31 October 2005

William O'Neill Will Run for Ohio Supreme Court

Judge William O'Neill has announced that he will run for Ohio Supreme Court. His reputation is one of integrity and incorruptibility. Last year he refused any campaign contribution over $10 and still raised over a million. But he didn't win.

O'Neill is exactly the type of person we say we want and then don't vote for. Now that we've confirmed that corrupt officials tend to bring corruption, perhaps it's time to go for old school integrity.

30 October 2005

Pentagon Lied, No One Di... Oh, Wait a Minute

Last year the Pentagon denied that it kept figures of Iraqi deaths, but since it submitted those figures in a report to Congress a few weeks ago, it looks like the Pentagon was full of shit.

OSU Study Pleases Dan Quayle More Than Murphy Brown

“It's more difficult for unwed mothers to get married, and if they do, they tend to not marry well,” said OSU sociology professor Zhenchao Qian, summarizing in one sentence his latest research study.

The findings:

Women who have children outside of marriage are less likely than other single women to marry, and when they do marry... mothers are more likely to have husbands who are significantly older and less educated than those of childless women.

...among never-married mothers slightly more than half -- 55.8 percent – were black, while about 10.3 percent are Hispanic.

[unwed mothers] are far more likely to live below the poverty line than married women. Over one-third of female-headed families with children live in poverty compared to only 6 percent of married couples with children.

Qian also suggests that Federal programs to promote marriage among low-income Americans should begin to address out-of-wedlock childbearing as well.

29 October 2005

Why Can't Sam Malone Be More Like Sam Malone?

I came across this by surfing happenstance, but its irony is sure to effect a chortle from fellow Cincinnatians.

Non-locals will get up to speed with this .

Now that you get the idea, you'll find this ironic as well.

Perspectives from an Iranian Dissident

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently said that Israel should be “wiped off the map.” Is his attitude typical of Iranians? Butterflies & Wheels has an interesting interview/discussion among anti-establishment Iranians. It is interesting in itself, but more so because of some unexpected (at least to me) parallels to the U.S.

The interviewer, Maryam Namazie, is a key figure in-- and I am not making this up-- the Iran’s Worker-Communist Party.

Here is another article in which she addresses those Iran-U.S. parallels directly.

Could This Be the End of Celebrity Viagra Spokespersons?

Leading figures in the medical academe are calling for an end to direct-to-consumer pharma advertising. They say at the very least the FDA should regulate it.

28 October 2005

The "I" is for INDICTED

I. Lewis Libby won't be saved by his warm, fuzzy nickname now. Out of the 5 violations which the investigation looked into, Libby has been charged with violating 3 of them, two of them twice. The charges are obstruction of justice, false statements (2) and perjury (2).

You can read the indictments here (skip to page 9).

27 October 2005

The Next Best Thing to Being Patrick Fitzgerald...

...is reading this article called " Background to Betrayal: Behind the CIA leak investigation." I'm thinking this is as much as one could know about the case without being Fitzgerald himself.

A more readable version (formatting-wise) is at the Chalabigate blog, if you prefer.

Rove Connected to DeLay, Abramoff

Karl Rove's assistant worked for Jack Abramoff before her White House job, reports the NYTimes. She's a key witness in the Special Prosecutor's case.

26 October 2005

Hugo Chavez Unplugged

He was interviewed by Ted Koppel for ABC's Nightline several weeks ago, just after Pat Robertson's fatwa. I saw it, and it was very good. You can read the transcript here. Some excerpts:

You know where right now my medical team is? In the presidential plane, 200 kilometers from here. The government of the United States, in violation of the laws of the United States and conventions, prevented my doctors from coming to New York. Where is the chief of staff of my military detachment and my chief of security? On the plane. They've been locked into the plane, two days. They can't come out of the plane.

Those are the signals we're receiving.

And so perhaps Christ recommends that when we get a slap in our cheek, we turn the other cheek. We have both cheeks red and blue because we've turned the cheek so many times. But we... do love the people of the United States. We want to be brothers and sisters of the people of the United States, independently of their government.

