About Rex
Name: Rex Stetson
Occupation: Masked Avenger Type
Base of Operations: Washington, DC
E-Mail: rexstetson@yahoo.com
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 Other Blogs of Interest
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Friday, August 01, 2003

Slate Crystalizes Rex's Thoughts on PAM Into Layman's Terms

The best defense of PAM's potential I have yet read. A better articulation of each of my arguments than I provided, plus several others. Highly Recommended.

Posted by Rex @ 12:09 PM

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Daschle to "Blog" As The Kids Say...

Presumably in an attempt to be "hip" and "with it" and connect with young, internet-savvy liberals so profitably courted by 2004 Democratic Presidential Candidate Howard Dean, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle will begin blogging Thursday:
"My staff told me a while back about a blog," Daschle said. "I learned a new word. ... This new 'blog' concept appealed to me. At the end of the day, wherever I am, I can just type up some thoughts and tell stories about things that happened," Daschle said. "I'm always up for trying something new."
(With the exception of futures-based terrorism prediction, obviously)
Sen. Daschle's "Blog", called...hehe.. "Travels With Tom"... will be accessible through his website.

Posted by Rex @ 1:44 PM

Rex Right! Hope Obits Humorously Outdated

As Predicted earlier this week by Rex Stetson, Armchair Vigilante, the media's penchant for preparing obitiuaries for celebrities and public figures well before their death ( and thus ready to go at a moment's notice) has led to some very dated obituaries for comedian Bob Hope, who finally died Sunday after appearing near-death for many years. Most noteable among these was this New York Times piece, written in 1999 by Vincent Canby, who himself died in 2000! The ruthless New York Post couldn't resist the chance to poke fun at the Times for this. CNN accidentally made several of its stockpiled obits-in-advance public recently on its website. Along with Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II was Bob Hope, 1903-2001. These are still far more accurate guesses than those of tabloids such as The Globe, The Weekly Star, and The National Enquirer, whose May 1997 cover story was "Bob Hope's Tragic Last Days". Again in 2000, all three tabloids declared Hope's death imminent, along with the death of Katharine Hepburn, who also passed away this month.

Posted by Rex @ 12:46 PM

Terror Futures Defended

Defenders of the Pentagon's now-defunct futures-based terrorism prediction program (PAM) struck back at its critics on Capitol Hill, whose arguments they called "purely political". For all their blustering and moral outrage, none of the Democrat senators like Tom Daschle and Hillary Clinton ever said the program wouldn't work...only that it was "grotesque" and "immoral".
Offering a profit incentive for intelligence information ( such as the $15 Million rewards for the wherabouts of Uday and Qusay Hussein) is neither immoral nor does it encourage immoral behavior.
"Among the many things we do for intelligence, this is one of the least reprehensible," Hanson said. "Paying people to tell us about bad things. That's intrinsic to the intelligence process." said Robin Hanson, a PAM project contributor.
Next terrorist attack, I'm not blaming George Tenet or Bill Clinton, I'm blaming Tom Daschle (D-SD), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Byron Dorgan (D-ND) for gutting our intelligence capability.

Posted by Rex @ 9:44 AM

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Dressed-Down Documentarian Dressed Down by WSJ

