28 February 2006

Most Livable Cities

Still feeling ill today. Still have an almost total aversion to food. Just about the only thing that I can think of since Sunday that doesn't make me ill is fruit. But I can't even think about my usual lunch sandwich or eating out at someplace I like; it makes me queasy. So I guess I need some more fruits. Peaches, plums, grapes, these will be my new friends. Onto the post:

Where should Cincinnati look for ideas to be a great city? How about the Economist Magazine’s list of the world’s most livable cities? The rankings were based upon “widespread availability of goods and services, low personal risk and an effective infrastructure.” (full methodology explained at bottom of article).

The top 3 cities were Vancouver, Melbourne, and Vienna. But the survey also backs up what I have been saying for years: Canada is great. And that does not even take into account their gold medal in curling.

With low crime, little threat from instability or terrorism and a highly developed infrastructure, Canada has the most liveable destinations in the world. With a rating of just 1 per cent (as a result of a small threat from petty crime) Vancouver is the highest ranked city of all 127 surveyed. A further two Canadian cities (Montreal and Toronto) feature in the top five with ratings of just 3 per cent. All 4 cities surveyed score well in all respects.

Although higher crime rates and a greater threat of terror puts US cities below those of Canada, US cities are still among the world's most liveable. Cleveland and Pittsburgh are the joint best scoring cities in the United States (7 per cent), in joint 26th place in the global ranking. A lack of availability of recreational activities and certain infrastructural shortfalls put Lexington as the least liveable US city surveyed, in 56th place-although its rating of 13 per cent is still low.

There's also a list of the most and least stressful U.S. cities (based on things like divorce, crime, unemployment).

27 February 2006

Ohio's Anti-Establishment Candidate

First of all let me say that I feel lousy, but better than I did on Sunday. I have some kind of stomach bug. Just thinking about food makes me queasy. Yesterday I ate several chickpeas and an orange. I think I will eat another orange and perhaps an apple in a little while. I can't even think about eating anything else. Ugh. I haven't felt like this since I saw Attack of the Clones and threw up for 2 hours because of the movie popcorn (I haven't eaten popcorn since then, by the way, which is like, 4 years or something).

And now onto Bob Fitrakis. Fitrakis is running for Governor as an independent. I will succinctly describe him as the anti-establishment candidate. Below are some sites to find out more about Fitrakis.

As I looked at the sites, I realized that I have seen Fitrakis speak before, probably on voting irregularity or election security issues. If I remember correctly, he was a very knowledgeable and dynamic speaker.

It's important to have people from across the political spectrum involved in politics and government because it expands the marketplace of ideas. So with that in mind, here are your Bob Fitrakis links:

Bob Fitrakis bio
Bob Fitrakis for Governor
Fourth Reich? The Bush-Rove-Schwarzenegger Nazi Nexus
The Voting Machine Industrial Complex

26 February 2006

A Brief History of the ODP, Vol. 1

From the Toledo Blade:
The low point for Ohio's Democratic Party was supposed to be 1994.

That's when Republicans won the governor's mansion, swept every statewide nonjudicial race, and wrested away a Senate seat…

This year was supposed to be a step back in the right direction.

But instead... Republicans won the governor's mansion, swept every statewide nonjudicial race, and wrested away a Senate seat…


"We never had a strong message," said Jim Ruvulo, a former state and Lucas County Democratic chairman [who later would chair the Ohio Kerry campaign]…

"I'm absolutely befuddled," said Paul Tipps, another former state party chairman. "I think they've got to go back to basics and start from there. They've got to figure out what the Republicans are doing that they aren't."

Mr. Ruvulo pinned the blame on the party's lack of a strong message. Democratic candidates were too cautious, he said, and avoided issues that matter to voters… "As the party out of power, you can't play it safe and win."

Democrats, he said, should spend the next two years doing research to find out the topics that truly matter to their voters, and "put together a coherent, strong message. Not just mouthing the phrase `working families' over and over ad nauseum."


[Former ODP chairman Paul Tipps said] "They've got to figure out why the Democratic Party in Ohio is not communicating with the public. It's not about personalities."

The Punch Line: This article is from Nov. 1998, five and a half years ago. Would you have known that if I didn't tell you? Is there any reason to believe they won't be saying the same thing every November of every year?

