Thursday, June 29, 2006

Le Tour de France

Last year I had the most amazing time watching the Tour (see here, here and here for some old posts). It was the first time I'd actually sat down and actually watched it. Previously I'd seen highlights and kept up with it in the paper, but boy I'm glad I got to see it. I'm so glad I got to see Lance Armstrong, the most amazing athlete I've ever seen in my life (and I've seen a few).

So, Lance is retired and now the Tour is looking for a new champion. Who will it be? What will happen this year? You can totally find out by watching OLN starting Saturday. The race is 3 weeks of hell to ride but just amazing to watch. I know.. I know it seems like watching a bike race would be like watching paint dry but it really isn't. It's a team sport with tactics and athleticism. It's a thinking mans sport. It's amazing.

I urge you all to give it a shot. But I need to give you an idea of what you are going to see. Each day is a stage (there will be 20 this year) and each stage is different. Everyone has a time for finishing the stages and when added together, they have what is called the General Classification. The person with the lowest GC at the end is the winner. At the end of each stage the person with the lowest GC also gets awarded the Yellow jersey.

Anyway, there are essentially 4 stage types. The first is a time trial. This is an individual race against the clock where riders try to finish a course as fast as they can. They are on the course alone while they ride. (There is also a team time trial, but not in the Tour this year). The other stages are all done as a group (well, they start that way). The second type is a flat stage where they ride a course that averages about 200 km (or 125 miles). It is the type of stage where riders will generally stay in the main pack (called the peleton) and finish all within a few seconds of each other. Sometimes a group of riders will break away from the peleton and try to make up some GC time. Depending on how high up they are in the GC, the peleton may or may not decide to chase them down. The flat stages are peaceful and beautiful to watch. The third stage type is similar to the flat stage but has a few relatively small mountains or hills in it. This is called a rolling stage and it begins to test the riders. The last stage type is the mountain stage and I can't even begin to describe what happens here. It is in the mountains (which begin on July 12) that the real race is generally fought.

So, on Saturday you'll see a time trial and then in the following days a number of flat and rolling stages. You should try to check out one or two days to get a feel for the riders and who is looking like they have the legs to ride the whole thing to the end. If you watch nothing else, watch a mountain stage in its entirety, you will not be disappointed.

Ok.. so that's my little blurb on the Tour. Of course I need to give you my predictions for the finish. Here is my top 10 in the GC followed by the Green and the Poka Dot jersey winners:

1. Jan Ullrich
2. Ivan Basso
3. Alexander Vinokourov (could win if he has a strong team effort)
4. George Hincapie (will have an incredible team with him but had a bad crash earlier this year)
5. Floyd Landis
6. Alejandro Valverde
7. Levi Leipheimer
8. Yaroslav Popovych
9. Cadel Evans
10. Christophe Moreau

green jersey : Thor Hushovd (with Tom Boonan a very close second)
poka dot : rassmussen

Vive Le Tour!

Our Floods and Climate Change

Hmn... I wonder if all of our floods lately are related to climate change? You know, there was an interesting statistic in the Gore movie (which you should go see if you haven't) that talks about the fact that in a sample of 1000 peer reviewed papers, 0 of them denied that climate change is real and that we have caused it. It then says that of a sample of news reports over the past few years, 55% of them gave rise to doubt that climate change is real. Disenfranchise folks.

So, I don't have the tools or the time to do a survey today, but from what I saw on our local news yesterday and what I've seen in the papers today, there was not one mention of the possible reason for the increased rains we've been having. In the Inky article I linked to above there is this quote : "Meteorologists described the spell of rain that began last Thursday as a remarkable one.".

Obviously in my mind there should be at least an attempt to get some scientist to tell us why the rains are occurring and what the possible connecting causes could be. But of course there was none. Perhaps we could feel like weather patterns are more science like if we started calling weather forecasters by some other title instead of "meteorologist". Think about that name for a minute.. does it really make you think of a trained professional? Or does it make you think of a fortune teller? The name is from the middle ages and it's just embarrassing that we still use it.

Point is, climate change is real and it's behind all of this and we are taking way to long to make the connection in our minds. We have to wake up and smell the coffee before we're all living in it.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I don't know

No.. that's not true.. I know why I've not been very inspired to write lately.. I've got topics in my head (Genos, Flag Burning, The Tour, Green Stocks, the new Windows Media Player beta) but I just can't seem to sit down and write. I think the reason is that I feel like writing here really makes no difference. When I changed focus from personal crap to topical stuff I had envisioned that I would get comments and emails and references... I thought what I would write would actually make a change in the world. I'm not so idealistic anymore. My 2 Questions post was a big one. I had it in my head for a while and I really thought it would generate interest. But like most of my ideas, they are only great in my own head.

For those of you who read regularly, I thank you but I don't know.. lately I just can't keep up my pace.. I'm just not inspired enough. But I imagine that I won't stop since this is my primary outlet (I don't get out much).

Who knows..

Unity 08 : Declaration of Independence

I'm #1462.. how about you?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The 2 Questions

I want to ask you to go along with me here for a moment. I want you think big, I want you to forget about borders and races and religions and just think about one thing. Think about the human race. Be inclusive. Count everyone since we all really are the same. We all have the same inner sprit and life and we all can learn and question things. In fact we all have a drive, a need to learn and question things. We may suppress that need, but it’s there in everyone and you and I both know it.

I would argue that the human race is the single most important entity that we all can conceive of in the universe. Ultimately, everything we do and everything we are about serves us as a species. The most important thing in all the universe to us is to simply protect our race. To live. If we were all dead, nothing is relevant.

