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Four Charts
Thursday, July 22, 2003

I suppose this ought to be worth about four thousand words...

Here's how many jobs we have:

This is the total number of civilian jobs in the US
Total number of civilian jobs in the US

Here's the close-up of the Bush part of the graph:

This is the total number of civilian jobs in the US
Total number of civilian jobs under Bush

— Correction —

This is incorrect: see this update.

The Civilain Labor Force represents the number of people who either have jobs or are available for work. The total number of jobs has actually declined since 2001.

My mistake; sorry about that.

Yeah, but are these good-paying jobs? Sure they are:

This is how much people get paid, on average (inflation adjusted)
How much money average workers get paid (inflation adjusted)

Really? Yep:

This is how much money average people take home after taxes (inflation adjusted)
How much money average people take home after taxes (inflation adjusted)

Thank you. I'll be here all night.


I just noticed something interesting.

If you visit TradeSport's presidential election prediction market, you'll see that it's a virtual tie; if you visit their state-by-state election market you might notice a sterling example of the Efficient Market Hypothesis at work.

I looked up how many electoral votes are at stake in each of these states, and did the math. I then considered various ways of interpreting the data, and kept coming back to the same conclusion - Florida. Whoever wins Florida wins the game.

Hell, Kerry could even lose Pennsylvania, and Florida would still put him over the top.

But here's the beauty part: currently, Florida is running 50.1 in favor of Bush - the exact odds now offered for Bush's overall victory.

Seems like I'm not the only one with a little time to kill today.

Have a look at the numbers and see for yourself...


The Best Example In The World
Tuesday, July 20, 2003

Every now and again, you stumble upon something that just cuts through the crap and helps to makes all the important things clear.

If you have been reading many blogs lately you have certainly seen reference to this story, a first-person account by a woman who aborted two of the three fetuses she was carrying. She did it simply because she didn't want to have triplets.

Most folks on the right are, as you might expect, horrified by this. What's more important is that they are correct when they hold this up an an example of what abortion really means.

As a strongly pro-choice observer, I couldn't agree more.

Yes, this woman killed her unborn children simply because she'd rather not have them around, and yes, it is a disturbing story. No, I probably would not have made that same decision myself, and no, I'm not really sure how you'd explain it all to the surviving kid when he's old enough to ask. I'm not really sure how he'd take it, either.

But what's the alternative? Some sort of an all-or-nothing rule, or simply a no-abortions-at-all rule? Those are your options. Pick whichever one you like.

Unsurprisingly, the no-abortions-at-all rule seems to be the unanimous preference among those who would prevent this sort of thing in the future, and that, my friends, is what this is all about.

If you have the right to abort your pregnancies, you can do if for whatever reason you want; for a good reason, or a stupid reason, or even for no reason at all. You can do it for reasons that would horrify your neighbor, or do it for reasons that would horrify us all. That's what choice means.

Now, replace the phrase "abort your pregnancies" with "purchase a gun" or even "home school your children" and we're all back on the same page again.

This is part of the price of freedom. This is what choice means.

Believe me, I understand the pro-life position; if I considered an unborn child to be a baby, I would never allow anyone the freedom to just kill it. It's a perfectly sensible point of view. I understand completely.

As it is, I consider an unborn child to be something less than a baby; something with a fully-fledged human being wrapped around it, and that person's rights come first. It's admittedly a cold point of view but that's the way I see it. If you are pro-choice, that's just the way it has to be.

My opinion is just an opinion, nothing more, and your opinion is no different. The important thing is that we brush aside the smoke and the pretty words and see the real truth we are talking about. Then we make our choices with clear eyes.


Another Charming Encounter
Thursday, July 15, 2003

Here's an interesting story - the author shared a recent domestic airline flight with no fewer than fourteen Syrians who seem to have gone out of their way to act suspiciously. Happily, these folks were arrested by the feds after the flight landed. It's a bit long but well worth reading; quite chilling, really. (via FR)

The good news is that our security people seemed to be nicely on the ball. The bad news is that the press dropped the ball, then lost it, and then forgot about the ball entirely. The important news is that we are still at war. These sorts of scary stories are not just scary stories anymore. They are quite real, and we are still in the middle of it.

