Spring coming; Obama gains, McCain slips

Workout notes: 3600 yards; 5 x 100 fist warm up, 5 x (front/free/3g/free) warm up (almost on 2). 10 x 100 on the 2: (1:35, 34, 33, 34, 35, 33, 33, 32, 31, 29), 100 back, 5 x (100 pull, 100 free) (16:53); did flip turns on last 2 free intervals, 500 mixed strokes.

On my 100’s, I had a bad attitude on the first 5; I was doing “oh, stay long and keep it easy” stuff. I put some pepper in the last 5 (by my standards).

Local Politics
A whopping 9.7% voted in our city primary elections. C. J. Summers reports from the Peoria Chronicle:

1 Gary Sandberg 5518.41 17%
2 Ryan Spain 4575.33 14%
3 George Jacob 4540.83 14%
4 Eric Turner 4371.16 14%
5 Jim Montelongo 3420.08 11%
6 Gale Thetford 2233.66 7%
7 Patti Polk 1622.24 5%
8 Dan Irving 1592.25 5%
9 Charles Schierer 1565.16 5%
10 Gloria Cassel Fitzgerald 945.83 3%

There was about a 9.7% voter turnout for this primary, which is, of course, pathetic, but in the world of local primaries is actually not that bad. The top ten vote-getters move on to the general election on April 17.

“My” candidates placed 1’st, 3’rd, 4’th and 7’th. Note that this was cummulative voting and you got to vote for up to 5. So if you just voted for one candidate, he/she got 5 votes. If you voted for 2, each got 2.5 votes, and so on. I voted for 4. Note that Sandberg not only got the highest total, but he also had the most voters voting for him (that is, he didn’t win only because a few people gave him all 5 of their votes; more voters total punched his name than any other name).

Politics Obama continues to gain, and now holds a lead among African American voters:

The big news in today’s Washington Post/ABC poll is that black voters like Barack Obama. He now leads Hillary Clinton among black voters by nine points, a huge shift from last month, when the same poll found black voters preferred Clinton by a whopping 40 percent.

Reporters had jumped on that early gap to write speculative stories about Obama’s supposed trouble with the “black vote.” The Washington Post ran a front page article last month under the headline “Obama’s Appeal to Blacks Remains an Open Question,” citing Clinton’s “3 to 1” edge among black Democrats.
(Never mind that everything is an “open question” when the candidate hasn’t even announced yet.)

Then this month, The New York Times offered a front page news flash under the headline, “So Far, Obama Can’t Take Black Vote for Granted.” The article quoted Debra J. Dickerson’s claim that “Obama isn’t black” in an American racial context, and then explored why “some black voters” are “so uneasy” about Obama. One barber explained that Obama might not be right for the Presidency because he was not “born, raised, bred, [and] fed in America.” Whatever. That kind of talk has been shredded by The Nation’s Patricia Williams, among others. Now these new poll numbers should remove one crutch reporters were using to write premature stories about how black voters supposedly did not like Obama “enough.”

By the way, I loved the Patricia Williams article.

The results of the new poll can be found here.

In the Republican race, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who recently made clear his intentions to seek the presidency, has expanded his lead over Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Giuliani holds a 2 to 1 advantage over McCain among Republicans, according to the poll, more than tripling his margin of a month ago.

The principal reason was a shift among white evangelical Protestants, who now clearly favor Giuliani over McCain. Giuliani is doing well among this group of Americans despite his support of abortion rights and gay rights, two issues of great importance to religious conservatives. McCain opposes abortion rights.

Among Democrats, Clinton still enjoys many of the advantages of a traditional front-runner. Pitted against Obama and former senator John Edwards of North Carolina, she was seen by Democrats as the candidate with the best experience to be president, as the strongest leader, as having the best chance to get elected, as the closest to voters on the issues and as the candidate who best understands the problems “of people like you.” Obama was seen as the most inspirational.

The Post-ABC News poll was completed days after aides to the two leading Democrats engaged in a testy exchange over comments critical of Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, by Hollywood mogul David Geffen, a former friend and financial backer of the Clintons who held a fundraiser for Obama last week in Los Angeles.

Early national polls are not always good predictors for presidential campaigns, but the Post-ABC poll offers clues to the competition ahead.

On the January weekend when she announced her candidacy, Clinton led the Democratic field with 41 percent. Obama was second at 17 percent, Edwards was third at 11 percent and former vice president Al Gore, who has said he has no plans to run, was fourth at 10 percent.

The latest poll put Clinton at 36 percent, Obama at 24 percent, Gore at 14 percent and Edwards at 12 percent. None of the other Democrats running received more than 3 percent. With Gore removed from the field, Clinton would gain ground on Obama, leading the Illinois senator 43 percent to 27 percent. Edwards ran third at 14 percent. The poll was completed the night Gore’s documentary film “An Inconvenient Truth” won an Academy Award.

Clinton’s and Obama’s support among white voters changed little since December, but the shifts among black Democrats were dramatic. In December and January Post-ABC News polls, Clinton led Obama among African Americans by 60 percent to 20 percent. In the new poll, Obama held a narrow advantage among blacks, 44 percent to 33 percent. The shift came despite four in five blacks having a favorable impression of the New York senator.

African Americans view Clinton even more positively than they see Obama, but in the time since he began his campaign, his favorability rating rose significantly among blacks. In the latest poll, 70 percent of African Americans said they had a favorable impression of Obama, compared with 54 percent in December and January.

Overall, Clinton’s favorability ratings dipped slightly from January, with 49 percent of Americans having a favorable impression and 48 percent an unfavorable impression. Obama’s ratings among all Americans improved over the past month, with 53 percent saying they have a favorable impression and 30 percent saying they have an unfavorable impression.

In the Republican contest, McCain was once seen as the early, if fragile, front-runner for his party’s nomination, but Giuliani’s surge adds a new dimension to the race. In the latest poll, the former New York mayor led among Republicans with 44 percent to McCain’s 21 percent. Last month, Giuliani led with 34 percent to McCain’s 27 percent.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia ran third in the latest poll with 15 percent, while former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was fourth with 4 percent. Gingrich has not said he definitely plans to run, and without him, Giuliani’s lead would increase even more, to 53 percent compared with McCain’s 23 percent.

On the Republic party side, McCain is in trouble, and Romney is done:

No one is buying what Mitt Romney is selling. Voters love strength and hate wishy-washy politicians, especially Republican voters. And no one does wishy-washy, flippy-floppy like Mitt Romney.

I knew he was done as soon as I saw this video. We ran the video on our show a couple of weeks ago and I pounded the gavel right afterward and said it then — he is done.

No one recovers from flip-flops this large, this brazen and this over the top. It’s like he’s arguing that he is a black Jew. Dude, you just said you were a white Mormon and I can see with my own two eyes that you aren’t black. But he still looks at you with a straight face and tells you, “No, I believe in my heart now that I am black and Jewish.” Okay, whatever. Who’s next?

And now my suspicions have been confirmed. In the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll he got a whopping 4% of the Republican voters. Where’s that fork?

February 28, 2007 Posted by | edwards, hillary clinton, obama, Peoria/local, politics/social, swimming, ultra | Leave a comment

Time to keep my mouth shut…

This article

A suicide bomber attacked the entrance to the main U.S. military base in
Afghanistan on Tuesday during a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney, killing up to 23 people and wounding 20.

Cheney was unhurt in the attack, which was claimed by the Taliban and was the closest that militants have come to a top U.S. official visiting Afghanistan. At least one U.S. soldier, an American contractor and a South Korean soldier were among the dead, NATO said.

Cheney said the attackers were trying “to find ways to question the authority of the central government.” The Taliban said Cheney was the target.

My heart goes out to those who were killed and wounded in this attack, as well as to their friends, family and other loved ones.

Now I will shut my mouth.

February 27, 2007 Posted by | politics/social | Leave a comment

Obama in Austin: Rose’s Report. Other topics as well.

Workout Notes I had an ok 2000 yard swim; 5 x 100 (free/back/fist/free) on 2, then 5 x (fly/free/back/free) then 5 x (100 pull, 100 swim) with no rest in 16:43. The latter tired me out a bit.

Then Vickie gave a nice yoga class and I had a good chat with Steve Foster.

City Elections Today

The City Council Primary vote was today; voter turnout is usually pathetic. For what it is worth, I used my five votes for Gary Sandberg, George Jacob, Patti Sterling-Polk and Eric Turner. The views of the candidates (ok, a response to 4 questions sent out by the newspaper) are here.

All Hail Limited Government

Also in today’s paper is a nice article on some of the food problems we are having, as well as recent FDA underfunding. So if you hear the wingnuts drone on and on about so-called limited government, think about this.

The federal agency that’s been front and center in warning the public about tainted spinach and contaminated peanut butter is conducting just half the food safety inspections it did three years ago.

