Thursday, August 31, 2006

Attacking homeless for thrills

In cases where the perpetrator of attacks on homeless people is known, 76 percent are people 25 or younger, Stoops said. About 80 percent of attackers are white, he said.

The increase in violence may be loosely linked to the increasing popularity of so-called “Bumfights” videos and imitation videos which show homeless people fighting one another and performing dangerous stunts

This may be an example of the what I was talking about in an earlier blog, that when people have it everything easy when they are children and youths, it can cause boredom that leads, in some, to degrading behaviours. But we don't have nearly enough information to really make a good guess about what is causing this problem, other than the way right-wing politicians and talk show jerks have been expressing uncaring and negative attitudes towards the homeless and other poor people will inevitably lead to an increase in violence towards the unfortunate. Also, videos such as those noted in the article can be expected to have a negative effect. Those who think that young people are not affected by such things are either not around young people much, or don't pay attention to what they are doing. (Within a few days of the publicity about the baseball pitcher who spit on an umpire, I saw children playing in my neighborhood spitting on each other, which I had not seen before.)

Also, children who are abused are much more likely to be violent towards others; not inevitably. There are other factors, but the risk is much higher. About 95% of violent criminals were physically abused as children. Being economically well-off does not ensure that a child is not abused. I've noticed in articles about children from "good" families, where the children committed some horrific crime, at least one of the parents tend to be in law enforcement or the military. I do not at all think that is a coincidence. I'm certainly not saying that all people in law enforcement or the military abuse their children; but the nature of these occupations will inevitably attract a larger than average proportion of people who are inclined to violence, and the macho culture of these occupations is not the most conducive to nurturing skills. (I would not mention this if I were planning on running for public office, because my opponent would take my statements out of context. The media would report them widely. Even if the media reported my less interesting clarifications as widely, pretty unlikely, research and experience show that voters would be affected most by negative press, even when it is later shown to be false.)

Bias in the eye of the beholder

A study of perceptions of bias in the media, which finds that the same news article can be seen as slanted in opposite ways by partisans on different sides of the issue (no surprise to neutral observers).

The article comments:

the hostile media effect seems to apply only to news sources that strive for balance. News reports from obviously biased sources usually draw fewer charges of bias. Partisans, it turns out, find it easier to countenance obvious propaganda than news accounts that explore both sides.

My view on this is that "obviously biased sources usually draw fewer charges of bias" because (1) one feels that something so obviously biased is likely to be seen as biased by neutral observers (unfortunately, this is often not true, because many people may not know enough about the subject to realized it's biased), and (2) complaining about obviously biased sources seems a waste of time; you know you have little chance of changing the minds of people like that.

Fishing for trash

Bankrupt Northwest Airlines published a booklet "101 ways to save money", for which they have gotten a lot of criticism, esp. because of a tip which the writer of the above article describes thus in his lead paragraph :

Bankrupt Northwest Airlines advised workers to fish in the trash for things they like

The quoted wording, which he gives down aways is:

not being “shy about pulling something you like out of the trash.”

Now, I would not interpret that as "fishing" in the trash, which would suggest to me digging around in people's trash, when you can't see anything useful at first glance. Actually, I don't see anything wrong with it. It's a way of recycling. Some people throw out perfectly good things. But I can see that for people stressed out with the possibility of losing their jobs, it may not be taken well.

Monday, August 21, 2006

administration cuts anti-terrorist research

While the British terror suspects allegedly were hatching their plot, the Bush administration was quietly seeking permission to divert $6 million that was supposed to be spent this year developing new homeland explosives-detection technology.

The administration's most recent budget request also mystified lawmakers. It asked to take $6 million from Homeland S&T's 2006 budget that was supposed to be used to develop explosives detection technology and instead divert it to cover a budget shortfall in the Federal Protective Service, which provides security around government buildings.

While the Republicans are trying, as usual, to paint themselves as strong on defense, the Bush administration cuts back on research on anti-terror technologies. With friends like these, who needs enemies? Of course, Bush doesn't ride in commercial airplanes, and does live and work in government buildings, so maybe his priorities are not surprising.

tessellation, quilt pattern

I saw a pattern on a chair in a business, and plotted it out on triangular graph paper, which I found on the web. The graph paper was created by using Borders on an Excel spreadsheet. So then I was able to use the graph paper and create the pattern and making the borders of the pattern heavier.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Big Tobacco lied but need not pay, judge rules


federal district court judge ruled on Thursday that cigarette makers conspired for years to hide smoking dangers but declined to impose major monetary penalties.... in Thursday’s opinion, Kessler said that remedy was also out of step with the appeals court ruling, which dictated that civil racketeering remedies focus on the prevention of future misconduct, not punishment of past misdeeds.