25 February 2006

Paul Hackett on Sunday Morning TV

After you're done wasting your time watching Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and George Stephanopolous this Sunday, be sure to catch Dan Hurley interviewing Paul Hackett on WKRC's Newsmakers, which airs every Sunday at 11 a.m.

24 February 2006

More Comments About Subodh Chandra

Anastasia: "…put Chandra in front of a crowd and he can blow away any candidate on either ticket on both substance and style. The guy is a winner. It's so appalling the Dems opted not to endorse him."

Eric: I, too, am a bit taken aback that they didn't at least give him a dual [endorsement]. I've not talked to anyone who has heard Subodh speak that wasn't just blown away. He's got my support.

And as BSB points out with regard to unusual names: “If Rod Blagojevich can be elected to the Illinois Governors mansion, then Subodh Chandra can be elected as Ohio Attorney General. Just sayin'.”

Friday's Economy Note

Pay not keeping pace with inflation.

Survey Says Average U.S. Family Income Declines.

White House says economy is strong and continues to grow ("incomes increase" and "inflation remains in check").

Interactive Periodic Table of the Elements

The Periodic Table of the Elements. One of the grandest tables in science. A table that looks just as good illustrated in austere black and white, as I display in my foyer, as it does in the streaking colors of postmodern abstract expressionism, as in my guest cottage.

And now the magic of the Periodic Table can be with us always, thanks to The Interactive Periodic Table of the Elements. A cool site for science geeks and anyone else who wants to find out about weird elements like hafnium or praseodymium. Get the Palm version and your friends will seethe with envy!

And be sure to look at the authors “signature” at the bottom (I think you have to be on the “scholars edition” page). That's one of the cooler things I’ve seen.

23 February 2006

ODP Meeting Reveals More Demthink

Chris Geidner at Law Dork wrote up his own minutes from the ODP Executive Committee meeting where the endorsements were decided. Here’s a peek into Demthink in Ohio:

Pat O’Malley, Cuyahoga Recorder: We have limited funds and we’re going to eat each other up in the primary. What I’d like to know from the candidates is: If they don’t get the endorsement, would they continue to run and divide us?

Candidates take note: only those with endorsements should run. If you run without an endorsement, you’re hurting the Party- and that’s what’s really important, not whether you’re helping the state. Either you’re with the ODP or you’re against the ODP. Please also note that no one should support third parties, since that destroys the two-party system which is perfect.

There are many raised eyebrows over ODP’s endorsements, but the endorsements of Richard Cordray over Hugh Quill for Treasurer and Marc Dann over Subodh Chandra seem to be obvious cases of choosing the weaker candidate. Why?

Priscilla O’Donnell: None of us want somebody who can’t win. We have Richard Cordray, who is known and has run, and has more than three times the war chest of his opponent.

Aah yes, the importance of the war chest. How ironic to read that just after I posted the entry below this one.

And the AG race? This one is very disappointing. Subodh Chandra has been impressing people everywhere he goes. His rhetoric is personal and practical, not political and partisan. And it can afford to be; he has a record of effective and diligent public service that stands on its own. He understands what makes people’s lives better and what he can do as AG to make lives better. Here’s what one member said:

…Of all of the candidates, I heard more excitement about [Chandra’s] candidacy than anyone else other than Strickland.

On the other hand, Marc Dann spent most of 2005 making noise about GOP corruption and made sure he was a thorn in Jim Petro’s side all year. He filed a lawsuit over Petro’s pay-to-play tactics but withdrew the lawsuit because it would be too costly. He made a lot of noise that amounted to nothing, and that’s just the kind of thing that gets establishment Democrats hot (remember Camp Casey?). By the way, the ODP did nothing to help raise funds for Dann’s lawsuit, which was their best chance of exposing GOP corruption. Nothing.

Chandra makes a better AG but Dann is a better Democrat. Which is more important to the ODP?

CJ Prentiss: This guy [Dann] has taken us to the dance. He has been on top of them, articulating and point out all the wrong that is done. On top of that, he has put out recommendations of what we can do right.

