Thursday, July 27, 2006

Dana Joel Gattuso on Oil Addiction and Alternative Energy

This NRO author has an interesting column today on America's "Oil Addiction" and the use of alternative fuels. It mostly discusses polling and funding numbers, there are some interesting things to take away from it.

The limitations of the new energy sources is, to me, a very important and too unnoticed fact. When politicians talk about energy policy, they always mention more funding for energy research. This is fine. In fact, I'm very enthusiastic about funding scientific research. I wish the private industry did more of it, but there's never a problem with more science.

How many of these, though, will be permanent solutions? For example, solar power is a cool thought, but will it ever permanently replace coal or nuclear power plants? One of the professors at Northwestern who researches solar cells discussed their application during our orientation, specifically discussing surface areas needed based on the efficiencies of the materials and the electricity needs. I can't recall exactly how it went, but suffice it to say that even with 100% efficiency (which is impossible), very large tracts of land would be needed for solar cells to account for a large portion of our energy needs. Combine that with their frailty and the fickleness of the weather and it seems unlikely that solar cells will ever do more than supplement our electricity supply.

That conclusion seems to apply to most of these alternatives, at least as things currently stand.

I become discouraged because very few politicians have any short-term plans for energy policy. Yes, research is important, but there haven't been any breakthroughs just yet. Most of the alternative fuel sources, whether we're discussing automobile fuel or sources of electricity to replace power plants, if they become feasible, won't be implemented on a wide scale for many, many years. Possibly decades, even. Let's say that it's 20 years from today that we'll have an applicable technology that can counter gasoline burning automobiles. What do we do in the meantime?

Rising global demand is a large part of the soaring oil prices (along with the ever looming threat of war in the Middle East). Since everyone in America won't switch over to electric or hydrogen cars by tomorrow, what kind of solutions will help in the meantime? Higher supplies would drive down prices. Some people want to see the prices go even higher to discourage use, but that would only hurt those who can least afford higher prices in the first place.

Take note, politicians: As glad as I am that you do/will fund energy research, what else do you have in your energy policy? We need solutions that will help within the next ten years.

Captain Obvious Strikes Again!

CNN Headline: Al Qaeda calls all muslims to fight Israel.

In other news, the sky is blue, grass is green, and the sun rises in the east.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

More on Storm Recovery

According to the News-Democrat, a lot of work still needs to be done, but it's improving all the time:

Some of the remaining 29,000 power outages in the metro-east will officially turn 1-week-old tonight if Ameren cannot restore power by the end of the day.

While the company had hoped to return electricity to 90 percent of its metro-east customers by Tuesday evening, obstacles in the field and news of the death of 13-year Ameren employee Robert Tackett proved detrimental to that goal.

Tackett, 56, was electrocuted Tuesday morning while clearing downed lines in Ladue, Mo.

"Our recent loss further drives home the message of safety, and how difficult and dangerous this work really is," said Ameren spokesman Erica Abbett. "Safety is more important for us than speed. We don't
want anything like this to happen again, but we aren't slowing our

More than 100,000 Ameren customers in Missouri remained without power Tuesday. Power lines were damaged in storms last Wednesday and Friday.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


As the Chicago Tribune notes, people like to complain. In this case, they like to complain about their iPods. Apparently it's becoming increasingly common for people to get that sad, frowny face on their iPods. I even turned mine in last week because the hard drive crashed. Thankfully, I received a new one right away.

I suppose Apple just shot itself in the foot. The iPod became a cultural phenomenon. The newest iteration of the iPod had to be rushed right out. Fine. But you can get something hardier and with better battery life with other products.

I guess that's what happens when you get to the top. There's no place to go but down.

(I got nothin')

Power Outages in St. Louis

You can get all the numbers and details in this article by the Belleville News-Democrat, but about 163,000 people remain without power in the St. Louis metro area, many of which are on the Illinois side of the river. Part of the article deals with the extensive efforts of the state to help out the residents of the poorer communities still lacking power, including MREs, ice, and bottled water.

Throwing fuel on the fire in so many ways, Al Sharpton showed up in St. Louis to do what he does best (link includes video).

His idiocy included two knee-slappers: Asking Ameren (the power company in the area) to cut rates by 10%, and accusing the company of restoring service faster to the higher income areas. Thankfully, the NBC affiliate article refutes both of his laughers, noting that the electricity prices are controlled by the Missouri Public Service Commission, and that their workers have been concentrating on the heaviest damage first.

