27 December 2006

Top 10 Health Stories of 2006

It's the end of the year and that means time for lists. I'll try to come up with something sarcastic and funny in the next few days but for now here are Harvard's top 10 health stories of 2006.

(Republicans, creationists and other reality-challenged friends will find this article from FAUX News more satisfying).

26 December 2006

Tatoo Contrition May Soon Be a Thing of the Past

Science and American ingenuity. Two things that have gone great together for 230 years. First it was Benjamin Franklin and today it is the guys who did this:

Soon there may be a solution to the phenomenon of tattoo regret -- removable tattoo ink. A company founded by doctors says it will begin selling such ink early next year. The ink is applied just as with any tattoo, and will remain in place as long as desired. But if the owner later decides that the artwork has to go, it can be removed fully and safely with a single laser treatment.

I have no tatoos, but I'd get one if I could exchange all my other regrets. Otherwise I might just get the tatoo Radar O'Reilly got on that M*A*S*H episode when he thought a tatoo would impress his gal but Hawkeye and B.J. tried to talk him out of it because of the health risks. In the end he did get the tatoo... remember the "love dot?"

Scripps Unwittingly Reveals Why Mainstream Media Stinks

The latest Barron's has a profile of Cincinnati's E.W. Scripps, a "pioneer" in the newspaper industry. Unlike most other newspaper companies, Scripps is doing well. How, you ask?

The answer, interestingly enough, is the same thing I've said about newspapers... except I was being critical (emphasis added):

[CEO Kenneth] Lowe referred to Scripps alternately as an "interactive" company; a "market maker," bringing consumers and retailers together; and a "product-information" company. "Traditional media is becoming less and less a part of the company."

Lowe goes on to tout Scripps' new venture, Shopzilla.com, which is basically what it sounds like it would be. "Our goal is to make Shopzilla a verb," he says.

It's an antiquated notion that newspapers' primary function is to inform. With few exceptions, this is not the case. This is a corporate country we live in; U.S. newspapers exist primarily to provide a medium for buyers and sellers to come together. One striking way to see this is to read a foreign paper or watch or listen to a foreign news broadcast. BBC News, for example. For a real shock, read an Indian newspaper where you'll see words like "vitiate" in headlines. This is from a country where English is a third language.

I am reminded of an expirement done by some college students a few years ago: the class took a NYTimes and cut up all the ads and laid them on the floor. Then they did the same thing with the articles. The idea was to see which covered more floor. It wasn't even close.

Another example of the "modern" newspaper was provided by our own Enquirer earlier this year. The paper advertised that it was seeking an "advisory panel" of local readers but when it contacted those interested, it sent them a marketing survey.

Hmm... maybe I really AM the person of the year.

25 December 2006

Bengals Join War on Christmas

Are the Bengals a vile left-wing organization bankrolled by George Soros? Does Marvin Lewis derive game plans from spiritual conferences with Barbra Streisand? Is America-hating Cindy Sheehan a Bengals fan?

These are the questions we should be asking. After yesterday's loss to Denver, I have to wonder if the Bengals real goal this year was to ruin Xmas.

What a disaster of a game. I had to check the TV guide to make sure it said "NFL football" and not "Denver Broncos play guys who live in van down by the river". But to be honest, it wasn't this game that deflated my home team hopes; I've been deflating for a while now. The great game against the Ravens injected some new hope, but that evaporated quickly during the Colts game.

To win championships, you have to beat the best teams without your best stuff. That's how I look at it. As I watched the Colts game, I resigned myself to the fact that the Bengals just aren't capable of doing that this year. We lost too many players for too many games, and it has cost us (and I'm talking about injuries; the penchant for the cell block is a whole 'nother can of worms). This is not a Super Bowl team. Yes, it is still possible for the Bengals to squeak into the postseason, but does anyone really think of the Bengals as contenders?

It's been painful at times, but not as painful as 12 straight losing seasons. I'm very hopeful for next year. This team can take on anybody as long as they stay out of hospitals and courtrooms.

And hats off to Carson Palmer. He deserves a lot of credit for coming back from his injury the way he did. It's a testament to his commitment and drive to win. It's good to have him on our team... but please no more QB draw plays, okay? Those legs are only good for quarterbacking, not running!

15 December 2006

Will Bengals Sign Tank Johnson?

Tank Johnson might be just the guy to round out the team:

Chicago Bears' defensive tackle Tank Johnson was charged Thursday with six counts of possession of a firearm without a gun owner identification card after police found six guns at his home...

...three of the weapons seized from Johnson's house were powerful handguns: a .44 Magnum, a .50 caliber, and a .45 caliber. Two were assault-style rifles -- an AR-15 and a .223 caliber -- and one was a .308 Winchester hunting rifle...

Police who executed the search warrant also found 2¼ ounces of marijuana...

A 25-year-old woman and two toddlers also were at the home at the time of the search.

Wow. Drugs, guns and young 'uns. It's like that Twilight Zone episode where Bill Maher, Charleton Heston and Britney Spears are all at the same party.

And in other felony athlete news, former UC basketball player Jonathon Carson broke into a home, beat up a man, and then got shot several times by the man's wife.

(Seems like it was practically yesterday that I said it was good UC got rid of Bob Huggins, otherwise we'd have two local teams with rap sheets).

14 December 2006

The Time Has Come for Negative Currency

Those of you masochistic enough to watch the local news may have seen reports of copper piping being ripped out of old buildings and sold as scrap metal. Many thieves use young kids ("copper runners"?) just like drug dealers do.

The reason for this is that copper has risen in value. The penny is technically worth 1.73 cents. The nickel is worth 8.34 cents. Suddenly melting that jar of pennies seems like a good idea, eh?

Don't even think about it, says the U.S. Mint.

I believe the time has come for one of my greatest ideas: NEGATIVE CURRENCY.

The days of annoying 95 and 99 cent amounts would be over. Want a $4.99 sandwich? Plop down a fiver and a negative penny and say "keep the change!"

ka-BLAM !!

Let's be realistic, America. The penny has only one purpose, and that is to allow businesses to charge strange prices. I say we beat them at their own game by using negative currency. Eventually these coinophiles will pile up so much debt that they will have to charge round numbers or go out of business. This will free up pocket and purse space which can be used for electronic devices of the future.

And needless to say, the money saved by not making pennies can be better used in other ways. Like promoting abstinence. Or teaching creationism. These are just a couple of good ideas... my two cents, so to speak.

Sen. Johnson's Illness Will Test Republican Party

Here's the latest on Sen. Tim Johnson as of 10 a.m. this morning:

Adm. John Eisold, attending physician of the United States Capitol, said that Johnson had undergone brain surgery and was in critical condition. He said it was not known if further surgery was required.

"He underwent successful surgery to evacuate the blood and stabilize the malformation. The senator is recovering without complication in the critical care unit. ... It is premature to determine whether further surgery will be required or to assess any long term prognosis."

This page has a good description of AVMs.

I know it's too early to officially determine whether the senator will return to work or not, but I am very skeptical that he will. That means the GOP will control the Senate. What will they do?

GOP control of the Senate may not be as bad as one may assume. It will be a litmus test to see whether the GOP has learned anything from its electoral defeat. If a Republican Senate behaves the same way it has for the past 6 years, it will cost them the 2008 election. If Republicans want the White House, they need to change their tune.

The good news for Republicans is that there really isn't anyone holding their feet to the fire. The mainstream media? Whatever. The Democrats? Come on, I'm trying to be serious here.

I personally do not think a Republican Senate would be any different than before. The senators are the same and the Party is mostly the same. The GOP is a corporate and evangelical lobbying firm. That hasn't changed. It's main function is marketing and campaigning rather than governing and leading. That hasn't changed. Moreover, Republicans have made no acknowledgment of their horrific corruption and policy failures.

I expect a Republican Senate to be as pathetic and incompetent as before. The only variable is whether the Democrats have gained some cajones or not. That will determine to what extent the Senate remains reality-based.

13 December 2006

What is Art?

The poetry meme I read on Michelle's and Katie's blog got me thinking about art in general. These lines in particular:

I find poetry works more directly on my senses than other written forms. In this way it is more like visual art or music than literature to me.

The lyrical quality of it is like music and the visceral nature of it is like art... it's like art in that we experience art directly when we see it but it isn't a picture that's drawn or painted in color.

As I read this I thought back to college when I got the same assignment in the first semester of my first year and then again in the last semester of my senior year. The assignment was to define art. The first assignment was for English class and the second was for philosophy (of art) class.

My first definition was that art is any form of self-expression. But because this is such an inclusive definition, I added that this doesn't mean all art is equal or even good. Art that is the product of technical mastery and intellectual sophistication has to be regarded as superior that which is not. Duke Ellington is artistically superior to 2 Live Crew.

Four years later I settled on a more 'exclusive' definition, so to speak. I defined art as that which conveyed thought and meaning which transcended language. In other words, the art "says" something which cannot be expressed by ordinary language.

My 2nd definition excludes a lot of art, especially political art, like the exhibit I saw at a CAC show a couple of years ago. Suddenly a painting of an upside-down flag with Bush's portrait on it is not art. Why? Because I can just as easily (and probably better) express the sentiments conveyed by that painting in an essay. It does not transcend language.