So, in my world, everything should measure up against one yardstick. How does it serve our species? Our ultimate goal is to survive as a race. But why do we need to survive? Why are we here in the first place? What would happen if all humans were extinct? And, no matter what religion or science tells us, we all know the answer. Deep down we all know that the answer is simple: “We have no idea”.

Sure we have our theories and sure we have faith that there is a reason for life. I mean, if we didn’t, we’d really have no will to live would we? Most of us simply say to ourselves “Well, I don’t know why I’m here, but I’m sure there is a reason so I’ll just stick it out.”

Which leads me to what I believe. I believe that we may never totally know why we are here, but over time, we will continually get closer to knowing. Look at how much we’ve learned since the dawn of human existence. Look how far we have come. I believe that we as a race exist for one main reason: To know ourselves. With each passing generation, our knowledge grows. So, to me, our ultimate goal should be to keep humanity going.

Ok, so you can see where I’m going now. In my mind there are two things going on with one serving the other. Our reason for living is to figure out why we are here and understand who we are. We all agree that that reason can’t be realized in one lifetime. We need to continue on over time so we can get closer and closer to that realization. So we must make it our ultimate goal to survive as a species.

From all that I will argue that we can rate any person, any organized religion, any popular movement, any corporation, anything at all by simply asking two questions of them/it:

1. How has this thing contributed to our knowledge of ourselves?
2. How has this thing contributed to the propagation and continuance of our species?

Use these questions on yourself. Use these questions for your religion. Use these questions for your leaders. You will find, if you are really honest, that most people and institutions today really don’t stack up and that our direction as a species is horribly lost.

My Friday Night - Movie and a Dinner

My girlfriend and I went out last night with 2 of our friends. We went to see a movie and then to dinner afterwards. Here are my short reviews.

The film was "Thank you for Smoking". Right off the bat, I highly reccomend this movie. It's a comedy type film with a message. The polot is simple: we spend some time with the head lobbiest for the tobacco industry. Even though the film is clearly anti-smoking, we can't help but love the guy and respect how amazing a spokesman he is. The film is at times seriously hillarious and the main character is just perfectly played by Aaron Eckhart. If you are planning on going to the movies this weekend, go see "An Inconvenient Truth". If you've seen that and want to laugh, go see "Thank You for Smoking". Now if only I could convince all the sheep who are going to see the new Sandler film (which I can only assume will suck).

Since we were going to be at the Ritz 5 for the film, we wanted to eat somewhere nearby. There are so many cool places in Old City and we considered our favorite (Buddakan) but instead made reservations at Amada since we wanted to give it a shot and had heard such great things about it from Craig LeBan and others.

My gf and I had gone there once for appetizers to check it out and while she liked it quite a bit, I was totally unimpressed. This time we were doing it right. We had a 10pm reservation and were set up right in front of the stage where they do a set of Flamenco dancing.

We sat down just as the music was starting and boy was it loud. We couldn't hear anything but the music. Not each other, not the waitor, nothing. We considered leaving but we figued it wouldn't last all night. We were right. The set lasted about 20 minutes and then they just up and left. Not that I was complaining, but it was kind of odd that the would set up and play just one simple 20 minute set. I mean, there was a stage and it was a draw of the place.. but anyway.. ce la vi..

I'm not going to go into the food in detail. It's a tapas place and we ordered all kinds of stuff. Some stuff was pretty good, some was boring, and some was bland. Between the 4 of us, we weren't very impressed with me impressed the least. My rating was based on the fact that our per person check (with tip) ended up being over $75 per person. That's cool, but for that kind of money I want great food and great drinks. I had neither. So, after 2 visits to Amada, I give it a rating of C+.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Gay Marriage in PA.. The saga continues

Well at least some senators have some sense. The bill passed the senate, but not without some key changes that protected domestic partnerships and essentially killed the amendment for quite a while. Overall I still say anyone voting yes on this bill should be voted out of office and anyone voting no should be applauded and allowed to stay. Like I said in a previous post, this bill is a perfect indicator of legislative integrity and it trancends the traditional party affiliations. The Inquirer piece listed the philly area senators voting yes and no. They are :

YES VOTES (mostly along party lines except for one):

Joe Conti (R., Bucks)
Edwin Erickson (R., Delaware)
Stewart Greenleaf (R., Montgomery)
Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware)
John Rafferty Jr. (R., Chester)
Michael Stack (D., Phila.)
Robert Tomlinson (R., Bucks)
Robert Wonderling (R., Montgomery)

NO VOTES (Not one R was brave enough to stand up for what is right)
Andrew E. Dinniman (D., Chester)
Vincent J. Fumo (D., Phila.)
Vincent Hughes (D., Phila.)
Shirley Kitchen (D., Phila.)
Christine Tartaglione (D., Phila.)
LeAnna Washington (D., Phila.)
Constance Williams (D., Montgomery)
Anthony Williams (D., Phila.)

Monday, June 19, 2006

The CapTech Classic

So what is the CapTech Classic? It's a bike race that happens in Richmond, Va. Like the bike race here in Philly, it has a lot of professional presence. Unlike the Philly Bike race, it is really boring and the course is just sad. But you know what? Unlike the Philly bike race this year, the coverage on OLN was so good that I watched every last second of the race and thoroughly enjoyed it.

There were cameras all over the course, motorcycles with cameras, professional commentary, the works. There even was a 2 minute infomercial in the middle of it for Richmond. Richmond. Are you getting this? Not that Richmond is a pathetic city, but compared to Philly it really shouldn't be getting event coverage that is light years better.

