March 13, 2007

Penn & Teller Get Hundreds to Sign a Petition Banning Water

Filed under: Economy,Environment,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:50 pm

All their petition-gatherer had to do is speak the language of the enviros, and she had hundreds who wanted to ban the evil chemical “dihydrogen monoxide.”

Too funny (some harsh language; HT My VWRC).

(One of these days I’m going to figure out why I can’t embed a YouTube vid successfully. Even copying other people’s HTML source isn’t working. :–< Zheesh.)

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UPDATE: The first commenter made a point that “somehow” disappeared during my failed attempt to put in YouTube screen link — Before you laugh too hard, remember that the petitioners who vote are probably cancelling out those of sensible people.

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Previous Post:

  • Nov. 29, 2006 — Recycling: It’s (Almost) All BS. This is another Penn & Teller production. The video in question isn’t available any more, but there is a short trailer with some harsh language here at Showtime. The trailer concentrates on the “entertainment” at the expense of making the important points, some of which are made at the original BizzyBlog link.

Formerly Mainstream Media: We’re Falling, We Can’t Get Up, and We Don’t Have a Clue

David Bauder of the Associated Press files about as clueless a report as there can be:

With television news losing audience, newspapers struggling to stay afloat and growth even slowing on Internet sites, it seems like a desolate time for the news industry.

Yet there are signs of hope, according to the Project for Excellence (PEJ) in Journalism, which issued its annual report on the state of journalism on Sunday.

People haven’t lost interest in news, said Tom Rosenstiel, the project’s director. But all facets of the industry are hurting simply because there are so many more ways to get information – on broadcast and cable television, big-city newspapers and local handouts, Web sites, blogs, cell phones and PDAs.

Indeed David, people haven’t lost interest, but more and more of them are going elsewhere for news because they don’t trust their newspapers and traditional TV sources any more — and with good reason. Consistent, unrelenting, and transparent bias will do that (yes, the newspaper blogs have grown, but not by anywhere near the contraction of the print editions). How much “hope” is there that after all these years, the Formerly Mainstream Media will change its ways (because that is what it will take for a turnaround)?

And wait a minute: ALL facets? Let’s go through the report ourselves:

  • Newspapers — Declining long-term
  • Evening and Morning Network News — Declining long-term
  • Cable News — Declined in 2006 after many years of growth, but MSNBC improved from basement-like levels
  • Online — Flat (but see below; somehow PEJ missed big growth)
  • Local News — Declined in 2006
  • Big 3 Weekly Newsmagazines — only Time went up a tiny bit, but because of a big price increase and major structural changes, the direction will be downward in 2007. Newsweek and US News held steady, and appear to have halted a longer-term trend of decline.
  • Radio (info is for 2005) — a small decline overall, but a big pickup in the 55-64 and 65+ demographics (i.e., the demos that vote in greatest numbers) for news and talk. Bad news for the Big 3 Nets — the switch to reliance by these demos probably explains the continued decline in the evening news.

Anything missing?

……

……

……

Well first, there’s newspaper blog traffic, which tripled in past year (surprised? I wonder who fed a lot of that?):

Internet traffic to blogs on the top 10 newspaper Web sites more than tripled in the past year, according to a survey released yesterday by market research firm Nielsen/NetRatings.

The number of unique visitors to the most popular newspaper blogs climbed to 3.8 million last month, compared with 1.2 million in December 2005. Readers of newspaper blogs also took up a larger slice of total visitors to those sites, up to 13 percent of total traffic from 4 percent a year ago.

Overall unique visitors to newspaper sites climbed 9 percent to 29.9 million.

The news was available to PEJ on Jan. 17. How did they miss it?

Now here’s something else they missedblog growth in general. I won’t go into details, but it’s growing in numbers, in traffic, both in the Formerly Mainstream Media (as noted already) and elsewhere.

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UPDATE: This is about as good an Exhibit A as there can be as to why newspapers and other Formerly Mainstream Media are losing eyes and ears (“Jihadist Meltdown”; HT NixGuy). How can someone from the New York Sun scoop everybody on a story like this and have such a deep and detailed knowledge of the players, while the rest of the media either knows about these things and won’t tell us, or hasn’t put forth the effort to know and learn these things? Decades ago when there was competition between multiple papers and there were more wire services going against each other, reporters would be called on the carpet for having circles run around them like this. Now the Formerly Mainstream Media doesn’t seem to care about missing a story, especially if it’s one that’s favorable to the US.

Update to Update, Mar. 15: Wizblog raises the valid point that it’s hard to explain all that is happening without bringing Iran into the picture, unless we’re to assume that Al Qaeda is an Iranian proxy, and that this is all that needs to be known. I’ll have to agree that such a contention would seem dubious to me, and leaves the report a bit incomplete — but still infinitely improved over the tired “hopeless civil war” mantra that passes for Formerly Mainstream Media “analysis.”