What I find really amusing is how Sharpton spoke as if he had such "solidarity" with the people in need right now. "We work hard, we struggle to pay our bills." Blah blah blah. I'm willing to bet Sharpton hasn't worried about paying any of his bills in quite a while.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Gay Panic Defense

This is an interesting CNN article about the use of the "Gay Panic Defense," where a defendent justifies their crime based on the sexuality of the victim.

Laws like the ones being proposed give too little credit to juries. It's assuming immediately that a jury would be unable to overcome prejudice towards homosexuals and would thus excuse their murder.

Here's what I find interesting:
California's bill also would instruct juries that gay panic defenses are inconsistent with state laws protecting gays, lesbians and transgenders from discrimination.

It was prompted by the murder of 17-year-old Gwen Araujo, a transgender teenager who was beaten and strangled in 2002 after two men with whom she'd had anal sex learned she was biologically male.

Apparently, the prosecutor won 2nd-degree murder charges in that case. Which strikes me as appropriate. I have sympathy for the defense in such a situation. I'd be pretty upset, too, if I found out that I'd just unknowingly had sex with a man. It goes without saying, but that doesn't excuse the murder.

I'm not a law expert, short of the many hours of Law and Order I've watched. Murder that isn't pre-meditated would either fall under the 3rd-degree category, or under voluntary manslaughter. I'm assuming the latter carries a lesser sentence.

The prosecutor was able to show that the murder was premeditated. I suppose that would boil down to the specifics of the case, so I can't comment on that in general. But I think the premise of a law which would prevent this kind of defense is poor.

As I understand it, the point of the "Gay Panic Defense" is to argue for a lesser charge, i.e. to prove a crime of passion, that it wasn't premeditated. This law would essentially deny that a person could be, to put it bluntly, grossed out by homosexuality. This puts homosexuality in yeat another "special category" of law, along with things such as "hate crimes." I don't think such laws have a place in this country and I don't think they'll do anything useful, aside from limiting juries from considering evidence that may or may not be relevant to a case.

Okay, let's try this from a different tack.

There is an episode of Family Guy where Brian is a drug sniffing dog for the airports and Quagmire, a pilot, wonders how good he is. Here is the dialog:
Quagmire: Hey Brian, what's with the Johnny Law routine?
Joe: Say hello to our newest narc. He's a natural.
Quagmire: Oh yeah? How good are you?
Brian: *Sniffs Quagmire*. You're back from Manila. You
had lumpia for dinner. Then you made love to two Phillipeno
women *sniffs* . . . and a man.
Quagmire: You mean three Phillipeno women?
Brian: *Just stares at Quagmire*
Quagmire: *A look of horror appears on his face. He runs
screaming from the scene.*

It is with this sense of "gay panic" that I sympathize. The "Oh crap, what did I just do?" panic. Not the "I just had sex with a dude? Crap, I have to kill him!"

If it's not obvious by now, I completely misunderstood the "Gay Panic" defense. The CNN article did not articulate and I probably should have learned more about it before speaking. Well, that's what blogging will get you sometimes.

As I understood it, the "Gay Panic" defense would be used to argue a lesser sentence, arguing crimes of passion rather than premeditated assaults or murders. I was wrong on that count, it was "I had no control over my actions so I should get off scot-free."

I don't endorse such a defense for getting away with murder. If you read the original post, I never did.

In any case, I still think the law is unnecessary, mostly because a good prosecutor will, during the jury selection phase, eliminate jurors who think that it's acceptable to murder homosexuals. The system is already designed to accomplish this, so why is a law necessary?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

BS Guard

Okay, so while I've ragged on the peer review process lately, it does work, and it does have its benefits.

For example, it keeps guys like this from having any sort of notoriety or influence.

God only knows what would happen if we took someone like him seriously.
Cancer is caused by too many synthetic chemicals, yet the drug companies promise
to treat it or cure it by developing even more synthetic chemicals. The intellectual ignorance found in this stubborn, outmoded approach is simply astonishing.

No, no, no, Mrs. Johnson. Forget the chemotherapy. What you need is some St. John's Wort and a little Echinacea. That'll clear that tumor right up. Trust me, I'm a certified Health Ranger!

The Abortion Post

Meera left some a comment in the thread below on India's abortion of girls, and I her comments necessitated a response in its own post.

