Friday, January 30, 2009


The House passed an $850 economic stimulus package, hastening our decline into economic disaster.

You don't need to be an ecomonist to see how warped this logic is. If you wanted to get richer, you wouldn't do it by moving money from your right pocket to your left pocket, yet that's what the government is proposing. By sucking $850 billion in tax revenue out of the ecomony, and then sticking it back in through this package, the government is going to make all of your financial problems go away.

But alas, it's not even as good as a wash, or an empty gesture. Instead, we lose money through this package, as government employees must be paid to first collect taxes, then distribute the checks. Oversight committees must be formed to make sure the money is being spent as directed. And yet more employees will be paid to prosecute and punish those who don't comply. Not to mention that much of this windfall will be funnelled inefficiently into pet projects and politically powerful businesses.

Iceland's already bankrupt, and countries like Greece and Great Britain are not far behind. All of these governments have dangerously overspent and nationalized risk in a vain attempt to stave off the forces of creative destruction.

The answers are simple, yet so politically inconceivable that I struggle to remain optimistic about America's future. Chances seem high that we're living through the death throes of an economic superpower, as we "chuck aside our free-market principles", the very principles that have set us apart from the rest of the world and fueled our vast wealth.

But since pissing into the wind is one of my favorite pastimes, I'll enumerate some suggestions for the Obama financial team anyway...suggestions that are not only guaranteed to shorten the length of this down cycle, but cushion future boom-and-bust turns of the wheel as well:

  • Cut the capital gains tax rate. We need to stimulate investment to get the economy moving again. Yes, short-term we lose some tax revenue this way, but if we're going to spend $850 billion, this is going to be much more fruitful for the economy as a whole than just spreading money around.
  • Cut the business tax rate. America needs jobs, and it needs businesses that are growing, not going bankrupt.
  • Balance entitlement programs. I prefer the privatization of Social Security and Medicare (I agree with Bush on something, go figure) but at the very least we need to ensure the ongoing viability of these programs without threatening our economy. Currently, every paycheck has money taken out for Social Security and Medicare. Pay out 99% of that money the next year, and not a penny more. Let the 1% grow and accrue interest, to be used as a lockbox during downturns. Would benefits be cut? Of course. But we can't continue to spend what we don't have. Imagine how benefits will be cut when the government goes bankrupt, like Iceland did.
  • Balance the budget. There is little reason to fear small deficits (say 2% of GDP), but we simply can't trust our elected officials to be prudent with our money. Pass a Balanced Budget Amendment, and never again allow overspending.

Sadly, I know that none of these things will happen. Instead, it's a headlong and inevitable race to destruction, as we compete to become the next failed government. But plenty of theives and leeches will get rich before the end comes, and isn't that what it's all about anyway?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Perfect Gift

Struggling to find a unique, yet practical gift for the man in your life?

Well, look no further than the bulletproof clothing line from Miguel Caballero! Whether you're attending a black-tie benefit with other drug lords, or just slumming around in a polo shirt on your yacht, this Colombian company has the fashionable kevlar weave for you! Wives and/or mistresses can also choose from a matching vest or leather jacket, in case your enemies target them too!

The clothes come in three different levels of protection, which are clearly displayed on the website with helpful graphics. As you can see from this image, Medium protection will stop the standard police-issue .357, along with a 12-gauge shotgun and MAC-10 machine pistol. If you're worried about Dirty Harry and his .44 magnum, you'll have to fork over the extra cash for High protection.

Of course, the website is so annoying with the blinking, music, and horrible translation (see if you can find the 'word' mimetizes), I couldn't stand it long enough to actually find prices on this gear.

As much as I'm poking fun, I really really want something bulletproof. So if you're buying for me, I think I'd look dashing in the stalker trenchcoat, which includes padded internal pockets for concealed weapons. Thanks in advance.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Choke Job

That was the #3 defense in the NFL last night, #1 in the red zone. Hadn't given up more than 14 points in 7 straight games. Zero points in the fourth quarter during the playoffs. Hard to tell, wasn't it?