The city should be ashamed at how poor our coverage was. I was ok with this at first, thinking, well, we don't deserve good coverage since America doesn't care much about cycling, but that until I saw this damn race on OLN on Saturday! What the hell man?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Saddam and 9/11 Are Related

The way I see it our failure in 1991 to close the net and bag Hussein actually led to many of the events of the 90’s and finally 9/11. Because we didn’t finish off Hussein and had to resort to an armed enforcement of no-fly zones and Kurdish enclaves we were forced to keep troops in the mid east, particularly Saudi Arabia. This set off the far right Wahhabis (the actual 9/11 terrorists) and gave them the cause celebre they needed to raise us to the top of their Satan list. Bin Laden, fresh from being one of our best buddies in Afghanistan, taps the hatred of the Wahhabis and radical Muslims elsewhere and targets us as the focus of his jihad quest. What followed were the WTC I attack, the embassy bombings, the Khobar Towers bombing and various attacks on infidels and the USS Cole attack. All of these were fueled by our presence in the Muslim Holy Land and might very well have not happened were it not for our military presence in Saudi Arabia.

Many Muslims already hated us for our support of Israel. The current day conflict has its roots post-WWII with deadly outbursts in the 70s and 80s to be sure. But the proximate cause of 9/11 in my mind was the consuming hatred that the radicals had for us due to our “occupation” of their holy wasteland since the early 90s. And this was due to our failure to get rid of Hussein while we had the world on our side to defeat this menace even having Arabs in the field with us who could have helped to sort out the good from the bad in Iraq. A legitimate and heavy handed response in Iraq then would have been better received than at any other time. But inadequate follow through negated the success of the military campaign. Sadly, Bush 41 taught his short game to 43 who has now seemingly done the same thing in his dealing with bin Laden, al Zawahari and Omar. Vanquishing the army and missing the targets. Not to be outdone, the current Bush has transcended the father in terms of serial failures on his watch one of which led to a misguided war that most people now agree was wrong. It didn’t just get wrong. It’s been wrong all along.

This administration has done its best (which has been pretty damned good) to cow the press into submission and make people believe that following the current course will prevail in Iraq and somehow contribute toward winning the war on terror. But what would make anyone think that after so many miscues on the little things that somehow this administration got the big things right? Of course, no one wants to see another Vietnam and cut and run is not an option. And our troops deserve our full support because they are certainly doing their jobs despite their civilian leadership. But not acknowledging that the king has no clothes on at this point isn’t the way to go. We are so far down the wrong path in Iraq (which path started with the unguarded munitions dumps and the firing of the army) that I don’t really think that a free and democratic Iraq will emerge as a result of our efforts. Do you? However, I do believe that an acceptable and honorable outcome is still possible but first we need some new leadership that can acknowledge mistakes, make fundamental changes and move on. But change needs to start at the top. Bush should resign. Not just for Iraq but for myriad reasons (for some reasons see here

There are many different reasons for wanting to see Bush out of office but my personal favorites are the incommunicado detention of citizens without counsel or even the right of Habeas Corpus and, of course, unwarranted surveillance. These are rights and protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. To deny them is UN-AMERICAN. If these rights can be taken away this easily, there will surely be a next time when the loss of even more liberties occurs. No right is safe when a president can decide that his power transcends that of the law and the courts. We are on the proverbial slippery slope. Either issue if left to stand by the courts will, IMHO, lead ultimately to the end of our form of government. In my mind these reasons alone disqualify Bush for office.

We apparently haven’t gotten to the tipping point yet in Iraq. It took years to get to that point with Vietnam and we even had an unpopular draft then and many more of our guys were dying every week. But times were different then. People were scared of the “Red Menace” and creeping world Communism. Now we’re scared of Terrorists who might fly airplanes into our buildings. I guess things haven’t really changed that much. Complacency and fear still rule.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Wind is the Way today

If you live in Pennsylvania and use Peco energy you can help kick start the alternative energy market without spending much money.. like.. at all.

Here's the deal. There is this big wind farm that just went online in the Poconos. There are others, but this one is tied into a deal with Peco where they will sell us electricity at only about 2.6 cents per Kilowatt hour more than Peco charges for its usual (fossil generated) electricity. By signing up with peco, you can buy your electricity from the farm.

Now. Understand that you pay about 6.6 cents per KWH now so another 2.6 cents is like a 40% increase in your cost. That is a lot of money when you are averaging 500-1000 KWH per month. That's why Peco is allowing you to buy blocks of 100 KWH per month. So for instance you can buy one block for $2.65 a month extra on your bill.

Why would you do this? Simple. The ultimate goal is to increase demand for alternative energy nationwide so more wind farms and solar farms will be built. The more demand, the more supply will come online and of course you know that that will ultimately lead to a drop in the cost. The key is get the initial ball rolling downhill and that is where you can help with your simple 10 cents a day.

This is something that almost everyone can do and it is incredibly easy to set up. Simply go to the enrollment page, type in your account number and select your block size and you're good to go. You single handedly will be combating global warming in a real way! So get moving!!

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Tomorrow I have a job interview at Comcast in a R&D department. You know, I'm not sure I can take the job since I really don't like the company, particularly their internet service. Over the past 2 weeks my service has been really bad. Every hour or so the service refuses to establish a connection and all packets are dropped. Sure this lasts only about 30 seconds or so, but it happens all the time and it's really disruptive to my life. In addition to that, establishing connections in general are taking a really long time. For example, if I type in and hit enter, I have to wait about 5-7 seconds before the connection is established and the page loads. Interestingly enough when I do the page loads instantly. This is telling me that comcast is caching pages and that is a deceptive to make me (and you) feel like we have a fast connection. For the average user, they won't have any issues since in general they stay within a pretty common boundary of sites, but me, I'm all over the place when I browse and I use lots of non web internet services as well. Loosing connections and taking time to establish them in the first place is really lame.

