Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Rookie cop in hot water after video shows him slamming biker

A rookie NYPD cop was stripped of his badge and gun Monday after a stunning video caught him slamming a bicyclist to the ground in an apparent unprovoked attack.
Officer Patrick Pogan, 22, of the Midtown South Precinct, was bounced to desk duty soon after the video of Friday's incident in Times Square appeared on YouTube.
"The video is bad - what can you say?" a police source said. The damning video not only revealed an out-of-the-blue attack but also seems to show Pogan lied about the incident in court papers.
Pogan was one of two cops at Seventh Ave. and 46th St. monitoring a Critical Mass bike rally when a swarm of cyclists rode by ringing their bells about 9:35 p.m. Without warning, Pogan, a former high school football offensive lineman, appears to single out one cyclist, jog toward the sidewalk and then slam his shoulder into the biker.
The impact sent Christopher Long, 29, crashing to the pavement in front of shocked onlookers.
"All of a sudden the cop picked this kid out and bodychecked him," said cyclist Craig Radhuber, 54, who was riding about 3 feet to the right of Long. "I couldn't believe what was going on."
When Long tried to get up, Pogan and his partner tackled him to the ground and tried to handcuff him, witnesses said. Long "was startled and shaken, and the officers were being really violent," said witness Bill DiPaola, director of Time's Up! an environmental group that supports Critical Mass.
Long, of Bloomfield, N.J., was arrested and charged with attempted assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. He declined to comment yesterday. His lawyer David Rankin said "the video speaks for itself" and said he may sue.
In court documents, Pogan said he saw Long weaving in and out of lanes and obstructing traffic before he ordered the cyclist to stop. The cop claimed Long deliberately drove his bike into him, sending both of them falling to the ground. Pogan claimed to have suffered cuts from the impact.
The video clearly shows Long trying to dodge Pogan, who appears to have remained upright the entire time.
Statement before the US House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, Humphrey Hawkins Hearing on Monetary Policy, July 16, 2008, by Ron Paul.

Mr. Chairman, today we find ourselves on the verge of an economic crisis the likes of which the United States has not seen in decades. Our economy is very clearly in a recession, and every time someone tells us that the worst has passed, another serious event takes place, as we saw once again last week and early this week. Everyone now realizes that the situation is dire, yet either no one understands the cause behind the credit crisis, or no one is willing to take the necessary steps to ensure as orderly an end to the crisis as possible. Instead, we hear talk of further bailouts. The Fed-brokered takeover of Bear Stearns, a supposed one-off incident, has now been joined by a potential bailout of the Government-Sponsored Enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The two GSE's have been disasters waiting to happen, as I and many others have warned over the years. It was bad enough that Fannie and Freddie were able to operate with significant advantages, such as lower borrowing costs and designation of their debt as government debt. Now, the implicit government backstop has turned out to be an explicit backstop, just as we feared. The Greenspan reflation of the economy after the dot-com bust pumped additional liquidity into an already-skewed housing market, leading to an unsustainable boom that from many accounts has only begun to unravel. With a current federal funds rate of two percent, and inflation at over four percent, the Fed is currently sowing the seeds for another economic bubble.

At the heart of this economic malaise is the Fed's poor stewardship of the dollar. The cause of the dollar's demise is not the result of a purely psychological response to public statements on US dollar policy, but is rather a reaction to a massive increase in the money supply brought about by the Federal Reserve's loose monetary policy. The policies that led to hemorrhaging of gold during the 1960's and the eventual closing of the gold standard are the same policies that are leading to the dollar's decline in international currency markets today. Foreign governments no longer wish to hold depreciating dollars, and would prefer to hold stronger currencies such as the euro. Foreign investors no longer wish to hold underperforming dollars, and seek to hold better-performing assets such as ports and beer companies.

Every government bailout or promise thereof leads to moral hazard, the likelihood that market actors will take ever riskier actions with the belief that the federal government will bail them out. Bear Stearns was bailed out, Fannie and Freddie will be bailed out, but where will the line be drawn? The precedent has been established and the taxpayers will end up footing the bill in these cases, but the federal government and the Federal Reserve lack the resources to bail out every firm that is deemed “too big to fail.” Decades of loose monetary policy will lead to a financial day of reckoning, and bailouts, liquidity injections, and lowering of the federal funds rate will only delay the inevitable and ensure that the final correction will be longer and more severe than it otherwise would. For the sake of the economy, I urge my colleagues to resist the temptation to give in to political expediency, and to oppose loose monetary policy and any further bailouts.

Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The White House: A Vast ‘Left-Handed’ Conspiracy

Among the oddities that has emerged during the course of the present Presidential election, is that both candidates - John McCain and Barack Obama - are left-handed.

Previously, we translated an Arabic article from Iraq about the phenomenon, and today we have this from France’s Rue 89.

Alluding to the unlikelihood of such a turn of events, Guillemette Faure writes:

“When Obama or McCain move into the White House in January, four of the five last American presidents will have been left-handed. … And if the Supreme Court hadn’t lent a hand to George W. Bush during the recount of votes in Florida in 2000, with the election of Al Gore the five last American presidents would have been left-handed.”

So why is the U.S. so prone to left-handed leaders? Faure speaks to an author of a book on the left-handed, who responds:

“The proportion of left-handed (per country) is directly proportional to the tolerance accorded left-handers. It was 3 percent in early 20th century France. It’s now around 15 percent and in the United States, it’s approaching 25 percent. It [the U.S.] is historically a more permissive country, more concerned with individual rights, which has lifted the stigma from left-handedness much earlier than in our Old Europe.”

By Guillemette Faure

Translated By Kate Davis

July 24, 2008

France - Rue 89 - Original Article (French)

On November 4, Americans will elect the fourth left-handed president since Ronald Reagan. Coincidence?

Barack Obama or John McCain? On November 4, the United States will have a choice between left and left … hand, that is. The two contenders for the White House are both left-handed. Coincidence? In 1992, the three candidates, Bush senior, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot, were all left-handed (and Clinton was elected left-handed person of the year by the international association of left-handed people that year). Ronald Reagan was also left-handed. In other words, when Obama or McCain moves into the White House in January, four of the five last American presidents will have been left-handed.

And if the Supreme Court hadn’t lent a hand to George W. Bush during the recount of votes in Florida in 2000, with the election of Al Gore the five last American presidents would have been left-handed. What’s more, the last two right-handed presidents, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, quickly lost their hands, arriving at the end of their presidency with popularity ratings at their lowest.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

‘Without journalism, there is no hope for progress.’

From Gawker.com:

What's up with recently laid-off, fired, bought out, or increasingly squeezed print journalists—and what are they thinking as the newspaper business continues to nosedive? Columbia Journalism Review's website has invited them to rant. New parting thoughts—or shots—are being added daily. Most recently, 38-year newspaper veteran John Sugg writes, "...For four decades, newspaper owners consistently have sacrificed integrity and watchdog reporting in favor of one grab-the-cash scheme after another." Don't even think of blaming the Internet for all of this:

The other giant lie perpetrated by publishers is that they were bushwhacked by the Internet... For almost thirty years, the tree-killing, oil-wasting publishers knew the days were numbered for their manufacturing plants. Sure, they built Web sites, generally pretty awful. And they became excellent at portraying themselves as victims of Craigslist, Google, and the rest of the Internet. As the newspaper circulations plummeted, the advertising rates soared—what a deal for the publishers! Even better, they could fire (pick the euphemism) all of those non-revenue-producing, pesky journalists.

