30 September 2007

Yet Another Republican Guilty of Corruption

This time it's Alaska State Rep. Pete Kott, an erstwhile House Speaker. From the Anchorage Daily News:

[Kott] was convicted Tuesday by a federal jury of conspiring with Veco Corp. executives to push an oil tax favored by industry.

Jurors convicted the Eagle River Republican of conspiracy, bribery and extortion. They acquitted him of a fourth felony charge, wire fraud...

The evidence was compelling, said state Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, who helped the FBI in its investigation and sat in on much of the trial. The recordings of people laughing and swearing about “jerking the public process around” generate a gut level impact.

Jerking the public process? That's an understatement, based on this unbelievable nugget from the White Collar Crime Prof Blog:

Kott was one of a group of legislators supporting the interests of the oil companies who called themselves the "Corrupt Bastards Club" that included a hat with Veco's logo on the front and the initials "CBC" on the back -- not a very helpful picture for a politician accused of corruption.

There are more than a few who could wear that hat.

25 September 2007

2010: A Space Odyssey

About this time last year I realized that I had developed an extreme distaste for modern TV and cinema. Some of it is good, yes, but there are two things that I just can't stand anymore.

I call it the "drunken telephoto" school of camera operation. I think you know what I mean without an explanation. I blame NYPD Blue for starting this stupid fad. I blame them for David Caruso, as well. Every day, I awake hoping that this will be the day that modern camera techniques will be recognized for what they are: the legwarmers of cinematography.

Too much camera movement and too many close-ups. This is why I watch TMC and AMC 99% of the time. Sometimes when I watch old movies I look at the scene, set, and character interplay and imagine how they would be ruined by modern cinematic technique. Seriously, how much talent and training does a person need to film close-ups while staggering around because you're eating a sandwich at the same time?

So I'm glad to report news of a movie that I think will actually be pretty damn cool. Unfortunately, it won't be here until 2010. But it will be worth the wait.

Hubble telescope to star in IMAX film

Offbeat News from Around Ohio

Offbeat news from around Ohio:

What would you do if you had a disagreement with a contractor? Hopefully not what Rodney Rogers did.

Ohio U now has a SWAT team in case the next gun-toting psychopath ends up on its campus.

A man from West Virginia is making his way to Colorado... via horse and buggy. He's somewhere in eastern Ohio now, so keep an eye out for him.

Ohio has shrimp? If the aquafarm at Buffalo Wills Aquaculture works out, we'll be able to get fresh shrimp grown in the state.

24 September 2007

Oktoberfest Observations

The crowd was big, but not so dense as to make it difficult to get around. I think they sectioned off the right amount of area.

Lots of Bengal jerseys. Seemed like the most popular were Houshmanzadeh and Palmer.

Saw a middle-aged man wearing a t-shirt, red skirt, and red heels. Anybody else see this guy?

The card magician was pretty cool.

Plenty of annoying losers asking for change. One woman asked me for precisely 38 cents ("38 cent," actually. Never use the plural, that's the code).

I liked the kielbasa served at the corner of 5th & vine. And that huge pot was unbelievable! He told me they found it at the World's Longest Yard Sale. That thing had to be 4 or 5 feet in diameter.

And finally, the Bengals. As my preseason forecast predicted, success this year depends on good defense and a good running game. Once again, both were largely absent against the Seahawks. Worse, it's getting hard to imagine pass coverage improving. When cornerbacks are in the wrong position, that's one thing. But to get flat-out beaten over and over... I don't know if that's something that can be fixed.

This is going to be a tough season to watch.

22 September 2007

MoveOn Ad Actually Proving Effective?

Yes, the MoveOn ad was silly. Yes, the Senate condemnation was sillier. When people asked me what I thought about the ad, I said it was pretty much what I expect from MoveOn. And Senators wasting time debating an ad? Yeah, that's pretty much what I expect from them, too.

But all this silliness has apparently been very lucrative.