Practically no one in the United States knows that we've donated millions of dollars to the governorship of Louisiana, to the New Orleans Red Cross. We're now giving care to more than 5,000 victims, and now we're going to supply gasoline, freely in some cases, and with discounts in other cases, to the poorest of communities, starting with New Orleans and its surroundings.

...nobody can say that Venezuela is a country that commits aggression against the United States or is an enemy of the United States because it has open relations with [the] world. We have open relations with China. With Colombia we have very good relations. We have good relations with everyone.

The only country, the only administration with whom we don't have good relations on the face of the earth is the administration of Mr. Bush. That's the only example.

I have friends throughout the entire world, kings, princes, presidents, prime ministers. Only with Washington is where the relationship doesn't work.

A Brief History of Lying

A brief review of the lies told by Cheney, Rove, and Libby over Plamegate.

Cheney Wants More Torture

Well, this is what happens when you start getting into the dirty, kinky stuff: you find that it takes more and more to get you off.

And so it is with Dick Cheney, who is jonesing for more sadism & torture, as noted in this WaPo editorial.

What better way to mark the 2,000th military casualty than to snub the Geneva Convention rules intended to protect soldiers.

25 October 2005

Electronic Voting not Ready for Prime Time

That's what a GAO report concluded last Friday. The report considers issues of security and reliability, neither of which are satisfactory at this point. That's sure to surprise Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), who has had no shame touting his partisan ignorance for the past 18 months on this issue. Ney believes e-voting technology is perfectly secure and anyone who disagrees is an America-hating liberal homosexual atheist.

The report makes several recommendations, most of which seem fairly obvious (ensure proper testing, ensure conformity to local election systems, e.g.). But then there's this: "draft changes to existing federal voluntary standards for voting systems, including provisions addressing security and reliability."

Voluntary? Compliance with federal voting standards is voluntary? Suddenly Britney Spears' motherhood doesn't look so ridiculous.

According to the report "there is a risk that many state and local jurisdictions will rely on voting systems that were not developed, acquired, tested, operated or managed in accordance with rigorous security and reliability standards -- potentially affecting the reliability of future elections and voter confidence in the accuracy of the vote count."

Happy voting!

24 October 2005

Strike Two for Sherrod Brown?

Sherrod Brown has been taking some flak lately, but let's give the man at least some credit for keeping the Kerry memory alive. Perhaps John Kerry was even one of the Senate Democrats who convinced Brown to change his mind, giving Brown the opportunity to paraphrase Kerry's defining moment: "I decided to run for the Senate, after I decided against it."

That was strike one.

But now some are saying Brown is stabbing Hackett in the back again. Brown is raising money with blog ads, but with a twist: the money doesn't go into Brown's campaign, it goes into a fund that will be used by the eventual primary winner, whether Brown or Hackett.

What has some people irked is that the ad has both men's pictures. So is Brown using Hackett to raise money for himself, or he just going through a "nobility" phase?

Well, one of Brown's campaign strategies is to use the blogosphere. He has bloggers on the payroll at DailyKos and MyDD, and he wants to expand this to Ohio blogs. I am guessing that Brown's primary strategy will focus on GOTV from core Democrats rather than fundraising & advertising. The former can be done with the ODP apparatus [however lame] of which he is an insider.

By contrast, Hackett is an outsider who must sell himself to core Dems, non-core Dems, independents, and Republicans, so he will therefore need more money than Brown for travel & advertising. Hackett's money needs are immediate, while Brown's are not. So Brown may be hoping that while he's shmoozing his colleagues, Hackett will burn up his money just trying to keep up. And when it's over, Brown expects that he'll have the votes to win the primary and money in the bank to battle DeWine.

It's a solid strategy, but the fact is that Brown is using Hackett's image for his own benefit. Brown is paying for the ads himself; if he truly believed they could benefit Hackett equally, he wouldn't buy the ads. What kind of candidate spends campaign money with no hope of return? Brown is running a campaign, not a foundation. He shouldn't pretend otherwise.