The cuts by the Food and Drug Administration come despite a barrage of high-profile food recalls.

“We have a food safety crisis on the horizon,” said Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia.

Between 2003 and 2006, FDA food safety inspections dropped 47 percent, according to a database analysis of federal records by The Associated Press.

That’s not all that’s dropping at

the FDA in terms of food safety. The analysis also shows:

– There are 12 percent fewer FDA employees in field offices who concentrate on food issues.

– Safety tests for U.S.-produced food have dropped nearly 75 percent, from 9,748 in 2003 to 2,455 last year, according to the agency’s own statistics.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the FDA, at the urging of Congress, increased the number of food inspectors and inspections amid fears that the nation’s food system was vulnerable to terrorists. Inspectors and inspections spiked in 2003, but now both have fallen enough to erase the gains.

“The only difference is now it’s worse, because there are more inspections to do – more facilities – and more food coming into America, which requires more inspections,” said Tommy Thompson, who as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services pushed to increase the numbers. He’s now part of a coalition lobbying to turn around several years of stagnant spending.

Failing to keep up

The Bush administration’s budget request for 2008 includes an additional $10.6 million for food safety at the FDA; the lobbying group said 10 times that increase is needed. Even though the FDA increased its overall spending on food between 2003 and 2006, those increases failed to keep pace with rising personnel costs.

“It’s not just outsiders like us who have been watching it for a while. People who worked in the Bush administration are coming out and saying the agency is not working at its current resource levels. It just can’t manage the job,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group.

All Hail the Free Market: its affect on the media
The Peoria Journal Star is being sold, and to cut costs the paper has offered buy-outs to some of it’s senior staff. Hence the paper has gotten thinner as of late.

But what is happening here is happening many places; newspapers are going under. Why? One reason is media monopolies; this is an issue that Senator Barbara Boxer is all over:

WASHINGTON – The Federal Communications Commission ordered its staff to destroy all copies of a draft study that suggested greater concentration of media ownership would hurt local TV news coverage, a former lawyer at the agency says.

The report, written in 2004, came to light during the Senate confirmation hearing for FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. received a copy of the report “indirectly from someone within the FCC who believed the information should be made public,” according to Boxer spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz.

(Note: In June of 2006, the FCC announced the start of a new review of media ownership, including a “series of public hearings on media ownership issues at diverse locations across the nation”. That review is still ongoing.)

‘Every last piece’ destroyed
Adam Candeub, now a law professor at Michigan State University, said senior managers at the agency ordered that “every last piece” of the report be destroyed. “The whole project was just stopped – end of discussion,” he said. Candeub was a lawyer in the FCC’s Media Bureau at the time the report was written and communicated frequently with its authors, he said.

In a letter sent to Martin Wednesday, Boxer said she was “dismayed that this report, which was done at taxpayer expense more than two years ago, and which concluded that localism is beneficial to the public, was shoved in a drawer.”

Martin said he was not aware of the existence of the report, nor was his staff. His office indicated it had not received Boxer’s letter as of midafternoon Thursday.

Local ownership benefits
In the letter, Boxer asked whether any other commissioners “past or present” knew of the report’s existence and why it was never made public. She also asked whether it was “shelved because the outcome was not to the liking of some of the commissioners and/or any outside powerful interests?”

The report, written by two economists in the FCC’s Media Bureau, analyzed a database of 4,078 individual news stories broadcast in 1998. The broadcasts were obtained from Danilo Yanich, a professor and researcher at the University of Delaware, and were originally gathered by the Pew Foundation’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The analysis showed local ownership of television stations adds almost five and one-half minutes of total news to broadcasts and more than three minutes of “on-location” news. The conclusion is at odds with FCC arguments made when it voted in 2003 to increase the number of television stations a company could own in a single market. It was part of a broader decision liberalizing ownership rules.

Community responsiveness
At that time, the agency pointed to evidence that “commonly owned television stations are more likely to carry local news than other stations.”

When considering whether to loosen rules on media ownership, the agency is required to examine the impact on localism, competition and diversity. The FCC generally defines localism as the level of responsiveness of a station to the needs of its community.

The 2003 action sparked a backlash among the public and within Congress. In June 2004, a federal appeals court rejected the agency’s reasoning on most of the rules and ordered it to try again. The debate has since been reopened, and the FCC has scheduled a public hearing on the matter in Los Angeles on Oct. 3.

The report was begun after then-Chairman Michael Powell ordered the creation of a task force to study localism in broadcasting in August of 2003. Powell stepped down from the commission and was replaced by Martin in March 2005. Powell did not return a call seeking comment.

The authors of the report, Keith Brown and Peter Alexander, both declined to comment. Brown has left public service while Alexander is still at the FCC. Yanich confirmed the two men were the authors. Both have written extensively on media and telecommunications policy.

Yanich said the report was “extremely well done. It should have helped to inform policy.”

Boxer’s office said if she does not receive adequate answers to her questions, she will push for an investigation by the FCC inspector general.

It is too bad. Local issues deserve coverage. And as bad as the Journal Star is, I learn things from it. And I think that my knowledge of national issues is enhanced by reading it because they carry columnists that I wouldn’t ordinarily read.

For example, I read todays Jonah Goldberg’s column. Goldberg is a right winger and I usually express contempt for his views. But today’s column was actually worth reading.

I bring this up by way of introducing a topic that I guarantee will consume pundits and talking heads about a year from now: Who is the more likable presidential candidate?

We’ll talk about this because we have ever since TV changed politics. I can spare you several weeks’ worth of a college course on modern politics by telling you that JFK won his televised debate with Richard Nixon (while Nixon won among radio listeners) because the scruffy and angry-looking Nixon seemed like he should be cruising schoolyards in a trench coat. […]

He then goes on to make an assesment of the current crop of candidates and then concludes:

Interestingly, the GOP has a significant likability advantage (and disadvantages almost everywhere else). John McCain may be unpopular with much of the Republican base, but Americans would love to go to the pub with him. Rudy Giuliani, too, seems like a good guy with whom to watch a baseball game at the bar. The super-polished Mitt Romney’s a tougher call, and Duncan Hunter would be a pain because he’d keep asking the immigration status of the busboys.

But the GOP front-runners (save perhaps Newt Gingrich) all have the advantage over Hillary. She may have star power, but you get the sense that most Americans would like to have their picture taken with her and then drink alone. With the exception of Sen. Christopher Dodd, I’d guess all of the Democratic wannabes are more likable than Clinton, too. Sexism probably is part of the equation, but not as much as Clinton’s defenders will claim. There’s room for perceptions to change as we get to know the candidates (though we already know Hillary pretty well).

Please don’t be scandalized by all of this. It’s just something to think about. For the record, I think everyone should vote based on principle. But principles are for a person; they’re less helpful when it comes to predicting people.

Of course, Hillary Clinton is actually liked by much of the rank-and-file


Conservative media figures are not shy in expressing their negative feelings toward Clinton. Time blogger Andrew Sullivan recently referred to her “cootie vibes” and declared, “I just can’t stand her.” MSNBC host Joe Scarborough described her as “very shrill.” Glenn Beck previously labeled her the “Antichrist.” But the expression of such views is not limited to conservatives. The Hotline’s blog, On Call, posted excerpts from speeches by several Democratic hopefuls at the Democratic National Committee winter meeting. But, while Clinton was by no means the only speaker to raise her voice, she was the only one described by On Call as striking a “discordant note.”

Many in the media believe that most Americans — including many Democrats — also harbor unfavorable opinions of her. For instance, Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes claimed on the December 9 edition of Fox News’ The Beltway Boys that, in the eyes of the “Democratic hordes,” Clinton is “not very likable.” And San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders said on the January 28 edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources, “A lot of people don’t think that she’s very likable.”

But recent polling data do not support these assumptions:

* The January 25 Time poll found that 58 percent of respondents viewed Clinton positively. The poll also found that more respondents would choose to have dinner with her than with any of the other 2008 presidential candidates. Indeed, 26 percent chose Clinton as a dinner companion, while 15 percent named Obama and 15 percent picked McCain.

* The recent Post/ABC poll similarly found that 54 percent of respondents had a favorable view of Clinton. (Nonetheless, media figures such as New York Times reporter Patrick Healy and National Public Radio’s (NPR) Juan Williams misrepresented the poll results to claim that she received a favorability rating of 41 percent. Healy even reported that this figure had concerned “[s]everal New York and Hollywood donors.”)

So Goldberg is wrong about that (as he often is) but he is right about likeability being a factor.

There are many shades of right-wing punditry in our country. Among the shadiest is Jonah Goldberg. With arrogance seemingly matched only by his ignorance, Goldberg was just being Goldberg when he offered this wager two years ago:

Let’s make a bet. I predict that Iraq won’t have a civil war, that it will have a viable constitution, and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years time, agree that the war was worth it. I’ll bet $1,000 (which I can hardly spare right now).

