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But it's OK. I've made 85 cents on Dick Gephardt. The Iowa Electronic Market has been kind to me, so far.

The IEM is a sort of a stock market where you can buy "shares" in political candidates. The idea is that the fluctuating prices set by the market can be used to measure the consensus opinion of all the players, which will presumably have more predictive power than the opinion of any one person. The market is comprised of people who have volunteered to play for keeps, with real money, so hopefully these are knowledgeable folks who are actually paying attention to what's going on out there.

Then, of course, you have people like me. Pre-season politics is notoriously hard to call, so I figure that there is certain to be some fluctuation between now and the end of primary season. Somebody other than Dean is bound to enjoy at least a minor comeback. So, I bought two of the cheaper candidates who might possibly have a chance, figuring that at least one of them would peak between now and the convention. I have a standing limit order to dump them both as soon as their value doubles.

The results have been interesting so far:

Hard To Miss That Trend
As of 11/24/03. Click for current data.
(Note that "ROF" means "Remainder Of Field" - i.e., any other candidate.)

Two interesting points emerge:

1) It was anybody's race until the middle of October when Clark jumped in. After that, Dean surged way out in front, and every other candidate has been approaching zero.

2) Clark lasted about two weeks. He's toast now.

Now maybe you're one of those folks who thinks your favorite, non-Dean candidate has better than a one-in-ten shot of actually getting nominated. So sign up already! Each share is worth a dollar if they finally get the nod, no matter what anybody else thinks. You could easily turn a $10 bet into a $100 windfall if you're as right as you think you are.

Me, I could care less who gets it, just so long as one of my boys manages a minor peak before the game is over. I am also interested to see what sort of predictive power this market really has.

(Via DW)



I finally lost faith in Kerry and sold him at a loss - that's 24¢ I won't ever see again...

How Has 9/11 Changed You?
Thursday, November 20, 2003

This was the scene in London today:

Protests in London

Every time I turn on the news, there is a part of me that expects it to look like this:

Bomb blast in Turkey

We are going to get hit again, folks. It's just a matter of time.


Odds And Ends
Wednesday, November 19, 2003

I've always believed that Michael Jackson is a contemptible human being.

Now, I realize that I am hardly the first person to reach this conclusion, but even as I've believed this, I've hesitated to condemn him. At first glance, he seems so easy to hate: that disfigured face, the whispery little-boy voice, the freakish habits he puts on public display. The problem is, these things alone are not good reasons to hate anybody. In a weird way, his most obvious quirks become a sort of camouflage for him, a mask behind which the real ugliness can hide.

My problem with Michael Jackson is that the minute I heard that he might have been fucking children in his home, I believed it. Did he really do it? I have no idea. Did I believe it? You bet I did.

Now we see that a swarm of police - over seventy, by one account - has executed a search warrant on Jackson's home. Witnesses are sequestered and, if the rumors are true, and arrest warrant has been issued as well. These are extraordinary steps that would not have been possible without some damn good evidence to back it up. I expect that Mr. Jackson has finally reached the edge into that deep, dark hole that's been waiting for him all along.

He ought to have some company in that hole. There are actually other people involved in this sordid affair for whom I have even more contempt, and less sympathy, than for Jackson himself.

Try to imagine the sort of parent that would allow their child to spend the night unsupervised with this guy. Go ahead, try to picture it. Ask yourself why they do it, and what they get in return.

I hope this investigation blows his world apart. I hope that every parent, every sycophant, and every other adult who looked the other way gets their moment in that bright, bright spotlight to explain themselves. And I hope they get exactly what they deserve.

Update: LTL agrees. I liked the part about the cows.

A few weeks ago the Weekly Standard published a bombshell - a leaked, classified memo describing considerable and detailed evidence that Iraq had been working closely with Al-Queda. The government issued a very soft denial, suggesting only that the memo did not offer any conclusions; essentially admitting, by default, that the memo was genuine and that the memo's contents were not in dispute.

