Monday, December 24, 2007

Dialing up a good blog

With nothing to do and armed with but a dial-up modem (Fort Dodge, IA: Where it always 1996!) I have successfully wasted nearly all of this Christmas Eve Morning, which is possibly the mom nonsensical string of nouns and adjectives I've ever heard used on broadcast television, which is saying quite a bit.

Anyhoo, in reflecting on many year-end lists and what not, as usual the Onion has effectively destroyed them through superior, cynical sarcastic displays. And also as usual, they have a much better take on most subjects than pretty much anyone involved. For instance, check out their statsheet on the Michael Vick dogfighting scandal:

The discovery of a dogfighting ring in a house owned by Michael Vick has led to speculation of what other secrets the Falcons quarterback might be hiding. Onion Sports runs down the potentially damaging sights that frequent visitors to Vick's mansion have reported witnessing

Embarrassingly thick glasses Vick needs to see more than 20 yards in front of him

A fully annotated slam book, evidence that Vick and his friends can get pretty catty when they get together and start talking

Empty beer cans everywhere, because although Vick is well over legal age, something about empty beer cans always seems to add drama to an already troublesome situation

Authentic original of Edvard Munch's "The Scream," implying that either the version in the Oslo museum or the one owned by Norwegian billionaire Petter Olsen are in fact forgeries

Over 200 tubes of lipstick in various tastefully understated shades

Perfectly legal, albeit tasteless, cat-fighting set-up

Framed diploma proving that Oxford University awarded Vick a doctorate in Jacobean theater during the 2003 offseason

Water cooler with secret compartment containing stash of Oreos

Assorted helmets, pads, and other gladiatorial gear, presumably for use in some grotesque human-versus-human bloodsport

Note that last one. In all the uproar and Peta protests and all of that hoopla, what was conspicuously missing from the discussion was the fact that football (as much as enjoy it) is far more gruesome and damaging than dogfighting.

The counter-argument against this is usually that pro football players get paid millions of dollars. However, this really only applies to the elite few. The average NFL career is 4 years and the average life expectancy of an NFL player is 50, due to the stress the put their bodies through. Think about that: these players literally sacrifice a quarter of their lives to play football for a couple of years. Not to mention the fact that most of them spend their retirement in intense pain and often in poverty, given the terrible treatment retirees are given by the NFL and the astounding medical costs to deal with their old playing injuries.

I'd like to draw some sort of grandiose conclusion about a society that sends you to jail for two years for hurting a dog yet gives millions upon millions of dollars to owners and executives who force human beings to work themselves quite literally to death for them, but it's Christmas Eve Morning, so I'll leave that for a future post.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry War on Christmas

Before I shut this thing down for the holidays in a little bit, I'm hoping to get a flurry of interesting stuff out there...or at least enough to justify coming back to read this thing. Anyway, here's an interesting recent video:

It's part of an effort by Robert Greenwald, master of the quickie-leftist documentary (see Outfoxed, Wal Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, etc.), to step up the boycott of Fox News. Two Democratic front-runners, Obama and Edwards, have alreay publicly declared a boycott of all-Fox sponsred events.

Now, I understand that the Deomcrats are not much better or much more desirable than the Republicans, but if they were to enact a whole-sale boycott of Fox News, it could actually do something positive. Recenly, Fox has begun to slip from the highest-rated cable news network into the land of shrill partisan shouting so slanted that even the American public views it with distrust. And for a politics/news channel, a boycott by one of the two major parties pretty much spells death. If not death, at least a Ralph Nader-like decline into an oblivion where even the people who agree with you no longer want to be associated with you.

So check out the video, head on over to the site, sign the petition, and hope the Dems grow a pair sometime soon...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Update: Troops don't support the troops

In my last post I began to address the out-dated notion that you can't support the troops without supporting the war. Well, today's Los Angeles Times reports that apparently families of active-duty personnel and the soldiers themselves don't support the troops. I tried to reproduce the poll graphic here, but it's too small to legible. It's embedded in the article, or you can look at the most interesting response here.

When asked about when the troops should be brought home, more families of soldiers in Iraq and veterans of Iraq want them home immediately than do those in the general public. Similarly, the same number of vets as the general public think the war was not worth it that (60%).

For people not familiar with military culture, this is huge. It is incredibly rare for members of the American Armed Forces to ever publicly discredit the president, even more so during war time.

So this brings us to the inevitable question: America wants the troops home. The citizens want the troops home, the military wants the troops home, everybody wants the troops home. Why won't our elected officials bring them home?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Supporting the Troops

By now it is such a moot point that it's become a cliche to say you can support the troops and not support the war. Or maybe (more likely) it's become cliche in the circles I run in. Either way, though, pretty much every American has to have seen at least one "Support the Troops, Bring Them Home/End the War/Etc." sign, pin, or bumper sticker by now.

