Rear Window Ethics Rear Window Ethics: January 2005

Monday, January 31, 2005

High School Students 'Blah' about Free Speech

Rear Window EthicsIn a shocking turn of events, it seems that a study released today found high school students to be generally apathetic. The study showed that many students believed government censorship of newspapers may not be so bad, and that flag burning should be illegal. Over 1/3 of students surveyed believed the First Amendment "goes too far" in the rights it guarantees.

This frightened and shocked me. Could it be that high school -- the traditional hotbed of anti-establishment, progressively-minded youth opinion -- is actually full of students who are more restrictive and conservative than their parents? Could the counter-culture rebellion that has defined America's youth for the last forty years or more, the same revolution that played a critical part in this nation's civil rights movements, be reversing its course?

My fears were somewhat quelled when I read on in the AP article that discussed the study's findings.

"When asked whether people should be allowed to express unpopular views, 97 percent of teachers and 99 percent of school principals said yes. Only 83 percent of students did."

The key word here is "unpopular". Popularity, of course, is the currency upon which the entire social economy of high school is based. Unpopular views are, by nature, not held by the majority of the people. These are high schoolers we're talking about here. Unpopularity is social death in many more superficial cliques of teenagers.

This is why teenagers don't run the country. If they did, Paris Hilton would be President, social security and tax refunds would be doled out in the form of gift cards to the local shopping mall, and our national anthem would be this month's Kelly Clarkson single (but only until it fell far enough in the Billboard 50 to be replaced by the latest Usher track).

The real question here is when did popularity and affinity with peers become tangled up with views on our Constitution? Since when did the youth phase of "follow the leader" apply not only to the Regina Georges of the high school world, but also to the Parents Television Council? Since when did the age group that is supposed to follow one another in questioning authority decide that they should simply follow the authority instead?

Britney, do you have anything to say about this?

AP (via Fox News): Free Speech? High Schoolers Say, 'Whatever'

Album of the Week: NFL Films Music

In the latest installment of this recurring series here on RWE, I came down with a case of Superbowl Fever. Sure it's the largest television event in America, and sure it's hyped to death by both sporting and mainstream media, but it sure is easy to get excited about the possibility of your team winning its third Superbowl in four years. Go Pats!

icon

This compilation of the best tracks from NFL Films past and present captures both the classic (and hillarious) horn-heavy themes, as well as the current cinematic scores that accompany this NFL tradition.

Selections From Autumn Thunder: 40 Years of NFL Films Musicicon

Oh, and again: Go Pats!

Friday, January 28, 2005

Dr. Diva

RWE would like to welcome my very good friend Dr. Diva to the blogosphere. The doctor is in (and out) to answer all of your questions and dole out the most fabulous advice available.

Because everyone needs at least one fabulous psychiatrist in their life! Think of this as an advice column to the stars, except that I charitably dole out helpful words to mere laypersons. Who died and made me queen? Ann Landers, that’s who – and the b*tch that replaced her sucks. So help me help you! No, I’m not an actual doctor – I’m just a diva who knows that if everyone took my advice, the world would be a much better place. Frank-Funny-Fabulous.


You can email your questions to DrDiva@gmail.com

BlogAzoo

Yet another site has entered the growing market of blog promotion. BlogAzoo not only increases the number of visitors to your site, but also provides you with various other methods of promoting your blog.

Give it a crack if you're so inclined!

Amazon.com Implements "Drunken Shopping" Prevention

I wish.

Those of you that know me are probably somewhat familiar with a little problem I had in college. You see, when people drink they often end up doing things they wouldn't necessarily do while sober. For some it entails throwing themselves at people they're attracted to, for others it means dancing like flailing felines during a stroke. As for myself, my own particular brand of drunken impulsiveness has always been late-night online shopping.

In my collegiate heyday I was known to have purchased such items as a garment steamer, dozens upon dozens of DVDs (including a five disc set on the history of NASA), plenty of video items for "work", and of course the infamous Can-Around. Since then I've been able to tone down my inebriated buying by simply cutting down on my alcohol consumption. If I stop the source, I stop the result. Last weekend, however, proved once again that you can take the booze out of the impulsive shopper, but you can't take the shopper out of the...booze...or whatever.

Not a month after "accidentally" buying the Super TV B Gone Remote in the wee hours of the holidays, I found myself snowed in during a blizzard, down a bottle or so of wine, and mysteriously slipping away from my companions in the other room to "research" hot sandwich makers.

Having left the computer with my Amazon shopping cart still open, I foolishly boasted to my company about my apparent will power in an area of such personal weakness. Upon opening my email Monday morning it became quite clear that such overconfidence was quite premature as I found a shipping notification for not only the sandwich maker, but for a new stainless steel pot as well. In retrospect, there was no way I could expect to come back before bed and NOT click the "complete order" button.

I simply must be stopped.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Bush: No More Paid Media!

Armstrong Williams
Maggie Gallagher
[insert name]
[insert name]
[insert name]
etc.

President Bush today stated in a press conference that his Cabinet secretaries will not pay any more media commentators to promote his agenda during his second term.

A tad late, considering the second of what may indeed be a host of pundits on the Administration's payroll was outed today just days after the initial scandal involving Armstrong Williams broke. Now that the media, both conventional and new, are digging deeper to expose any other undisclosed financial transactions between the government and members of the press, I don't think anyone would be surprised if more instances of this behavior pop up in the future.