Poetry is an interesting genre. It uses words, but the best poetry expresses ideas and feelings that go beyond the words on the page. I think it's fair to say that the best prose does this, too. So when Michelle writes that poetry is like music and art, I think she's right in the sense that poetry, like music and painting, can transcend language and make us feel things that would seem less meaningful if expressed by common words.

Take for example, Nikki Giovanni's poem I am Cincinnati (thanks, QCF). Is it art? I don't think so. Does her "poem" say anything that can't easily be said in an essay? No, it doesn't. A truncated essay outline is not a poem. And I'm not the only one who thinks so.

When I look at art-- or to be more precise-- experience art (what Hans-Georg Gadamer calls "play" between art and viewer) I try to let my mind run off without a leash. When I look at Rene Magritte, my mind gets a nice sojourn into the surreal. When I look at Jackson Pollock, it does not. One leads my mind to an interesting place while the other does not.

But that's just me. What is art to you?

Mike Brown Gets Call from NFL Warden-- er, Commissioner

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is trying to end the Cincinnati Bengals' continuing problems with the law.

The commissioner asked Brown if there was anything he could do but also sent the message that the Bengals had to adjust their actions...

"Obviously, when you have incidents that don't reflect well on the National Football League you have to deal with that aggressively," Goodell said Tuesday during an interview with The Associated Press. "Our players and coaches are seen at a higher level by the public."

Oy. What an embarrassment. But there is a bright side: at least we got rid of Bob Huggins so we only have one local team full of lawbreakers.

12 December 2006

Lawsuit Alleges Corporate Corruption at Cinergy

This is amazing. A former Cinergy (now owned by Duke Energy, although Duke had nothing to do with this) employee claims Cinergy paid kickbacks to industrial customers in exchange for their support for a PUCO rate hike approval in 2004.

And get this:

Although Cinergy Retail did not make any sales in 2005, it made option payments to the large customers that were the equivalent of the CG&E rate increase approved by the Public Utilities Commission in 2004.

That means large corporations didn't pay the higher rate. It means individuals, families and small businesses subsidized electric power for large corporations. That's corporate welfare.

So far there is only this lawsuit filed by the employee (who was terminated) against the company. I wonder if the state can also file suit against the company. It seems justified in this case. Either that or a class action. The Duke board is going to have a fit if that happens.

I Think I Know Why There Were Intelligence Failures

Is there anything U.S. intelligence WON'T spy on? From the WTF files:

Secret Service bugged Princess Diana's hotel phone.

Among extraordinary details due to emerge in the report by former Metropolitan police commissioner Lord Stevens is the revelation that the US security service was bugging her calls in the hours before she was killed in a car crash in Paris.

I think I know why we had intelligence failures leading up to 9/11. Our spies are too goofy.

11 December 2006

Clermont County Illustrates Fiscal Management, GOP Style

Clermont County is a mix of suburbs, exurbs and rural-urbs. And they like their Republicans. They gave Jean "as dependable an airhead as American politics has ever seen" Schmidt about 60% of the vote. All twenty county officials are Republican, as is the overwhelming majority of municipal officials.

But suburbs are having problems. To make matters worse, there are hardly enough blacks, gays, Mexicans and Democrats to blame it on.

In the suburbs, poverty increased from 7.1 percent to 9.4 percent, a jump mirrored by national trends, said Alan Benrube, a fellow and research director with Brookings' metropolitan policy program.

Liz Carter, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul, said residents shouldn't be surprised by the report's findings. "A lot of the work we do is out in the suburbs," she said. "It's exactly in those areas where a lot of people are thinking that the poor people are all downtown and far away from me."

Clermont County is one area where St. Vincent de Paul's calls for help are increasing, she said, but Ohio's continuing economic slump, coupled with higher fuel and utility costs, means lower-income families everywhere are hurting.

Wow, that must suck. Thank goodness Republican government isn't made up of hurting families:

Even though revenues are down, Clermont County commissioners on Tuesday approved a $56.3 million budget for general operations in 2007 - a 2.7 percent increase over spending for this year.

Most interesting decision: increasing funding for the court system but decreasing funding for public safety.

Bush Starts Two Wars, Loses Them Both

Hamid Karzai tearfully laments war's cruelty to children.

With his lips quivering and voice breaking, President Hamid Karzai on Sunday lamented that Afghan children are being killed by NATO and U.S. bombs and by terrorists from Pakistan -- a portrait of helplessness in the face of spiraling chaos.

In a speech that brought audience members to tears, Karzai said the cruelty imposed on his people "is too much" and that Afghanistan cannot stop "the coalition from killing our children."

Afghanistan has seen more than 100 suicide attacks this year, a record number, and close to 4,000 people have died in insurgency-related violence.

Just to recap the numbers (since they're only numbers), we lost 3,000 people on 9/11. That is less than 1% of the civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As I watched football yesterday, I thought to myself, "We need more sports people in politics." Because in sports, nobody is allowed to fail miserably for 6 years in a row and keep his job. Can you imagine the Lions or the Texans coach showing up to press conferences week after week saying "Absolutely we're winning"? Can you imagine a coach "staying the course" after losing game after game?


08 December 2006

Ordinary Ohioans Do Extraordinary Things

Ohio magazine has a nice article & slide show profiling some ordinary Ohioans who go the extra mile to help others. Nice read.

07 December 2006

Ohio Native is Airhead cum War Correspondent

"Lebanon native tells of war in Afghanistan"

Or at least that's what the heading says. But it's less about war, Afghanistan, or the war in Afghanistan than it is about how cool it was to hang out with military for a little while.

There was no shade, and the troops were rationed five measly bottles of water a day. Don't ever let anyone tell you the men and women in our military don't sacrifice for us.

...last week I drove around Afghanistan with a two-star Army general in a fleet of armored Ford Excursions.

From the outside, they look like your average civilian vehicle. But the windows are two inches thick, and each door has a tiny little slot just big enough for a gun barrel to fit through. Just a guess, but I imagine they cost $100,000 or so.

Just a guess? You imagine?

That's great reporting, chief. I guess it was too much to contact the oldest and largest vehicle armoring business in the world which happens to be located in Fairfield, about 15 minutes from where you grew up.

Oh, but there's more. This choked me up:

...there's also a vibrant Western community here, and the countryside is beautiful — all in all, an exciting opportunity.

There are inconveniences, to be sure. My family and friends are far away, Western food items are a rare find and an "overnight" FedEx envelope costs $120 — and takes four days to get to the states.

And that 9.5-hour time zone difference meant I had to beg a military friend to sneak me onto the NATO base in Kabul and then stay up until 5 a.m. to watch the Buckeyes beat Michigan two weekends ago... At the end of the game, we all slapped high-fives.

I can't help but contrast Staziuso's vacuous meanderings to Chris Hedges' visceral insight. Staziuso is exactly the person Hedges' book was written for:

I learned early on that war forms its own culture. The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug, one I ingested for many years. It is peddled by mythmakers-- historians, war correspondents, filmmakers, novelists, and the state-- all of whom endow it with qualities it often does possess: excitement, exoticism, power...

War makes the world understandable, a black and white tableau of them and us. It suspends thought, especially self-critical thought. All bow before the supreme effort. We are one. Most of us willingly accept war as long as we can fold it into a belief system that paints the ensuing suffering as necessary for a higher good, for human beings seek not only happiness but also meaning. And tragically war is sometimes the most powerful way in human society to achieve meaning.

06 December 2006

Volleyball More Exciting than Usual for Muslims

Doha, Qatar just hosted the Asian Games. One of the sports was women's volleyball. I remind you that this is the sport where women wear nicotine patches and call them "bikinis".

Keep in mind, this is Doha. This would be like 3CDC putting up some stipper poles on the new Fountain Square.

Beach volleyball's penchant for bikinis has touched off a bit of a cultural clash in this conservative Muslim city, which by hosting the Asian Games, a regional sports extravaganza, is trying to bolster its bid to bring the 2016 Summer Olympics to the Middle East.

"We don't see this a lot in Qatar," Al-Nabit said. "I think most people think it is outrageous. But we accept it because it is important for our country. We want others to see us as a generous and hospitable people, willing to accept their ways, even if we don't agree."

Al-Nabit said he was willing to force himself to watch the skimpily clad women play, but that he certainly wouldn't want his wife watching.

He was only there himself, he said, because it was a matter of national honor.


It's the same reason I force myself to go to the Brass Ass: national honor. What do YOU do to defend our freedoms?

05 December 2006

Serena Williams: Dangerous Criminal in the Making?

ESPN reports that a pit bull bit a security guard outside Serena's home in Florida.

Serena says the dog isn't hers. It is, however, registered to her. And it was in her home. Also, there are pictures of Serena with "her tan pit bull" on her website. But it's not hers.

Whatever. The important thing is that we acknowledge further evidence of her goofiness and potential menace to society.

Smells Like Protein Spirit

Did anyone smell rotten eggs in the air yesterday? I did, in the early evening on Gest St. just west of downtown. I smelled it for just a second after briefly opening my car window, but it's hard to mistake that foul odor, especially when one is familiar with the common laboratory chemical, mercaptoethanol.

