"What's black and white and read all over?"

Saturday, December 03, 2005
Posted 5:55 PM by

Proof I'm getting dumber with age

Click on this image for some more half-baked ideas on IQ tests.Here's hoping age is the start of wisdom, because I've dropped eight IQ points since I was a kid. At least according to an online I.Q. test I took last night.

I guess I shouldn't have been drinking before I took it.

After spewing 50 questions at me, asking me to register (which I faked) and to sign up for a more in-depth analysis (NO THANKS!), I finally got to a page that read, "Congratulations, Your IQ score is 131."

Now I know for a fact that alcohol kills brain cells. I once tested at 139 when I was in middle school. Both that score and the one I just took are considered "very superior."

However, I remember being one point shy of the strict cutoff for taking humanities classes - advance courses meant for "genius" students way back in the '70s - so I got placed in with the regular kids.

It sparked my belief that K-12 education in the U.S. is just a series of trial-and-error, experimental, popular fads. My theory is that these fads are based solely on some graduate student's doctoral thesis and the desperate need of district administrators to look busy and publicly appear as if they're improving their schools, thus justifying their inflated salaries.

I've long maintained IQ tests don't measure desire, motivation or tenacity. If given a chance, and enough time, I can pretty much do any work put in front of me. I suspect that's true for a lot of us.

Needlesstosay, I learned about disillusionment and existentialism at a pretty impressionable age. If it hadn't been for writing, I probably would have ended up in the same drug rehab program most of my friends attended.

Instead, the program's director offered me a job while I was doing a feature story about the place, saying, "You relate so well with these kids." I didn't have the heart to tell him why, nor do I want to venture a guess at his IQ.

So it wasn't much of a surprise that the IQ test I took last night also found that my "intellectual type is Word Warrior. This means you have exceptional verbal skills. You can easily make sense of complex issues and take an unusually creative approach to solving problems. Your strengths also make you a visionary. Even without trying you're able to come up with lots of new and creative ideas."

Apparently not today. Look what I've written after a hangover.

Finally, I'll leave you with this thought: If mensa members are so smart, why is their Web site so dull?


Friday, December 02, 2005
Posted 5:40 PM by

Pa. lawmakers keep raises - after voting them down

The house of cards Pennsylvania legislators have built for themselves is starting to fall inside the dome of the state capitol building.A bonus is usually a reward from an employer for a job well done, a sign of appreciation or simply a thank you.

Never in the history of modern politics - save for a brief period under Tammany Hall - have lawmakers given themselves one. Then, there's the Pennsylvania Legislature.

Under mounting pressure from constituents, state lawmakers rescinded a raise they voted themselves a couple weeks ago. But about half of them took the money - up to $9,000 - in advance as unvouchered expenses. And more than half of those swine are now refusing to pay it back.

One ballsy taxpayer advocate, fellow blogger Gene Stilp, sued, arguing it was against the state Constitution for legislators to take a raise midterm.

Ironically, on the same day some lawmakers said they had already spent their extra cash, Commonwealth Court Senior Judge James R. Kelley dismissed Stilp's case, saying there is no legal controversy left for the court to settle.

Meanwhile, taxpayers are left playing detective to find out the names of at least 14 state senators and 99 representatives who took the money and are not paying paid it back.

Brian Preski, House Speaker John Perzel's chief of staff, had the chutzpah to tell the Associated Press that lawmakers made "personal decisions" about whether to support the pay raises and that their decisions about whether to pay back any extra money are equally private.

"I just don't think it's right" to unilaterally release that information, he said.

Both Preski and his boss deserve to get tossed out on their asses.

It also seems high time to eliminate the Legislature's exemption from the state's Open Meetings or Sunshine Law - which allows lawmakers to meet in secret caucuses. They obviously can't be trusted to behave like public servants behind closed doors.


Thursday, December 01, 2005
Posted 5:42 PM by

Running with scissors

In a file photo sharp objects confiscated at Portland International Airport by the Transportation Safety Administration sit in a large barrel in Salem, Ore., at the state's surplus property warehouse, Thursday, May 30, 2003. Airline passengers will be allowed to carry small scissors and tools onto planes, reversing a rule that led to confiscation of many thousands of sharp objects at airports since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, a Homeland Security Department official said Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2005. (AP Photo/John Gress)Back in first grade, Mrs. Neebe warned us not to run with scissors for fear we might fall and accidentally poke an eye out.

Little did I realize that the federal government would take her place 30 years later and for the exact same reason.

One would think that after Flight 93 was forced down by passengers over Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, rather than crashed by terrorists into Washington D.C., Todd Beamer's last words, "Let's roll" would still resonate.

Passengers should have been allowed to carry anything short of a sidearm on board with them - anything that would help them feel safer while flying.

But no, the same people who think we should all be allowed to bear machine guns and bazookas on the ground started confiscated cuticle scissors, nail files and lighters from passengers' carryon bags.

I'm guessing those industries aren't major campaign contributors to the Republican Party.

Today, four years later, some sanity has finally started to be restored.

Beginning December 22, scissors with a cutting edge of four inches or less and tools such as screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers smaller than seven inches will be permitted on board, the Transportation Security Administration announced today.

Lighters will still be banned, however, along with smoking, of course.

So, terrorists beware. You may be beaten down by armed, jittery smokers who need their fix.


Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Posted 5:36 PM by

Exelon, PSEG merger death knoll for competition

Electric competition in Pa. - the state that started the deregulation movement - has been short circuited. Instead, state regulators are beging urged to approve a merger that would create the nation's largest power company.You won't read it in Thursday's newspapers, but electric competition quietly died today in Pennsylvania - the state where the industry's deregulation movement started less than 10 years ago.