This story seems to have dropped into a black hole, and if there has been more than a passing mention of it in the regular press, I haven't seen it. Needless to say, if this memo had instead supported the darkest suspicions of the anti-war folks, it would have been frontpage news around the world. What happened?

I have no idea. After waiting for the clarifications and public discussions that never seemed to happen, I'll venture out and offer my two cents, for what it's worth:

Every Arab nation that hates us is also supporting Al-Queda! What the fuck is the matter with you people?

There. I hope I've helped clear this up.

The Massachusetts State Supreme Court recently ruled that they see no reason why gays should not be allowed to marry; they have (correctly) left it to the legislature to sort out.

I support gay marriage, but most people do not. As you might expect, most Republicans are reliably against the idea, but even half the Democrats oppose it. This becomes political poison for the dems during an election year, because every word that's spoken on the topic can only further the split in their ranks. Predictably, the folks with no possible chance of winning - Sharpton, Brown, and Kucinich - have embraced the idea of gay marriage, while all the credible candidates have begun a careful dance step around it. Senate minority leader Daschle went so far as to speak out against the court's decision, and Bill Clinton, you will remember, signed and supported the Defense Of Marriage Act, which "defended" marriage keeping all the gay people away from it.

If the Republicans have any sense at all they will bring this issue to the forefront of the political debate, giving speech after speech attacking the idea and forcing the Democrats to respond. The Democrats will instantly rat out, and, in all likelihood, the gay marriage movement will ultimately backfire before this is all over. Supporters of gay marriage will get nothing from the Feds, and, at best, will find a handful of states that offer 'civil unions' which provide no more benefits than they could have arraigned by themselves with an ordinary lawyer. In my opinion, they will be lucky if they get out of this one without a constitutional amendment pushing them back for decades to come.

Of course, the Democrats will be repaid for their loyalty by seeing their base fragment, and left-leaning third-party candidates strengthened. These guys might go another 12 years before they are allowed inside the Oval Office again.

I'm sorry to see this happen. I hope I live to see the day when nobody cares if you are gay, any more than they care if you are left-handed, but the country is just not ready for it.


It's A Little After 10pm
Monday, November 17, 2003

...and I'm sitting on my ass, as usual, in front of the computer. My wife is sitting happily with both cat and book at hand, and the dogs are downstairs sound asleep, or so I thought.

Bar-OOOHH! Bar-OOOHH! The beagle just goes nuts all of a sudden, one of those urgent, serious barks they make when Something Is Really Up. We've never heard that sound come out of her before. She's staring out the back window, dancing around like an idiot and barking that spine-chilling bark over and over.

I put a flashlight in one hand and a 10mm pistol in the other, and head downstairs. I shine the light out the window and see nothing; I go outside and look around, and see nothing. Maybe it was just a deer looking in the window. Maybe it was nothing.

We pet the dog and tell her she's wonderful, and she goes back to sleep without a thought in her head.

I'm still awake. It's probably nothing.

I'll tell you one thing, though. I do not understand how people can live alone in remote places and not be armed. I just have no idea how they do it.


Econ 101: The Rationing Of Scare Goods
Thursday, November 13, 2003

As most of my friends and family know, I recently addressed my astonishing ignorance of economics by actually sitting down and reading a book (well, half of it anyway). I now know just enough about this topic to be a genuine hazard to myself and everyone around me.

Incredibly, I find economics to be pretty exciting. It's colored the way I look at all sorts of things, and it seems to have application everywhere. Here's an example:

New York suffers a major blackout. That afternoon, some stores are selling $2 flashlights for $50 apiece. Is this a bad thing?

At first glance, yes, it's a bad thing. The merchants are gouging people, taking advantage of the situation, and there ought to be a law against it (and, in New York, there actually is).

At second glance, we are faced with an immutable fact - there are only a few flashlights to go around, and lots of people who want them. Most of these folks would simply like to have one, but others really need them in a big way. What is the fair and moral way to ration them out?

Well, you can use the price-gouging method, where high prices limit the number of people who can afford them. Or, you could use the first-come-first-served method (as prescribed by NYS law) in which the first people in the door get the goods. I suppose you could randomly select customers somehow, or you could just let the government handle it. All of these methods are deeply flawed.