But at least some sacked journalists have learned from the experience, like the recently-fired Jim Spencer, formerly of the Denver Post:

I have learned a lot in the past year. I have learned that exemplary work at the Virginian-Pilot, the Chicago Tribune, the Daily Press in Newport News, Virginia, and the Denver Post carries little weight where profit margins rule. I have learned that friends at other papers—even those with executive titles—are powerless to help me, because of the state of the industry. I have learned that being a columnist apparently keeps me from being hired as a reporter or feature writer, even though I was both before I took up commentary. I have learned that a six-month temporary assignment running a newsroom of sixty-three reporters and editors does not count as management experience.

(Frustrated journalists, take note—they're looking for contributors.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cooling w/ Clay

This is Mohammed Bah Abba’s Pot-in-pot invention. In northern Nigeria, where Mohammed is from, over 90% of the villages have no electricity. His invention, which he won a Rolex Award for (and $100,000), is a refrigerator than runs without electricity.

Here’s how it works. You take a smaller pot and put it inside a larger pot. Fill the space in between them with wet sand, and cover the top with a wet cloth. When the water evaporates, it pulls the heat out with it, making the inside cold. It’s a natural, cheap, easy-to-make refrigerator.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Running for Office: It's Like A Flamewar with a Forum Troll, but with an Eventual Winner

My name is Sean Tevis. I'm an Information Architect in Kansas running for State Representative. I’ve decided to “retire” my current State Representative. I'm going to win. This is my story (XKCD homage style) so far.

*Full funny comic at the link above.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Here is the first two results from searching Google News for BEN BERNANKE.

Bernanke Is Pessimistic, but Bush Urges a ‘Deep Breath’
New York Times, United States - 2 hours ago
Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, testified before the Senate Banking Committee in Washington on Tuesday. By STEVEN R. WEISMAN WASHINGTON ...
Bernanke: Markets under stress, outlook uncertain Reuters
Fed uneasy about inflation, growth, Bernanke says MarketWatch
Bernanke paints gloomy picture ABC Online
Bloomberg - Los Angeles Times
all 1,708 news articles »

Bernanke gloomy on housing, economy
CNNMoney.com - 6 hours ago
... on the US economy for the rest of the year, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told lawmakers in a gloomy presentation about the economic outlook. ...
Video: Fed, Treasury Offer Help to Fannie and Freddie AssociatedPress
Secondary Sources: Frozen Economy, Bargain Bailout, Bernanke Wall Street Journal Blogs
US markets anxious, awaiting Bernanke statement AFP
Bloomberg - Wall Street Journal Blogs
all 3,104 news articles » FNM - FRE

I just want to pose a question: why does the dialogue tend to be about one man's "feelings." Ben Bernanke is the head of the Federal Reserve. Let's learn more about what "the Fed" acutally IS, shall we? My favorite quote about the fed is "it's about as Federal as Federal Express."
What wikipedia.com says is:

>The Federal Reserve System (also the Federal Reserve; informally The Fed) is the central banking system of the United States. Created in 1913 by the enactment of the Federal Reserve Act, it is a quasi-public (government entity with private components - ed. note: could it not just as accurately be flipped to read: private components with a government entity) banking system[1] composed of (1) the presidentially appointed Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in Washington, D.C.; (2) the Federal Open Market Committee; (3) 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks located in major cities throughout the nation acting as fiscal agents for the U.S. Treasury, each with its own nine-member board of directors; (4) numerous private U.S. member banks, which subscribe to required amounts of non-transferable stock in their regional Federal Reserve Banks; and (5) various advisory councils. As of 2008, Ben Bernanke serves as the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

And to clarify further...

FOMC Membership

The Federal Open Market Committee was created by statute currently codified at 12 U.S.C. § 263, and consists of twelve voting members: the seven members of the Federal Reserve Board and five of the twelve Federal Reserve Bank presidents. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York president always sits on the Committee, and the other presidents serve one-year terms on a rotating basis. The rotating seats are filled from the following four groups of Banks, one Bank president from each group: Boston, Philadelphia, and Richmond; Cleveland and Chicago; Atlanta, St. Louis, and Dallas; and Minneapolis, Kansas City, and San Francisco.
All of the Reserve Bank presidents, even those who are not currently voting members of the FOMC, attend Committee meetings, participate in discussions, and contribute to the Committee's assessment of the economy and policy options. The Committee meets eight times a year, roughly once every six weeks.

AP Reporter (now head of AP Washington Bureau) -- caught brown-nosing; generally effusing like a midwestern grandmother

Rove exchanged e-mails about Pat Tillman with Associated Press reporter Ron Fournier, under the subject line "H-E-R-O." In response to Mr. Fournier's e-mail, Mr. Rove asked, "How does our country continue to produce men and women like this," to which Mr. Fournier replied, "The Lord creates men and women like this all over the world. But only the great and free countries allow them to flourish. Keep up the fight."

***hahaha. "professionals." it'd almost be funny if their war drum hadn't lead so many honest people to their graves.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Out of the Kitchen, Into the Field

“There is much work women can do on a farm with perfect propriety,” Laura Clay, a bluegrass farmer and veteran suffragist was quoted as saying in The New York Times on Nov. 18, 1917. Nearly a century later, Clay’s statement rings vibrantly true. There are 80 percent more women who are farmers than there were 20 years ago in the United States, even as the number of farms has decreased, according to the Department of Agriculture. In the Northeast alone, nearly 20,000 farms are run by women, some of whom are shown on the following pages. Whether raising heritage livestock, combing the woods for exotic morsels or coaxing delicacies from the ground, these women forge new bonds between field and table, strengthening the connection between things we love to eat and the stewardship that makes them possible.

Diane St. Clair Animal Farm, Orwell, Vt.

In 1999, St. Clair (previous page) left her job in public health to live on a farm in Vermont. First came the draft horses and then the family cow. Next, homemade butter. After investing in custom small-scale creamery equipment, St. Clair, 52, began selling to the local food co-op, aiming for the best butter she could produce — handmade and infused with Vermont terroir. To this day, St. Clair is involved in the entire process: the milk is hand-separated; the butter, hand-kneaded and washed. The renowned product of her labor — about 80 to 100 pounds a week — makes it only to Per Se, the French Laundry and No. 9 Park in Boston. St. Clair is clearly enchanted by the craft of food, although she is attentive to her seven Jersey cows as well. They eat only forage from the pastures, imparting a distinct flavor and color to the butter that is as changeable as the seasons of Vermont.

Barbara Shinn Shinn Estate Vineyards, Mattituck, N.Y.