I suppose I could have responded to the anonymous commenter's thoughts with something less crass than "blah, blah, blah," but I really did feel her comments were nothing new. Let's be honest with ourselves: There have been very few new abortion arguments over the last umpteen years. I've been debating with people over abortion for 10 years, and the issue has been fiery and divisive for even longer than that. I just don't have much patience for the arguments that come straight from bumperstickers.

Let's look at Meera's arguments individually:
pregnancy can be a choice, but it can be something that is forced upon a female.
is that EVER forced upon a male? have you or will you EVER be in a situation
where your body is being used like that without your consent?

This is the "you are male, therefore you have no say in abortion" argument. Even simpler, it is the "you are not X, therefore you cannot have a say in Y." This argument comes in all forms, such as, "You are not military, therefore you can't be pro-war," or "You are not a scientist, therefore you cannot be against stem cell research." In every case, it is a logical fallacy.

Simply because you have not experienced something does not mean you can have no opinions about it. What would our public policy on drugs, terrorism, murder, the death penalty, etc. look like if only those who have committed or directly experienced those things could have a say? That's not how it works.

The argument can be reworked as, "Because men don't carry the baby, they can have no say about abortion." This, too, is fallacious. Yes, men do not go through the physical or emotional roller coaster that is pregnancy. Does this mean that a man can have no emotional involvement in said pregnancy? Is the purposeful death of his unborn child supposed to be beyond his care because it is not incubating in his body?

Meera made several more arguments. They are as follows:

The Rape Argument
Meera brought up the argument about conception brought about by rape. Statistically, this is a small number of abortions, though it is probably underreported. Still, I think it is within 5% of all abortions.

Still, the case of rape is a horrible situation. I imagine it must be painful to carry around for 9 months the reminder of the crime perpetrated against you. The rape itself is traumatic enough.

And here is where I must tread lightly; I do not want to come off as callous or insensitive in any of these arguments. That is not my purpose and I do not intend to sound that way. Still, I must preface my thoughts so as to prevent all possible misinterpretation.

When I was growing up, I was taught that "Two wrongs do not make a right." I still find great wisdom in this simple philosophy.

As I view it, abortion kills an unborn child. To have an abortion is to cause the death of an innocent, to commit a horrible crime against your very own son or daughter. Rape is a horrible thing to have happen to you, and I would never wish it against my worst enemy, but aborting the child conceived by rape is not a real solution. Is it that innocent child's fault for how it was conceived? Will killing it cause the rape to have never occurred? "Two wrongs don't make a right."

The counter-argument is that bearing the child, regardless of whether it is given up for adoption or not, is simply too much of a trauma to expect of a woman. I must address this argument in two parts.

First, it is not entirely evident that it is ultimately so horrible to bear that child. Victims and Victors is a book comprised of interviews with women who bore children conceived from rape and with people who were conceived by rape. I cite the book because the people interviewed for it overwhelmingly agree that abortion was not the solution, and would not have solved their problems. Anecdotal? Indeed. But to me it indicates that it is not as cut-and-dried as pro-choice arguments make it seem that abortion is the best solution to rape-induced pregnancy.

Second, simply because bearing the child is a furthering of the trauma of rape, does not mean that abortion is a good solution. Statistics do not bear this out. The pain of that rape is not going to magically vanish if the child is aborted. This being so, would it not be best to err on the side of life? To allow that child a chance at living? Additionally, it's possible that abortion may only compound the trauma. More and more women are coming forward to report post-traumatic stress syndrome related to abortion. This is understandable, given that abortion is a very intimate act of violence between a mother and her child. If abortion is leading to such a condition, why would this help a woman overcome the trauma of rape? "Two wrongs do not make a right."

Life-Threatening Pregnancy
If a pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, I can support abortion under very limited circumstances. Relevant questions, however, have to be answered, such as, "Is it possible to save them both? Are the lives of both the mother and the child in danger? Can only one be saved? Will aborting the child significantly increase the mother's chance of survival?" These are important, and I suspect that such a strict limitation only accounts for a very small number of abortions that are performed.

Moreover, abortions for the life of the mother are also a very small portion of abortion statistics. This is even with the buffer of the vague "health" phrase. While many argue for aborting to save the "health" of the mother, this is often interpretted as vaguely as just "mental health." It often means whatever a person wants it to mean.