From the ‘Meet the New Boss, Same as Worse Than the Old Boss’ Department

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 9:38 am

Last year, people were all over the Republican-controlled Senate for larding an appropriations bill containing spending for the War on Terror and hurricane relief with (cue Carl Sagan) billions and billions of dollars of pork-barrel spending.

When confronted with the idea that spending on the measure involved would not be allowed to increase, their initial “solution” was to cut everything across the board, obviously shortchanging what had been originally intended to fully fund the War on Terror and hurricane relief (how much waste might have been in those two line items is a topic for another time). Fortunately, that idea was abandoned because John Boehner and others in the House made it crystal-clear that they would not stand for it.

Supposedly this kind of stuff was going to end because of the November 2006 election results. That does not appear to be the case. In fact, given the current situation, it’s arguably worse (HT Tigerhawk and Porkopolis):

Democrats seeking votes for their Iraq withdrawal plan have stuffed the bill it’s in with billions of dollars for farms, flu preparedness, New Orleans levees, home heating and other causes.

Some critics say the Democrats are simply being opportunistic — using a must-pass measure for funding U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to carry items that can’t advance as easily on their own.

At the same time, Democratic leaders are trying to increase support for setting deadlines for ending U.S. military combat in Iraq, which they’ve made part of the larger legislation.

It’s plain that Democrats are unwilling to approve the bill’s $100 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan without the add-ons.

“The president wants to make sure we take care of Iraq, but I think we also have to make sure that we don’t lose sight of what we have to do here at home,” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill.

Already, money in the bill not directly related to the war exceeds $20 billion.

Tigerhawk characterizes this thusly:

Principle being an apparently insufficient basis for a vote on the future of a war, Democrats are, in effect, buying and selling the lives and limbs of American soldiers and countless Iraqis, the future of Iraq, the security of the Persian Gulf, and, possibly, the success of the long struggle against radical Islam. That is, frankly, disgusting even by Congressional standards.

Senate Republicans who supported the across-the-board abomination last year before the House shook them back to sanity have especially little room for complaining. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us, like Tigerhawk, can’t call it what it is, as he just has.

And so much for “higher standards.”

Couldn’t Help But Notice (031307)

Consensus, Conschmensus Update — NY Times Notes Globaloney and Globalarmism Skeptics. Ace has a healthy portion of the text (probably requires free registration; HT Dan Riehl) for the inevitable disappearance behind the Times’ subscription firewall.

As Ace noted, they do try to water it down (the Times’ home page tease reads “Scientists argue that parts of Al Gore’s film may be exaggerated” — yeah, and I “may be” over 20 years old), but the strong criticism still seeps through:

Kevin Vranes, a climatologist at the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado, said he sensed a growing backlash against exaggeration. While praising Mr. Gore for “getting the message out,” Dr. Vranes questioned whether his presentations were “overselling our certainty about knowing the future.”

Typically, the concern is not over the existence of climate change, or the idea that the human production of heat-trapping gases is partly or largely to blame for the globe’s recent warming. The question is whether Mr. Gore has gone beyond the scientific evidence.

….. So too, a report last June by the National Academies seemed to contradict Mr. Gore’s portrayal of recent temperatures as the highest in the past millennium. Instead, the report said, current highs appeared unrivaled since only 1600, the tail end of a temperature rise known as the medieval warm period. (question for NYT: How can the accepted earlier higher temperatures only “seem to contradict” his “highest in the past millennium” claim? — Ed.)

….. “Nowhere does Mr. Gore tell his audience that all of the phenomena that he describes fall within the natural range of environmental change on our planet,” Robert M. Carter, a marine geologist at James Cook University in Australia, said in a September blog.

How “inconvenient” that the New York Times can’t even ignore the lack of “consensus.” There’s lots more at the Times link while it remains accessible, and at Ace’s place.

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Name a Country That Has Had 15 Years of Uninterrupted Economic Growth.

OK, probably both China and India.

But here is a surprise (to most people) member of that club: Australia, which is not only on track for Year 16 in 2007 — but is also in acceleration mode (requires free registration).

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Mark Tapscott is reporting that it “Looks Like Bush Has Caved on Earmarks”:

Now this morning, word is circulating on the Hill that the Bush administration is going to release only a limited database of earmarks later today or maybe no database at all, but just aggregate or summary data.

Seems the White House legislative staff fears releasing the database would offend members of the appropriation committees in Congress. So, the public gets the shaft, again, on a topic on which there is no doubt where the American people stand.

People want earmarks ended and Bush promised in his State of the Union address to join the campaign to abolish the key to what Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, calls the “gateway drug on federal spending addiction.”

If congresspersons don’t want their bleeping feelings hurt, they should get their snouts out of the trough. (Update, Mar. 14 — A Tapscott update at the same link indicates that the Office of Management and Budget is a willing accomplice in the coverup).