The two-year period comes due this Thursday. Even Goldberg now realizes his prediction was totally wrong — with poll after poll showing most Americans do not “agree that the war was worth it.” (Not to mention what Iraqis think of the war or Goldberg’s boast that “Iraq won’t have a civil war.”)

So shouldn’t Goldberg — or somebody — pay off the $1,000?

The bet was offered near the end of an overheated blogo-debate between Goldberg (at National Review Online) and Dr. Juan Cole, the Middle East scholar from University of Michigan. In proposing the wager to Cole, Goldberg goaded: “Money where your mouth is, doc. One caveat: Because I don’t think it’s right to bet on such serious matters for personal gain, if I win, I’ll donate the money to the USO.”

Ok, the bet wasn’t taken. 🙂

Speaking of likeable candidates: Rose sees Obama in Austin

Rose (my sister) went to see Senator Obama in Austin. Click on the link to read all of her report; here is a snippet:

The Senator wore a dark suit, white shirt, and polished shoes with slightly worn heels. Quick as a wink he had the crowd in the palm of his hand as he spoke for 40 minutes or so about health insurance for all, paying teachers more money, and bringing home the troops.

Only once did he bash the current administration, especially Cheney about their refusal to acknowledge how badly the Iraq war is going and this was much appreciated by the vast majority of the crowd. He addressed the fact that people said he did not have enough experience by saying he had been in Washington long enough to know things needed to be changed.

He told the story about him getting elected in Illinois and people saying he couldn’t win because of his race. I had no idea that southern Illinois had been such a racist area at one time but I was happy to hear that he won those folks over.

That he’s a dynamic speaker is a given and I was thrilled to see and hear him speak in person… but it’ll be a long year and I want to learn a little more from each candidate before I make my final decision.

She is in this photo (with the light blue-white visor on the right)

And she took this one:

There are more photos posted with her report.

Kudos to the Democratic Congress: they got an unintended but real compliment from Vice President Dick Cheney:

Cheney admits the truth — Democrats are forcing the Bush Administration to do its job on terrorism.

Vice President Dick Cheney made an unannounced trip to Pakistan on Monday to deliver what officials in Washington described as an unusually tough message to Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, warning him that the newly Democratic Congress could cut aid to his country unless his forces become far more aggressive in hunting down operatives with Al Qaeda.

Presidential Candidates from the Republic Party:

Romney: pressure is on him to reassure other wingnuts about his being a Mormon:

Yes, Senator Orrin Hatch is a Mormon. But he is a Senator from Utah; no problem. Senator Harry Reid is a Mormon. No problem; he is a Democrat and Democrats embrace religious diversity. But Mitt Romney must convince the right wing nut-jobs that vote in the Republic Party primaries to vote for him, and that can be a huge problem:

As he seeks to become the first Mormon U.S. president, Republican Mitt Romney faces a dilemma in courting conservative Christians who often dismiss his religion as a cult but now could decide his political fate.

Should he address his religion head-on in a speech, as John F. Kennedy did in 1960 to Texas Baptists while campaigning to become the first Roman Catholic U.S. president?

Or should he resist debate over a religion that evangelicals, who are key to winning the Republican primaries, often view with suspicion?

“It’s a delicate balance, but I don’t think the strategy of ignoring this is going to work,” said Boston University professor Julian Zelizer. “At the moment he seems not to accept it as a legitimate issue and hopes that it goes away.”

The Harvard-educated former Massachusetts governor has cast himself as a more conservative alternative to favorites John McCain, an Arizona senator, and Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York mayor.

That pitch is complicated by his inconsistency on social issues such as gay rights and abortion rights, which he once supported but now opposes, and misconceptions about Mormonism and its history of racism and polygamy.

The issue popped up most recently in Florida, a powerful state in the Republican nominating process where a heckler at a retirement community attacked his faith. “Sir, you are a pretender. You do not know the Lord,” the man said.

Romney, a polished communicator and a former bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, replied: “One of the great things about this great land is that we have people of different faiths and different persuasions.

“And I’m convinced that the nation does need … to have people of different faiths but we need to have a person of faith lead the country.”

Ironically, of the Republic party candidates, he is the one I would be least troubled with as President. Yeah, he has flipped flopped on many social issues but I wonder how bad he could be if he could win in Massachusetts.

And speaking of Republic Party flip-floppers, according to some in the right-wing nutjob press, Senator John McCain’s campaign isn’t doing so well at the moment:

The John McCain candidacy, launched amid much hope, fanfare, and high expectations, may be dying before our eyes.

Even worse, it may go out with a whimper instead of a bang.

It may not end in an Armageddon style primary defeat, but just dry up from lack of support, money, or interest.

Throughout all of 2006, McCain sat atop the polls right next to Rudy Giuliani. In the Fox News survey of December, 2006, he was getting 27 percent of the Republican primary vote to Rudy’s 31 percent. But, after Giuliani announced that he was running, the Arizona senator fell to 24 percent while Rudy soared into the stratosphere at 41 percent of the primary voters. But even when McCain was polling well, he wasn’t raising the money he needs for this campaign.

In the last quarter of 2006, during a time when he was tied for front-runner status in the GOP and doing well in general election matchups against likely Democratic rivals like Hillary Clinton, he raised only $1.7 million according to his filing with the Federal Elections Commission.

Even worse, he had less than $500,000 on hand, pocket change in a presidential race and barely adequate for a run for Congress.

Part of McCain’s problem was that he wasn’t raising money. But the other part has been that he is spending money too rapidly — and not on reaching voters but on paying political consultants. One top Republican operative from the old Reagan campaign commented, “McCain has hired every consultant he can find. He has all the top names, but no money.”

What is McCain’s problem?

Why did he go from the most exciting candidate in the race a year ago to the verge of oblivion today?

Fundamentally, he failed to heed the Shakespeare’s admonition “to thine own self be true.” The John McCain of the 2000 campaign is nowhere in evidence in 2007.

Instead of challenging the party establishment, he pathetically waits at its door, hoping to be invited. Where he used to challenge the religious right, he now panders to them. Once he led the battle against big tobacco, for corporate governance reform, in favor of campaign financing changes, and in support of action against global warming.

Now he has been identified with two issues, neither popular in the Republican Party: The Iraqi troop surge and amnesty for illegal aliens.

Rather than stake out an independent voice apart from the Bush administration, he has become the last survivor at Custer’s Last Stand in its support of its policies.

Emphasis mine.

Blueollie “Moran” Awards

Today’s awards are issued to a blogger and to the readership at

First for the blogger:

He starts out:

Now that the orange and blue smoke has faded from the Chief Illiniwek controversy at the University of Illinois–my alma mater–I have a story to tell that will that will make the administration of the state’s flagship university wish for the good old days of defending the Chief.

So far so good…he then talks about an issue about the business school’s MBA program and it being available to military veterans. Ok, fair enough; I think that we should support the continuing education of those who put so much of themselves into national service.

He can’t help but take a crack at Senator Kerry and his botched joke:

With thousands of Illinoisans fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan–many of whom, sorry John Kerry, have bachelor’s degrees and years of hands-on leadership experience, surely this would be a marriage made in heaven.

Ok, he opened his mouth… he then goes on to make what could be a legitimate complaint; basically, it was that it appears that perhaps some in the University of Illinois program think that “too many military types” are entering the program. If that is indeed the case, it is indeed offensive; this is a topic that deserves airing and discussion.

But he goes on, and remember that this blogger is writing this; he isn’t cutting and pasting (emphasis mine):

And then there was the complaint that there were two many “jarheads” in the program. That phrase, which caught my eye in the ABC 7 Chicago report, bothered me. So I asked van der Hooning who said that to him.

“Actually three people, John,” he told me. Professor David Ikenberry, Dean Ghosh, and Larry DeBrock, a professor and associate dean.

Hmmm, I am bothered by that phrase as well…if you don’t know why, the “moran” award is, in part, for you. 🙂 readership:

The Townhall webpage has a poll on what their readers think of global warming, with the votes each position obtained from the readership:

In your opinion, Global Warming is:
Alarmist myth created by liberals wanting more government. (5618)

More geological than man-made. Not much we can do. (4754)

A possible concern needing appropriate and balanced attention. (1872)

An undisputed scientific fact that we must address quickly. (463)

Ok, it is possible that some liberal “freeped” this poll to make the conservatives look like idiots. But I doubt it.

February 27, 2007 Posted by | family, hillary clinton, morons, obama, Peoria/local, politics/social, swimming | Leave a comment


Workout Notes: 5 x 100 fist, 10 x 50 (drill/swim), 4 x 250 on the 5 (4:02, :01, :02, :05), 100 back, 5 x 100 (side/swim), 2 x (100 breast pull, 4 x 25 fly), 100 cool down.

