All posts tagged politics

No doubt you’ve heard the news that Henry Paulson wants to tighten standards on banks now that the country is falling apart. Sit back, ‘cuz I got a heck of a story for you:

While I am completely sympathetic to how much people hate our current President and his disastrously arrogant administration, it infuriates me to hear people claim Bush brought about this recession. We’ve been in a recession since Nixon, we just didn’t know it yet. The worst is how people believe that Clinton balanced the budget, and that Bush subsequently ruined it. How slick is Willy. I think I need to explain exactly why this is an outright urban legend.

The whole charade depends on the semantics of accounting. We actually have two different debts that add up to become the National Debt. They are Public Debt and Intergovermental Debt. The first is what the people owe, the second is what the government owes itself (that the people will repay). The government owes itself? Right, the government, much like our brains, is actually several semi-independent entities that interact to govern, and therefore can take loans from each other as if they were separate.

What Clinton did was borrow from the government (Intergovernmental Debt) to pay off Public Debt. If you check the U.S. Treasury records, National Debt continued to increase throughout the Clinton administration, albeit slower than the previous presidencies. How in the world can increasing National Debt be considered a budget surplus? …

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Why are some folks so good at repackaging the same old shit for our consumption, and have us love them for it? That's how I feel as I'm playing Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass, which is essentially a remix of Wind Waker and all the top-down Zeldas. It's how I feel when I hear Hillary Clinton dredge up the same healthplan that was the biggest failure of the Billary administration, who still has no real way of paying for the darn thing. Oh right it pays for itself, by cutting costs! Just like how I can increase my salary by starving.

I just finished reading Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, and I am still reeling from how disappointing it was. Maybe I'm an action junkie, the stem cells of my attention span tinkered with by the cocktails of impulse that video games provide. I went in expecting to read about Blackwater and how it operated, its tactics, training, its harrowing hidden stories of what evils unregulated private armies commit.

What I got instead was a few pages of the good stuff, and four hundred remaining pages of anti-neo-con, anti-right-wing, anti-religious-right, anti-any-religious-con diatribe. What could have been a sharp tale about a frightening, unregulated cult of ex-special forces types selling their warfaring skills fizzled and drowned itself out. Instead, we got a tale about something bad that every person ever connected to anyone remotely related to Blackwater has ever done. The amount of implicit condemnation isn't just infuriating or unfair, it's just plain boring to read. Skeletons can be dug up in anyone's closet. Scahill had plenty of material for Blackwater alone, but each page just got more and more personal, attacking every politician or figure he's hated, until I closed the book, read the back cover, and discovered, to no surprise, praise form Michael Moore, who pioneered these very techniques.

What techniques? Why, the one where first you imply someone is a bad boy because someone else he knows has done something bad at some point in his life. Then, you simultaneously praise and criticize the same people, using them as you see fit. The favorite Moorian target is the soldier, who is described as a dumb lunk of American arrogance sometimes, and as a sensitive family man at others. It just depends on which heartstring they wanna pull. Scahill is a journalist, and should be above this kind of liberal manipulation. Read it yourself, and see how many scandalous things mentioned have anything to do with Blackwater itself.

Even with his personal agenda splattered on top, which would only bother conservatives like me, the book still lacks a good narrative. There are constant detours that leave me wondering what any of it has to do with Blackwater. There's way too much repetitious foreshadowing, and much of the "facts" could have been left in endnotes. I say "facts" because they are facts, but that doesn't make this an impartial book. If he wanted to say privatization of the army was a disaster, I'd wholeheartedly agree, free-market capitalist that I am. But if he was trying to tell a riveting tale of conspiracy, a soapbox was not the best place to spin an engaging yarn.

There is a tragic flaw in the modern American character. Would it be jingoism, world ignorance, or hypocrisy? No, I find all those to be but charming idiosyncrasy, as innocent as apple pie, and as harmless as a cute .38 snubnose concealed gingerly in an embroidered leather holster. I speak of a greater flaw: the inability to accept due responsibliity, especially when none is due.

My thread from my heart to my tearducts was strained uncomfortably this week, and my agnostic prayers go out to the fine community of Virginia Tech. Who would have known a crazy gunman would wreak havoc on their idyll lives. Actually, I would have guessed… Korean student going for an English Major? I can only imagine how much his asian parents approved of that.

But for all my sympathy, I can not stand the immediate scapegoating that followed. Suddenly, the university was to blame for not alerting 25,000 sleepy college students that they didn’t know a crazed gunman was loose since they only started investigating a domestic-dispute homicide. Maybe they were to blame for not knowing the exact location of the gunman on their 2500-acre campus, and making the silly assumption that he had made a run for it the way 99% of criminals do.

Oh but it got worse.

