Three Little Words

Blackfive reports on U.S. citizenship granted to Laotian Hmong refugees:

The reward for helping the Americans during the Vietnam War took 29 years to materialize, but for the 15,000 Laotian Hmong in this sun-baked refugee camp, it was a payout beyond their wildest dreams: U.S. citizenship.

“I can’t believe we’ll be Americans,” said Sui Yang, 60, who fought with CIA-backed Hmong guerrillas against the communist Pathet Lao in the mountains of Laos. “We heard rumors for years this was going to happen, but they were always only rumors. Most of us gave up hoping. I thought we were going nowhere.”

I’ve got three words that express my sentiment for earnest immigrants, particularly those who helped the United States in the past, who would come to this country with hope of a better life and the will to make it so:

Bring ’em on.

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Make of This What You Will

From today’s

Advertising is ubiquitous nowadays, with marketers using product placements on television shows, linking words in magazine articles with ads and, as an ad firm working for Toyota recently did, temporarily tattooing pitches on people’s foreheads.

“It’s a littering of the mental landscape,” MacFarlane said. “We live in a culture that pushes the fear of not succeeding, getting sick, of being alone. … Advertisers sidle up to us and say: ‘Hi, we love you. We understand. But isn’t there something wrong with your life?'”

Words from Paul MacFarlane, left-wing hippie advertising mogul.

Something of this smacks of poserism. The dude spouts antimaterialism, but is a successful advertising guy with an office in Downtown St. Louis and who lives in West County. Spare me the bobo.

Perhaps the title tag of the StLToday page says it all: Help

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Is That The Best You Could Do?

CNN reports that the Hamlet first edition that I asked for didn’t make the reserve price and was not sold.

Gentle readers, could you not have come up with the extra couple hundred thousand among you needed to add this to my library? I applaud whatever effort you used to generate just over a million dollars in cash, but isn’t MfBJN worth the extra effort?

I implore you to continue in your efforts. Perhaps, once you kind souls have amassed enough money–heaven knows you have not been spending it on my tip jar–the owner of the Hamlet will consider a private offer.

Thank you, and good luck.

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Lileks Agrees With Me

Lileks on that coastal elite, nanny-statist Andrew Sullivan in today’s Bleat:

As you may know, Andrew Sullivan has famously proposed hiking gas prices by a dollar to reduce the deficit and pay for the Iraq campaign. Don’t get me wrong – I have a great deal of respect for Andrew.


Here I disagree. Low gas prices are bad for the economy and bad for drivers, he says – the sort of statement that makes you read everything that follows with wry detached amusement, the same way you’d regard an article on canine training that began “dogs respond remarkably well to feng shui.” You read on because it can only get better.

He refers to gas as “woefully undertaxed.” If one uses the phrase “woefully undertaxed” one may be correct, but one should not be surprised when one’s conservative bona fides are called into question. You could make the argument that cable TV is woefully undertaxed. Peanut butter is woefully undertaxed. Once
you’ve identified a good that can be cured by additional taxation, well, everything is woefully undertaxed. There aren’t any pro-war movies being made! We could fund them with a movie tax! Popcornn is woefully undertaxed! He says:

The truly needy tend to consume less gas than their middle-class compatriots. Others say it penalizes those in remote and rural areas. So what?

Some conservatives say it’s antithetical to the American Dream. Hooey.

Lileks must have made it further into the piece than I did to discover Sullivan’s contention that it’s okay to disproprotionatlely tax the people in the heartland (that is, everyone between the Rockies and the Appalachians) because we don’t matter.

Bollucks on Sullivan, again.

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Book Review: The Gallery of Regrettable Food by James Lileks (2001)

Well, I have done my part to help maintain Jasperwood and to keep Lileks in Hummels and cigars. I read The Bleat, his Back Fence column with the Star-Tribune, and even his weekly Newhouse News column. That’s all free, though, and does little for Lileks’ bottom line, which is probably higher than many peoples’ top lines, but still. By reading off the Web, I was not empowering Lileks. Much like you freeloading readers are doing by not sendng me cash or visiting my Amazon wish list and sending me goodies. Not that I am trying to put a guilt trip on you; I know you’re all heartless socialistopaths who think we should be just doing this because we can, and you want it. But I digress, gentle skinflint reader.

So I went out and bought The Gallery of Regrettable Food, at full price no less, to send a couple pennies’ worth of royalties to Minnesota (the poor man’s Wisconsin). Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the work.