Shinn (above) flits effortlessly between trimming vines and fixing the tractor, a farmer at heart. When she moved from California to Manhattan in 1990, it was a detour to the farming life she had long envisioned. Along the way, she and her husband, the chef David Page, opened the Greenwich Village restaurant Home and found themselves celebrating farm life and comfort food amid the concrete hills of the city. In 1998, they bought 22 acres of wheat fields and established Shinn Estate Vineyards. Shinn, 45, works in the field, conducts vineyard tours, talks wine in the tasting room and, along with her husband, runs the property’s bed and breakfast and delivers their critically acclaimed wine to the 50 restaurants and 20 shops that sell it. Coursing through all of this is her mission to blaze a trail of sustainability in the small farm community. A pioneer of organic practices on the North Fork, Shinn never stops fine-tuning biodynamic and low-impact agricultural methods and sharing the lessons of their success with local growers.

**More profiles at the link. Very cool article; obviously I'm happy to hear about women doing what I've long talked and fantacized about.

Decoders take a crack at letter sent to Fermilab

Through the Internet, hundreds try to unlock meaning of mysterious missive

By Jeremy Manier
Chicago Tribune reporter

11:43 PM CDT, July 10, 2008

The enigma began last year when a plain envelope with no return address arrived at the world-famous physics laboratory outside Chicago, addressed simply to "Fermilab."

Inside was a single sheet marked by pen with a bizarre series of hash marks, numbers and alien-looking symbols.

No one at the lab could make sense of the letter. Was it a joke? A threat? A hint at some exotic new theory?

Whatever the meaning, something about the inscription's order and symmetry touched Judy Jackson, the first person to examine the letter. "It was beautiful, kind of like abstract art," said Jackson, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory's director of public affairs.

In hopes of cracking the code, Jackson's colleagues posted the letter in May on their Internet blog.

Hundreds of people from around the world responded and several of them quickly deciphered part of the hidden message, discovering to their surprise that it named an 86-year-old retired physicist from Princeton University who designed some of Fermilab's first experimental tools.

But one section of the cipher continues to resist any solution, and no one knows the sender's identity—though many suspect the author was a lab insider.

The keys to the mystery have taken code-breakers on a romp that encompasses Fermi's earliest days in the 1960s, the cryptic jargon of computer programming and high-energy physics, and the power of "crowdsourcing," or unleashing a problem on the collective intelligence of an Internet community.

"It's really a treasure-hunt mentality," said one of the code-breakers, Geoff Milburn, an engineer with the Canadian Space Agency based near Montreal.

Fermi has always been a beacon for amateur scientists and anyone eager to air an odd theory or puzzling proclamation, so the arrival of an unsolicited letter on March 5, 2007, was not unusual.

"We get a couple of these a week, everything from curious kids to someone writing about the latest developments in his proof that Einstein was wrong," Jackson said.

Blog attracts 30,000

On May 15, Jackson's group released the letter on a physics blog they had launched recently, under the heading, "Code crackers wanted!" Within a day the blog post attracted 30,000 visitors, many drawn by a link from the technology news site Slashdot, self-described as "news for nerds."

At first the technophiles seemed stumped. Proposals for a solution trickled in—some serious, some fanciful. A couple of Slashdot users suggested the marks were a kind of music notation; another theorized it was a test by the National Security Agency to see how people solve complex codes.

One wag opined in mock horror: "It's a cookbook!"

But several amateur decoders zeroed in on a solution on May 16, the day after the original post appeared. They noticed that the hash marks in the top part of the message came in distinct bunches of between one and three marks, appearing as I, II or III.

That suggested the code was mathematical, many analysts thought. Furthermore, the use of just three digits implied that the code relied on the base-3 counting system, as opposed to the base-10 system we use for everyday math problems.

To Milburn of Canada, a puzzle aficionado since childhood, the base-3 system made sense because it could yield 27 distinct combinations using three digits—just enough to encode all the letters of the alphabet, plus a spare combination used for spacing.

"It's best to assume the simplest solution, and if that doesn't work, then try something more complicated," Milburn said.

Milburn wrote down the sequence of base-3 numbers from 1 to 27, then assigned a letter to each number, with the last number representing a space. But that attempt yielded only gibberish when he plugged it into the Fermilab code. So he tried again with a slight shift, assigning the blank space to the first number instead of the last.

That coding technique yielded the following:


The bottom group of hash marks used a slightly different base-3 code, which the code-breakers cracked using a similar technique. It read:


As strange as the code itself had been, the decoded message seemed just as inscrutable. But seeing the name on the Fermilab message board prompted a shiver of recognition for Peter Meyers, a Princeton University physics professor who has occupied an office across the hall from fellow physicist Frank Shoemaker for more than 20 years.

"It's kind of like finding your friend's name in some ancient hieroglyphics," Meyers said.

The code's reference to Shoemaker, a Fermilab legend, suggested that the author was a physics insider. Shoemaker had arrived at Princeton in 1951 when Albert Einstein still showed up for the occasional physics lecture there.

In the late 1960s, Shoemaker led the team that designed the powerful magnets for Fermilab's first big particle accelerator, the Main Ring.

Meyers said Shoemaker was an exacting researcher and would criticize fellow scientists who had failed to account for excess "noise" in their experiments. Shoemaker, now 86 and ailing, was amused by the code, Meyers said.

Asked if he thought the code's author was someone who knew him, Shoemaker told Meyers, "It's quite possible. The comment is not out of character for me."

Multiple theories floated

No one quite understands the second message about an employee number, though many decoders think it refers to the author's old employee number at Fermilab. Most think "basse sixteen" was a typo and the author meant to write "base sixteen," referring to the mathematical technique needed to decode the employee number.

The key may reside in the code's alien-looking middle section, which remains as baffling as ever.

A few decoders think the solutions found thus far are just a ruse, hiding a deeper message.

Work on the enigma shares many qualities with genuine physics research, experts said—first comes a hunch, then refinement of ideas and finally the answer snaps into view. But for the Fermilab code, as for theories of the real world, a final solution may require another flash of insight.

Bike Sharing for Democrats and Republicans

By Paul Halychuk

Bicycles will be unusually present at both upcoming US national conventions; the Republican Party's in Minneapolis and the Democratic Party's in Denver. One thousand bikes are going to be made available for public use at each convention thanks to a bike sharing program organized by a partnership between the health insurance company Humana and the cycling advocacy group Bikes Belong. Anyone will be able to sign out the bikes from automated kiosks set up around each host city and use them for free.

Humana is renowned for starting a bike-sharing program for their employees on their large corporate campus in Kentucky. The program turned out to be very popular with employees, with over 2,500 registering to use the program within a short time after launch.

Seventy bikes and a number of kiosks will remain in each city after the conventions, with the hope that they will be used by local organizations to start their own bike-sharing programs. Whether such programs succeed remains to be seen. Some analysts believe that a larger number of bikes is required for a program to be sustainable, as evidenced by the success of large programs with many thousands of bikes versus the struggles of smaller programs with fewer than a hundred bikes.