Infamy whore Jack Thompson, a leech, a pox, played the video game card before he (or the rest of the country) had a damn clue about what had transpired. It should have been blatantly obvious to the press that the uber-violent video games that the unknown gunman was not known to have MUST have caused this killing spree. The Washington Post demonstrated remarkable journalistic integrity by reporting the gunman was a hardcore afficiando of Counterstrike. A day later, that statement was removed from their article, surely with only the best intentions. Didn’t I just write about this?

Do we have to find someone to blame? Parents, games, guns, police, media, or whatever the hell is near any disaster, why is it we pick one and not all (or none) to blame? It’s like a need to put a face or identity to the blame. This kid was just fucked-up, and the gestalt of his recipe for insanity is at once everything and nothing. In fact, because it is everything, it is nothing. We need to focus on healing, acceptance, and have everyone learn pre-emptive empathy. It is nonsense to find sense in senseless violence. Let’s learn more about the victims and what they could have been, and not let the 15 minutes of each new accusation rob them of what is really their time. They have been robbed of enough.

I want to warn people who have otherwise the best of intentions. This week's supreme court ruling, while absolutely the right decision, underscores a disturbing logic deep in the ranks of knee-jerk environmentalists.

Let's throw out all you know and hate about this administration for a second. To place the lion's share of blame for global warming on their ~6 years of reign over the subject, taking into consideration the two centuries of damage from industrial overrevolution, and the relative youth of climate studies (read: last 30 years), it's hardly fair to make it seem like Bush is singlehandedly destroying the environment.

One must not forget that the abundance of modern energy, material, and functional conveniences, allows us the luxurious living standard where we can affluently worry about global warming. One must not believe the US has done nothing, or that our disproportionate contribution of greenhouse gases has nothing to do with our disproportionate contribution to global productivity. One must not naively ignore to what heathen unregulated countries that companies will move their pollution to when we crack down too fast and too hard.

I am not afraid to admit that I protest the Kyoto protocols alongside our behated preside-dent. It asks nothing of economies like China and India, who are on the fast track to out-polluting us. The gullible say that we only need to show leadership and dominoes will fall green. They assume we've shown no leadership, and that countries rising with econo-lust will care.

I recall the fine quotation from the movie Spiderman 2 about choosing between what is right, and what is easy. Polluting used to be easy. Right now, raking in money for a hyped-up cause isn't too hard either. Given the past paranoia over the destruction of the earth by nuclear bombs, overfilling landfills, and other urban myths not remotely true, I think we should hear out Mother Earth on the subject. After all, we are but a minute of her day.

If there is one sector I feel comfortable making predictions in, it would be the video game sector, although the majority of it is really just a cluster of a dozen or so companies that publish for a much broader cast behind the curtain. It excites me everytime that this mini-sector is covered by market blogs, and this article is no exception. I like to read about an industry dear to my heart from the perspective of those less intimate with it. What the article says about EA‘s development difficulties with the PS3 and idealogical difficulties with the Wii, while not surprising in themselves, reminded my of how I’ve forgotten that companies are companies. Even in the business of creativity and play, the corporate speak is nothing new to investors.

That comforts me.

The game industry, for some betters and many worsers, has grown up. It’s leaving its roots in the basement of hackers. It is being held to a multi-national standard, ethically and financially. It has, despite its loss of innocence, become recognized.

And I dearly hope that, like books, radio, comics, television, and film before it, it will endure through its current phase, the scapegoat of political campaigns and modern vices, and enter the annals of pleasant anachronism. Only there is it safe to continue to work its influence as the world whirls around another threat. There, it will build better men.

Right now, the old guard thinks it ruins them. What about the teenage gunman who turns out, contrary to preliminary reports, didn’t own a single game? Or what about when the stepmother of a boy recently apprehended for the sport-killing of a homeless man opens herself and her story to Penny Arcade, telling the world that “Video games DID NOT make this kid who he was, and it’s unfortunate that the correlation is there.” Her story is haunting, even moreso if unheard.

As the year of the Golden Pig arrives, I hope that the industry will have great fortune, making it (and me) rich. Feng Shui experts proclaim this also a year of Fire on top of Water, a year of great conflict and volatility. With game legislation in furor, and the industry cycle starting anew under the duress of the console war, this will no doubt be one of the deciding years on the fate of games and their status among other media.

Stop. Stop everything you are doing. What is the most dangerous substance in your house today? What threatens the very veil of existence behind which your children stay but a step from mortality? From Death's gaze? Why, none other than the sickest invention yet to penetrate our virgin shores: The Nintendo DS. That's right, the ancient myth was true- this electronic pandora's box leaves our children wide-open spread-eagled for child molestors. Its insiduous design abuses our every security, and FOX News is out there bringing its Promethean insight to the crisis.