I say strike two for Sherrod Brown.

21 October 2005

Former State Dept. Official Shines Light on BushCo

The State Department’s Chief of Staff under Colin Powell, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, recently spoke to the New America Foundation. Like several other insiders to the Bush administration, he finds plenty to fault them with. The full transcript is long; some notable excerpts are here:

But the case that I saw for four-plus years was a case that I have never seen in my studies of aberrations, bastardizations, perturbations, changes to the national security decision-making process. What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made. And then when the bureaucracy was presented with the decision to carry them out, it was presented in a such a disjointed, incredible way that the bureaucracy often didn’t know what it was doing as it moved to carry them out.

But if you want to read how the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal flummoxed the process, read that book [“The Assassin’s Gate,” by George Packer]. And of course there are other names in there: Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, whom most of you probably know Tommy Franks said was the stupidest blankety, blank man in the world. He was. (Laughter.) Let me testify to that. He was. Seldom in my life have I met a dumber man. (Laughter.) And yet – and yet – and yet, after the secretary of State agrees to a $40 billion department rather than a $30 billion department having control, at least in the immediate post-war period in Iraq, this man is put in charge.

…what Dwight Eisenhower warned about – God bless Eisenhower – in 1961 in his farewell address, the military industrial complex – and don’t you think they aren’t among us today – in a concentration of power that is just unparalleled… If one of them is a lead on the satellite program… the others are subs. And they’ve learned their lesson; they’re in every state. They’ve got every congressman, every senator. They’ve got it covered.

…my army right now is truly in bad shape – truly in bad shape. And I’m not talking about the billions and billions of dollars of equipment it’s burning up in Iraq at a rate 10 or 15 times the rate its life cycle said it should be burned up at, but I’m also talking about when you have officers who have to hedge the truth, NCOs who have to hedge the truth. They start voting with their feet, as they did in Vietnam, my war.

I like to use the world gracelessness, and I use that word because grace is something we have lost in the modern world. It’s a very important product. It’s very different, for example, to walk in with a foreign leader and find something you can be magnanimous about. You don’t have to win everything. You don’t have to be the big bully on the block. Find something you can be magnanimous about, that you can give him, that you can say he gets credit for, or she gets credit for. That’s diplomacy. That’s diplomacy. You don’t walk in and say, I’m the big mother on the block and if everybody’s not with me, they’re against me, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The difference between father and son, in my mind, sort of comes from that attitudinal approach to the world.

Again, I recommend to you “The Assassins’ Gate.” George Packer gets this right. There was simply no plan, other than humanitarian assistance and a few other things like protection of oil and so forth, with regard to post-war Iraq. There was no plan.

WaPo has an article on the speech here.

Thoughts on Brown vs. Hackett

As I see it, the Brown vs. Hackett contest is basically an insider Dem vs. outsider Dem contest. This does not make Brown intrinsically unsuitable, but it does have significance.

The insider Dems do nothing to help their party. In fact, their actions have generally made it easier for Republicans to win. Their choices during the 2004 election were ridiculous. Instead of backing Howard Dean, the man who exhumed their party, they back Gephardt! And then Kerry. And who can forget Kerry's campaign advisor, Bob "Silence is Golden" Shrum?

The insiders did not back Hackett until late in the race. In fact, it was Dean's grassroots organization, Democracy for America, which came through with the big initial fundraising. Only after they raised enough did the DCCC pitch in. And the folks from Washington may have hurt as much as they helped: their phone canvassing was a fiasco; many people in district 2 reported getting repeated calls for Hackett, one couple told me they got 12.

What I am most intrigued about is Brown's change of mind. It is now known that Strickland twisted his arm, and what I want to know is this: did beltway Dems assure Strickland their support (for Governor) if he could get Brown instead of Hackett?

