30 June 2007

A Peep of Sanity on MSNBC

MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski refuses to report on Paris Hilton:

Good for her. But I gotta ask, what the hell did she think she'd be reporting in a job with the corporate media?

(h/t Ickmusic)

Clark St. Blog Literary Recommendation

Picasso at the L'Apin Agile is a play by Steve Martin. Yes, that Steve Martin. The Jerk. The Man with Two Brains. The philosophy major and art collector.

The premise: Picasso and Einstein, young and on the cusp of greatness, meet at a bar in Paris. They see the world in different ways.

If you appreciate Steve Martin's unique comedic style, you'll like the play. And you don't have to take my word for it... Wes liked it, too (and he was lucky enough to see a performance).

29 June 2007

Monzel Tries to Win Some Easy Points

Chris Monzel, once again displaying the same faux courage that only his talk-radio-listening supporters would applaud, proposed this week that Council rollback property taxes below the rate of property valuation.

Oh, my! You really went out on a limb there, didn't you, Mr. Monzel! Shall we erect a statue in honor of your courageous stance against property taxes?

"...it's not our money, it belongs to the taxpayers," said Monzel the Wise. Good point. Kind of like his council salary, which I presume he will return to the taxpayers. It's not his, after all.

Monzel's pathetic attempt to win easy points is about as impressive as, well, just about everything else Republicans have come up with over the past several years. What will he bravely propose next? Supporting the troops? Honoring Jesus? Women's suffrage?

If Monzel had assiduously studied tax policy and proposed a restructuring that would be more sensible for the city and individual homeowners in the future, that would be one thing. But this is just a lowbrow attempt to win favor with easily impressed voters. It's one step away from a Jeff Foxworthy joke.

And let's not overlook the benefit to corporate landlords. Is it really that hard to imagine that Monzel got a call from the real estate arm of PNC and Western Southern? They stand to gain millions in tax benefits. He cuts their taxes, they return the favor around election time. It's a classic corporate-Republican play: build a bakery for corporations and toss a few breadcrumbs to quiet the people. I'd be very interested if the Beacon or CityBeat can uncover a paper trail connecting Monzel's proposal with large landowners.

28 June 2007

Cornhole Makes Front Page of Wall St. Journal

From today's WSJ:

The game, best known as cornhole but also called Bags or Baggo, has become a craze in recent years at bars, tailgate parties and church picnics in the Midwest. It's particularly popular in Cincinnati, where folks say it originiated more than 50 years ago as a backyard diversion, and has more recently grown popular in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee.

Know a bar/restaurant with a cornhole setup? Leave it in the comments.

I've Been Slimed!

No, not slimed... what's the word? Ah, yes, TAGGED.

Eight random facts about myself:

1. My mother was born in Asia, my father and sister were born in Africa, and I was born in N. America.

2. I spoke Swahili when I was a tyke. My family still uses the word "pili pili" to describe something that is spicy hot and not temperature hot.

3. I threw a good slider in high school.

4. I have excellent hand-eye coordination except for high-flying objects. As a result, I sucked at outfield, typically a pretty easy position. I had a bit of trouble with football kicks and tennis lobs, too.

5. Babies and animals always seem to like me.

6. I like watching cats being cats. They do funny things.

7. My all-time favorite show is probably M*A*S*H.

8. I appreciate people with artistic & musical talent, partly because I have so little.

26 June 2007

Civil War? What? Where?

Iraqi vs. Iraqi...

Iraqi authorities have issued an arrest warrant against the Sunni culture minister and raided his home on Tuesday after he was accused of ordering an assassination attempt against a secular Sunni politician more than two years ago...

Now hold on there, you crazy liberals. Just because one Iraqi government official plots an assassination of another Iraqi official does not mean there is internal strife, much less civil war. This is not a sign that the war (our war, not the civil war, which, again, does not exist) is going badly. Rather, it is a sign that we should bomb Iran, as sensible neocon pundits recommend.