Mercaptoethanol smells awful. It comes in small vials about the size of an AAA battery. Believe me, nobody wants to take a chance on spilling large volumes of this stuff. One teardrop will stink up an entire house in about 10 minutes. It's nasty.

Turns out the energy company adds mercaptan to its gas (as a safety measure, I presume) and people around town noticed the smell when some of the natural gas was released into the atmosphere.

Is there something wrong with pumpkin spice or vanilla-honeysuckle? Maybe someday Yankee Candle will start buying energy companies and change this.

Here's a brief organic chemistry lesson you can impress your friends with. An alcohol is a compound with a hydrocarbon chain and an hydroxyl (OH) group attached to it. The name of the alcohol depends on how long the hydrocarbon chain is. The ethyl alcohol that we all know and love has 2 carbons. The rubbing alcohol I use for after shave (this is true) has 3 carbons. The methanol that Russian criminals use to make "vodka" in abandoned buildings has 1 carbon. And if you drink it you will go blind or die, so stick to the good stuff.

And you can have more than 1 hydroxyl group. If you stick an -OH group on both carbons of ethanol, for example, you'll get ethylene glycol, antifreeze. And if you replace one of those -OH groups with a sulfur group, -SH, you'll get mercaptoethanol. And believe me, you'll know it.

I just realized my post title doesn't make sense yet. Mercaptoethanol is used in labs for protein analyses. That's why Gest St. smelled like 'tein spirit.

04 December 2006

Science Solves Mystery of the Stradivari

One of the most enduring muscial mysteries is solved! Mostly, anyway:

Answering a question that has lingered for centuries, a team of scientists has proved that chemicals used to treat the wood used in Stradivarius and Guarneri violins are the reasons for the distinct sound produced by the world-famous instruments.

The conclusions... have confirmed 30 years of work into the subject by Joseph Nagyvary, professor emeritus of biochemistry at Texas A&M University, who was the first to theorize that chemicals – not necessarily the wood – created the unique sound of the two violins.

Nagyvary, a native of Hungary who learned to play the violin by using an instrument that once belonged to Albert Einstein, has wondered for years how Stradivari, who could barely read and had no scientific training, could have produced instruments with such a pristine sound.

“I started researching this in the early 1970s and from the beginning, I was convinced that the chemicals used to treat the instruments were the real key, not the wood itself,” he says.

“I was criticized and ridiculed when I made these claims, and to have undeniable scientific proof that I was correct is very satisfying, to say the least.”

Pretty cool, but not as cool as when it was still a mystery.

Uncle Tom's Freidman

So you're the little journalist who started this great war?

I do not care much for Tom Freidman. There, I said it. He's intelligent, informed and he writes well and makes nice shows for Discovery Channel but to me he mostly came off as someone who crafted articulate excuses for neocon foreign policy. A poor man's Francis Fukuyama, perhaps?

But Freidman was hardly alone, and as Greenwald's essay points out, he's just one cog in a machine fueled by gutless politicians and corporate media. This is one essay that needs to be read and spread.

The FBI Guide to Treatment of Innocent Civilians

Lockdown, strip searches, sleep deprivation, unsanitary living conditions, shackles and chains, threats, physical pain and humiliation.

“The horrific pain, torture and humiliation that this has caused myself and my family is hard to put into words,” said Mr. Mayfield, an American-born convert to Islam and a former lieutenant in the Army.

I personally was subject to lockdown, strip searches, sleep deprivation, unsanitary living conditions, shackles and chains, threats, physical pain and humiliation.”

Fingerprint examiners at the F.B.I. erroneously linked Mr. Mayfield to the terrorist bombings in Madrid through a mistaken identification of a print taken from a plastic bag…

Despite doubts from Spanish officials about the validity of the fingerprint match, American officials began an aggressive high-level investigation into Mr. Mayfield in the weeks after the bombings… Using expanded surveillance powers under the USA Patriot Act, the government wiretapped his conversations, conducted secret searches of his home and his law office and jailed him for two weeks as a material witness in the case before a judge threw out the case against him.

Given the error-laden way in which BushCo's War of Terror has been carried out, I can’t help but apply my “cockroach theory”, i.e. that one “mistake” is probably indicative of many more hiding behind the walls of secrecy and incompetence. Like, for example, this one:

The Algerian air force lieutenant spent more than 58 months behind bars even though the FBI formally concluded in November 2001 that he had no connection to terrorism.

02 December 2006

Time of War, Time of Sacrifice

Below is the menu (courtesy of Salon.com) for the holiday feast we are throwing for George and Laura Bush. I say "we" because, as far as I know, we are paying for it. Bon appetit!

The Dems could easily exploit this situtation, but they won't-- at least the beltway Dem leaders won't. That's too bad, because they could get some mileage out of this, especially on the heels of this news (la la la la la... I can't hear you! La la la la la...).

Free suggestion to Dem leaders: Organize a holiday feast to honor the troops. Serve MREs. The GOP uses ancilliary groups to do it's "dirty work" and you should do the same. Why not use Democracy for America, the group Howard Dean started? They have chapters all over the country (including Cincinnati). It could be a nationwide thing, not just in Washington. That would generate multiple local pressworthy events.

In sports we talk about "closing". It means you gotta put your opponent away and not let them get back in the game. The Repubs are down and the Dems need to seize opportunities to close the deal. I think this ridiculous holiday feast is one such opportunity. The White House has some real brass balls to put on something like this in the middle of two wars and I think it's time the Dems did a little snipping.

- - -

Display of Specialty Cheeses and Winter Fruits (Served with a Bountiful Display of Lavish Specialty Crackers and Spiced Pecans).

Colossal Shrimp Cocktail and Jonah Crab Claws (Served with Ramsey’s Cocktail Sauce and Spiced Remoulade).

Stuffed Turkey Breasts with Winter Mushrooms, Cheese and Brandied Cranberries.

Sugar Cured Virginia Ham with Hot Pepper Mustard (Served with Warm Blue Corn Muffins).

Chicken Fried Beef Tenderloin with White Onion Gravy (Served with Tiny Icebox Rolls).

Herb Roasted Lollipop Lamb Chops served with Warm Yeast Rolls.

Honey Cup Mustard Sauce.

Fresh Tamales with Tomatillo Sauce and Black Beans.

Baked White Cheddar Farfalle.

Sweet Potato Soufflé.

Asparagus Tier with Lemon-Garlic Aioli.

Golden and Crimson Beet Salad with Orange, Fennel, and Feta.

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies with Peppermint Crunch.

Pecan Sandie Tree (Mexican Wedding Cookies, Russian Tea Cakes) with Layers of Cookies.

Holiday Ornamental Cookies: Barney, Miss Beazley, Christmas Trees, Snowflakes, Candy Canes.

Red Hat Box Mascarpone Cake.

White Pound Cake with Mascarpone Cream Filling, Red Marzipan Frosting and Red Ribbon Bow Decoration.

Coconut Cake.

Coconut Chiffon Cake, Coconut Pastry Cream Filling and 7 Minute Meringue Frosting.

Chocolate Roulade (Christmas Log): Soft Ganache Frosting with a Chocolate Sponge, Meringue Mushrooms, Magnolia Leaves in White Chocolate, Raspberries.

Mini Tartlettes.

Pecan Pie, Lemon Meringue Pie, Orange Chiffon and Chocolate Boston Cream Pie.

Chocolate Truffles.

Homemade, Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache.

Long Stem Strawberries with Dark Chocolate Dipping Sauce.

Warm Macintosh Apple Cobbler With Oatmeal Crumble.

Pumpkin Trifle.

Spiced Pumpkin Mousse with Whipped Cream and Shaved Dark Chocolate.

01 December 2006

Prediction: GOP Will Hold White House in '08

My family knows I follow politics, so whenever we get together (like for Thanksgiving) I get about a dozen people asking me whether Hillary (and now Obama) will run for President.

Just to follow through with the thought, my standard response is to explain that campaigning is all about money, and since I think Clinton and Giuliani can raise the most money, in my mind they are the front runners. Then I point to my watch and tell them Obama's 15 minutes are counting down.

I could write a long post about why the Dems won't win the White House and why they may not even hold on to Congress, but instead I'll just forward you on to the BSB straw poll which as of noon Friday had the following top vote-getters:

John Edwards, Barack Obama, Al Gore.

What... no K-Fed?

(I voted for Evan Bayh)

30 November 2006

Bengals Outlook Tough but Do-able

The situation as I see it is that the Bengals have to win all of their remaining games. That would end the season at 11-6 and give us postseason hopes. It's tough but not impossible.

The remaining games are:

Baltimore (tonight)
at Oakland
at Indianapolis
at Denver

The good news is that the OL seems to have gotten its act together. QB protection and run blocking are better now than in October. This team relies on its explosive offense and can't win without a solid OL.

The defense still stinks. But I do give credit to Kevin Kaesviharn for being the most improved player. He's gone from dud to stud this year. Overall, however, this defense just can't put the kibosh on strong offenses. That pretty much spells disaster for the Colts game (unless the Colts rest their starters).

The Bengals can make the postseason, but what they do once they get there will depend on how much better the defense can get. There is no way we can play teams like Indy and New England with this sorry excuse for a defense.

I, for one, pledge to do my part to drink beer and yell at the TV. Good luck, gentlemen!