Oh.. I've called them. First off, my account info is somehow corrupted so the tech services folks have no idea who I am. Secondly they have sent people to fix the issue. So far in the past 3 months I've had to wait home 4 times. Comcast offers to reimburse me but only like $1 a day for the lost service that day.. that's useful. Oh.. and the problem after the technicians are here has yet to be fixed correctly.

So, to sum up, I've had time wasted, days wasted, tech calls that have done nothing and still my net is still fucked up beyond belief. Fios isn't available yet, but when it is, I'm going to be the first on my block. Until then I'm going to investigate DSL (yet again! Don't even get me started on Verizon and Covad DSL)..

What the fuck man?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Burn baby Burn

Well. Some may find this story just the most appaling thing ever, but I really find it somehow hysterical. Why? Well, jsut today I was reading an article in USA Today about how the VFW is a staunch supporter of the anti flag burning constitutional amendment. So it is somehow fitting that a VFW had their flag burned.

How shocking someone burned a flag!! How evil, how unpatriotic!! How fucking stupid! A flag is a piece of cloth. Sure it's a symbol that represents this country, but only to those who need to worship a symbol. For those of us with a brain, we know that America is more than a stupid flag.

One of the most important things that make America special is that it is country of freedom, even with the crazy republicans chipping away at our rights. One of those tenants of freedom is our freedom of expression. That means that we are perfectly allowed to speak out on issues and perfectly free to burn a flag if we so choose. To try and make flag burning illegal is to support a view of America where we are less free and that is just plain stupid.

So, I say, on flag day we should excercise our rights and burn our flag. It would be a wake up call to all the crazy red staters and 'patriots' that Freedom is all about Freedom. It would be a statement where we in essence would say "Fuck yea we're American and we're patriots and to proove it we're going to show the world that in America, we have freedom from oprression. Furthermore we're going to show the world that a symbol is a symbol and the intent of the action is what counts (pay attention you crazy mahmoud cartoon fanatics). In America we are free and we are proud of it!"

Teacher faces 20 years for having sex with an 18 year old

Yea.. I know it's the law and all, but seriuously. What kind of state passes a law where it is a felony to have sex with an 18 year old boy? Where probably 90% of his classmates are having sex. Where he is old enough to drive and get killed at war. Oh yea.. it's Texas.

If you read the piece, apparently the bills sponser never intended it to apply to 18 year olds. Well, I say, why not try to stop the amendments? Or perhaps pull your name off the bill? Instead the rep just went along with it.. Nice way to stand up for your beliefs.

I wonder what the 18 year old boy thinks about this....

Guantanamo : Don't let the deaths be in vain!

Elmer Smith on Guantanamo.. this needs to be read, the man is making perfect sense. God Dammit this shit pisses me off!

Let's assume that third is dangerous enough to justify holding them for four years without a trial. What about the other two thirds? And what is it about the Bill of Rights that we find so constricting in times like these? How can we keep billing ourselves as the defenders of basic freedoms around the world while withholding them at Guantanamo?

These people died to get this message out to us. Now don't let those BWH fuckers continue holding these people!

Zarquawi may become the BWH reason for getting out of Iraq

Please read this post. While I agree with most of the post, I don't agree I agree with the reason the writer comes up with for why Zarquawi deal has happened. I think that the BWH is going to use this as a "mission accomplished" reason to finally leave Iraq. I think that they are going to say "we got rid of saddam, we got rid of his kids, we got rid of Zarquawi and the insurgency and we have a new leader of Iraq, our work is now done". It's total bullshit, but whatever gets us our is fine with me.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Nice Work Colleen!!

In an article on the Guantanamo suicides:

Colleen Graffy, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy, told the BBC World Service the suicides were a "good PR move to draw attention."

"It does sound that this is part of a strategy in that they don't value their own life and they certainly don't value ours and they use suicide bombings as a tactic to further their Jihadi cause," she said.

Graffy coordinates efforts with Karen Hughes, a former top aide to
President George W. Bush who is now a special envoy charged with trying to improve the U.S. image abroad, especially in Islamic countries.

Yea.. glad to see that Karen Hughes really knows what she is doing and has the message all worked out for her subs.. good one.. I'm sure the rest of the world likes us so much better now!

Your Monday giggle

from the Week this week (6/12/06).

Bad Week for:
Testing the Almighty, after a Ukrainian man shouted "God will save me--if he exists!" before lowerin hinself into the lion enclosure at Kiev Zoo. A lioness promptly severed his carotid artery and killed him.

Uh? What ring?

I love this piece. Apparently, teens are using a new ring tone on their cell phones that is too high pitched for adults to hear. What makes this story even cooler is that the tone was apparently created as a 'teen repellant'.. I'm still giggling.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Channel 6 shouldn't cover any more bike races

I don't really feel like writing today, but I have to mention that the coverage of the bike race today on Channel 6 was poor at best. The announcers were terrible. It was obvious that they had some knowlede, but not much and they were simply miserable as announcers. One of them used the same expression over 5 times. Both of them seemed really intent on building some story out of a race that had no major breakaways during their coverage. It was obvious that it was going to end up a sprint finish but yet they seemed so amazed that the winner wasn't one of the 5 at the lead of the peleton in the previous lap. Not that they called it a peleton more than one time. Was pretty sad and it really wasn't any better when they began their broadcast. It took me 30 minutes to even figure out what happened during the (untelevised) beginning 3/4's od the race. I'm still not really clear.. way to get me caught up people. It was pretty sad.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Roll Call for the Gay Marriage amendment

As promised two posts ago, here is a list of some of the votes from the bill. The entire list can be found here. I had fun cross tabbing the list against the list of reps on hallwatch.

