Monday, June 30, 2008


The lightning-round layoffs due to cut the newsroom of the San Jose Mercury News by another nine employees means the staff will have been pared by fully 63% from its peak strength in 2000. The newspaper was perhaps the primary beneficiary of the Internet bubble, when aggressive competition for dot-comers pumped its want-ad revenues to stratospheric = and, as it proved = unsustainable highs. By some accounts, the paper dropped $100 million a year in recruitment sales when the Internet mania collapsed as the new millennium dawned. During the giddy boom in Silicon Valley, the staff of the Merc swelled to some 400 journalists. Newsosaur

Radley Balko, Reason - Sens. Larry "Wide Stance" Craig and David "Diaper Boy" Vitter have signed on to co-sponsor yet another federal bill that would amend the Constitution define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Dan Sweeney at the Huffington Post thinks this is hypocrisy. I disagree. Vitter and Craig are clearly victims, here. As National Review's Stanley Kurtz has warned us, once the gays start marrying, it will set off a tidal wave of temptation, causing even the most robustly heterosexual men to consider cheating on their wives. Craig and Vitter are clearly victims of Massachusetts legalizing gay marriage several years ago. We can't expect them to take personal responsibility for what they did. Society made them do it. In sponsoring this bill, they're merely trying to spare other straight, conservative politicians from falling victim to the chain-reaction of debauchery set off by allowing, for example, these two sinners to exchange vows.

Matt Welch of Reason points out that next year's spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan amounts to roughly one billion dollars for each registered voter.

Marijuana contains an amazing chemical, beta-caryophyllene, and scientists have thoroughly proven that it could be used to treat pain, inflammation, atherosclerosis, and osteoporosis. Jurg Gertsch, of ETH Zurich, and his collaborators from three other universities learned that the natural molecule can activate a protein called cannabinoid receptor type 2. When that biological button is pushed, it soothes the immune system, increases bone mass, and blocks pain signals -- without causing euphoria or interfering with the central nervous system. . . Unfortunately, big pharmaceutical companies tend not to seek FDA approval for natural chemicals, and most doctors are reluctant to prescribe drugs that have not received a green light from the regulatory agency. Thus, it would require a heroic effort by academic researchers to prove that beta-caryophyllene is safe and effective in humans. Wired

It's as American as apple pie--teenagers "driving around in a big loop, listening to music, waving at one another and wasting gasoline." It's called cruising, but unfortunately the high cost of gas, combined with a tough economy, has made this rite of passage too expensive for most teens and their parents. As a result, America's youth are being forced to seek out other forms of entertainment, such as hanging out in parking lots, malls or movie theaters, and parking their cars and walking around. Teens have already been waiting longer to drive due to higher insurance costs, the decline in school systems offering driver's education programs and stricter laws--such as graduated driver-licensing--for teenage drivers. Now, however, teens that already drive are finding it harder to raise the cash to do so. Treehugger

MSNBC’s Michael Isikoff told MSNBC, "The Homeland Security Department is talking about expanding the program to use military satellites really, for domestic purposes. They say the primary driver is natural disasters - like the recent flooding in the Midwest - to pinpoint areas that are most hard hit and to help with responses, first responses. But they also leave open the possibility that this could be used for other purposes, law enforce many purposes. Tracking potential terrorists but also tracking potential drug operations. And that is where the concerns about civil liberty abuses come in. First of all, there are strict laws about the act that limits the use of the U.S. military for law enforcement purposes. But the precision of these satellites, they can literally capture crystal clear images of your car as you leave the studio this afternoon. And capture them in computer databases - in the government computer databases." Raw Story

Acting Flint Police Chief David R. Dicks announced that officers will begin arresting people wearing pants or shorts that sag too low exposing rear ends. "This immoral self expression goes beyond free speech," said Dicks in a statement released Thursday. "It rises to the crime of indecent exposure/disorderly persons.". . . Greg Gibbs, an ACLU attorney in Flint, said how people wear their clothing is a form of expression but cautions that not all of those forms are protected by the Constitution. "The issue is: Does it violate the First Amendment?" said Gibbs, adding he plans to research the issue further. Mondoglobo

One view -- which usually comes from moderates and conservatives, like those in the once-influential Democratic Leadership Council -- argues the trick is to move to the political center to lure wavering Soccer Moms and Reagan Democrats. The other side, coming from the party's more liberal/left wing, believes the winning formula is to hold firm on a solidly progressive agenda, and mobilize more voters who embrace that agenda -- like young voters and African-Americans. The Chicago Tribune today gives ammunition to the progressives, showing that even modest gains in youth and African-American voter turnout could turn nine swing states Democratic in 2008 -- including three in the South: If Obama could inspire just 10 percent more Democratic voters under 30 to go to the polls than did four years ago, that alone could be enough to switch Iowa and New Mexico from red to blue, the analysis suggests. Just a 10 percent increase in turnout among blacks would make up more than 40 percent of George W. Bush's 2004 victory margin in Ohio and more than 20 percent of the Republicans' 2004 victory margin in Florida. Turnout increases of 10 percent of young voters and African-Americans could virtually eliminate the Republicans' 2004 victory margin in Ohio and go a long way toward closing the gap in Colorado, Nevada, Missouri, Virginia and -- a bit more of a stretch -- possibly North Carolina. Facing South

Gen. Wesley Clark, acting as a surrogate for Barack Obama’s campaign, invoked John McCain’s military service against him in one of the more personal attacks on the Republican presidential nominee this election cycle. Clark said that McCain lacked the executive experience necessary to be president, calling him "untested and untried" on CBS’ "Face the Nation." And in saying so, he took a few swipes at McCain’s military service. After saying, "I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in the armed forces, as a prisoner of war," he added that these experiences in no way qualify McCain to be president in his view: "He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded - that wasn't a wartime squadron," Clark said. Politico

Taegan Goddard, Political Insider The centrist Democratic Leadership Council holds its national meeting in Chicago -- just a block away from Sen. Barack Obama's campaign headquarters. However, Obama will not attend. Even though the Illinois senator has moved to the center on so many issues in recent weeks, he's not willing to incur the wrath of liberal Democrats by speaking at the convention of the group described by many as "Republican-lite." With none of the Democratic presidential candidates in attendance at last year's meeting either, it's fair to say the DLC has officially lost it's mojo.