That was the highest-scoring Eagles offense in team history. Sure didn't look like it in that six-point first-half, eh?

That was the most accurate kicker in Eagles history shanking an extra point and missing a FG.

It was a choke job for the coaches, who unfathomably kept blitzing on 3rd-and-long even though Warner calmly threw hot routes and dumpoffs to convert 3rd-and-17, 3rd-and-10, and 3rd-and-9 (twice). A choke job for the defense, who didn't make a single red zone stop, couldn't stop the Cardinals on the last drive, took ridiculous penalties, and had trouble tackling. A choke job for Quintin Demps, who's still spinning around and looking for that rainbow pass from Warner. A choke job for Greg Lewis, dropping a long ball that would have changed momentum early in the game. A choke job for McNabb, missing open receivers early and then throwing behind Baskett on a 5-yard crossing route when the game was on the line. How many fourth-quarter game-tying or winning drives does that make it for McNabb this season? Still zero.

It was a blast to watch the Eagles knock the Cowboys and the Giants out of the playoffs...I'm appreciative of that. But when that elusive Super Bowl opportunity fell into their collective lap, they fumbled it away. It's a shame to think that some of the best players in Eagles' history - Thomas, Runyan, Dawkins, McNabb, Westbrook - are going to end their careers in Philadelphia without a Super Bowl victory, but it's sure looking that way now.

Maybe the Eagles can borrow one of the Steelers' six Lombardi Trophies, since I'm not sure they'll have enough room in their display case for all of them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Championship Weekend

I tried...I gave up

This refrain is from one of my favorite NIN songs. And it applies to me in a myriad of ways. But today, we're talking about my penchant to make incorrect football predictions.

I resisted a preseason prognostication post, since my previous attempts were as predictive as a primate with a dartboard. (Pardon me, I'll stop now. Probably.) And you'll note an absense of playoff predictions as well, which turned out to be a good thing. So far, I'd have compiled a mediocre 5-3 record, only one game better than the proverbial monkey.

But I'm going out on a limb and risking potential embarrassment today anyway. There's something almost seductive about having a hunch, even when rational examination of previous results shows that my hunches are as useful as Eli Manning in a windy Giants stadium.

This won't be a surprise, but I'm picking both favorites. Of course, the favorites were 1-3 last week, so it's not such a no-brainer. But I see both Pennsylvania teams winning, and winning big. I'm stealing from TMQ here, but bear in mind this promise as you read my take: All Predictions Wrong Or Your Money Back.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh: A rookie coach/QB combo has never won two playoff games before in NFL history...can we expect Harbaugh and Flacco to win three? Baltimore has played 18 straight weeks since their weather-induced bye in Week 2, including a very physical smackdown against Tennessee that left three defensive starters questionable for this game. Joe Flacco, a rookie QB, has been flawless, and is due for a big mistake in a big spot. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh's running game is getting healthy at the right time, and they are playing better now than they have all year. I see a standard Pittsburgh modus operandi for this game, with a close first half turning into a second-half blowout, helped along by a defensive TD.

Philadelphia at Arizona: Arizona is playing much, much better than when the Eagles crushed them 48-20 on Thanksgiving. Especially on defense, where they've forced nine turnovers in two playoff games, and given up fewer yards than any other playoff teams still alive (which include the first, second, and third-ranked defenses in the NFL.) But let's not get carried away...Arizona has beaten a rookie QB and a choke artist in two games. And offensively, they've faced two teams that couldn't rush the passer...which is the only way to neutralize the Cardinals passing game. The Eagles are a different kind of that is playoff-tested, doesn't make big mistakes in big games, and will pressure Kurt Warner like no one else in the NFC. For the Cards to win, they'll have to avoid mistakes under pressure from one of the best defenses in the NFL, in the biggest game in the history of their franchise...while forcing the battle-tested Eagles into mistakes of their own. I just don't see it. It'll be closer, but 31-17 still isn't close.

