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
The Young Curmudgeon
Notes from the Lounge
Reason Hit and Run
The Anal Philosopher
Justice Junction
Perverted Justice
Mr. X
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Friday, August 08, 2003

We The Jury Find For...Personal Responsibility and Common Decency?

I found out today that a man has now successfully sued another man for having an affair with his wife and breaking up their marriage. A jury awarded him $175,000 for his pain and suffering.

Maybe putting a dollar amount on someone's pain like this seems silly. But it is done in wrongful death suits because money is the only compensation the law can give, it can't make life fair. Maybe the couple's children should have sued as well, and been awarded a judgement for the pain this affair and the subsequent divorce must have caused them.

Maybe children all over the country should sue their cheating, divorcing, deserting parents for the pain and suffering these people have caused to those they should have cared for. Hardly anyone values commitment, responsibility, or family anymore, especially in a world where a mutual marriage aggreement can be dissolved unilaterally, without cause, by one party. The decision to cheat, and the decision to divorce, are not often entered into lightly. They are typically the result of a long anguishing decision progress. People in a loveless marriage are to be pitied, and it is not fair that they shouldn't have a second or third or fourth chance at happiness. But the pain they experience is the result of their poor choices. By tearing apart their marriage by cheating- and by tearing childrens' family by divorcing, they make more bad choices, and the innocent children are made to suffer the consequences, so a parent might be happier.
In an age where juries so often tell us that it is McDonald's fault that we are fat and Phillip Morris' fault we die of lung cancer, it is refreshing to see that one jury - still believes in personal responsibility and common decency. These twelve men and women said, in effect, to the adulterer: " You knew what you were doing was wrong. This is your fault. You should have to accept the consequences". They are to be commended.

Posted by Rex @ 5:20 PM

Rex Finds Kick Ass Bush Action Figure He Has To Have

Whilst taking my morning constitutional on the web this morning, in search of blogworthy news items, I happened upon this very kick ass President Bush Action Figure that I absolutely must have. This is not the "Talking Presidents" DOLL that speaks an assortment of well-known Bushisms. Some people may picture George W. as some dimwitted "math his hard" "let's go shopping" Barbie Doll , but not me- I say Action Figure, because he looks like a G.I. Joe in his cool little Navy Flight Suit!! Yes, it's the Shameless Photo-Op Touchdown Victory Dance Aircraft Carrier Landing Top Gun Bush!!!

Not that I didn't think it was an incredibly cool move, mind you- even if it was a tad "third world". So what? Half the audience is in the third world, and the other half has seen Top Gun, Independence Day, and Air Force One, and think that it's pretty cool, too. Except maybe some Democrats, who are just annoyed because they know that Gore or Clinton couldn't have pulled it off...

Drs. John Shelton Lawrence and Robert Jewett, authors of The Myth of The American Superhero, call this phenomena the "Superheroic Presidency", a variation of the "American Monomyth", which explains why American pop culture heroes from Batman to Dirty Harry to Rambo all have so much in common: they flout authority and traditional structures which have failed the people they were supposed to protect, and they take the law into their own hands, and break it if necessary to see justice served.

Bush fits this model perfectly, as Dr. Lawrence points out in this excellent interview on the subject of the Superhero Myth in American Culture. "In our current world situation, we can see the tension between what we might call 'constitutional realism' and the call of the superhero myth. President Bush himself has often spoken the language of the myth in describing the way "we will rid the world" by fighting "the evil ones" and has threatened to "go it alone" in the American battle" Lawrence notes, referring to Bush's charge that the UN hadn't enforce its security resolutions against Iraq, prior to the U.S. Invasion. "The myth tells us that laws merely restrain our commitment to destroy our enemies. The American superhero is the person who understands and circumvents those laws in order to save the community or even the entire world."

And, as the Great Strobe observes in The Specials, (the "Watchmen" of superhero comedy films) "Superheros don't get Oscars, they get action figures."

Do Check Out Lawrence and Jewett's Books: The Myth of The American Superhero, and Captain America and The Crusade Against Evil for an insightful analysis of how American individualism influences its hero concept- in popular culture (particularly through representations of vigilantism in movies, comics, and TV) and in political theater like W's Carrier Landing as well.

Those of you interested in what different types of action figures "represent" in terms of gender and cultural roles, and have a sense of humor, may go here.

