31 July 2006

Consumer Reports: Be Wary of "Organic" Label

...some items that are called organic are probably worth the extra cost because they are produced according to strict standards. But the labels on quite a few of them are not worth an extra cent, according to a study of organic food by Consumer Reports...

An uninformed consumer can end up paying 50 to 100 percent more for products that are no healthier and a lot harder on the wallet.

In most states, wild or farmed fish can be labeled organic even though there is no guarantee that it is free from mercury or other industrial chemicals...

WHICH foods are worth the higher price? According to an analysis by the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organic research organization, the so-called dirty dozen — apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach and strawberries — tend to have a high pesticide residue, even when washed. These are worth buying organic, as is baby food, which tends to be made from condensed fruits and vegetables.


Middle East Brings Out Wackiness in Many

I saw a funny news clip yesterday. Condi Rice, our greatest Secretary of State ever (cough, cough), gave a press conference in which she said she "decided" not to visit Lebanon after all.

The funny part is that her speech followed a news report in which Lebanon's Prime Minister told her to forget about visiting. Either work for an immediate, unconditional cease-fire, or don't bother coming to Lebanon. That's what he said.

So, after being told not to come, Rice "decided" not to go in a press conference for FAUX News (which, of course, carried it).

I remember the time I "decided" not to go out with Jessica Stergiopolous. I asked her out a few times, sent her roses, and I called her every night for a week, but she finally kicked me in the shin and said not to bother her anymore. After that, I decided not to go out with her. So I know how Condi Rice feels.

And in more wackiness, the Pope is now appealing for an end to violence. The head of the Christian church is appealing to Muslims and Jews to stop fighting. That is so precious. I just know everyone will listen to him. I just know it!

28 July 2006

City Cracking Down on Problem Properties

For the last two weeks, the city has been aggressively enforcing a relatively new ordinance that requires the owners of properties in need of major repair to purchase a building maintenance license, which enables the city to exert control over the properties. Owners who don't, could face civil or criminal prosecution. [WKRC]

There are plenty of blighted buildings in Northside, West End and OTR (and NOT Norwood). People have been saying for years that the city has to crack down on property owners who won't fix up their buildings.

This should increase property values and decrease crime. It's necessary for the urban renewal process and it's important that the city continues to put pressure on blighted property owners. If they won't fix it up, sell it to someone who will.

27 July 2006

Bushwhacked, vol. MXMVII

A couple more ways BushCo has screwed America:

Contracts meant for small businesses were given to large corporations instead.

At least $12 billion in contracts the government claimed it gave to small companies last year wound up instead in the coffers of large corporations such as Microsoft and Rolls Royce, greatly inflating the Bush administration’s record of help to small businesses...

When small-business contracts with large companies are excluded, the government missed for a sixth straight year a requirement that 23 percent of its $314 billion in annual contracts go to small businesses...

Beneficiaries included Microsoft, Rolls-Royce, Exxon-Mobil, Wal-Mart, Google and Lockheed Martin.

Bush personally put the kibosh on Justice Dept. investigation into NSA surveillance.

In response to a question from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., Gonzales disclosed that President Bush personally intervened and blocked a Justice Department probe into the administration’s domestic surveillance program...

Bush put the kibosh on the investigation by denying security clearances to lawyers with the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

The office is charged with being the agency’s ethical watchdog, and it was in the process of investigating whether Justice Department lawyers who reviewed the controversial surveillance program had acted properly. After hitting a brick wall from the White House, the office shut down its investigation.

Gonzales did not explain why Bush blocked the ethics probe.

26 July 2006

Coca-Cola Dropped from Socially Responsible Investment Fund

July 18 (Reuters) - Coca-Cola Co. has been ejected from the $8 billion TIAA-CREF Social Choice Account, a fund which invests according to social criteria, officials of the pension fund said on Tuesday.

[analysts] saw shortcomings on the part of Coca-Cola in several areas including worker rights at overseas bottling plants, marketing of soda products to children, and environmental issues related to water usage at overseas facilities...