One more free prediction for next season: The 'best division in football' NFC South will have only one team with a winning record. Yes, they did compile the most wins of any division this season...but look at the competition: the laughable AFC West (no teams better than 8-8) and the mediocre-at-best NFC North, including the 0-16 Lions. This powerhouse division finished 0-4 against the NFC East and 0-2 in the playoffs, which is a glaring indicator of how good these teams really are when matched up against decent competition. I just had to get that shot in, because I'm sick of hearing how good these teams are, or more accurately...were.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Fly Eagles Fly

The stars are lining up for this team.

A few weeks ago, they were a longshot to make the playoffs. Now they are favored to win the NFC Championship game and make a trip to the Superbowl. After the biggest win of the Andy Reid era yesterday, on the road against a #1 seed, the Eagles have a clear path to their first Lombardi trophy.

I'm the first one to kill McNabb when he sucks, so I'm quick to point out that he played like a champ yesterday. The stats don't look like much, but on the road against that defense, in those weather conditions, without a running game to speak of...what he did was Brady-like. He converted 3rd-and-20 in the shadow of his own goalposts and converted a 3rd-and-10 on the same drive. For the game, he helped the Birds to a 50% conversion rate on 3rd down. On a day where the reigning Super Bowl MVP was wobbling the ball into defenders' hands, McNabb was delivering perfect deep throws (Curtis dropped one, remember?) and perfect third-down strikes. He was under a ton of pressure, but when he had time, he made just about every throw. Not a single ball was bounced at the feet of a receiver.

The defense was so good, so worthy of a championship team, that there's almost nothing to say. At the beginning of the season, I said the Eagles could have a dominating took a long time to come together, but finally they are playing at that level. They have not given up more than 14 points since Thanksgiving. Patterson and Bunkley are playing like Pro Bowlers, Samuel has been worth every penny of that $55 million, and the young LBs are coming up huge. The tackling yesterday was superb - at least five times the Giants threw short of the line on third down, and the Eagles were forced to make a one-on-one tackle to prevent the first, and they came through every time.

Kudos also to Andy Reid, who for the second week in a row, stuck with an underperforming running game. Westbrook has never had stats like this in his career: 20 carries for 38 yards, 18 carries for 36 yards, because Reid would never continue running the ball for two yards/carry before. But you can see the benefits clearly when he that works down at the goalline, a QB with time to throw, and an opposing defense that looks tired in the fourth quarter.

Arizona is suddenly playing great football, on defense as well as offense, but somehow I just can't work up a fright about playing them...especially not after crushing the Super Bowl champs in a wind-whipped Meadowlands. Bring on the Cards!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Get on board the atheist bus

Thanks to z0r for alerting me to this article about buses in Britain that are denying the existence of God.

I've got two problems with this campaign.

First, use of the word "probably", which might at first sound like a nitpick. But a surprising number of believers are unwitting subscribers to Bayes' Theorem, meaning that even a remote chance of a fantastic outcome (heaven over hell) is worth a small amount of effort (going to church.) In order to invalidate this proposition, the "probably" has to be eliminated entirely...the remote chance must become exactly zero.

Second, the message shouldn't be "so enjoy your life", it should be "so respect the only life you have." The world doesn't need more imagery of atheists as amoral heathens, what people need to understand is that atheism is actually the peak of morality. By accepting that my life is the only one I'll get, I therefore value life - both mine and others' - above all else. I certainly value life more than someone who believes that our soul will live eternally, someone like the Catholic leader Arnaud Amalric, for instance, originator of the famous quote: Kill them all, let God sort them out.

Respect for life is the highest form of morality, while disdain for life is the lowest...this difference between atheism and religion is the single most important one, not actually the disbelief in God. By ignoring the moral difference and instead reinforcing the hedonistic "enjoy your life" message, atheists are fumbling a tremendous opportunity.

It's comforting for some, I'm sure, to take even this little step...public denials of God are few and far between, to be sure. But it's a huge mistake to allow the real message to be lost in order to take smaller, less offensive steps.

