Saturday, April 29, 2006

Time to move to Mexico

This news would only be better if it came about 9 days ago.

Mexico has decided to legalize certain quantities of pot, heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy, among others, for personal use.
The bill says criminal charges will no longer be brought for possession of up to 25 milligrams of heroin, 5 grams of marijuana (about one-fifth of an ounce, or about four joints), or 0.5 grams of cocaine -- the equivalent of about 4 "lines," or half the standard street-sale quantity (though half-size packages are becoming more common)."No charges will be brought against ... addicts or consumers who are found in possession of any narcotic for personal use," according to the Senate bill, which also lays out allowable quantities for an array of other drugs, including LSD, ecstasy and amphetamines.

Some of the amounts are eye-popping: Mexicans would be allowed to possess more than two pounds of peyote, the button-size hallucinogenic cactus used in some native Indian religious ceremonies.
I predict a reverse immigration crisis as soon as the nations drug addicts get their shit together enough to head south.


Harlan Goldberg , among others, has been trenchant in his observation of rising gas prices. I just paid $3.66 per gallon on Rt. 114 in Sag Harbor. Why was it so much above the NY Metro Average?
Well it all has to do with which side of the gas pump you choose to pull up on.
If you prefer the left side of the pump you pay the normal $3.33. If you pull up on the right hand side of the pump the priviledge of having a pimply faced kid pump your gass will cost you $0.33 per gallon.
The self-serve/full-serve price differential is one of the nastiest, trickiest ways of getting you to cough up those precious greenbacks at the pump.

When I got back on the road I started to think: "How much does it cost to fill up say an M1 Abrams tank?"
According to an M1 Abrams has a 498 gallon tank and gets 0.6 miles to the gallon. They state " A tank will need approximately 300 gallons every eight hours..." So if the Army was paying the national average for mid grade gas, that would cost about $1,548 to fill up a single tank.
Now, we can be pretty sure that the Army does not pay the same amount as the general public. If Halliburton has anything to say about it, they will pay a lot more. I have had trouble finding some more recent documentation, but several accusations of overcharging for gasoline came up in late 2003. Halliburton Watch details how Halliburton was charging the government $2.64 per gallon, even though that was almost twice what it cost others to provide fuel. Another article on this here. Corpwatch posts similiar information, delving a little more into the role of Halliburton subsidiary KBR.
So even though I cannot find any direct information regarding the price per gallon the Army pays for gasoline I am going to say that it is more than the $2.64 they were paying in December, 2003. I am going to round that sucker up to a cool $5 per gallon. Which means the Army, and by extension you and me, are paying Halliburton $2,500 every time a tank gets refilled. I find that a little annoying, don't you?
Moreso by the fact that one of the justifications for the Iraq war was lower gas prices.

Lastly, to leave you on a positive note, the $3+ you are pouring into your car is not the true price of gasoline. At least, not according to researcher Clifford W. Cobb. His report, (executive summary only) entitled: The Roads Aren't Free: Estimating the Full Social Costs of Driving and the Effects of Accurate Pricing for puts the true price of gasoline at $15.14 per gallon. This price includes factors such as military spending to "protect" (my sarcasm) oil supplies, as well as the cost of congestion, and pollution induced health issues, among others.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Bridge too Darfur

Pretty much every day, while driving home from work in Westchester County I have a little talk with my friend Randi. For the past week or two she has been promoting the American Jewsih World Service rally to stop the Darfur genocide, on April 30, in Washington D.C.

Call my cynical, but I don't think the 1 million postcards they hope to send to President Bush will make much difference to him. Kanye said it best.

Two points:
1. Why the Bush Administration will not get involved in the Darfur genocide:
Relatively few prospects for Halliburton to make a profit.
Unfortunately for Darfurians, they do not live in the first world, and many nations find themselves with other things to worry about. Such as Iraq, Iran, oil prices, and suicide bombings all over the freaking place.
Don't get me wrong, the genocide in Darfur is abhorrent. But I don't believe that many politicians see it as urgent. The hope is that it will burn itself out - as lax and callous and irresponsible as that sounds, based on the amount of action taken, it appears to be the consensus.