If Abortion Becomes Illegal
The common version of this argument goes that if abortion is made illegal, women will die because they will simply seek back-alley abortions. Legal abortion is safe abortion. Statistics do not bear out this argument.

If Roe V. Wade is reversed, then the abortion laws for each state come into effect. Currently, the split is relatively even between states which would have legalized abortion and states which would not. Abortion would still be somewhat available. But this argument requires that 1) the law would not deter anyone from having an abortion and 2) women would have back-alley abortions anyhow, despite the risk.

It's beyond the scope of this post to talk about how law acts as a deterrent, but the "back-alley deaths" argument is, again, fallacious. In the years before Roe V. Wade, women did die due to illegal abortions. How many? Statistically insignificant numbers. Less than 100.

Not that this makes abortion any safer itself. Abortion is still more dangerous than full-term pregnancy to the health of the mother, and 100% more dangerous to the health of the child.

Back to India
This brings us full circle to the original post. In India, the problem is that women are using abortion to selectively abort the girls, which is resulting in a demographical problem that will become a crisis if the trend continues for a few more generations.

I acknowledged in that post that women were culling their girls before abortion was legal in India, and would probably continue to do so if abortion became illegal. This is largely a cultural problem.

However, abortion here acts as a catalyst. Its availability has sped the rate of this trend up considerably. Were abortion unavailable, this would certainly not take place at the rate that it does. Infanticide is a much harder thing to commit than abortion.

I conclude this post with an observation: There are many pro-choice politicians in America who say that they just want abortion to be "Safe, legal and rare."

Rare. That is a very interesting thing. What is it about abortion that it should be rare?

I realize that this post solves very little. I gave citations for none of my statistics, simply drawing them from memory. I wrote, though, because I could not let those questions go unanswered. I could do no less.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Holy Blogiversary, Batman!

I just realized, Monday marked three years of Halbert's Cubicle on the web.

Dang. Where's my mad blog money?

It's been fun. I've certainly enjoyed the time. Maybe in a few more years I'll write something worthwhile. Heh.

Happy birthday, blog!

This is a problem?

Why use Viagra when you can just get a Turkish implant?

Oh yeah. Your neighbor's garage door opener might set it off.

Does the "problem" recede when they close the door? The guy doesn't say. Really, I think he'd be better off just stealing his neighbor's remote. Talk about control issues.

Ah, too many jokes, too little time.

Follow-up on Peer Review

The earlier topic of discussion was, "How can peer review fail?"

This article at NRO directly addresses the question. The answer is, "When politics come before good science."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

City Journal on Immigration

I've never read the City Journal before. Still, their Summer 2006 issue has two articles (and a summary) available online that are both highly informative and incredibly well documented.

How Unskilled Immigrants Hurt Our Economy is a look at the economic impact of immigration, both illegal and legal, on the American economy. It addresses many of the myths that abound regarding the "benefits" illegal workers bring, and how any of the "immigration reforms" that are currently being considered would only make things worse.

Seeing Today's Immigrants Straight looks at the issues from a more sociological perspective, addressing more of the non-economic issues that the illegal immigration problem brings.

Both are chock full of statistics and relevant information, and whether you agree with their conclusions or not, they're worth a read.

Bumped to the top. I went through a flurry of postings at once today, and I'm afraid this may have been missed in the melee. It's too good not to read.

18 tricks to teach your body

MSN Men's Health list of 18 interesting tricks you can do with your body. I haven't tested them, so I'm not sure if they work.

Of course, these pale in comparison to the trick that every young boy learns at some point or another. "Look Mommy! I can't make it move without touching it!"

Heh. Most parents pray this moment comes beyond public view.

Fascism reaches America

It's a sad, sad day in America when a man can't eat fresh calf testicles anymore, but has to settle for frozen bull testicles. Not even animals have to live that way.

Well, I wouldn't know. But I'll take this guy's word for it.

Dispatchers Behaving Badly

Next time you think you've had a rough day, consider what this man went through:
Deputy Amy Price was relieved of her duties June 27, following a complaint filed against her by Bandera County resident Brett Day. On June 25, Day arrived at his Lakehills home to find his wife, sheriff's dispatcher Kimberly Day, hosting a gathering-of-sorts with sheriff's deputy David Moore, Price, another sheriff's dispatcher and her husband, and Texas Ranger Lance Coleman.