In May, TIAA-CREF formed a new Social and Community Investing Department within its Asset Management area.


Ken Blackwell Still Tilting at Holy Windmill

It's a god thing (oops, I mean "good" thing) Ken Blackwell is black. Because if he wasn't, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between him and Jesus.

Homosexuality a lifestyle choice, says Blackwell.

25 July 2006

Lindner Trumps Truth at Enquirer

When I think of the Enquirer, I'm reminded of a John Cleese line in a Monty Python sketch, which I'll adapt thusly:

"I'd like to be an Enquirer editor, but unfortunately I have a degree."

Like most Enquirer reporters, Kimball Perry has half a brain. But there's really nothing wrong with the story he wrote about Todd Portune's sales tax idea... except the headline: "Portune proposes sales tax boost for jail".

But Portune did NOT propose a sales tax hike. As the story itself states:

"As we debate this issue, you've got to have all of the options available," Portune said Monday, stressing that he wasn't making any financing proposal.

Portune isn't proposing - not yet - that the sales tax be increased a half-cent to pay for the jail.

So the story says one thing and the headline says another. Great job, Enquirer editors.

Compare the Enquirer's headline to the Business Courier's:

Portune suggests new sales tax option.

So is Portune an intelligent, fiscally prudent, civic-minded leader who wants all options on the table, or is he a tax-raising liberal atheist Democrat who hates Jesus?

Why did the Enquirer editors choose an obviously misleading headline? Here is the answer in terms even Enquirer readers can understand:

(1) The Enquirer is Carl Linder's bitch.
(2) Carl Lindner has his own tax plan, which would lower property taxes and raise sales taxes. In other words, he would lower his tax burden and the rest of us would make up the difference.
(3) Phil Heimlich is also Carl Lindner's bitch, and he is promoting the Lindner tax hike.
(4) If the Enquirer makes Portune look like a tax-raising liberal Democrat, it may help the Lindner/Heimlich tax hike.

Once again we are reminded of the Enquirer's alternate moniker, The Lindner Fellator.

24 July 2006

Republican Asshat Compares Environmentalists to Third Reich

Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, the self-described "extreme right-wing radical conservative", recently compared environmentalists to Hitler's Third Reich.

You may remember Inhofe from a couple years ago when he criticized "humanitarian do-gooders" like the Red Cross for focusing on Abu Ghraib and other human rights violations.

Inhofe is chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and has been an unwavering supporter of energy companies and corporations in general. He has called global warming "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."

And now he accuses environmentalists and scientists of "The big lie," a reference to something Hitler wrote about in Mein Kampf.

Beyond the primary asshatery, there is a secondary level of stupidity here: the "big lie" does not refer to the Third Reich's actions to fool the German people; Hitler used it to refer to the tactics used by the Jews to gain power.

I'll give Inhofe the benefit of the doubt and assume he's comparing his foes to the Third Reich, and not mistakenly revealing his belief that the Jews were perpetrators of "the big lie."

(And no, I'm not so sure)

Here's a brief rundown of Inhofe's anti-environment voting record.

Biodiesel Works in Cincinnati

Not much to add. The headline pretty much says it all:

Fluctuating fuel prices aren't impacting Cincinnati Metro's bottom line, thanks to the agency's investment in biodiesel fuel made from soybean oil.

Metro bought biodiesel fuel last year on contract... meaning that the price is locked in and not influenced by market fluctuations. As a result, Metro is running "a little under budget" for fuel this year...

The biodiesel is produced by Peter Cremer North America L.P., a Sedamsville-based company located at the Ivorydale complex in St. Bernard and Winton Hills, using oil extracted from soybeans grown in Ohio. "So we have Ohio soybeans, made into fuel in Ohio, powering Cincinnati buses," Hilvers said. "It works great for everyone."

I believe Ted Strickland is promoting biodiesel as a technology that can boost Ohio's economy. Obviously, he just doesn't understand what Republicans have done for Ohio's economy.

21 July 2006

A Modest Proposal

Invest in schools now or jails later... that's the adage, right?

Looks like it's true:

Crowded Prisons Forcing Transfers.