Philadelphia Republican NO votes (give these guys a pass when they run) :

McIlhinney, Charles T. - NO (clearly a good man)
O'Neill, Bernard T. - NO (nice.. 4 year rookie.. obivously deserves a chance)
Ross, Chris - NO
Rubley, Carole A. - NO
Steil, David J. - NO
Watson, Katharine M. - NO - (another rookie.. go Katharine!)

Other Republican NO votes :

Diven, Michael - NO (Pittsburgh delagation, but still a good man)
Good, Matthew - NO (Altoona)
Nickol, Steven R. - NO - (Harrisburg)
Smith, Bruce I. - NO - (Go Harrisburg!)

Philadelphia Democrat YES votes (vote these bums out!!):

Caltagirone, Thomas R. - YES (30 year vet in the house.. time to retire bud)
Corrigan, Thomas C. - YES (20 year vet, 68 years old.. see ya!)
Melio, Anthony J. - YES (20 years, 74 years old.. see a pattern forming?)
Donatucci, Robert C. - Did not Vote (could have voted NO for us, did he duck?)

Other Democratic YES votes I'll leave as an excercise.. I really have to get back to work.

Lets fix the election system

Here is how the voting process should be. Well, at least in my mind, here is how I would like it to be:

1) about a week or two before the election I sit down and go online and print out the ballot for my division
2) For each race, I go the candidates website to read up on their history, philosophy, voting records, platform, etc. From here, I make a choice of which candidate I feel would be the best choice
3) I mark up my sample ballot
4) In the time before the election, I watch maybe a debate on tv or go to a public engagement for a candidate that I'm not totally sure of.
5) On election day, I take my ballot into the polling place and I make my choices

This is a perfect world and it works in so many ways. First off, I made no mention of TV ads or any ads for that matter. This is a good thing. For a given election voters are overwhelmed with ads for candidates that usually aren't even for races they can vote for. Of the ones that are relevant, 90% of them are negative. This turns off most voters right there. I can say (and I believe in exercising my right to vote) that I've considered skipping some elections as a protest against all the ads and noise I was hearing during the lead up. In my world, TV ads would not exist for candidates, it would be illegal. Same goes for radio and direct mail and phone calls.

Second, if all candidates had clear websites about their positions or there was a 3rd party site set up that would outline useful apples to apples comparison on candidates, people would immediately be able to form opinions on who they should vote for. I don't believe that most voters use the party affiliation as their only determining factor when voting. At most I believe they may use it as a guide. This is a good thing. Party animosity in this day and age really serves to alienate the voters from the process.

Third, once the voter is engaged in the process and knows all the relevant candidates they will feel compelled to learn more about the candidates they aren't sure of. That alone will be the catalyst for candidates to do meet and greets and for the media to sponsor debates. These connections to the people should be the result of voter demand, not staged to create voter interest.

So, were are the roadblocks to this perfect world of mine? Well, first off, there is no current way for me to know what my ballot is going to look like before I get to the voting machine. Sure there are attempts at this. I don't read the newspapers anymore but I remember that one day before the elections, they used to print a city wide ballot, that is at least close to what I'm asking for here. I don't know if this is the case anymore. Also, here in Philly there are 3rd party groups that strive to inform the voter. But all we need is for the election committees to post the ballots online once they have them worked out. Let the damn voters know who their choices are going to be. Sure this is easy in the big ticket races, but what about the committee people and delegates and other elected offices that receive little notice?

Second, we need to strive to eliminate (or cut down) advertising. Do you see doctors advertising on TV? Do you see cigarette ads in magazines? It is not unprecedented for the FCC or govt. to limit advertising and so it should be here. There should be a limited amount of equal free airtime given to major candidates for major races, but they should have to speak live to the camera with no voiceovers, etc. Let the candidate speak for themselves.

Third, the amount of info on candidates should be increased and standardized. This info should be put on the web so voters can compare candidates fairly.

These 3 ideas are simple and in the case of the ballots, are painless to implement. We as voters should push for them. We could see the election process become more of what it should be and less of what it shouldn't.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

D or R anyone who voted YES needs to go..

Let’s talk about the brilliant legislation passed by our state house Tuesday. Let’s talk about House Bill 2381, or the constitutional ban on gay marriage.

The vote was 136-61
. Of that vote, 41 of the YES votes were Democrats. So if the Democrats had all voted NO, the vote could have been 102-95 against. First of all, it’s already illegal for gays to marry in Pennsylvania. Secondly, this is purely the work of the GOP in hopes to get the amendment on the ballot for the midterms, like they did in so many states in the 2004 presidential race.

So not only did our Democratic representatives waste time on this issue when there are so many other important things to deal with in the state assembly, they wasted time voting on something that would be redundant and they wasted time voting on something that is clearly a ploy of the GOP.

I say those people need to be voted out of office. And let me say that this isn’t a D and R issue. The passage of this bill is a clear roadmap for us voters...we now know who the idiots are! I say, Democrat or Republican, the people who voted YES on this bill should be voted out of their seats. I say Democrat or Republican, the people who voted NO on this bill should be allowed to keep their jobs since they obviously have integrity and intelligence. It’s amazing. I don’t even need to add in the argument that voting YES is totally morally wrong and discriminatory. The sheer stupidity and pandering here is clear enough on its own.