Paul Halychuk is the news editor at MOMENTUM. He kayaks, hikes, snowshoes, surfs, skis, and (of course) bikes. In his spare time, he creates fabulous giant flying creatures.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Funny Comics by Kate Beaton

80-year-old Vegas stripper still does it ‘classy’

By Kathleen Hennessey
LAS VEGAS - Tempest Storm is fuming. Her fingers tremble with frustration. They are aged, knotted by arthritis and speckled with purple spots under paper skin.
But the manicure of orange polish is flawless and new, and matches her signature tousled mane. She brushes orange curls out of her face as she explains how she's been slighted. She is the headliner, you know. She is a star. She is classy.
"I don't just get up there and rip my clothes off," she says.
Indeed, the 80-year-old burlesque queen takes her clothes off very slowly.
More than 50 years ago she was dubbed the "Girl with the Fabulous Front" and told by famous men she had the "Best Two Props in Hollywood." Since then, Storm saw the art that made her famous on the brink of extinction. Her contemporaries — Blaze Starr, Bettie Page, Lili St. Cyr — have died or hung up the pasties.
But not Storm. She kept performing. Las Vegas, Reno, Palm Springs, Miami, Carnegie Hall.
Her act is a time capsule. She knows nothing of poles. She would never put her derriere in some man's face. Her prop of choice is a boa, perhaps the occasional divan.
It takes four numbers, she says adamantly, four numbers to get it all off. To do it classy.
But the producers of tonight's show, just kids, they want her to go faster. She gets just seven minutes.
"I did seven minutes when I started," she says.
They gave her trouble last year, too. They even cut her music before she finished.
There may not be a next time for this show, she says. The threat lasts just minutes.
"No, no. I'm not ready to hang up my G-string, yet. I've got too many fans that would be disappointed."

Florida Lottery Gives Free Gas For Life

Free Gas Instead of Cash?
In yet another sign of how gas prices are affecting the economy, several states, including Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma, have begun offering free gas for life instead of the usual cash prizes in lotteries. Of course, there's a catch: in Florida, for instance, free gas for life means that "each winner will be awarded 26 prepaid gas cards, each worth $100, every year until death." Interestingly, in Florida the free gas will go to the second-prize winner, while the first prize winner will win a cash prize. What's interesting about this is that many people say that "gas has become more precious than cash now," and therefore they would rather win the gas--even though the cash value of the gas is far below the cash value of the first-place prize. Valuing gas more than money? Has our addiction to oil become that endemic?

The Gathering Storm

Well, the Denver Group fired on Fort Sumter this morning... the first ad went up today.
The Denver Group's first ad appears today (July 11, 2008) in the Chicago Tribune. They thought Chicago was the perfect place to start.

Can’t Find a Parking Spot? Check Smartphone

Tod Dykstra, left, chief of Streetline, and Scott Dykstra glue down sensors.
Published: July 12, 2008
SAN FRANCISCO — The secret to finding the perfect parking spot in congested cities is usually just a matter of luck. But drivers here will get some help from an innocuous tab of plastic that will soon be glued to the streets.
The system uses a wireless sensor embedded in a 4-inch-by-4-inch piece of plastic, fastened to the pavement adjacent to each parking space.
This fall, San Francisco will test 6,000 of its 24,000 metered parking spaces in the nation’s most ambitious trial of a wireless sensor network that will announce which of the spaces are free at any moment.
Drivers will be alerted to empty parking places either by displays on street signs, or by looking at maps on screens of their smartphones. They may even be able to pay for parking by cellphone, and add to the parking meter from their phones without returning to the car.
Solving the parking mess takes on special significance in San Francisco because two years ago a 19-year-old, Boris Albinder, was stabbed to death during a fight over a parking space.

“If the San Francisco experiment works, no one will have to murder anyone over a parking space,” said Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles, whose work on the pricing of parking spaces and whether more spaces are good for cities has led to a revolution in ideas about relieving congestion.
“It will have a cascade of positive effects on transportation and the economy and environment,” he said. About a dozen major cities are in discussions with technology companies to deploy so-called smart parking systems, though San Francisco is ahead in its efforts.
New York City is not among them. The Bloomberg administration’s plan for easing traffic through a congestion pricing plan died in the State Legislature this spring, though high gas prices are reducing traffic somewhat on their own.
Not that New Yorkers need any reminders of their traffic problems, but a study released in June by Transportation Alternatives, a public transit advocacy group, reported that 28 percent to 45 percent of traffic on some streets in New York City is generated by people circling the blocks.
The study also said that drivers searching for metered parking in just a 15-block area of Columbus Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side drove 366,000 miles a year.
Gavin Newsom, San Francisco’s mayor, said that better parking systems were part of a broader approach to managing congestion without imposing restrictive tolls, as used in London and Singapore to discourage driving in downtown areas.
For Mr. Newsom the largest part of the challenge is replacing the city’s aging infrastructure.
“When I watch the movie ‘Vertigo,’ ” I still recognize every single traffic signal,” said the Mr. Newsom, referring to the 50-year old Alfred Hitchcock film.
SFpark, part of a nearly two-year $95.5 million program intended to clear the city’s arteries, will also make it possible for the city to adjust parking times and prices. For example, parking times could be lengthened in the evening to allow for longer visits to restaurants.
The city’s planners want to ensure that at any time, on-street parking is no more than 85 percent occupied. This strategy is based on research by Mr. Shoup, who has estimated that drivers searching for curbside parking are responsible for as much of 30 percent of the traffic in central business districts.
In one small Los Angeles business district that he studied over the course of a year, cars cruising for parking created the equivalent of 38 trips around the world, burning 47,000 gallons of gasoline and producing 730 tons of carbon dioxide.
To install the market-priced parking system, San Francisco has used a system devised by Streetline, a small technology company that has adapted a wireless sensor technology known as “smart dust” that was pioneered by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.
It gives city parking officials up-to-date information on whether parking spots are occupied or vacant. The embedded sensors will also be used to relay congestion information to city planners by monitoring the speed of traffic flowing on city streets. The heart of the system is a wirelessly connected sensor embedded in a 4-inch-by-4-inch piece of plastic glued to the pavement adjacent to each parking space.
The device, called a “bump,” is battery operated and intended to last for five and 10 years without service. From the street the bumps form a mesh of wireless Internet signals that funnel data to parking meters on to a central management office near the San Francisco city hall.
Streetline has technology that will display open parking spaces on Web sites that can be accessed through wireless devices like smartphones. They are also developing a low-cost battery-operated street display that will be able to alert drivers to open parking spots nearby.
The San Francisco project is part of a more ambitious sensor network that will use technology for a range of services. It will be possible to monitor air quality as well as deploy noise sensors that act as sentries for everything from gunshots to car crashes. Advocates assert that wireless sensor technology is now so inexpensive and reliable that it is practical to use for essential city services.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Survival of the Sudsiest

