Archive for November, 2007

DARE to say no

November 30, 2007

It’s not just those big-spending libruhls who keep throwing good money after bad. Conservatives, too, have their pet causes they won’t give up on, even after the evidence says they should. DARE is a case in point. But some people are finally catching on:

Suffolk County’s police department is dropping DARE, the widespread school anti-drug program that has faced questions about its effectiveness, the police commissioner said.

[. . .]

Launched in Los Angeles in 1983, DARE is offered in 75 percent of the nation’s school districts, according to the organization.

But a 2003 U.S. Government Accountability Office analysis of several studies concluded DARE had “no statistically significant long-term effect on preventing illicit drug use.”

Of course, there’s one explanation for why DARE doesn’t work.  It’s an “abstinence only” program, and we know how kids scoff at that. We need to tell kids that it’s not a good idea to do drugs but also recognize that some will and explain to them ways to do it that are as safe as possible. Let’s see — if only there were a good model for that kind of approach that we could copy.
 

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Stacked deck

November 30, 2007

OK, all you liberal-media-bias deniers, talk about this:

The retired general who quizzed Republican presidential candidates about gays and lesbians in the military was not the only person linked to a Democratic presidential candidate who got to ask a question at Wednesday’s CNN/YouTube debate.

CNN also aired questions from supporters of Democratic candidates John Edwards and Barack Obama.

And that’s fine by the network, which is standing by its question selection process and lashing out at critics who say the debate demonstrated CNN’s liberal bias.

“We’re focused on the questions, not the questioners,” said Sam Feist, CNN’s political director.

Focused on the questions. Right. According to a Harvard study, two-thirds of Americans do not trust press coverage of the presidential election. Stunner.

Gas money

November 30, 2007

Somehow, I think he missed the point of the church thing:

A teenager says he held up a dozen businesses in part to get “gas money” but made sure the heists wouldn’t make him miss curfew or church on Sundays with his mom.

Justin T. Veal, 18, was jailed on a felony robbery charge after being arrested last week in a liquor store holdup.

[. . .]

“He didn’t do a robbery on Thanksgiving and he never did a robbery on Sunday because his mother made him go to church every Sunday,” Buckner said.

Veal says he was desperate for extra money.

“I had just got hired to two new jobs and really, I just needed some gas money,” he said. “It was the easy way. Sometimes you never think you’re going to get caught.”

He got $10,000 in the robberies, which is understandable given today’s gas prices. Something else we can hold George Bush accountable for.

The chosen ones

November 30, 2007

Ah, just feel the love:

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – An anti-Semitic church formed by white supremacists has abandoned its neo-Nazi imagery, such as swastikas, to make its message more palatable, a change that a leading Jewish group called an attempt to “sanitize hatred.”

The group banned the use of Nazi uniforms, red arm bands and similar regalia because they were an instant turnoff to people who might otherwise be open to the church’s teachings, including the belief that white Anglo-Saxons — not Jews — are God’s chosen people in the Bible.

“We don’t like the swastikas. We don’t like the negativity,” said Jonathan Williams, the leading pastor of the United Church of YHWH. “The majority of people see all that as pure evil.”

Yes, get rid of the “instant turnoff” symbols, and people will flock to your message of tolerance and understanding.

Stand and deliver

November 30, 2007

I knew if I waited long enough, an exercise regimen would come along to help me be fitter and healthier:

Scientists have found intriguing evidence that one major reason so many people are overweight these days may be as close as the seat of their pants. Literally. According to the researchers, most of us sit too much.

In most cases, exercise alone, according to a team of scientists at the University of Missouri, isn’t enough to take off those added pounds. The problem, they say, is that all the stuff we’ve heard the last few years about weight control left one key factor out of the equation. When we sit, the researchers found, the enzymes that are responsible for burning fat just shut down.

So, basically, I just . . . stand up. Hang on, I’m going to try it. OK, almost there. Take a deep breath. Push on those leg muscles. Made it! Whew. Now a rest break for a few hours.

Not ready for prime time

November 30, 2007

No big surprise here:

A survey of Indiana high school juniors finds that many of the students who don’t have family members who went to college fear they won’t be able to attend college, either.

Learn More Indiana’s annual Career and College Information Survey found that among high school juniors with a household member who has attended college, 78 percent expect to attend a four-year college, while 60 percent think they can afford to go college.