This is crazy. But maybe the to-be-expected result of so many years of Republicans choosing federal judges. Even when Clinton was president, the Republican Congress blocked him from appointing many appeals judges.

Non-violent drug users are punished for past actions; the law doesn't "focus on the prevention of future misconduct" in these cases, where it would make sense. The leaders of the tobacco industry suppressed evidence that tobacco kills people, in order to make big profits. I would say that puts them morally in the same category as contract killers.

Self-serve lines backfire

Last Saturday morning, NPR news reported that self-serve lines in grocery stores are having the unexpected effect of causing a drop in impulse buying.

Is suffering necessary?

In an article on the possibility of human biological enhancement, Henry T. Greely, professor of law and director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford University says

The idea that any plausible enhancements could end human suffering outstrips the wildest transhumanist fantasy. But what if it really happened? While it seems possible this may not be an unalloyed blessing, surely it is not clear that it would be a bad thing.

I am certainly not for unnecessary suffering, but I do not think it would be desirable to eliminate all suffering. As far as I have observed, people are usually (?always) unable to empathize with problems they have not themselves experienced. People would be likely to be even less inhibited about inflicting suffering on other creatures, human or otherwise, than they already are. Prolonged problem-free periods can lead to boredom, reducing the enjoyment of living. For some, this leads to depravities of various kinds. Of course, for some people, too much suffering deadens their capacity to empathize, and causes them to delight in tormenting others. As usual, a balance is needed.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

how to keep down the unemployment rate

A post on the above blog for 08/11 mentions a homeless man who had been to prison because of drugs, and because of the prison term, is having a problem finding a job. There is the danger that eventually he will become desparate and do something that lands him back in prison. Is this really in the best interest of our country? When will our country choose our common good over the satisfaction of punishing others?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

mercury in light bulbs

One of my kitchen light bulbs went out the other day, the main one, over the sink. When I went to buy a new one, I wanted to be environmentally friendly, so I started to get one of the compact flourescent spiral bulbs that fit in a regular light socket. I was reading the back label before I bought it, and what did I see. It contained mercury, and when it was worn out, needed to be disposed of properly. Now, how is that to be done? And how many consumers will even read the label, or worry about how to dispose of it if they do. It's safe to say very few. They've stopped making mercury thermometers, because it's such a dangerous substance. So now they are putting it in light bulbs that are marketed as being environmentally friendly. I bought a different type of light bulb which is supposedly more energy efficient than normal ones, but didn't have a warning label. Since both were made by the same company, hopefully that means the one I bought is indeed less dangerous.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Teens and the cancer vaccine

Teens Unaware Of Sexually Transmitted Diseases Until They Catch One, Carnegie Mellon Study Finds

Some radical right-wing Christians oppose the newly released vaccine that helps protect against most cervical cancer. They think it will encourage pre-marital sex. This just doesn't compute. For one thing, most people of any age, and especially young people, have no idea that a virus is responsible for most cervical cancer. For another, teenagers are even less likely to feel themselves at risk than adults. To risk your child's life because of wishful thinking seems pretty warped and unloving to me.

When positive thinking is not positive

Los Angeles officials never expected electricity demand would reach the levels it did during the recent heat wave, the Los Angeles Times says....Interviews and documents show the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power overestimated the quality of its equipment while underestimating how much power would be needed

Friday, August 04, 2006

Second Chinese city orders mass dog slaughter

misleading weather statistics

I heard on the radio a couple of weeks ago that the hottest part of the year is usually the third week in July. Then I saw a graph on the internet, or maybe it was the Atlanta newspaper, of average highs and lows for each month, and the bars for July and August looked the same, which would go along with the turning point being near the end of July or beginning of August.

But it didn't seem right to me. It seemed to me that the hottest time was usually in August. Well, now August is here, and I see what the situation is. The highs and lows may be similar (although the lows still seem to be getting a warmer). But the big difference is that it is staying warmer much later at night. So while the average of the highs, and the average of the lows, might be similar for the two months, if you take an average of hourly temperatures, I bet August would be clearly hotter.

And it's getting worse:

America in recent years has been sweltering through three times more than its normal share of extra-hot summer nights, government weather records show.

But it is not surprising because climate models, used to forecast global warming, have been predicting this trend for more than 20 years, said Jerry Mahlman, a climate scientist at National Center for Atmospheric Research and a top federal climate modeler.