washingtonpost.com: "Perhaps, like many sensible citizens, you read Investor's Business Daily for its sturdy common sense in defending free markets and other rational arrangements. If so, you too may have been startled recently by an astonishing statement on that newspaper's front page. It was in a report on the intention of the world's second-largest brewer, Belgium's InBev, to buy control of the third-largest, Anheuser-Busch, for $46.3 billion. The story asserted: "The [alcoholic beverage] industry's continued growth, however slight, has been a surprise to those who figured that when the economy turned south, consumers would cut back on nonessential items like beer."
"Non wh at"? Do not try to peddle that proposition in the bleachers or at the beaches in July. It is closer to the truth to say: No beer, no civilization.
The development of civilization depended on urbanization, which depended on beer. To understand why, consult Steven Johnson's marvelous 2006 book, "The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic -- and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World." It is a great scientific detective story about how a horrific cholera outbreak was traced to a particular neighborhood pump for drinking water. And Johnson begins a mind-opening excursion into a related topic this way:
"The search for unpolluted drinking water is as old as civilization itself. As soon as there were mass human settlements, waterborne diseases like dysentery became a crucial population bottleneck. For much of human history, the solution to this chronic public-health issue was not purifying the water supply. The solution was to drink alcohol."
Often the most pure fluid available was alcohol -- in beer and, later, wine -- which has antibacterial properties. Sure, alcohol has its hazards, but as Johnson breezily observes, "Dying of cirrhosis of the liver in your forties was better than dying of dysentery in your twenties." Besides, alcohol, although it is a poison, and an addictive one, became, especially in beer, a driver of a species-strengthening selection process."

Senate Approves Bill to Broaden Wiretap Powers

WASHINGTON — The Senate gave final approval on Wednesday to a major expansion of the government’s surveillance powers, handing President Bush one more victory in a series of hard-fought clashes with Democrats over national security issues.
The measure, approved by a vote of 69 to 28, is the biggest revamping of federal surveillance law in 30 years. It includes a divisive element that Mr. Bush had deemed essential: legal immunity for the phone companies that cooperated in the National Security Agency wiretapping program he approved after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The vote came two and a half years after public disclosure of the wiretapping program set off a fierce national debate over the balance between protecting the country from another terrorist strike and ensuring civil liberties. The final outcome in Congress, which opponents of the surveillance measure had conceded for weeks, seemed almost anticlimactic in contrast.
Mr. Bush, appearing in the Rose Garden just after his return from Japan, called the vote “long overdue.” He promised to sign the measure into law quickly, saying it was critical to national security and showed that “even in an election year, we can come together and get important pieces of legislation passed.”
Even as his political stature has waned, Mr. Bush has managed to maintain his dominance on national security issues in a Democratic-led Congress. He has beat back efforts to cut troops and financing in Iraq, and he has won important victories on issues like interrogation tactics and military tribunals in the fight against terrorism.
Debate over the surveillance law was the one area where Democrats had held firm in opposition. House Democrats went so far as to allow a temporary surveillance measure to expire in February, leading to a five-month impasse and prompting accusations from Mr. Bush that the nation’s defenses against another strike by Al Qaeda had been weakened.
But in the end Mr. Bush won out, as administration officials helped forge a deal between Republican and Democratic leaders that included almost all the major elements the White House wanted. The measure gives the executive branch broader latitude in eavesdropping on people abroad and at home who it believes are tied to terrorism, and it reduces the role of a secret intelligence court in overseeing some operations.
Supporters maintained that the plan includes enough safeguards to protect Americans’ civil liberties, including reviews by several inspectors general. There is nothing to fear in the bill, said Senator Christopher S. Bond, the Missouri Republican who was a lead negotiator, “unless you have Al Qaeda on your speed dial.”
But some Democratic opponents saw the deal as “capitulation” to White House pressure by fellow Democrats.
“I urge my colleagues to stand up for the rule of law and defeat this bill,” Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, said Wednesday as the outcome was all but assured.
The final plan, which overhauls the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act passed by Congress in 1978 in the wake of Watergate, reflected both political reality and legal practicality, supporters said.
Wiretapping orders approved by secret orders under the previous version of the surveillance law were set to begin expiring in August unless Congress acted. Heading into their political convention in Denver next month and on to the November Congressional elections, many Democrats were wary of handing the Republicans a potent political weapon.
The issue put Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, in a particularly precarious spot. He had long opposed giving legal immunity to the phone companies that took part in the N.S.A.’s wiretapping program, even threatening a filibuster during his run for the nomination. But on Wednesday, he ended up voting for what he called “an improved but imperfect bill” after backing a failed attempt earlier in the day to strip the immunity provision from the bill through an amendment.
Mr. Obama’s decision last month to reverse course angered some ardent supporters, who organized an Internet drive to influence his vote. And his position came to symbolize the continuing difficulties that Democrats have faced in striking a position on national security issues even against a weakened president. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, who had battled Mr. Obama for the nomination, voted against the bill.
Senator John McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, was campaigning in Ohio and did not vote, though he has consistently supported the immunity plan.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Same old story, brand new cuts

Phil Rosenthal | Media
July 9, 2008
It's not as though the Chicago Tribune would rerun old stories to reduce costs, but you can be excused for feeling as though you've read this one before:
Tribune staffers were told Tuesday that the paper plans to eliminate 80 of its current 578 newsroom positions by the end of August in response to declining revenue.
This not only is the second time this year the paper's editorial staff has been cut, it's the fourth time since late 2005, when newsroom positions numbered 670.
The paper also seeks to save money by reducing the number of pages it publishes each week by 13 percent to 14 percent. There will be job cuts in other Chicago Tribune departments, too, but those numbers are said to be still in flux. A Tribune spokesman declined to comment.
Because some newsroom vacancies have remained unfilled since the last cuts in March, the actual number of staffers to exit the paper in this round is expected to be between 55 and 58.
"Like many newspapers, we're feeling financial pressures," said Hanke Gratteau, the Chicago Tribune's managing editor for news.
The cutbacks have been expected since Randy Michaels, chief operating officer of Chicago Tribune parent Tribune Co., told lenders in a conference call last month that all the company's papers would reduce staff and pages in response to steep declines in publishing revenue so far this year.
These industrywide trends, the result of online ad revenue growth failing to offset print ad declines, are resonating at nearly every major U.S. newspaper. That includes job cuts in The New York Times' once-immune newsroom.
The Los Angeles Times, Tribune Co.'s largest newspaper, last week announced its plan to cut the number of pages it publishes each week by 15 percent and eliminate 150 jobs from its newsroom. The Los Angeles paper already had made progress toward elimination of 100 positions in other departments.
For Tribune Co., which went private in December in a heavily leveraged $8.2 billion transaction engineered by real estate billionaire Sam Zell, the newspaper industry's woes are compounded by the media company's debt load of roughly $13 billion.
Zell, who took over as the company's chairman and chief executive disdainful of past management's top-down management style, initially stressed he did not believe Tribune Co. could cut its way to prosperity and did not plan to sell core assets. But worse-than-projected publishing declines changed that in months.
Tribune Co. has major payment obligations due this year and next. Zell has said this year's should be covered by Cablevision Systems Corp.'s $650 million deal to acquire control of Newsday, Tribune Co.'s paper in Long Island, N.Y., as well as through new credit arrangements finalized last week. And the anticipated sale of the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field is expected to help cover next year's hit.
Other assets are under examination as potential revenue sources. Tribune Co., for example, is consulting some real estate firms to determine the best way to maximize the value of the Chicago Tribune's Tribune Tower headquarters and Times Mirror Square, home of the Los Angeles Times.
The company on Tuesday cashed out of its investment in the nearly 4-year-old online shopping Web site ShopLocal.com, selling its 42.5 percent stake to partner Gannett Co. for around $22 million. The impetus, Michaels said in a staff memo, was "because we no longer viewed ShopLocal as a long-term strategic asset."
Word of the Chicago Tribune's plans came one week after Bob Gremillion, Tribune Co.'s executive vice president for publishing, assumed interim oversight of the paper until there's a replacement for Scott C. Smith as publisher. Smith retired after more than 30 years with Tribune Co., saying he had "led as much change as I feel like I'm capable of."
Besides having cutbacks in common, all Tribune Co. papers are redesigning their formats. The Orlando Sentinel already has introduced its new look and the others, including the Chicago Tribune, will unveil theirs by the end of September.