For juniors without family members who have college experience, 56 percent expect to attend a four-year college and just 31 percent think they can afford it.

I was the first one in my family to go to college. I dutifully reported to IPFW because I had done well in high school and my parents expected me to take the next step. But I wasn’t ready. I just fooled around there for a year and a half, barely paying attention. I quit and joined the Army, then finished at Ball State on the GI Bill. I was ready then, more mature and eager to succeed in a place where I wanted to be. 

I think one of the best things the state has done was to make Ivy Tech a true community college network with its credits transferrble to our four-year institutions. That gives some of those not-ready-for-prime-time high school students a way to ease into the college experience.

Prevailing values

November 29, 2007

Those of us who argue constitutional issues (usually at the national level but sometimes at the state level) often get caught up in the “original intent” vs. “living Constitution” debate, forgetting that it can sometimes be a false dichotomy. It is clear that in some areas, the framers intended that constitutional imperatives be interpreted by prevailing standards that have evolved.

The point is made by Indiana Supreme Court Justice Brent Dickson in Michael Dean Overstreet v. State of Indiana (pdf file), the death penalty case decided by the court this week:

The text “cruel and unusual punishment” in Section 16, like the phrase “unreasonable search and seizure” in Section 11 of Article 1, strongly suggests that our framers and ratifiers intended and foresaw that these provisions would be understood and applied in light of the circumstances existing and values prevailing in Indiana at relevant future times.

The question before the court was whether the state should be prevented from executing those with severe mental illness. Does suffering from such a condition equate with suffering from mental retardation in making someone so unable to understand what’s going on that capital punishment becomes gratuitous and thus “cruel and unusual” under the state constitution? That depends, Dickson says, on where the state’s “evolving sense of decency” is.

And who decides how much we’ve evolved? Dickson is clear on that, too:

When considering that the Indiana General Assembly has relatively recently spoken with legislative enactmentss defining the limited class of defendants eligible for the death penalty, prohibiting the death penalty for mentally retarded individuals but not for persons with mental illness, and defining “mentally ill” and “mentally retarded” for purposes of criminal procedure and sentencing, a sentence of death for a person not mentally retarded but suffering mental illness cannot be considered “curel” or “unusual” under Section 16 in light of clearly prevailing values in our state.

Objectivity isn’t truth

November 29, 2007

A new book called “Objectivity” demolishes the virtues of that attribute:

Objectivity is one epistemic virtue among several, not the alpha and omega of all epistemology. Objectivity is not synonymous with truth or certainty, precision or accuracy. Sometimes, as we have seen in concrete instances, objectivity can even be at odds with these: an objective image is not always an accurate one, even in the view of its proponents. Objectivity is neither inevitable nor uncontested. Indeed, juxtaposed to alternatives, it can even seem bizarre. Who knowingly prefers a blurred image marred by artifacts to a crisp, clear, uncluttered one?

Why, then, is objectivity so powerful as both ideal and practice? How did it come to eclipse or swallow up other epistemic virtues, so that “objective” is often used as a synonym for “scientific”?…

Writing about the book, Virginia Postrel observes:

I began to understand why I’ve never embraced my own profession’s celebration of objectivity. Real objectivity would turn the journalist into a C-Span camera, simply recording data without any sort of selection or pattern-making. With all due respect to C-Span, good journalism in fact requires trained judgment: about what’s important, what’s interesting, what’s worth telling. Good journalism includes story telling and analysis, even in straight news stories and all the more in features or analytical pieces. Mistaking fairness or accuracy for “objectivity” only confuses journalists, their audiences, and their critics.

Getting too close to things can make us myopic, like ants who don’t understand that the anthill they’re in is not the whole world. But trying to be above everything — as too many journalists do — can so remove us from the real world that we have nothing but a superficial understanding of the things we try to cover.

Public private lives

November 29, 2007

Following on the heels of the Bernard Kerik embarrassments, this should make Rudy Giuliani toast, but in the current campaign climate, it probably doesn’t:

Rudy Giuliani faced fresh questions about his judgment last night amid claims that trysts with his mistress while he was New York’s Mayor cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.

The Republican presidential fronout trunner’s record as New York mayor is already facing closer scrutiny after the indictment this month of his close friend Bernard Kerik, whom Mr Giuliani appointed as the city’s police chief.