Did I Just Witness NSA Spying in Action?

An interesting thing happened this evening. I was riding in a car with 3 other people, on the way home from dinner (at the Mekong Thai restaurant in Kenwood; the food was delicious and I recommend it).

Mr. V's cell phone rang. He answered it, but it seemed the connection was bad so he said "I can't hear you" and hung up. During this time the caller kept talking as if he couldn't hear Mr. V.

The phone rang a 2nd and 3rd time, and it became clear that the caller was not in fact calling Mr. V at all. He was calling a completely different person, but the conversation was audible on Mr. V's phone and neither the caller nor the "callee" could hear Mr. V or knew that he was on the line. The phone continued to ring a couple more times until Mr. V turned it off.

I asked which provider Mr. V used and he said Cincinnati Bell, which uses the AT&T network. You may recall that AT&T is the company that gave information to the NSA and allowed the NSA to use screen its network.

I remarked that Mr. V's phone was functioning like an eavesdropping device, ringing when a call was made and allowing him to listen without being detected.

Has something like this happened to anyone else?

19 September 2007

Ohio GOP Throwing Children Under the School Bus?

Last week I posted news about Ohio AG putting the screws on failing charter schools. Apparently this has prompted the Ohio GOP, ever committed to special interests, to play fun and games by filing suit against public schools.

The AP reports that the suit was filed by Republican Bill Todd. He has no standing in the case, unless you count his desire to be mayor of Columbus. Todd is suing the BOE, claiming that the method of funding (by property taxes in each school district) is unfair.

I don't know what planet Bill Todd has been living on, but here on Earth the Ohio Supreme Court has declared the school funding system unconstitutional FOUR times. It's his friends in the state legislature who haven't done anything. But he won't pressure his colleagues in the legislature (which his party still controls); he wants to file a lawsuit instead.

I thought only communist liberals pushed their agendas with lawsuits? I guess it's only communist if you sue a corporation.

The Dispatch's Robert Vitale reports the unsurprising news that Todd has ties to pro-charter groups White Hat and School Choice Ohio. And that explains why Todd would rather push a pro-charter agenda with a lawsuit rather than pressure politicians for productive fixes to the system. It's not about giving children better schools; it's about serving a key GOP special interest.

What was Kevin DeWine saying just the other day...?

18 September 2007

Airshow at Blue Ash Airport this Weekend!

I thought about it recently, and I decided that I like planes. Other flying machines, too-- and there are many; one company is even trying to make a commuter blimp.

Hence, I'm thinking about the "Airport Days" airshow at the Blue Ash airport this Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $10 ($8 if ordered online) for those 12 and over. Proceeds benefit Children's Hospital. And if the airplanes don't do it for me, I can always ride the monster truck SUDDEN IMPACT for $5. A gigantic mud pit would make that very hard to resist.

Got Irony?

Two items ironically juxtaposed in the Wilmington News Journal. First is the letter "Another vote of no confidence for Bush". This is followed by the article "DeWine: Republican Party Still Strong".

The irony continues, as one would expect from an article quoting a Republican:

Kevin DeWine said he has learned that people want smaller government, lower taxes, fiscal discipline, moral character and ethical conduct.

In other words, people want the opposite of what Republicans have been doing.

13 September 2007

I Swear I am not Making this Up

Another public service announcement from the Clark St. Blog...

GladRags, a leading manufacturer of alternative menstrual products, is pleased to announce the Moon Cup. The Moon Cup is a tampon alternative made from medical-grade silicone that is designed to "catch" the menstrual flow rather than absorbing it... Soft and durable, the product should last for 10 years before needing replacement and can save a woman as much as $800 over the lifetime of the cup. The Moon Cup is made in the U.S.

It is estimated that a woman will use as many as 16,000 tampons over the course of her life. A 1998 study concluded that 6.5 billion tampons and 13.5 billion sanitary pads were disposed of in one year's time. These products, often laden with chemicals such as dioxins, end up in landfills and sewer systems, sometimes even washing up on U.S. coastlines.