Pat O’Malley, Cuyahoga: I’ve got a couple of issues about this race. This is a race where we have to make a stand. I come from Cleveland, where Subodh is from, and I’ve been active for years. I’ve never seen him at a political function. I’ve never seen him help a candidate in Cuyahoga County. He’s not even known in Cuyahoga County.

Gwin: I really take exception to Mr. O’Malley’s comments. The problem I have in this race is electability. How do we elect Dann, who has a reprimand from the Ohio Supreme Court in the past three years?

Varner: Opposition to this resolution. Dann is a team player and has been -- and would be even if he weren't in this race. Chandra, on the other hand, was the only candidate who wouldn't tell the screening committee on Saturday that he would support the entire ticket in the general election no matter who wins the primary. We want a team player in this race, and that is not Subodh Chandra.

What does Chandra bring to the table? Superior qualifications for AG.
What does Dann bring to the table? Attendance at Party events, name recognition in Cuyahoga County, vocal partisanship, and a Supreme Court reprimand.

Well done, ODP, well done indeed.

UPDATE: Law Dork points out "that a solid quarter of those committee members present supported dual or no endorsements should be seen as a good sign for those of us who do not support pre-primary endorsements. Susan Gwin was among those who most strongly and consistently enunciated that position. It shows there is a real base of people in the Party structure already to work with on this issue."

Reformed Campaign Finance in Maine & Arizona

With so many strong feelings over the Hackett-Brown “dramedy,” it is important not to lose sight of the most important and fundamental issue, and that is campaign finance reform. The viability of an individual’s candidacy is too dependent on money. That should be the last thing to determine who runs and who doesn’t.

Eric Fingerhut also exited the Gubernatorial race because of fundraising problems. He had the same problem in his ’04 run against Voinovich. As it turns out, Fingerhut is a very independent thinker and has a number of worthwhile ideas that deserve to be heard. But they never will because it’s all about money, not ideas. This was made much worse in Ohio last year by House Bill 1, the campaign finance "reform" billdoggle the Repubicans pushed through the legislature.

Can it be changed? Can it work better? It looks like yes and yes:

In 48 states, the skyrocketing cost of campaigns shows no sign of slowing down. The money chase has gotten so bad that Congress does little work on Mondays or Fridays and most evenings of the week, as members have to devote precious hours to dialing donors for dollars.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. In two states, Arizona and Maine, campaign finance reform is opening the election process to newcomers and helping to break the lock wealthy special interests have on the legislative process.

[Yes Magazine…]

(via Kevin Drum)

Bush League Governance

Dignity. Honor. Integrity. Decency. These are the words that come to mind when one considers the Bush family.

You know about George W. Bush, but do you know how well Jeb Bush is preserving the honor and dignity of office?

22 February 2006

President Bush Learns New Word!

The Dubai Ports World story is hot right now, but everything I’ve read so far focuses on the issue of the security risk of transferring post authority to the state-run UAE company.

I find it far more provocative that of all the legislation that has showed up on his desk in 5 years, Bush has never uttered the word “veto” until now, on a matter that does not benefit the United States (and may even endanger us) but instead benefits his associates in the Middle East.

Book Review: James Risen

His book is State of War--The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. The theme is the militarization of intelligence. Cleveland blogger John Etorre posted a brief review.

(via BFD)

Plan Would Curb Tax Breaks for SUVs

It's about time Congress got serious about changing this:

New tax breaks are available to anyone who wants to help the environment by purchasing fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles. But if owners of small businesses really want to save money, they can get even bigger federal tax breaks by buying the largest gas-guzzling SUVs.

The disparity is drawing criticism from environmentalists and the Republican chairman of the Senate's tax-writing committee, who is working on a change.

Federal tax rules that took effect last month allow a credit of up to $3,150 for anyone buying a hybrid car…

However, owners of small businesses who buy a Hummer, Ford Excursion or other SUV weighing more than 3 tons get a deduction of up to $25,000...

[Baltimore Sun...]

Here is a list of Senate Finance Committee members in case you want to email them some encouragement ("I urge you to support Chairman Grassley's changes to the tax incentives available for SUVs...")

21 February 2006

Avian Flu Is Serious Threat, but There May Be More

Humans risk being overrun by diseases from the animal world, according to researchers who have documented 38 illnesses that have made that jump over the past 25 years.