I was disappointed that so many passengers, clearly alarmed, just sat there waiting. This was not a situation where violence would have been justified, but they were way past the point where getting up and standing in the middle of these folks would have been an appropriate response. If something bad is going to happen in a case like this, you are not going to survive it. There is nothing to be gained by sitting still.

(Of course, all this changes if you know that there are air marshals around. I only hope that they were really there, and that this is not just a standard line they use to calm you down...)

We've gone three years now and we've begun to forget. That's bad. If we allow ourselves to forget, then we will surely be reminded, once again.


Back Door To The White House
Sunday, July 4, 2003

Suppose you got a job in the White House. If you got one of those really good jobs that came with a lot of power, you'd be required, by law, to divest yourself of your personal financial portfolio.

Basically, this means that you have to sell off all your stocks and put the money into a blind trust - it's sort of like a mutual fund, except you don't know which stocks you actually own. The idea is to prevent a of conflict of interest when your decisions affect the companies that you are personally invested it.

Needless to say, you'll also have to give up your position on the board of directors, too. This is what Dick Cheney did when he accepted the office of Vice President; even after he stepped down from Halliburton's board, the accusations of conflict of interest continued.

I was thinking about this when I saw the reports that Teresa Kerry is estimated to be worth over a billion dollars. My first thought was "good for her" followed by "I wish I had a billion dollars". A billion dollars is really a rather large amount of cash. Imagine a room full of multimillionaires, guys who average around 10 million bucks each. Imagine a hundred of these guys in the room, sucking down brandy by the case and stinking the place up with their cigars, scheming and deal-making and doing all the bad things that multimillionaires supposedly do. Teresa Kerry controls more money than all of them combined.

He investments are certainly diverse. Is she invested in Halliburton? The Carlyle Group? Big Oil? Nobody knows. She's refused to disclose her financial details because she considers herself exempt from any legal requirements to do so. She's probably correct, too, at least for now.

Suppose he husband gets elected? Is Teresa Kerry going to sell off a billion dollar empire and move all of her assets into a blind trust? Is she going to surrender her control of Heinz and the god-knows-how-many other companies that she owns?

So far as I can tell, the answer is no.

The law here is complex and I have not been able to confirm my assumption, but if this is in fact true, I think it's a pretty big deal.

Despite the legal fiction of his wife's financial independence, John Kerry will certainly profit from anything that benefits his wife's financial partners, and he will clearly benefit from the terrific power that his wife would be able to wield. If you were a foreign businessman, wouldn't you like to have direct financial ties to the First Lady? How much might that help your company as the day to day details of running the nation are hammered out? What do you suppose she might require in return?

There is no shortage of people in the country who believe that the whole reason we went to war in Iraq was to throw a favor to the financial friends of the current administration. Kerry probably has ten times the financial clout as Bush and Cheney combined, and we have no idea who she is doing business with. If we were to learn that she was deeply invested in Saudi Arabian oil companies, don't you think that would cast a shadow of doubt over every decision her husband makes? Shouldn't it cast such a shadow?

I'd really like to know this is going to turn out, and I think we have a right to ask her to divest herself of her personal holdings if her husband is elected to office. If she is free to retain control of her fortune and to keep the details of her business dealings private, then everyone in the White House ought to have the same privilege.


Firefox Update
Sunday, July 4, 2003

OK, last one, I promise. Usually, this 'browser wars' stuff bores me to tears...

First, the good news. I've been using Firefox for a couple of weeks now and I am very happy with it. Basically, it has one annoying bug, and that one is a high-priority fix for the next release. Outside of that one issue, Firefox has really surprised me; it's a damn good browser that works really well. I can honestly say I'd stick with it even if IE didn't have all those severe security problems.