The first-come-first-served method benefits those who are young, fast, and not tied down by a regular job. If you are sick or elderly, or working, or doing something important, you're out of luck. It has no regard for the fact that some people have a much more urgent need for these products than others. In fact, if you wanted a way to distribute these goods solely to scalpers, this is probably one of the more effective ways to do it.

The random method seems more fair at first, although it, too, has no regard for need. The biggest problem is that it is terribly impractical. Go ahead, try to dream up some method that would be even remotely fair - then tell me how you could possibly compel thousands of store owners to actually follow it. There's just no way.

The let-the-government-handle-it method is similarly absurd. I can just imagine us all sitting around in the neighborhood quickie-mart, waiting for the guy from the Bureau of Civil Rationing to hand us all our application forms... in six weeks, after the forms are processed, we'd each get a coupon...

So maybe that gouging method is not so bad after all? The biggest problem is that the rich get a free ride and the poor get really do get screwed, no doubt about it. However, it does offer some real benefits:

1) Most people are neither rich nor poor, but somewhere in the middle. Those that really, really want the lights are the ones that get them. No other method does as good a job of selecting those who most need their product.

2) It rewards the suppliers, thereby increasing supply. The guy at the quickie-mart might well sell you the light he has in the trunk of his car, if he can get $50 for it. So will many of your neighbors. You'd be amazed how many "unneeded" lights would become instantly available. Some shopkeepers might even speculate a little and decide to keep a big box of cheap lights on hand for the next emergency. Either way, you'll have more lights available under this method than any other.

3) The lights would actually get delivered to the places where they are most needed. The problem of screening out the people who don't really need the lights is only part of it; you still need to physically get these products out there. Imagine dozens of young men, braving the wind and the rain to stand on street corners, making their products available to people passing in their cars, self-organizing themselves to disperse to all the places where these customers were most likely to be found. You can't beat a delivery system like this with any other method.

Doesn't look so bad now, does it?

Given that each of the alternatives is either unfair, tremendously inefficient, or both, is the use of high prices to ration scarce goods really such a bad idea? (Besides, we all know that no matter what method you use to distribute these goods, people will be hawking them on the streets anyway. Nature always bats last).

Now, I know there are counterpoints to this. Yes, the poor get screwed. Yes, this is arguably no way to ration food or fuel or anything else that's really, absolutely essential. Yes, it makes you mad when the guy who's sold you coffee every day for 15 years turns on you like this.

But you really, really need a flashlight, right now. Be honest: what alternative would you prefer?

Economics, in my opinion, is the study of alternatives. Alternatives are stark things. They offer a cold, no-nonsense, a take-it-or-leave-it test of the things you thought you knew. They cut through the crap and the ambiguity and get right to truth of things in an immediate, practical way. Sometimes, the practical alternatives collide sharply with your moral views, and you've got to make a difficult choice.

Like I said, this is interesting stuff.


Now The Italians Get Hit
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Following their successful effort to drive both the United Nations and the International Red Cross out of Iraq with a single suicide bomb apiece, the bad guys have now executed a suicide truck-bomb attack against Italian military forces in Nasiriyah, killing at least 25.

Our Italian friends have a choice to make.

They could look at it the way that I do; they could accept that this was not the result of a popular uprising against them, but an attempt by the bad guys to regain their hated control of the region. They could realize that they were targeted, like the UN and the IRC, because they are seen as weak. The could understand that a withdrawal of their forces would give the attackers exactly the result they had hoped for, and that it would paint a bullseye on the backs of every other allied solder in the area. They could respond by doubling their contribution of soldiers, by taking some sorely-needed advice from the US with respect to force protection, and by publicly pledging that, if they are hit again, they would respond with a further escalation of their military commitment.

Or, they could get all European on us and run away, claiming only that they were "reducing the numbers of nonessential personnel" until "the security situation could be reevaluated", and spend the rest of the occupation talking, writing resolutions and waving their hands in the air.

