and 18," she said. "If the age is younger, you're getting exposed to it at a younger age, and you don't freak out when you get to campus."


That pretty much sums up my position.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Correspondence

FLG:

Since you don't like the synchronized sports, what Olympic event would you most like to medal in?

Sean


Sean:

Definitely Steeplechase.

-FLG

Photoshop

NYTimes:
In an age of digital manipulation, many people believe that snapshots and family photos need no longer stand as a definitive record of what was, but instead, of what they wish it was.


Two questions. First, is this really news? Who doesn't know that Photoshop can be used to edit digital photos? Second, who gives a shit? So what if cousin Vinny is added to the wedding photos when he was really doing six months for shoplifting? Are we really lying to ourselves?

Writers for the New York Times have this fascination with authenticity, (see also this one about Indian Casinos) which is itself a delusion.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Workout

I did my pushups and situps this afternoon. Pullups were yesterday morning. I always forget to mention those. Next week I am up-ing the ante. 3 mile runs on Mon, Wed and Fri. 5 x 25 pushups and situps. Probably 3x3 pullups. They hurt.

Hold on there!

BBC:
Anglers have been issued with a "kill on sight" message to combat the spread of American signal crayfish.


Don't kill them, you silly Scots. Boil them with potatoes, corn, lemons, onions, and smoked sausage. Serve with a generous portion of hush puppies. I can't believe you are talking about wasting perfectly good crawdad.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Missile Shield

Russia's threats against Poland are as effective as Western complaints about Russian actions in Georgia. Neither has the wherewithal, desire, or stomach to pay the probable consequences that are necessary to do anything about Georgia or the missile shield.

Gladiatorland

Telegraph:
The Italians have come up with a novel plan to halt the decline in tourists to their capital city - a Disneyland-style theme park depicting the sights and sounds of Ancient Rome.


I hate to admit it, but I find the idea intriguing. It will probably suck and they could spend the money far more effectively to revitalize tourism.

International Tax Avoidance

BBC:
Liechtenstein, which has been at the centre of an international row over tax evasion, has announced that it will co-operate more fully on tax matters.


I guess I am going to have to move my money...again. sigh.

Please send me $10,000 for legal fees, and I will send you 1 million US dollars at your convenience

IHT:
A recent study of the most expensive cities for expatriates by the consulting firm Mercer found that Lagos ranked 30th, making it only slightly less costly than New York but considerably more expensive than Los Angeles, Miami and Washington.


Those internet scams must be really paying off.

al-Sadr Update

IHT:
Moktada al-Sadr, the Iraqi Shiite cleric, on Friday called on his followers to sign in blood a pledge of loyalty to the Shiite saint after whom he named the Mahdi army, and to affirm their commitment to ridding Iraq of U.S. troops.


It doesn't stop there.

The pledge request also called on all Muslim believers "to work to liberate all the Islamic states in general, and Iraq especially, from the armies of darkness, by which I mean the occupation and colonization."


He's a really swell guy.

Huh?

I have no fucking clue what the PoMoCon is trying to say here, but I like the title.

Now, Rubik's Cube. Next stop, Skynet

I actually received a Rubik's Cube recently, and haven't been able to solve the thing. So, our Robot Overlords are lightyears ahead of me.

Workout

Ran two miles this morning. Will do 5 x 20 pushups and situps later today, or maybe tomorrow morning if Mrs. FLG and I go out to dinner. After two weeks of working out I can really feel a difference in my energy level and strength, but you can't see it yet.

Also, Mrs. FLG bought me an iPod shuffle, which totally rocks for working out. My only complaint is that I wish I could create at least one playlist.

Olympics

Synchronized Diving and Swimming probably require a level of athleticism and skill that I am unable to appreciate because I have never been involved in the sports. Nevertheless, I find them boring and slightly silly.

I propose eliminating Synchronized Diving as an Olympic event, and adding Caber Toss;



Likewise, let's eliminate Synchronized Swimming and add Timbersports:

CyberWarfare

Danger Room:
Is it possible that the Russian government encouraged (or even hired) hackers to trash Georgia web sites? You bet it is. Do we have the foggiest idea how many of the attacks were from government-connected types, and how many were from outsiders like Morozov? Unfortunately, we don't.


The American public has very little idea how to secure their home computers, let alone how vulnerable the entire country is to a cyberattack. Unfortunately, people securing their home computers and the country's vulnerability to cyberattack are, to a large extent, one and the same. Obviously, one home computer is not as important as a server at the Pentagon, unless of course somebody from the Pentagon was stupid enough to bring their data home or they telecommute. But even if there really isn't anything on your home computer, you have to understand that 10,000 home computers controlled by a hacker is a cyberweapon.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Clinton Roll Call

Emily Bazelon over at XX Factor thinks the Clinton roll call is a good idea.