How can pundits claim to be so ignorant when it comes to the shadiness of these deals they've struck? These are bright, well-spoken individuals who make a living using their brains, yet somehow they don't think it was improper to take money to espouse the views of those paying them, even without disclosing that fact to the public.

"I don't know -- It was a mistake," they say. They never thought to inform the public that they're adulterating their roles as members of an "independent" media. That's the worst excuse I've ever heard of. That's the kind of excuse a child uses when they are caught doing something wrong: "I didn't know I couldn't do that!"

As for the President, he was content to place the blame directly on his former Cabinet members. "We've got new leadership going to the Department of Education," he said in response to questions about what will happen to officials responsible for the scandals. Honestly, I'm surprised he aimed so high. He probably could have blamed some nameless, low-level flunkies rather than a Cabinet secretary. That's a strategy that has certainly worked in the past...

Reuters: Bush Says Won't Pay Commentators to Promote Agenda
Washington Post: Writer Backing Bush Plan Had Gotten Federal Contract

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Boston Terror Update

The Mexican smuggler that tipped off the FBI about the Chinese nationals supposedly planning to set off a "dirty bomb" in Boston finally admitted today that he called in the tip while drunk and on drugs, in an attempt to get back at the former suspects after going unpaid for his efforts to get them across the border.

All a bunch of hysteria over a drunk guy calling an 800 number...

Reuters: Mexican People Smuggler Admits Boston Terror Hoax

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Report: Global Warming Approaching Critical Point

An international climate change task force warned G-8 leading industrial nations that "an ecological time-bomb is ticking away." The report warned of "climatic tipping points" such as the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets melting and the Gulf Stream shutting down. Basically what happens in that crappy movie The Day After Tomorrow.

Senator Olympia Snowe (R) and Stephen Byers, a close confidant of Tony Blair co-chaired the task force, which issued the report Monday to encourage Blair's involvement in securing U.S. cooperation in tackling climate change after pulling out of the Kyoto accord.

AP Article

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Oscar Nominations Out

Full List Here

The Aviator lead the pack with 11 nominations, including Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing and Directing. It looks set to pull a classic rampage through the awards show like many films in the past that have been nominated, winning the majority of the categories it was nominated in.

Most everyone is nominated that was expected, with perhaps the notable absence of Paul Giamatti who really did some great work in Sideways.

Also somewhat of a surprise, Finding Neverland nabbed Best Picture and Best Actor noms.

Unless The Aviator goes on a roll, I would actually pick The Passion of the Christ to win best Cinematography, despite the fact that Mel Gibson should probably be executed on stage for his shameless overcranking to produce endless slow motion sequences.

Barring some sort of Hollywood junta, The Incredibles will win Animated Feature as well as Sound Editing, but will lose original screenplay to The Aviator.

My biggest surprise? I don't HATE the film that will likely clean house. I don't know if I thought The Aviator was the best film I saw all year, but it was very good, and for the first time in a while I will not be horrible disappointed with The Academy when one film dominates the awards show.

I can still taste the bitter bile of revulsion that crept into my mouth when Lord of the Rings and Gladiator laid waste to the competition by taking advantage of studio influence and shameless bandwagon voting to win it all despite being, well... bad.

Weekend Reading: Unsocial Insecurity

During this snowy weekend that left me trapped inside with time on my hands, I was able to catch up on my newsmagazine reading. It's been a bit difficult to finish all the periodicals in the apartment off each week before the new ones come in, because I now have to plow through The New Yorker in addition to the usual US News and World Report.

Hendrik Hertzberg's column on the possible pitfalls of Bush's Social Security reform was especially memorable. In it he clearly and concisely raises his own worries about such a drastic change to arguably one of the most important government programs in American history.

This year, the Social Security system—the payroll tax, which brings money in, and the pension program, which sends money out—will bring in about $180 billion more than it sends out. It will go on bringing in more than it sends out until 2028, at which point it will begin to draw on the $3.5 trillion surplus it will by then have accumulated. The surplus runs out in 2042, right around the time George W. Bush turns ninety-six. After that, even if nothing has changed, the system’s income will continue to cover seventy-three per cent of its outgo.


That’s using the Social Security Administration’s economic and demographic assumptions, which are habitually pessimistic. Using the assumptions of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the surplus runs out in 2052. And if one uses the economic growth assumptions that Bush’s own budget office uses when it calculates the effects of his own tax cuts, the surplus runs out in—er, maybe never.


Not content to simply shoot down the Bush administration's proposals, Hertzberg goes on to offer more suitable suggestions to solve this "crisis" that probably shouldn't even be called a crisis. Understanding that privatizing accounts will do absolutely nothing to extend the solvency of the program, as it is dependent on the amounts of money coming in and going out, he brings up possible ways to increase revenue or decrease guaranteed benefits.

At some point over the next couple of decades, of course, some adjustments will have to be made. There are many reasonable possibilities: a modest rise in the retirement age, to reflect increases in health and longevity; a rise in the cap on wages subject to the payroll tax, which now cuts out at ninety thousand dollars a year; adding a bit to the progressivity of the benefits. One can even imagine a national decision to devote a larger proportion of national resources to the care of the old, given that a larger proportion of the population will be old—preferably to be paid for by taxing something we’d like to see less of (like fossil-fuel consumption) instead of something we’d like to see more of (like jobs).