I have my suspicions about what they are likely to do, but I am willing to be happily surprised.

I'll also bet that if the Polish forces are hit like this, they will not run away. I believe that the recently-liberated countries of eastern Europe have a lot to teach their Western counterparts about what we are fighting for, and what it really means to be an ally. Maybe the Italians do get it, after all. We'll see.


Update: The're back!

Speeches given by politicians usually suck. This one didn't suck. It was, quite frankly, better than anything I've ever written, and it was right - insightful, timely, and correct.

Want to know what I think of the spread of democracy in this world? Want to know how to correctly and humanely address the root causes of terror? Want to see exactly what I'd hope would guide our foreign policy for the foreseeable future?

Then read the whole goddamn thing.

And when you are finished, I ask, honestly and without a trace of sarcasm, why none of the other candidates for president have given a speech like this. Do they disagree? Would it offend their supporters? Will they give such a speech at a later time?

Seriously, why have none of them spoken like this?


Update: Michael Totten seems to agree, and offers a rather sad answer to my question.

What Does It Mean To Be A Man?
Tuesday, November 4, 2003

That's a perfectly cromulent question, and this post about this essay got me thinking. Imagine the guy you'd like your son to be, the guy you'd like your daughter or your beloved niece to marry. What would he be like? Well, I'll tell you:

1) He Wouldn't Be Afraid. He wouldn't be boisterous or boastful, either, but he would not be governed by fear. He'd have principles, and he'd stand by them.

2) He'd Be Stand-Up. When you needed to count on him, he'd be there. He'd be straight about important things. He wouldn't be ashamed of himself, or afraid to show you who he really is. When you got to know him, you'd know him.

3) He'd Be Kind. He'd treat the weaker of those he loved as if they were royalty. He'd cherish his spouse and be gentle with his animals.

4) He'd Take Responsibility. He'd accept the consequences, and he wouldn't whine about things that matter. Whatever really needs doing, he'd get it done.

Of course, what makes this interesting to me is that all these traits apply as equally to Good Women as they do to Good Men. If you love your mother, read that list again and tell which item she fell short on while she was raising you up. This is not really about what makes somebody a good man. This is what makes somebody a grown-up.

Being a grown-up is part of being a man, but it's not all of it. There are some things that are distinct to men, things that are necessary in men but not necessary in women.

Here's an example... how many of you remember that Sienfeld episode where George Costanza pretends to be a marine biologist? Remember that part where he's walking along the beach, happily bullshitting this lovely women about what a damn fine marine biologist he is, and suddenly they happen upon a crowd of people trying to save a whale in distress?

"Save the whale, George!" the woman implores. "For me?"

So George - fat, helpless, worthless little George - casts his hat onto the sand as if he expects to never see it again, and he walks boldly into the surf, going out to save the fucking whale. He has no idea what to do. The task is monumental, hopeless, absurd, and George strides into the sea. It was the most perfect moment in television history.

Can you imagine casting a women into that role, and making that scene work?

Do you understand, deep in your heart, that George had no choice?

This is what I'm talking about.

I can't for the life of me explain it. It's not just stubborn pride, or fear of ridicule - George has no pride, and he lives daily with ridicule - it's something else, something deeper. He would have been nothing if he had walked away.

That's the guy thing. There is some stupid, stubborn, insane thing in us that makes us honestly different. If we are lucky, it leads us to glory and fuels a healthy ambition. If we are not so lucky, it leads us to spectacular failure, the sort of failure we enjoy retelling to our male friends while our wives roll their eyes and shake their heads in wonder.

So that's it. You gotta be a grown-up first, and you gotta have that guy thing working. That's what makes you a man.

Oh, and a large penis is good, too.


Well, It Did Induce A Little Nausea
Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Sometimes, well-meaning recommendations which are good for the general population are bad for specific individuals. Here's a small example that nicely illustrates the larger problem.