According to Chief Deputy Don Berger, Day found his wife in a "compromising position" with another individual present. After taking photographs, a disturbance reportedly broke out between Brett and Kimberly Day, Moore and Price. Sheriff's Office deputies responded to a 9-1-1 call issued by Day at approximately 2:30 a.m.

. . .

Berger said that nobody was arrested because the victim, Day, could not be found. Investigators made contact with him June 26, at his parents' San Antonio home. Day told Sheriff's Lieutenant Alan Tucker that he was reluctant to return to Bandera County because he feared retaliation from sheriff's deputies, but wanted to pursue charges and agreed to provide the pictures he took as evidence.

Poisoning the Faithful

According to this story, a man has been arrested in connection with an incident involving tainted grape juice. The man worked at the store where the juice was bought, and it's thought that he poisoned the juice that was eventually sold to a Baptist Church.

At this point, I could only guess as to whether the man is actually guilty of the charges against him. If it is, the entire thing is very sad. The story makes no reference to his motive for doing this. Was it an anti-Christian thing? A practical joke gone bad? An accident? The story doesn't quite say.

It reminds me, though, of the incident last year (or was it further in the past than that?) when several churches were burned down in the south, and eventually several college students were caught. They claimed that it was just a practical joke that went too far. Oh really? I'd have thought you'd realized it "went too far" after you burned down the first church. I heard nothing more about them after they were arrested.

The whole thing is just sad. Burn down churches, it registers for a while on the radar. Poison communion wine/juice and it's a blip. If any of this was done to a mosque, however . . . we'd hear no end to talk of "hate crimes," discrimination, atmosphere of intolerance, etc. etc.

Go figure.

On Scientific Hoaxes

A BBC journalist writes about the dangers and consequences of scientists who fabricate their results.

I've written about a similar article and topic here, discussing the shortcomings of peer-review, which ultimately reflect on the self-regulated industry which is scientific research.

Jardine, the BBC writer, stresses the pressure to fabricate could be credited to the competition for funding, especially in regards to finding "big" breakthroughs and making spectacular discoveries. As a grad student, I can cite another potential source.

It's not just that funding issues put pressure on researchers to produce results. Professors put pressure on their grad students to produce results, in the form of "If you don't publish, I'm taking away your funding and you'll never get your Ph.D." Now, I imagine that most professors can spot any attempts to "enhance" results, but for all of the thousands of grad students across the sciences performing research, I find it perfectly believable that some students have published erroneous results. Whether that means data is exaggerated or completely fabricated, I'm certain it happens at a rate most would rather not think about.

As far as a solution goes, I have none. Peer review is vulnerable to problems, but the truth is that no other system exists to prevent bad science from being published or funded. As long as there is money in science (whether from funding, fame, or success) there will be people who play fast and loose with their results.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Relay for Life

(Bumped. Scroll down for new posts.)

This weekend, I am participating in the ACS Relay for Life in Gurnee, IL. For those of you who don't know, Relay for Life is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. The proceeds of these fundraisers from around the country go towards cancer research and treatment. The importance of such things cannot be overstated. More information about the event and the society can be found here, here, and at the ACS website.

If you've ever known someone who has died from cancer, then you can appreciate the need for such things. I, myself, lost a friend to cancer when he was only 17. The progression was incredibly painful to watch, as his leg was amputated to, unsuccessfully, stop the spread. He finally died not long after the cancer spread from his leg to his lungs.

His memory inspires me to work on cancer-related research. It's partly why I've chosen my career path.

If you feel so inclined, please donate to the cause. You can contribute to my team online through this link. I'm told that all donations are tax deductible, but online there is a $5 minimum donation.

Thank you very much for your generosity.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Man Flab is In

Well, according to CNN.

On the one hand, I can understand the reluctance of most of the women interviewed in that video. Hollywood is trying to convince them that everything they've told them for the last 50 years is wrong. Uphill battle? You betcha.

On the other hand, I am poised to become a god.

I'd better give Keira Knightley a call while I'm still available.

Genocide of India's Daughters

That's the title of the London Daily Mail article about how sex-selection abortions have eliminated over 10 million girls in the last 20 years, with projections that it could become upwards of 1 million a year.

The article explores the various roots of this phenomenon, how it has prospered despite the 1994 law banning such a practice, and some of the emerging consequences it has had on the society.