It's said those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Sometimes, however, history repeats itself even for those who remember.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Fans vs Air Conditioners

Dear Umbra,

I'm a girl trying to make it in a big, hot, airless city -- New York, that is. We're in the middle of a heat wave that will soon end, but the longer heat wave we call summer will continue, so I wonder: when the interior of my apartment is up to 93 degrees and I have no less than three fans oscillating, am I using more energy than I would if I purchased and used one energy-efficient air conditioner? What's the best choice here?

Elizabeth Q.
New York, N.Y.

Dearest Elizabeth,

As far as your fans go, they probably consume less electricity than a very efficient window air conditioner, and they certainly consume less energy than an older model. It's hard to be exact without examining your very own fans, which should be marked somewhere with the maximum watts used. The DOE thinks a typical fan might draw 55 to 250 watts, which is a huge range; various other sources put the number at 87, 115, 150, and 200. Let us say three fans pull 450 watts -- and at most, using DOE's highest number, 750 watts.

Figuring the wattage of a window air conditioner is a bit more complex, but it likely is up near 1,000 watts for a typical unit. The size of an AC unit is usually measured in British Thermal Units, and the conditioner itself might be 6,000 BTUs or 18,000 BTUs; no one seems to care about the watts. Instead we need to care about the Energy Efficiency Rating, which is the ratio of cooling capacity to wattage (that is, the BTU divided by the watts). If we know the EER and the BTU, we can do a little math to figure the wattage (I'm sampling Energy Star-qualified units here, so they'll be low-watt). A unit with 8,050 BTU capacity and an EER of 10.8 draws 745 watts; one with the same EER but 10,000 BTUs draws 923 watts.

That's too many numbers, but here's the upshot: if the fans are keeping you cool enough, stay with the status quo, because they are either equal to or better than a high-efficiency room air conditioner. Air conditioners also may contain environmentally damaging refrigerants, and while these should not be difficult to contain and properly dispose, it still would be better to avoid using them.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Rove refuses to appear before House Judiciary panel

Rove refuses to appear before House Judiciary panel
Karl Rove, former White House deputy chief of staff and President Bush's top political adviser, is refusing to appear before the House Judiciary Committee to testify on "politicization" within the Justice Dept. Rove had been scheduled to appear next Thursday, July 10.

Rove's refusal to respond to a Judiciary Committee subpoena drew a stern response from Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Commercial and Administrative Law subcommittee.

"We want to make clear that the subcommittee will convene as scheduled and expects Mr. Rove to appear, and that a refusal to appear in violation of the subpoena could subject Mr. Rove to contempt proceedings, including statutory contempt under federal law and proceedings under the inherent contempt authority of the House of Representatives," Conyers and Sanchez wrote in a letter to Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin.

KARL ROVE - YOU ARE NOT ABOVE THE LAWS OF THIS LAND. (you are a miserable old man, not some sort of american demi-god.)

Seymour Hersh being candid

It's sad but true that the American Media culture does not allow room for complete unguarded forthrightness.

US Patent 6630507 - Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants

U.S. Government Patents Medical Pot.

Third World War

i love internet "conspiracy" videos. but it frustrates me to no end because even if 1 in 10 was at least half true, that would simply mean society does not operate as we think it does. and there's nothing i hate more than not knowing something.... happy sunday! all is not as it seems....

Friday, July 04, 2008

A Great Day for America

Joey Chestnutt wins the Nathan's Hot Dog Contest!! 59 hot dogs in 10 minutes; and 5 more in the death match against Kobayashi

One of the most intense finales in all of sports history!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Once-hot retailer becomes cautionary tale - MarketWatch

Once-hot retailer becomes cautionary tale - MarketWatch"NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- How quickly retail fortunes turn.
Not too long ago, Steve & Barry's LLC was lauded as a model of apparel retailing. The chain, based in Port Washington, N.Y., started out as a scrappy retailer selling college-themed apparel with not much to make it stand out.
Fast forward a few years and it had hit on a winning formula: selling celebrity designed and endorsed clothing and accessories, at dirt-cheap prices, with many items selling for less than $10.
Steve & Barry's attracted attention when it rolled out Starbury, a line of $14 basketball sneakers in association with National Basketball Association star Stephon Marbury of the New York Knicks, and perhaps its biggest coup was cutting a deal with actress and fashion icon Sarah Jessica Parker. Parker's line, Bitten, received loads of publicity and raised Steve & Barry's profile with the fashionista set.
The retailer's other celebrity partners include tennis star Venus Williams, surfer Laird Hamilton and actress Amanda Bynes. It was marketing genius, cheap "designer" clothes at a time when the economy was sputtering. They plugged into the fast-fashion trend and were more accessible than H&M, sassier than Zara.
Now, Steve & Barry's -- which has more than 200 stores -- is having trouble paying the bills and is considering bankruptcy and liquidation, The Wall Street Journal reported. Read Wall Street Journal story.
One problem was that most of its earnings came in the form of one-time payments from landlords, often for $2 million to $3 million, each time it opened a Steve & Barry's store, the Journal reported, and there was little profit from ongoing operations. New stores were unable to keep up the opening momentum.
The company could be looking at a bankruptcy as early as this week, the report said, and is trying to line up about $40 million in debtor-in-possession financing if it must file for bankruptcy protection. It has also reached out to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT: 56.85, +0.35, +0.6%) , Gap Inc. (GPS: 16.72, +0.03, +0.2%) and Eddie Lampert, chairman of Sears Holdings (SHLD: 74.73, +0.98, +1.3%) , but the response has not been positive."

Fox News airs altered photos of NY Times reporters

Media Matters: "On the July 2 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade labeled New York Times reporter Jacques Steinberg and editor Steven Reddicliffe "attack dogs," claiming that Steinberg's June 28 article on the "ominous trend" in Fox News' ratings was a "hit piece." During the segment, however, Fox News featured photos of Steinberg and Reddicliffe that appeared to have been digitally altered -- the journalists' teeth had been yellowed, their facial features exaggerated, and portions of Reddicliffe's hair moved further back on his head. Fox News gave no indication that the photos had been altered.
After putting up the photos of Steinberg and Reddicliffe, Fox & Friends also featured a photograph of Steinberg's face superimposed over that of a poodle, while Reddicliffe's face was superimposed over that of the man holding the poodle's leash.
Below is a screenshot of Fox & Friends featuring the photo it used of Steinberg, with the original photo on its left. Comparing the two photos, it appears that the following changes have been made: Steinberg's teeth have been yellowed, his nose and chin widened, and his ears made to protrude further."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The end of the world as we know it?