High Rise Condos Coming to 5th & Race

Downtown Cincinnati gets some big britches:

A piece of prime downtown real estate may soon become the first housing development designed for and specially marketed to young professionals.

A source confirmed the structure would include up to 900 underground parking spaces and retail on the first and possibly second floors. One and two-bedroom condos, ranging from 750 to 1,500 square feet, priced from $150,000 to $300,000, would fill out the development. An announcement and construction could begin early next year, the source said.

Great news. It would be even better if the building were to showcase some creative architecture and design. Unfortunately, that's probably not going to happen judging by the architectural firm's past work. Ho-hum. Let's hope at the very least that the building will meet LEED green building standards.

29 November 2006

Carter: Iraq One of the Greatest Presidential Blunders

The former President officially states the obvious:

Former US president Jimmy Carter said the Iraq war was one of the "greatest blunders" ever made by a US leader.

"It's going to prove, I believe to be one of the greatest blunders that American presidents have ever made."

Asked whether the Iraq war would prove to be a bigger mistake in the annals of US foreign policy than the war in Vietnam, he answered: "I think it is going to be a close call ... but perhaps much more vividly known by the rest of the world than Vietnam was."

George W. Bush Still a Major Asshole

The latest from our dipshit-in-chief:

At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.

Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

“I didn’t ask you that, I asked how he’s doing,” Bush retorted, according to the source.

Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief.

[The Hill...]

Kudos to Jim Webb for his gentlemanly restraint. Bush deserved to get slugged, no question. For all we know it might have done him a favor by knocking his head back into gear, like when you kick a lawnmower to get it to start or when Bush rapped his crack pipe to knock out the detritus.

28 November 2006

Science Meets Willie Nelson

From the OSU College of Medicine:

Researchers found that moderate amounts of alcohol – amounts equivalent to a couple of drinks a day for a human – improved the memories of laboratory rats.

“We saw a noticeable change on the surface of certain neurons in rats that were given alcohol..."

They found that low levels of alcohol increased the expression of a particular receptor, NR1, on the surface of neurons in a region of the brain, the hippocampus, that plays a role in memory. Researchers think that NR1 plays a role in memory and learning.

And from OSU's Dept. of Psychology:

New evidence in rats suggests that marijuana may contain compounds that slow the memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Treatment with a synthetic compound similar to marijuana reduced inflammation in older rats in addition to making the animals “smarter,” said Wenk...

“The compound substantially improved the memories of the older rats,” he said. “These animals were able to hold on to key details of a specific task. Untreated older rats, on the other hand, were not.”

Evidence suggests that people who regularly smoked marijuana in the 1960s and 1970s rarely develop Alzheimer's disease, said Wenk, adding that researchers are eager to develop a drug with the anti-inflammatory properties of marijuana, but without the drug's psychoactive effects.

I'm meltiiiing...

Polar ice caps are melting.

This year, there was documented evidence of significant melting at both poles. And the U.S. Space Agency, NASA, and others, confirm the Earth has warmed nearly two degrees since 1900. That may not sound like much, but warming temperatures fuel extreme weather patterns. And a recent study suggests continued global warming could raise sea levels several meters by the end of the century.

The southern ice sheet is over 2200 meters thick, on average. That amounts to 90 percent of the world's ice and 70 percent of its fresh water.

27 November 2006

H-Bomb Ferguson Dead at 77

H-Bomb Ferguson died on Sunday.

When my high school friends and I would get together on college breaks, we'd go out and see H-Bomb all the time. He used to have regular gigs at Kilgore's and Cory's (I think that's the name) which are now known as Buzz and Mad Frog.

He was a character. Outrageous wigs. Great lyrics. Cool band. And he drove a hearse. I even saw him driving around in it a couple of times.

Thanks for the good times, H-Bomb.

Study Finds Owners of Bad Dogs Often Bad Themselves

An interesting study was recently done by researchers at Children's Hospital:

This study examined the association between ownership of high-risk ("vicious") dogs and the presence of deviant behaviors in the owners as indicated by court convictions. We also explored whether two characteristics of dog ownership (abiding licensing laws and choice of breed) could be useful areas of inquiry when assessing risk status in settings where children are present... Findings suggest that the ownership of a high-risk ("vicious") dog can be a significant marker for general deviance and should be an element considered when assessing risk for child endangerment.

WVXU reports on the study:

The scientists discovered vicious dog owners who don’t register or keep their dogs confined are at least 9 times more likely to have committed a crime against children than the owners of non-violent dogs. That same group was three times more likely to have a domestic violence conviction, and 14 times more likely to be convicted of a crime involving alcohol. All of them had at least one criminal conviction or traffic citation. Thirty percent had at least five.

Co-author of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital study, Dr. Barbara Boat says one can argue that choosing to own a vicious dog, like pit bulls, rottweilers or chows, is a marker of social deviance, because a vicious dog is, by definition, a socially deviant animal.

I must admit, it always seemed to me like they just ain't right in the head.

22 November 2006

Kentucky Racetrack President Gets DUI

The president of the Kentucky Speedway, Jerry Carroll, plead guilty to driving while drunk inside a Kenton County courtroom, Tuesday morning. [WCPO.com]

One should never be drunk inside a courtroom, let alone drive around in one.

Telecom Deregulation Has Prevented Progress

A good overview on how telecoms have failed to deliver.

By 2006, according to telecommunication companies’ own documents, 86 million customers in the United States should have received 45 Mbps service. In fact, South Korea and Japan do even better: they routinely offer 100 Mbps connections in both directions, uploading and downloading, for around $40 per month. But in the United States, the best connections top out at 1/3 this speed and cost 400% more... The United States once led the world in Web technology. What happened?

The answer is, the merger of the phone companies that control the phone networks decreased competition. Instead of deploying the high-speed fiber-optic lines they promised, they were content to collect profits, tinker with existing copper connections instead of rewiring, and roll out inferior DSL services. The FCC defines anything above 200 Kbps as broadband (1000 Kbps = 1 Mbps), allowing them to claim that Americans have broadband access. However, this definition is a politically-driven embarrassment for technologists, the equivalent of two tin-cans with string.

Yet—and here is the most troubling part—the phone companies got paid anyway. Through tax breaks and increased service fees, Verizon and the old Bells reaped an estimated $200 billion since the early 1990s to improve subscriber lines in the United States. And what have American consumers received? The most common DSL Service over the old copper networks tops out at 768 Kbps in most areas—a hundred times slower than routine connections in other countries.

21 November 2006

Strange News from Northern Ohio

Two strange items from the Akron Beacon Journal.

First is this bizarre story about the police planting 45- and 36-year old ex-convicts in dorm rooms to pose as students while actually working as drug informants. The end result of this brilliant police work is one dead innocent student and an $8,000 legal settlement for another innocent student.

Second is this story about an Oberlin businessman who lets artists use his store window to display art, particulary controversial art (hey, this is Oberlin). But this time he balked.

Oberlin factoids: Michelle Malkin went to Oberlin (not making it up), as did this lanky, soccer-playing high school classmate of mine.

Ohio Ranks First in Something Good

From the Dayton Business Journal:

Ohio has the best libraries in the nation, according to a survey released by a Wisconsin librarian.

Thomas J. Hennen Jr.'s annual American Public Library Rating ranked Ohio's 250 libraries at the top of the list for their highest overall score for circulation, staffing, funding levels, reference service and materials.

Utah was No. 2 on the list, followed by Oregon, while Washington D.C., was in last place, behind Alabama.

Ohio has one of the worst educational systems in the nation but it has the best libraries. And D.C. has more degreed professionals (at least during daytime) than any other area in the nation but it has the worst libraries. Crazy.

And speaking of libraries, go visit the Mercantile Library and its blog.

20 November 2006

Corporex: Latin for for "corporate welfare" ?

Corporex to seek tax breaks.

Covington-based developer Corporex Co. wants to line up as much public money and public support as it can for its $800 million development on the Newport riverfront, officials said Friday.

Friday, Corporex founder and chairman Bill Butler made a straightforward appeal for support for the project at the local, state and federal levels.

Shorter Bill Butler: Taxpayers should subsidize my real estate development and then give me a long-term tax break, preferably one bigger than KY law currently allows.

I checked into Bill Butler's political contributions. To whom did this corporate welfare acolyte give money in the 2006 election cycle?

$7500: Ken Blackwell
$4200: Jean Schmidt
$2100: Steve Chabot
$2100: Mitch McConnell
$2100: Pat DeWine
$2100: Mike DeWine
$2000: Elizabeth Dole
$500: Rick Santorum

Butler was also generous enough to send over $25,000 to the RNC and another $10,000 to the KY GOP. Corporate welfare and the GOP... a [heterosexual] match made in [Christian] heaven!

17 November 2006

Cool 'YouTube' of the Day

There are two ways to make music. One is to learn music. Another is to learn video editing.

(The video has a music track so use your judgment at work)

Research Investigates How Money Affects Behavior

Probably not surprising, but interesting nonetheless.

It's cool that they actually did experiments. When I read the headline I figured someone just found correlations in statistical data. But this is a whole 'notha level.