I agree with the generalized feminists in the article that Indian society does need to value women more highly, because few other solutions will turn this trend around. It would be a tragedy, though, if demographic crisis were the factor that led to the change in society. What I mean is, if sex-selection abortions were to continue, eventually the point will be reached where India's demographics are simply untenable. Imagine a population ratio of 50 or 100:1 of men to women. Reaching such a place might cause distinct changes in India's culture, but not without consequences for the country.

Still, I can't help but wonder if the feminists would be willing to let go of abortion to help solve this problem. Women were killing their daughters before abortion, but to say that abortion didn't exacerbate this would be dishonest.

Or will anyone on the "pro-choice" side of the fence look openly at such things? America has its own demographics/abortion problems, but I've yet to see any pro-choice writer address it.

Hat tip: Dr. Al Mohler

Toll-tally Bogus

Yeah, that's the best title I could come up with.
The Illinois Senate's top Republican called for a closer look at Missouri's plans to pay for a new eight-lane Interstate 70 bridge across the Mississippi River by making it a tollway.

Sen. Frank Watson, R-Greenville, the Senate minority leader, said Wednesday the idea of seeking bids from private firms to build and operate the bridge as a tollway is "something that may be considered."

Watson's willingness to consider such a proposal stands in stark contrast to positions claimed by the metro-east's Democratic lawmakers, who have vehemently rejected the tollway concept as unfair to Illinois commuters.

Their views line up with anti-toll positions staked out by U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, and Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who two weeks ago during a visit to Collinsville declared the toll bridge idea "was out of the question."

Of course, read the whole thing to get more background on the situation. St. Louis does need a new bridge. The problem is that Missouri expects everyone in Illinois to pay for it, first with the money the state is willing to pony up, then with the ridiculous toll that will come mostly from Illinois residents. And who collects the toll? They're now talking about it being an independent company (I guess they finance the bridge in exchange for collecting tolls), though Missouri originally said they would collect the money.

Their one-sidedness on this issue is astounding. And plans to make only one of the roads a tollway will only make things worse. Traffic will become more crowded on the free bridges, but I'm fairly certain people will deal with the traffic if it means saving $2 on their daily commute (My mother, for example, would pay $10/wk, or ~$480/yr on top of her current commuting costs).

It goes without saying that I'm against the toll idea. Both sides need this bridge, but I hope that IL-lawmakers don't agree to its construction until MO-lawmakers realize that compromise means sacrifice on the part of both parties.

VG Detox


I'm sure it's nothing like that.

My own thoughts? Video games are certainly entertaining, and I do enjoy them in themselves as a hobby, but people with this level of escapism would find it in some other form. Some people get wrapped up in movies or television, even writing or reading. We just tend to look at reading as a healthy past-time and video games as not. "All things in moderation," I suppose.

My suspicion is that guys (and I do think most of their patients are male) with this kind of habit play this way as a substitute for human companionship, or a lack thereof. You can especially notice this trend with MMO games like Everquest or WoW. Why work hard going out into the world to make friends, where people will probably judge you either for your personality quirks or physical appearance, when you know there's an enormous community of people who already share your interests, can't judge your appearance, and will probably not notice your quirks? Make that community just a few clicks and $15/month away and you've set the stage for trouble.

What guys like this need is, well, reprogramming. They need to enjoy human interaction more than the gaming interface, and until that happens, I'm not sure any treatment will help them.

End of life issues

How do you imagine spending your golden years? You're 80 years old, your wife has passed on . . . how shall you spend your life? Visit your children? Travel? Do the crossword puzzle and tell children to get off your lawn?

Perhaps you should consider an alternative:
An 80-year-old man acknowledged Wednesday that he dealt drugs at his house in return for sex with prostitutes.

. . .

When an Allegheny County judge asked Cocco why he chose a new profession so late in life, Cocco replied, "I was trying to stay alive, your honor _ pay my bills."

Cocco's lawyer, Martha Bailor, told the court her client wanted to remain sexually active after his wife died three years ago, and turned to prostitutes.

"He decided it's cheaper to pay for sex with crack than cash," she said.

It's a funny world.

Hat tip: Ace

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

On Freedom of Speech in Schools

Steve piqued my curiosity with his question regarding what would happen if a student took the "guaging and grillz" dress code to court. He received philosophy and recollection at first, but I decided to do a bit of quick research, and this is what I came up with.