To some, even the contents of Obama's iPod, recently revealed to Rolling Stone, smacked of political calculation, combining as it did Baby Boomer classics (Stones, Springsteen, Dylan) with highbrow jazz (Coltrane, Miles Davis) mindless top 40 pop (Sheryl Crow) and edgy-but-not-too-edgy hip hop (Jay-Z, Ludacris). Perhaps this playlist should be titled 'Majority Coalition'. Guardian UK

Gardeners have been warned not to eat home-grown vegetables contaminated by a powerful new herbicide that is destroying gardens and allotments across the UK. The Royal Horticultural Society has been inundated with calls from concerned gardeners who have seen potatoes, beans, peas, carrots and salad vegetables wither or become grossly deformed. The society admitted that it had no idea of the extent of the problem, but said it appeared 'significant'. The affected gardens and allotments have been contaminated by manure originating from farms where the hormone-based herbicide aminopyralid has been sprayed on fields. Dow AgroSciences, which manufactures aminopyralid, has posted advice to allotment holders and gardeners on its website. Colin Bowers, Dow's UK grassland marketing manager, told The Observer that links to their products had been proved in some of the cases, but it was not clear whether aminopyralid was responsible for all of them and tests were continuing. 'It is undoubtedly a problem,' he said, 'and I have got full sympathy for everyone who is involved with this.' He said the company was unable to advise gardeners that it was 'safe' to consume vegetables that had come into contact with the manure because of pesticide regulations. 'All we can say is that the trace levels of aminopyralid that are likely to be in these crops are of such low levels that they are unlikely to cause a problem to human health.' Guardian

China's recent plastic bag ban has been immediately accepted by consumers. In a country where billions of plastic bags are used each day, the government's top-down policy move will likely benefit the country's environment and energy security well before market forces or consumer-led efforts are able to achieve similar impact. . . Shoppers have embraced the ban without significant complaint, despite sacrificing some degree of shopping convenience. Older generations have reminiscently turned back to the woven baskets or plain cloth bags they used before plastic alternatives entered the Chinese market in the 1980s. Younger people are busy checking out online shops for more fashionable "eco-friendly" bags. Those who do pay for plastic bags are trying to buy as few as possible, foregoing the long-engrained perspective of "better more than fewer" prevalent before the ban. ENN

Municipal governments, police departments and school districts are tightening their belts as the budgets local taxpayers fill get stretched by high fuel costs, the Los Angeles Times reports. . . . In suburban school districts like Seattle's Northshore district, school bus routes are being cut, or children are being asked to walk farther to their bus stops so the bus has to make fewer stops and squeeze a few more miles to the gallon. Diesel, which runs most school buses, has been at or near all-time high prices per gallon, and currently sits at an average of about $4.76 a gallon. Gasoline prices hit a new record, of nearly $4.09 a gallon, and that has some police departments eliminating patrols or even putting their beat cops in golf carts to save on fuel. Daily Green

Kenya's Tana River Delta, inhabited by 350 species of birds, lions, elephants, rare sharks and reptiles, is about to be converted to sugar cane production over the objections of conservationists and local communities. The Kenyan government has approved a proposal by a publicly traded company based in Nairobi to covert 2,000 square kilometers of the pristine delta into irrigated sugarcane plantations. ENS

Six years ago, the Philadelphia School District embarked on what was considered the country's boldest education privatization experiment, putting 38 schools under private management to see if the free market could educate children more efficiently than the government. . . This month, the experiment suffered a severe setback, as the state commission overseeing Philadelphia's schools voted to take back control of six of the privatized schools, while warning 20 others that they had a year to show progress or they, too, would revert to district control. Students at Philadelphia's schools have made improvements overall, the commission said. But the private-run schools are not doing any better than the schools remaining under public control. Longtime opponents of the privatization plan immediately said the decision showed that the experiment of turning schools over to private managers and market forces -- an idea popular with pro-school-choice Republicans and pushed at the time President Bush was taking office in Washington -- had run its course. . . Keith B. Richburg Washington Post

According to a study released by Magna Global's Steve Sternberg, the five broadcast nets' average live median age (in other words, not including delayed DVR viewing) was 50 last season. That's the oldest ever since Sternberg started analyzing median age more than a decade ago -- and the first time the nets' median age was outside of the vaunted 18-49 demo. Fueling the graying of the networks: the rapid aging of ABC, NBC and Fox. The three nets continue to grow older, while CBS -- the oldest-skewing network -- has remained fairly steady. Variety


At July 1, 2008 12:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could be karma is killing the San Jose Mercury News. They cut down their best reporter, Gary Webb, when he did the best investigative journalism in the MSM in decades. Now nobody wants to read their fish wrapper. Too bad.


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