I was a bit disappointed my my 250s as I wanted them to be sub 4, but my slowest today was equal to my fastest 4 weeks ago, so I am making progress.

Political Statement

Click here for a larger version.

February 26, 2007 Posted by | politics/social, swimming | Leave a comment

Topics: economic, fun and films

The governor’s office leaked that they are considering an idea on how to tax businesses. This tax would be a tax on the raw revenue that a business takes in, rather than on the profit that a businees makes.

The idea would be to close some of the loopholes (e. g., businesses classifying luxury boxes as “business expense”). Nedless to say, the various chambers of commerce are crying “foul”:

If you are a partner in an accounting firm, comfortable in your corner office and with your free-spending clients, Gov. Blagojevich has his eye on you.

It’s the same if you’re a real estate developer, computer consultant or anybody whose business operates as a partnership. Blagojevich suspects you haven’t been paying your fair share to the state, and he might try to drop the hammer.

It’s called the gross receipts tax, an old idea back on the minds of government revenue collectors. It’s a levy, slight in amount but potentially huge in impact, on all business transactions, regardless of the profit involved.

Lobbyists and experts in state finance said Blagojevich might propose the tax as part of a tradeoff for eliminating the corporate income tax, currently at 4.8 percent. But this is no revenue-neutral proposition.

The governor needs billions of new dollars to pay for the state’s pension obligations and his promise of universal health care. Estimates vary depending on exactly how the new tax would be applied, but some say it could produce a net gain of at least $6 billion a year.

State lawmakers could be drawn to that cash horde for their own pet projects, such as school construction or mass transit subsidies. One insider offered another possibility, saying the gross receipts tax could be part of a “swap” that guarantees some relief in local property taxes.

But at its heart, it’s a tax increase and business lobbyists are preparing a primal scream in unison about it. It touches every well-funded interest in Springfield, so some wonder if the idea is just a trial balloon.

“I think it stands as good a chance as anything,” said Douglas Kane, an economist and a former Illinois lawmaker who has consulted with Blagojevich’s budget office about the virtues of taxing gross receipts. Budget spokeswoman Becky Carroll declined to comment on what the governor will say when he delivers his budget address to the Legislature on March 7.

Kane said the tax is an efficient and broad-based way to get revenue from businesses. A Democratic lawmaker representing the Springfield area from 1974 to 1982, Kane also said the tax is better suited for a “new economy” based more on services than on production of goods.

Frankly, I don’t know enough about the world of business and or econmoics to have an opinion that would be worth listening to. But it is a current events topic which interestes me.

Our university has a club called “Reel to Reel” which shows foreign films about once a month. I’ve enjoyed these, and the latest one “Wages of Fear” (1953 French version) was very interesting:

The Wages of Fear is a certified classic with one of the most famous plots in film history. Four men undertake a suicide mission to earn $2,000 apiece by driving two trucks loaded with dangerously unstable nitroglycerine 300 miles across the rugged terrain of South America to the site of a ferocious oil-well fire. The nitroglycerine has the necessary explosive force to extinguish the petroleum-fueled flames. The oil company – and each of the truck drivers – knows it will be a miracle if even one of the vehicles reaches its destination without blowing up en route.
At least half of The Wages of Fear is a grim and twisted “on the road” film. But its larger theme is the end of the road, the dead-end nowheresville that’s depicted in the movie’s first hour, before the perilous nitro trek even begins. The film unfolds like Apocalypse Now in reverse – rather than a journey into the heart of darkness, it’s a story that begins in hell and shows us the kind of doomed characters for whom playing a game of Russian roulette with a gas-pedal feels like a dose of existential freedom.

I should note that I enjoyed one other sidelight of the film:

Especially nasty is Mario’s mistreatment of Linda, the barkeeper’s sexy assistant, played with manic verve by Vera Clouzot (the director’s Brazilian-born wife). Mario’s attraction to Linda is born purely of boredom and lust.

I loved the scene in which she was on her hands and knees, scrubbing the floor, all the while shaking her butt in some sort of dual motion to her scrubbing motion. Dang, I guessed that guys liked such things even back then. 😉

Still, the film was very interesting and was suspenseful as you never really knew what was going to happen next.

Science Fun In a recent post, I expressed contempt at William F. Buckley’s argument that “there must be a deity of some sort”. And today, as a treat, I watched another Richard Dawkins lecture. Here is the last 8 minutes of it (the second lecture):

Awesome! How anyone can hang on to their comic-book beliefs after being exposed to stuff like this just boggles my mind. Be sure to watch all 6 parts of the second lecture.

Richard Dawkins website can be found here.

Humor Some comics which touched my funny bone:

Get Fuzzy, which has a political subtext

This could be the locker room of the riverplex. Note the out of shape fat guys. That is mostly who swims in the Riverplex pool, though from time to time, a real swimmer will show up and blow us all out of the water. Note also the signs on the wall (if you can’t read them, click here for a larger image),

Oh boy; this cartoon is about teenagers, but there is a hint of truth even for me. My wife sometimes gets her feelings hurt when I don’t notice her new hair tint-cut-whatever, but I do notice when she wears a new pair of jeans or wears a new straight skirt.

For example, some guy caught his wife (or girlfriend) working in the house:

Something tells me he didn’t really care about her hairdo.

Nor did I care about my wife’s hairdo when she wanted me to get a “before” shot (this was during the McGovern Racewalking clinic, and I talked my rubenesque wife into wearing spandex)

So I’ll close with this video that I found at videovat: (note: this video opens with the moonimite figure that caused such a stir in Boston).

February 25, 2007 Posted by | big butts, Peoria/local, politics/social | 3 Comments

The supernatural, and are we going to attack Iran?

Workout notes: 5300 yards of swimming, including 10 x 100 on 2 (fist), 1000 in 16:37, 100 back, 10 x 100 on 2 (1:35-1:38; mostly 1:37), 100 back, (25-25-50-50-75-75-100-100-100-100-75-75-50-50-25-25) 17:45, 100 back, 750 pull, 250 swim (17:53). Athletically, I was a bit more challenged by the fact that I did more “sort of quick” (for me) swimming than last Sunday, but the 100 back rests and the pull set made it a bit easier.

The supernatural Dr. Montaque on has collected many Richard Dawkins lectures; this one is the 6’th of 7 parts of the Christmas lecture in 1991. The whole lecture is good, but if you watch no other installment, watch the 9 minutes of this one.

I haven’t decided on whether I’ll go to church or to watch another one of these.


Are we goint to attack Iran? Reports are:

  • There is a contingency plan of attack in place:

    Despite the Bush administration’s insistence it has no plans to go to war with Iran, a Pentagon panel has been created to plan a bombing attack that could be implemented within 24 hours of getting the go-ahead from President George W. Bush, The New Yorker magazine reported in its latest issue.

    The special planning group was established within the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in recent months, according to an unidentified former U.S. intelligence official cited in the article by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in the March 4 issue.

    The panel initially focused on destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities and on regime change but has more recently been directed to identify targets in Iran that may be involved in supplying or aiding militants in Iraq, according to an Air Force adviser and a Pentagon consultant, who were not identified.

    The consultant and a former senior intelligence official both said that U.S. military and special-operations teams had crossed the border from Iraq into Iran in pursuit of Iranian operatives, according to the article.

    Of course it is true that:

    Pentagon officials say they maintain contingency plans for literally dozens of potential conflicts around the world and that all plans are subject to regular and ongoing review.

  • And this from the London Times:

  • It is reported that some top generals have said that they will resign if we attack Iran:

    SOME of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.

    Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.

    “There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”

    A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.

    “There are enough people who feel this would be an error of judgment too far for there to be resignations.”

    A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. “American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,” said a Pentagon source. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders.

    The threat of a wave of resignations coincided with a warning by Vice-President Dick Cheney that all options, including military action, remained on the table. He was responding to a comment by Tony Blair that it would not “be right to take military action against Iran”.

I really don’t know what to make of this, though my thinking is along the line of Ted Rall’s:

George W. Bush claims that Iran has been shipping weapons, including bombs used against U.S. military convoys, to Shiite militias in Iraq. I believe him. Iranian leaders would be idiots to -sit out a war whose outcome will affect them for decades to come.

Bush denies that he’s about to go to war against Iran. Again, I believe him. After all, we don’t have enough money or troops to invade, much less occupy, a nation three times bigger than Iraq.

Apparently I’m the only person in America who thinks Bush can tell the truth–er, a truth. Or two.

Granted, Administration’s j’accuse! press conference were reminiscent of the phony aluminum tubes and mocked-up anthrax bottles presented during the pre-Iraq War propaganda blitz. The only things missing from this set of metal tubes were “Compliments of the Ayatollah” and “Made in Iran” stickers. As a result of Bush’s ham-fisted replay of 2002, the objectively obvious observation that Iran is arming its proxy militias in Iraq has been greeted by what The New York Times called “a healthy dose of skepticism.”

“Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers,” reported the paper on February 13, “said that while that while they do not doubt that the [Iranian] weapons are being used to attack American troops, and that some of those weapons are being shipped into Iraq from Iran, they are still uncertain whether the weapons were being shipped into Iraq on the orders of Iran’s leaders.”

Even General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, refused to take Bush at his word, saying he “would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit.” To describe Bush’s credibility as merely damaged would understate the case. Fool us 10,000 times, shame on you; fool me 10,001 times…

If Bush says the sky is blue, people feel compelled to look up and check it out for themselves.

Democratic Senator Chris Dodd sums up Bush’s lost credibility: “This Administration has attempted in the past to cook the books to serve their policy goals…I’m getting uneasy that they are trying to set a premise for some future broader military action in Iran.”

Such irony! When Bush told twisted, impossible tales that defied logic, history and common sense, everyone believed him. Saddam Hussein, the secular socialist targeted for death by Islamic fundamentalists, was bin Laden’s best friend. The CIA, which repeatedly warned that Iraq probably didn’t have WMDs, was responsible for a “failure in prewar intelligence” that led to the debacle. People who torture aren’t torturers. All obvious B.S., all accepted at face value.

Now that Bush is finally telling the truth, we assume he’s lying as usual. “For the umpteenth time, we are not looking for an excuse to go to war with Iran,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates begged us to believe. “We are not planning to go to war with Iran.”

Trouble is, the Bushists made identical statements during the run-up to the Iraq War. (“You said we’re headed to war in Iraq,” Bush told a Washington Post reporter on December 31, 2002, over a year after he’d decided upon war. “I don’t know why you say that. I hope we’re not headed to war in Iraq. I’m the person who gets to decide, not you. I hope this can be done peacefully.”) The Iran lie, however, happens to be true.

This would be funny, if it weren’t so serious.

On a non-serious note: what would you think of a column that generated discussions on topics ranging from Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, the state of American Education, as well as Texas-Mexican history? The article I am talking about is this one: America the Stupid by Margaret Kimberley at the Smirking Chimp.

The article itself isn’t that good; it even contains some glaring factual errors (which were pointed out in the comments). But the comments were very entertaining. What I love is that I made a physics joke, and the error in my joke was pointed out to me! 🙂 I love it!

Clinton vs. Obama: good for the Democrats.
At least one columnist, Richard Reeves, feels the way that I do about the Obama-Clinton dust up. Of course, Mr. Reeves also said that President Bush would lose his bid for “reelection” and lose badly; in my opinion he gave the American People way too much credit.

But still, I like this article of his:

Democrats are fun. And it is fun to make fun of them. Having said that, they are the party that will elect a president in 2008. Their stars are lined up in the right order above the White House. This is why I think that:

The race for the Democratic nomination right now is certainly between the senator from New York, Hillary, and the senator from Illinois, Barack, with John Edwards, out from under John Kerry, waiting back in third place, hoping the front-runners trip each other up. Perhaps that will happen, but I doubt it. Obama and Clinton actually help each other. If Obama can defeat Clinton, he will be established as a national figure of unquestioned presidential stature. If Clinton beats Obama, the more likely result, she will have shed her “Can’t Win!” albatross.

Obama will soon have to face the “Where’s the beef?” questions that did in Gary Hart, a once-upon-a-time media meteor drawing big and enthusiastic crowds and delivering a rather vague message that translated into: “New and improved.” Obama has passed his screen test; now he has to show he’s ready for his close-up. But if he beats what Geffen calls “the Clinton Machine” — a machine Geffen used to fuel before he was drawn to the new face — Obama will simply be in a different class than he is now.

If the formidable machine-driven Mrs. Clinton can roll over this shining new face, they won’t be passing out leaflets, as someone did in Carson City, saying that she is unelectable.

It is not a bad hand the Democrats have to play if they go on to Las Vegas.

More than that, if you listen to Republicans this day, most of whom pretend they have forgotten the name of that fool in the White House, they sound like all they’re holding is a pair of deuces — or jokers.

At the moment, the race for the Republican nomination is focused pretty tightly on Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record) and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, two candidates of charisma, with Mitt Romney in the Edwards position. But the whispering campaign on that side of the aisle is unusual in my memory, because supporters of both the front-runners say the same thing into the delicate ears of reporters and columnists.

Ask Giuliani folks about McCain, and they whisper, “Yeah, people like him now, but he’s nuts!”

Ask McCain folks about Giuliani, and they whisper, “Yeah, people like him now, but he’s nuts!”

They all — Republicans, that is — seem convinced the other guy is going to blow it by blowing up in public.

So, whatever Democrats are saying about each other now, it looks like it’s their year. Clinton vs. Obama is win-win!

No comment needed: hat tip to the Dependable Renegade: Prince Harry insists on going into combat.

Prince Harry, the third-in-line to the British throne, will be deployed to Iraq, the Ministry of Defense said Thursday.

His regiment, the Blues and Royals, is expected to deploy to Iraq this spring. Harry could become the first royal to see combat since his uncle, Prince Andrew, served in the Falklands war against Argentina in 1982.

Harry, a second lieutenant, has expressed his desire to serve alongside his comrades in Iraq, saying that there was “no way” he was going to undergo rigorous training and then stay away from the battlefield. He graduated last year from Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.

Our aristocracy takes a bit different approach:

February 25, 2007 Posted by | hillary clinton, obama, politics/social, swimming | Leave a comment

Told you it was icy outside

I read the American Conservative Magazine. I disagree with it on social affairs, but am in agreement with it on the Iraq war and on President Bush. Yes, they have been anti-Bush for some time, and even endorsed John Kerry for President in 2004.

Here is a cartoon that they ran in their last issues (which also contained a letter to the editor which said that Republicans should try to impeach President Bush!)


Note: this cartoon is from

Local: Of course I am supporting Senator Obama for President in 2008. One reason is, of course, that he was once a well regarded State Senator and he has ties to many in our community. Here is a photo of him with Barbara Van Auken, who is my city council representative. I worked to help her get elected in 2005 and am very pleased with her performance.

This was taken, I think, while he was still in the State Senate.

Speaking of Obama: a youtube member (spacegeek?) put together Obama and Hillary Clinton’s Presidental Exploritory Committee announcements on the same video so you can see the contrast:

Blueollie “Moran” Award

While searching for Hillary Clinton videos, I came across this one (and it is short):

Ok, that was pretty straight forward, right? Senator Clinton was demonstrating some of the potential legal issues a school voucher would raise, right? (e. g., if a voucher is approved for a common, non-controversial situation, someone might take the government to court to get a voucher approved to attend some whack-job school).

But oh no, wingnuts have trouble with that. The video was titled “Hillary Goes Nuts”; the clown who posted this hadn’t a clue as to what she was doing.

That is downright scary.

February 24, 2007 Posted by | hillary clinton, morons, obama, Peoria/local, politics/social | Leave a comment

Freezing Rain, Aching Knees, Clinton’s Wrath, Obama in Austin, Good Boxing

It is a good time to write as the day is gray with freezing rain; I only hope that the roads are clear enough for me to get in tomorrow’s scheduled “long swim”.

Today I did a couple of yoga classes with Suzanne, who was filling in for Vickie, my usual yoga teacher.

My knees (especially my left one) usually ache a day or two prior to a rainstorm and my left one really barked at me yesterday. I kind of wondered if it was all in my head or if there was something to it; evidently there is. This is from the New Scientist Magazine:

I damaged my knee ligaments in a skiing accident about two years ago. Ever since then I have had what I describe as a “weather forecasting knee”. Before it rains I always experience pain in my knee. This happens in both summer and winter and does not seem to be related to humidity. I am not the only person to have reported this. Why does my knee hurt before it rains and, more interestingly, how does it know? How does it detect the onset of rain?

Plenty of studies have looked at pain associated with weather, especially in people suffering from arthritis. These show that there is a real effect, but oddly there has been little research into what causes the pain – Ed

The human body can be viewed schematically as a clump of gelatin-filled balloons mounted on a stick. Undamaged tissue – be it fat, muscle, or bone – is relatively elastic and will expand and contract when subjected to changes in atmospheric pressure. Scar tissue, in contrast, is very stiff and dense, and does not expand or contract appreciably within the range of normal atmospheric fluctuation.

Imagine if several of the balloons in your hypothetical body clump were glued together and then the surrounding pressure was lowered. The balloons would expand, so the glued-together area – representing the scar tissue – would distort and pull as a result, which in living tissue results in nerve stimulation and a rapid onset of pain. This persists until the pressure normalises or the scar eventually stretches to relieve the distortion. This may take hours or days.