Again, there is no civil war. It's all Al Qaeda.

Bong Hits 4 SCOTUS? (UPDATED!)

In yet another 5-4 decision, SCOTUS has ruled against Alaskan high school tippler Joseph Frederick for his "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" sign. Here's a good review of the case.

As I understand it, the court ruled that his sign constituted a promotion for illegal substances and therefore did not qualify as free speech.

Let's be honest here. This case had nothing to do with free speech, drugs, or school authority over student behavior. This case was about the word "Jesus". Would there have been a case if the the word "Jesus" was replaced with, say, "Peace", "Buddha", or "Jerry Garcia"?

And why isn't it salient that Frederick was (a) not on school grounds, and (b) not at a school event? Can school principals suspend students for nutty conduct anywhere around town?

And I can't help but wonder how Kenneth Starr fits into all this. He represented the school principal, who was the defendant. Did the principal choose Starr? Did she pay his fee? If not, who did?

Legal experts say that this case is not that significant because the circumstances are so unique. They say cases about what students can write in the school newspapers and what they can say in assembly are more significant.

But looking beyond the trees of legality to see the forest of general society, isn't this case really about a young person's right to act like a damn fool? Isn't that what SCOTUS ruled against? Does anyone really think that, ten years from now, Frederick will still be standing around holding up silly banners?

No, that is something that immature adolescents do. When Frederick grows up he'll be a working stiff paying his bills and learning how to manage his finances. Isn't that what happened to the rest of us?

SCOTUS did not make a legal decision in Morse v. Frederick. They made a cultural decision, one that set parameters for what can be said within the framework of a Christian nation.

Insignificant? It's anything but.

UPDATE: According to the NYTimes, this WAS a school sponsored function. This basically changes everything. It's true Frederick was just being an idiot, but the principal was justified in taking action. The fact that Frederick decided to literally make a federal case out of it reinforces the notion that he's not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. The principal really had no choice but to take the case further with appeals. Frederick dug his own grave and now he has to lie in it.

And he did pay the price; his actions led to his father losing his job (which is itself another case now) and Frederick dropped out of college. On the plus side, he has plenty of time to smoke pot and think about going to law school for Jesus.

25 June 2007

The Case for Fred Thompson

A peek into how 50% of America decides who should be President...

"He's majestic. He's a soft, safe place to be and that could be Fred's ticket. Women love a soft place to lay and a strong pair of hands to hold us," ex-girlfriend country music singer Lorrie Morgan told the Sunday Times.

Republican fund-raiser Georgette Mosbacher, said he would defeat Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton because of his appeal to "traditional women who will like the Southern gentleman in him"...

24 June 2007

Butler County to Deploy Health Plan for Uninsured Poor

Butler County hopes to launch its new program, HealthShare, by September. It's not a comprehensive plan; it's a limited plan designed to improve preventative care and reduce costly ER visits for the estimated 40,000 uninsured in Butler County.

HealthShare could provide basic health care coverage for about $75 a month — a cost that the employer and employee would split, Jolivette said. The uninsured, regardless of their past medical history, would be accepted as long as they earn less than $30,000 a year as an individual or less than $50,000 a year as a family.

However, HealthShare is not a full-benefits health insurance plan, Jolivette said. It would not cover catastrophic life events such as a baby's stay in neo-natal intensive care, a limb reattachment or an organ transplant...

Rather, the aim is to provide preventative and maintenance care at a rate the working poor can afford to reduce expensive misuse of emergency rooms... It should be an easy sell, he said, because hospitals would be saving money on patients who otherwise would have had no coverage.

This reminds of something I've heard a few times over the past couple years... that innovative ideas in government are happening at the state and local level, not the federal.

I haven't explored the Presidential candidates' health care plans (to me, it's just part of the white noise of campaign rhetoric), but I've thought for 15 years that the road to universal coverage would have to start with limited coverage like this HealthShare plan offers.