I had planned on listing for you all of the members of the house and what they voted on this bill but our state doesn’t seem to make that info available on the web. Though I could be wrong. So far all I can find is the actual bill itself. I've contacted a source and I should have the full list by tomorrow.. stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Do we not sense that we are part of a group?

In California yesterday there was an election for Governor. It was a primary and the two democratic candidates collectively spent 70 million dollars on their campaigns. From what I’ve been able to gather, both candidates were in almost total agreements on the issues and their campaigns were mostly focused on trying to smear their opponents. Is it any wonder we as voters don’t want to be part of the process? I can’t imagine what it was like to be subjected to the candidates crap on TV, on the radio, in direct mail, calling all hours of the day on the phone. It would be enough to make me find some fringe candidate to vote for as a protest.

But California is not alone. The same will happen here in Pennsylvania when Casey runs against Santorum and Rendell takes on Swann. It’s going to be simply insane. Now tell me why this is a useful way to spend our resources?

What has happened is that we’ve gotten into a game of “keep up with the Joneses”. To win, one thinks, I have to get more exposure than the other guy. I need more TV and I need more face time. So, like an arms race, the well funded campaigns escalate their spending.

Is there a better way? Of course there is. Campaign Finance Reform in the form of financial limits, full public financing and limited, rationed TV commercials would be a start but nobody is going to push for this stuff on their own. Both parties at the national level need to work this out for themselves. Do you think they will? Of course not. Like our government, these parties are full of people who are making money off of the very practices they push onto candidates. So what do we do?

We demand more of our candidates. I’m planning on writing to the major candidates and telling them that they aren’t getting my vote if they run too many negative ads or if I get too many campaign calls. If all of you do the same, if all voters did the same and actually kept their pledges not to vote for people, change would happen. But the key is that we need to act as a group. And that’s where all of this falls apart.

The same goes for voting and it’s something everyone struggles with when election time comes. It’s the main knock against our electoral system (and any other for that matter). It’s really hard for people to see that acting individually aggregates into a large power.

The same goes for these pledges. If I pledge to not vote for Casey, than unless everyone else agrees with me and does the same I’m essentially voting for Santorum which I really don’t want to happen. So how can the individuals in the group know for sure that what they do will count? This is a fundamental problem that nobody seems to want to address. And I ask all of you what you think? How do we address this?

My initial idea is that if we as a community of voters actually were represented in the media then this wouldn’t be an issue. What I mean is that we need some type of pre-emptive feedback system. And this isn’t a democratic/republican issue. This is a voters/media issue. As an example, think about popular music. How do you find popular music? How does it become popular? What makes a hit? Obviously a good song should make a hit, but how does that happen? Is it all word or mouth? No. The media (MTV, reviewers, radio stations, etc.) all watch us and see what we are buying and what we are talking about and they in turn tell us what is happening. This feedback helps the popular hits to gain traction and more people buy them and there you go, a hit is born. The same can be said for any commodity. In a good market, there is good information that the consumers can use to influence their decisions. In a perfect market, with perfect information, the consumers are fully informed and can make perfect decisions. This is an ideal, but one that we can strive for. In the case of elections, we are at the opposite end of that ideal. We have no real information at either side of the election. Is it any wonder we feel disenfranchised?

What do you all think?

Big Fat Slob

Found a new blog.. It's political and fun.. It's called A Big Fat Slob. What made me want to bring it up here was that I wanted to post a photo I saw on it here and I didn't want to do it without credit. So, the photo you see here was from this post.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Vote dammit!!

Ahh.. who cares, it's only an election for a US Senate Candidate.. Listen people, if you don't vote, you can't complain.. We really need some kind of purple ink, ash on the forehead, sticker on the shirt kind of way for people to say "yes, I voted today" so they can be shamed if they didn't. We need to make voting our most cherished right.. instead we're spending our energy trying to put discrimiation into the constitution.. yea.. that makes sense.

Every day

Every day I see a story like this. This one is more interesting.. In this case, the boy is 18.. the age diff is 7 years. And it's hard to tell, but I would guess it was consentual. Why should this woman go to jail? What good will that do society? What harm was being done?

See, this is not objective

Here is what I've been complaining about in the MSM the past few years. Here is the first 2 paragraphs of an article in the Daily News today :

WHO WERE the thugs who shot a beloved father of two as he worked the graveyard shift guarding a construction site?

Who would creep up on Michael Powell, 39, as he sat in his locked SUV and pump a volley of bullets into the windows just after midnight yesterday, striking the devout churchgoer in the neck and chest?

As you read them, do you see what I'm saying when I say that the MSM has lost all objectivity?

"Who were the thugs..." : who says they are thugs? Maybe they were vigilanties and the guy shot was a drug dealer.. were they thugs then? or heroes?

"Who would creep up on..." : Why should the writer make assumptions on how the shooters approached the victim? And further, why ask "Who could do this?" or "Who would do this?".. just tell me the facts lady! I don't need your personal opinion.

I know these are minor quips, but still, when added up across all the papers in the nation and all the news agencies, these things add up in a big, negative way. The news is supposed to be objective. Why can't we as a people hold the MSM to this standard? Why do we not care anymore?

We need good ubiquitous encryption and we need it now.

As you all know, email is a disaster. We have spam to deal with, we have spoofed identity issues, we have privacy issues, etc. All of these can be solved by using encryption. But I want to take this a step further and say that we need it for phone conversations as well.

First, let me explain what I mean here. Using public key encryption we can accomplish two very important things. We can do either one or both at any time we wish. We can encrypt our communication so that only the intended recipients are able to receive it. And we can also use encryption to identify ourselves conclusively to the recipient.