Mead helped design and conduct five of nine laboratory experiments, most of which involved having participants complete a number of different tasks while being exposed to "play" money or other visual references to money. The researchers found that those exposed to reminders of money worked longer on tasks before asking for help and were less helpful toward others. They also preferred to play alone, work alone and put more physical distance between themselves and a new acquaintance.

"Although the pattern of results were as predicted, we were somewhat surprised about the strength and consistency of the effects with such subtle reminders of money,"

16 November 2006

Gays and Taxes

This story caught my attention since it's similar to the last post. This time, a wealthy gay couple refuses to pay taxes until gay couples get the same tax benefits as married couples.

“According to the General Accounting Office, there are over 1,049 protections and incentives extended to straight married couples, none of which we get," says one of the gay-but-unhappy men.

In yesterday's post I questioned the logic of withholding all of one's taxes when one only objects to some of what it is used for. A commentor on this story expressed the same view, writing that it "seems like the more appropriate thing to do would be to simply re-calculate taxes as if he were married and pay that."

Makes sense. Then again, taking a principled stand on something without really thinking it through is sort of the American way these days, isn't it?

15 November 2006

Education and Taxes

I met a man several years ago at a political gathering. He looked like a crazy old kook whose name would be "old man McGreevey" if he was a character on Andy Griffith. As it turned out, he was a crazy old kook whose name was something else. He was explaining to a few people that it would be difficult for them to contact him since he was "going underground".

He wanted to hide from the government because he had made the decision not to pay any more taxes. He objected to the use of his tax money for military spending, so he basically said that if the government was going to spend taxpayer money on the military then he wasn't going to pay any taxes.

"But what about the other things tax money is used for?" I asked. If he didn't have a problem with other things, why not pay some taxes instead of none?

He explained that there is no way to know if the government is using your taxes or someone else's to fund the military. So the only way is to withhold totally.

But it doesn't work like that, I said. They don't divy up different individual's payments to different areas. They just send a proportion of the overall receipts. In my view, it made more sense for him to figure out the portion of the budget that is spent on the military and just withhold that percentage.

I told him that, but he either ignored it or repeated what he had just said. I can't remember.

I remembered my encounter with the old man when I read this story about Cleveland State University winning a federal education grant which will improve educational opportunities for low-income students.

Education is a proven investment and can pay for itself many times over. I have problems with many things the government spends money on (who doesn't?) but education is definitely not one of them. And that includes the arts.

13 November 2006

A Glowing Future for Pike County

Item no.1 from this week:

Cleanup Of Piketon Uranium Plant May Top $4.5 Billion

The Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which once enriched uranium for weapons and nuclear fuel, closed in 2001.

Some of the most dangerous cleanup work is being done inside three massive enrichment buildings, where workers are removing uranium deposits that cling to surfaces inside equipment and 600 miles of piping.

The newspaper said the government has spent $1 billion so far digging up soil, emptying ponds, capping unlined toxic landfills, treating groundwater and hauling contaminants away -- more than 43,000 containers of hazardous, radioactive and other waste and 8,400 tons of radioactive scrap metal.

Digest those numbers for a moment. $4.5 billion. 600 miles of piping. 43,000 containers. 8,400 tons of metal. Is it really surprising that...

Still, there is evidence of offsite contamination...

Tests on two area deer killed by cars showed traces of uranium isotopes in the livers of both and in the muscle of one.

Traces of uranium were also found in milk and egg samples from area farms, and in three vegetables taken from the gardens of plant neighbors.

Air, water and sediment tests also revealed small amounts of radioactive uranium, plutonium or technetium, and three fish from area waterways had traces of uranium or plutonium.

The DOE says the trace amounts aren't dangerous, but I think the key issue is not how much leeched out, but that it leeched out in the first place. And I'll bet most people would rather take a multivitamin than eat food fortified with plutonium, uranium and technitium.

And related item no.2 from a couple weeks ago:

Schmidt Considers Nuke Waste

[Jean] Schmidt has signed on to an effort by the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative (SODI) and a Cleveland-based company called SONIC to seek a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant of up to $5 million for a study of whether the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion plant should be a site for temporary storage and recycling of spent nuclear fuel rods.

At the urging of SODI and SONIC, Schmidt wrote a letter last month to U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman urging DOE to consider Piketon for the nuclear waste storage and recycling program.

Why not store the waste in Clermont and Warren counties? That's where the people who actually voted for her live.

10 November 2006

New Congress Should Return to Science

The new congress should bring a number of worthwhile changes. I hope one of them is a return to policy based on evidence, facts, reasoning and science.

Two federal agencies are investigating whether the Bush administration tried to block government scientists from speaking freely about global warming and censor their research, a senator said Wednesday.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said he was informed that the inspectors general for the Commerce Department and NASA had begun "coordinated, sweeping investigations of the Bush administration's censorship and suppression" of federal research into global warming.

"These investigations are critical because the Republicans in Congress have ignored this serious problem," Lautenberg said.

"Taxpayers do not fund scientific research so the Bush White House can alter it."

Damn straight. Let's hope we see more of that and less of this.

09 November 2006

Making Sense of Faculty Salaries

A worthwhile article on the teacher-coach salary disparity is in a recent John Carroll University student newspaper.

Heimlich Commission Is Once Again County Commission

Election day brought scores of Democratic victories around Ohio and the country, and one of the most telling statistics was this: not a single Democratic incumbent lost his/her Congressional seat. All the seat changes were R to D, none were the other way around.

But some Republicans did keep their seats, like our own Steve Chabot and and his esteemed colleague, "the freak-show embodiment of everything wrong with the Republican Party today".

(Although the OH-2 race isn't over yet)

But I think the change that will do the most to improve things around here is the election of Pepper to HamCo Commission. I think this will be a very positive election. Phil Heimlich is one of the worst officials in recent memory, a churlish, arrogant narcissist who managed the county as if it was his own fiefdom. Let's hope we've seen the last of him.

David Pepper is far smarter, better informed and knows how to work with people. He has plenty of corporate and wealthy connections (Kimball Perry points out a few new ones), so we'll have to see how independent he can be from the men in suits who are used to being puppetmasters around here. But I think Pepper and Portune can manage the county in far superior manner than what we saw under Heimlich. I look forward to a commission that prioritizes the long-term interests of citizens, not the short-term interests of corporate executives.

08 November 2006

OH-2 Race Not Over Yet

First of all, just the fact that enough voters in OH-2 would still cast large numbers of votes for Jean Schmidt is reason enough to be pessimistic about SW Ohio. We're not talking about a bad representative here, we're talking about a national embarrassment, an elected offical recently described in a national magazine as:

"as dependable an airhead as American politics has ever seen"

"In a Congress full of provincial dumb-asses, Jean Schmidt is this generation's standout..."

"...racing to stick a foot in her mouth every time someone turns on a video camera."

"...the freak-show embodiment of everything wrong with the Republican Party today..."

And yet even this sorry excuse for a public official can do well in OH-2. But the race isn't over, not yet. In a race this close, an accurate count is essential. That's why state elections have an automatic recount when the difference is 1%. The OH-2 race is also within that margin, if I remember the numbers.

There also the issue of provisional and absentee ballots:

Due to changes in Ohio's election laws, more than 9,000 absentee ballots were cast by Warren County residents this year. That's up from about 2,800 in the last general election.

Absentee ballots received after Nov. 2 will not be counted in the unofficial count released Tuesday night because they still need to be verified, said Susan Johnson, the elections director. They will be included with the final count, she said.

As of Nov. 1, the Warren County elections board in Lebanon had received 6,800 absentee ballots.

And that's just Warren County. The other 6 counties in the district will also have to count absentees and provisionals, and in a race this tight, small changes could affect the outcome.

So Wulsin should not concede. Not until every single vote in every county is counted. If that's a problem for the BOEs, then they have no business being in their jobs.

06 November 2006

Ohio & Hamilton County Ballot Issues, 2006

Explanations & Recommendations:

Issue 2: Constitutional amendment (Ohio, not U.S.) to raise the minimum wage. This is a well written Issue which increases the minimum wage in reasonable fashion and provides appropriate exemptions (for small family businesses, e.g.). It has much support and will probably pass.

I agree with what this Issue does but I will still vote NO. Why? Because it should be a law, not a constitutional amendment. This Issue does the right thing in the wrong way. There has been a trend recently for groups to force their pet issues onto the constitution instead of the lawbooks. It’s not the right way and it sets a bad precedent.

If this Issue fails, it will not be the end. Democrats in the state legislature can try to pass it as legislation and if that doesn’t work, anybody can just change some words (to make it a law instead of an amendment) and bring it back as an Issue in the next election.

Issue 3: Issue 3 is one of the worst scams I have ever seen. It is special interest politics at its worst.

The gambling lobby has been trying to legalize and expand gambling in Ohio for years. They keep failing but they keep coming back. Issue 3 is their latest attempt. Their tactics have consistently been deceptive and unethical. This year, they poured millions into ads with cute little kids, telling viewers Issue 3 will help them get scholarships.

It’s baloney. Issue 3 is not about education; it is about gambling. The law stipulates that casino owners will get the bulk of the profits TAX FREE. So the kids you saw on those ads will still be paying taxes on their summer jobs while the casino owners who supposedly care so much about them will get several hundred million dollars tax-free.