It's not really practical to cover everything all at once. But what about one free visit per year to the Dentist, Ob/Gyn, Internist, Pediatrician-- something like that? Focusing on preventive medicine would help reduce the high downstream costs that we all end up paying for one way or another. I'd rather pay less up front than more down the line.

21 June 2007

Stem Cell Funding Vote: the Ohio Tally

President Bush, heeding messages sent by Jesus and received via tinfoil hat, has vetoed federal funding for stem cell research. Again.

Joining him in the fight to maintain disease were 34 Senators and 176 Representatives. The Ohio tally:

Voting for disease:

George Voinovich
John Boehner
Steve Chabot
Paul Gillmor
David Hobson
Jim Jordan
Marcy Kaptur
Jean Schmidt
Patrick Tiberi
Michael Turner
Charlie Wilson

Voting for medical progress:

Sherrod Brown
Stephanie Jones
Dennis Kucinich
Steven LaTourette
Deborah Pryce
Ralph Regula
Zack Space
Betty Sutton

Not voting: Tim Ryan

This morning I watched the Dummocrat press conference while having breakfast. It was as pathetic and ineffectual as anything else the Dems do. One by one, the bill's sponsors went to the mike and blamed Bush for not getting it and vowed to continue the fight.

Well, I vow to continue the fight to blame the Dummocrats for not getting it, too. Not one Dem called on the public to speak out. Not one Dem called on constituents to put the heat on members of Congress who voted "nay". Not one Dem said the Party would take on those who voted "nay". Not one Dem said they would try to change enough votes to override a veto. Not one Dem acknowledged that Bush is detached from reality and is impregnable to common sense.

Generic Medical Equipment

Generic drugs have become more and more prevalent as patents expire and health care costs balloon. Market share and profits have increased for generic drugs.

A similar idea is now being attempted for medical equipment, which also have limited patents like drugs. But there is no generic medical equipment sector like there is a generic drug sector.

The Health Care Blog recently interviewed the chief of Generic Medical Devices which is attempting to break into this sector.

This certainly has the potential to further reduce health care costs, which is good. But generic drugs are not exactly the same as the original products. The FDA allows a 10% variance in the dose contained in generic drugs, meaning that if you need 10mg of active ingredient, you will get anywhere between 9-11mg. So the obvious question as far as medical equipment is concerned is how stringent the quality control standards will be.

If quality is maintained, generic medical devices should present a good way to reduce costs and make money for investors.

20 June 2007

Referring to Animals, not White House Occupants

Long-lived 2-headed snake dies.

A two-headed snake named "We," the main attraction at the World Aquarium, has died. The 8-year-old rat snake died of natural causes during the weekend, said caretaker Leonard Sonnenschein. Most two-headed snakes survive for only a week or two.

...more than a million people have seen We over the years. Children were especially fascinated by the snake, wondering how two heads could coexist on the same body as We sometimes strained to slither in two directions at once.

More from National Geographic:
Life is Confusing for 2-Headed Snakes.

Don't want a live 2-headed animal for your tyke? Try this instead.

19 June 2007

NKU Wants to Have Less Impact...

...Ecologically, that is.

From the Post:

[NKU President] Votruba is a charter signatory to a new movement called the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment

Universities use a lot of energy, and the group's goal is to get as many universities as possible to do as much as possible to reverse global warming. At NKU, that will start with all new buildings constructed according to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

NKU also will expand a partial recycling program to full recycling.

Votruba said he wants NKU to be a community leader when it comes to taking steps to reverse global warming.

After reading this, I wondered how other regional colleges stack up on efficiency and consumption. Turns out the Sustainable Endowments Institute keeps track of these things, and it recently released a College Sustainability Report Card.

NKU wasn't evaluated, but many other regional institutions were:

U of Michigan: B+
Case Western: C+
Oberlin: C+
Purdue: C
Michigan State: C
Renssalaer: C-
U of Cincinnati: C-
U of Kentucky: C-
U of Louisville: C-
Indiana U: D+
Notre Dame: D-

(Interesting how sustainability correlates with proximity to Ann Arbor).