It's not illogical: the GOP can pass all of its nutty legislation because it votes as a block. It's not outrageous for the Congressional Dems to want a member who will be more likely to join in a voting block than not. This will make them a more effective opposition party. Hackett has a reputation as a maverick, so they may view Brown as being more "one of them" than Hackett.

Also, the Dem insiders know Brown and Strickland, but not Coleman or Hackett.

The fact that the beltway Dems want Brown is all the more reason to support Hackett, because one is voting not only for a candidate but also for a change in the stultifying atmosphere among the beltway Dems.

20 October 2005

Which Would You Rather Have, Taiwan or Iraq?

As America's power continues to wane and China's continues to rise, Taiwan will be in the balance and may find its own fortunes in question.

America has thus far been a cautious supporter of Taiwan's autonomy, but as American influence decreases, the fate of Taiwan will be more a matter between China and Europe. Russia and China have been buddying up lately, so Russia may find itself having to play an important hand.

China will be in an increasingly better position to act militarily in Taiwan, as well as to influence other countries not to recognize Taiwan diplomatically. And China is still serious about Taiwan, as this recent spat with Google revealed.

I suppose we can't deride China too much for wanting another province since we just got our 51st state, but somehow I'm thinking they'll get more out of Taiwan than we'll get out of Iraq.

19 October 2005

Ohio Town Deploys Libertarian Economics!

Greenville, which is in western Ohio just west of Piqua (Darke County) will try out a system by which users will be billed a fee for police and fire responses. The practice will begin on Nov. 1.

The Daily Advocate reports "The amount of the fees is based on how many vehicles and personnel respond to an incident. For instance, it will reportedly cost those involved in the incident $154 for each police vehicle responding, $49 per officer and $250 per fire vehicle."

Interestingly, it is not the citizens who will be billed directly but rather the insurance companies. According to the article, insurance companies are willing to absorb small losses (as would be predicted in a small city like Greenville) but will pass large ones onto policyholders.

Two More Fighting Dems Run for Congress

Iraq veterans David Ashe and Bryan Lentz are running in Virginia and Philadelphia, respectively. According to DailyKos, at this point there are several "Fighting Dems" around the country but as yet no Repubs.

It remains to be seen how these races will turn out, but the Democratic Party will deserve little credit if the Fighting Dems win back some seats. The Dem Party is too pathetic; their only successes have come about from party outsiders (Howard Dean, Paul Hackett) and their failures can all be tied to beltway insiders and consultants. The Dem Party does not run like a well-oiled machine and it can't support its candidates very well. Therefore the only candidates that have a chance are those that can overcome that hurdle.

The Republican Party machine, on the other hand, is so dominant and well-established that it can't resist the temptation to be corrupt. So it can support its candidates very well. Therefore even weak candidates can get elected (Jean Schmidt).

This difference between the Parties is important because it means the Repubs will mount an initiative to seek out veterans of their own, and they'll do it better than the Dems. They'll find plenty of vets and they'll back them up with a solid Party. Soldiers are trained to follow orders; the military is perfect mining ground for Republicans.

So sorry to burst some bubbles, but I wouldn't get too excited about the Fighting Dems. The sad fact is that the Democratic Party structure is just too screwed up and stupid to take full advantage of this golden opportunity.

Walnut Hills Recognized for Educating Black Youth

Congratulations to Walnut Hills High School for being among the first to receive the Award for Excellence from the Caroline and Sigmund Schott Foundation of Massachusetts. The award recognizes excellence in educating young African-American males. The award is national, but all three schools were in Ohio. The other two are in Toledo and Cleveland. [Post]

17 October 2005

Insight Into a Republican Mind

An interesting post on Spacetropic this past Saturday. To be brief, the post is simultaneously anti-Wal-Mart and anti-anti-Wal-Mart. That is, it expresses opposition to Wal-Mart but also to those who oppose Wal-Mart.

It starts out first by putting forth the same, tired old beaten-worse-than-a-dead-horse stereotype of the left:

I picture the typical beardo-the-weirdo professorial types and tofurkey Leftists standing outside the Wal-Mart entryway, waving signs and handing pamphlets to low-income families who might be there to buy baby formula or a coat for Junior.