According to records obtained by a respected US political website, Mr Giuliani billed New York City for tens of thousands of dollars in expenses for his security detail, who accompanied him on trips to Long Island while he visited his mistress.

Giuliani says he had police protection 24/7, and the bill-paying arrangements were handled by somebody else, appropriately, as far as he knows. Maybe, maybe not. But this shows how officials’ private lives can spill into their public duties.

I said it about Bill Clinton, and I’ll say it about Giuliani. It is a false distinction to try to draw a line between our politicians’ private and public lives. What they do in private, they will do in public. If they lie to the people closest to them and make their political friends cover for them, they will lie to the public and make that all our baggage. Their private lives reveal their characters, and that tells us how they will govern.

What a depressing race this is turning out to be. As a libertarian/conservative, I naturally look to the Republicans first. Giuliani’s despicable character rules him out. Mitt Romney’s too-slick conversion to conservative principles is not believable. Mike Huckabee is a fundamentalist on social issues and a tax-and-spend liberal on economic issues, pretty much my worst nightmare. Ron Paul can’t win, and John McCain couldn’t govern. That pretty much leaves Fred Thompson as the last man standing.

The Democrats? There are only three to talk about. We are facing the collapse of government under the weight of entitlement spending, and all Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards can talk about is how much more government to add for education entitlements, universal health care and on and on. And there’s not a one of them I would feel secure with as the commander in chief in a dangerous world. The only one marginably acceptable is Clinton, who at least seems to have a grasp of the concept of national security and might let common sense moderate her appetite for government spending.

So, Thompson vs. Clinton, not the race I’m predicting or one I would love, but one I could at least vote in without shooting myself after making a choice.

MMMMMM, beer

November 29, 2007

The top 25 drinking quotes of all time. My favorite: “The hard part about being a bartender is figuring out who is drunk and who is just stupid.” My favorite that’s not on the list (which I’ve heard from various sources, so I don’t know who stole it from whom): “I don’t drink anymore. Of course, I don’t drink any less, either.”

Like L.A., but farther away

November 29, 2007

Global warming obviously got out of hand:

Venus is more Earth-like than previously thought—including lightning where theory held that none could exist.

Venus is the world closest to Earth in terms of size, mass, distance and chemical makeup, but while Earth is a haven for life, Venus is typically described as hellish, with a crushing atmosphere holding choking clouds of sulfuric acid over a rocky desert surface hot enough to melt lead.

If we ever go there, no smoking!

1.5 million and counting

November 29, 2007

Cool:

PITTSBURGH – Nearly a decade ago, computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University embarked on a project with an astonishingly lofty goal: Digitize the published works of humankind and make them freely available online.

The architects of the project said Tuesday they have surpassed their latest target, having scanned more than 1.5 million books — many of them in Chinese — and are continuing to scan thousands more daily.

“Anyone who can get on the Internet now has access to a collection of books the size of a large university library,” said Raj Reddy, a computer science and robotics professor at the university who spearheaded the project.

And when they get around to Kindle 2.0, you can probably carry all those books around in your pocket. Here’s the link to the Universal Digital Library.

Room for growth

November 29, 2007

Another contender takes on Fort Wayne’s “Room For Dreams” for the best tourism and economic development slogan of all time:

GLASGOW, Scotland, Nov. 28 (UPI) — Scotland has replaced its airport signs proclaiming the country to be “the best small country in the world” with a new slogan: “Welcome to Scotland.”The new slogan, which was revealed Tuesday after six months of development and $250,000 spent on the project, is also printed on the posters in Gaelic as “Failte gu Alba,” The Times of London reported Wednesday.

I could have come up with “Scotland: one of the world’s countries” for a lot less money.

A (very) little humor

November 29, 2007

George Will isn’t especially known for his sense of humor, but he begins his back-of-the-magazine essay in the most recent Newsweek with a joke that’s actually pretty good in a ponderous sort of way:

A high-priced lawyer, a low-priced lawyer and the tooth fairy are sitting at a table on which rests a $100 bill. The lights go out briefly, and when they come back on the bill is gone. Who took it? Obviously, the high-priced lawyer—the other two are figments of our imaginations.

The essay is about which presidential candidates might choose whom as running mates, and getting from the joke to there is a tenuous segue. Still.

I just thought of a joke: That outfit is so hideous that she should be charged with a fashion crime. And the ugly necklace can be charged as an accessory.