And I confess this is one scripted moment I want to watch unfold, too, as all those people raise their hands or voices or however it works when a woman's name is called for the presidential nomination. Symbolic doesn't actually have to mean empty.


This sounds like pansy-wansy, Oprah empowerment shit that makes women seem like self-absorbed, emotionally fragile basket cases. Maybe Hillary should just take her loss like a man and shut the fuck up like every other loser in political races. Having a special roll call to celebrate girl power, or some such thing, is complete BS. Candidates celebrate when they win. Close only counts in horseshoes and handgrenades. Having a special also-ran celebration for coming close does the feminist cause a major disservice in the long-run.

Holy Shit!

Guardian:
Hillary Clinton's name is to be put on the ballot at the Democrats' convention in Denver this month in a symbolic gesture intended to solidify the party's support around Barack Obama.


I can't believe it. She has a huge set of balls.

"I am convinced that honoring Senator Clinton's historic campaign in this way will help us celebrate this defining moment in our history and bring the party together in a strong united fashion," Obama said in a joint statement issued with Clinton.


Putz. She won't die until he puts a stake in her heart and cuts off the head.

Correspondence

Does Fear and Loathing in Georgetown go to 11?

Olivia, Eastbourne, UK


Olivia:

After much debate and discussion, we decided to make 10 more Fear and Loathingy.

-FLG


In honor of Olivia's question:

Porn and the Jewess

Andrew Sullivan linked to this article attempting to disprove the claim that porn has become mainstream. This section reminded me of Pheobe's fascination with Jewess-as-seductress:

I speculate that Playboy's exponential growth was due to featuring young brunette girl-next-door types, and its crash due to using blonder and older "power bitch" types. Maxim has done well, in this view, for relying so heavily on dark-haired women.

Inflation

CNN:
Consumers feel the sting as prices jump again to highest point since 1991 - monthly increase twice what was expected.


As I said in January when the Fed was cutting rates:
Cutting interest rates to ameliorate the housing and credit market fiasco is probably going to combine with $100-a-barrel oil to create a nasty bit of stagflation. My money is on the Fed fighting the inflation sometime in Jun-Sept of '08 by raising interest rates again.


Sadly, it doesn't look like they will raise them and it is going a fucking mess. I still stand by this as well:
Basically, we are delaying a probably mild recession in 2008 for a worse recession in 2009. At least that is my off the cuff analysis.


The I-told-you-so factor is almost nonexistent because I feel like the Fed and expert economists are talkin' silly and steering us off a cliff.

International Law

The Georgia issue just shows how meaningless the entire concept of international law is, at least when it comes to invasions and the like. You know, the important stuff. How the important stuff is decided is best summed up by The Melian Dialogue:
the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.


Russia is stronger than Georgia. Nobody stronger than or equal to Russia will intervene in a meaningful way. Therefore, Georgia will suffer what it must. All the talk about international rights and norms is kinda pointless.

Likewise, the comparisons between the Monroe Doctrine and Russia's near abroad policies miss the point entirely. They usually go along a what's good for the goose is good for the gander type argument. However, the issue here is that Russia cannot prevent the Monroe Doctrine from being enacted, whereas we and the Europeans can actually fight Russia's near abroad doctrine. Nobody can stop the US from dealing with Venezuela militarily. A Russian invasion of Ukraine, for example, can be combated militarily by American and European forces. So, they are not the same thing.

Pictures from Montréal

When I first saw these pictures I thought it was the banlieues of Paris. I haven't heard about anything in Montréal.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Let the games begin

I so want this video game. Look at this screenshot:




Unfortunately, I am not sure they sell it here in the states. I guess I could download it for my PC.

A look at bio-terrorism

Stratfor:
In fact, based on the past history of nonstate actors conducting attacks using biological weapons, we remain skeptical that a nonstate actor could conduct a biological weapons strike capable of creating as many casualties as a large strike using conventional explosives — such as the October 2002 Bali bombings that resulted in 202 deaths or the March 2004 train bombings in Madrid that killed 191.

To help keep the cost-benefit calculation of a biological warfare program in perspective, consider that Seung-Hui Cho, the man who committed the shooting at Virginia Tech, killed 32 people — more than six times as many as were killed by the 2001 anthrax letters. John Mohammed, the so-called “D.C. Sniper,” was able to cause a considerable amount of panic and kill twice as many people (10) by simply purchasing and using one assault rifle.


The most likely attack is probably a dirty bomb, but I am far less concerned about the consequences of it. The effects would be very isolated. The attack I fear the most is a small, stolen nuclear weapon. This is extremely disconcerting.