Those crazy enough to read some of the reports of these schools might be confused as to what it takes to get an "A". Oberlin, for example, seems to have done quite a lot yet was graded "C+". To get an idea of what it means to go the extra mile, the reports of the "A" schools have to be read (there are only four: Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, and Williams).

The message seems to be: keep up the good work, because there's plenty of room for improvement.

18 June 2007

Internet and Higher Ed

Larry Sanger (the Wiki & Citizendium fella; see previous post) speculates about how the internet might change the dynamics of higher education:

Imagine that education were not delivered but organized and managed in a way that were fully digitized, decentralized, self-directed, asynchronous, and at-a-distance. It is not hard to imagine a digital, decentralized degree-granting institution that “lives” primarily on the Internet, and organizes teachers and students to meet face-to-face. Such an institution need not offer courses, pay teachers, or collect tuition from students at all, but could act merely as a middleman and record transactions.

eBay, Meetup, and Craigslist all show that Internet methods of real-world organization can be employed to create vast, complex systems of social organization that would otherwise be too expensive and difficult for humans to administer. With the Internet, such systems can be relatively simple to code and to use – and they can even be largely self-organizing. Indeed, many different ways to organize education via the Internet are possible. But for simplicity’s sake, let me describe just one – first from the student’s perspective, then from the teacher’s.


16 June 2007

Better then Wikipedia?

Who knew Wikipedia was co-founded by a Buckeye?

[Larry] Sanger, who received his master's and doctorate degrees from Ohio State and taught in the department of philosophy until 2005, had previously been editor-in-chief of a project called Nupedia.

"The problem with Nupedia ... was that it was not growing as quickly as we thought a free encyclopedia project could grow," Sanger said.

He said the Nupedia community did not support the project, so he came up with the name Wikipedia and it was launched under its own domain name.

As Wikipedia's success grew, Sanger said, so did its problems.

Although Sanger admits the reason Wikipedia has grown so quickly is because it is a "radically open project," he said the accuracy of entries is an issue because there is little to no input by experts.

Sanger is currently working on a project called Citizendium... He said it is similar to what he originally envisioned Wikipedia would be.

"We don't want another MySpace that's basically uncontrolled. We want a project that uses real names and where people take responsibility for what they do."

Body Parts on Display!

From Columbus Business First:

An exhibition featuring preserved human body parts is coming to Columbus this summer.

Bodies: The Exhibition will open at Easton Market June 30. The show... includes human tissue, bones, muscles, nerves, blood vessels and organs that have undergone a one-year preservation process using liquid silicone rubber.

More at the exhibition's website.

The Easton Market website.

08 June 2007

Food Additives & Children: Bad Combination, Says UK Study

A story I found on New Zealand's TV3:

Food safety experts around the world are advising parents to eliminate a series of additives from their children’s diet as they await the final findings of a study that could decisively link these ingredients to behaviour problems.

Researchers at Southampton University in the UK have tested combinations of food colourings and a preservative widely used in sweets, drinks and processed foods.

What they have found is no surprise to many health professionals.

It's a 5-min. video clip.

03 June 2007

Paul Newman Donates $10m to Kenyon College

Paul Newman donated $10 million last week to his alma mater, Kenyon College.

Newman, a 1949 graduate of Kenyon, and his wife, actress Joanne Woodward, were the honorary chairs of Kenyon's most recent fund-raising campaign from 1998 to 2001, the college said.

At Kenyon, Newman studied English, theater and economics and started a popular laundry service to earn extra money, the college said.

"I owe Kenyon a great deal," he said. "I even started my first business there, and I depended on that extra $60 a week. I personally feel great affection and a debt of gratitude for Kenyon."

The Newman-supported scholarship fund will generate at least $450,000 each year for minority and other underrepresented groups.

Three interesting factoids about Kenyon:

My friends Patrick and Ann went there;
It is located in the geographic center of Ohio;
According to a couple of psychics, the most evil spot on earth is on the campus.