2. Why we don't want the Bush Administration to get involved with the Darfur genocide:
Over/under is 8, the bet, how many malapropisms can Bush get out of the word, Janjaweed?
The administration has been a miserable failure, whatever the undertaking. Now we want them to step in to fix Darfur? I really think that's a bad idea. Does anyone have confidence that a US led armed intervention would be prosecuted in a competant matter? That anyone in the administration has anything close to an in-depth understanding of the situation, how and why it started, and how best to stop it?
I don't.

I would like to see US troops out of Iraq.
I would like to see someone step up and murder the genociders in Darfur.
But based on the extent to which our military has been abused, I do not relish sending American troops to the Sudan. The nobility of the cause is not in question. Neither is the necessity of action. But the liklihood and practicality of US involvment is slim.

Monday, April 24, 2006

By way of a belated introduction

I am Lee Wilson.
I am not this Lee Wilson
I am not this Lee Wilson
I am better looking than one and a better rapper than the other.

I am a student in Political Science at the CUNY Graduate Center. So you might think that I would have an easy time with this.
How wrong you would be.
You see, I don't know anything about politics, international relations, political theory, constitutional law, policy, etc. etc. But I will comment on them all nonetheless.

In addition to wildly innacurate political diatribes, I will relish in the defeat of both the Mets and the Yankees. You can expect constant updates on my rotisserie baseball team.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

2006 Major League Baseball Predictions Based on Emotion and Spite Rather Than Objective Analysis - American League Edition

American League
Eastern Division
  1. Boston Red Sox - Clemens should come back and hit Derek Jeter in the face. With his fist. Yeah.
  2. Toronto Blue Jays - Meh
  3. Tampa Bay Devil Rays - I wish they would start playing Delmon Young. Scott Kazmir should take another step forward. If B.J. Upton can learn to field the baseball the D-Rays can have one of the most talented young teams in the game.
  4. Baltimore Orioles - I think this team is a mess.
  5. New York Yankees - Hereafter known as the Skankees. "It was bound to happen." I will not be surprised when the team plane crashes killing everyone except Scott Proctor
Central Division
  1. Cleveland Indians - This team has been coming for a while now. Travis Hafner is an absolute stud. Victor Martinez is the best catcher in the game. Jhonny Perralta showed great power at short stop last season, and could be a star for years to come. Grady Sizemore is a 30/30 threat. The pitching staff needs to step up, but I like the Indians to outperform.
  2. Chicago Whitesox - Can you say "regression to the mean"? Of course the addition of Jim Thome will help tremendously, but I can't see this pitching staff, outside of Buerhle, repeating last years career numbers. Bobby Jenks is fat, and puts all his weight behind his pitches.
  3. Minnesota Twins - No one will hit Johan Santana. Carlos Silva can be effective as a groundball pitcher, but you would like to see a strike out occassionally. Problem is Radke, Lohse and Barker will get knocked around. Justin Morneau can be awesome and should bounceback from last years disappointing season. Michael Cuddyer needs to live up to the hype.
  4. Detroit Tigers - A big park and a maturing pitching staff will give the Tigers a chance most days. Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson, and Justin Verlander are all young with high upsides. Kenny Rogers will collect ground outs until he punches a fan or something.
  5. Kansas City Royals - Some teams should just give up. The Royals are basically a major league farm team. Mike Sweeney is the veteran who mentors the young'uns and David DeJesus is the next guy the Yankees will overpay for.
Western Division
  1. Oakland Athletics - Personally I think they will have some trouble scoring runs, but Billy Beane is the smartest GM. They have the best pitching staff in baseball. In the second half of the season that is. Watch them play .300 ball until June, then .750 thereafter and lose in the first round of the playoffs. It is written.
  2. Anaheim Angels - I refuse to call them the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim." Jerks. I also hate them for popularizing those annoying noise maker things people clap together. Will be battling Oakland all season. I think Vlad Guerrero has lost a step, no 40/40 season this year. Casey Kotchman could take a step forward this year and put up a solid .270 25/80. Super Utility player Chone Figgins will probably lead the league in steals and positions played. But Erstad and Garrett Anderson are another year older meaning the offense could have some trouble. The pitching staff should be pretty good. john Lackey took a huge step forward last year and needs to build on that.
  3. Seattle Mariners - Just let Ichiro hit .400 and leave him alone. This team stinks. This is like the 8th season we are waiting for Gil Meche to turn into a solid player. Jamie Moyer must be 50 years old by now, and if he didnt throw 60mph I expect his arm would fall off.
  4. Texas Rangers - In the offseason they traded a promising young pitcher in Chris Young for Adam Eaton, who was a promising young pitcher 5 years ago, and has disappointed ever since.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