That's not good news for the spread of bird flu, which experts fear could mutate and be transmitted easily among people.


BTW: viruses are not living organisms. They are just tiny packages of DNA (or RNA). But once they get inside a living cell (it has to be the right kind; cells and viruses match up like lock & key), the cell thinks it has to do something with the DNA/RNA, so it replicates it and ends up making more viruses.

It Takes A Special Person...

...to be a transplant coordinator. That's the person who asks the family of someone who just died if they will consent to organ donation.

What's it like? This post from Donorcycle, a transplant coordinator's blog, illustrates a typical moment.

Congress Gets Behind Community Wi-Fi

Aaahh... sensible bipartisan legislation. It's almost like a dream, but it's actually true:

Sen. Ted Stevens has been a bit off his rocker lately, but his American Broadband for Communities Act of 2006 (S2332) might be just the thing to get him back in the groove.

And there's more! Sen. George Allen ("Sen. Smug") introduced the Wireless Innovation Act of 2006 (S2327) .

Contact Sens. DeWine and Voinovich to express support for these bills:

Mike DeWine (choose "Contact Information" from menu and use e-mail form)
George Voinovich

20 February 2006

America’s Trust Fund

I read an interesting post (“Speaking of Finances,” Feb. 10; there’s no permalink) from a Kettering blogger about the connection between money and trust in marriage. Money is widely cited as the #1 reason for marital strife and divorce, but is it really about the money?

"Some people are committing financial infidelity by hiding financial misbehavior," says Denver psychologist Scott Stanley. "Others are having an open affair with material wealth. That represents an alternative relationship that is undermining the quality of the marital relationship."

Unlike sexual exploits, however, in which there is no question that one is deceiving and betraying, financial infidelity can be committed without the offender even realizing it:

“In a media-saturated era, money buys both self-fulfillment and social acceptance--a lifestyle in which wants are transformed into needs. We come to believe that we are entitled to what those around us seem to have, and somehow spending $20,000 for a sofa appears perfectly normal.”

“Because so many couples now maintain separate banking and credit card accounts, the risk of deceit is even greater,” said attorney Alan Kopit, legal editor for Lawyers.com.

I hadn’t heard the term “financial infidelity” before, but it’s a good one. It emphasizes that the problem is trust, not money. This country has plenty of money; it’s trust that we lack. Given that trust is the foundation for every meaningful relationship: lovers, family, friends, co-workers, citizens and their government, even the family dog, I wonder if this nation is bankrupt in the worst way of all.

19 February 2006

Space Travel at Near-Light Speed Possible?

Incredible news, but in a way that is reminiscent of cold fusion:

The field equation of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity has never before been solved to calculate the gravitational field of a mass moving close to the speed of light. Felber's research shows that any mass moving faster than 57.7 percent of the speed of light will gravitationally repel other masses lying within a narrow 'antigravity beam' in front of it. The closer a mass gets to the speed of light, the stronger its 'antigravity beam' becomes.

"Dr. Felber's research will revolutionize space flight mechanics by offering an entirely new way to send spacecraft into flight," said Dr. Eric Davis, Institute for Advanced Studies at Austin and STAIF peer reviewer of Felber's work. "His rigorously tested and truly unique thinking has taken us a huge step forward in making near-speed-of-light space travel safe, possible, and much less costly."

Before this antigravity discovery, it was considered impossible to travel anywhere near the speed of light because, for one thing, light is muthaf*ckin fast. Also, according to relativity, mass increases with velocity. As velocity nears light speed, mass increases towards infinity. Therefore, an object would need infinite energy to propel itself while it gradually became infinitely heavy. And so that was the end of that.

But now we might have antigravity at our disposal. This could be the Holy Grail of space exploration. It would follow the wheel and sail in the story of human civilization. But I cannot imagine how an object can be propelled at 57.7% light speed. I calculate that to be 385 million mph. Could fusion move something that fast?

However it happens, Felber thinks it will happen by the end of the century. If Felber is right about this it will be big news. Not for us, because we’ll be dead. But it will be a big thrill for our parched descendants.

