Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Ohmega Watts


MP3: Ohmega Watts - Mind Power
MP3: Ohmega Watts - Outro/Dream On

DODGE, MOKB - The most overlooked hip-hop release of 2005 was, without a doubt, Ohmega Watts' The Find. Ohmega is a throwback to the golden age of hip-hop who takes his own shots and stabs at hip-hop's current state of bling. Ohmega remembers and reminds us of a day when it was about what was most important, the rhymes and the beats. Blending soul and funk with his hip-hop beats, the most important thing Ohmega does, and I am sincere in this, is bring back what mainstream hip-hop and rap have been missing for quite some time...CREATIVITY. His songs, his record, they are thought out, pondered on, evident that the work has been put in...not some cash grab like way too many of the records being thrown out there today in the hip-hop genre.

(via MOKB and Moistworks)

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Big Easy

UMKC's College Democrats went to New Orleans over the weekend to help with the rebuilding efforts there. Adrienne's Take

Fiscal Responsibility

MARKOS MOULITSAS ZUNIGA, DAILY KOS - In 2004, we had $895 billion in discretionary spending, including $454 billion in defense spending. That means that we had $441 billion in non-defense discretionary spending.

Our budget deficit in 2004 was $412 billion. So without raising revenues, our nation would literally have to eliminate the entire defense department (which ain't gonna happen) or its entire non-defense discretionary spending to simply balance the budget. That's not including the $4.3 TRILLION in debt we current hold and should really be trying to pay off.


While the deficits are a clear result of Bush's tax cuts, the [conservative think-tank] Heritage Foundation would rather see a different solution -- drastic spending cuts. But given the size of these budget deficits, cuts from the discrectionary budget won't do the trick.

Heritage knows this because its solution is much harsher -- cut social security, medicare, and medicaid entitlements. We are seeing Grover Norquist's "drown the government" strategy in action. But remember, we weren't in this mess before Bush irresponsibly cut taxes and engaged us in unecessary foreign entanglements.

Concise version: Bush and a Republican Congress pass and extend huge tax cuts primarily for the wealthy, embroil us in a costly war based on "flawed intelligence" - thus increasing the country's debt dramatically - and want to solve the problem by eliminating or significantly scaling back Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Why do people vote for Republicans again?

Shift to an "Ownership Society"

JULIE APPLEBY, USA TODAY - President Bush's expected call for expansion of health savings accounts in Tuesday's State of the Union address will likely stoke the debate over the accounts. Under the law, the accounts must be coupled with health insurance policies that carry at least a $1,050 annual deductible for individuals or $2,100 for families. They allow people to set aside money, tax free, to cover medical costs. This year, the maximum allowable deposit is $2,700 for individuals and $5,450 for families. Bush wants to increase those contribution levels.

The accounts are seen by proponents as part of a larger effort to create an "ownership society" in which financial responsibility for retirement and health care costs shifts more to individuals and away from government and employers.

Proponents, who include some of Bush's economic advisers, say the system of spending accounts paired with high-deductible policies will make people more judicious users of medical care because they will have to pay a greater portion of the costs themselves.

Critics say many Americans are already struggling to pay for health care, so promoting higher-deductible polices will leave the poor and the chronically ill in worse shape. Critics, who include the Commonwealth Fund and Consumers Union, also fear the accounts will attract mostly healthy people, leaving sicker and more expensive patients in traditional insurance, whose costs will then rise. Overall, they say, the accounts won't save the nation money on health care.

Bush's Plan, in a nutshell:

--Billy Bob Taxpayer pays a set amount for health insurance each month through his employer.
--Billy Bob Taxpayer must foot the first $1,050 or $2,100 (depending on whether or not he has a family) of healthcare costs in a given year before any insurance will kick in.
--Billy Bob Taxpayer is also expected to set aside additional money (on top of his insurance plan) specifically for healthcare costs.

Now, I'm not a rocket scientist or anything, but it looks to me like this would be a decent plan for people who are wealthy. For everybody else however - your typical middle-class family trying to raise three kids and pay off a mortgage, student debts, and a car payment each month - it seems less of a bargain. Call me crazy, but I bet this plan actually discourages people from going to the doctor. But in this administration, black is white, bad is good, up is down, so... sounds perfect!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

KC, Welcome Your New Team

Today, the Arena Football League (AFL) is set for its 20th season — the longest run for a football league this side of the NFL — has a national television contract with NBC and is fighting its way into the country’s sports mainstream. EA Sports is set to release the first AFL video game next month.

The expansion Kansas City Brigade will take the field today when they visit the Dallas Desperados at 2 p.m. in their first-ever game.


