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Archive for October, 2008

It takes a lot to upstage new Bond girl Olga Kurylenko.

A small Russian communist party has just done it.  Anyone who tops this by close-of-business Tuesday, I promise I will Paypal you $1:

“In the name of all communists we appeal to you, Olga Kurylenko, wanton daughter of unclean Ukraine and deserter of the Slavic world. The Soviet Union educated you, cared for you, and brought you up for free, but no one suspected that you would commit this act of intellectual and moral betrayal.”

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Stephen Colbert is legitimately running the GOP.  Witness:

“The next generation of the Republican Party. The Young Eagles provide the GOP with the financial resources to compete in national, state, and local elections, while affording members the opportunity to interact and network with Republican Party officials, pundits, enthusiasts, and donors as well as business leaders and innovators throughout the country.”

The Young Eagles, (Eaglets?), complete with silly logo:

But how does one join this elite cadre of Reagan revolutionaries?  Simple: Throw a shit-ton of money at a dying elephant:

“A Republican Young Eagles membership requires a $7,500 personal contribution per year or a joint membership of $3,750 per person per year.”

In case you aren’t prepared to ante your rent money for the cause, prospective Eaglets can get a taste of the organization at a reasonably-priced $1,500 per event.  If you can pony up $40,000 (!), it buys you attendance at “special events” and some Young Eagles Roundtable thing. (Nest?  Access to the Eagles’ Nest?  Maybe you get to watch Dick Morris eat regurgitated worms?)  Prep your passports, Eaglets, because these special events are held in such foreign locales as New York* and Los Angeles.

Where in the name of chicken-friend Jesus are young people supposed to find $40,000?  Perhaps it helps that “Young Eagles” membership is open to people up to 45 years old.  Sorry Senator Obama, you just missed it.  So the GOP youth auxiliary actually includes the tail end of the baby boomers.  An impressive effort to relate to those kids playin’ the hippity-hop on your lawn.

I swear, part of me really believes this is a parody.  Although to be fair on the stupid logo, I’ve always thought the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation

…looked disturbingly like the Carolina Hurricanes ice hockey team:

So I guess I should lay off the design people.

* New York becomes a part of America on days it is attacked by terrorists.  Offer void after 30 days.

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Today’s New York Times ran an excellent profile of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.  The Ed-Koch-lookin Luzhkov was a founder of Putin’s ruling United Russia Party, and is extremely popular.  Re-elected with 69% and 75% in his last two elections, Luzhkov is first and foremost a builder, apartments, highways, memorials, you name it.  Matching his party, the man has authoritarian tendencies.

What makes him unique though is his powerful voice on foreign affairs.  Luzhkov has promised $100 million of Moscow city money for development projects in Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian city damaged in the recent conflict.  Luzhkov has visited the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia, pressing his own government to recognize the territory’s independance, as well as making provocative statements towards Ukraine.

It’s rare to see a mayor with such a strong foreign policy voice.  Rudy Giuliani liked to make high-profile gestures, and after 9/11 rejected $10 million of assistance from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.  (Also parlayed it into an epic fail Presidential run.)  Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone injected himself into the politics of Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Israel, everyone, Venezuela again, and History.  Other than these two, it’s hard to think of any mayors around the world with significant independant opinions on foreign affairs.  On one hand it isn’t really their place; mayors are never elected on foreign policy.  That said, any mayor of a major city is going to handle issues with roots abroad, whether trade, energy, or immigration.  So I’d just leave you with this nugget from the great Marion Barry:

“I am making this trip to Africa because Washington is an international city, just like Tokyo, Nigeria or Israel. As mayor, I am an international symbol. Can you deny that to Africa?”

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super kawaii afghan rug

Mischa and I found this little gem while trolling around eastern market. The ultimate message is completely lost on us–Is it suppose to be an earnest plea against war? A statement about nationalism? Is it simply anti-USSR? I have no idea, but I can tell you this much: it’s pretty great. I mean, look at the thing! Its combines cutesy pixel-art style and militancy together in a rug.–and only for $100!

I’m kinda kicking myself for not getting it, honestly.

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The Washington, DC Metro system is the only public transit system in America without a dedicated funding source.  Consequently, Metro goes ’round hat-in-hand trying to find contributions from the DC, Maryland, Virginia, and federal governments.  This please sir may I have another? approach has left the system short approximately $1 billion per year needed for the next decade to ensure upkeep and upgrades to the buses, trains, and rails.  The Senate recently ponied up $1.5 billion, and small fare hikes and increased ridership may add a bit to the pot.  (Though the latter obviously increases wear and tear as well)

So today, the Washington Post reports more bad news:

“Metro and 30 other transit agencies across the country may have to pay billions of dollars to large banks as years-old financing deals unravel, potentially hurting service for millions of bus and train riders, transit officials said yesterday.”

Huh? What happened?

“The problems are an unexpected consequence of the credit crisis, triggered indirectly by the collapse of American International Group, the insurance giant that U.S. taxpayers recently rescued from bankruptcy, officials said.

AIG had guaranteed deals between transit agencies and banks under which the banks made upfront payments that the agencies agreed to repay over time. But AIG’s financial problems have invalidated the company’s guarantees, putting the deals in technical default and allowing the banks to ask for all their money at once. “

In other words, the failure of AIG means that the banks can call in their loans whenever they damn well please; as in, tomorrow.  The Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) could owe up to $400 million; one Belgian bank has already demanded payment of $43 million by next week.  They’re going begging to Treasury ASAP, but with other cities including Boston and Atlanta similarly desperate, there may not be much to go around.

The full, depressing situation is here.  Above all, the story reveals the dangerousness of the incredible interconnectivity of our modern economic system.

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A Catholic church in Midlands, Texas has made the news with an inflammatory sign.  The message outside St. Michael’s chapel reads:

“Lepanto 1571:  Mary and her Rosary, Annihilate Islam.”

When asked to comment, church officials stuck to their cannons:

“Islam is a false religion, it cannot offer eternal life,” Michael Banschbach, with St. Michael the Archangel Chapel, Inc, said when asked about the sign. “We live in a day and age now where everything has to be politically correct, we wouldn’t want to offend anybody, we wouldn’t want to make them feel bad.”

The pastor of another local church denounced St. Michael’s as “schismatic”  (Oh snap!)  But really, these folks deserve some credit.  How many well-educated people even remember this critical naval battle from their high school history classes?

In October 1571, the unified navy of the Holy League (consisting of Spain, Venice, the Papacy, the Knights of Malta and others,) dealt the first significant defeat to the Ottoman galleys under the command of Ali Pasha and his allied Corsair commanders.  Led by Don John of Austria, the 24-year-old illegitimate son of Charles V, the Catholics’ superior cannons routed the Turkish fleet and sank or captured approximately 200 ships at a cost of barely a dozen.  Afterwards, the Ottomans regrouped with impressive speed, constructing a new fleet of some 250 ships within 2 years of the battle.  This allowed them to reassert control over the eastern Meditteranean, and prevent the Christians from pushing forward to retake Cyprus or any other territories.  However, the loss of almost 30,000 soldiers, sailers, and galley slaves (either killed or captured) was irreplaceable and ended the empire’s naval dominance for good.

So:  While the church may be a bunch of ignant-ass haters, their grasp of history is commendable.  That’s all I’m sayin’.

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This requires neither explanation nor context:

Despite being someone with a very high opinion of both women and dinosaurs, I can’t say that Palin-McCain appeals to me.”

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