As you might know from viewing Lileks’ Web site, the Gallery represents photos and some snarky wit about recipes collected in books released in the years when Baby Boomers’ parents were cooking. Lileks started the project based on a cookbook he found among his mother’s effects. The book’s wit might be spot-on (Heather liked the pages she browsed), but unfortunately, it didn’t rub me the right way for a couple reasons:

  • As a rule, I am deferential to older generations and their wisdom. I don’t mock it, even when it’s goofy. Well, maybe I do sometimes, but this book led me to a high horse, and you can lead a man to a high horse, but you can’t make him drink. If you lead him to Guiness, though….what was my point?
  • I read this book too soon after Make Room for TV, a book which examined old television shows and extrapolated from them to score Marxist/Feminist points. Lileks’ book doesn’t make political points, but it does make light of the knowledge of our forebearers. Or at least the knowledge of those who marketed to our forebearers. Still, I had too much anti-Spigel venom built up to appreciate what Lileks was doing.
  • I have a closet full of these books from when I was doing the eBay thing. I’d pick them up for a dime and list them for a couple of bucks. I sold a couple, too, to people looking for their parents’ recipes, or perhaps to the parents who lost the recipes in a divorce settlement or something. Still, Lileks cuts into the resale value of these treasures I own.

Still, I am glad I bought the book. I’m happy to underwrite Lileks, even though this particular tome is not my bag. I imagine his next volume, Interior Desecrations, will be some of the same. But he’s a good writer, and soon he should have some collection of his other writings coming out which I’ll enjoy more.

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Andrew Sullivan Goes Mad

Andrew Sullivan has actually gone mad:

TAX GAS MORE: All of your opposition merely convinced me I was right. Here’s my Time column on why raising gas taxes would be a very good thing. Here’s Ramesh Ponnuru’s critique. Make your own mind up.

Make your mind up, but the more you oppose me, the more I convince myself I am right? I fall upon the thorns of life, I bleed? Yeek.

Here’s his argument for greater taxation to improve your behavior, citizen:

The worst knock against a gas tax is that it is, well, a tax. Who likes that? But with soaring deficits and a war to pay for, taxes are not an option — they’re a necessity. The only relevant question is, Which taxes? The case for a gas tax is a straightforward one. Gas prices are strikingly lower in America than anywhere else in the world; such taxes are relatively easy to collect; since an overwhelming majority of Americans drive, few avoid the tax; and by adding a cost to the wanton consumption of gasoline, you actually encourage conservation, accelerate fuel efficiency, reduce pollution, cut traffic and help wean Americans off the oil that requires the U.S. to be so intimately involved in that wonderful cesspool of rival hatreds, the Middle East. So what’s not to like?

As a source of tax money, recognize that money will be spent on programs with an ongoing basis, and that if the government successfully modifies the behavior of its foolish, short-sighted, and lesser mortal citizens, the government will need to make that amount of money up elsewhere. Which means deficits or other tax increases down the road.

Pretty soon, we’re going to have to stop calling Sullivan a “conservative,” aren’t we?

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Public Service Announcement:

To all of you newbie Internet users who searched Google for mike danton arrested and came up with this blog: Hey, thanks for reading, but remember to go to for breaking news.

The breaking news on Mike Danton arrested is that the St. Louis Blues’ agitator forward was busted in San Jose for trying to hire a hit man to kill an acquaintance who thought Danton was too promiscuous and drank too much.


  • Headline: Blues centre Mike Danton charged in alleged murder-for-hire scheme. [He’s a winger; I thought you Canadians knew hockey. Also, it’s spelled “center” on American teams.]
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Headline: Danton was learning to play waiting game.
  • (San Jose) Mercury News. Headline: Blues player arrested in alleged murder-for-hire plot

Damn shame, the poor, messed-up kid. Don’t tell him I said that, though, because I work in Brentwood.

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Leave the Metaphors to the Professionals

Reason’s Hit and Run links to an official proclamation that warns hapless American citizens (a redundancy in the mind of Those Who Are Noble Enough to Rule) about Canadian pot:

“Canada is exporting to us the crack of marijuana and it is a dangerous problem,” Walters told reporters in Miami, where he kicked off a campaign to cut marijuana use by Hispanic youths.

Let’s examine that metaphor. Canada (Canada!) is exporting to us the most addictive drug of drug. Crikey, it’s the cornflower blue of all blues! The Super Bowl of football games!