Posted by Rex @ 11:29 AM

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Surreal Election in California Overwhelms Even Rex's Pop-Culture-Reference-Making Abilities

I always try to include at least one or two movie references in my posts, but this competely surreal California recall election thing has me just overwhelmed. Apparently the Special Gubernatorial Election in California requires the winner to recieve not the majority of votes, but merely a plurality (the most votes). This has flooded the ballot with all manner of wackos, celebrities, and attention-seekers who think that they might actually have a shot at winning. High profile candidates for governor now include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Larry Flynt, Angelyne, Gary Coleman, Arianna AND Michael Huffington, a 99- year old selected through an ad, and a even few real politicians as well. Among the real politicians are the two Republicans who led the recall effort against Democratic Gov. Gray Davis ( who is also running), and many Democratic candidates-turncoats who like rats fleeing a sinking ship have decided to gun for Davis' job themselves, including Davis' Second-In-Command Lt Gov. Cruz Bustamente, who smells the stench of death on his boss. Which reminds me- Gary Condit is running too!

It's a shame perennial presidential joke candidate Pat Paulsen is dead, he might actually have a shot at this, the way so many actors and directors get an Oscar for for their later, crappy work as sort of a "lifetime acheivement" consolation prize.
Although a Arianna Huffington Vs. Schwarzenegger race would be a funny "war of the accents", the jokeyest joke candidate is definitely Gary Coleman- tv's "Arnold Jackson" from "Diff'rent Strokes". After a well-publicized stint as a mall security guard, things looked up for Gary following a guest appearance on The Simpsons a few years back. Then he started selling dates with himself online, which may or may not be prostitution but is definitely sad and creepy. To be fair, I would love to see him use his catchphrase "Whatchu Talkin' 'Bout, _____?" on everyone from his opponents to the legislature: "Whatchu talkin' bout, Gray?"
"Whatchu talkin' 'bout, legislature?" Heh, heh...I have heard Gary Coleman might qualify as a Libertarian- I can see his campaign speech now, very libertarian:
"Now the world don't move to the beat of just one drum
What might be right for you, may not be right for some ...
Everybody's got a special kinda story
Everybody finds a way to shine
It don't matter that you got not a lot- so what?
They'll have theirs, you'll have yours and I'll have mine..and together, we'll be fine!"

it's probably the only shot they have of ever getting a Libertarian Governor, as if they needed o be taken less seriously...

The Least Funny joke candidate is hands-down: Gallagher (the watermelon-smashing prop "comedian" from the 1980's) who like Coleman, is making a sad last-ditch effort to regain a shred of his former "celebrity"( Do click on this link, Gallagher's IMDb entry, for more laughs than you'll get at one of his shows!). I am seriously not making any of this up, although if I did, no one would find it believable.... to me this whole think feels like when you wake up in the morning after sleeping with the tv on all night...confused, disoriented, your head full of bits and pieces of pop culture arranged in a dream-logic collage.

Of all the unconventional candidates-my money's on Arnold personally (Schwarzenneger, not Gary Coleman) simply because he's popular and likeable and tough (and thus he is the Anti- Gray Davis). Also the press will have a field day ( they always seem to be out in a field having field days, don't they? Does anyone else ever have field days?)- the press will enjoy Arnold the candidate- I mean the easiest movie references to make when he runs have been made: "Total Recall", " The Running Man"! I wonder if he's planned this all along... If he loses, the supporters in the press can say "Raw Deal", his enemies: " Hasta La Vista, Baby!" as Arnold vows "I'll Be Back" in his concession speech. Too bad Arnold can't follow the Reagan path and become President, though, having been born in Austria. Or, should I say, unless a Constitutional Amendment is passed, (as was in Frank Miller's Batman:The Dark Night Returns, in which Scwarzenneger does just that! )

But Arnold *could* under current law have a Cabinet Post: Who wouldn't feel safe with the Terminator in the Tom Ridge role: "My Mission is to protect you..."
Or Frightening our Enemies around the world as our Secretary of Defense is known worldwide as the most unstoppable killing machine ever.. picture one terrorist telling another: "It can't be bargained with! It can't be reasoned with! It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead! "

It's a shame Jesse Ventura ( Arnold's Predator co-star) isn't still Governor of MInnesota- then there might have actually been a little friendly rivalry when both state liscence plate mottos become "My Governor Can Beat Up Your Governor".
Although it would be fun to have Hustler publisher Larry Flynt as governor: I picture Back To The Future Part 2's "alternate 1985" where Biff Tannen takes over Hill Valley- adding a sleazy Casino Hotel, oil refineries, and buying the police force. A more accurate depiction would probably be the original inspiration for that scene in BTTF2, the "Pottersville" of It's A Wonderful Life- where the wicked, wheelchair-bound businessman Mr. Potter takes over the town of Bedford Falls, NY and legalizes gambling, prostitution,and other assorted vices. Of course when Flynt inevitably loses, the headlines will read: "The People Vs. Larry Flynt".
Unless Schwarzenegger wins( take your pick between "Conan the Destroyer" and "Judgement Day") or unless Gary Coleman wins: "Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Electorate?"