School Cuts Could Be Even Bigger.

As every good Republican knows, using tax money to solve these problems is ludicrous, outrageous, preposterous and horrifically liberal. Forcing taxpayers to pay for schools and jails is a 100-ft. tsunami of communism. State lottos and slot machines make much more sense. Let the market solve the problem, I say!

But there is another cheap option, and that is to cull the prison population by eating prisoners. They can be served for lunch in the schools, thereby killing two birds with one stone. In fact, now that I think about it, stoning the prisoners to death is a very good idea, and children should participate in it. It will teach them important Biblical principles. Displaying the 10 Commandments in the lunchroom may not be enough. We need to have stoning, too. It's for the children. Won't someone please think of the children?

20 July 2006

Calvert's Tax Bill: Bad Time for a Good Idea

I'm not a big fan of capital gains taxes. Actually, I'm not a big fan of the whole tax system in general. The only reason it exists in its convoluted form is so that there can be an abundance of loopholes which can be exploited by corporations and wealthy individuals.

But capital gains taxes really are a tax on investment in the economy. I would rather see corporations pay their fair share rather than taxing the investor after the corporation makes its profit and then uses loopholes to evade payment.

The only change to tax policy that I would take seriously is a total restructuring. Most changes made these days are meant to appease the special interests that fund the campaigns of the people that end up in office. Obviously, they're not going to change the tax code because that means biting the hand that feeds them.

We just had a blatantly obvious instance of this right here in Hamilton County. Remember Phil ("What do you mean I'm an asshole?") Heimlich's recent proposal to reduce property taxes and raise sales taxes? Heimlich didn't even bother hiding the fact that the idea came from Carl Lindner to benefit Carl Lindner. Hell, they even made the announcement together.

Now we have another instance of special interest tax policy, this time at the state level. Rep. Chuck Calvert (R-Medina) has sponsored HB 626 which would gradually reduce capital gains taxes from 5% to 3%.

Calvert's bill has been analyzed by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, which reports that "the bill getting a hearing today in the Ohio House would give three-fourths of the cuts to the 1 percent of Ohio's wealthiest residents, whose income next year will average $812,000, over the first three years." [CinPo...]

Capital gains will always benefit wealthier people more. That's always going to be the case. That in itself is not the problem; the problem is giving the wealthiest Ohioans a tax break in an economic environment characterized by (a) widening wealth inequality, and (b) diminishing state returns. It was only a few months ago that municipalities across the state had to face decisions about which services to cut. Here's the post I wrote about it.

Here's my idea: keep the capital gains taxes and trash the gambling proposals. Earmark capital gains revenues for education. This would obviate the "need" for gambling revenues to fund education. I'm sure OL&E will support this, since their primary concern is educating children. Is that right, Todd Hoffman?

Contact your state legislator and tell him/her to oppose HB 626. It is not sensible at this time.

Click here to find your House member.

19 July 2006

Corporate Profits Thankfully Not Hurt by War, Healthcare Costs

Liberals think war is bad because people get maimed, tortured, orphaned, raped, killed, blah, blah, blah.

Well, war isn't all bad. In fact, it's highly profitable. The defense sector has defied the sagging economy and beat the market big-time since 2001. And now we have this great news:

Military contractor General Dynamics Corp. said Wednesday its second-quarter earnings rose 84 percent, driven by demand for tanks, armored vehicles and business jets, and raised its full-year earnings outlook.

But that's not the only good news. UnitedHealth also posted 2Q profits, despite 80 million uninsured Americans. But there's more!

UnitedHealth CEO made $60 million dollars last year! Awesome!

What does the CEO of YOUR health insurer make?

(Personal note: United used to be my health insurer several years ago when I needed some medical treatment. They pulled a stunt so unbelievable that I can't even believe they're still in business. It's too long of a story to post, so I'll be succinct: they're scam artists).

Neurons vs. Morons

George W. Bush, a man with no scientific or medical understanding whatsoever, will now issue his first ever veto on a stem cell research bill that, according to news reports, is supported by 70% of Americans.