I occasionally mystify my office staff by announcing in the morning: “It’s going to be a busy day for drop-in patients.” They never know how I can predict the 20 or 30 who will call with a severe increase in pain from surgery or an old injury. I’d rather my staff think I have magical abilities than confess I read the weather report.

Immersion in a hot tub and gentle exercise may ease the pain. Waiting for the weather to change works too, and here in east Texas that usually happens before you can fill the tub.

Steven Ballinger, Nacogdoches, Texas, US

It may sound like an old wives’ tale that wet weather aggravates arthritis, but in the 1960s a rheumatologist called Joseph Hollander built an experimental climate chamber to test the claim. He found a high humidity combined with low barometric pressure – the meteorological situation before it rains – is indeed associated with joint pain or stiffness.

One explanation is that the change in weather makes injured ligaments swell, and the nerves around the joint sense this as pain. Another is that air within the joint may expand when barometric pressure drops, again causing the nerves to report pain.

A recent experiment by Japanese scientists demonstrated that back pain associated with changes in barometric pressure is linked to the vacuum phenomenon, in which gases build up in the spaces between the vertebrae (Journal of Spinal Disorders and Techniques, vol 15, p 290). Such bubbles form as the discs between the vertebrae deteriorate, and are more common in older people. They can also form in other joints.

Avoid pain by keeping your knee dry and warm. And, of course, you are now more qualified than most to work as a local TV weather forecaster.

Frank Wong, Sydney, Australia

One explanation for the weather-predicting knee is “bone bruising” – bleeding and oedema caused by microscopic fractures of trabecular, or porous, bone. Some studies have found these are relatively common after ligament injury to the knee.

Maybe changes in atmospheric pressure could change the volume of the oedema in the bone and produce pain. If so, two predictions might be made: an MRI scan will show bone bruising, and the patient’s ability to predict weather should decrease as the injury heals.

Peter Hallas, Copenhagen, Denmark
From issue 2541 of New Scientist magazine, 04 March 2006, page 97

Note: I’ve had three operations on my right knee, including two “regular ones” and one arthoscopic “lateral release“:

Lateral Release

A lateral release is a surgical procedure where tight structures to the outer side of the kneecap (patella), when they are causing the patella to tilt abnormally, are cut to allow the kneecap to assume a better position. The cut is an inch or more from top to bottom.

The procedure can be done in different ways – from inside the knee as part of an arthroscopy (keyhole surgery) or from the outside via a small cut (incision).

What is cut is the ‘lateral retinaculum’, a fibrous support on the outer side of the kneecap, but some other structures may also be cut at the surgeon’s discretion if the release needs to be more extensive.

Side note on endurace athletes and how we think: Obviously, no two humans think alike. But I read something on crackhead’s blog which reflected how I feel sometimes. I hasten to point out that my feelings often don’t reflect reality, and that these feelings often crop up when I am frusterated by something (as she was as she wrote this). She was having a rough time (overstress at work, not much sleep, attacked and bitten by a dog, then woken up by a noisy neighbor) and so probably wasn’t in the most serene space when she wrote it. Nevertheless, when the demons in my head act up, they say something like this: (note: Crackhead is a triathlete who does ironmans)

I know that I am a person that is challenging to manage and relate to–I have exceedingly high expectations not only of myself but of others–but I also deliver, and I deliver well, and I deliver quickly and honestly. But more and more, I am coming to the conclusion that in business and in many areas of life, what the people want is mediocrity. I am not that. I will not be that, I will not become that, I will not stoop to the level of not having goals, not wanting to make a contribution, not becoming as knowledgeable as I can about things that matter to me and the rest of the world, not wanting to stand out and shine, not wanting to excel, not wanting to be my very best as often as possible. I will not be the person who learns nothing, knows nothing, says nothing, does nothing, acts randomly, cultivates excuses and coasts through life. Others may not like me for demanding so much of them, but in the end they like themselves better because of it. Why? Because that’s how we become better people. By seeking new challenges and rising up to meet them. I cherish and will defend to the death friends and relationships (business and personal) that challenge me in ways that force me to learn and grow; otherwise, I mentally toss them aside as mere chaff. Harsh, you may say, but nobody ever became great by submersing themselves in mediocrity. When I find myself surrounded by mediocrity and piss-poor standards, I make my own challenges and raise the bar. Some would accuse me of being a troublemaker or malcontent. Fine. Keep living in your vacuum of consciousness and world of inertia. Not me. Not today. Not ever.

I sometimes feel this way when I deal with undermotivated students too; though I admit that when I was a student, I probably caused some frusteration in my professors as well. 🙂

Again, I don’t advocate feeling like this, nor do such feelings actually reflect reality in my case; in fact I am incompetent in many areas.

Politics in the Middle East
On another note, we often get a steady diet of news from the Middle East and about Muslims and much of what we see in America paints the Middle East (and their people) in a bad light. So, to present a bit more balance, I’d like to point to this video (don’t know how to embedd it) and to this article:

Those who think that Muslim countries and pro-terrorist attitudes go hand-in-hand might be shocked by new polling research: Americans are more approving of terrorist attacks against civilians than any major Muslim country except for Nigeria.

The survey, conducted in December 2006 by the University of Maryland’s prestigious Program on International Public Attitudes, shows that only 46 percent of Americans think that “bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians” are “never justified,” while 24 percent believe these attacks are “often or sometimes justified.”

Contrast those numbers with 2006 polling results from the world’s most-populous Muslim countries – Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. Terror Free Tomorrow, the organization I lead, found that 74 percent of respondents in Indonesia agreed that terrorist attacks are “never justified”; in Pakistan, that figure was 86 percent; in Bangladesh, 81 percent.

Do these findings mean that Americans are closet terrorist sympathizers?

Hardly. Yet, far too often, Americans and other Westerners seem willing to draw that conclusion about Muslims. Public opinion surveys in the United States and Europe show that nearly half of Westerners associate Islam with violence and Muslims with terrorists. Given the many radicals who commit violence in the name of Islam around the world, that’s an understandable polling result.

But these stereotypes, affirmed by simplistic media coverage and many radicals themselves, are not supported by the facts – and they are detrimental to the war on terror. When the West wrongly attributes radical views to all of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims, it perpetuates a myth that has the very real effect of marginalizing critical allies in the war on terror.

Indeed, the far-too-frequent stereotyping of Muslims serves only to reinforce the radical appeal of the small minority of Muslims who peddle hatred of the West and others as authentic religious practice.

Terror Free Tomorrow’s 20-plus surveys of Muslim countries in the past two years reveal another surprise: Even among the minority who indicated support for terrorist attacks and Osama bin Laden, most overwhelmingly approved of specific American actions in their own countries. For example, 71 percent of bin Laden supporters in Indonesia and 79 percent in Pakistan said they thought more favorably of the United States as a result of American humanitarian assistance in their countries – not exactly the profile of hard-core terrorist sympathizers. For most people, their professed support of terrorism/bin Laden can be more accurately characterized as a kind of “protest vote” against current US foreign policies, not as a deeply held religious conviction or even an inherently anti- American or anti-Western view.

In truth, the common enemy is violence and terrorism, not Muslims any more than Christians or Jews. Whether recruits to violent causes join gangs in Los Angeles or terrorist cells in Lahore, the enemy is the violence they exalt.

Our surveys show that not only do Muslims reject terrorism as much if not more than Americans, but even those who are sympathetic to radical ideology can be won over by positive American actions that promote goodwill and offer real hope.

America’s goal, in partnership with Muslim public opinion, should be to defeat terrorists by isolating them from their own societies. The most effective policies to achieve that goal are the ones that build on our common humanity. And we can start by recognizing that Muslims throughout the world want peace as much as Americans do.

• Kenneth Ballen is founder and president of Terror Free Tomorrow, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to finding effective policies that win popular support away from global terrorists.

Senator Hillary Clinton: framing views on her.
A recent article came out about the Clinton campaign. The thrust of the article is that the Clintons (both Bill and Hillary) reward loyality.

“It’s like being married, and suddenly you fall in love. You’re a good person, and a loyal person … you have a history with the Clintons,” she said. “And you feel like you’re cheating.”

If some Democrats have cheating on their minds, it coincides with the rise of Obama, the junior senator from Illinois, who has attracted big crowds and evidenced that elusive quality of political charisma, “something you cannot manufacture,” Huffington said. “It is priceless — and we haven’t seen it for a long time.”

And that has posed trouble for the old love: Hillary Rodham Clinton, the New York senator, front-runner for the Democratic nomination in 2008 and the wife of former President Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton, who is scheduled to attend a lunch fundraiser in San Francisco today, expected in her presidential campaign to tap the same liberal Democratic sources of money in Hollywood and elsewhere that backed her husband’s successful bids for the White House. And, Huffington and others say, the Clintons tend to play a style of politics that is all or nothing — you’re my friend or my enemy. […]

“A lot of people here tonight have long relationships with the Clintons,” Huffington said.