It’s not hard to see what’s going on here. The only value of Issue 3 is that it provides a good illustration of how special interests corrupt government.

Issues 4 & 5: These are both smoking “bans”. The easiest way to see the difference is to look at who sponsors which Issue.

Here is who backs Issue 4:

R.J. Reynolds
Cigar Association of America
Lorillard Tobacco Co.
National Association of Tobacco Outlets
Retail Tobacco Dealers Association

Here is who backs Issue 5:

American Cancer Society
American Heart Assoc.
American Lung Assoc.
Ohio Hospital Assoc.
Ohio State Medical Assoc.

That’s probably all you need to know, but there is another major difference: Issue 4 is a constitutional amendment whereas Issue 5 is a law. So if both pass, then Issue 4 takes precedence. In other words, Ohio’s smoking laws will have been written by R.J. Reynolds. A law like Issue 5 can be easily repealed or changed by the legislature but an amendment like Issue 4 is much harder to change.

One of the worst effects will be that Issue 4 prevents municipalities from passing their own smoking laws (because local laws cannot supersede the constitution). In other words, if citizens in Madeira or Cincinnati or Akron wanted to enact a local smoking ordinance, they could not do so.

It goes without saying that R.J. Reynolds did not write Issue 4 to decrease their profits. The only circumstance I can think of to vote for Issue 4 is if you have substantial tobacco holdings and stand to gain significant income over the next several years by ensuring that Ohio does not enact a true smoking ban.

The “real” smoking ban is Issue 5, but it really doesn’t change things that much from what we have already. Most businesses already ban smoking and many restaurants already have designated sections. But Issue 5 does require that restaurants actually have an atmospherically separate smoking section and don’t just call one side of the restaurant smoking and the other side non-smoking, for example. (Comedian George Carlin once joked that having a smoking section in a restaurant is like having a peeing section in a pool).

Issue 5 is not an anti-smoking initiative; it is meant to lessen the effects of second-hand smoke, particularly on children and employees of businesses that allow smoking.

You should definitely vote NO on Issue 4. If you’re concerned about smoking and health, then vote YES on Issue 5. If you’re not sure then vote NO on both.

Issue 12: This is a tax levy to pay for a new Hamilton County jail. Although the county does need more jail space, this levy is flawed and should get a NO vote.

Why it is flawed: Tax levies are supposed to collect revenue from sales and/or property taxes for a certain number of years. This levy is a bit different because it was custom made by Carl Lindner and Phil Heimlich. Briefly, Lindner saw an opportunity to reduce his own personal property tax burden. He created a levy which is specifically designed to give substantial property tax breaks to those with large real estate holdings (downtown office buildings, for example). The greater the property value, the greater the tax break. Note that this is exactly the opposite of what a progressive tax structure is supposed to do.

“Lindner’s Levy” makes up the difference by increasing sales taxes. If you think Hamilton County residents should pay more taxes so that Carl Lindner and his associates can pay less, then vote ‘yes’ on Issue 12. Otherwise vote NO.

Issue 13: Children’s Services Levy. These funds are used to assist neglected and abused children. YES.

Issue 14: Health & Hospitalization Levy. This levy reimburses UC and Children’s for their indigent care programs. YES

04 November 2006

Chabot, Cranley and "Partial-Birth Abortion"

Next week the Supreme Court hears arguments on a couple of cases challenging the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.

It should be noted that the phrase "partial-birth abortion" is not medical terminology. As this review article in Salon states,

Despite its prevalence in the public debate, the term "partial birth abortion" is not recognized by the American Medical Association or the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The phrase came into use shortly after Dr. Martin Haskell presented an abortion technique called intact dilation and extraction, or intact D&X, at the 1992 National Abortion Federation Risk Management Seminar.

Antiabortion activists, infuriated by the advent of a new variation on an unforgivable act, adopted the phrase "partial birth abortion" to describe a procedure they believed amounted to murder. The term became ingrained in the public debate...

Aside from the whole issue of Congress allowing Christian fundamentalists to set parameters for the practice of medicine, this law cannot really be considered a serious attempt to curb abortion since it does nothing to prevent pregnancies. Moreover, it does almost nothing to reduce the number of abortions that actually do take place:

The CDC reports that 88 percent of abortions in the U.S. occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy; nearly 99 percent occur within the first 20 weeks; and only about 1 percent of terminations occur past 21 weeks of pregnancy.

And of those 1%, only a fifth are intact D&X procedures. So only about 0.2% of abortion procedures are affected by this ban. Here's a mother's story of her experience with the procedure.

The main issue surrounding the ban is medical necessity. Specifically, are there circumstances in which intact D&X is the only option that would preserve the life of the mother?

But what about preserving the health of the mother? That is a whole other can of worms, and people are challenging the ban because it does not include exceptions for health of the mother.

This is where Steve Chabot comes in. As NPR reported this week,

This isn't the first time the Supreme Court has considered a ban on the procedure that lawmakers call partial-birth abortion. Six years ago, on a 5 to 4 ruling, the justices struck down a ban passed by the Nebraska legislature. The majority said, among other things, that the law needed an exception allowing the procedure to be used not just to preserve the pregnant woman's life, but also her health.

That put sponsors of a similar federal ban, like Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), in a quandary. Adding a health exception was not something Chabot was willing to do.

So where does Chabot stand now? And for that matter, where does Cranley stand? Should the ban include exceptions for the mother's health? Should there be a ban at all? And philosophically, to what extent should religious doctrine set parameters for science?

03 November 2006

DeWine vs. Brown: DeWine Campaign Stuck in Gutter

Mike DeWine is making me hurt. I already felt bad for the guy, a moderate conservative who has been forced to pay the price for a immoderate party. That's unfortunate, but my sympathy for DeWine is limited. After all, Jim Jeffords faced the same quandary and chose principle over party.

DeWine's campaign ads have been so full of negativity, deception and outright lies that three of them have been pulled. It might even be four, I'm not sure. Either way, it's ridiculous.

It's also appears to be a self-destructive tactic. DeWine's numbers have fallen, fallen, fallen while his ads continue to be ugly, ugly, ugly. His campaign has exemplified this season's unprecedented gutter politics and attack ads. It's just painful to see someone so desperate that the only way he can get votes is to make people hate the other guy so much that they go vote for you.

This morning the pain got worse as I saw another, new attack ad. I can't remember the attack, but I do recall something about Sherrod Brown being an evil person who should not be trusted by decent folk.

I can understand climbing into the gutter to get right-wing votes ('cause that's where they are), but if this is DeWine's attempt to get the independent vote, he's getting some bad advice.

02 November 2006

If Steve Chabot’s Campaign Was a Haiku

My view? My view is
that John Cranley is left wing.
What was the question?

Vote for me because
John Cranley is so left wing.
I said “left wing”, right?

I am Steve Chabot
and I approved this haiku.
(Mexicans get out!)

Changes Coming to Local Radio

WLW’s Andy Furman got fired for having too big of a mouth. I was never a big Furman fan so in my opinion we have one less doofus to listen to on WLW. Will he be replaced by someone better? Yeah, sure, just like Trent Lott got replaced by someone better when his mouth got too big.

FM radio is getting some changes, too. In this case, it’s corporate restructuring (i.e. the shaft). Two telecoms bought several area stations, fired several employees and eliminated some competition. The changes will be, um… what is the phrase? Ah, yes, “good for consumers”.

For example, we’ll be able to listen to Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck every weekday (now on FM). Maybe I’ll miss Andy Furman more than I thought…

And maybe I'll just keep that iPod plugged in.

01 November 2006

Hartmann:Brunner :: Mildew:Tilex

It’s not much, but it’s probably the best thing you could say about any Republican running for Secretary of State: Greg Hartmann is not Ken Blackwell.

Unfortunately, he’s not Jennifer Brunner, either. We’ve seen how much damage an incompetent (and egomaniacal) Secretary of State can do. This site about Blackwell’s potential replacement doesn’t make me feel any better.

As a general rule, I don’t care for anti-candidate sites or TV ads, but this one is different. It actually links to official documents. That’s a world apart from the distortions and lies we’ve been inundated with. Take a look and decide for yourself.

An Urgent Message from Karl Rove!

Attention Americans!

Pay attention to John Kerry! Pay attention to John Kerry!

Republicans love and support our troops. But you know who hates our troops? John Kerry!

John Kerry hates the same troops that Republicans love!

You know who else hates our troops? Democrats! Liberals! Jane Fonda! In other words, all of John Kerry's friends and relatives.

And you know what those troop-hating friends and relatives are doing right now? Trying to get elected in your state!

Don't vote for them! Don't vote for them! If you vote for John Kerry's friends and relatives, our soldiers will die and our children will become gay Mexican-speaking Allah-worshippers.

It's your choice, America. We're* just here to make sure you choose correctly.

Bless'd Regards,
Karl Rove

(* Karl Rove and Wally Diebold)

31 October 2006

Death Blow for Mike DeWine?

Ouch! I can already hear myself say it. Because I know there will be a TV ad about this for sure. And it will hurt. Will it be the death blow?

At least two dozen federal judges appointed by President Bush since 2001 made political contributions to key Republicans or to the president himself while under consideration for their judgeships, government records show.