Can’t think of a political context right now. Maybe I’ll save it in case Hillary gets the nomination.

Like gold

November 28, 2007

The people of Muncie are going to look back one day and wonder how they ever felt safe and protected before:

Erik Estrada is back in Muncie this week for training to keep up the reserve police officer status he earned as part of the canceled CBS reality show “Armed & Famous.”

“When I make a commitment to be somewhere, it’s done, like gold,” Estrada, 58, told The Star Press in an interview Monday. “And I’ll be here next year too, and the year after that.”

“And I hope, 30 or 40 years from now, God willing, that when it’s time to put me in my grave, I’ll go in my Muncie uniform and badge,” he said.

A 98-year-old actor with a gun. Yeah, that’ll get the job done.

Running with the stars

November 28, 2007

While I’ve been paying attention to the Republican presidential race (why pay attention to the Democrats when the frontrunner is so far ahead), the other side has become much more interesting. It’s a three-way horse race now, and anybody can win.

And I have a terrible dilemma. Barack Obama has been endorsed by Oprah Winfrey (or “O!” as those of us who breathlessly wait for her book recommendations call her). Now, Hillary Clinton has gotten the nod from Barbra Streisand (“Babs”). What’s a concerned voter to do? I wouldn’t want to disappoint O!, but Babs has been so right about so many things.

I do think she went a little overboard here, though:

“Another former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt once wrote, ‘In government, in business, and in the professions there may be a day when women will be looked upon as persons. We are, however, far from that day as yet.’ More than 50 years later ‘that day’ is now upon us…and Hillary Clinton is ready to shatter through that glass ceiling for all women.”

They’re like persons, of course, but let’s not exaggerate.

Republicans better pick up the pace a little. Their only real celebrity endorsement is that of Chuck Norris for Mike Huckabee, not exactly top tier. Maybe Helio Castronoves will come out for someone. A race car driver, even a dancing one, surely wouldn’t be a Democrat.

Killer ants

November 28, 2007

The first time anybody hears our D-Leage baskeball team’s name, the initial reaction is, “How utterly stupid.” Over time, though, it kind of grows on us, and then we have to defend it to ignorant furriners:

The Iowa Energy opened its home season Monday night against the Albuquerque Thunderbirds. That is among the most respectable names among the teams in the NBA D-League. The league is full of inferior team names.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

What kind of a name is that? Is that supposed to strike fear in the hearts of their opponents?

“Oh no, the ants are after me,” I can just see someone whimpering that, followed by riotous laughter. Sure, there are killer fire ants in the world, but are there that many in Fort Wayne? Why not just call them the Fire Ants?

It’s bad enough that these guys are minor leaguers, but did they really have to shame them with such a wimpy name? Knoxville Journal-Express Sports Editor Perry Bell and I were having lunch Monday when we saw this and his impression of a mad ant was to hold two fingertips in front of him and saying in a high-pitched voice, “I’m going to get you.”

What a stupid name.

That’s the trouble with putting a little local history into your team name — outsiders just don’t get it. These clowns obviously never heard of “Mad” Anthony Wayne and wouldn’t care if they did.

Whether the name earns respect or not will depend entirely on how well the team does at winning.

The votes are in

November 28, 2007

All the tension is gone, the doubts and uncertainties over. We now have a “Dancing With the Stars” winner, and I can get on with the rest of my life. Don’t tell me you don’t know who it is — it was the lead story on “Good Morning America” and the 8 o’clock news on WOWO radio this morning. And the winner wasn’t some pretty boy TV personality, but Helio Castroneves, an honest-to-goodness  race car driver. Won’t be no ribbin’ by the pit crew, so sireee.

Don’t ask me which couple I wanted to win. My vote is precious to me.

Hero or loose cannon?

November 28, 2007

Here’s one for you to decide. Guy in Texas sees two men breaking into his neighbor’s house, goes out with his shotgun and takes them out. It seems to me, based on the transcript of his 911 call, that he was eager to go out and do what he did. Justifiable use of the self-defense law or not? The prejudice of the writer seems evident from this observation:

Prosecuting Horn could prove difficult in Texas, where few people sympathize with criminals and many have an almost religious belief in the right to self-defense.

That’s like saying someone has “an almost religious” belief in eating or breathing or staying alive. Please. And I hate to break it to The Associated Press, but few people in Indiana sympathize with criminals, either.