Given who is in control of Congress now, this is a bi-partisan outrage (you would think that since this relates to the FY 2005 budget, the Dems would want to deliver a deserved jab at those who were in charge in 2005, and would be raising a stink), especially, as Tapscott notes, during Sunshine Week.

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The German homeschooling/state kidnapping situation in Germany has taken a serious turn for the worse (HT WND, which also has a quick rundown of the story background for those who are new to it).

Zimbabwe: Worse and Worse

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:12 am

From a report from Sunday (HT Boring Made Dull):

Zimbabwe riot police arrested the country’s top opposition leader on Sunday as they suppressed a planned prayer rally in a crackdown on protests against President Robert Mugabe.

Witnesses said heavily armed police fought skirmishes with rock-throwing opposition supporters in the Harare township of Highfield, where the opposition-aligned Save Zimbabwe Coalition had called for a Sunday prayer rally.

….. Zimbabwe has seen political tensions build as it sinks deeper into its worst economic crisis in decades, with inflation now above 1,700 percent, unemployment of close to 80 percent and regular shortages of food, fuel and foreign exchange.

Mugabe, 83, and in power since independence in 1980, dismisses the MDC as a puppet of Zimbabwe’s former colonial master Britain which opposes him for seizing white-owned commercial farms to give to blacks.

That must be some kind of record — going back 27 years in an attempt to discredit the opposition. Mugabe is responsible for all of this, particularly the land seizures, which have brought food production to a virtual standstill. Zimbabwe cannot recover until Mugabe and his apparatchiks are banished.

Turning Overpayments into a Political Football in Houston

Filed under: Business Moves,Education,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:07 am

Brazen (HT Taranto at Best of the Web):

HOUSTON — The school district that runs the nation’s largest merit pay program gave oversized bonuses to nearly 100 teachers and is asking them to give it back. The president of Houston’s largest teachers’ union is telling members not to return the overpayments, which range from $62.50 to $2,790.

A total of almost $75,000 was overpaid because a computer program mistakenly calculated the bonuses of part-time personnel as if they were full-time employees, according to the Houston Independent School District. Less than 1 percent of teachers were affected, the district said.

Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said the district can’t force the 99 teachers to sign forms authorizing it to deduct the money from their paychecks, and promised legal action if it attempts to do so.

“If it’s the district’s error, then the district should bear the loss,” she said.

District spokesman Terry Abbott, however, said the money must be repaid.

The union opposes the merit system unanimously approved by the school board last year.

Y’know, the District would be within their rights to call the cops with the handcuffs and the paddywagons if the teachers’ position doesn’t change. I’ve seen it done with big-enough overpayments to individuals holding out against companies that inadvertently overpaid them, and union or not, I’m not seeing any reason why the Houston situation is different.

Only If You Live in SW Ohio Would You Know How Absurd This Story Is

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:02 am

From the Cincinnati Community Press:

Last Updated: 6:03 pm | Friday, March 9, 2007

County to study Fields Ertel Road corridor

SYMMES TWP. – The Hamilton County Engineer’s Office is preparing to study the Fields Ertel Road corridor to determine if future troubles could arise.

Postivity: Quick-thinking teen praised as hero

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:57 am

From Long Island:

March 4, 2007

Thomas Rosati still doesn’t think what he did is remarkable.

But a lot of people, including a state senator, a television talk show host and — perhaps most important to him — his 84-year-old grandmother seem to agree that the Bellmore teen is a hero.

“It’s not a big deal,” he said Saturday from the rear deck overlooking the icy canal from which he pulled three brothers — Jacob Fortunato, 8, James Fortunato, 10, and Thomas Fortunato, 16, two weeks ago.

Rosati, 18, a senior at Kennedy High School in Bellmore awoke to his mother’s screams for help at about 11:15 a.m. on Feb. 18.

The boys, who were taking a short cut to a Dunkin’ Donuts, had been walking across the partially frozen canal when the ice gave way, sending the trio into the frigid water.

Barefoot and wearing only a T-shirt and boxer shorts, Rosati ran from his second-floor bedroom down two flights of stairs and hopped a fence to get to the boys. He lay chest-down on the wooden dock, and pulled the boys to safety with his right hand, using his left hand for support.

Since the rescue, he’s been inundated with praise, with the latest plaudit coming yesterday from state Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick), who presented Rosati with the Liberty Medal, one of the highest civilian honors that a New Yorker can receive, in a ceremony outside his home.

Producers from “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” have invited Rosati to Los Angeles for a taping, tentatively scheduled for March 20, his mother said.

Representatives from the show couldn’t be reached yesterday. After the rescue, his grandmother, Angela Malachino, made hot chocolate and covered the three brothers with towels as they waited for an ambulance to arrive.

On Saturday, she gushed about how proud she is. “Thomas didn’t even think twice,” she recalled of the rescue. “He’s such a good boy.”