Posted by Rex @ 12:49 PM

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Florida Apparently Uses Same PR Firm As DARPA

The State of Florida unveils its new all-knowing supercomputer this week called (seriously)"The MATRIX"(The Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange) . The supercomputer is rumored to be able to cross-index law enforcement databases with all available commercial data and public records, to aid in national couterterrorism efforts.
The project is surprisingly similar to DARPA's Total Information Awareness program that was heavily criticized as being overly invasive to privacy. Ironically, with the TIA program under fire, the Justice Department and Homeland Security have pledged $12 Million to expand the Florida program nationwide.
Privacy concerns aside for a moment- If they didn't want people to get creeped out-did they have to name it after the most widely-known evil computer system today? Why not just name it "Overtron" or "Big Brother"?
Honestly, why can't DARPA and all these other guys hire some decent PR people to focus-group the names of these programs a little (and the masonic TIA logo), or at least promote them a little better. PAM ( the very cool-sounding future-trading-based terror prediction system) is dead now due to bad pr, basically, and "Babylon", a Star-Trek-style universal translator also sounds really cool, despite the negative Biblical associations of the name. At least they didn't name it "Total Speech Control"....
If anyone at DARPA reads this, I'm available for a PR position. I'll give you a free consult on spec right now: Here's your tagline from now on, for everything: "New- from the people who brought you the internet..."
Also, lay off the creepy masonic imagery- no all-seeing eyes, no claws gripping the earth, nothing dramatic. When you're in the security business, fear is your currency. And dealing with people who are frightened is like dealing with a cornered animal...."No Sudden Movements". If you want to oppress people and take away their liberties, at least use the time-tested "boiling frog" method of incrementalism. Slow and steady wins the race.
Another thing. Think about the Cold War. After the Cuban Missile Crisis- the "new normal" meant building a fallout shelter in your backyard and schoolkids hiding under their desks from nuclear blasts. You guys got people to buy this by using cute cartoons like "Duck and Cover with Bert the Turtle". Maybe something like that would work today as well. (Readers unfamiliar with the profound silliness of Cold War-era Civil Defense Propaganda are encouraged to check out the profound and silly film The Atomic Cafe).
Speaking of the Cold War, I remember George Lucas getting very ticked off and suing critics of the Reagan administration's proposed missle defense system( known as the Strategic Defense Initiative) for derisively referring to it as "Star Wars". The judge in the case (Lucasfilm, Ltd. v. High Frontier, 622 F. Supp. 931 for those of you with Lexis-Nexis) found that it is perfectly legal to refer to a controversial government program derisively with the title of a well-recieved popular film, provided that it is not done for profit. So perhaps the Wachowski bothers, creators of the Matrix film series, might have a shot at a copyright infringement suit, if they can demonstrate that the creation of the real-life MATRIX is bringing in revenue to the State of Florida, in seized property/asset forfeiture of the criminals it catches, maybe? Or that its creators are trying to use the familiar high-tech "Matrix" name to win juicy contracts from the other 49 states?