...the ironies are too insufferable when career university types, 19-year old students and Greens think they've got all the answers about job creation and helping the poor.

What about all lefties being wiccan homosexual abortionists?

But then Spacetropic reveals that he, too, is not exactly a Wal-Mart fan: I'm not enamored with Wal-Mart, as longtime readers know already, because of it's ability to distort markets and destroy tightly-knit communities.

According to Spacetropic (i.e. Republican) logic, only his opposition is legitimate, and any leftists who share the same opposition must be against capitalism, not Wal-Mart. They must be young fools, not wise, street-tough Republicans who've grown up and know how the world really works.

I was disappointed to read this post, but it's typical of the Republican mindset. Here is an issue which can pull together Dems and Repubs, but this Repub not only wants no part of it, he feels the need to construct a vilification based on caricatured stereotypes.

I think this post reveals an important aspect of Republican psychology: die-hard Repubs have a psychological need to define an external threat group. They need to make someone "the enemy" so they can define themselves as being the good guys.

As far as I can tell, Spacetropic is less a blog about issues & politics than it is a part of the dominant party echo chamber. Republicans are great, Democrats are evil. How enlightening.

Scotty to Be Beamed Up One Last Time

Timothy Leary did it. Gene Roddenberry did it. And now James Doohan, aka "Scotty", will also have his ashes rocketed into space.

I don't think I'll care one way or another, but this does strike me as a rather cool way to go when you're gone. And with "memorial" spaceflight packages from $995 to $12,500, there's something for everybody at Space Services, Inc.!

15 October 2005

Will Council Go Bananas Over Chiquita Incentives?

The Post reports that Chiquita may relocate its headquarters to another city. Its lease of the Chiquita Center expires next August, so it is considering other options before re-leasing.

As the article explains, there are solid, practical reasons for relocating to Atlanta or South Florida so it's entirely reasonable that Chiquita would relocate.

The article doesn't say how many area jobs that affects but it does say Chiquita has 25,000 employees worldwide, 17,000 of them in the centroamerican bananalands (Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama and Guatemala). So somewhere between a few and several thousand jobs would be affected.

One of the things that will factor into Chiquita's decision is the tax incentive package they get from Council. It's unlikely (but not impossible) to be a big one, because of the backlash against corporate tax incentives, particularly the Convergys deal.

Chiquita's spokesman said tax packages were a factor, but not the primary consideration. That's good, because the other cities can probably come up with something better. So what will the decision depend on?

According to the spokesman, "[t]he main criteria are cost, access to transportation networks, quality of life for employees, flexibility for growth and access to prospective employees."

12 October 2005

Counting the Tickets on Microsoft's Windshield

Here's the tally of Microsoft's antitrust fines so far [Dan Gillmor]:

$1.95 billion to Sun Microsystems
$850 million to IBM
$750 million to AOL Time Warner
$536 million to Novell
$460 million to RealNetworks
$440 million to InterTrust Technologies
$150 million to Gateway
$23 million to Be

Total to date is over $5 billion.

Unfortunately, the fines are not enough of a deterrent to Microsoft. The company has enough size and market share that it still gains more than it loses by pushing the antitrust envelope.

It seems the only real solution is to add resources to the Justice Dept. and FBI (which also investigates corruption). Right now both agencies are struggling with a plate full of antiterrorism initiatives, and those resources should not be diverted. So adding more resources appears to be the best option.

But there must also be the political will to go after antitrust cases. The Bush administration is about as antitrust friendly as can be, and that has to change if the legal system is going to preserve fair markets and level playing fields.

11 October 2005

Journalism's Changing Ethics

Over the past several decades the number of media companies has shrunk from over 50 to 5. The excessive media consolidation has worsened all media, and the news media is certainly no exception. The deference and timidity shown by the mainsteam media ("MSM" in the blogosphere) during the Bush administration has been so absurd that the MSM cannot be regarded as an objective, trustworthy news source and has lost its credibility.