One reason global warming is suspected in summer-night temperatures is that daytime air pollution slightly counteracts warming but is not as prevalent at night, said Bill Chameides, a climate scientist for the advocacy group Environmental Defense.


what effect does war have on unemployment rate?
Weekly U.S. jobless claims climb
The report also showed that the number of people continuing to collect unemployment benefits rose by 11,000 to 2.480 million for the week ending July 22
Unemployment rate hits five-month high
For the last 12 months, wages have gone up 3.8 percent. But those wage gains are still trailing inflation, economists said.

Of course, many are still saying everything is really fine.
What I have not seen is what the unemployment rate would be if so we didn't have a bunch of reservists and national guards in Iraq. Of course, w/o the war in Iraq, there would be less government spending, so that would also affect the economy.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

afraid to get a flag

Last year, I worked at a booth at the Gwinnett County (Georgia) fair. We were giving out small American flags for free. One lady said she would like a flag, but was afraid to get one because of not knowing what to do when it wore out!

How pitiful, that conservatives have intimidated people from getting a flag.

Conservatives are trying to get an constitutional amendment passed against desecrating the American flag. Suppose it passes. Does that mean that when my t-shirt with a picture of the flag gets worn out, I'll have worry about how to dispose of it. Will that mean the end of U.S. postage stamps with a picture of the flag. After all, they get stamped. If we get a letter with a flag stamp, will we get in trouble if we throw it away?

whence Chris

Since my nephew lives in south Florida, I'm glad to see Chris is weakening, rather than increasing to a hurricane by the time it reaches Florida.
I hope the warm water south of the west half of Cuba doesn't strengthen it again. (See infrared photos at ) What I hope is that it brings us some much-needed rain in Atlanta w/o devasting other places first.

Aug. 4
I read that Chris is breaking down because of wind shears. I hope it will be weak enough when it hits that warm water off Cuba that it won't revive to a dangerous state.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Massachusetts health insurance

The law, enacted in April after the Massachusetts Legislature overrode vetoes by Gov. Mitt Romney (R), requires all state residents to purchase health insurance by July 1, 2007. In addition, among other provisions, the law will require employers in the state with 11 or more employees to provide coverage for workers or pay an annual fee of $295 per worker; establish a low-cost, state subsidized health insurance program for residents with annual incomes less than 300% of the federal poverty level; and expand Medicaid coverage for state residents

The state’s poorest — single adults making $9,500 or less a year — will have access to health coverage with no premiums or deductibles.
Those living at up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $48,000 for a family of three, will be able to get health coverage on a sliding scale, also with no deductibles....Individuals deemed able but unwilling to purchase health care could face fines of more than $1,000 a year by the state if they don’t get insurance.

I wonder if the lawmakers passed this bill because they wanted to help their citizens, or to save taxpayer money on emergency medical care. Apparently, if someone has a large expense, like a large car or house repair bill, and can't pay their medical insurance, they will be fined. What happens if they can't pay the fine? The news articles on this bill really leave a lot of questions.

Human hubris

This is about an article about cooperation between chimpanzees, by Alicia Melis and co-authors from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany . Near the end, there is the following quote by Melis.

"Hopefully, future studies can show us what it is that makes human cooperation so unique."

This is typical of us humans. The researchers assume that we are unique, and attempt to find ways to prove it. Is this a sign of insecurity or arrogance?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hunger Walk song

I started writing this song when I was walking in an Atlanta Hunger Walk. It just started coming into my mind, and turned out to be to the tune of the Thanksgiving song "Come, Ye Thankful People Come". I thought it was neat that this song about the hungry is to a tune of thanksgiving for those who have enough.
I give permission for it to be used on behalf of non-sectarian community food banks. If you print the words, please include the copyright information.
I have inserted a "~" to indicate a syllable that is slurred over more than one note. I have included alternative wording so it can be used at events other than walks.

Hunger Walk
copyright 1994 Patricia M. Shannon
Join us on the Hunger Walk/Drive,
share the love and joy we feel,
as we walk/work together for
those who are in present need.
We can make a difference,
when we work toge~ther;
as you help us reach our goal,
you will also feed your soul.
Let's give thanks to all our friends,
who give of their time and pay,
in the groups that work so hard
to make sure no one does starve.
We can never know just when
we will need a helping hand,
our support will help ensure,
community food banks will endure.
Many children in our land
often suffer hunger pains;
it can stunt the healthy growth
of their body and their brains.
Children are the fu~ture;
they need more than just a song;
when we help to nourish them,
we help to keep our country strong.

Chinese county clubs to death 50,000 dogs

The killings prompted calls for a boycott of Chinese products from the activist group People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

I've already been avoiding buying items from China because of human rights abuses, when possible. This outrageousness will strengthen my efforts.