18 February 2006

Brown vs. DeWine: Good Politics vs. Good Principles

Based on reports of Sherrod Brown’s recent actions, the following character assessments seem reasonable:

Sherrod Brown has progressive politics but lacks integrity and principle;
Mike DeWine has conservative politics but has integrity and principles.

Mike DeWine and George Voinovich are the two most moderate Republicans in Congress. The problem is not DeWine (or Voinovich) as much as it is the Republican Party. It is the Party leadership that engages in partisan shenanigans, not Mike DeWine.

Compare that to Sherrod Brown and the Democratic Party. In this case, the problem is both Sherrod Brown and the Democratic Party. The Dem leadership has demonstrated their incompetence so often that it has gone from amusing to pathetic to absurd. The Dems are reinventing themselves, but it’s happening “bottom-up” and hasn’t reached the leadership yet. Eventually they will storm the Bastille and roll some heads but I doubt many are holding their breath.

Here in Ohio, a moderate voter would certainly think twice about voting for a man who has demonstrated an abject lack of integrity and maintains allegiance to his Party’s incompetent and sinking leadership.

I like Sherrod Brown’s politics more but I trust him less (if at all). I like DeWine’s politics less but I trust him more. And the difference in the trust level is more than the difference in the politics. If the election were today, I would vote for DeWine because I prefer his moderate conservatism to Brown’s immoderate lack of integrity and judgment.

One candidate has more favorable politics but can’t be trusted; the other has less favorable politics but can be trusted.

Who would you vote for?

UPDATE: Much has changed in the several months since this post was written. This more recent post has the latest thoughts on Mike DeWine.

17 February 2006

DRAM Industry Rife with Corruption

Elpida Memory Inc., a Japanese manufacturer of dynamic random access memory (DRAM), will plead guilty and pay an $84 million fine for participating in an international conspiracy to fix prices in the DRAM market. [Corporate Crime Reporter]

The amazing fact: Elpida is the fourth DRAM company to be caught. The other companies and fines:

Nov 2005: Samsung Semiconductor, $300 million
May 2005: Hynix Semiconductor, $185 million
Oct 2004: Infineon Technologies, $160 million

One would think 4 violations and over $700 millions in fines in two years (and legal fees on top of that) would be enough, but it seems one of two things is true here: either the industry can’t get its act together, or it’s more lucrative to break the law and pay the fine than to float along with market forces. The likelier scenario is the latter, which means the people who can’t get their act together are trade officials and lawmakers.

It makes one wonder how much more corruption is out there but yet undetected.

16 February 2006

Web Users Help SETI

Having trouble finding intelligent life down here on Earth?

Maybe it’s time to look outside the box. The SETI project has enlisted the help of web users. Volunteers download a screen saver that sifts through and decodes cosmic radio signals during downtime. Over 5 million have volunteered so far. Now there are even other scientific programs (proteomics, e.g.) than people can hitch their computers up to to help out.

Grassroots supercomputing… very nice!

Fifth Guilty Plea in Berkeley Nutraceuticals Case

Like her former colleagues, Kinmon admitted taking part in the unauthorized billing of credit cards of customers who were trying the company's sexual aids and other herbal supplements on a 30-day, free-trial basis. Papers filed by the government Tuesday said the scheme cost at least 250 victims between $100 million and $200 million.

Court papers say Kinmon received a large salary, numerous perks and bonuses, including the payment of $25,000 to buy a 2002 Jaguar X-type 3.0. The government wants the car.


15 February 2006

Still Christmas for Oil & Gas Industry

The government may waive up to $7 billion in royalty payments from companies pumping oil and natural gas on federal territory in the next five years, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing administration officials and budget documents.

The royalty relief would amount to one of the biggest giveaways of oil and gas in U.S. history…


Ohio School Board Votes 11-4 to Acknowledge 21st Century

The Ohio school board voted Tuesday to eliminate a passage in the state's science standards that critics said opened the door to the teaching of intelligent design.

The board vote represents the latest setback for the intelligent design movement, which holds that life is so complex it must have been created by a higher authority.


14 February 2006

Frist, Hastert Have Backroom Pharma Party

It’s like a rave, except with suits instead of baggy pants, and money instead of drugs.

