Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Average of the Average

President Bush's Approval Numbers -

Now I'm not one to kick a man when he's down (actually, I am but let's pretend for a moment, shall we?) but with the president now hovering around 31% one has to wonder what he will do? How can a president who relentlessly pursues a course of action that has steadily grown unpopular turn around his fortunes? The problem is that President Bush is in what the chess masters call a zugzwang, or a position from which there is no obvious solution. Of course, there always is but it takes a calculating mind to realize what kind of sacrifices are necessary to save yourself. Trouble is, President Bush would have to realize that he is in a zugzwang first before he can begin to come up with a solution.

Water Shields

Liquid Armor: From "Urban Legend" to Real Defense? - The Danger Room

Well, don't know about the guys at Wired but when I think of water as a defense against bullets and shrapnel I think of the Mythbusters episode that tested just this question. What they found was that the faster a bullet flies the more energy is absorbed by water on impact. I don't know if the system these soldiers have rigged up will work but in theory it should.


The Book Inscriptions Project

This is amazingly cool. There's something about book inscriptions that transforms an otherwise unremarkable object into something incredibly personal. That we now have a web site that collects such inscriptions I think will become a huge resource for historians, sociologists and literary critics. It's not so much what you have in your library (while it is important) it also matter who gave you a particular book. There are a lot of questions one can ask of inscriptions and a lot of answers one can glean from the inscriptions.

Desert Mind and Nothing Else

'Learning and Growing' in Jail, Hilton Drops Plans to Appeal - WaPo

The thing I don't think most people realize about Paris Hilton's imprisonment is that she's stuck in isolation for the majority of the day. And by majority I mean nearly 23 hours a day. This is what I would call the 'penitence' of a penitentiary. Being left alone like that, for someone who generally has the mental appearance of the Sahara desert, is probably a new kind of hell. Nothing but the four walls, the door, the bed, the toilet and your thoughts. After the two thousandth time of looking over the items in your room you have nothing left but your thoughts. Every single random thought, little thought, big thought, crazy thought, all of it, running together constantly. Yes, meditation would offer some relief but for the untrained mind it's not much. I would not be surprised if Hilton does experience a sort of transformation during her 40-days in the desert experience. Whether it lasts I don't know but this kind of punishment for someone who relies on constant contact with the world is spot on.

Prosperity My Ass

Democrat's Prosperity Problem - George Will, WaPo

This is bunk, absolute bunk. Will talks about the growing wealth in the country when I can see every day that isn't true. My parents have seen the last few years of tepid income as have the rest of the merchants in the shopping plaza where their store is. It's not that the economy has tanked but the fact remains we're still drawing in mid-90s gross income while we have seen our inventory costs rise. The doubling of gold and platinum prices have caused all sorts of problems for them. While I agree that the tax system is fundamentally broken I don't agree for the same reasons nor to I want the same solutions that Will does. I think instead we need to see a serious effort to simplify taxes while easing the tax burden on the middle class. This means increasing taxes on the rich. This also means flattening out the tax curve, particularly for corporations, as the gift of tax breaks for businesses has led to corporations counting on such breaks. I think it would prove amazingly beneficial if we could remove the majority of tax breaks on businesses while lowering the corporate tax, thus providing the benefits of lower taxes for all. The problem is when you start messing with the tax code you run into the problem of a) powerful corporate interests; and b) the difficulty of providing the same tax revenue to the government while lowering taxes as much as possible. Now I think we could come up with a fairer tax system, even with the current political climate, but I sincerely doubt that such a system would even make it out of committee.