30 May 2006

Barry Bonds, Shmarry Bonds (and other sports highlights)

"BALCO" Bonds is now no.2... and nobody outside of SF really cares.

Perhaps baseball fans will find it more interesting to speculate on who will be next to challenge the home run record. Sports Illustrated took a speculation survey, and several names came up. The key factor seems to be whether a player will remain healthy in the 2nd half of his career. I'll bet our expensive hometown hero, Griffey Jr., agrees.

Rafael Nadal broke a record this weekend, too. He won his 54th straight clay court match, passing old-timer Guillermo Vilas' mark. Vilas was there to present a special trophy to Nadal (the trophy had a cross-section of the layers of a clay court encased in glass, which was a cool idea).

The last time Nadal lost a clay court match, Paul Hackett was running for Congress and the Catholic Church was in-between Popes. He has lost to only 3 players so far this year. Unfortunately, that is 2 more than Roger Federer, who has only been beaten once... by Nadal.

And how 'bout that Dwyane Wade! Is there anything that guy can't do? Can you imagine having to guard him? What a nightmare.

26 May 2006

Tri-State Gets Dubya'd by Storm

In other words, it left disaster in its wake.

At one point there were 112,000 customers without power, and only about 15,000 got their power back on last night.

Rain, winds, lightning, and hail. We got it all last night. My power went out around dusk, right as the storm hit downtown. I got my flashlight, deployed my big 3-wick candle and listened to the storm pass through. Thor was pissed off big time. It was obvious that power was going to be out for a while.

I decided to pass the time by sitting on the balcony and smoking a cigar with a glass of tequila while listening to sports radio and watching the dark clouds scoot across the sky. I wondered where the birds go to hide. Eventually I realized I would have to eat out since I couldn't cook or reheat anything at home. So I drove over to Duff's on N. Bend Rd. (that's when I got pelted by hail) to watch some baseball and NBA and eat some pub grub.

I got home at 11:15 and was pleased to see the lights on in my street. Only about 15,000 customers got their power restored, so I'm one of the lucky few whose milk will last another day. Duke says it might be Saturday before everyone gets back online.

(bad segue approaching...)

Oh, and speaking of Dubya's destructive wake, here's something very interesting that an Oxford professor has discovered about the mathematical structure of terrorism.

25 May 2006

Corporate Lawbreakers Cost Fannie May $400m

Fannie May was fined $400 million on Tuesday for accounting fraud.

…nearly 8 million pages of documents, details what the [investigation] calls an arrogant and unethical corporate culture. From 1998 to mid-2004, the smooth growth in profits and precisely-hit earnings targets each quarter reported by Fannie Mae were "illusions" deliberately created by senior management using faulty accounting…

"By deliberately and intentionally manipulating accounting to hit earnings targets, senior management maximized the bonuses and other executive compensation... at the expense of shareholders," the report says. The manipulation "made a significant contribution" to the compensation of former chairman and chief executive Franklin Raines, which totaled more than $90 million from 1998 to 2003…

Let me briefly explain why I have such disdain for white collar crime. Unlike street thuggery, white collar crime cannot be explained by malformed psyches resulting from faulty upbringings. White collar criminals generally come from good families, good neighborhoods, etc. Their criminality is pure, unadulterated greed. I see them as poster children for human weakness.

Oh, by the way… speaking of corporate execs, the Banks Working Group (3CDC-2) meets today at 10a.m. at the Freedom Center (public invited).

24 May 2006

The Banks: Cry-Babies vs. Bullies

The Banks working group was flawed well before these local black leaders clamored about "inclusion". Flawed the moment it was formed, in fact.

As I have often intimated, the magic spell of the corporate executive is something I do not understand. And I understand even less why Mayor Mallory suddenly came under its spell. Sure, corporate executives have magic powers, I can dig that. But what I'm saying is this: a lot of other people have magic powers, too. Like urban planners and experts in green technology (an area in which Cincinnati could improve, as this article in the Business Courier explains).

So it is surprising that Mallory would agree to a Banks working group that is basically 3CDC with an inexpensive makeover. It is not surprising that Phil "I'm the boss of you" Heimlich would support such a group, but it is surprising that Mallory would find himself in agreement with Heimlich. Let's face it: agreeing with Phil Heimlich is not exactly a sign of mental health.