A few years ago I read a quote that the purpose of newspapers isn't so much to tell the news as it is to bring advertisers and consumers together. That's true of mainstream media in general; it's primary purpose is to make advertising profit, not to make quality product.

Is there a code of ethics for journalists? Apparently so. And apparently ethics changed 10 years ago, because they changed the ethics code:

The ethics code in place at least since 1974 declared, “The newspaper should background, with the facts, public statements that it knows to be inaccurate or misleading.” The passage was dropped when APME rewrote the code in 1994 to make it, as David Hawpe, editorial director of the Louisville Courier-Journal who was then ethics committee chairman, “vaguely” recalls, “more operational, and less a statement of principle.”

Well, that explains a few things...

Props to MediaCitizen.

Tuesday Morning Monday Night Football Report

Great Steelers-Chargers game. Competitive right up until the end. But when Roethlisberger got hurt and they showed the replay, it looked to me like he might be a victim of the dreaded posterior cruciate ligament tear. At the very least he hyperextended his knee. A ligament tear is a worst-case scenario.

But if it is the case, then he'll be out for the season and so will the Steelers, probably. That would be very bad news indeed.

This game also showed that the Bengals aren't the only team with a penchant for penalties.

UPDATE: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:

The early prognosis on Roethlisberger is this: His knee was hypextended when he threw a 9-yard pass to Antwaan Randle El and Chargers defensive end Luis Castillo rolled into his left leg as it was planted on the turf.

Roethlisberger was scheduled to have a magnetic resonance imaging exam this morning, shortly after the team's chartered plane arrived in Pittsburgh. The Steelers did not make any official comment on Roethlisberger.

If you need any more information you can always stop in at Martino's on Vine, the local Steelers fan hangout.

09 October 2005

Why Miers?

Publius tells us what he thinks is the motivation behind the Miers nomination, and why specifically Bush had to go outside the Federalist Society "farm team" on this one:

Of all the scandals and junkets and leaks and what have you, the one that history will consider the most serious is the authorization of torture and the flagrant violations of the Geneva Convention. As Marty Lederman and Andrew Sullivan (to his credit) have made clear again and again, this administration is guilty of war crimes. And they know it.

...And one day, when all the facts are finally known (as they inevitably will), the legal reckoning will come. And I suspect that the Supreme Court will ultimately have the final say on a lot of these issues...

Picking a high-powered intellect from the Federalist Society farm team wouldn’t have helped Bush on the issue he’s most worried about... most Federalist Society stars would not tolerate the “unlimited executive authority” argument.

Miers is getting slammed from liberals as well as conservatives, including ol' timer Robert Bork, who said her nomination was "a disaster on every level" because she has "no experience with constitutional law whatever." Read the complete interview here.

08 October 2005

Public Testing OK'd for Face-Recognition Technology

The two-company team of IRIS International and Advanced Digital Imaging Research have been granted the necessary federal authorization to test their face-recognition technology on public populations.

The initial tests will be done on contractors, air travelers, and employees of IRIS.

"Screw You, Einstein!" Say Scientists

In my family, we gather together once a month, have some food, play some games, and read the latest issue of Optics Express, the international electronic journal of optics. This month, the article "Tunable ultraslow light in vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser amplifier" enamored us in particular.

Scientists describe how they slowed down the speed of light to 6 miles per second. Normally it is 186,ooo miles per second. As far as I can tell, they did it by applying an electric current to a laser.

In addition to being an amazing thing, this may have important applications to technology. The field of optoelectronics explores the use of photons instead of electrons. The potential increases in computing speed and storage capacity are enormous. The Library of Congress could fit on a flash card. But first photons must move at a manageable speed at room temperature, and this experiment shows that it's possible.

Is it also possible to increase the speed of light? Physicists have proposed the existence of faster-than-light tachyons, but whether ordinary light can be made artificially faster is another "matter," so to speak.