This is so absurd I feel like I'm on bizarro internet. BTW, FOX you should know that the internet has amazing graphics and a feature that lets anyone chat with your kids from a bit more than 300 feet away… try anywhere in the frickin' globe.

'Course not everyone far from your kids is a child molestor. Some are just kingpins of sin, like this school teacher in a remote Ural village being thrown into the Gulag for software piracy. Gorby, my main man, you do realize Microsoft has little to do with the chap being pressed into slavery at your uranium labor camps, right? Oh wait, they made a complaint. I guess the Russian penal system has no choice then, I mean, there was a complaint.

In other news, but on nearly the same Richter scale of sillytude, Apple is complaining about DRM, as it is the only thing keeping them from making music accessible to all. Unlike .aac and its ban in France. Hey, I know DRM is Big Brother, but I didn't need Stalin to tell me.

I blame it all on global warming, 'cuz a global crack epidemic is the one other logical explanation.

…death and tax evasion.

I seriously thought gamers were a bunch of Democrats these days. Guess not.

I made a post earlier today that I felt worth expanding on. It dissappoints me how naively the gaming community opposes the taxation of virtual property, which thanks to the proliferation of game economies in venues like Second Life and World of Warcraft has brought legislative interests in like cultural vultures to a cash-stuffed corpse, which has begun turning the wheels in the dark recesses of the IRS’ mind. It is like a shudder in the Book of Revelations when Reuters decides to establish a virtual news bureau to investigate virtual news.

But it’s happening. And you’d be a fool to stand against it. Specifically, what’s being debated is that virtual transactions of either virtual goods or virtual currency is capitalized into real money. How much? There are a few individuals who make six digit salaries as black market dealers, (adult) service providers, and real-virtual-estate agents. Can one really expect the IRS to take a backseat to that?

Of course not. Income is income. Income is taxable, income SHOULD be taxable. It doesn’t matter if you’re engaged in the intangible businesses of gaming, or the intangible businesses of day-trading, education, entertainment, customer service, consultation, art, etc., if you’re making money, you should be taxed. The more interesting question is how asset value is determined. But I look forward to the day when I can write the cost of buying Warcraft off my taxes, or include the depreciation of my Second Life home on my Schedule A.

The most ignorant thing people said was that the EULA for the game prohibits sale of virtual assets, and therefore government is breaking the law trying to collect on in-game actions. It doesn’t matter if income is legal, illegal, magical, mystical, or genetically produced out of the ass of an X-man, it is TAXABLE.

I can’t wait until the controversy is stirred up further when Kojima’s stock market game comes out. It is possible the government will confuse realized and non-realized profits in the virtual economy. The current state of game regulation debate is looking bad, as we’re being caught between the “bring the government down on their corporate asses” Democrats, and the “morals aka sex should be regulated in all media” Republicans, turning the whole charade into a political lose-lose for video games. It’s high noon outside the virtual saloon, and the tumbleweeds are a’tumblin away from the gunfight.

Having read The Way to Win last night, a refreshingly apartisan account of the political strategies of the two “geniuses” of our time, Clinton and Rove, I was pleased that the authors summarized the nature of modern politics so succinctly with the phrase “Freak Show.” Their contention is that we’ve evolved the campaign from mudslinging to an outright technological media arms race. One by one, the failings of Gore and Kerry’s strategies to defeat a foe that seemed less articulate, less capable, less experienced, and less ambitious than them are expounded.

The brilliance of Rove’s polls-be-damned approach, or Clinton’s muddling of party loyalties, how they succeed despite our preconceptions of how a political campaign should work, how what we think is a right-wing media contra was actually an old guard manipulated by Bush’s neo-conservative movement, it all makes for an engaging read. Whether it’s Clinton or Rove you consider a malevolent architect of corrupt administrations, or both of them in my case, you can’t help but appreciate the the wealth of knowledge and understanding embodied in these two forces of 2400 Penn.

In the end, nothing is new about Freak Show politics, only its migration from a blunt tact to subversive science. For us, the chess pieces caught in the whirl of Washington’s gambits, the stark, existential playground of this independent one-man game Limbo feels so familiar. Watch the teaser, its abject desolation, its blacks and whites and greys, its determined abstractions, is rife with hope. Come the next election, perhaps a candidate will rise from the dark and seize on that hope. Until then, the throngs grow more disenchanted, and I expect voter turnout to drown in the wasteland.

Isn’t it strange how little hypocrisy has evolved over the course of human civilization? Invariably, it sticks to a couple simple propositions:

– Believe in an issue.
– Protest an antagonist issue except if it applies to you.