Michael Moore, Oscar-winning director known for the funny, successful, but factually-challenged "documentaries" like Roger and Me and Bowling for Columbine, was the subject of a scathing opinion piece in this week's Wall Street Opinion Journal by Kay Hymowitz.
I do not share Mr. Moore's political views, But I consider him an immensly talented and entertaining filmmaker- a talented propagandist and entertainer more than a true "popular" documentarian like Ken Burns. I admire Moore for his willingness to take on tough material, controversial but important issues that others won't touch: school shootings in Columbine and now 9/11 in the Disney-financed Farenheit 9/11, even though I almost always disagree with both his reasoning and his conclusions. He masterfully uses powerful imagery and music to persuade audiences while entertaining them. And he occasionally makes a good point- such as when he criticizes "corporate welfare". And he does make me laugh, when he exposes the hypocrisy and absurdity in many aspects of American society in the great anti-establishmentarian tradition of humorists: Mark Twain, Wil Rogers, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Dennis Miller.
But- I can't help but always feel about Moore the way Superman always felt about Lex Luthor:
"If only he would use his genius for good instead of evil... "
After having enjoyed Bowling for Columbine earlier this year (and the discussions with friends and family it provoked as we debunked its arguments) I ran across this item , a persuasive scene-by-scene fact-based rebuttal of Columbine. Moore is often criticized for recutting dialogue and action out of context to support his political beliefs, omitting facts that not only don't support, but disprove his conclusions. The WSJ piece takes a similar approach, examining Moore's entire body of work. Perhaps more importantly, it exposes Moore's likeable "average guy" persona to be just as phony as his "documentaries" (It is, after all, always entertaining to see hypocrisy and absurdity exposed...)
Does this diminish the man's artistic accomplishments? Should the Academy revoke his Oscar? Perhaps in the future, Bowling for Columbine will be taught in film schools alongside Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will as an example of skillful propaganda, with its message recieving the same level of respect.

Posted by Rex @ 2:29 PM

Insider "Terror Trading" Will Continue, However...

Critics of the now-defunct "Terror Trading" scheme Policy Analysis Market/FutureMAP called its it "grotesque" and "morally repugnant" because it "encouraged terrorism". In reality, it merely offered a financial incentive to accurately predict terror attacks. This is extremely different from providing a financial incentive to commit terror attacks. Dumping all your United Airlines stock doesn't encourage crashing 747s into office buildings, does it? It's the other way around, and that's what the minds behind FutureMAP understood. I suppose buying stock in car rental companies that didn't look like they were going to pay of otherwise *might* give someone motivation to hijack airplanes and crash them, trying to boost the car rental stock, but come on, that doesn't sound very likely either...
Besides, terrorists already have "inside information" from which they can profit financially ( by selling their Disney stock the day before they release Anthrax at DisneyWorld, and putting all that money into gasmasks and antibiotics). This is the type of insider trading that happened immediately before 9/11, the details of which are available here. What futuremap would have done, if anything, was decrease the likelihood of such profiteering, by giving everyone access to the same information as the would-be profiteers.
FutureMAP was created with the thought that since terrorism is bound to happen, someone with foreknowledge will likely be tempted to profit from it, and start betting big in order to get the payoff, which will alert the govt. This type of intelligence gathering is no different in principle from offering a $25 million reward for the whereabouts of Bin Laden or Saddam, but you don't hear people griping about that morbidly encouraging the creation of more "evil ones"...Reason Magazine science correspondent Ronald Bailey today offered a more scientific explanation of why this futures-based program could have been very effective...

Posted by Rex @ 10:27 AM

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Nessie No More

The BBC claims to have now definitively proven that the Loch Ness Monster is no more real than say, Bigfoot- who was finally revealed to be a hoax by the family of the legend's creator, following his death last year. With that in mind, here is a poem, dedicated to Nessie and Bigfoot, now gone the way of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy:

Science! True daughter of Old Time thou art!
Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet's heart,
Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?
How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise,
Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering
To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies,
Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing?
Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car?
And driven the Hamadryad from the wood
To seek a shelter in some happier star?
Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,
The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?