In the wake of the Abramoff scandal, the Republican leadership must really be jonesing to kiss corporate ass again. Here’s how they got their fix last week:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert engineered a backroom legislative maneuver to protect pharmaceutical companies from lawsuits, say witnesses to the pre-Christmas power play.

The language was tucked into a Defense Department appropriations bill at the last minute without the approval of members of a House-Senate conference committee, say several witnesses, including a top Republican staff member.

[The Tennessean…]

Dem Leaders to Hackett: We Stink, You Don't, Get Out

As I have said many times, the Dem leadership is a joke. The sole exception is Howard Dean. But he is not in office. And the reason he's not in office is because the Dem leadership preferred Gephardt and Kerry (who now live in a van down by the river).

I have now decided that the GOP has infiltrated the Democratic Party to a considerable extent, because when I think about it, the only way the Dems could be worse is if they were secretly Republican. So I figured that is probably the case. One or two bad decisions is understandable, but to make losing decisions repeatedly... well, that is not normal. Maybe that's why scientists studied their brains.

I had hoped Hackett would be in a position to make a decision independent of the Dem leadership by using Democracy for America (DFA) as his primary fundraising source instead of the Party. If he could muster enough grassroots support, he could get into Congress as a true independent Dem. I think support from groups like DFA and MoveOn is essential for candidates who want to reform the Dem Party. Party leaders have no clue. They will lose and lose and lose. Only outside groups like DFA and MoveOn can overcome Party inertia and raise the funds and profile to run winning candidates.

The Democratic Party will never change its losing ways unless closely allied outside groups force change upon it. It seems to have proven that again by pushing out Paul Hackett. It's hard to imagine the Democratic establishment signaling their commitment to GOP victory more clearly.

Could Hackett run as an independent? I think it's totally possible. If he can get the grassroots support and fundraising from outside groups, then I don't see why not. If there's one thing better than Hackett in Congress as a Dem, it's Hackett in Congress as an Independent.

In any case, I think the focus of Hackett-oriented discussion should be on purging the Dem leadership first, and which office Hackett should run for second.

UPDATE: The Hackett-ODP "mess" is detailed in one post at Law Dork.

13 February 2006

Smarter Policing with Technology

In 20 words or less, my basic perspective about cops is this: they make it hard for the public to support them. One example is their inexorable urge for car chases. Damage to person and property, especially innocent bystanders, is routine:

The study, "Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths Related to Police Pursuits in the United States," examined accident data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the years 1994 to 2002.

During that period, 3,146 deaths across the country were related to police pursuits. Of those, 1,088 were of people who were not in the vehicle being chased, several were pedestrians or bicyclists and at least 40 were officers.
[Seattle P-I...]

In other words, the police, who are charged with maintaining public safety, regularly engage in a practice that kills innocent people 35% of the time. Maybe it just sounds bad the way I say it.

Perhaps technological developments such as this will enable police forces to do their job in a smarter and less dangerous way:

It is an air-propelled miniature dart equipped with a global positioning device. Once fired from a patrol car, it sticks to a fleeing motorist's vehicle and emits a radio signal to police.

Bratton hailed the dart as "the big new idea" and said that if the pilot program was successful, Los Angeles' seemingly daily TV fix of police chases could be a thing of the past.
[L.A. Times...]

Ohio Political Briefs

LGBT Analysis of Gubernatorial Running Mates

How do Raga, Padgett and Fisher stack up on LGBT issues? Pretty much as we’d expect. More in the Gay People’s Chronicle.

Paul Hackett Dead Right About Fundamentalism

Check out the totally normal way Christian true believers are making America better. I won't hold my breath for Bob Bennett's response. (link broken, but it's about the latest from Fred Phelps. This article has the scoop).

Ron Hood and Tom Brinkman Are Just Friends

I'm not saying Ron Hood and Tom Brinkman are gay. I'm just saying they share the same values, spend time together, and have a wonderful, fulfilling relationship based on mutual respect and admiration. What's that got to do with love?

11 February 2006

Ecological “Garden of Eden” Discovered

I figured that by now the only untouched places would be below the oceans and above the clouds, but I was wrong:

An astonishing mist-shrouded "lost world" of previously unknown and rare animals and plants high in the mountain rainforests of New Guinea has been uncovered by an international team of scientists.