Republicans who received money from judges en route to the bench include Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sens. George Voinovich and Mike DeWine of Ohio...

I remember someone saying that in Washington, it’s not enough to avoid impropriety; one must avoid even the appearance of impropriety. At the very least, this appears bad. Very, very bad.

(via BSB)

Padre’s Cadre Not Happy Son's a Dumb Bum

From the NY Daily News:

Indeed, one of the worst-kept secrets in Bush World is the dismay, in some cases disdain, harbored by many senior aides of the former President toward the administration of his son - 41 and 43, as many call them, political shorthand that refers to their numerical places in American presidential history.

For five years, the 41s have bit their collective tongues as, they complain, the 43s ignored their counsel. But as the war in Iraq has worsened and public support for the current administration has tanked, loyalists of the elder Bush have found it impossible to suppress their disillusionment - particularly their belief that many of 43's policies are a stick in the eye of his father.

"Forty-three has now repudiated everything 41 stands for, and still he won't say a word," a key member of the elder Bush alumni said. "Personally, I think he's dying inside."

27 October 2006

The Greatest Baseball Roster Ever

Bill James, an economist and formulator of the baseball statistical analysis system known as sabermetrics, was asked who he would pick for a roster of all-time greats.

James' statistical analysis is pretty rigorous (think of operations research). He can even measure the contribution made by one player to a team's overall performance. Pretty impressive. And he pays close attention to differences in the game over the years to better compare players from different eras. Also very important.

Here's his all-time roster:

P: Roger Clemens
C: Yogi Berra
1B: Lou Gherig
2B: Joe Morgan (yes!)
SS: Honus Wagner
3B: Mike Schmidt
LF: Ted Williams
CF: Willie Mays
RF: Babe Ruth

These are great players who performed at a high level for many years. But there are many players who were great for a short time. I wouldn't turn down an early 60s Sandy Koufax, for example. From '61 to '66 he posted a 124-57 record with over 1700Ks. Not too shabby. I also think Nolan Ryan never got enough credit because he always got stuck with crappy teams. I'd take him for sure.

I'd look for a way to pick someone besides Clemens, I guess that's basically what I'm saying.

State Issues 4 & 5 FAQ

Following up on my previous post expressing derision for Issue 4, I now point you to an article in the Canton Repository which offers further explanation about the smoking issues.

(Note the expectedly deceptive OL&E ad at the top).

UPDATE: For more about Ohio & Hamilton County ballot issues, see this post.

26 October 2006

1.2 Billion Reasons We're Winning in Iraq

Halliburton Co. watched third-quarter net income rise 22 percent, thanks in part to fewer disruptions from hurricanes, which beset the oil industry last year.

"This was an exceptional quarter for Halliburton," said Dave Lesar, the company's chairman, president, and chief executive officer in a prepared statement.

Halliburton's Iraq-related work contributed nearly $1.2 billion in revenue in the third quarter of 2006 and $45 million of operating income, a performance that pleased analysts.

"Iraq was better than expected," said Jeff Tillery, analyst with Pickering Energy Partners Inc. "Overall, there is nothing really to question or be skeptical about. I think the results are very good."


25 October 2006

Scientists Discover Astrophysical Phenomenon on Talk Radio

Black holes are one of the most intruiging objects in our universe. The subject of intense cosmological research, they push the limits of human understanding of space, time and physics.

The existence of black holes has been theorized for centuries, but wasn't observed until a few decades ago. Stephen Hawking is probably best known for his theoretical work on black holes.

One of the most exciting discoveries concerning black holes was the discovery of black holes so huge they were given a their own moniker, Supermassive Black Holes.

Just this week, scientists discovered a similiar phenomenon on talk radio, the Supermassive Asshole.

24 October 2006

Take the Issue 4 & 5 Poll !

The Wapakoneta Daily News Online has an online poll about Issues 4 & 5. It's on the bottom left of the home page. Cast your vote and see what others think!

UPDATE: This poll has expired; for more on Ohio & Hamilton County ballot issues, see this post.

Ken Blackwell's Glass House

Joe Hallet of the Columbus Dispatch discovers that Ken Blackwell had a pretty serious staffing problem of his own:

As state treasurer, Blackwell hired a felon and kept him on the payroll after his office discovered the man had a long record of arrests. Under Blackwell, who was treasurer from March 1994 to January 1999, Michael A. Toomer received two pay increases, and left the treasurer's office in 2002, landing in prison for the next four years.

And there's PLENTY more, folks. Read it here.

(via HypoSpeak)

Greg Hartmann: Well-connected or Well-qualified?

The Dayton Daily News has an article about Sec. of State candidate Greg Hartmann's refusal to pay a prior business debt even though he is legally obligated to do so.

I'm not sure this is such a big deal, really. I can't see it going very far as a campaign issue. It's a business disagreement that has to be battled in the courts. Happens all the time.

More interesting is the fact that Hartmann is the son and son-in-law of wealthy and well-connected people. His father is connected to Dick Cheney and his in-laws founded Hillenbrand Industries. One would think that this has had something to do with his elected officialdom and his appointment as executive director of the county GOP and chair of the county Bush-Cheney campaign, but this would be incorrect:

"I had been a successful prosecutor and people knew I had a background in business. I was the most qualified candidate for the job."

Being "most qualified" to lead anything Republican is hardly something to be bragging about these days.

22 October 2006

Gross Anatomy and Six Feet Under

Sorry, TV fans, this post has nothing to do with screen dramas (although I do like Six Feet Under).
Instead I present to you two amazing stories involving body parts:

First is this: A man severs his left arm above the elbow. Surgeons reattach it but the wound develops infection. This necessitates removal of the reattached segment, but this means it will no longer be viable. The only way to keep it viable is to maintain blood flow to the limb. What did they do?

...there were two different options: reamputate the arm or try to save it by taking it into a healthy zone where it would be possible to nourish it while we cleaned the infected area.

The idea of taking the arm to another anatomical location came by reading a similar case published by Michael Wood (Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA) in which he attached an arm in the groin.

With the agreement of the family it was decided to transfer the arm to the groin where large blood vessels are readily accessible. In 4 hours we disassembled the reconstruction performed earlier and connected the blood vessels of the arm to those of groin by means of microsurgery.

Read more about this amazing procedure (with graphic pictures) here.

And the second body parts story:

Seven undertakers in the New York area have admitted being part of a scheme to steal body parts for transplants.

New York City Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly, said: "The unspeakable desecration of the bodies - PVC pipe was used to replace bones. Indeed, the very equipment that they used, the mask and gloves and surgical items were tossed into the bodies."

Read more here.

The Enquirer-Heimlich-Blackwell-Lindner Conspiracy Theory

The Enquirer has endorsed Ken Blackwell. I am not making this up.

As if this is not ridiculous enough, the paper cites Strickland's ideas as its reason for supporting Blackwell:

What Ohio needs is a governor with strong ideas to increase Ohio employment, improve Ohio education and stem the flow of Ohioans seeking better opportunities elsewhere.

Every time I hear Strickland, those are the things he talks about (especially education). Every time I hear Blackwell, I wonder about his unhealthy obsession with homosexuality and pedophilia. Strickland is a psychologist and I hope he can guide Blackwell to get the help he needs. I think I speak for many Ohioans who are sick of hearing about it (Enquirer editorial board excepted).

The endorsement of Blackwell is so absurd that I found myself struggling for some sort of explanation. The explanation is obviously not that Blackwell is a better choice. There must be something else here.

My consipiracy theory is that the Enquirer made a deal with Lindner & Friends to endorse Pepper over Heimlich with the understanding that they would later endorse Blackwell over Strickland. I think that's why the Enquirer made a mountain out of Nikki Giovanni's molehill last week.

Blackwell is jonesing for any support he can get, and if can't get southwest Ohio... well, we know what that means. So I think the Enquirer endorsement was pre-arranged to keep Blackwell hanging on by a thread.

21 October 2006

Bengals and Tigers

The World Series begins this evening. The Cards are owned by Bill DeWitt, a Bush family friend who has connections with other Bush friends here in Cincinnati. The Tigers, on the other hand, play in the city of my birth and were once coached by Sparky Anderson.

Tigers in four.

Now the Bengals, that is a bit more of a problem. They need to win this week and it's gonna be tough. Tackle Levi Jones is out. Brian Simmons and Dexter Jackson are questionable. I really hope Jackson is healthy because I have less confidence in Kaesviharn, to be honest. But on the other hand, it doesn't really seem to matter who is covering Steve Smith because he beats everybody. And if they do blanket Smith, Keyshawn Johnson is going to do the damage himself.

But I think the critical issue is the Bengals running and their running defense. Rudi gets enough carries, he just can't get any yardage. And on defense, the Bengals are allowing way too much. It's killing us.

So basically I think the Bengals fortune rests on the offensive and defensive lines. If the offensive line can protect Palmer and block effectively for Rudi, we can put up some good numbers. But we also have to stop the Panthers from getting anything going on the ground.

I hope the Bengals can pull it off, but there is no reason to expect it based on the last two games.

Panthers, 35-34.