Atheism isn't just about "not believing" in God, it's about rejecting the whole concept that anything greater than life could exist. When you subject your rational decision-making to a mystical being (interpreted through earthly agents, of course), and you accept some other force as greater than life, your morality is have become a murderer-in-waiting. As a believer, if God tells you to sack a city and kill every man, woman, and child inside, you do it. If God tells you to climb a mountain and carve out your son's heart as a sacrifice to him, you do it. If God tells you to sacrifice yourself, by braving a furnace, a den of lions, or being nailed to a tree, you do it.

That's the true beauty of atheism: life is your highest value, not mystical instructions. And that's the message we need to spread.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Now that's a bad videogame

The week after Christmas, I found myself in Gamestop, looking through the used games for some way to entertain myself and the kids during the many long hours we spent locked up in the house together. I stumbled across a copy of Devil May Cry 4, which was generally well-reviewed, and decided to give it a try. I'd never played versions 1, 2, or 3, but I figured a series that's been around this long must have some redeeming qualities.

Big mistake. I may have played worse games, but if I did, my memories have been successfully blocked.

I'm not sure where to begin, but I suppose one starting point is as good as another, because I hate everything about it. I may not be able to adequately express my loathing, but I will thoroughly enjoy the attempt.

First, the characters are juvenile. I know there are lots of people who identify with androgenous, sexually-confused 14-year-olds, but I'm not one of them. I don't want my main character to look like a teenager, and I especially don't want them to act like one. After just a few missions, I'm already disgusted with the whining, pouting, overly-boastful-but-not-confident preening of this avatar. It's like they ripped him straight out of a Disney Channel sitcom.

Second, the cutscenes are outrageously long. After playing three missions, I have watched more fighting than I've done. My six-year-old son innocently asked if I'd bought a movie or a game. After the first mission, when I "defeated" a mysterious assassin, my little group was overwhelmed by enemies as we stepped into the courtyard. Isn't the point of most games to fight those enemies? Apparently not this one, as I was treated instead to another long cutscene of my character kicking ass.

Third, the fighting is all about acrobatic, unnecessary combo moves. I have no desire to hold down RB, pull back on the move stick, and then hit 'Y'. I really just want to kill stuff. As you dance stylishly around, words like 'Deadly!' appear on the screen, and your Style score goes up (oh, I wish I was joking about this stuff, really.) I don't need exact realism, but I prefer to see my enemies explode into bloody chunks instead of being told that my combo is Deadly!

Fourth, the mission I'm doing now is basically ripped out of Super Mario Brothers. There's some red blob I'm supposed to obtain by perfectly executing a double-jump near a wall. And holes in a walkway I have to jump over, and a cartoony grappling hook that I can only use in designated areas, multi-colored power blobs released from the furniture...I mean, am I supposed to feel heroic leaping around like some metrosexual gymnast, hacking apart bookshelves?

Fifth, the perspective is can control the point of view by moving the right stick, but only sometimes. If you're going up stairs, on a ledge, on a walkway, in a tight space, or any other randomly inconvenient area, the ability to change point-of-view disappears. This makes it somewhat more difficult to execute that double-jump when you can't see what you're fucking jumping at. I understand this was an issue five years ago on PC games, but for console games today to still play that way is comically inexcusable.

Sixth, the colors are vomitous. Our hero wears an Anne Rice vampire cape that is red and purple, artistically flowing about him as he smites turquoise-and-yellow enemies. Again, I must stress that I only wish I was joking or exaggerating...the screen is an absolute riot of mismatched color, removing any last vestige of immersion or hint of realism that your brain might be struggling to accept.

Seventh, while you're fighting, there's some sort of techno dance music going on in the background. I don't need to elaborate on this, just fucking imagine it.

Finally, the story itself is not even taken seriously by the game designers. Exploring around, you might find a piece of paper. When you read it, you are magically teleported you to some new area for a Secret Mission! which involves more leaping and combo moves, before you find yourself back in the story arc again. Why would you intentionally introduce disjointed plot holes when you're trying to weave a believable and coherent story?

Devil May Cry 4 is so bad, I recommend you play it. Because some things you have to experience for yourself to truly believe.