“This is a place with no roads or trails and never, so far as we know, visited by man ... This proves there are still places to be discovered that man has not touched."

Among the new species of birds, frogs, butterflies and palms discovered in the expedition through this pristine environment, untouched by man, was the spectacular Berlepsch's six-wired bird of paradise. The scientists are the first outsiders to see it. They could only reach the remote mountainous area by helicopter, which they described it as akin to finding a "Garden of Eden".

[The Independent (UK)...]

10 February 2006

Guess Who Can't Use 'Quicken'

If I asked you to name someone who could NOT use a computer to file his/her taxes, you would probably not say Bill Gates. But as it turns out, he can't:

"My tax return in the United States has to be kept on a special computer because their normal computers can't deal with the numbers," he said at a Microsoft conference held in Lisbon.


Yahoo Complicit in Suppressing Liberty?

Just a day after this post about Microsoft, Cisco and Yahoo being rebuked for putting profits above principle, came news that Yahoo helped the Chinese government put a dissident in jail.

From a report by Doctors without Borders:

...it had discovered that Yahoo customer and cyberdissident Li Zhi had been given his eight-year prison sentence in December 2003 based on electronic records provided by Yahoo.

[Yahoo] says it simply responds to requests from the authorities for data without ever knowing what it will be used for. But this argument no longer holds water. Yahoo certainly knew it was helping to arrest political dissidents and journalists, not just ordinary criminals. The company must answer for what it is doing at the US congressional hearing set for February 15.

(via BatelleMedia.com)

09 February 2006

Wisconsin: the Un-Kansas

Wisconsin state Rep. Terese Berceau has sponsored a bill that would effectively ban the teaching of creationism / intelligent design in science classes.

Under the bill, only science capable of being tested according to scientific method could be taught as science. Faith-based theories, however, could be discussed in other contexts.


"It does not ban the discussion of intelligent design or any other ideology in schools in nonscientific contexts. It simply states that if something is presented as science, it must actually be science."


Berceau's bill would require that anything presented as science in the classroom be testable as a scientific hypothesis and pertain to natural, not supernatural, processes. The material would also have to be consistent with any description of science adopted by the National Academy of Sciences.

[Full story at The Capital Times]

Read more about Rep. Berceau's politics in the Badger Herald. She's also a Hodgkin's survivor!

I Am Superman and I Can Do Anything

I almost feel bad about taking the Superhero Quiz because I got the link from my blog pal Innisfree but I turned out to be a way better superhero. Ha! Go suck on a fly, Spidey.

This is just the evidence I need to put in for a better parking space at the Hall of Justice.

Your results:
You are Superman
The Flash
Green Lantern
Iron Man
Wonder Woman
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.
Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

That's a lot of superherocity right there. C'mon, 75% Flash and 65% Green Lantern? That's pretty hot. Believe me, there are plenty of sham Supermen out there who pretend to be the whole package, but they are hiding the fact that they have hardly any Flash or Green Lantern at all. Not me. I'm representin', dawg.

And I have some Supergirl, Wonder Woman and Catwoman. In fact, I just had some last night!


08 February 2006

Yet Another Story About a Bush Political Appointee

Is a 24-year old college dropout with no background in science qualified to be the NASA public affairs officer? He is if he worked on the Bush-Cheney campaign!

Here’s why George Deutsch got the job, in case you need to ask (sadly, Deutsch resigned yesterday).

So everything will be back to normal, right? WRONG!!

And note that Dean Acosta, the NASA director's press secretary, says that NASA will, in fact, insist on referring to the "Big Bang theory" just as the junior commissar insisted.

Good for them! Where does it say that science has to be what scientists say?

An Abridged History of Warfare

In two words: Ka-Boom! Ka-Ching!

In a truly astonishing illustration of the difference between the mainstream and alternative media, author Pratap Chatterjee digs into the issue of military interrogators and finds that the line between government and the military-industrial complex may be a thing of the past.

More of Chatterjee’s articles are linked at alternet.org and he’s also the author of Iraq, Inc.: A Profitable Occupation. I saw him on C-SPAN’s “Book TV” a while back and my jaw was on the floor after listening to his recounts of all the corruption.