“They’ve been good to you. They’ve given you Kennedy Center honors. They’ve helped your kids … but you’re suddenly in love. What do you do?”

Clinton attended a reception Thursday set up by her longtime supporter Ron Burkle, followed by another organized by Haim Saban, a big Democratic moneyman and Clinton donor.

Even as she meets with supporters, Clinton’s campaign has wrestled with a potentially damaging story that centers on her competition with Obama for attention and money. Geffen, a former Clinton fundraiser who now backs Obama, said in an interview with columnist Maureen Dowd of the New York Times that Clinton is a divisive figure and that she and her husband lie with impunity.
Huffington, an observer of the Hollywood and political scenes, agreed that insiders have felt uncertain about changing loyalties.

“The Clintons have made it very clear that, in the political world, no dalliances are allowed. There is zero tolerance for that,” Huffington laughed. “It’s sheer loyalty versus sheer fear.”

And it’s reinforced, she said by the “constant e-mails being sent out about the senator’s poll numbers, along with the implication that ‘if you give any money to anybody else, you’re on the outs.’ And that when she is the nominee, and when she’s the president, she will remember.”

A veteran California Democratic campaign strategist — speaking only on condition of anonymity because of clients he represents — agreed.

The message from the Clinton campaign, particularly its chairman, Terry McAuliffe, has been blunt, the strategist said, “that you’re with us or against us. This isn’t one of those races that you can max out (in contributions) to all the candidates. The message from Team Hillary is: We’re ahead, we’re going to be the nominee — and we will remember who our friends are.”

But Chris Lehane, the White House spokesman for Bill Clinton, said remembering who your true-blue friends are is a must for a political winner.

“I think history is pretty clear that those folks who are loyal to the Clintons find the loyalty is really reciprocated — and that is one of the reasons why so many people have stuck with them for so long,” he said. “They really do respect and appreciate it when someone is loyal, and that manifests itself in many ways … that is what good politicians do.”

Lehane also strongly challenged the implication that the Clintons can be punitive and unforgiving — behavior that he said doesn’t work for the long view in politics.

“At the end of the day, politics is about putting one vote after another; you always want to be growing and expanding,” he said. “People who get to this level of politics tend to have concentric circles around them.”

Of course, one can spin this at least a couple of ways: one can say that the Clinton’s respect loyalty (a good thing) or one can spin it as that they have a “with us or against us” mentality, as Bill Dennis (author of the blog Peoria Pundit) just did. Note: Dennis is a libertarian who likes Obama.

Speaking of Senator Obama: he had a successful campaign apperance in Austin, Texas, where he drew 15,000 people to the Auditorium Shores. My sister was there, and I’ll link to her story and photos when she puts them up.

The above shows some of the crowd at the event and the video his here.

Barack Obama excited at least 15,000 people at Auditorium Shores on Friday with vows to unify the United States behind high hopes for change, including bringing U.S. combat troops home from Iraq by March 2008.

Standing on a platform slickened by intermittent rain, the third-year U.S. senator from Illinois and Democratic presidential candidate celebrated the nation’s history of overcoming injustices, ranging from slavery to civil rights discrimination to the denial of voting rights to women.

Obama, who has proposed a phased removal of U.S. troops from Iraq starting in May, said he’s proud of opposing the American invasion of Iraq from the start.

That could give him a political edge for the 2008 Democratic nomination against other candidates who cast votes authorizing the invasion, including U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and former U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

Most of all, Obama said, Americans ask “why we are still in a war that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged. . . . Austin, it is time for us to bring this war to an end.”

Obama, 45, has enjoyed big crowds since he launched his campaign before 17,000 people outside the Illinois Capitol in Springfield two weeks ago. Some 9,000 people saw him speak in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Five times in thanks, Obama called Friday’s turnout on the south side of Town Lake unbelievable.

Rally organizers said 20,000 to 22,000 people watched the 40-minute speech. A city official estimated that the crowd was closer to 15,000.

The civil rights lawyer, speaking without notes, occasionally rambled and possibly erred by dubbing Texas the “Longhorn state,” an affront to anyone not tied to the University of Texas.

Austin real estate agent Cynthia Carlisle said Obama did not seem to have the charisma of Bill Clinton, the last Democrat to hold the White House. But she got a positive chill when he referred to activism toward ending racial segregation.

“He needs to pump it up,” Carlisle said of the speech.

By and large, crowd members were transfixed and thrilled. […]

Boxing: Friday Night Fights

I got to watch some entertaining boxing last night. The first fight I watched was an eight round welterweight bout between Edvan Barros (9-3-1) and Enrique Gutierrez (10-2). At the start of the fight, Guitierrez hurt Barros and had him in trouble. Barros came back strong in the second round and scored a knockdown.

The fight continued to feature non-stop action the rest of the way, with Barros being the aggressor but Gutierrez landing some hard counterpunches. Barros won a hard fought unanamious decision 77-74, 76-74, 79-72, though my card had it a bit closer (77-76).

The next fight featured 200 pound cruiserweights Darnell Wilson (21-5-3) against Kelvin Davis (24-5-2, former IBF cruiserweight champion). In my opinion, Davis won the fist two rounds mostly because Wilson didn’t do all that much; he seemed to be using his left as a “measuring” type of pawing jab. In fact, Davis knocked Wilson down in the second round, though Wilson bounced right back up and didn’t appear to be hurt.

But in round three, Wilson found his range and unleashed a 40 punch barage, 23 which landed according to the computer scoring (I counted 32 shots which landed, but never mind). Davis was hurt by one of the early shots but, unfortunately for him, wasn’t knocked down. Instead he stayed upright and was therefore subjected to more punishment. Finally, he went down with his legs in the air.

After getting back up, he was out on his feet and was still staggering badly; hence the referee (correctly) ended the fight.

Had he taken a knockdown earlier, he might have had a chance to recover a bit.

Then I saw a undercard 6 round heavyweight fight between up can coming Mike Marrone (17-0, 13 KOs) won and 31 year old 9’th grade science teacher Jermell Barnes (17-14-2, 4 KOs).

Though Marrone was quicker (due to age) early in the fight and piled up a lead, Barnes rallied a bit to at least split the middle rounds and move within striking distance with one round to go. On my card, Barnes could have won the fight with a last round knock-down or at least pulled to a draw; he was a bit further behind on the official cards. Marrone did enough in the last round to pull out a close but unanimous 58-56, 59-55, 58-56 decision (ESPN had it 58-56; I had it 57-57). For more readthe report at

February 24, 2007 Posted by | boxing, hillary clinton, injury, obama, Peoria/local, politics/social, ultra, yoga | 9 Comments

Examples, Black Holes, Scary Kung-Fu, etc.

Workout Notes: 3100 yards; 5 x 100 fist, 10 x 50 (drill/free), 5 x 200 on the 4:00 (3:12, :09, :08, :09, :09), 5 x 100 (side/free/side/free) (fastest 1:48), 500 free in 8:46 (4:19, 4:27). I was dead. Still, the set of 200s were ok.

Setting the example Prince Harry from Great Britian is going into combat.

It is believed that the prince had threatened to leave the army if he were prevented from going to Iraq. Speaking in a television interview in 2005, he said: “If they said ‘No, you can’t go frontline’ then I wouldn’t drag my sorry arse through Sandhurst and I wouldn’t be where I am now.

“The last thing I want to do is have my soldiers away to Iraq or wherever like that and for me to be held back home.”

Hmmm, it seems as if our great leaders in our Republic Party could learn or thing or two from him, or, to be fair, from the Senator McCain (R-AZ) family of the Senator Webb (D-VA) one, as Brent Budowsky writes:

Prince Harry is headed to the front lines. When his country called his number, Harry answered the call.

There were a hundred ways Prince Harry could have gracefully avoided this danger. Instead, he chose the one way to join the battle, at great risk, because he is now a prime target.

When Dick Cheney’s country called his number as Americans died in the jungles of Vietnam, Dick Cheney was nowhere to be found. What a hero!

Yet Cheney is first in line to send others to war. He thinks nothing of running a smear campaign against a woman who has served our country in intelligence, attacking the wife, to get the husband. What a man!

Now he attacks the patriotism of those who try to save our troops, from his misjudgments. He is the cheerleader with the poison pen. attacking the gladiators in the arena.

Prince Harry understands the meaning of valor, courage, honor and patriotism. Mr. Cheney sits in his office writing nasty notes on Op-Ed pieces, the armchair warrior, who has much to learn from the Prince who serves his country.

More on Iraq
As I stated, 23 Senators voted against the Iraq war from day one. Here is one (Senator Dick Durbin) explaining himself and talking about the late Senator Paul Wellstone.