The idea, which lit up the dark political landscape like a light bulb in 1996, was to force the market to lower electricity costs to consumers and businesses by encouraging competition among power companies.

The companies were then supposed to build more cost-efficient power plants in order to better compete.

Instead, a Pennsylvania judge yesterday recommended that state regulators approve the merger of Newark-based PSEG (Public Service Enterprise Group Inc.) and Exelon Corp., which owns PECO Energy Co. (formerly the Philadelphia Electric Co.)

The move would create the nation's largest electric company.

Yet, administrative law judge Marlane R. Chestnut found the merger "is in the public interest, provides substantial, affirmative benefits, and is not likely to result in anticompetitive or discriminatory conduct or the unlawful exercise of market power in the retail electric and natural gas markets."

Under a Sept. 13 settlement reached with merger opponents - which included the city of Philadelphia, labor and advocacy groups, and the state Department of Environmental Protection - PECO will provide $120 million over four years in rate discounts for customers and cap its rates through the end of 2010.

After that, all bets are off.

This isn't the way deregulation was supposed to work.

In 1996, the year then-Gov. Tom Ridge signed the measure into law, Irwin A. Popowsky, the state's Consumer Advocate, argued in favor of lessening restrictions, saying, "If there were generation competition, a utility like PECO would not be able to sell its extraordinarily expensive nuclear power at anything close to its current total cost. Rather, it could only charge the market rate, which would be set by competition among a host of generation suppliers. Only a monopoly could charge the high embedded costs of a plant like Limerick, and only a captive monopoly ratepayer would pay such costs when reliable lower cost alternatives are readily available."

But now, less than 2 percent of PECO residential customers use an alternative electric supplier, according to October 2005 state statistics. That's down from 7.9 percent three years ago.

It turned out alternative energy suppliers charge more than conventional suppliers and still had to pay freight on the local company's wires.

Coincidentally, as regional electric companies grabbed more of the market share legally, the industry's PAC contributions to Congress nearly doubled between 1994 and 1996 (from $5.96 million to $10.4 million) and continued climbing until they hit $21.5 million in 2002.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Posted 5:13 PM by

A police state run by Keystone Cops

Do you want to see this picture on street corners at random and for no reason?Miami police are planning "in-your-face" shows of force in public places, saying the random, high-profile security operations will keep terrorists guessing about where officers might be next.

As an example, Deputy Police Chief Frank Fernandez said officers might surround a bank, check the IDs of everyone going in and out, and hand out leaflets about terror threats.

Although the ACLU has said such focused patrols do not violate the Constitution, can you think of a better way to drum up support for a bigger police budget?

This is the politics of fear, period, and will needlessly scare the shit out of ordinary citizens.

Meanwhile, efforts to train thousands of federal agents to protect commercial flights during heightened terror alerts were quietly abandoned more than a year ago because Congress objected to the cost, government investigators said Tuesday.

Yet, New Jersey officials announced Tuesday that the state finally has a full-time 22-member weapons of mass destruction team based at Fort Dix that is ready to respond to biological, chemical or radioactive attacks.

Full-time? What for?

The only terrorists attacks on American soil committed so far have involved conventional items used in unconventional means, for example flying jets into buildings and turning fertilizer into explosives.

"Today was a long time coming," said Rep. Jim Saxton, R-Mount Holly. "I hope the day never comes when this team is needed."

Sounds like a waste of money that would have been better spent training police and firemen - normal first responders in emergencies - how to cope with such threats.

It would not have taken four years to get this team together if ex-governor James McGreevey hadn't appointed a buffoon to head the state's homeland defense agency simply because he wanted to have sex with him.

Not that George Bush has set such a great example by appointing Michael Brown, a horse show judge and Republican contributor, to head up the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

I'm beginning to miss the days when ex-Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge suggested folks simply use plastic and duct tape to secure themselves in rooms, even though it meant suffocation.


Monday, November 28, 2005
Posted 5:09 PM by

Text message tragedy preventable

His second message was: I JUST CRASHED. SEND A WRECKER! NO GAME TONIGHT.3862 277! What does it spell? Dumb ass!

And that's just what a 17-year-old Colorado boy is for killing a bicyclist as he wrote a text message on his cell phone while driving.

Talking and dialing on cell phones can be so dangerous that some states, New Jersey for instance, have banned their use and will cite and fine drivers caught talking in traffic.

Text messaging is an even bigger threat. And it's not just teenagers doing it.

I have watched an over-30 friend drive with one hand, while eyeing his tiny phone screen and typing with the thumb of his other hand. It got to the point where I offered to take the wheel.

Come on, folks. Show some common sense.


Sunday, November 27, 2005
Posted 5:09 PM by

NOLA no more

Now where can you go for a good bowl of jambalya?Here's a sign that New Orleans will never fully recover from that bitch, Katrina.

Famed restaurants Brennan's, Antoine's and Galatoire's likely won't re-open until next year. And of the 3,400 restaurants in the greater New Orleans area before Hurricane Katrina, only 26 percent have reopened, said Tom Weatherly of the Louisiana Restaurant Association. Only about 300 of those are in the city, which is known the world over for its creole and cajun cuisine.

The loss of chefs, saucees and prep cooks who moved away from New Orleans and may never move back will irrevocably alter the American culinary landscape. Here's hoping that their style fuses into that of the new cities they call home.


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