Some articles from the Kansas City Star:

AFL's Quirks Might Surprise Some Fans

AFL 101

AFL Team Capsules

Profile of QB Andy Kelly

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Kansas ~ (Part 2)

In reference to my previous post, Tammy asked: "So what are your thoughts on that?" The following is what happens when I don't have anything to do on a Saturday evening. ;-)

The state has a legitimate responsibility to protect and improve the general welfare of its citizens; we place special trust in the government (just as we do in doctors, teachers, nurses, and social workers alike) to protect minors and the disabled from abuse and harm at the hands of others.

I feel Kline's interpretation of Kansas law comes from a desire to broaden and expand the state's role in 'protecting' children using the mandate described above. Of course, he also wins political points with his puritanical base by saying sex between 15 year-olds is an out-and-out CRIME and should be REPORTED and PUNISHED.

But whether you think 10th graders are emotionally mature enough to handle intimate relationships or not, the way in which Kline is pursuing this issue, in my opinion, causes more problems than it solves.

Realize, first, that 'young love' will not die overnight, no matter what a "stuffy old attorney" does in Topeka. Kids who want to have sex will keep having sex, pure and simple.

I respect part of Kline's motivation - it's certainly true that some 15 year-olds are entirely unready for the type of relationship he's trying to prevent. But then again, so are a fair number of 23 year-olds. The question I'm left asking is: what makes 15 and 16 year-olds so very different?

I blogged about similar legislation that was pending in Missouri's House last year. I think it's interesting to note that in the Show-Me State, 15 year-olds are assumed to be mature enough to have sexual relationships. This points to the very arbitrariness of the cut-off age in the law which Kline is seeking to expand - I highly doubt it is steeped in much research pertaining to adolescent psychology; more likely, I imagine the statute dates back to a long-dead legislator trying to make it a crime for the neighbor boy to "disrespect" his teenage daughter. (But that's just a guess on my part.)

Getting to the heart of the issue, what Kline is doing, in my opinion, is tantamount to governmental paternalism - "the fatherland knows best." This is my main problem with the way he is approaching the law. He is seeking to replace the professional discretion of doctors, nurses, social workers, and teachers (those people who know these supposed criminals best) with a one-size-fits-all Big Brother solution. Personally, I place more trust in a family physician to do the right thing than I do in a politician, but that's beside the point.

I think it makes sense to require those who work with minors to report suspected physical and sexual abuse to the proper authorities, but forcing these adults to reveal consensual sexual relationships between ALL minors under 16 who are roughly the same age is quite different, in my mind.

As I said before, I think Kline creates more problems than he solves. For one thing, there's the cost to the taxpayers of the state of Kansas. Missouri's initiative (which encompasses only adolescents under the age of fifteen) was estimated by the state's Department of Social Services to cost an additional $269,000 per fiscal year because additional staff would be needed to screen calls to the child abuse hot line.

But there is yet a bigger drawback. By forcing adults to essentially "snitch" on the adolescents who trust them enough to turn to them for advice and counsel, he leaves minors with very few avenues for gaining information about what it means to be sexually active. If I'm a pediatrician, and a fifteen year-old girl asks me about safe sex, what am I supposed to do? I could give her information about the risks and benefits of using condoms and/or going on birth control, but then I guess I'd have to turn around and phone the police - as I could reasonably suspect her of having "sexual contact" before Phill Kline approves.

So what happens then? Sex among adolescents won't stop, but the dialogue about it will (which, perhaps, is exactly what Kline would like most of all).

In a day and age where Republicans seemingly have no objections to sending 18 year-olds off to war, to kill-and-be-killed, it baffles me how uptight they become when all a person wants to do is love... and be loved.

Kansas ~

AP - A federal appeals court on Friday lifted an order blocking [Republican] Attorney General Phill Kline’s interpretation of a Kansas law that requires health care providers to report consensual underage sex to authorities. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the finding of a lower court, ruling that Kansas has a legitimate interest in information about the voluntary sexual conduct of children. The court said that that interest overrides the minors’ right to privacy.

In Kansas, sexual contact involving children under 16 is a crime. A three-judge panel, in a 2-1 decision, ruled that although minors have a right to informational privacy, it doesn’t exist for illegal sexual conduct. The ruling lifts a preliminary injunction, and the case goes back to federal court for trial.

In July 2003, Kline said that state law requires doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, social workers and others who work with minors to report suspected instances of underage sex, even if it involves willing partners of similar ages.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Monkeys

Courtesy Adrienne...