Finally, while agreeing that the values of self-reliance and individual choice are good, Hertzberg posits that Social Security was put in place to support Americans at times when capitalism, a system with manifold benefits but also as many uncertainties, fails them.

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house”—that’s a good admonition to keep in mind when making social policy. But so is “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”

Full Article

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Monday, January 24, 2005

Boston Blizzard Video

Here are two video clips showing the aftermath of what is now being known as "The Blizzard of 2005".

Both are in Quicktime format and are around 1mb in size. Click the images to view.

Rear Window Ethics

Rear Window Ethics

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Belated Boston Blizzard Report

So on Saturday night through Sunday morning it snowed. And snowed. And kept on snowing until Boston proper had roughly 30 inches of powdery snow that swept around in the wind to create drifts up to 4 feet.

Boston Public Schools (which, it turns out, bear little resemblance to their television depiction in Fox's show of the same name) are closed on Monday as well as Tuesday while the city digs out from a snowy shellacking.

Rear Window Ethics

The wind was blowing so hard overnight that the snow easily penetrated any cracks in apartment building entranceways.

Rear Window Ethics

For those of us who had no commitments on Sunday aside from watching the Pats smoke the Steelers in the AFC Championship game, it was good fun. The roommate and I walked across the street to our neighborhood park to perform trust falls into bottomless drifts of white stuff.

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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Pope: No Condoms!

I have no problem with the Catholic belief in abstinence until marriage. That belief is part of a system of tenets that the Catholic church has clung to for many, many years. There is absolutely no problem with the promotion of abstinence, as it is the only 100% method of preventing unwanted pregnancy, as well as the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

But for God's sake! Let's be reasonable here! Promote abstinence, but give options! The world today is a society in which young people often follow their biological urges. The world today is a place in which people have sex, sometimes outside of their religion's definition of wedlock.

Christianity is a faith based on compassion and love for one's fellow man. To deny the existence of a way to save millions upon millions of lives is simply ridiculous. To ignore and refute possible means of sparing so many people from such a horrible disease as AIDS because of a biblical decree is sheer lunacy.

It's as simple calculation of weight. Which is more important to God, abstinence until marriage or the life of God's most beloved creatures? I'm no man of the cloth, nor do I claim to be a channel of God's Word, but as a human, I would imagine that saving precious lives just might be more important than the following of rigid sexual boundaries.

Reuters: Pope Reaffirms No Condom Stand After Spain Debacle

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Friday, January 21, 2005

SpongeBob...Gay?

Does the religious right realize that these kind of publicity stunts only make them sound more ridiculous than they already are? Condemning a video starring cartoon characters that tries to teach children about respect and love for people -- that's not the Christianity I remember from my childhood.

Did Jerry Falwell do anything but make a joke out of himself by spitting hellfire about the Teletubbies? I don't think so.

Remember, kids: You need to respect people, their backgrounds, and their beliefs....as long as those people have the same background and beliefs, and bastardize scripture to promote hatred.

CNN: Christians issue gay warning on SpongeBob video

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Snowy Car Accidents

It's been rather nasty here in Boston over the last few weeks, with a lot of cold and a bit of snow. So far, however, I haven't seen anything close to what's in this video from St. Paul.

Snowy Car Accidents [KARE 11 News]

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War Abroad, Little Sacrifice at Home

In a spectacular Washington Post article today, Dana Milbank digs deeper into the issue of lavish inaugural celebration while the country is at war. Rather than simply comparing the $40 million in donations spent on today's party to the lack of proper funding for troops in combat, Milbank sees this event as indicative of the national sentiment here at home.

While contrasting Roosevelt's meager wartime inauguration with Bush's indulgent celebration has been a common theme (including here at RWE) there has been little comparison between the war rationing and military draft of WWII and the current war that most citizens watch on their high-definition televisions between filling up the tanks of their SUVs and buying $5 cups of coffee.

"For most Americans, the wars on terrorism and in Iraq have been primarily 'spectator' wars, not 'participant' wars [...] The civic energy and national solidarity that was the one silver lining in the tragedies of 9/11 has been almost dissipated in the subsequent 3 1/2 years. When Americans asked after 9/11, 'What can I do?' the answer was, 'Here's some money back from your taxes, now go spend it.' "

"We're waging war on the cheap, and not asking much either materially or psychologically from the society at large," says historian David M. Kennedy.

"Asked a month after the 2001 terrorist attacks about the need for sarifice, [President Bush] said; "I think the American people are sacrificing now. I think they're waiting in airport lines longer than they've ever had before.

"If war costs and casualties grow, Kennedy wonders whether the public 'will be prepared to embrace a spirit of sacrifice at home' in the form of a draft, higher taxes or economic restrictions. 'I'd surely bet against it,' he said."

Full Article

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UPDATE: Boston Terror Threat

City and state officials have spent the evening downplaying rumors of an imminent terror threat that spread through Boston this afternoon. Local news, inter-office emails and parental phone calls disseminated a story of four Chinese nationals carrying dangerous materials into Boston for a potential terrorist strike until local government officials were forced to come out publicly with the facts to keep the city from panicking.

As Governor Romney and Mayor Menino have said in press conferences, the information that led to this threat warning is anything but certain, as the source was "unknown and uncorroborated." The FBI has said that this threat ranks along with many others nationwide that are never publicly released due to the unreliability of the information behind them.