Scaremongers have warned that the collisions at Cern could unleash incalculable danger and perhaps even destroy the Earth. Michio Kaku puts some fears to rest
Back in 1910, the media correctly reported a most unusual event: the Earth would soon encounter a celestial body in the heavens - and pass through the tail of Halley's Comet. The media also correctly stated that the tail contained poisonous gases. This soon sparked an episode of mass hysteria that suddenly gripped the public. Overnight, would-be prophets sprung up at street corners warning of doomsday. People were frantically buying gas masks and home-made remedies to ward off the poison gas. Wild rumours fed on each other, stirring up even more panic among the public.
But the media failed to report the full truth, that the tail of Halley's comet was rarer than the finest vacuum on Earth, and that all the debris and gas inside the tail could probably fit inside something like a suitcase. So when the Earth finally passed through the tail of the comet, nothing happened.
Now the media is correctly reporting that some physicists believe that the Large Hadron Collider might produce mini black holes in its collisions, and that black holes are in general so powerful that they can swallow up not just the Earth, but whole star systems. The media also correctly reported that physicists, when pressed, cannot completely dismiss the chance of being eaten alive by these mini black holes from the LHC.
This in turn has sparked some rather sensational headlines, leading up to a lawsuit filed in the US District Court in Hawaii in March, where seven people are asking for a court injunction to stop the experiments at the LHC, stating that the mini black holes it produces could grow by swallowing matter until they become large enough to swallow up the entire Earth. Although the equipment is based in Europe, and is hence outside the jurisdiction of US law, many of its large magnets and key components come from the US. The lawsuit could, theoretically, cripple the project.
These headlines may sell newspapers, but the media conveniently downplay, or even omit, giving the full picture. First of all, mother nature can produce subatomic particles of greater energy than the puny LHC in the form of cosmic rays. These high-energy particles, which are accelerated to astronomical energies by huge magnetic and electric fields in space, have been raining down on Earth for billions of years, plenty of time to swallow up the planet - yet we are still here to write about it.
Secondly, these mini black holes are not just small black holes; they are actually subatomic in size, comparable to electrons or protons. The entire energy created by these particles would not even light up a light bulb if the LHC were running for a hundred years. Although the subatomic particles produced by the LHC can have trillions of electron volts, the LHC is expected, at best, to create mini black holes at the rate of one per second, which is much too small to cause any appreciable danger to anyone.
In the same way that animals from the cat family come in all sizes, from ferocious lions to harmless domestic cats, black holes also come in all sizes, from the astronomically colossal to the totally insignificant.
Thirdly, these mini black holes are unstable, and quickly decay. Instead of gobbling up matter and becoming big enough to eat up the Earth, they go in the opposite direction, emitting radiation so that they eventually disappear into nothing, a process proposed by the renowned Cambridge physicist, Stephen Hawking. So these subatomic black holes naturally self-destruct.
Some critics have claimed that these mini black holes might get captured by the Earth's gravitational field, but they decay too quickly for them to be a danger to anyone.
Fourthly, when pressed by journalists to flatly declare that the worst case scenario cannot occur, physicists shy away, not because we think the event might occur, but because of a loophole in the quantum theory. Because of Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, there is a tiny chance that anything will occur. There is a chance that firebreathing dragons will be produced by the LHC. But the probability of this event is so small, one can show that it will not happen in the lifetime of the universe.
In my opinion, if an event is so rare that it will probably not happen in the lifetime of the Universe, then we physicists should say to the media that it will not occur, period. We physicists have to be more media savvy, and not split hairs. The final nail in the scaremonger's coffin is that many of their fears against the LHC are identical to the ones used against the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider in Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York State, a much smaller machine that has been running successfully for years without incident.
So who is to blame for the current concern about the LHC? The media and fearmongers are mainly to blame; but physicists are as well, because we have failed to adequately convey the purpose and the scope of the LHC to the public and the media. During the cold war, whenever physicists in the US wanted funds for a new particle accelerator, we would bypass the public and simply go to Congress and say one word, "Russia!" Congress would get scared, whip out a chequebook and say two words, "How much?"

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

According to medical lore, July is the worst time to be hospitalized because that's when inexperienced med students start clinical training.

By Jesse Ellison | Newsweek Web Exclusive
A month into Sandeep Jauhar's medical internship at a prominent teaching hospital in New York City, he was asked to drain fluid from the belly of a patient who was HIV-positive. "I was trying to get out of the hospital to keep a dinner appointment," he recalls. "I was sort of rushing. I heard a snap and there was all this fluid leaking all over the floor." Jauher's gloves were too small, he hadn't assembled the tubes for the blood correctly, he was new, he was inexperienced and nobody was watching. "[The patient] was totally oblivious to the disaster, but it was a mess," he says. "These are the mistakes that new, green interns can make."
According to conventional wisdom, a patient's chances of encountering a mistake-prone rookie like Jauhar go way up in the summer. That's because July 1 is the start of the academic year for medical schools: In teaching hospitals around the country, medical students will replace interns, interns will replace residents and residents will move on to fellowships or to become full doctors.
This crucial and sometimes perilous training period can be incredibly difficult for medical students. As Jauhar writes in his recent book, "Intern, A Doctor's Initiation," incoming doctors are not only practicing on patients for the first time, they're also learning the often Byzantine workings of their respective hospitals, new technical language, new procedures and the tedious, yet critical, ways to fill out paperwork. All this learning is packed into 80-hour workweeks and overnight shifts in a busy hospital environment—a far cry from the academic environment they might be coming from. But is it really riskier to go into a hospital during those first few weeks of intern training? Or is the "July phenomenon" a medical myth?
The number of mishaps related to newbie interns is hard to pin down. After all, most doctors may not be as forthcoming as Jauher is about his mistakes. However, no one disputes that hospital errors do occur and they do cost lives. In 1998, the Institute of Medicine found that up to 98,000 deaths annually are caused by medical mistakes, and in the decade since, that number has hardly improved, according to experts in patient safety. In fact, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), a Massachusetts-based independent not-for-profit organization, estimates that 15 million incidents of medical harm, both deaths and other "adverse events," occur in the United States each year.