Current Reading

Withywindle reminded me that I have been meaning to read L'Etranger by Albert Camus for a while now.

Current reading list has been updated.

A question

Has anybody ever watched the Wizard of Oz while playing Dark Side of the Moon and they were not high? If so, do they still eerily match up?

Call before they are sold out!



Is it wrong that I find this funny?

Anti-Semitic T-Shirts

Le Figaro:
Tee-shirts antisémites : deux femmes en garde à vue


Two women are in police custody for selling anti-Semitic t-shirts. They read "Juden eintritt in die parkanlagen verboten" and "Zydom wstep do parku wzbronionyio" which are in German and Polish respectively and I know neither. But according to the article, they say "Jews not allowed in the park." Apparently, this comes from a ghetto in Lodz, Poland circa 1940.

What the fuck is going on over there? It's as bad as the Obama t-shirt. That said, I am not completely convinced that this idiocy should be illegal, but that is a moot point because it is in France.

e-Books

Everybody I know who owns a Kindle loves it. I just don't get it.

I usually read one book at a time and it's almost always in paperback, so carrying it around isn't an issue. I can understand wanting to keep multiple textbooks on a kindle. My backpack was loaded down when I was in school. But you can't mark up the pages on a Kindle, and I would want to do that with a school book. So, until it can let you scribble notes in the margin it is a no-go for me on that score.

On the other hand, I would like to get periodicals on a electronic device that is easy to read and portable so that I could read them on the metro. An electronic version of Le Monde is be key, but also overpriced considering I can read it online for free. Plus, no Economist at the moment. That's a deal breaker for me.

I gave up being a first adopter, technology is cool type of person a while ago. It's too expensive, and the second or third generation is always an order of magnitude better than the original. (Probably why iPhone 2.0 is doing so much better than 1.0. Well, that and the price reduction.)

So, I might get a Kindle at some point, but the current price point of both the device and content are too high to justify it for me right now.

Renewable Energy

Friedman:
One of the biggest canards peddled by Big Oil is that, “Sure, we’ll need wind and solar energy, but it’s just not cost effective yet.” They’ve been saying that for 30 years. What these tax credits are designed to do is to stimulate investments by many players in solar and wind so these technologies can quickly move down the learning curve.


I agree with his column, but one thing I learned over and over again in economics is that if a technology was economically viable, then a private company would throw down the money to get it going. If nobody has done that over the last 30 years, then there might be a problem with the technology that will not be solved by subsidies. Granted there are some exceptions to the private funding rule, especially when the startup costs get really huge.

I hope wind and solar work well enough to replace fossil fuels as much as the next guy. I think subsidies are a good idea. Yet, we need to be careful that we aren't flushing money down a rathole subsidizing renewable energy in a vain attempt to scale them when they aren't for primetime. Maybe all they need is a big jump start of Federal dollars, and its worth a shot to a certain extend. I am not terribly sanguine about the prospects because the backend revenues for workable renewable energy seem so huge that private companies should have already started cranking this stuff out.

Certainly there are companies doing some of this stuff, but it is almost entirely reliant upon incentives from the government, not market forces. Subsidies on fossil fuels are a problem as well and should be lowered or eliminated, but proponents of renewable energy overstate the impact of these subsidies.

Quote of the day

MoDo:
A woman who wildly mismanages and bankrupts a quarter-of-a-billion-dollar campaign operation, and then blames sexism in society, will dampen the dreams of our daughters.


Yes, I know that I said I would stop reading MoDo. On that note, her frequent and pretentious use of French verbiage annoys me to no end, and I freakin' know French. The editors should really take a look at that.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

If FLG voted on music taste alone...

Obama would win in a landslide.

Dancing Queen, Mr. McCain? I would attribute it to a moment of weakness. Everybody has at least one cheesy song they love. But two ABBA songs?

Next time somebody asks, say anything by Johnny Cash. Muddy Waters would be acceptable too. Either is retro-cool, but still believable for your age.

How did they find me?

The Onion:
...rarely in his life has been capable of formulating an idea or opinion worth the amount of oxygen required to express it, went on to guarantee that the text of his comment would be misspelled to the point of incomprehension, that it would defy the laws of both logic and grammar...


It's like they read this blog everyday.

Quote of the day

WaPo:
[Bill] Richardson said that this crisis proves the wisdom of Obama's zest for diplomacy and that America should get the U.N. Security Council "to pass a strong resolution getting the Russians to show some restraint." Apparently Richardson was ambassador to the United Nations for 19 months without noticing that Russia has a Security Council veto.


That's pretty dumb, but in fairness McCain has been misspeaking a lot lately as well.