So basically the city had a bit of a panic attack this afternoon, but is now much more concerned with this evening's relatively harmless snowfall than with a dirty bomb.

CNN: Four Sought in Possible Boston Terror Threat

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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

BREAKING: Terror Threat in Boston

News has spread through the city this afternoon about an anonymous call made to the FBI concerning a number of Chinese nationals (some variations involve an Iraqi as well) smuggled into the country with intentions of traveling through New York to Boston with mysterious materials. Bomb sniffing dogs have supposedly been patrolling the city in search for a "dirty bomb".

The tip was anonymous and uncorroborated.

Mayor Menino has spoken at a press conference, and Governor Romney is leaving the inaugural festivities in D.C. to return to Boston this evening.

Boston Herald

Reuters

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Black Cowboy Boots Kick Out D.C. Homeless

Rear Window Ethics As supporters of President Bush flock to Washington D.C. in celebration of his inauguration, those who can't pony up the large sums of cash for the events are losing out. Again. "A Celebration of Freedom" was scheduled for today as an event for the masses who could not afford the extravagant prices and fashions of the inaugural balls, however inclement weather has shortened the event and canceled several of its acts.

Regular folks aren't the only ones being left out in the cold as Bushies who can afford it attend their parties tonight and tomorrow. Washington D.C's 8,000 homeless have been swept out of the areas near the inaugural events and into already over-crowded shelters. During such a cold week, this would be a seemingly welcome move, except for the fact that the shelters are already operating at maximum occupancy. Nevertheless, as the formal cowboy boots and lavish fur coats stream into the District and toward inaugural balls and luxury hotels, officials have decided to make those with the least virtually invisible to the high-rolling visitors.

Homeless residents of the city who make a few dollars selling "Street Sense" newspapers have been instructed to avoid Bush supporters and instead plan on targeting the protesters coming to town.

Meanwhile, D.C. leaders are still trying to get federal funding for the inaugural security costs in lieu of using $11.9 million of their allocated homeland security funds for a non-emergency situation.

Reuters: Homeless Mostly Invisible as Washington Celebrates

Washington Post: D.C. Pushes To Be Paid For Security

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It's Cold!

I'm only up because it's fucking freezing here right now. At 2am it's 3 degrees outside with a windchill of -19. My bed is next to a window and a door to the alley behind the apartment building, so yes, I can feel that wind as it does its best to sneak through any and all cracks in the wall.

And for those of you who know me and are thinking, "This can't be Travis. That man just doesn't get cold. He's like a living, breathing furnace. He sweats in the winter...outdoors..." well, I just don't think you understand how cold it is. Bastards.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Iraqi Elections, Inaugural Spurge, and Dissenting Evangelicals

The Bush administration has moved their public expectations for the Iraqi Elections down yet another notch. Gone are the days when January 30th was a mystical date in the distant future that promised a final absolution of our democracy-building bloodshed as well as a heartening reward for our intentions in the Middle East. Now the administration is finally admitting that if the elections can even be considered legitimate, they're probably not going to deter the insurgency all that much if at all.

Somehow a democratic Iraq went from being an immediate, shining beacon of freedom in a region full of strife to not even that of a "pivotal point" in such matters.

Reuters: US Lowers Expectations for Once-Heralded Iraq Vote

More and more voices are coming out to publicly denounce the untimely indulgence of the upcoming inauguration, citing the need for military funding as well as international charity at a time in which the world cries out for help and the country is knee-deep in war. President Bush contends that "You can be equally concerned about our troops in Iraq and those who suffered at the tsunamis (and) with celebrating democracy." Perhaps soldiers in Iraq pulling scrap metal off of garbage piles to armor-up their vehicles are as excited about the "Commander-in-Chief Ball" as President Bush seems to be.

Reuters: Critics Say Bush Inaugural Too Lavish For Wartime

Despite the news media's recent obsession with "values" and President Bush's so-called obligations toward right-wing Evangelical leaders and their respective agendas, it turns out that not all Evangelical clergy members are consider marriage definition more important that other messages in scripture. Tony Campolo, an Evangelical minister, claims "there are other concerns that are crucial to our faith. Poverty is a concern to which we gave little attention, yet there are over 2,000 verses in scripture that call on us to meet the needs of the poor..." He goes on to compare the US's reasons for the war in Iraq with St. Agustine's requisites of a "just war", as well as to express concern over a loss of integrity suffered by Evangelicals who officially and strictly align themselves with one political party.

NPR: Tony Campolo: Evangelical Support for Bush

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Friday, January 14, 2005

Like BlogExplosion? Try BlogClicker! Or BlogCrowd!

I've been using Blog Explosion for a few months now to keep up with what other people are writing, and now there's another tool to use for the same purpose.

Both act almost exactly the same as BlogExplosion, except that they're new. New means new blogs, different readers, better refferrals, and the best of all -- that you can use BlogClicker, BlogCrowd, and BlogExplosion at the same time to get credits.

Try it out.

Bush's Inaugural Events Budget

Rear Window Ethics

Remember the last chapter of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, in which Scrooge wakes up after a fitful night haunted by the three spirits of Christmas? You know, the "What's today? ... What's today, my fine fellow?" scene? The one where the boy replies " Today? Why, Christmas Day." And all of a sudden Scrooge orders the largest turkey he can find to be sent to Bob Cratchit's house, and continues on spreading goodwill to those in need through the end of the story.

