Sunday, February 27, 2005

"Manhunter" at SoD

I posted an obscenely long legal review of Manhunter #7 over at Suspension of Disbelief. When I started, I expected it to be relatively short, like silogamsam's review I linked to: Kate's tactics were bad, and there was a significant objectionable question. Nothing big jumped out at me at first, like having the prosecutor call the defendant as a witness.

But as I started writing my thoughts down, and paying closer attention and double-checking my copy of the Federal Rules of Evidence, I began realizing that virtually everything in this issue was wrong. Not a lot of questions were asked, but nearly every one was objectionable on some grounds. I could've saved a lot of space by skipping background info and simply saying things like "This question violates FRE 404" or "Federal jurisdiction doesn't exist," but like Mr. Ingersoll's column, I think it's more helpful to the reader to explain potentially new terms and concepts. I know I learn better that way.

I'd be hard-pressed to point to anything in this issue as a truly good portrayal of the law. For a "star prosecutor," Kate Spencer doesn't seem to do much of anything right.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

eBayed Out

The last of my auctions ended last night. Overall, I made about $550. My "Ultimate Spider-Man" issues accounted for almost half of that. My massive JLA lot, on the other hand, went for a lot less than I'd expected. I have so many theories on what I could have done differently there, but it got over 100 hits and only 3 bids, so maybe the interest wasn't there.

Some items didn't sell even though I was sure they would, so I'll probably relist them soon, and sell off some other old comics and toys at the same time. Right now I just have a lot of packages to get out.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Plugging Away

Please Buy My Stuff!

Lots of auctions ending tomorrow night. Lots more ending Monday night. And since I didn't get everything up on Monday as planned, I expect to list the rest tomorrow night.

Suspension of Disbelief

I and several other posters from CBR have banded together and founded a group blog, Suspension of Disbelief. As I explain in the first post, the idea is to take a page from Bob Ingersoll's "The Law Is A Ass" column, or Scott's medical reviews at Polite Dissent, and examine the various real-world aspects that arise in comic books.

So far we have an excellent analysis of the archery incompetence on display in Teen Titans Go! by Jim MacQuarrie, and a bits from yours truly on the law and a common journalism mistake. I'm particularly looking forward to ripping apart the trial of Kobra from JSA, and Robert Kirkman's ignorance of Georgia in the otherwise excellent Walking Dead.

We have on board a handful of lawyers, a psychologist, a journalist, and a bunch of other specialities that should provide some well-rounded expertise. So check it out; maybe you'll learn something.

Friday, February 18, 2005

You can't take the sky from me

Newsarama has confirmed that Dark Horse will be releasing a three-issue "Firefly" comic starting in July. Based on the description, it sounds like this is the rumored adaptation of the aborted DTV prequel to the film.

I'm a little disappointed they couldn't get John Cassaday on art, but I checked out some of Will Conrad's other work, and it ain't too shabby.

More auctions posted

Monday night I posted about 45 more comic auctions at eBay. I would've done more, but I ran out of time. Lots of TPBs, complete mini-series, and a bunch of Bendis and Morrison material.

Biggest item: JLA #1-58, plus 22 JLA-related issues. That's the Morrison and Waid runs, as well as the mini-series DC One Million, DC 2000, World Without Grown-Ups, and three JLA Annuals, three Secret Files, and a whole slew of JLA one-shots. 80 JLA issues in all, representing a huge chunk of my JLA collection.

And that's just one of 53 auctions going.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Dinosaur-fighting space rabbits

My copy of "Space Usagi" came in the mail yesterday. I attempted to explain to my mom the high concept of the series.

It's about a samurai rabbit...

In the distant future...

Who (according to the cover) fights dinosaurs...

On other planets.

The absurdity of the book hadn't struck me until then. I suppose that years of comics just make you immune to the sheer weirdness of the stories you read.

On the plus side, my mom also read a copy of "Usagi Yojimbo" I brought down, and she seemed to like it. Not as much as "True Story, Swear to God," though.

Monday, February 14, 2005

My eBay Auctions

It took me far longer than it ever should have, but I finally posted some eBay auctions that I've been putting off for ages. So far, I only have my Ultimate Spider-Man issues, as well as my runs of Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol and Aztek, but more is coming tonight.

Check 'em out:

Loren's eBay Auctions

Monday, February 07, 2005

A Public Apology

In the course of researching the James Watt quote used by Bill Moyers, I obtained some help from Reverand Austin Miles, whose book the Grist author cited as his source for the quote. I e-mailed Rev. Miles for additional source information, and he replied both swiftly and helpfully. He even replied to my follow-up e-mail.

Unfortunately, despite Rev. Miles aid, in a post below I treated him as coarsely as Moyers or Scherer. Although it is my current suspicion that the quote is most likely not historically accurate, it was rude of me to come so close to insulting the man who had been so helpful in my research.

Reverand Miles, I'm sorry.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Social Security Snapshot

Those who support "saving" Social Security without creating personal accounts, what are perhaps the two most common proposals? Raising the tax rate, or raising the taxable income level.

In response to that, here's the short version of my numbers from yesterday. Listed are the OASI tax rate and the maximum income (in 2000 dollars) subject to that tax.