First, some background:

Court cases have established that students are entitled to freedom of speech, so long as it doesn't "materially and substantially interfere[s] with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school." Further, there is no right to "vulgar, lewd, obscene, and plainly offensive speech." School newspapers, speeches, and flyers are also at the discretion of teachers regarding censorship. The short answer: So long as a school can prove that speech would be even remotely disruptive to the learning of others, it's out. This can include potential violence (such as gang related paraphernalia) or substances illegal to students of that age group.

There seems to be no consensus on speech specifically related to one's own body. Some cases have allowed dress codes banning earrings to be upheld on the basis of gang-related fashions. There are cases which prohibit schools from regulating hair length, but regulation of hair color seems to be acceptable still in some places, though not others.

Sources: Ohio General Assembly, ACLU of North Carolina, First Amendment Center.

With that in mind, Steve's question was, "What if somebody took that school district in Texas to court?"

My crystal ball is broken, and my Magic 8-Ball keeps telling me to ask again later, but I'm guessing that the court would rule in favor of the school district.

I base this on several different factors. The school could argue for the disruptive nature of the fads, as many students will find the self-mutilation of "gauging" to be a bit nauseating, and because of the speech difficulties that "grillz" often cause.

The school could also make some argument towards gang paraphernalia with both of these, though a connection may be hard to establish (and I'm not aware of any myself).

Also, with precedent in mind, if a school is able to regulate hair color, then it seems likely that it can regulate other forms of body modification, which "gauging" would certainly fall under.

I maintain my argument that the law regulates body modification for minors in certain circumstances, though I'm not certain that would play into any judicial ruling.

That's my answer. Hopefully, somebody beside Steve was curious.

Five Myths about Social Security

Via MSNBC, a rather interesting article discussing some of the myths surrounding Social Security.

Not that the clarification makes things look less grim.

Israel defends second front against Lebanon

As time goes on, I find things like this to be less and less of a surprise. As Israel is pounding Hamas into the ground in Gaza, Lebanon-stationed Hezbollah members took advantage of the "distraction" and kidnapped two Israeli soldiers.

Unfortunately for Lebanon, Israel wasn't taking this lying down. Turns out they can fight on two fronts.

I can't offer much in the way of analysis of the situation (Captain Ed is much better for such things), but I do have a one thought. I hear a lot of analysis about why muslims and Middle Eastern countries react to Israel the way they do. As many of these people state themselves, they have the ultimate goal of wiping Israel off the map. If nothing else, let's not forget that when we see things such as this in the news.

Texas School Bans Self-Expression

Well, that's what the students are whining about, anyhow. Really, they just expanded their dress code to exclude "grillz" and "gauging."
Students may no longer wear mouth jewelry known as "grillz" - shiny teeth caps - or the earlobe-stretching practice known as "gauging."

"The district is having to respond to fads because they've become distracters or a safety hazard for those around them," said Malcolm Turner, the district's executive director of student services.
Maybe this is the old man emerging in me, but neither of these particularly appeal to me. "Grillz" just strike me as being gaudy and ostentatious. Granted, they started out of the hip-hop community, and that seems to be their entire purpose, still though. I think they look hideous, like that obscenely large and multi-colored jewelry you find at Famous Barr that only your grandmother and transvestites seems to love.

As for "gauging," I look at that one the same way as tattoos. Sure, you may thing putting giant holes in your ears is "cool" and "fashionable" now, but just wait until you're 40. Suddenly, you'll wonder why you made permanent changes to your body which make you now look like a circus freak.

The worst case of gauging I ever saw? I ran into a guy at Wal-Mart in Bloomington who had padlocks hanging from his ears . . . they were so stretched, the locks were sitting on his shoulders. Yeah, have fun with that when you're an adult, dude.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Blue Line Fire

I've never been a big fan of the trains. They just feel . . . too unsteady. This, obviously, does not help:
An O'Hare-bound Blue Line train that had just exited the Loop derailed shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday and sparked a fire, prompting the evacuation of scores of people who had to navigated through the smoke-filled subway, officials said.

CTA President Frank Kruesi said the last car of an eight-car northbound train derailed around 5:09 p.m. shortly after leaving the Clark/Lake station. Kruesi said he believes that elements under the train caught on fire.
Two elderly people were listed in serious condition, but thankfully no one was listed as being killed.

Conspiracies a bust

Better late than never, as the saying goes. This Popular Mechanics article from last year debunks some of the 9/11 conspiracy theories that have long passed their expiration dates.


Yes, just what would Jesus drink?