Wouldn't it be an amazing legacy for President Bush if he were to scale down his inaugural events to the necessities, and then used the funds budgeted and donated for it to provide aid for those in need? He wouldn't even need to tell anyone. He would take all the contributions for the festivities and instead spend them on purchasing body armer for troops in combat, or on tsunami relief efforts, or even AIDS programs in Africa.

Nothing would impress his detractors and his enemies more than such an act of charity and generosity. If he were to have a meager celebration -- a short parade followed by a moving speech about the need to do what we can in such trying times -- it would go a long way to bring Americans together after a divisive term and a bitter year of campaigning. It would buy more "political capital" than his so-called mandate and Iraqi election "freedom is on the march" speeches combined.

By scaling down the inauguration he would not only alleviate some of the burden on the financially strapped city of D.C., but he would show Americans -- and indeed the world -- that a time of war and of global catastrophes is not a time for a gaudy party. By contributing the funds originally marked for the indulgent festivities he would both embody his own call for American charity as well as one-up Franklin Roosevelt's modest wartime inauguration of 1945 (though opinions differ on FDR's reasons for such a meager ceremony).

I don't expect any of this to happen. The inaugural festivities are to celebrate the people who contributed money for the campaign, despite the claim that this year's theme is to honor the men and women in our armed services. The likelihood of actually celebrating the troops by donating private funds to buy life-saving necessities for them is next to none. There would be a lot of pissed off donors in black cowboy boots and lavish designer dresses demanding answers.

Still, this fantasy of mine -- if acted upon -- would be quite a moment in history. A second Presidential term is about building a legacy, and it would be nearly impossible to start such an effort in a better manner than this.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Transportation Conversation

With little exception, I'm someone who doesn't care for casual conversation while on a plane, bus or train. I cringe when I end up sitting next to someone who is looking to talk for the duration of a trip. When I see that they have no book to read or music to listen to, I quickly whip out whatever I've brought to entertain myself as a sort of preemptive display that I'm not open for business as far as long conversations go.

Today on the train, however, I found myself wanting to actually strike up some sort of dialogue, albeit short, with the man sitting behind me. He spent a great deal of the trip on his cell phone telling (in many cases quite loudly) how his interview at Tufts University's Fletcher School of International Relations went. Being a Tufts grad myself, I at first wanted to mention it to him and recommend that he chose Fletcher when he makes his decision.

It was a strange feeling. I mean, I hate when a guy next to me starts talking about sports that I don't care about for what seems like hours, or when a nosy woman across the aisle asks what I'm reading as a preamble to a lengthy monologue listing her children's academic accomplishments. I don't think I'm an asshole, I just enjoy "me" time while traveling. I always feel it's a nice moment of peace where you're forced to sit in one place without much distraction.

So I was slightly perplexed when I felt this urge to talk to this guy behind me. I didn't act on my impulse immediately, and subsequently never did. Once I heard him talking to one of his buddies on the phone and yelling "Dude, I know! I was like totally flipping... Dude...totally... Dude... haha...Yeah, dude..." any desire I had to plug my alma mater was lost, and I went back to my reading without further incident.

And then I wrote this. Whew.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Irony of the Month: Michael Moore Guilty?

In this, a new installment of Rear Window Ethics' "Irony of the Month", Michael Moore's movie Farenheit: 9/11 wins the People's Choice Award for best film... amid some accusations of voter fraud in the awards process.

E!

(from Wonkette)

Friday, January 07, 2005

Final Say on the Subject of Ribbons

In case you aren't familiar with this long discussion between myself and some readers, click here.

I never meant for this whole ribbon thing to get so crazy. My initial anger was over people buying these type of things at Downtown Crossing, or any other equally shady place across the US, for 50 cents a piece when the profit was going to some shmuck. That is happening. However, I have since found that there are indeed some places, including the USO, that sell them for charity and that the money does go to the right place.

I got upset because I went out during Christmas and made donations for the USPS drive to send phone cards and care packages to troops overseas, and there was a sense around me that it didn't mean anything unless you were "showing'" your support by writing it all over your face or agreeing with the premise of this war. I felt that this ribbon movement was saying that I had to fall into the "with us or against us" categories, and wear my patriotism on my chest (or car, rather) or it didn't count.

I also found it odd that these things are magnetic. Do these people plan to STOP supporting the troops anytime soon? Or do they just support them to the extent that they don't want to mess up the paint jobs on their BMWs and SUVs? I find it hard to believe the whole thing was initially set to temporarily showing your feelings on rental cars.

Anyway, if people feel a part of something by buying these things, and if the money is going to the right place, then I guess it's a fine idea. Just don't get me started on the folks I saw on CNN who are now creating fake Live Strong-esque bracelets that claim they fund tsunami victims but most certainly don't.

Best Quotes of 2004 (and earlier)

Bill Simmons, the Boston Sportsguy compiled some of the best quotes of the last year (and a few from years before) in the areas of sports and entertainment. Here's a link to the full article.