Park Bench Sex

Telegraph:
Police and medical personnel were called to Lan Tian park in Hong Kong after the man, named as 41-year-old local Le Xing, got into difficulty after he put his penis through a hole in the bench and got stuck when he became aroused.

It took doctors four hours to cut him free. They later said that if he had been stuck for just an hour longer they may have been forced to amputate his penis.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Today's Workout

For those of you playing the home game, FLG's workout was a 2 mile run, 5 x 20 pushups, and 5 x 20 situps. Will repeat Wednesday and Friday.

Welcome Flying Robot Overlords

Strategy Page:
The U.S. Air Force is, for the first time, converting a fighter wing from manned (F-16) combat aircraft, to unmanned ones (the MQ-9 Reaper.)


And I thought robot ninjas were scary.

Correspondence

Dear FLG,

Who are you?

Sincerely,
[name redacted]
Incoming Georgetown Freshman


Dear Incoming:

I am the coolest man in the room. Unless I am in the room with either Jack Nicholson or Samuel L. Jackson, in which case I am the second coolest man in the room. Or third coolest when both are in the room with me.

-FLG

Boeing Bows Out?

Le Figaro:
Selon des sources de presse américaines, l'avionneur américain Boeing envisagerait de se retirer de la course dans l'appel d'offres pour fournir à l'US Air Force une nouvelle flotte d'avions ravitailleurs.


I'm too lazy to translate, but apparently Boeing might be giving up on its bid to build aerial refueling tankers for the Air Force. This is the same contract that had already been awarded to Northrop Grumman and EADS, a European defense contractor, and was challenged by Boeing. The GAO upheld that challenge in June.

Oil and the Dollar

Apparently, my simple linear regression of the price of oil and the dollar didn't reveal the whole story. I'm shocked!

Econbrowser:
Although movements in the value of the dollar are one factor contributing to recent changes in the dollar price of oil, I do not believe they are the most important factor. Here I review some of the evidence that persuades me of this.


HT: Marginal Revolution

D'oh

Telegraph:
Homer Simpson replaces King Juan Carlos on Spanish coins


That's funny.

Those crazy Travelocity people

Telegraph:
A grandmother's garden gnome has been returned to her after seven months - together with a photo album showing he has been on a world-wide tour.

Where we're going...we need Rhodes

Strategy Page:
While other pirate plagued nations have navies and coast guards that can battle the piracy problem, Somalia is without any central government, or seagoing military forces. So the international community has been sending more and more warships to patrol the coast.


Again, I think France should be the modern day Rhodes and take up the flag of chief pirate fighter. Heck, they could be Pompey if they want, but Rhodes was cooler.

Women's Gymnastics

Am I the only person concerned for the safety and long-term health of those girls? Tweens and teens are breaking bones routinely as part of the sport. It just ain't right. It isn't even just about the tricks they are performing at the Olympics, but the whole women's gymnastics culture that seems wrong.

Men's gymnastics seems to be more reasonable. I guess because more strength is involved, and therefore puberty is a benefit, not a negative.

NBC and W

President Bush was on the Olympic coverage with Bob Costas. Did anybody else see it? Because I drew the conclusion that the President just doesn't give a shit anymore.

I tried to find the video, but I think NBC is posting takedown notices like a madman for all of its Olympic coverage.

Russia, Georgia, and NATO

I have received several emails regarding the South Ossetia issue. This one is representative:

Hey FLG,

Does the Russian Invasion of Georgia make you rethink your position on abolishing NATO?

Steve


And this morning I see that Withywindle has taken up the call.

Withywindle also sums up the situation nicely:

We are busy in Iraq and we are not capable of going to war with Russia in support of Georgia. Georgian nationalism is not a cause worth fighting for; the integrity of sovereign Georgia against Russian militarism is worth protesting, but not the bones of a single Kentucky infantryman.


We would be very unhappy right now if Georgia was part of NATO because we would be compelled to respond. One could argue that Russia would never have invaded Georgia if it were a NATO country. Very true. So, then NATO's value is in signaling that the United States would respond? I say the United States because that is who would have to do the responding. (Turkey would be very useful in this case because of proximity, but would undoubtedly look to the US for leadership.)

How many countries should we signal that we would protect, but we don't want to protect? We have no strategic interest in this fight, except the meta support-for-Western-leaning-former-Soviet-Republics strategic interest, which is more of a very broad guideline than tangible, specific foreign and military policy. In the case of the Baltic States, EU membership is be a much better form of protection.

My point here is that NATO is not necessary to signal protection for countries that we have an interest in protecting or are EU members. For example, Russia is not going to invade Poland or Finland. Does the United States really want to get involved militarily in the Caucasus? I don't.
 
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