-"Sonnet:To Science", by Edgar Allan Poe

Posted by Rex @ 2:07 PM

No Future for FutureMAP

The Pentagon has now cancelled FutureMAP-the bizarre but clever "futures trading" approach to terror attack prediction, amid heavy criticism from Congressional Democrats
This is another humiliating PR defeat for the Terrorism Information Awareness Project, who have already had to change their name, remove the Masonic imagery from their logo, and downplay and reduce the scope of their all-inclusive, all-knowing super-database. ( see earlier post)
What I am noticing here is that the criticism was entirely partisan, and very weakly argued- with Democratic Senators like Tom Daschle and Hillary Clinton, and nothing was heard but enthusiasm from Republicans... Detractors of the proposal claimed it was "morbid" and "grotesque", and even that it would encourage terrorism by providing a chance to strike it rich in the process! It's a shame, this sounded like a very cool program that might have actually done some good. DARPA needs some serious marketing help! Something like: "New. From the people who brought you the internet..."
Terror trading was to begin Oct. 1, with registration to start Friday, Aug 1st. The trader registration site is still up and running for now-visit it while you can...
Guess I'll be sticking to the Dead Pools online ( see yesterday's post) to satisfy my morbid greed.

Posted by Rex @ 1:23 PM

National Security Privatized...Sort Of.

The inventors of the internet (no, not Al Gore, DARPA!) have developed a terrorism prediction scheme that allows ordinary citizens or even terrorists themselves to place bets on the likelihood of terrorist attack, The Washington Times reports today. Called FutureMAP (Futures Markets Applied to Prediction), the program takes the form of an online anonymous casino, and uses the efficiency of market forces in aggregating information to predict the likelihood of terrorist attack. The controversial scheme was probably suggested due to the intelligence community's little-publicized knowledge of heavy insider trading of United and other airline stock immediately prior to the 9-11 attacks. Apparently, the thinking is that people with reason to believe that terror attacks are imminent will not be able to resist profiteering from them. The assurance of anonymity will remove any fear of prosecution.
The project is but one phase of the massive Total...er..Terrorism Awareness Project, known for its creepy Masonic Imagery logo (since abandoned),and its creative, "outside the box" proposals for improving national security, ranging from the disturbing Database That KNOWS EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYONE to the Monty-Pythonesque Ministry of Silly Walks(gait recognition).
As a libertarian, I am now somewhat torn about the TIA project. On the one hand, I fear and distrust the loss of my privacy and the creation of an all powerful, all-knowing supercomputer ( no doubt from having repeatedly watched both Wargames and Superman III dozens of times as a child) but as a lover of the free market in favor of privatizing many government functions, I have to applaud this clever idea that is most likely much more efficient and accurate that the analyses of the so-called intelligence "experts" that dropped the ball pre-9/11, the collapse of the Soviet Union, Nigerian Uranium, etc...
Perhaps this whole FutureMAP thing is just a bone thrown to silence TIA's libertarian critics, to bring them on board, too. Along with the e-traders, gamblers, and the techno-geek online gamer community...
If this project takes off in a big way, it might supplant the useless "Code Yellow/Code Orange" random flipflop that currently passes for a terrorism risk assessment system: "Highs tomorrow will be in the mid-90's, with a 30% chance of terrorism"...
Want to become a terrorism trader? Visit The Policy Analysis Market website.

Posted by Rex @ 10:05 AM

Monday, July 28, 2003

Death Poolers, Weary Vultures Delight as Bob Hope Finally Dies

It's About Damn Time! At age 100, Bob Hope has at long last died, to the delight of "Celebrity Death Pool" players everywhere. Death Pools, a game where players score points by correctly guessing which celebrities will die that year, have never caught on in a big way- the highwater mark of the pastime's's popularity being in 1988 when Detective "Dirty Harry" Callahan (Clint Eastwood) expressed his disapproval of the morbid pastime after finding himself on A "Death Pool" list- in the weakest of the Dirty Harry sequels, The Dead Pool. Other Death Pool favorites this year include Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and Saddam Hussein.
As the media typically prepare their tribute/obituary pieces for dead celebrities well beforehand,--the last laughs Bob Hope will give to his fans will likely be at how dated the clothes and hairstyles of the commentators will be in the TV tributes, given that the vultures have been circling over him for 20 years...
By law, each TV tribute to Hope must include both the title and the background music "Thanks for the Memory", as Frank Sinatra's were required to be accompanied by "My Way", despite the extensive body of musical and film work of both entertainers

Posted by Rex @ 11:44 AM

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