You can see that by having digital ‘signatures’, we can eliminate the spoofing, phishing and spam problems in email quite easily. Once we can be sure who is communicating with us, we can then feel free to go back and prosecute the sender (in the case of spammers) or we can choose to not communicate with them (phisher). This can apply to telephone conversations as well. I just got a call from my bank asking for some information. Now. How do I know that it was them who called me? Because they knew my name and what bank I was involved with? Should I trust that? If I didn’t want to give out the info what recourse would I have?

Caller ID wasn’t used in this case. As is the case with most banks and big companies, their ID was blocked. I’m sure that a dedicated identity thief could probably hack the Caller ID system so I’m not really confident in that either. If we had encryption we wouldn’t have this issue.

Some say that encryption all the time would thwart the government attempts at countering terrorism. I’m not going to get into this since it would require me to write a whole lot and get way off topic. I will say that encrypted emails and phone calls, would be much better evidence in a trial than non encrypted emails and phone calls for 2 connected reasons: 1) tampering with the contents is virtually impossible, 2) the identity of the sender could be more positively identified. Of course the govt. has to be able to decrypt the messages which is easy to do once they know the private key of the sender and I would assume someone under investigation could be compelled in some legal way to give up their key just like they can have their homes searched, etc.

In all, we have a right to privacy and we have an obligation to others to positively identify ourselves to each other when we communicate using electronic means. Encryption is the way. If we started demanding it more, maybe the tools would be developed to make it painless to use.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The War on Drugs is a Waste and you know it is

Wow! I'm really impressed that the Daily News is for the decriminalization of marijuana. But did they have to hide it in the last sentence of one of their articles? I think they should write an editorial on the issue instead. Personally I don't smoke. I've tried a few times and have had good experiences, but I can count the number of times on one hand. That doesn't change the fact that I'm strongly for the legalization of pot and other drugs. It makes sense on so many levels.

You’ve seen it written about here in this blog in a number of places. The “War” on drugs is just such a waste of resources and does nothing to stop the actual usage of drugs. And has anyone ever bothered to debate on weather recreational drug use is actually bad at the macro level? Any reasonable person imagining a country with legalized drugs can hardly not make the connection to our usage of alcohol and cigarettes. In both cases, the substances are dangerous, and cause a lot of deaths, but for some people, maybe for many, they provide a safe way to relax and enjoy life.

This “War” also has had an adverse affect in some ways on our youth. As an example, let’s take Ecstasy usage. Here is a very popular club drug that is used by a huge number of people. Originally designed by a chemist at Mecrk and then used by therapists the drug has had a very interesting history. There still is no official determination on weather the drug is dangerous over the long term.

But in the media, MDMA (Ecstasy) is the devil incarnate. Everyone knows that there is a concerted effort to get young people to stop using MDMA. Most of this effort is found in the mainstream media. Oprah talks about it, there are news articles telling us about speculative papers that 'prove' that MDMA causes brain damage, there are commercials 'just say no', etc.

The problem here is that the users believe that they are being fed disinformation, they simply don't trust what they hear from the media and the government. So, even if there are true facts to be distributed to the users, they will probably be treated as more of the same and ignored, at worst, they will be deliberately misinterpreted.

For example, say the message is: "2 doses of MDMA in an hour will cause brain damage in 20 years". Here is how most of the MDMA crowd will interpret it: "There are no ill effects, you can easily see that. You've taken 2 doses before, what's happened in a week? A month? A Year? You're fine aren't you? What about your friends, hey, they're fine too...all we can do is scare you a bit by saying that in 20 years you will be's all we can do to get you to stop."

If there was no “War” and recreational drug use was treated as alcohol usage is, perhaps the level of mistrust between users and the media (our tie to the medical/science/research community) would decrease to the point of triviality. We certainly give non-drug stories with a lot more credibility. If there was an article in the newspaper, or a story on Oprah about how eating the worm in Mezcal Tequila causes cancer in 20 years, I can guarantee you that most worm eaters would stop. The same would happen with drugs. Access to real/true information is the key to a better society.

Continuing with MDMA, there have been a few deaths reported. I know of two of them. In one, the person died not from the drug, but from ingesting too much water after taking the drug. That’s something that could have been avoided with good education programs. In the other case, it was determined that the drug ingested was not pure and contained an unusually high amount of poisons in it. Again, this is something that happens when one is forced to buy drugs from unknown sources.

With recreational drugs made legal what would drug companies do? You know as well as I do that they would manufacture recreational drugs. They clearly are set up for it: they have the r/d, the capital, the machines, and the materials. But here is the important question for you. Would it be to their advantage to make the drugs unsafe? You bet it wouldn't. While there is always some unsafety with all drugs (legal and otherwise), things like unknown side effects, interactions, etc., there is an acceptable risk level. The drug companies would certainly make safer, more controllable, less addictive, more concentrated recreational drugs...just like the companies that make beer and liquor.

What else may happen if the War was over? I would argue that for one thing amount of dialog would increase, not only between parents and children, but among people in general. The medical/science/research community would have more studies both for and against drug use...the debate would grow and from that would blossom even more good information.

Then there is the obvious one. I've heard that right now, 98% of violent crime is attributable to illegal drugs. Almost every criminal deals drugs or steals so they can buy them. Why? There is a huge profit motive in selling drugs, because the sale prices and the addiction level is so high. Remove the profit motive by selling the drugs at CVS (or in government sanctioned store) and the illegal drug trade goes away. Once legal, you can even tax them and use the money for public health or information campaigns.