But Bush doesn't represent Americans. He represents Jesus. And Jesus wants to grow morons, not neurons.

"The president is not going to get on the slippery slope of taking something living and making it dead for the purposes of scientific research."

Senate supporters of the bill likened that logic to opposition suffered by Galileo, Christopher Columbus and others who were rebuked in their time but vindicated later.

Sens. DeWine and Voinovich both voted NO (what the...???).

How did your senator vote? Here's C-SPAN's map.

17 July 2006

Less Lead and Less Smoke, Say Cincinnatians

UC scientist calls for worldwide ban on lead paint:

A U-C researcher is calling for a worldwide ban on lead paint after alarming discoveries abroad. While in India investigating a child with high lead levels, environmental health professor Scott Clark, found the source, a nearby playground covered with lead paint.

He speculates that things made in those countries could end up in the U.S. Clark wants American based companies who do business in those third world nations to promote change.

Why is lead dangerous?

And all regional Bob Evans restaurants (29 of them) will be smoke-free as of the end of July.

If there's one thing the Ohio Valley needs less of, it's bad air. As I've stated before, the Ohio Valley has high rates of pulmonary problems. I remember flying around Cincinati several years ago with a friend who had his own little plane. Every time we'd go up, we'd see a thick yellowish-brownish band across the horizon. "See that? That's smog."

15 July 2006

"Sweet Jesus You're an Idiot," vol. 2

An update on Pete, the abortion monomaniac who couldn't even discern that The Onion is a satirical newspaper:

Congratulations, Pete, you made Salon.com!

In just a few days, the comments on Pete's post reached into the hundreds and he became the poster child for evangelical stupidity. Suprisingly, Pete didn't put his tail between his legs and acknowledge his mistake. That would be like saying he was wrong, which is like saying Jesus is wrong, which is like saying Jesus doesn't support Pete, which is like saying Pete has a psychological problem and needs to see a psychiatrist.

So what was Pete's reaction? He removed the comments and added graphic images to his original post. Passive-aggressiveness with a twist of evangelicalism served on a bed of gore. Oooh! That's refreshing! It's like a summer salad made out of Jesus!

Here's Pete's first reaction to being excoriated.
Here's his second reaction.
Here's his third.

What does the world think of Pete? Click here to read his deleted comments.

14 July 2006

Local Media Helps Chabot Feign Effectiveness

Like many bridges in across America, the Brent Spence is in need of reconstruction and repair. Earlier this week many of us saw Rep. Steve Chabot (along with KY Rep. Goeff Davis) make some photo-ops for the news.

But there was no news. Nothing to report. No decisions have been made, no plans have been set.

So why the hell did Steve Chabot travel to Cincinnati (at taxpayer expense, I presume) for a meaningless photo-op?

Well, why else?

13 July 2006

Today in Corruption

Three interesting items in the news, all bearing one degree of separation from Republican corruption:

Ohio broker charged with bribing BWC official attends Catholic mass every day. The article does not mention if he's deaf.

British banker who provided evidence to Enron prosecutors found dead in London park. Authorities say death is "unexplained".

And from the "too little, too late" file: Army plans to let Halliburton's no-bid contract expire and rebid with other firms.

"Taxpayers can breathe easier knowing that the days of $45 cases of soda and $100 bags of laundry are coming to a close," said Rep. Henry Waxman.

11 July 2006

WestEnder Performs Civic Duty, Misses Neighborhood Shooting

I went to court yesterday. My sentence: jury duty. I was in a pool of potential jurors for a traffic case, but I wasn't picked. So I'll have to go back tomorrow. I'll take my own magazines this time.

While I was loitering in the waiting room and reading magazines like Aviation Week and Business2.0, a boy was shot in front of the Richie's restaurant half a mile from my home-- right in the middle of the day on a busy street. I don't like the food anymore, but I used to carry out fried chicken from Richie's all the time on the way home from work. I drive by the restaurant almost every day. That's how I get to Clifton.

It's particularly ironic that this happened on the heels of a conference held in Cincinnati to curb youth gun violence.