Black Holes:
Check out this article on black holes. Here is part of it (if you are familiar with Stephen Hawking’s book A Brief History of Time, this part of the article deals with the material in the chapter called Black Holes Ain’t so Black. What varieties of black holes are there?

NdT: There are different ways to split them up. I don’t make a big deal of that in the book. There are black holes that spin and black holes that don’t spin at all. The two broadest categories are simply the black holes that come from the death of a star and then the kind that you find in the centers of galaxies. That’s the broadest concept that we need to know. What happens if you jump into one?

NdT: If you’re the one who took this one way trip, as you descend down towards its center you begin to feel the strength of gravity increase at your feet compared with the gravity at your head. Will you feel gravity significantly less at your head?

NdT: Yeah, what happens is that the difference in gravity becomes so great that your body initially stretches a little bit. There’s nothing wrong with that sensation, which is what you do every morning when you wake up from bed, get out of bed. But the stretching sensation is unrelenting. And it reaches a point where the strength of the difference in gravity becomes greater than the strength of the bonds or the molecules that hole your flesh together. And the moment that happens, that’s it, that’s kind of the end of you. You snap into two pieces. It’s likely to happen at your midsection, at the base of your spine.

Then those two pieces, they’ll begin to feel the same effect as you continue to descend towards the center of the black hole. And they then snap into two pieces and this continues on down. You go from one to two, to four to eight as you approach the center of the black hole. So you’re going to turn into infinite pieces?

NdT: Not only that. If you can imagine that, it’s worse than that because the very fabric of space-which we learned from Einstein is curved due to gravity-in the vicinity of a black hole is like a funnel and so in fact as you fall toward a black hole, you’re being funneled through the fabric of space. So you’re not only being stretched, you’re being extruded like toothpaste through a tube. Do your pieces come out the other end?

NdT: That was the science fiction writer’s dream-that you fall in one side and come out the other side. Not until recently, a couple of years ago, Stephen Hawking demonstrated that all the information that falls into a black hole is recoverable information. So in other words, the black hole doesn’t lead into someplace else where things exit.

In this case, the best way to think of information is you’re composed of a number of electrons, protons, neutrons, quarks and such. There’s an inventory of your particle composition. Let’s just call that information for you. Well it turns out, that if you fall in, all that information remains there inside the black hole, and Hawking was able to demonstrate this mathematically. How exactly did he demonstrate this?

NdT: People had suggested that once you fall into a black hole, you basically leave this universe and so all bets are off. You’re done. But what we’ve known since the 1970s is that there’s such a thing as a Hawking radiation, and this is a kind of an interesting, spooky phenomenon.

You may remember the equation E=mc2, which we all learn in elementary school even before we know what it does, but it’s the recipe to exchange a quantity of matter with a quantity of energy and back again.

We don’t have daily experience with this equation because things that happen in the life of a human, the conditions of your environment are not such that E= mc2 gets revealed in any measurable way. But if you go to centers of stars, if you go to the big bang, if you go to the very strong gravity field of a black hole, the conditions are just fine for that and so what happens is that the gravity field of a black hole is so intense that particles can pop into existence from the energy of that field. Again this is according to E= mc2. Well this is called Hawking radiation, and this was a profound result because it actually said that black holes can evaporate by this method, that they’re not completely black.

You can actually escape a black hole, but it’s kind of like cheating. The particle isn’t rising up from the center and crossing the black zone and coming into our universe. The way it’s happening is the energy field created by the gravity of the black hole and that gravity is created by the matter it’s eaten throughout its life. The field produces a particle. And every time the field produces a particle, the black hole weighs less.

That’s been known since the 1970s, so a recent result said that if you take the inventory of the particles that issue force from the gravity field and compare it with everything that was eaten throughout the life of a black hole, that it will match one for one. So somehow the gravity field has a memory, has some kind of an understanding has access to the information that we thought was gone forever. And I find that remarkable. But it also said that you can’t just go somewhere else in the universe, so it kind of closed the creativity door for science fiction writers.

Kung Fu: talk about balance!

Don’t make a mistake! Hat tip to LPN20 from the message boards who told us about this video.

February 23, 2007 Posted by | politics/social, swimming | Leave a comment

Durbin’s relection, Illiniwek

Workout notes: 2000 yards (20 x 100 on the 2; 10 were free/back/fist/free, 5 were fly/free/fly/free, 5 were side/free/side/free). Then yoga with Ms. V.

Chief Illiniwek An issue with fans of the University Illinois football and basketball teams is the retirement of their mascot, Chief Illiniwek. The mascot was deemed to be hostile and racist by the NCAA.

I won’t get into that assertion, but I will comment on a couple of other ones:

  • The Chief is somehow there to “honor the past”: you hear this all of the time:

    And, for the first time, I was privileged to watch Chief Illiniwek proudly dance down the field to Indian war music.

    The last time I watched the Chief was Sept. 16, 2006. It will be the last time I ever see this 81-year-old symbol of my alma mater. The board of trustees last week eliminated Chief Illiniwek, bowing to years of pressure from Native American activists, the NCAA and liberal politicians. This is a melancholy moment for me, many other Illinois alumni and university officials, including President B. Joseph White. The university has been forced to yield to blackmail. The death of the Chief epitomizes some unsavory aspects of contemporary American public life: political correctness, hypocrisy and bureaucratic tyranny.

    Only a small minority of Native Americans is shown by polls to oppose Indian nicknames in sports. The campaign gained momentum only when the NCAA, which can hardly cope with policing athlete misconduct and illegal payments in college sports, crusaded against dozens of colleges in the name of political correctness. The NCAA, under Myles Brand’s presidency, labeled Chief Illiniwek one of the “hostile and abusive racial/ethnic/national origin mascots.”

    But the Chief is no mascot (the university calls him a symbol). The big-headed depiction of the father of this country at George Washington University, the turtle representing the University of Maryland and the Demon Deacon for Wake Forest are mascots. Such college mascots are comical figures who engage in sham battles with each other and go into the stands to hug children. Chief Illiniwek did not. He was always austere and dignified.

    The accusation that Illinois and other schools degrade Native Americans is absurd. These schools picked Indian symbols in admiration of their valor, ferociousness and indomitable spirit in the face of overwhelming odds. Native Americans were honored in naming states. Illinois is Algonquin for “tribe of superior men.” Indiana means the “land of the Indians.”


    Former Chief John Bitzer, 53, a Collinsville attorney, said the ruling shows how little the NCAA knows about the legacy of Chief Illiniwek.
    “The whole intent of Chief Illiniwek is to honor the past,” he said. “The tribes of Illinois were warriors, and they were loyal to their tribes. That’s what the Chief exemplifies.”
    John Bitzer said he received a few letters complaining about the Chief during his term as Illiniwek. He said he answered the letters with background information about the history of American Indians in Illinois and why the Chief was chosen to represent the University of Illinois. A member of the “Save the Chief” organization, he fears the Chief will be eliminated.
    “I’m afraid the university won’t have the stomach to stand up to this nonsense,” he said. “There needs to be a judge rule that the NCAA is stepping out of its sphere of authority.”

  • Hmmm, so fans to to basketball and football games to “honor the past”? I thought they went to whoop it up and cheer for their team. Silly me.

  • The Chief is proud and dignified.
  • You can see many more such photos here.

    Yep, I am sure that the old Native American Chiefs went around doing such jumps. 😉

Face it: people liked seeing “The Chief” dance around and jump; it got them fired up for the game. “Honor and dignity” had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Senator Durbin

Sure, Senator Durbin is an early favorite to win reelection, but that doesn’t mean that the Illinois Republic Party isn’t at least thinking about his seat:

There’s a lot of grousing that Republicans don’t yet have any clear candidates for the nomination for U.S. Senate to take on incumbent Democrat Dick Durbin next year. But there are some institutional realities to this race that have to be taken into account. It is, by no means, a worthless nomination. But it is the political equivalent of venture capital – a high-risk opportunity that offers a big return with ultimate success, but long odds against achieving that success. There are limitations on who can take on that type of risk.

First the problems. Durbin is a high-ranking member of Democratic leadership in the senate. He will start with access to all the resources he needs. He is a Democratic incumbent in a blue state. He is identified as an outspoken opponent of the war; a war that, whatever its merits, is currently both at the top of peoples minds and very unpopular.

If nothing significant changes in the political landscape, any serious GOP candidate would have to largely self-fund. The State Republican Party is coming off a devastating cycle. That dampens the ability of the state party to raise money for the next cycle. While it can’t give directly to a federal candidate anyway, it puts serious hurdles in the way of it being of serious help in offering support services in improving the climate or helping in direct fundraising appeals.

The rest of the article is worth reading.

February 22, 2007 Posted by | Peoria/local, politics/social | Leave a comment