Yes, the company is actually called GladRags. Here's the website in case you still think I'm making it up.

12 September 2007

Abramoff/Ney Associate Receives Sentence

I know he helped prosecutors, but shouldn't slapping democracy in the face deserve more than a slap on the wrist?

A former chief of staff to ex-Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio was sentenced to probation Wednesday for his role in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, avoiding a stiffer sentence because he has been so helpful in prosecuting others.

Prosecutors asked Huvelle to sentence Volz to home confinement, but she instead gave him two years of probation, 100 hours of community service and a $2,000 fine.

The Justice Department probe of influence peddling by Abramoff and his team of lobbyists has led to convictions of a dozen people, including Ney, former White House official David Safavian and former Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles.

Volz, who went to work for Abramoff after leaving Ney’s staff, provided information about trips to Scotland, New Orleans and Lake George that Ney went on, largely paid for by Abramoff.

Volz received abusive phone messages from Ney – which Volz provided to the government — when the congressman suspected Volz of cooperating with prosecutors.

Ohio AG Goes After Charter Schools

First of all, Ohio's Attorney General should be Subodh Chandra, not Marc Dann. As I pointed out in this post and then this post, Chandra was a superior candidate and a rock star on the campaign trail. The only reason ODP endorsed Dann is because it prioritized party loyalty over qualifications, as detailed in this post. And the ODP wonders why it's the object of ridicule and scorn.

But Dann is doing the right thing in going after under-performing charter schools. The Dayton Business Courier and the Daily Briefing report that Dann is filing suit against two Dayton charter schools which have together received $17m in public funding.

One of the Dayton schools, New Choices Community School, has met only 1 of 29 academic performance standards during its six years of operation as a middle school...

The other, the Colin Powell Leadership Academy, has met only 1 of 61 standards in six years of operation.

Both schools also received an 'F' on the state performance index.

And it's not just public money that the schools are wasting. The Thomas B. Fordham foundation has given $75k to the New Choices school and over $275k to the Colin Powell Academy for these underwhelming results.

Children deserve better.

09 September 2007

Bengals Forecast

I think the Bengals' success this season will be determined by the running game and the defense. The passing game is always solid; we can always count on that. But it does create a problem: the fast-scoring passing offense means that our defense has to spend more time on the field dealing with the opponent's offense. And that hasn't worked out so well.

Hopefully our new additions to the defense will improve its woefully lackluster performance of last season. There is (or was) some concern that CB Leon Hall might get beaten by some of the better WRs, but is there a better way to prepare for the NFL than practicing on Chad Johnson, Houshmanzadeh, and Chris Henry? I doubt it.

The offense can take the pressure off by increasing time of possession with a good ground game. This is why the loss of Kenny Irons could turn out to be pretty serious. An ACL tear is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to an RB. Let's cross our fingers for a full recovery.

But as far as this season goes, the burden pretty much falls on Rudy Johnson's legs once again. If he stays healthy and the Bengals use him wisely then things might fall into place.

So basically the situation seems to be this: the running game is same as last year and the defense should be better (but to what extent, I'm not sure). I'd guess the odds of making the postseason at 50-50.

04 September 2007

Local School Cafeterias Utilize Biometrics

In a previous post I linked to a story about a Dayton grocery store which installed biometric scanners as an alternative to traditional cash or credit payment.

Now comes news of Covington Catholic H.S. using finger scanners to debit student accounts for lunches:

The school was motivated to make the high-tech change by teen absent-mindedness that found some students often forgetting their cash or debit cards and holding up the line while they searched, she said.

The lunch room's three cashiers staff computer terminals that bring up the name and photograph of each student and how much money is left in his account. After a couple of clicks that take a few seconds to complete, the money is deducted and the student is on his way.

Austin Wise, a junior, said the system could move more smoothly.

The problem?

"Guys using cash slow things down."

Get used to it, old timers!