Some favorites:

"Don't get me wrong, everything the media writes is not wrong. But I'd say 99 percent of it is wrong, in my opinion, but I don't read the newspaper, so I don't know. I hear things, though."
-- Bears defensive back R.W. McQuarter

"We're all idiots here. We all have fun. We all hug, kiss, grab, whatever."
-- David Ortiz on the 2004 Red Sox

"I guess you can never domesticate them. Like I'm not domesticated, I'm never gonna be a domesticated person."
-- Mike Tyson on Montecore the Tiger (the one that bit Roy)

"Whenever I see a homeless guy, I always run back and give him money, because I think, 'Oh my God, what if that was Jesus?'"
--Pamela Anderson in TV Guide

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Thursday, January 06, 2005

Spreading Generosity Further Than Indonesia

International aid experts announced today that the outpouring of generosity to help those hit by the tsunami may endanger aid for other groups in need across the world. It's wonderful that so many Americans are joining their government in donating money to help the tsunami relief effort, but with so many "high profile" dollars going to that cause, the African AIDS crisis is being shortchanged. [Washington Post Story]

This is why I made my annual donation to a cause other than the tsunami recovery, and I urge any of you who are caught up in this generous spirit of giving to turn to the overlooked situation of extreme poverty and illness in Africa.

Click Here to donate to UNICEF's "hope lives here" fund which helps stem the spread of HIV by caring for orphans of the disease and educating young people about preventing infection.

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Democrats Object to Ohio Votes

Succeeding in what they were unable to do four years go, Democrats in the House and the Senate lodged a joint objection over voting irregularities in Ohio. While acknowledging the fact that their objections will not overturn President Bush's victory in that state, and thus the entire election, Rep. Tubbs Jones and Sen. Boxer hoped to shed light on what they believe were a number of problems with Ohio's voting system, including lack of polling machines in Democratic areas, as well as voter intimidation and discrepancies in electronic ballot machines.

Some people are up in arms about this, and while I don't agree with those that say the election was stolen, I certainly think that healthy debate about our electoral process is always a good thing. I honestly don't understand why people are in such hysterics about a few hours of limited discussion by the two houses of Congress. That's Congress' job. They can handle it.

Of course there were major voting flaws this past November. There are flaws in every election on a national scale because of the sheer impossibility of perfectly run polls handling such a large number of voters. What is not acceptable, however, are the stories of mysterious votes appearing on electronic machines, the suspicious lack of adequate polling locations in major metropolitan areas, voter registration fraud and any other effort by either the Republican or Democratic parties to gain votes unlawfully.

You know there's a problem when international organizations that oversee elections in countries across the world announce that there are as many irregularities and problems with polling and registration in the US as there are in fledgling democracies. The manipulation of candidates on the ballot, the forging and destruction of voter registrations, and the simultaneous disregard for the law by both major parties is inexcusable.

Anyone who has ever taught children in any capacity is familiar with the "if he/she did it, why can't I?" defense for wrongdoings. Democrats register fictional characters to vote, so Republicans destroy completed voter registrations. Republicans have suspicious ties to manufacturers of electronic voting machines, so Democrats work to "find" extra votes to combat them. It's a vicious cycle.

It's doubtful that such issues were so candidly discussed today in the halls of Congress. Somehow I can't see Tom DeLay and Nancy Pelosi chatting about who did what to whom in response to what was done earlier by so and so. These issues will never see the proper light of day as long as a corrupt two-party system perpetuates its exclusionary game to see who can fight dirtier.

Earlier this week, while discussing the use of American troops in countries hit by the tsunami, I said that if the US is content being the world's policeman, it should agree to be the world's EMT as well. To that effect, if the US feels entitled to change the governments of nations across the world, it shouldn't be so shy about letting international observers and elected officials scrutinize its election policies.

Our country was founded on the principle of popular power, not plutocratic corruption by two political juggernauts. November's results will stand, but there is certainly nothing wrong with inspecting the system as a first step towards election and political reform.

Curse You, Expiration Dates!

Question 1:

No one has a credit card right now that expires in 2015, right?

Question 2:

So why the hell do website order forms have pull down menus up to the year 2015?

Question 3:

More importantly, why do these things bother me so much?

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Anheuser-Busch's Caffeine Beer

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us My mother always told me never to mix my stimulants and depressants, but...

The Bud family has a new member and its name is "B-to-the-E" or just "BE" for short. It's basically Bud Lite with caffeine, guarana and ginseng, and it's packaged in the same size can as Red Bull.

This belongs in the pantheon of the stupidest marketing ideas ever, but the funny thing is that I can totally imagine people ordering this at a bar. I mean, isn't it just the next logical step after Michelob Ultra? This is just what the bar scene needs now: metrosexual yarfnorts getting drunk and juiced at the same time and having the extra enery edge to act our their drunken Napoleon complex aggression.

What's next on the slate of brew mixtures? Coors Light mixed with Amphetamines, and Michelob "Oxy" featuring some delicious Oxycodone?

Also, has anyone found out whether this B-to-the-E violates copyright law as far as The Drew Carey Show is concerned? Doesn't this concoction sound suspiciously similar to "Buzz Beer"?

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Bush's Tort Reform Plan

Surrounding himself with doctors in white lab coats, President Bush gave a speech today asking Congress to pass his tort reform proposals in the next year. The President hoped to tug at the heartstrings of Americans by offering tales of "docs" who have been forced out of practice by high insurance premiums caused by medical malpractice litigation.