20 October 2006

Noe Used State Funds to Pay His Bills

The Cincinnati Post reports:

Tom Noe, 52, is accused of stealing from the fund and putting the money into his coin shop and spending it on an extravagant lifestyle. His attorneys say the deal with the state allowed him to use the money however he wanted, including to pay off debts.

Noe... and his partner occasionally asked bookkeeper Jeannie Beck to take money from the state investment "to make up the negative," she said.

It's not just bad news for Noe. It might be bad news for AG candidate Betty Montgomery as well. Her election opponent, Marc Dann, claims that Montgomery failed in her duty as State Auditor by repeatedly ignoring evidence of wrongdoing and waiting at least 13 months before investigating.

Blackwell Rally Brings Out the Goofballs

There was a Blackwell campaign rally yesterday in Blue Ash. What kind of person would take the time to come out in the rain to support Ken Blackwell?

Jean Schmidt
Phil Heimlich
Sean Hannity
Bill Cunningham
Anthony Munoz

The most intelligent gathering since George W. Bush drank alone.

19 October 2006

Local Stations Pull DeWine Ad (UPDATED!)

Squeaky wheels get the grease.

It has come to my attention that after being deluged with calls, all 4 stations pulled DeWine's ad (which makes false claims, see post below) as of early afternoon.

Now we can relax and wait for the next round of ads.

UPDATE: Apparently there are TWO ads which make the same false claim. Although the stations have pulled the first ad, I saw the second ad just this morning on WKRC. In this ad, a woman says something like "Not only did he raise our taxes, he didn't pay his own." Since this has been proven to be a false statement, this ad should be pulled as well.

And let's keep in mind: the stations pulled the false ads, not the GOP. The GOP refused to stop airing false ads even after they were proven false.

Halloween Comes Early With GOP Ad Machine

Ugh. It's campaign ad season. Political Halloween, if you will.

Boo! My opponent is a pedophile-ophile!
Boo! My opponent will tax everything including your poopies!
Boo! My opponent wants to give free abortions in the school cafeteria!

Ken Blackwell's ads and talking points reflect an increasing sense of desperation. Desperate people do desperate campaigning, and we may not even have seen the worst of it yet. But what we've seen so far is pretty pathetic and a little bit disgusting, to be honest. I credit Ted Strickland for not taking the bait and jumping into the gutter with Blackwell. Strickland has emerged as the statesman and Blackwell as a trash-talking hack.

The latest ad controversy is DeWine's ad accusing Brown of not paying taxes for 12 years. I've seen it a few times on TV this week, so it's still running. According to a source in the Hamilton County Dem Party, the RNC has been told the ad is false but declined to pull it.

(George "Macaca" Allen is in a similar situation)

Now as I understand it, the policy of local TV stations is to run ads unless the opponent can provide proof that the ad makes false claims. Then it gets pulled.

Brown's website claims to have that proof in the form of a scanned image of a receipt. His website also explains:

In December 1993, Brown's house reelection campaign was issued a notice to pay unemployment taxes. The Ohio Bureau of Employment Services confirmed payment in April 1994.

The glitch may be the fault of the Ohio state government.

The State of Ohio also backs up Brown's claims:

Jon Allen, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, the successor agency to the employment bureau, said the claims suggesting Brown didn't pay the tax bill for 12 or 13 years are false. His department researched the matter last year, when the Brown campaign asked about the lien. (from HypoSpeak)

Does it not seem that Brown has provided adequate proof that the claims made by the ad are false? Then why did I see this ad once again this morning?

18 October 2006

Habeus, Shmabeus

Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 into law this week. This legislation corrects such mistakes as insufficient executive power and habeus corpus. Hail Caesar!

Keith Olberman interviewed ConLaw professor Jonathan Turley about all the fun and games this legislation will bring us. See the video clip or read the transcript.

Congress has a lot of lawyers and I was curious as to how they voted. I didn't check the House because it has too many members but I did check out the Senate and came up with the following Harper's Index-like list:

YES votes: 65
NO votes: 34

Senators with law degrees: 59 of 99
No. of them who voted YES: 37 (65%)
No. of them who voted NO: 22 (35%)

Chance that a Republican voted YES: 99% (53 of 54)
Chance that a Republican with a law degrees voted YES: 100% (30 of 30)
Chance that a Dem/Ind voted YES: 25% (12 of 45)
Chance that a Dem/Ind with a law degree voted YES: 25% (7 of 29 )

The only Republican to vote NO was Lincoln Chafee. Ohio's senators both have law degrees and both voted NO. Kentucky's senators both voted NO. Indiana and Michigan split their votes.

While researching this I also discovered two unrelated but interesting factoids: Harry Reid worked as a Capitol Hill police officer for a few years and Maria Cantwell is a Miami U grad.

State Issues 4 & 5: What's the Diff?

Two smoking bans will be on Ohio's ballot. As Ohio Goes has an important post on the difference between the two bans. Basically, Issue 4 is to smoking what Issue 3 is to education.

In addition to R.J. Reynolds and other organizations, Issue 4 is supported by the Cigar Association of America, the Lorillard Tobacco Co., the National Association of Tobacco Outlets Inc. and the Retail Tobacco Dealers Association.

R.J. Reynolds is bankrolling pro-smoking efforts in other states this year, including Arizona, where the campaign brazenly calls itself the Arizona Non-Smoker Protection Committee.

NBC News did a story on the inherent dishonesty of the Ohio and Arizona efforts, noting that Smoke Less Ohio petitioners did not disclose the fact that their issue was being promoted by the tobacco industry.

There's also another difference: Issue 4 is a constitutional amendment whereas Issue 5 is a law. So if both pass, Issue 4 takes precedence.

And speaking of Issue 3 ("gambling for schools"), I saw a new OL&E commercial this morning. They are using a new deception tactic in the voiceover, saying something like "By limiting gaming to 9 locations around the state..."

By limiting gaming? Yes, that's what they want, to limit gaming. Here's how it might seem if other ventures adopted the gaming lobby's ad strategy:

Neocon Foreign Policy: By limiting U.S. troop presence to only Earth-based nations, we will provide much needed freedom...

Microsoft: By limiting Windows to only 100% of computers, we will help consumers...

Porn Industry: By limiting content to the internet, we will help reduce the prevalence...

GOP leadership: By limiting corporate control to only the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government at only the local, state and federal levels, we will ensure that ordinary Americans...

UPDATE: For more information about Ohio and Hamilton County ballot issues, see this post.

17 October 2006

KY Senator is Special Interests' Best Friend

I've always wondered what the hell is wrong with Kentucky. No, I don't mean in the general sense... I mean in the sense that they keep electing Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning to the Senate. Bunning is an extremist who is going senile and McConnell is a graduate of the Tom DeLay school of government.

Suddenly, after all these years, journalists decided to check out McConnell. Here's what the Lexington Herald-Leader writes:

McConnell's rise to the top of Congress is testament to the power of money in modern politics. He has raised nearly $220 million over his Senate career; he spent the majority not on his own campaigns but on those of his GOP colleagues, who have rewarded him with power.

"He's completely dogged in his pursuit of money. That's his great love, above everything else," said Marshall Whitman

A six-month examination of McConnell's career, based on thousands of documents and scores of interviews, shows the nexus between his actions and his donors' agendas. He pushes the government to help cigarette makers, Las Vegas casinos, the pharmaceutical industry, credit card lenders, coal mine owners and others.

Special interest politics taken to the highest level. Or as we now call it, the GOP.

The scariest part?

If Republicans hold the Senate in the Nov. 7 elections, he is expected to succeed retiring Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee as majority leader.

16 October 2006

Season Not Getting Any Easier for Bengals

Tough loss to take, no question. That was a heartbreaker.

The late-night local sports pundits made a big brouhaha over the bad call at the end of the game. They were furious about it and blamed the referee for the loss.

I agree it was an incorrect call, and the Bengals would almost certainly have won 13-7 if it didn't happen. But I don't see that as the reason for the loss. The Bengals had their opportunities and they didn't capitalize. It's as simple as that. C'mon, 13 points from the Bengals? Are you kidding me?

Chad Johnson was so frustrated he could barely do his regular interview with FOX19's Brian Giesenschlag. Carson Palmer looked like he was feeling about the same.

The Bengals have lost too many valuable players and it shows, particularly on defense. But the best teams win even when they don't have their best stuff. If the Bengals are postseason bound, they have to beat the best teams (like the Pats) and they have to figure out how to do it without key players.

Things get even tougher this Sunday, when we face the Carolina Panthers. I have to say I am not looking forward to the matchup between Carolina's receivers and the Bengals defense. It has the potential to get very ugly.

Key stats from yesterday's game (ESPN.com):

First Downs Bengals: 15
First Downs Bucs: 21

3rd Down Conversions Bengals: 3 of 14
3rd Down Conversions Bucs: 6 of 16

Rushing Yds Bengals: 53
Rushing Yds Bucs: 126

Possession Bengals: 25 min.
Possession Bucs: 35 min.

Find an Atheist, Get $1000

Or to be more precise, a nontheist. But there's a catch: it can't be just any old nontheist:

The Secular Coalition for America (SCA) will award one thousand dollars ($1,000) to the person who identifies the highest level atheist, humanist, freethinker or other nontheist currently holding elected public office in the United States of America.

Is religion a de facto requirement for public office? An interesting find from Blogesque.