The Obama campaign's past two weeks

Glenn Greenwald:
Keith Olbermann delivered a "Special Comment" last night on Obama's support for the FISA bill and, to his credit, attempted to address many of the criticisms that had been voiced regarding his prior comments. He seemed to abandon the idea that Obama harbors a Secret Plan to prosecute telecoms and instead urged him to adopt and then announce such a plan. Olbermann also assailed "the idea of handing a get-out-of-jail-free card to corporations who had approached definitional fascism by breaking the law in concert with the Bush Administration," and pointed out -- correctly -- that Obama will be attacked by the GOP as Soft on Terrorism no matter what he does. In general, Olbermann's commentary about Obama's FISA position was much more critical, in both senses of the word.
Still, there are numerous, glaring flaws with the fantasy that Obama will criminally prosecute telecoms, which I've already described in detail and will only summarize here. That the FISA bill only immunizes telecoms from civil but not criminal liability isn't some mystical discovery generated by John Dean's Talmudic examination of the fine print, but rather, is something that was crystal clear and known to everyone for a long time. Indeed, from the start, the Bush administration only proposed, and telecoms only sought, immunity from civil -- not criminal -- liability. That's because criminal prosecution would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, and beyond that, Bush could and likely will simply pardon telecoms from prosecution before he leaves office (nobody who has watched the last seven years would believe that Bush would be deterred because pardons are deemed by courts to be technical admissions of some level of guilt, and those asserting that pardons can't be issued until there are charges brought simply don't know what they're talking about).
More importantly, the FISA bill is dangerous and destructive for reasons having nothing to do with the telecom immunity provisions (i.e., the warrantless eavesdropping powers it vests in the President). Even if Obama did follow Olbermann's plan -- and is there anyone, anywhere, who believes there's any chance he will? -- it still wouldn't remotely justify Obama's support for this heinous bill.
Those points aren't worth re-hashing but an underlying point is worth emphasizing. Debates and disagreements among Obama supporters over the direction of his campaign -- even vehement disagreements -- aren't "slapdowns" or "feuds" or "pissing matches" or "circular firing squads" or counter-productive "distractions." As Olbermann's mildly responsive reaction to the criticisms that were made demonstrates, such disagreements are actually quite vital.
The choices Obama makes about how he campaigns and the positions he takes are extremely consequential in how political issues in this country are perceived. In the last two weeks alone, Obama has done the following:
*intervened in a Democratic Congressional primary to support one of the worst Bush-enabling Blue Dogs over a credible, progressive challenger;
* announced his support for Bush's FISA bill, reversing himself completely on this issue;
* sided with the Scalia/Thomas faction in two highly charged Supreme Court decisions;
* repudiated Wesley Clark and embraced the patently false media narrative that Clark had "dishonored McCain's service" (and for the best commentary I've seen, by far, on the Clark matter, see this appropriately indignant piece by Iraq veteran Brandon Friedman);
* condemned MoveOn.org for its newspaper advertisement criticizing Gen. Petraeus;
* defended his own patriotism by impugning the patriotism of others, specifically those in what he described as the "the so-called counter-culture of the Sixties" for "attacking the symbols, and in extreme cases, the very idea, of America itself" and -- echoing Jeanne Kirkpatrick's 1984 RNC speech -- "blaming America for all that was wrong with the world";
* unveiled plans "to expand President Bush's program steering federal social service dollars to religious groups and -- in a move sure to cause controversy . . . letting religious charities that receive federal funding consider religion in employment decisions," a move that could "invite a storm of protest from those who view such faith requirements as discrimination" -- something not even the Bush faith programs allowed.
That's quite a two weeks. One of the primary reasons that blogs emerged over the last seven years was as a reaction to, an attempt to battle against, exactly this narrative which the media propagated and Democratic institutions embraced -- that it is the duty of every Democrat to repudiate and attack their own base; that the truly pernicious elements are on the "Far Left", whose values must be rejected, while the Far Right is entitled to profound respect and accommodation; that "Strength" in National Security is determined by agreement with GOP policies, which is where "the Center" is found; that Seriousness is demonstrated by contempt for the liberal masses; that every Democrat must apologize for any statement over which Republicans feign offense.

Rewarding good behavior

by kos
Tue Jul 01, 2008 at 11:05:46 AM PDT

So many of you are upset that I pulled back my credit card last night, making a last minute decision to hold back on a $2,300 contribution to Obama. Let me explain further:

First of all, obviously Obama is a great candidate who is running a great 50-state race. That much cannot be denied. But he's had a rough couple of weeks.

First, he reversed course and capitulated on FISA, not just turning back on the Constitution, but on the whole concept of "leadership". Personally, I like to see presidents who 1) lead, and 2) uphold their promises to protect the Constitution.

Then, he took his not-so-veiled swipe at MoveOn in his "patriotism" speech.

Finally, he reinforced right-wing and media talking points that Wes Clark had somehow impugned McCain's military service when, in reality, Clark had done no such thing.

All of a sudden, there was a lot of cowering when, just days ago, we got to read this:

When Mr. Wenner asked how Mr. Obama might respond to harsh attacks from Republicans, suggesting that Democrats have "cowered" in the past, Mr. Obama replied, "Yeah, I don’t do cowering."

Could've fooled me, and maybe he is. Maybe what looks like cowering to me is really part of that "moving to the center" stuff everyone keeps talking about. But there is a line between "moving to the center" and stabbing your allies in the back out of fear of being criticized. And, of late, he's been doing a lot of unecessary stabbing, betraying his claims of being a new kind of politician. Not that I ever bought it, but Obama is now clearly not looking much different than every other Democratic politician who has ever turned his or her back on the base in order to prove centrist bona fides. That's not an indictment, just an observation.

Now I know there's a contingent around here that things Obama can do no wrong, and he must never be criticized, and if you do, well fuck you! I respect the sentiment, but will respectfully disagree. We're allowed to do that here. But fair notice -- I will never pull a Rush Limbaugh and carry water for anyone. Not for the Democratic Congress, and not for our future Democratic president. When anyone does something I don't care for, I will say so. I've never pulled my punches before, so why start now?

Obama will be fine without my contribution, and he may even still get it before this thing is said and done, but it would be at a time when he has done something positive. That's called rewarding good behavior. And if that opportunity fails to arise because Obama goes on a Sister Souljah'ing rampage, then no worries. Chances are good that the DNC would get the money instead. But at this time, I simply have no desire to reward bad behavior. Some of you don't care about his behavior, or don't think it's bad behavior, or whatever. I didn't ask any of you to follow suit, and don't care whether you do or not. I didn't pull him from the Orange to Blue list. I'm not going to start praising Nader or Barr. I'll still vote for him. Yadda, yadda, yadda. At the end of the day, I'm pretty irrelevant in the whole affair. Obama is going to raise a ton of dough and win this thing whether I send him money or not.

Ultimately, he's currently saying that he doesn't need people like me to win this thing, and he's right. He doesn't. If they've got polling or whatnot that says that this is his best path to victory, so much the better. I want him to win big. But when the Obama campaign makes those calculations, they have to realize that they're going to necessarily lose some intensity of support. It's not all upside. And for me, that is reflected in a lack of interest in making that contribution.

That's it. No need to freak out. It is what it is. Others will happily pick up the slack. We're headed toward a massive Democratic wave, and what I decide to do with my money means next to nothing, no matter how much hyperventilating may happen on this site's comments and diaries about it all.

And if for some crazy hard-to-see reason my money actually is important to the Obama campaign, then they can adjust their behavior to get it.