For years, parents of small children have been advised to keep a medicine called ipecac on hand. Ipecac is an emetic, which means it makes you vomit after you drink it. Sure, this sort of thing can be lots of fun for the practical joker in your household, but the main reason to have it is in case your child goes and eats something poisonous. The faster you can get the kid to throw up, the less of the poison leeches into his system.

The problem is that ipecac is not always an appropriate treatment; in fact, depending on the sort of poison your child may have ingested, ipecac might even make the problem worse. So, the recommendations have always stipulated that if your kid eats something dangerous, you should first call your doctor or your local poison control center and they'd tell you what to do. If they tell you that ipecac would be useful in your situation, you'd have it right on hand and you could administer it immediately. This means your kid suffers less, and maybe it even saves the little bastard's life.

Pretty good idea, right? So of course they now suggest we shouldn't do this.

In the larger sense, this new recommendation is probably correct. The general public will occasionally misuse this drug, and the overall harm may exceed the overall good. However, this does not mean that ipecac is necessarily a bad thing for you to have on hand. If you have the good sense not to misuse it, the correct recommendation for you would be to keep the stuff around.

If you can imagine finding a toddler with an empty bottle of prescription blood thinners in his little fist, I'm sure you'd agree.

So I'm going to do my own little public service announcement here, and I'm going to contradict the experts. If you think you are up to the grueling intellectual challenge of following these instructions, and if you have small children in your home - even occasionally - I think you ought to do the following:

1) Go to the pharmacy and buy a bottle of ipecac before they take it off the shelves. While you are there, you should also pick up a bottle of activated charcoal, the kind intended for internal use.

2) Put both of these bottles in your refrigerator. They don't really need to be kept cold, but this does make it much, much easier to find them in an emergency, even years down the road.

3) If you suspect a kid has eaten something bad, call poison control and ask them what to do. Let them know that you have these medicines on hand, and do what they tell you to do.

I'll be the first to admit that many people can't be trusted to follow these instructions, and it's safer to just leave them with nothing. However, if you can be trusted to handle this, then you ought to be prepared. Every parent I know has a story about their kid eating something awful. It happens all the time.


Update: My mother writes:

Ipecac saved your butt when you were about three years old. You grabbed a bottle of baby aspirin and swallowed about 1/2 the bottle. I did exactly as you now recommend - I called the doctor -I was told to give you Ipecac and you did exactly what you should have - threw up all over the place. Good baby!

Never, never give Ipecac if one swallows anything caustic. Ouch!!!

Dr. Mom

Feces Flinging Monkey

Hey Howard, Here's Something To Keep In Mind

Remember that old saying about not picking fights with "people who buy ink by the barrel"?

Keep that in mind next time you're about to say something this stupid.

Old? I'm Not Feeling Old

...but I sure as hell never had toys like this when I was growing up.

Indistinguishable From Magic

Now this just impresses the hell out of me. Be sure to see the table saw video.

(Via B&S)

Dead Man Walking

The jury says we ought to kill this cocksucker:


I wholeheartedly agree.

Too bad we can't just gut-shoot him and leave him to die in a parking lot.

Mike Gets Out-Classed By A Thirteen Year Old Girl

Years ago, I watched the movie Jaws. Like millions of other Americans, I have not been comfortable in the water since.

Cute, too

This girl got her damn arm chewed off by a shark, and she's going surfing again. I admire this kid, I really do.

Part of it is that she has the nerve to actually go back into the water, but what impresses me most is that she has the confidence and the self-respect to hold up that terrible injury to the whole world, and to look beautiful doing it.

This, my friends, is real class. This is how it's done.

I Swear I Will Never Drink Again

This is just the saddest thing you have ever seen.

Have a teenager in your house? Be sure they don't miss it.

(Via BDX)

Jesus, I Must Really Be Getting Old

This is a current headline. Really:

Eminem's Low Note: Plays '93 recording of rapper disparaging black women

A rapper disparages black women, and that's news?

I'm sorry, where did I put my dentures? I just can't keep up anymore...


Sometimes, technology seems to be locked in an endless cycle. Somebody comes up with a new way to attack something. Soon, somebody else comes up with a new defense to counter it. Over and over it goes, and the cycle never seems to end.