Monkeys

(Wins extra points for including the Flying Spaghetti Monster.)

Bonus: When I was a kid

Sunday, January 22, 2006

5 Games

In alphabetical order...

Defend the House

Falldown

Mouse Avoider

Ninja Game

Typing Challenge

Saturday, January 21, 2006

At least this year, I didn't get food poisoning....

Whee

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Blogger Snob or "Why I hate XaNgA"

Hehe - I'm sorry to all of my friends who have Xangas, but I really think my friend Danielle hit the nail on the head here. Read her post. And as an aside, if anyone really wants to know what medical school is like for me, just read her blog. She's incredibly articulate and writes about her experiences in the clinical setting much better than I ever could. She's going to be a best-selling author someday, just wait and see. ;-)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Hope for Tomorrow

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Day, a time for Americans to reflect upon our country's past with respect to civil liberties, equality, and justice. It also marked an opportunity to take stock of the present day, a chance to note both the successes and the failings of our nation. Most importantly, perhaps, it afforded the occasion for those who care deeply about this country to proclaim what we hope the future may hold for it.

If you look through the archives of this blog, I think you'll note I've tempered much of my political postings over the course of the past year. The reason for this is simple: it has simply not seemed worth it. My journey into the realm of online communication was begun with the hope that I might better explain my perspective of this world. I carved out this small corner of the Internet for myself because I agreed with the realizations of Dr. King, namely that "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

How successful I've been in combating this enemy is up for debate. What I do know is this: it has not been enough. Conservatives, the radical right, and Bushbots alike (and there is a difference between the three) have won the major battles of this generation to date. With the likely confirmation of Judge Scalito to the already conservative Supreme Court next week, interpretation of American law for the better part of our lives will be almost inexorably shifted to the right. Impacts of this will be wide-ranging, long-felt, and devastating for many. The America that we shall know as a result of the 2000/2004 'elections' will be vastly different than that which we might have had with a President Gore or a President Kerry.

Need it be said, I have been rather despondent about the path we are being led down. Most frustrating of all for me has been the lack of a strong, critical voice of opposition - a trumpet of reason in a din of foolish discord. But today dawned slightly brighter than did Monday, because I now know that at least one man is still able to break through the executive branch's fog of obfuscation, is still able to precisely define the threat to our Constitution and very way of life that is posed by this administration. One man still passionately cares about the future of this country and speaks with both conviction and eloquence. And that is why I tip my hat to you, Mr. Gore. Thank you for inspiring me to keep hope for tomorrow.

What's currently playing in my MP3 player.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Nova Scotia Faces

Old Photographs

More Old Photographs

Choosing What We Fear

SAM SMITH, PROGRESSIVE REVIEW - Ask people to name the greatest domestic disaster in the past ten years and most would cite September 11. While this is true in terms of deaths - over twice as many as in second place Hurricane Katrina - the WTC tragedy is only the third most costly in dollars. Looked at another way, nine out of the ten worst disasters were due to nature with no little help - some would say - from climate change.

Yet after Katrina, did we form a new Department of Hurricane Security, did we move to radically change our environmental policy the way we changed our police policies following WTC? No, unless we lived in the affected region, we absorbed it into our lives and went about our business.

And here are a few things that are more deadly each year than either hurricanes or terrorists: heart disease, cancer, prescription drugs, accidents, guns, suicide, infant deaths... and workplace accidents.

We truly do choose what to fear.

TEN WORST DISASTERS

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Poor and Cold

I'd be interested in knowing how many of my Republican friends truly know what it's like to be poor.

ELIZABETH MEHREN, LA TIMES - Winter has barely begun, and the soaring cost of home heating oil has already forced the poor to cut back on food, medicine and clothing — a plight known in the frigid Northeast as "heat or eat." Heating oil costs doubled in the last two years and climbed 21% during November and December, the Department of Energy said...

When 3 feet of snow fell on the northernmost part of Maine after Christmas, state officials got scores of calls for help. One man had 35 gallons of heating oil in his tank — less than a week's worth even if he kept his house below 60 degrees — and not enough money to buy more. In his 50s and on disability, he said he wore two pairs of socks, two sweatshirts and a jacket inside his house, which was 50 degrees.

A mother said she and her two kids were sitting in front of the clothes dryer to stay warm.

Murdock Cote, 43, called from Ashland, near the Canadian border, to say he had used his last $100 to buy oil for his nearly empty tank. But he couldn't get it delivered because his long, steep driveway was buried in snow — and Cote, who is disabled, couldn't afford a plow service.

"It's been minus 5 degrees at night," he said. "And this is only the first snow. It's going to get a whole lot worse."