Unfortunately many of the claims by Mr. Bush are questionable. Listening to the speech, one would think that malpractice claims and settlements are solely responsible for putting doctors out of business. After hearing the President speak it would seem that frivolous lawsuits make up the majority of all civil cases across the nation, and render our judicial system so helplessly clogged as to be completely broken.

It seems to me you have three parties involved in this issue: Doctors, the vast majority of whom are well-meaning, competent and helpful caregivers; Patients and consumers who have been the victims of gross medical incompetence or corporate negligence; and insurance companies, who make their money off of charging more on their premiums than they reward on their claims.

Of those three groups, the doctors, the victims, and the insurers, which one seems most in need of regulation? Insurance companies that lost money in the stock and bond markets made up for their losses by charging higher premiums on their medical insurance rates. Doctors are concerned about patients, patients are concerned about their health, and insurance companies are concerned about profit. Who is the least trust-worthy?

Restricting the rights of injured patients to sue doctors in California, according to Bush, lowered the insurance premiums for physicians in that state. On the contrary, however, after California implemented its law in 1975, the premiums for physicians increased from 16 to 337 percent in southern California between 1980 and 1986 [link]. Placing restrictions on malpractice damages simply increases the profits of the insurance companies covering doctors, as they are required to pay less for claims but charge the same or more on premiums.

This supposed crisis of junk lawsuits and huge cash awards in court is not to blame for the rise in insurance premiums. Indeed, lawsuits that judges and juries decide are valid had median awards of $30,000 in 2002. The largely infrequent settlements for "millions" that find their way into Jay Leno monologues are few and far between.

Tort reform's premise can be boiled down to decisions of trust. Trust juries of citizens, the bedrock of the American legal system, or trust corporations? Trust the 95% of doctors who are responsible for less than half of malpractice payouts, or trust the insurance companies squeezing them for profit? Trust a judge's ability to determine the legitimacy of a case, or trust George Bush's?

Oh, and in case you were leaning towards Mr. Bush on that last one, remember that he sued Enterprise Rent-A-Car over a minor fender-bender involving one of his daughters in which no one was hurt, even though his insurance covered the repair costs making a lawsuit unnecessary [link].

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Update: Orange Bowl Halftime Videos

So I admit I was freaking out a little too much last night about how terrible the halftime show was at the Orange Bowl.

Basically, there was a major audio glitch and from what I could tell the monitor (the feed artists have piped directly into their earbuds so they can hear themselves) wasn't working. It must have been tied into the main vocal track, because it was obvious that the microphones the performers were singing into were mixed way too low or even off. At one point you hear a tech guy yelling "test 1 2" into another mic.

This explains why Kelly Clarkson was desperately sticking her finger in her ear in an attempt to hear herself, and why Ashley Simpson was even more terrible than usual. She couldn't hear herself or her guide track (the same track that got her in trouble on SNL) and by the end of her song had resorted to screaming wildly out of tune.

It was awesome. I take it all back, I freaked out just the right amount.

Here are the videos:

Ashlee Simpson sucks and is booed by tens of thousands of people...

The Hidden Costs of Rooting for the Yankees [NPR]

Today on Morning Edition, Frank Deford commented on whether it's worth rooting for the New York Yankees:

Audio Here

Some quotes:

"While other Major League teams have actually lost their desirable heros, the Yankees have blithely piled silk upon satin. Tell me, Yankee fans, does this really give you pleasure? Really?"

"Years ago someone said rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for General Motors. That's not a fair enough analogy anymore. Today, rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for OPEC."

"How much can it mean to win when your team simply out-buys everyone else so it's not a fair fight?"

"To me, victory would never be enough. If your Yankees lose you're even more disappointed because they were supposed to win. If they win, well...what's the point?"

Create Your Own Magnetic Ribbon

Are you a little tired of seeing the sea of meaningless magnetic ribbons "supporting the troops" on every passing vehicle?

Well now you can create your own ribbon with your own slogan. This company also has pre-made slogans, such as:

"More Patriotic Than You"
"My Ribbon Is Bigger Than Yours"
"God Bless Jingoist Ribbons"
"Where Is Your Ribbon"
"God Bless Our Corporate Masters"

Click here to make your own ribbon, starting at $6!

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

BREAKING: Orange Bowl Halftime Snafu

There seems to be a serious problem with the sound system at the Orange Bowl Halftime Show. Kelly Clarkson struggled and was visibly thrown off by the inability to hear anything on her earbud monitor. At one point she stuck her finger in her ear to try and hear herself better.

If that wasn't weird enough, it seems that the lead microphone isn't patched into the broadcast sound system.

Ashlee Simpson is on right now and is having problems as well. She has already pulled the monitor out of her ear. She's incredibly out of tune! After the whole SNL thing she must be shitting her pants right now. This is just painful!

My roommate Nish just remarked that this may be the worst halftime show in history.

The show just ended and the crowd is booing!

Nickelback NPR Story

I heard this story on All Things Considered this evening, and I wasn't the least bit surprised. A Canadian music student basically took two Nickelback hits and panned one right and one left. Played together they synced up perfectly, leading him to accuse the band of fraud.

Here is another page that plays the two songs together without the NPR story. "This Is How Your Remind Me" and "Someday" are so similar that they play off one another like a melody and a descant.

The funny thing is, the interviewer and this kid were both really surprised. Anyone who knows anything about music is well aware that 99% of pop songs use one of three chord progressions (I, IV, V; I, vi, ii, V etc.). This track is all over the internet, and people are thinking it's just Nickelback that is recycling chord changes. The only thing remotely odd about this discovery is that Nickelback used the same chord progression with the same tempo and same structure.