Sometimes, though, you reach a point where somebody really does win and the cycle stops, at least for a while. We just hit that point in the world of hidden cameras.

Take a look at figure 4 on page 10 of this document, How To Find Hidden Cameras. Do you understand it? It shows how to hide the lens of a tiny camera behind an LED.

If you are reading this on your computer, there is probably a small, familiar, green LED right in front of your face, right now, at the bottom of your monitor. I'd bet you could look around the room and see another one, right from where you are sitting. You've probably passed dozens of these things as you went through your day today, not even noticing them at doorways, cash registers, aisle displays, thermostats, wall switches, credit card readers, smoke alarms, and so on. Any one of those could be a camera. For at least a few of you, some of them probably were.

There is just no way to avoid these things now. The only thing keeping you from being photographed is that somebody hasn't bothered to do it yet.

(Via Bruce Schneier)

The Clipper Chip Calling The Kettle Black

Al Gore complains about the Bush record on civil liberties. Moments later, Al Gore gets his ass handed to him.

The internet. It's a beautiful thing.

(Via SU)

It Works Both Ways

Booker T. Washington's famous remark about oppression - You can't hold a man down without staying down with him - speaks to all forms of denigrating behavior. If you pander to a man, lie to him, and make him dependant upon you, you'll find yourself trapped in the same artificial world that you created to contain him.

The debates have been a millstone around the necks of the serious candidates for months. Nothing increases the stature gap between Bush and folks like Dean, Gephardt, Kerry, and Edwards more than throwing them on stage with Kucinich and Sharpton week after week. Why is this McAuliffe's fault? Because it's time for someone to give Sharpton, Kucinich, and Mosley-Braun the hook, and it's McAuliffe's responsibility to do that. The debates should be reserved for candidates who are actually running for president, and those three don't meet that test. As every serious campaign we've talked to about this agrees, the only reason McAuliffe won't raise this issue is that it would mean excluding the only black candidates in the race.

It would mean, in short, that the democrats treat their black candidates the same as they treat their white ones - as real players held to real expectations, and as potential leaders of the party, the country, and the world, rather than as pets.

They built this cage. Let's see them crawl out of it.

Here's A New One

Have you ever seen this sticker on a car? Know what it means?

Thin Blue Line

Presumably, it's called a "cop flag", and means that the user identifies him or herself with law enforcement. The image is meant to represent a thin blue line.

Jesus Fucking Christ

Get a load of this:

An Auckland peace activist who sent an e-mail to the US Embassy objecting to the war on Iraq has been charged with misuse of a telephone.


Mr Hubbard last night said he had been charged under the Telecommunications Act and had been told by police they would seize information from his computer under the Counter-Terrorism Act.

Friends such as fellow activist John Minto were alerted to Hubbard's plight when he sent an e-mail before being taken to the police station.

Remember all those celebrates who claimed they'd "move to Australia" if Bush were elected president? God, what I wouldn't give to see one of them hauled up on "Counter-Terrorism" charges in their new host country. I'd pay double to see them scampering back to Ashcroft's Amerika, yipping like little dogs that have been spanked.

Yeah, these guys know all about freedom. In fact, they are teaching us a lesson, right now.

Cool Site Of The Week

Here's a cool-ass flash skeleton thingie. Be sure to get him to flop down the stairs.

Know The Odds

The always amusing What Are The Odds Of Dying? report from the National Safety Council is available. Among the highlights:

We had 31 deaths in the year 2000 - 31 poor souls! - who were bitten or crushed by reptiles. Compare that to only 26 deaths caused by being bitten or struck by dog.

I don't even want to think how a foreign body entering through skin or natural orifice killed 36 others.

Although "external causes of mortality" are fairly uncommon - resulting in only one death in 24 - they are certainly more interesting to think about than things like heart attacks or cancer. For what it's worth, you were just slightly more likely to die in a plane crash that year as in a gun accident, but about twice as likely to die from falling down the stairs. So, you got that going for you.

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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