The worst thing about the working group/3CDC? No transparency required. As QCF and Porkopolis have pointed out, that is bullshit.

I don't see how expanding the working group from 5 to 9 or adding minorities would actually change anything. I think BrianG got it right in saying that those changes are just cosmetic. It doesn't ensure that anything substantive would happen. I remind you that President Bush has the most diverse cabinet in history. How much diversity of viewpoints do you see coming out of his office?

The only way the Banks working group will overcome being weighted down with these 5 corporate cinder blocks is by being given specific operational guidelines and allowing public oversight. The group on its own cannot be expected to pay attention to such things as regional ethnic diversity or green building practices, for example. It has to be given specific guidelines and goals. That is the only way to ensure that the public interest will be met by a small cadre of rich, white guys (who, as I've pointed out before, probably don't even live in Cincinnati).

My advice to the cry-babies is to stop crying and get out a piece of paper. Make a list of demands and lobby the mayor, council and county to codify those demands. After all, the real point is not to make the group inclusive, but rather the project.

22 May 2006

Former Bush Campaign Official Sentenced to Prison

A senior official in U.S. President George W. Bush's re-election campaign was sentenced to 10 months in prison on Wednesday for his role in suppressing votes in a key U.S. Senate race…


I'm sure it's just an isolated incident and completely uncharacteristic of the Bush team in general. Remember: Bush has ushered in an era of decency, integrity, holiness, and infallibility. Only those under the spell of the devil (i.e. Islam, Mexicans, or Howard Dean) would question that.

In any case, I'm sure this official can get a job overseeing elections for Ken Blackwell once he gets out of prison. I'll bet Clermont County wants first dibs...

17 May 2006

DCCC Pledges Money for D2 but not D1

The DCCC has named 16 candidates it will financially support this year. John Cranley is one of them, but Victoria Wulsin is not, at least not yet. Several more recipients will be named later, however.

It is generally agreed that the Cranley-Chabot contest will be very competitive, and Cranley has as good a chance as anyone to unseat the supposedly fiscally conservative Chabot. If the race stays neck-and-neck up until October, you can bet on the usual GOP game plan: a sudden infusion of RNC money for negative ads painting Cranley as a socialist tax-raising closet homosexual who hates America.

I seriously doubt that Wulsin will get national support (DCCC or DFA) for her race, but that’s the way it works in a rigged campaign finance system. How can Wulsin improve her chances?

She should start by ignoring the advice of Dems who advise her to “run on the issues.” There is no point in even discussing whether Wulsin should campaign on the issues. She should not. That is not how campaigns are won today, and to think otherwise is an indication of failure to accept the awful reality of the situation: campaigns are not about who is the better candidate. Campaigns are about marketing a personality that is congruent with Americans’ abnormal psychology.

To be succinct about it, Americans are weak, pathetic people and have a psychological need for their public figures to compensate for this. Treat American voters like little children who need to feel good about themselves, and you’ve got a viable campaign strategy.

Voters don’t want someone who is “tough”; they want someone who makes them feel good about being pathetic. If you want to make a roomful of idiots feel good about themselves, you don’t bring in a genius. You bring in another idiot who puts down geniuses. THAT’S the person they’ll vote for.

The GOP knows that Americans can’t differentiate between true grit and an empathy defect. Americans think Bush is tough because he tolerates violence with a shrug and a smirk. They think John Kerry is weak because he doesn’t. Remember Jean Schmidt’s shameful Murtha insult? Republicans fell in love with her after that because they can’t tell the difference between having a fire in your belly and just being an obnoxious asshole. To them, it’s the same thing.

So my free advice to the Wulsin team is this: understand the psychology of the voters, and prepare an anti-Schmidt strategy that is based on that understanding. Don’t be the genius in a roomful of idiots.

16 May 2006

Another Win for Corporate America!

The Supreme Court sent Toledo taxpayers home with their tails between their legs yesterday. In a 9-0 ruling, SCOTUS ruled that Ohio taxpayers cannot block tax incentives given by the state to lure businesses. The group filed the case on grounds that corporate tax incentives increase the individual tax burden.