States like Maine say they are hamstrung because federal money to help the poor pay their energy bills has not increased substantially in the last two years, despite the jump in fuel costs. [more...]

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress and the White House extend gargantuan tax cuts for the wealthy indefinitely...

Sunday, January 08, 2006

'Vengeful' mouse sets ablaze house of man who tried to kill it

BBC - A US man threw a mouse he had found in his home onto a pile of burning leaves - only to see it run away and burn his house down. Luciano Mares, 81, of Fort Sumner, New Mexico, found a mouse in his home and wanted to get rid of it. "I had some leaves burning outside, so I threw it in the fire, and the mouse was on fire and ran back at the house," he said. Though no one was injured, the house and everything in it was destroyed.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Bush's Spokesperson

QUESTION: The President's speech today at the Pentagon as far as terrorism and fighting terrorism is concerned, do you think that Osama bin Laden is still in - is running the al Qaeda business?

SCOTT MCCLELLAN: I'm sorry, who?

Millions Face Starvation in Horn of Africa

BBC - Millions of people could face starvation in the Horn of Africa, the United Nations food agency has warned. The FAO says Somalia has been worst hit by a drought in the region, where 2m need urgent food aid. The harvest there could be the lowest in a decade. There are also food shortages in parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti. Some 11 million need food aid, the FAO says. A BBC correspondent in northern Kenya says corpses of cattle and donkeys are lying everywhere.

Iraq War Could Cost U.S. $2 Trillion

JAMIE WILSON, GUARDIAN - The real cost to the US of the Iraq war is likely to be between $1 trillion and $2 trillion, up to 10 times more than previously thought, according to a report written by a Nobel prize-winning economist and a Harvard budget expert. The study, which expanded on traditional estimates by including such costs as lifetime disability and healthcare for troops injured in the conflict as well as the impact on the American economy, concluded that the US government is continuing to underestimate the cost of the war. . . The paper on the real cost of the war, written by Joseph Stiglitz, a Columbia University professor who won the Nobel prize for economics in 2001, and Linda Bilmes, a Harvard budget expert, is likely to add to the pressure on the White House on the war. It also followed the revelation this week that the White House had scaled back ambitions to rebuild Iraq and did not intend to seek funds for reconstruction.

Mr Stiglitz told the Guardian that despite the staggering costs laid out in their paper the economists had erred on the side of caution. "Our estimates are very conservative, and it could be that the final costs will be much higher. And it should be noted they do not include the costs of the conflict to either Iraq or the UK."

As of Friday, at least 2,194 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Marcel Duchamp's Urinal Attacked

BBC - A 77-year-old Frenchman has spent a night in custody in Paris after attacking a plain porcelain urinal considered to be a major artwork. The urinal, made in 1917 by the French-US artist Marcel Duchamp, was slightly chipped when the man hit it with a hammer on Wednesday.

Called Fountain, the piece was attacked at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Police said the man had urinated on the same piece at an exhibition in Nimes, southern France, in 1993. The work, on display as part of a wider Dada exhibition, is believed to be worth some 3m euros (£2m). Police said the man claimed the hammer attack was a work of performance art that Marcel Duchamp himself would have appreciated.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

British Publishers Punk'd: Reject Classics

SUNDAY TIMES, UK - Publishers and agents have rejected two Booker prize-winning novels submitted as works by aspiring authors. One of the books considered unworthy by the publishing industry was by V S Naipaul, one of Britain's greatest living writers, who won the Nobel prize for literature. The exercise by The Sunday Times draws attention to concerns that the industry has become incapable of spotting genuine literary talent.

Typed manuscripts of the opening chapters of Naipaul's In a Free State and a second novel, Holiday, by Stanley Middleton, were sent to 20 publishers and agents. None appears to have recognized them as Booker prizewinners from the 1970s that were lauded as British novel writing at its best. Of the 21 replies, all but one were rejections. Only Barbara Levy, a London literary agent, expressed an interest, and that was for Middleton's novel.

She was unimpressed by Naipaul's book. She wrote: "We... thought it was quite original. In the end though I'm afraid we just weren't quite enthusiastic enough to be able to offer to take things further."...

Critics say the publishing industry has become obsessed with celebrity authors and "bright marketable young things" at the expense of serious writers. Most large publishers no longer accept unsolicited manuscripts from first-time authors, leaving the literary agencies to discover new talent.

Many of the agencies find it hard to cope with the volume of submissions. One said last week that she receives up to 50 manuscripts a day, but takes on a maximum of only six new writers a year.