I think somewhere Walters has opened a rift in the Space-Metaphor continuum. Sure, it’s small now, but it’s growing, and someday soon discourse will be sucked into incomprehensibility.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Ravenwood Is No Moderate

Say what you will about the man’s politics, but Ravenwood is no moderate:

I usually preach moderation, but not when moderate is 2 drinks a day? (Only a pint and a half of beer.) My definition of moderation is enjoying something not into excess. As long as I’m not getting drunk every night, missing work, or delinquent on my bills, I don’t see the problem. I can stop at any time, and usually about once per year, go an entire month without drinking. (Just to prove I still can.) Besides, I’d rather live fast and die young than lead a long, boring, long, dull, long life.

I’m with you, man: Aristotle was such a sell-out.

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Worst Ways to Pay a Tax Bill?

MSN’s bCentral enumerates what it thinks are the 10 worst ways to pay your tax bill. To summarize, they are:

  1. Get a cash advance against your paycheck.
  2. Get a cash advance on your credit card.
  3. Pawn your diamond ring.
  4. Take out a personal loan.
  5. Charge your tax bill.
  6. Use your home equity.
  7. Gamble on the float (write a check without funds in your account)
  8. Dig into your retirement account.
  9. Hit up the folks.
  10. Pay off the government monthly.

That’s the worst way to pay? Come on, fellows, here are some Even worse ways to pay your tax bill:

  1. In plasma. Much of which is not even yours.
  2. With a bag of cash in which the dye pack is yet to explode.
  3. In North Korean Won.
  4. In allocations of barrels Iraqi oil, dated 1998.
  5. Just sign over some Air America checks.
  6. Pay? Constitutionally, I am not obligated to pay income tax.

Remember, I am not a CPA nor does the preceding represent legal advice. Confer with your attorney before embarking on a payment program that might entail jail time. Thank you, that is all.

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Puke on the AMT

Slate has a wonderfully insightful imaginative piece on the Alternative Minimum Tax as Bush’s Secret Tax on Democrats:

President Bush and the Republican Congress, who believe fervently in cutting taxes for the rich, are quietly presiding over a most remarkable kind of tax increase for high-income Americans.

The Alternative Minimum Tax is becoming a miserable annual tradition for a growing group of prosperous taxpayers. (If you’ve just received a nervous phone message from your accountant—that’s probably what she’s calling about.) The AMT traces its origins to a minimum tax enacted in 1970 when Americans were scandalized to learn that some 155 high-earning taxpayers owed no income taxes in 1966. The AMT was originally designed so that people who had a lot of income but loads of deductions—through the standard exemption, the ability to write off property taxes and state income taxes—couldn’t reduce their taxable income to next to nothing. Historically, it applied to a tiny minority of taxpayers. But with every passing year, more and more citizens are ushered behind the velvet ropes. This congressional backgrounder suggests that 1.8 million Americans paid it in 2001. Newsweek‘s nearly infallible Allan Sloan wrote earlier this month that “about 2.3 million returns for 2003 got nipped by the AMT.” The numbers are set to rise exponentially in the next several years. A two-income couple in New Jersey—he’s an accountant, she’s a public school teacher—with combined income of $230,000, three kids, and annual property taxes of $15,000, could easily fall into paying the AMT. Even government bureaucrats get nailed. Last year, IRS Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson paid the AMT.

Got that? It was enacted in 1970, and it’s Bush’s secret weapon. Maybe that’s what he was doing when he was AWOL from Viet Nam, wot? Working in a secret laboratory devising a tax scheme to punish Michael Moore and Barbra Striesand in 2004.

I know about the AMT because I once worked for a startup and got stock options, and the AMT could have hit me badly if that company’s options had been worth exercising. It’s a crazy tax, but then again, I think most taxes are wasteful and most tax revenues are wasted. But the author of this bit “analyzes”:

Republicans don’t want to fix the AMT because fixing the AMT would require undoing their beloved tax cuts. Without the billions generated by millions of taxpayers getting slammed by the AMT, the marginal rate cuts would be impossible to sustain for the next several years, let alone make permanent. Without the AMT, the deficit picture would look far worse than it does.

No, actually Congress, which includes both mean Republicans and the kind-spirited but misunderstood by the ignorant heartland Democrats could cut income taxes AND eliminate the AMT if it would only cut spending, which is a far less palatable choice to the political porkivores.

The author of this piece, undoubtedly, is one of the persecuted residents of an enlightened coastal state s unfairly targeted for the AMT simply because he’s a nutbar the Republicans want to punish the Democrat-voting states. Tax and spend works much better when only the “spend” part touches you, ainna?