More good news - the same folks who make Firefox make an Outlook Express replacement called Thunderbird. Once it is properly set up, it is an almost transparent OE replacement. I can say this with confidence because I upgraded my 72 year old mother's computer with this thing and she's not had any problems. Think about that... if she can make the switch painlessly, so can you!

Thunderbird is a bit of a pain to set up. It's currently at version 0.7, functionally stable and almost fully complete, but the setup procedure is unpolished. You'll need to hunt around in all the sub-menus menus to get everything tweaked the way you want. Happily, once you get over that hump, you're good to go.

Now, the bad news - Internet Explorer has yet another severe security problem (the news release claims that Firefox is vulnerable to this one as well, but it's not). I really think the lingering security problems in IE have hit a sort of critical mass, and that browser is starting to melt down. It's just not going to be possible to run it safely anymore.

Seriously, folks, it's time to switch.

Please feel free to post any questions you have about Firefox or Thunderbird in my comments section - I'll do my best to help you out with any problems you encounter. It's not a big deal to just download this thing and give it a try, and you can always go back if you don't like it. Believe me, it is much easier to switch than it is to clean up after your computer has been hacked!


Friday, July 2, 2003

I wonder if he pounded the desk, too?


Feces Flinging Monkey

I Hope This Dosen't Suck

...and of course it won't. After all, it's promised to piss off Michael Moore, so how bad could it be?

I Didn't Know This

That Texas Air National Guard unit that Bush joined was actually combat-bound when he signed up, and he knew it:

[I've rearraigned these paragraphs for clarity. The original is here.]

It is a common misconception that the Air National Guard was a safe place for military duty during the Vietnam War. In actuality, pilots from the 147th Fighter Interceptor Group, as it was called at the time, were actually conducting combat missions in Vietnam at the very time Bush enlisted. [...]

As he was completing training and being certified as a qualified F-102 pilot, Bush's squadron was a likely candidate to be rotated to Vietnam. However, the F-102 was built for a type of air combat that wasn't seen during that conflict, and the plane was withdrawn from southeast Asia in December 1969.

[... P]ilots from the 147th FIG of the Texas ANG were routinely rotated to Vietnam for combat duty under a program called "Palace Alert" from 1968 to 1970. [...] Fred Bradley, a friend of Bush's who was also serving in the Texas ANG, reported that he and Bush inquired about participating in the Palace Alert program. However, the two were told by a superior, MAJ Maurice Udell, that they were not yet qualified since they were still in training [...]

The previously mentioned Maurice Udell was a flight instructor for Lt. Bush who was interviewed by the Associated Press in February 2004. MAJ Udell recalled that Bush was one of his best students saying that, "I'd rank him in the top five percent."

(Via TC)

OK, This Is Pretty Damn Cool

Guy here thinks he's figured out how the ancients moved huge blocks of stone around without pulleys or cranes. He demonstrates his ideas by moving 10 ton blocks around his yard, by himself.

Somebody stop me before I try this...

I Miss All The Good Parties

According to this report, members of the environmental organization Fuck for Forest believe that if they have sex in public, people will notice, and that this will somehow save the rainforest.

Here's a few young activists on stage at a recent concert:

I love it when young people get interested in politics

I've given this some thought, and I've decided that their actions raise a couple of interesting points:

1) That girl is hot.

2) Seriously. She looks pretty damn good up there.

I've often heard that the drugs are stronger now than they were when we were in college, but this is the first hard evidence I've seen.

It wasn't always like this; believe me, back in my day, you needed something better than a South Park, Underpants-Gnome-type story to convince a girl of that caliber that dropping her pants was going to save the world.

Times were harder than. It built character.

John Dillinger's Full-Auto 1911

Here's a replica:

Thompson parts, by the look of it.

The FBI has the original:

Kind of an early MP-5

I want one.

None Shall Provoke Me With Impunity


Day By Day, by Chris Muir. Used with permission.

Day By Day, by Chris Muir

Cox And Forkum, Used with permission.

Achewood, by Chris Onstad. Used with permission.

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