So the Democrats grabbed on to a report pulling selective quotes about how the Iraqi war has only engendered more conflict. The Bush Administration tried to intercept the critics by saying it was going to release specific portions of the document claiming overall threat has decreased. Democrats then scorn the administration for “selective declassification” and dismiss the whole charade as propaganda.

Apparently pulling selective quotes to begin with wasn’t “selective declassification.” Is anyone else getting sick of this game? I can’t believe how many people out there believe more in the game than in reality. It saddens me that 60% of Americans believe recent drops in oil prices is somehow right-wing oil manipulation. Maybe it serves Big Oil right for having such shitty PR, but most Americans do not know that Big Oil is a drop in the barrel compared to other oil barons in Saudi Arabia or Venezuela. Exxon ranks a distant number 15 in size, and only half of that even is oil.

The Fed thinks we’ve peaked on inflation. My portfolio has risen precariously on that news. I’ve made enough in the past few days to buy myself a PS3, but that would be succumbing to Harrisonragi’s “selective declassification” of next-gen details. All I can be bullish on is the Xbox 360’s version of Guitar Hero 2 with DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT! I want that wireless X-Plorer dammit! No doubt the chum in the picture is struggling with his Democratic desire to tell all his friends about it, and his Republican desire to rock out against the man.

Shame it’s the other way around today in real politics, where Democrats do nothing but tell all against the man, and the Republicans do nothing but rock out with their friends.

Yesterday, a reader had some dialogue with me via comments over my rash indictment of James Xi Zhang and China’s imposition into world trade. He brought up some good points that many are feeling right now in the apparent fallout of the American government, so I’ll use this post to address my thoughts:

Hi am back…yes of course China is a huge threat to companies here, but is that stopping companies from getting most bang for their buck? Not really. By sending everything to be manufactured over to China, they aren’t looking at the future of Americans – their consumers. So I guess the big question is who is responsible for our future/change necessary for a better future? Individual consumers ??? (No – Americans are cheap, lazy, and selfish for the most part) Companies ??? (No – they are heading us down a downward spiral where China rules) Government ???? bingo. They need to regulate our (companies and consumers) greedy butts. That’s one advantage China has over us- much more control (although perhaps now unstructured and chaotic) over their companies and people. I believe they are looking at the future. They are improving everyday. You should look at their environmentally friendly plans – all of which beat any green attempts here. I’m not pro-China. Just concerned at the way things are going these days for America. Yes we are all to blame, but more so the government.

O btw I don’t see how Mr. Zhang represents the corruption in China if he’s not guilty at this point. I believe he’s very much American. I know you’re not totally serious but this is someone’s rep on the line. I’ve been in a lawsuit before and if you’re not guilty and someone is telling you are….not fun. So that’s why I’m pushing this point so much… From what I heard, there’s no proof so far, so until then stay nice. Thanks for reading. This is great fun…

I understand where you are coming from, and I feel the same way about the lack of government intervention in what is clearly a self-destructive relationship between consumer and corporation. But you draw some conclusions that come from the wrong direction.

First, exporting American jobs to China is not necessarily a bad thing, and it is certainly inevitable as the world becomes more globalized whether people want it to or not. Lower prices mean better savings, more money to spend elsewhere, better cost of living. The problem is that the prices were so good that the consumers lost their heads and sent our national savings rate into the negative. We lose more jobs to Mexicans than the Chinese, and studies have shown that wages for Americans as a whole, or even for the working classes, took little to no damage. If unemployment really did match immigration rates, the country would have more than twice the unemployment it currently has, and growing.

Secondly, China exhibits a pretense of tight control over its companies, but it also turns a gigantic blind eye to the many it chooses to ignore. The government is even less empowered than us to make sweeping reforms because the corruption is entrenched at the state and provincial levels. I’ve been following their environment reforms, and as admirable as they are, they were created because of how POOR local regulation has been, and the ecological damage there has been immense. Their new policies are amazing, but by the time they’re implemented, alot more damage will be done.

Finally, Americans need to stop blaming the government. Doing so is what led to the tragedy in New Orleans. People seem to forget the vote to enter war with Iraq was unanimous. People seem to forget that after going into war, you need to supervise it as well, not just let the commanders do whatever. It’s no accident that welfare reform under Clinton actually decreased dependency on welfare. America is a REPUBLIC, not a democracy, per intention of our founding fathers who purposely designed the government to be inefficient. We have electoral votes. It is the duty of We the People to organize those votes against the forces of gerrymandering into a keen weapon of change, not sit at home and complain about it.

“A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” -Thomas Jefferson

As for Mr. Zhang, regardless of whether he is guilty or not, you can’t deny it gives Asian men a bad rep in times when Asians have been accused of spying in Federal buildings and stealing from Texas Intruments.