07 February 2006

American Corporations Rebuked Just for Acting American!

US politicians and rights groups have condemned technology giants Google, Microsoft, Cisco, and Yahoo for collaborating with China to censor the Internet.

In a briefing by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, the four US companies were accused Wednesday of putting profits before principles in their push into the Chinese market.

The four companies are accused of bowing to Beijing's demands that the Internet in China be censored to prevent Chinese citizens from seeing websites with information the government objects to, or using the Internet in activities the government opposes.

[full story...]

Why Recycling is Dangerous

The Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette said slips containing the names and credit card numbers of as many as 240,000 subscribers of both newspapers were accidentally delivered with bundles of papers last weekend in Worcester.

The financial data was on the back side of paper that had inadvertently been recycled and used for routing slips…

[full article...]

05 February 2006

Earliest Evidence of Africans in New World Found

Scientists have identified teeth in an ancient cemetary in Campeche, Mexico as African. The teeth, dated to around 1550, had mutilations that were distinctively African, so researchers tested the teeth's mineral composition which confirmed their African origin.

The discovery of the remains of slaves born in Africa from such an early date shows that slavery became an integral aspect of the New World economy not long after the Conquistadors completed the subjugation of Mexico...

African slaves were brought to the New World as the Spanish needed labor to harvest timber and work in the mines that enriched Spain. Early in their rule, the Spanish enslaved Indians to perform heavy labor, but they turned to the African slave trade as diseases introduced by Europeans decimated native peoples.

03 February 2006

Does Vitamin-C Prevent Colds?

That's the conventional wisdom. Scientific genius Linus Pauling swore by it, and he won two (!) Nobel Prizes (chemistry, peace) and lived well into his 90s.

There's no question that Vit-C has health benefits, and its role as an antioxidant is well known. But does it actually reduce colds? According to recent research, the answer is yes and no. Or to put it more scientifically, it depends.

Researchers measured two things: incidence and severity. They found that incidence of colds among a normal population was unchanged. But among a subgroup of subjects with high exposure to cold or physical stress (skiers, soldiers, marathon runners), the incidence was reduced by 50%.

The severity of colds was reduced among all subjects (whether normal or high exposure), especially among children.

BUT, the preventive effect only worked if Vit-C levels were sufficient at the time of viral exposure. This suggests it won't do much good to wait until you start feeling sick to take Vit-C; it has to be taken regularly so that levels are high enough at the moment a viral exposure occurs.

There's another problem with taking Vit-C, and that is that one giant pill in the morning will not do the job like you might think. Vit-C is one of the water-soluble vitamins so it doesn't accumulate in the body; excess Vit-C is excreted. So if you take 2,000 mg in the morning, your body will use what it can right then and eliminate the excess. It won't save it for later.

To keep Vit-C levels high and constant, it's better to regularly consume food and drink high in Vit-C.

The WestEnder method to deal with colds & flu (once stricken):

1) Keep Vit-C levels high by drinking lots of O.J. or cranberry juice, etc.
2) Eat 2-3 eggs a day (provide protein, cholesterol, and fat which are building blocks for B-cells and the antibodies they make).
3) Don't take anything to reduce mild fever (Tylenol, e.g.); a slight fever is more ideal for combating infections. You'll feel worse but get better faster.

02 February 2006

Congress Gets A Boehner

Huzzah! House Republicans have wisely chosen southwest Ohio's own John Boehner to be the next Chief Coordinator for Corporate Lobbying.

The change will usher in an era of reform characterized by less overt violations of public trust.

There's no reason for me to write anything new about Boehner since what I wrote in this post still applies.

Why I Am Independent

From an Emory University study profiled in Science Daily:

The investigators used functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to study a sample of committed Democrats and Republicans immediately prior to the 2004 U.S. presidential election.

"We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning."

(via A.E. Brain)

01 February 2006

Brokeback Blue Ridge Mountain

I didn't see Bush's SOTU speech (I was having a good time at my new favorite downtown establishment), but the word on the street is that Bush did well and Kaine tried to be nicey nicey.

I wonder what a rebuttal by Paul Hackett would be like.

(Maybe we'll find out next year...)