So that's not really the problem anymore (yeah, I know there are plenty of people who think otherwise, but just grant me this for the sake of argument). The real problem is that nobody looks at what the other side is doing. Namely, how are those supporting the war, and especially those who started the warm, supporting the troops?

It's still criminally under-reported that the Bush administration has been cutting veteran's benefits since the start of the war and continues to do so. And let's not forget the famous "hobo armor" stories of soldiers who have to patch together their own safety armor, or the stories of families purchasing flak jackets themselves to send to their relatives in Iraq and Afghanistan who were not equipped with armor.

But even more criminal than the cuts and the shoddy armor are the ways in which the soldiers who have returned home are being almost completely ignored in many instances. This was brought to light recently when a CBS investigation turned up the fact that there are 120 veteran suicides per week. Coupled with the fact that Veterans make up the largest percentage of the homeless, with even conservative estimates putting it at 33% of all homeless being veterans of some branch of the military, this paints a very bleak picture.

This isn't to just grind a political axe (though I could point out that my anti-war actions in no way effect veterans, whilst the actions of those in power who say I don't support the troops significantly negatively effect them), but rather to simply point out the completely criminal nature of our military system. The people we task with fighting for our country (rightly or wrongly) are thanked with debilitating injuries for which they receive little to no care, mental illness for which they rarely if ever receive care, and massively disproportionate rates of homelessness.

So, to beat a dead horse, who is supporting the troops?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Yeah, it's cliche, but...

Over at MSN, they're once again loudly touting those brilliant business minds who have figured out how to not pay taxes.

The reasons given for not paying taxes are even more laughable than the already low tax rates most major corporations have. For example, DirecTv paid only 2% in taxes last year because of "historical losses." Yeah, why should they have to pay taxes when they're down on their luck? It's just like the way I barely make any money so I don't have to pay taxes...oh wait, I'm taxed quite heavily despite having .000013% the income of DirecTv.

Or how about Broadcom, a semiconductors manufacturer? Well, they pay 1.1% in taxes because while they made $703 million overseas, they "lost" $336 million domestically. And yes, that still means they made well over $350 million in profits, but hey, who's counting? Oh, and before you go crying for them about their domestic losses...well, they aren't really loses. Broadcom is just one of many corporations to put it's highly developed Research & Development wings (which require highly educated and trained workforces) in the U.S. while they put their manufacturing (which does not require costly education or training) overseas, in this case Singapore.

As such, while they continue to make obscene profits, they're technically losing money in the U.S. As such, they pay incredibly low taxes because their domestic earnings are so low. Never mind the money all goes to the same place (which is inside the U.S.), or that the money they're "losing" in the U.S. is simply part of the payroll of any tech company. They simply figured that if they split it up like that they won't have to pay taxes. And this is all legal.

So you know, just something to think about when you're filling out your taxes this year. I don't know about you, but I'm thinking I'll start counting the money I make from teaching foreign students as over-seas expenditures. That oughtta bump me down a tax bracket or two...

Monday, December 03, 2007

The run up to war...again

It's fairly amazing, when you get down to it, how recent wars have been fought on evidence roughly as credible as notes passed in eighth grade math ("Do you like neo-liberal hegemony? Check yes or no"). By now, everyone (hopefully) knows about how the U.S. case for the invasion of Iraq was almost entirely predicated on the testimony of Ahmed Chalibi, which of course turned out to be completely made up.

But the fact that it's made up doesn't matter. Because even though the Bush administration itself has admitted it fabricated every reason for going to war, we're already there. There's already hundreds of thousands of people dead, and the Democrats sure as hell aren't going to do anything because then they won't look as tough as the Harvard and Yale-educated, Conneticut-born cheerleader who likes to play dress up.

Well, not surprisingly, the exact same thing is happening with Iran. While the big Lie has yet to come (is Iran looking for yellowcake yet? Probably! Stay tuned!), the little lies that fan the flames are already coming.

Case in point: the National Review Online, the elctronic version of the hyper-conservative National Review, has a regular feature writeen by ex-Marine/"reporter" W. Thomas Smith, Jr. Smith has been fabricating lies left and right on the NRO website, with the biggest being that "thousands" of Hezbollah forces were invading the Christian section of Beirut, a claim which turns out to be completely made up. A good overview of what's going on here.

And what was the National Review's response to this completely fabricated story? Some good ol' timey racism. According to the editor's of NRO, it's not Smith's fault that he completely lied about what's going on; rather, it's actually due to the "Arab tendency to lie and exaggerate."


Anyway, when this Smith guy is sitting next to the first lady at the next State of the Union address being touted as the only reporter courageous enough to expose those dirty I-ranians and allow the U.S. to invade, and then three months later the government quitely apologizes as all of his stories and "facts" have been proven to be completely false, just remember that you heard it from me first.