the weekend

Updated4.08.06 5:41pm EST

The weekend is for not doing things.

Not setting the alarm. Not shaving. Not getting dressed until well into the afternoon.
Over the course of a typical Saturday I will migrate from my computer chair to the living room couch to the attic bed where the video games are set up, and back to the couch. At some point I will decide that something constructive needs to be done with the day. This usually coincides with my being hungry. Often I will make my own lunch. I have several reliable recipes which all make heavy use of condiments.

However, sometimes I will pickup fast food. Taco Bell is a favorite, but Taco Bell is disgusting, and that is the point. If you cannot get pleasure from the greasy fatty grossness of Taco Bell you will have a hard time enjoying life. Besides, the taco supreme has tomatoes; those are good for you. So I cross the border, and return home to eat and read my daily list of blogs.

A few years ago Taco Bell commercials featured Dick Vitale, the irritatingly enthusiastic college basketball announcer who adds the suffix "Baby!" to every sentence. In these commercials Vitale was promoting some new menu item, which was most likely a hybrid of several other items, in a move that only Taco Bell could pull off. The gist of these ads was that a family was
driving, lost. Vitale would appear with the new Franken-Taco and deliver the tagline, Its serendipity baby!

I hate to admit that this is how I learned the word "seredipity," but I immediately took a liking to the word. I like the idea of serendipitous events. Just yesterday I was speaking with a friend of mine and we somehow got on the subject of smells. It may have been because she lives above one of the pungent Indian restaurants on First Avenue. She told me that she is very interested in smells. She wants to write about them. Feeling for a moment like a creative writing professor I recommended she read Patrick Suskinds Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. But I don't like perfume she objected. She is
a very eager girl, though I did manage to explain something of the book, which seemed to placate her.

At home I have two bookcases. One contains books that I have read, the other contains books that I have not. I felt it was dishonest to anyone who might be perusing my shelves to have them intermingled. Thanks to a recent discarded book sale by my local library the Unread shelf has recently surpassed the Read shelf. For this reason I put myself on a strict book buying hiatus. No more new books, no matter how interesting one may appear, until the ratio of read to unread is measurably better. I reminded myself of this when approaching the used book sellers
who set up along West Fourth Street. I stopped to look anyway an exercise in restraint, or a form of torture. And right there, the very first book face up on the table was an absolutely pristine copy of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, for only $5. Now maybe this book had been there for weeks and I only noticed today because the book had been brought up previously and
there was now some context. But maybe it was a new arrival, so to speak. Occurrences like this are the closest thing to Karma that I believe in, so I take them somewhat seriously. What I mean is that I was now required to buy this book by the gods of serendipity, here manifested as Dick Vitale, and deliver it to my soon departing companion. I could not do this exactly as she was not home, but I left it in an evelope on her stoop.

But as I browse various websites I come to one describing the plight of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a group of laborers who pick the tomatoes that are sold to Yum! Brands, the corporate parent of Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Pizza Hut, among others. I am asked to sign a petition, and participate, or enforce, a boycott basically of all things Yummy.

Refusing to do so basically means that I am supporting the heartless conglomerate over the oppressed proletariat. I am of unsure how to handle this.

I tear open a pack of "fire" hot sauce, and ooze it onto my taco. I take a bite and feel the crunch of tortilla shell, the softness of the sour cream slightly warmed by the granulated beef. Lettuce hangs from my upper lip, a red and clear emulsion of grease runs down my chin.