I'm not a legal expert, but the ruling makes sense to me since tax policy falls under the dominion of the legislature and as I mentioned in this post, the different branches of government should not be sticking their noses into each others business.

Voters control the legislature. If voters want different results then they should address their concerns to the legislature, not file suit. I wonder how much money this suit cost, and what would have happened if that money was spent on a media campaign to make Ohioans more aware of corporate tax favoritism instead.

Instead, the public will continue to uncritically reflect the perspective of corporate America, such as is revealed in DaimlerChrysler's comment that this was a "big win for America."

Translation: Corporations are America. When corporations win, America wins. When corporations lose, America loses.

But there's more... Daimler's senior VP for external affairs, the most assuredly patriotic Frank Fountain, equated frustrated taxpayers with terrorists: "[This verdict] sends a clear message that states will not be held hostage to lawsuits brought by individuals or groups with no direct connection to the issue at hand."

Translation: Corporate tax breaks are patriotic. Opposing corporate tax breaks is terrorism.

15 May 2006

Republican Official Attends Frat Party

Republican Rep. John Sweeney's attendance at a beer-drinking, college fraternity party has drawn criticism from Democrats who accused the New York lawmaker of using poor judgment.

"What is a 50-year-old congressman doing at a frat party at 1 in the morning cavorting with students 30 years his junior? Teaching them how a bill becomes a law?"


12 May 2006

Study Correlates Traffic and Respiratory Illness

From Environmental Health Perspectives:

The latest finding from the study team zeroes in on the impact of exposure to traffic-related pollutants at home, and shows that kindergarten and first-grade students who lived near busy roads experienced a higher prevalence of asthma.

Children who lived within 75 meters of a major road (about the length of a city block) were approximately 1.5 times more likely to report asthma or wheezing compared to those living 300 meters or more from a major road. Among children with no parental history of asthma, those who had resided at an address close to heavy traffic since before age 2 experienced even higher risks (2.5-fold for asthma and 2.7-fold for wheezing), suggesting that a cumulative lifetime exposure to traffic pollutants may raise health risks. Girls showed a greater association between living near a major road and the health outcomes measured, for unknown reasons.

It would be interesting to do the same study in this area (the Ohio Valley has higher than average incidences of respiratory illnesses). I would imagine the results would be similar to L.A. Not exactly something to be proud of, but it's not like anything would change if I got rid of my awesome SUV. Besides, I need it for all the rugged terrain I have to cross. Have you seen mall parking lots these days?

11 May 2006

A Fair Question

What if SCOTUS justices began to make recommendations to Congress and the White House about specific legislation and policies? What if they had press conferences, went on Meet the Press, etc.-- to express their views about what the other branches of government should or should not do?

Would you have a problem with that?
Is there any reason to accept one branch of government exerting control over other branches? Isn't this specifically what the Founders sought to prevent?

So why is it that no one bats an eye when the White House tells the other branches what to do? Is it because it happens with such regularity that it "hides in the open"? Shouldn't the White House mind its own business and do its own job instead of sticking its nose into Congress and the Courts?

When members of Congress jumped on the 'criticize the courts' bandwagon, no one brought up the issue of whether Congress has any business at all in telling the courts how to operate. Public and pundit discussion was limited to the squawking parrots of the right and center (aka "the left").

There are plenty of items on the "Why Republicans are not conservative" list, and now we can add this one. A bona fide conservative would be up in arms over this-- it is incongruent with the basic premise of government structure intended by the Founders.

05 May 2006

Volunteers Sought for Mass Emergencies

From The Post:

In a mass emergency, the demand for trained volunteers is sudden and enormous.

Saturday, those who wish to be trained to respond during a widescale local disaster can hook up with the organization that operates one of the country's few mobile field hospitals, the Tristate Medical Reserve Corps.

Saturday, from 10 a.m. to noon, citizens interested in staffing a volunteer pool to assist with medical response during a crisis are invited for initial training.

Corps officials said the goal is to identify and train emergency volunteers before disaster strikes and establish a notification system in the event they are needed.

Medical and non-medical volunteers are needed, including truck drivers, office workers, clergy, interpreters, veterinarians and physicians.

04 May 2006

Profiling Conservatism

Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition.