Posted by Rex @ 2:08 PM

The End of Intelligence? Fukuyama on Systemic Intelligence Failures

Erstwhile political economist and postmodern civilizational theorist Francis Fukuyama can always be counted on for an interesting if iconoclastic take on international affairs.
Today Dr. Fukuyama takes on the presumed Iraqi WMD intelligence failure, and links it to what he sees as a larger, systemic intelligence problem affecting not only intelligence agencies, but the UN as well.
Fukuyama argues that intelligence failures (such as failing to predict and stop 9/11) promote erring on the side of caution, "worst-casing" everything by making overly pessimistic intelligence estimates -such as the Iraqi WMDs, the Nigerian Yellowcake, etc. Which in turn leads to more intelligence failures, as the worst case scenarios are revealed to be exaggerated at best, and fabricated at worst. Thus intelligence failures paradoxically beget further intelligence failures. Fukuyama thus absolves the Bush and Blair administrations for their intelligence failures, and even perpetual scapegoat CIA Director George Tenet- it's the system itself that's the problem. They may use now use the Al Pacino "...And Justice For All" defense: "I'm out of order? You're out of Order! The whole System's Out of Order!!" at any Senate Intelligence Committee Inquiry.
If Fukuyama places blame anywhere it is on the UN, which is funny since they opposed the invasion of Iraq. But ultimately, according to Fukuyama, it was the UN's intelligence failures which led to the US and Britain's. The Bush administration had more or less the same intelligence as the Clinton Administration had, and that was heavily influenced by intelligence (or the lack of it) from UNSCOM. Also, the intelligence failure of a too-low estimate of Iraqi WMDs prior to the 1991 UN inspections, has led to a "worst-case", pessimistic, and what appears now to be a too-high estimate of Iraqi WMD development following the end of inspections in 1998. Whoops!

Posted by Rex @ 11:13 AM

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Rex Reviews PAM Parody

The Pentagon's now-defunct PAM program, which would have allowed future trading-based terrorism prediction, lives on in a quasi-parody site called the American Action Market. AAM is highly critical of the Bush Administration, the Pentagon, the Intelligence Community- and leans a little "tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy nut". The site isn't funny enough to be amusing, and looks too nutty to be taken seriously-although it claims to be registering traders soon to bet on things like:
"the next White House lie to break into the news"
and:
"to what degree neo-conservatives Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Abrams and other students of Leo Strauss (who may have taught that it was necessary for elites to lie to the public) relie [sic] on Strauss's teachings in their daily decisions "

and so on.
Still, it's worth a visit for anyone who has been following the story of the controversial PAM program, if only to visit AAM's mirror of the Pentagon's original PAM site, now unavailable and still very cool to look around in.
Presumably, this "turn the tables on the the evil government" approach was inspired by the infinitely superior Open Government Inforation Awareness site, MIT's response to the Pentagon's Total/Terrorism Information Awareness program, especially to the all-knowing superdatabase of personal information it would have created. OGIA instead amasses information of public figures and government agencies, to serve the public interest. AAM, by contrast, seems stragely unconcerned with protecting civil liberties, slightly crazy, fairly anti-capitalist and rabidly anti-Bush, and just plain mean.
If AAM's point was to say that the idea of future trading for terror-prediction was bad (whether bad-immoral or bad-ineffective), why would they advocate its use against the Bush Administration/Military Industrial Complex? I can only guess their point must have been that the Administration was "more bad". Or maybe AAM likes future trading-based terrorism prediction in principle, but finds the Bush Administration
"as evil" or "evill-er" that al Qaeda ( and thus a fitting target for the clever terror prediction tool it devised). Hoist of their own petard- Haha. If that's their argument, they could have at least find a more clever and effective way of making it. I suspect they just hate Bush, his Administration, and his party- and are neutral toward PAM as a prediction tool. Except that like their Democratic Senator pals they saw PAM as an easy target to Bush-bash.

Posted by Rex @ 4:42 PM

Monday, August 04, 2003

Sunscreen Sissies At Greater Risk For Skin Cancer

Hilarious findings today from the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy. Sunscreen, designed to protect skin from harmful solar radiation known to cause sunburn, freckles, moles, and cancerous melanoma, ironically increases the risk of skin cancer! Since those most susceptible to sunburn are also the most likely to develop skin cancer, it was believed that sunscreen would reduce that risk. Researchers now believe sunburn and skin cancer are caused by different types of solar radiation, and that by preventing a sunburn from occuring, the sunscreen only encourages lengthy sun exposure that otherwise would have not occurred. Sunburn acts the as body's natural warning system for excessive radiation exposure- similar to the dosimeter radiation badges work by nuclear technicians. When too much radiation has been absorbed, the skin changes and begins to hurt- sending a warning to its owner. Unless, of course, he is wearing sunscreen. Whoops!
No word on any industry-crippling class action lawsuits yet. Similar charges have been weathered successfully by the "antibacterial soap" industry after researchers discovered increased illness among its users, many of whom suffer from weakened immune systems from lack of germ exposure-except for the soap-resistant strains of super-bacteria that now populate their homes.

Posted by Rex @ 11:48 AM

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