Then again, it is enjoyable to see people who don't pay as much attention to musical structure freak out when they realize their favorite band is playing them for fools...

Links:

NPR Story
Flash Audio of both songs with pan slider

Self-Hosting and Domain Name

The six-month anniversary of Rear Window Ethics is coming up in a week or so, and to celebrate I'm thinking about registering my own domain for it as well as buying server space with the company that hosts my business site for future RWE use.

Blogspot has been great, and as far as I can tell, I can use Blogger to post to my blog while it's on a new server. If anyone knows otherwise, or has any tips here or there, please let me know.

Below are today's regular, non-blog related posts...

Andrea Bocelli

I strolled over to the little Italian barber shop down the block from my apartment for a long overdue haircut this afternoon. For some reason the father of the father/son shop, Gaetano, sheared me...but that isn't the point of this story.

For the entirety of my fifteen minute haircut, as Gaetano happily trimmed shorter and shorter with no sign of stopping, the shop stereo played the music of Andrea Bocelli. Yes, Andrea Bocelli, the blind, overrated, pop-opera wannabe tenor. By the time the track "Con Te Partiro" was nearing its climax I was ready to "accidentally" turn my head into Gaetano's scissors (which at this point were only millimeters from my scalp anyway).

The thing is this: Gaetano and Rocco are hardcore Italians, as you might have guessed from their names. Any English they use in the shop is usually limited to their conversations with customers, and even those exchanges are brief and rely heartily on the phrase "forgettaboutit".

Why would these guys own, let alone play, an Andrea Bocelli CD? Why not some Domingo or Caruso arias? Perhaps some Maria Callas recordings? They are real opera singers with real voices, not some blind guy with a wavering vibrato and a penchant for pansy ass pop arias.

That's it. Now I'm going to listen to my Pavarotti/Freni recording of Tosca and take a shower in hopes that afterwards my hair won't so closely resemble that of a neo-Nazi skinhead.

DeLay Rule Reversed

Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas got fellow Republicans on Monday to reverse a recent rule change that would have allowed him to keep his leadership post even if indicted.

They also moved to make it more difficult for the House ethics committee to investigate a complaint against any member.

Republicans applauded behind closed doors as they approved on a voice vote DeLay's motion to revert to their decade-old rule that requires a leader indicted of a felony to step aside, said spokesman Jonathan Grella.

Democrats accused Republicans of lowering the ethical bar for leadership when House Republicans on Nov. 17 changed their rules to allow DeLay to keep his post if indicted.


This was a little surprising to me when I read about it this morning. I tend to think that power in the hands of the few and single-minded corrupts at an exponential level regardless of their political affiliation, but it seems as if the House Republicans are trying to slow the inevitable spiral of malfeasance -- at least when the issue becomes public.

Now when this Congress decides legislation should be openly debated and not fast-tracked in late night, closed-door partisan committees, I will eat my hat. The reversal of this ridiculous rule may be a way for lawmakers to slow their party's overstepping of rules, but with Bill Frist's "nuclear option" on the horizon and the silencing of honest debate concerning judicial nominees, it's clear that you can only tread water for so long until you're sucked into the maelstrom of consolidated power and corruption.

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Sunday, January 02, 2005

Terrible End to 2004

After a hiatus from posting, I'm back in 2005. So much has happened in the last two weeks, I don't even know what to say about it. Watching and reading coverage of the tsunami is beyond comprehension as the death toll rolls upward at an unbelievable pace. When numbers get that big, they really don't mean anything to me. So the deficit is currently $7,546,103,668,294? Might as well be a bajillion gazillion dollars to me. I just can't wrap my brain around figures that high. But when I hear the number of fatalities from this disaster, and when I realize that the death toll is only going to rise as disease festers in the wake of the initial waves, I feel horrible that I can't begin to fathom such a scale of death.

Senator Richard Lugar (R) said today that US aid for the crisis may reach the billions. I can only hope he wasn't speaking incorrectly on the matter. I understand -- albeit only slightly -- the complexities of the US budget, and I realize that the gap between congressional sessions is the worst time to allot large sums of money, but we need to give all we can to help those in need.

It always strikes me as supremely sadistic that those with the least always seem to get hit the worst when nature strikes. During the American hurricane season, it's usually the trailer parks and low-income areas that are devastated; the AIDS epidemic, though a serious problem world-wide, is most catastrophic in the poorer African nations; and of course, many of the Indonesian areas completely destroyed by the tsunami are the least equipped to deal with such a massive disaster.

I hope, in addition to financial assistance, that the US can dispatch troops to the more remote areas that in some cases have yet to be reached by emergency response teams. If our government is content to be the world's police, we should agree to serve as the world's EMT as well. America has now pledged the entirety of its foreign disaster assistance budget, but it is still only 1.75% of the money budgeted for the war in Iraq.

I may not comprehend spectacularly large numbers as well as others, but I believe the federal aid for hurricane-stricken areas on the Atlantic coast was in excess of $4 billion. Indonesians don't vote in American elections, but they deserve to be helped as if they did. Any nation with the means -- be they American or Arabic, European or Asian -- must do their part in this disaster.

This is something you smash the piggy bank for.

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