(James Joyner has more, albeit less snarky, about this article.)

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Bob Rybarcyzk Sings the Blues

Bob Rybarcyzk has a new chant for the Kiel Center:

Let’s go ahead and get one thing out of the way: the Blues will never win the Cup in our lifetimes.

Whew. Boy, it feels good to get that off of my chest.

Let me say it again. The Blues will never win the Cup in our lifetimes.

Anyone who knows me knows that this is what I say any time the words “Blues” and “Stanley Cup” come up in conversation. It’s not that I’m particularly knowledgeable about hockey or am smarter than anyone else. (I think I’ve proven that fact time and again in this space.) I’m just fairly certain that I’m right.

Unfortunately, I am somewhat more familiar with the Blues, and I agree.

Of course, I can entirely foresee the league collapsing with an extended lockout next year, so this year might be the last chance the Blues get to win anything.

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Start Your Christmas Shopping Early

In case you’re wondering what to get me for Christmas, I wouldn’t mind a first edition Hamlet.

Hey, look, one of the 19 copies remains in private hands and is at auction. Since it’s up for auction at Christie’s, you no longer have to plot your university or museum heist. Of course, since it’s expected to go for several million dollars, you’ll need to start working on the Bellagio heist pronto.

Oh, wait, I see you’re already on it. Thanks.

(Link seen on Fark.)

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I Agree With Lileks

Lileks today:

Big tot day, Mondays. No school, no Nana, just us – and since I decree that the TV shall be silenced after two morning programs, that means puzzles and books and coloring and painting and so on. Usually I have the radio or the news on while we play, but like I said last week, I hit a point where I can’t take it right now. I just can’t take another “we’re there for the oil” call. I can’t take another 37 minute discussion about whether the PDB said OBL wanted USA DOA PDQ. I browse the news sites and the blogs, then go play with my daughter for the rest of the morning. I think April will be my month off from marinating in the news 24-7, if only to get my blood-pressure down from hummingbird levels.

I am with him on this. I told Heather just this morning, before reading Lileks, that I don’t like listening to the radio for news or watching television. I don’t like the practiced sneers in the tones or the unsubtle narrative framework offered for the events. So I’ve stuck with the online news sources.

However, when I’m lost in the day to day hysteria of the 24 hour news cycle, I turn to an unlikely source for perspective. Back when I was an eBay dealer, I purchased a collection of Newsweek magazines, a single year from 1966-1967. I paid $2 for it, okay, and I made the $2 back in selling select issues. But that’s not the perspective: no, although Viet Nam was ramping up at the time, each week it was gloom and doom or hope. Granted, Viet Nam didn’t turn out that well, but the simple snapshot from the beginning of the conflict showed how poorly the media could predict the course in the early time period.

Contemporary media provide the same bark-level view of the forest. Still, I don’t enjoy the spoken news.

Although to be honest I can listen to the students on WSIE because they don’t have the fully practiced nuance of newscasters. Heck, in many cases, they lack inflection or even proper pronunciation. So I can take their version of radio news, which is just as well; I’d hate to have to change from Ross Gentile’s Standards in Jazz on the drive home from work.i

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All Aboard Wal-Mart rounds up a summary of groups suing Wal-Mart. Why? Because it’s there. Now shut up and give me some free money, and my lawyers more free money.

Everyone wants to beat on Wal-Mart and Microsoft because they’re successful. Looks like we’ve about bred capitalism out of the country. Good work, social engineers.

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New Warning Issued for Old Urban Legend

The Palm Beach Post reports on the scourage of the sex bracelet:

The multicolored set of plastic bracelets many Palm Beach County middle and high school students are sporting these days aren’t just a fashionable fad.

At some schools, boys and girls snap off one of their classmate’s colored gel wrist bands in exchange for a corresponding sexual favor, health department officials told school board members Monday.

For example, a person wearing a white band may mean she is willing to kiss to the person who pulls it from her wrist. A red band means a lap dance and black is intercourse. The meanings may vary from school to school.

::Yawn:: Back in the eighties, we wore Satanic worship bracelets, wherein the color of the band indicated the animal (white means pigeon, red means chow puppy, and black meant kindergartner, but the meanings varied from school to school) to sacrifice.

I guess we in Generation X didn’t get the cool faddish urban legend.

In other news, Boots and Sabers will soon have more comments in their infamous Bracelets for Sex post, dated October 19, 2003, which the the Palm Beach Health Department probably used as in-depth research.

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