08 July 2006

"I'm Pro-Life, but Sweet Jesus You're an Idiot"

That's just one of the comments following this holier-than-thou rant over an editorial in The Onion.

Yes, The Onion.

What kind of out-of-touch idiot would read an Onion editorial and take it seriously.... so seriously as to respond? You're sure to be surprised (not!).

"This is priceless," observes Dr. Puma at Width of a Circle (hat tip).

I just had to pass it on.

Will Wild Wimbledon Come to Wild End?

I predicted wins by Mauresmo and Federer a few days ago. I've been rethinking that in the last 24 hours, though.

Tennis has always had no.1 vs. no.2 rivalries: Evert - Navratilova, Graf - Seles, Borg- McEnroe, Connors - McEnroe, Becker - Edberg, Becker- Sampras, Sampras - Agassi, Williams - Williams. The rivalries at the top are always there, and it's great because it pushes each player to greater heights. Sampras routinely credited Agassi with making him a better player.

But Federer - Nadal is a special case. For one thing, it's really taken only 6 months for this to become a truly titanic rivalry. For another, Federer is so much better than everyone else on the tour that no one else has even come close to challenging him. He is 1-5 this year against Nadal but 55-0 against everyone else.

For Federer to make the Wimbledon finals 2 weeks after the French finals is amazing. For Nadal to do the same thing is even more amazing.

I was disappointed in the French final; it wasn't Federer's best performance, and the match wasn't that good. I hope it's different this time, and I have a feeling it will be. I'm hoping for a big time 5-set fight.

I don't necessarily give the edge to Federer. I think the pressure is on him. Nadal's play so far suggests that Federer won't have the advantage on grass that everyone assumed he would. If the match goes the way I think it will, there will be plenty of big points and pressure moments. And I think that's where the match will be decided. Nadal never chokes on pressure points. I'm not so sure about Federer.

Basically what it comes down to is one of my old rules: when in doubt, pick the crazy person. Therefore I completely reverse my former predictions and predict Henin-Hardenne and Nadal.

07 July 2006

New Device Can Record and Playback Odors

I remember a Futurama episode when Professor what's-his-name looked into outer space through his smelloscope.

Well, the futurama is here:

Engineers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan are building an odour recorder capable of doing just that. Simply point the gadget at a freshly baked cookie, for example, and it will analyse its odour and reproduce it for you using a host of non-toxic chemicals.

Somboon's system will use 15 chemical-sensing microchips, or electronic noses, to pick up a broad range of aromas. These are then used to create a digital recipe from a set of 96 chemicals that can be chosen according to the purpose of each individual gadget. When you want to replay a smell, drops from the relevant vials are mixed, heated and vaporised. In tests so far, the system has successfully recorded and reproduced the smell of orange, lemon, apple, banana and melon. "We can even tell a green apple from a red apple," Somboon says.

And perhaps, as Medgadget suggests, the days of a "My Smells" folder on your PC aren't far away.

(And on an unrelated note, here's the gift I'm getting Rush Limbaugh for his birthday.)

04 July 2006

Happy Birthday, America!

Today's July 4th reading is Robert Kennedy's speech announcing his candidacy for President.

One would hope that in the 38 years since this speech, the problems he listed would be a thing of the past. Not so. In fact, you could replace the words "Vietnam" with "Iraq" and "Riot Commission" with "911 Commission" and the speech would be just as relevant right now.

Maybe in the next 38 years...

Corporate Execs Coddled with Compensation

America doesn't have an official monarchy, but apparently we've basically created our own version:

When most working stiffs compare job perks, the topic revolves around weeks of vacation, free coffee and maybe a parking allowance. For Cincinnati's top executives, it means $6 million in company cars, air travel and tax reimbursements.

And that's just to start.

"You make a lot of money, you can buy this stuff yourself," said Frederick Cook, managing director at Frederick W. Cook Co., a New York executive compensation firm. "What are you, a baby?"

And since we're on the subject already, here's another article on how Cincinnati businesses lag behind the trend towards moving away from stock options.