1940 2% $36,900
1960 5.5% $27,924
1980 9.04% $54,126
2000 10.6% $76,200

The tax rate is 5.3 times what it was when Social Security began, and more than twice as much income is subject to taxation. In 1940, the maximum tax paid by any person was $60 ($657 in 2000). In 2000, it was $8077, over twelve times the 1940 maximum.

(To preempt the obvious response, benefits have also risen over this time. But they haven't risen as much. Unfortunately, that math can't be laid out as cleanly as the above numbers.)

Raising the tax rate has been done, and done a lot. Raising the income level has been done too. And yet, the system is still scheduled to run out of money. If those remedies didn't work the first dozen times they were attempted, why should we go for the baker's dozen?

That's Watt I'm talking about

Brian Carnell and A Little Reason offer a couple more follow-ups on the questionable James Watt quote. Reverand Miles informed me that he recalled the quote from an episode of the PTL Club, which makes it difficult to check. And as pointed out in the above blogs, the media often had field days with Watt's verbal missteps, so its total absence from the public record

Perhaps most damning is a comment at Carnell's site from Watt's own son-in-law, saying that the quote is a total fabrication. Of course, the only way to decisively prove or disprove the legitimacy of the quote is to produce a videotape of the show, but the evidence gathered thus far does not favor the quote being real.

Finally, I wrote a letter to Grist asking where Scherer got his information about the quote being from "1981" and "before Congress." Should there be a response, I'll be sure to share it.

Here's what we're up against

From today's Vent in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Social Security isn't welfare. It is money my hard-working parents invested for their future, and now King George wants to mess with it -- and mess with their future.

The use of "invested" shows that the author doesn't appreciate how Social Security works. The use of "mess with their future" shows that s/he doesn't understand the reforms being proposed. This isn't a pundit, just a regular joe. And that means this is the mentality that has to be addressed if we expect to achieve any progress for my generation.

Another Venter had this to say:

If Social Security is in such a bad way, why didn't George do something before his second term? Because, if he had, he wouldn't have gotten a second term.

I was fairly disappointed in Bush's first term. I didn't vote for him in the election (I didn't vote for Kerry either). But if Bush can accomplish some reform of Social Security in the next four years, it will go a long way towards improving my opinion of his term in office.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Social Security Number-Crunching

I spent a big chunk of today pulling stats from the Social Security website, and playing with the numbers. I'll be putting together a more professional piece later, but here are some starter stats.

In 1940, the OASI tax (combined payroll and employer 'contribution') was 2%. Only the first $3000 was taxed, so the maximum yearly tax burden was $60 ($738 in 2000 dollars). The average monthly benefit was $22.71.

By 1960, twenty years later, the tax had risen to 5.5%, and the maximum taxed income to $4800. The most an individual paid a year was $264 ($1388.42 in 2000). The average benefit was $81.73 a month. Also, at the time, the median family income was $5620.

In 1980, the tax was up to 9.04%, and the income ceiling was at $25,900. Maximum tax was then $2341.36 ($3865.05 in 2000). Average benefit was $321.10, and median family income was $9867.

Finally, in 2000, the tax had settled at 10.6%. Maximum income was $76,200 (since then it's risen to $87,000). Maximum tax was $8077.20. The average monthly benefit was $844.70, while median family income was $50,890.

Now look at how the program has changed since 1960. Average benefits have risen from $81.73 to $844.70 a month. That's a little more than a tenfold increase. Median income rose from $5620 a year to $50,890, a little more than a ninefold increase. So average benefits have actually increased slightly more than average income levels over that 40-year period.

BUT, over the same period of time, people have come to pay a lot more for these same benefits. The tax in 1960 was just 5.5%, while in 2000 it was 10.6%. Benefits have shrunk, while the tax has nearly doubled.

And in 1960, the maximum taxable income ($4800) was below the median family income ($5620). By 2000, the maximum taxable income was in excess of 50% more than the median family income.

Also, while average benefits have kept pace with income, the picture is a lot less rosy for people paying more in taxes. From 1940 to 2000, the maximum tax burden rose from $60 a year ($738 in 2000) to $8077.20, and eleven-fold increase. Maximum monthly benefits, on the other hand, have gone from $41.20 ($506.76 in 2000) to $1435.30, less than a threefold increase. People at the upper end of the tax scale are effectly getting one-third the return on their money as they did at the program's start.

As soon as I can find a median income for 1940, I'll contrast that as well. Given the 2% tax, less than 1/5 of the modern OASI tax rate, it's sure to produce even more disappointing results.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Watt's Happening

"After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back." - James Watt, US Secretary of the Interior (1981-83)

This quote has been making the rounds of the Internet the last few months garnering a substantial presence on left-wing blogs. If true, it would seem to be a heavy indictment of Mr. Watt, and of certain right-wing Christians. The other day, it showed up in a (rather controversial) Bill Moyers column.

The problem is that the quote is most likely fake. Jon of A Little Reason did the research on it, and his initial findings strongly suggest that it is a manufactured quote.

And to add a little to his research, a Usenet search produces no usages of this quote prior to November 2004. Archive searches of the New York Times and Washington Post websites turn up nothing at all. Nor does the "Search Inside the Book" feature at

A Google search for the quote currently produces 547 results. I'm curious to see how far it will spread before it's nipped in the bud.