Star Spangled . . . oops

November 28, 2007

This is one I forgot to write about yesterday:

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Sports in America start with the national anthem. The Dolphins- Steelers game was an exception. Rushing to begin the nationally televised matchup following a 25- minute weather delay, the NFL chose to skip the anthem Monday night before Miami played Pittsburgh. The game started without any of the traditional pregame ceremonies, except the coin toss, and neither team was introduced on the public address system.

Doing away with it at all games would be OK with me. It doesn”t have a thing to do with patriotism. Well, I guess it does, in a way: It cheapens patriotism, and makes the anthem less special than it should be when it is played on more appropriate occasions. There was no fan reaction to Monday’s omission, and no veterans groups seemed to have complained.

No shock here

November 28, 2007

Things are definitely looking up. Fort Wayne gets left off another bad list prominently featuring another Indiana location:

Call it another check against the region.

Self magazine, in its recently released edition, has ranked the Gary metropolitan area, which includes about 650,000 people living in Lake, Porter, Jasper and Newton counties, the unhealthiest place to live in the country.

The region ranked dead last of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas in the article, entitled “America’s Healthiest Places for Women.” The healthiest place in the ranking was San Francisco.

Detroit, Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, also made the “unhealthiest five” cut.

Southern John

November 28, 2007

Someone who was raised in southern Indiana explains to us nawthern Hoosiers what that means: They like their iced tea sweet and their winters mild, despise daylight saving time, put noodles in their chili and consider gravy a side dish rather than a topping. And:

Everyone loves John Mellencamp, and everyone either knows or is related to John Mellencamp. You do not criticize John Mellencamp in southern Indiana. We all know where John Mellencamp’s parents live. If one of John Mellencamp’s songs comes on the radio, we sing along and know all the words. John Mellencamp is also know as John (or Johnny) Cougar. So, if you hear cougar in southern Indiana, they are not talking about a wildcat, although there are wildcats in southern Indiana.

The poor dears. But there is help. Just put on some Ted Nugent or Bob Seger and listen until the pain goes away.

Don’t plan the nuptials yet

November 28, 2007

Support is falling in Indiana for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, but it’s not exactly a dramatic drop:

The poll, based on the responses of 600 people statewide, found that 49 percent of Hoosiers supported the amendment. That number is down from 56 percent in a March 2005 survey by The Star.

Of the respondents, 44 percent said they opposed a constitutional ban, up from 40 percent in 2005.

Opposing a constitutional ban is not the same thing as favoring same-sex marriage. The poll doesn’t address that topic, but presumably a great many of those against the amendment know the state already has a law defining marriage as between a man and a woman and think the law is adequate to the task. 

Buried at the end of the story is this surprising result in another survey question:

The poll asked Hoosiers whether they supported privatizing the state lottery so Indiana could use the proceeds of a lease to pay for priorities like tax relief or higher education.

Of the respondents, 66 percent said they supported privatization, while 27 percent opposed it and 7 percent weren’t sure.

Considering all the grief the governor has taken over privatizing the toll road — and the resulting impression that Hoosiers think he’s been “giving away the state” — 66 percent is an astonishing level of support. To me, anyway. 

A work-release plan

November 27, 2007

Think your job has too many rules and too-harsh penalties for disobeying them?

A North Korean factory boss accused of making international phone calls was executed by a firing squad in front of 150,000 people, it emerged today.

The manager was gunned down in a sports stadium in South Pyongan province after authorities claimed he’d installed 13 in a basement to reach the outside world, the Good Friends aid agency revealed.

And six people were also crushed to death and 34 others injured in an apparent stampede as they left after the execution, it was claimed.

Quantum leap

November 27, 2007

Don’t look, don’t look! You’re killing the universe:

A universe with a truncated lifespan may come hand in hand with the ability of astronomers to make cosmological measurements, according to two American scientists who have studied the strange, subtle and cosmic implications of quantum mechanics, the most successful theory we have.

Over the past few years, cosmologists have taken this powerful theory of what happens at the level of subatomic particles and tried to extend it to understand the universe, since it began in the subatomic realm during the Big Bang.

But there is an odd feature of the theory that philosophers and scientists still argue about. In a nutshell, the theory suggests that quantum systems can exist in many different physical configurations at the same time. By observing the system, however, we may pick out one single ‘quantum state’, and therefore force the system to change its configuration.

And you thought global warming makes us criminals.