Gore in 2008

As nice a dream as it would be, there is no way a "regular guy" (or girl) will ever become president. The process to get elected is just way too hard to do unless you are a seasoned politician and know how to play that game. So as much as we'd like some oulier candidate to show up, I'm hoping for Al Gore. I told you in my last post how I've been seeing a lot of him lately. Sure enough I see him in the Daily News today in a great piece.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Al Gore

You know what. In the past 6 months I've totally turned around my opinion on Al Gore. If he runs and wins the primary, I am going to take a year off of my job to go work on his campain. I want him to be president in the worst way.

So it started when I saw a video about him in volume one of Wholpin. It was a video made my Spike Jones during the 2000 election. Spike had spent a day with Al and his family about 2 months before the big day and the film really showed me that Al Gore was far from that stiff looser America had percieved him as. (see here for details). He was amazing and I almost cried when I thought about how different America would be today had the presidency not been stolen from him.

A few weeks later I read this article about Al in Wired. I learned how he took off after the election to go sailing with Tipper, and how he decided not to run in 2004 and how he began to make his global warming crusade his #1 priority in life.

Then it all capped off with the movie last night. "An Inconvenient Truth" really needs to be seen by everyone here and worldwide. It needs to become a global success. The message is simple, global warming is real and we're past the point of "almost too late to fix it" and at the point of.. "we're too late, but if we jump on this issue right now and get lucky we may have a shot at mitigating most of the ill effects".

The movie is awesome. Yes, it does have the feel of a political commercial at times, but the message is really clear. We have to take global warming seriously and we really aren't. Oh.. and don't just take my word for it. Listen to Roger Ebert (yes, I know movie reviewers are really not too credible lately, but look at the words he uses and decide how he really feels):
"In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to"

And that's why I think Al will run for president this time around. His name is coming out and this film and the issue he raises just screams out that he will. I just hope he doesn't follow the campain he followed in 2000. I hope he comes out as Al Gore and not as some campaining politician. If he does that, he could win.

Listen, no matter what you think of the guy or if you are a republican or democrat, go see the film and then tell your friends's not a political thing. It really is an earth thing.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Yea... I would totally have hooked up with my female teacher in high school

DAmn.. I looked through my archives but couldn't find a post on this.. though I know there is one there somewhere. Almost weekly I see pieces on the net that talk about older female teachers hooking up with younger students. I've argued with my friends about this ad nausium and my theorey is that it does no harm, and in fact may actually do some good. Now I only know of one person who is a male that has had this happen (he was 16 and she was about 26) and let me tell you, he's the most successful of my high school class.. and he's not crazy at all, probably the most centered person I know.

I also have some women friends who had similar experiences that were apparently not harmful to them at all. In fact they look back on their hookups quite positively.

Now, I'm not saying that adults having affairs with children is a good thing. And I'm not saying that damage cannot be done, but damage can be done in all relationships with children who are under the age of 24 or so. It all depends on the circumstnaces.

I'm reading an interesting article in New York Magazine called "Dirty Old Women" that talks about this issue and it's quite interesting. One thing I noticed (and this is not the focus of the article, but an interesting tidbit none the less) was this snippit:
Bruce Rind, Philip Tromovitch, and Robert Bauserman (professors at Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Michigan, respectively) published a study that has resounded through the psychological Establishment ever since. The article, published in the American Psychological Association’s Psychological Bulletin, was what’s known as a meta-analysis, an overview of the existing science, in this case on the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse. The authors concluded that “negative effects were neither pervasive nor typically intense” and that men who’d been abused “reacted much less negatively than women.”

It goes on to say that a number of right wing people (shrinks and pundits) totally disagree, but still at least it makes my point valid for debate. And what is my point exactly, what am I writing about here? I think that essentially, if a person is past puberty and sexually active, I don't get why it is so taboo to have an age difference. Statutory rape is probably not the best idea in my book. If the 16 year old boy and the 24 year old teacher fall in love, why not let them get married? Let's let science figure out what is best instead of lawmakers and priests.. no scratch that.. we all know how well priests do with sex...

Oh.. I should add that there is this story at the end of the article that is priceless.. It talks about this 16 year old boy who had this affair with the mother of his girlfriend. When it finally got exposed and reported to the police.. well, here's a quote :

Jason says he would not have given a statement to the Long Island police incriminating DeMartini-Scully if he hadn’t been under pressure. “They said if I didn’t they were gonna press charges on me because I was with Diane’s daughter,” who is only 14, and now Jason is 17, thus making him guilty of “sexual misconduct” himself. As of his last birthday, Jason’s relationships switched status in the eyes of the law: Sex with the then-44-year-old school psychologist who had been after him since he was 16 became okay; sex with her teenage daughter became a crime.

Thursday, June 01, 2006 what can I do but complain?

So I've got Comcast cable.. and I'm a huge hockey fan.. as you all should know, it's game 7 between buffalo and carolina.. it's 2-2 with 10 minutes to go in the third period.. You know how I know? I'm moitoring the score on the net. Why am I not watching it? Well, Comcast seems to have forgotten how to broadcast OLN. Other channels are working, but OLN simply says "no signal". I've called to complain, no luck.. been on hold for 15 minutes.. what can they do? give me a refund for today? Is that a fair valuation? I have Comcast so I can watch what I want when I want. I don't jsut watch whatever is on.. so 1/30th of my $150 a month really means nothing at all to me. See, like most sports fans I would probably pay $50 to watch this damn game, but I can't becasue Comcast is a company full of morons. I wonder if they will blame it on the weather.. Hmn.. isn't that supposed to be an argument against DirecTV?

This is exactly what I'm talking about

I really don't have to comment much on this at all. This is exactly what I've been saying since the 2004 election. It was stolen and this should help you to agree with me.