In May of this year a group of psychology researchers released a paper which caused a stir, titled "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition". Because some government grants were involved in funding the research, conservatives, who now control both the United States Congress and Senate took a sudden, and rather unfriendly, interest in the paper. It would seem that they did not particularly care for the results of the research, and certain threatening sounds were made about preventing further ‘waste of government money' to fund research into the conservative mindset. The study was ‘biased' against conservatives they insisted.

Specific variables
[personality attributes] hypothesized to predict conservatism include:

fear and aggression
intolerance of ambiguity
rule following and negative affect
uncertainty avoidance
personal need for structure
group-based dominance

And a few more attributes the profilers found:

(a) "a high degree of submission to the authorities who are perceived to be established and legitimate";
(b) "a general aggressiveness, directed against various persons, which is perceived to be sanctioned by established authorities"; and
(c) "a high degree of adherence to the social conventions which are perceived to be endorsed by society"

And if you find this interesting, you'll probably find this interesting too: Using MRIs to See Politics on the Brain.

02 May 2006

Today in CEO News

Jurors get peek at Lay’s lifestyle in Enron trial.

When Hueston asked whether Lay considered cutting personal expenses so he could borrow less cash from Enron, the ex-chairman said he could not simply turn off his lifestyle “like a spigot.”

Skilling faces 28 counts of fraud, conspiracy, insider trading and lying to auditors, while Lay faces six counts of fraud and conspiracy. Lay also faces a separate trial on bank fraud charges unrelated to the current trial.

Diebold CEO to receive up to $1.7 million in annual compensation.

Thomas Swidarski will earn a base salary of $550,000 with bonuses of up to 200 percent, according to the contract he reached with the company last week.

Swidarski is nearly five months into leading the company after serving as president and chief operating officer. He took over Dec. 12 for Walden W. O’Dell, Diebold’s former chairman and CEO, who resigned suddenly from both posts.

Diebold, which also makes ATMs and security equipment, has about 14,000 employees in nearly 90 countries.

Diebold makes ATMs and security equipment? Somehow I don't feel any more secure knowing that.

(What's the beef with Diebold?)

01 May 2006

6th District GOP Candidate: "I'm Not an Arab"

Noble County Commissioner and 6th District Congressional candidate Danny Harmon wanted to make it clear to everyone at the Lincoln Day Dinner that he was not an Arab.

He argued, though, that recent telephone polls by one of his opponents is referring to him as though his name sounds like Har-Mown, which gives voters a different idea about who he is.

"I'd like to tell you ladies and gentleman that I'm not an Arab," Harmon said. He said the phone poll is fraudulently making his name sound different in order to take votes away from him, and that is dishonest.

[Athens News...]

Like all superiorly patriotic Republicans, Harmon wants to "protect our family values and to safeguard the American way of life." He also wants to bring back American jobs from what he calls "foreign captivity".

But most importantly, he's not an Arab. If there's one thing patriots can agree on, it's that the U.S. Congress is no place for an Arab. Arabs are bad. Worse than gays, according to some of my sources (I wouldn't know; I think it's best to keep away from gays and Arabs).

Only Christians can be counted on in this time of war. Well, maybe some good Jews, but why take a chance? Let's just stick with the Christians. Like Danny Harmon.

This Post Is Actually NOT About Tony Snow

But Tony Snow is a local boy. He graduated from Princeton H.S. in'73 and is described as "a long-haired, tennis playing, student council member named Robert Anthony Snow."

Today he is the new White House Press Secretary, which is basically what he's been doing for the past few years on FAUX News anyway. But now his sycophancy will be bankrolled by taxpayers.

(By the way, I predict that he will be the most highly regarded press secretary ever.)

But what caught my eye in the article was what his classmate, now an official in the Princeton school district, said:

"[Snow] has come a long way from his days reading the daily announcements at Princeton..and his former classmate, who now works for the school district, proudly predicts a future Washington heavyweight could be walking these halls today.

Allgeyer says, "We can breed world class leaders here."

Shouldn't every school be saying that? Shouldn't every school have that attitude? Shouldn't every student walk through the doors with a sense that somewhere down the road, what they learn will make them leaders? Shouldn't education be a higher priority with Americans?

That's what this post is about. And for those yet unconvinced, I submit to you that this and this are pretty good arguments for improving education.