Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Thursday, February 26, 2021

If the behavior of Congressional Republicans over the past few weeks has struck you as being little more than knee-jerk negativism, you’re not alone:

Despite two consecutive election thrashings, and despite Obama’s high approval ratings and their own low standing, Republicans have wagered that the return to the majority is paved by unwavering opposition to further spending, an audacious bet that won’t pay out for another 21 months.

If Republicans are right, the economy will remain in tatters and voters will recognize in 2010 that the recovery was delayed by profligate Democrats and their president.

If the GOP is wrong, however, and the economy begins to show signs of life, the resistance will be easily framed as reflexive obstructionism, the last gasp of an intellectually bankrupt party…

“They just seem to be sitting back and waiting for the Democrats to come up with the plan so they can look for something to shoot at,” said House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), who is locked in a battle with his home state governor, Mark Sanford, over money for unemployment insurance. “They’re making a calculated decision to just say ‘no.’”

It is the job of the opposition party to apply the brakes on a partisan agenda wherever it can, so good job by the Republicans there. And fiscal conservatism is where they should rightly shine. But indeed, mere reactionary responses, instead of an actual solid alternative plan, is troubling; it makes them come off as nothing but Grand Old Party-Poopers.

If this gambit doesn’t come off, the GOP will really be in its own crisis by 2011. In fact, it might just lead to a permanent split, with the ultraconservative wing striking out on its own with a third-party organization — the ultimate of ironies, when you consider that the Republicans supposedly have been the more focused, homogeneous ideological grouping over the past thirty-odd years.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/26/2009 04:27pm
Category: Politics
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Head up to the Belmont section of the Bronx for a nic-hit without the burn: The electronic cigar/cigarette:

“We’re the ones who brought them to the forefront, baby,” [cigar-store owner Paul] DiSilvio said with a grin. With starter kits that sell from $99 to $149, he added: “We can’t keep them on the shelves. It’s the next big thing.”

With most models, a stainless-steel case is designed to resemble a cigarette or cigar. Inside are cartridges filled with water and varying levels of nicotine — a highly addictive substance that can affect heart rate and blood pressure. A rechargeable battery powers puffs of water vapor out one end, which glows red with each drag. Refills cost $19 for five cartridges, about the equivalent of 200 cigarettes.

All in all, I think I’d prefer the old-time candy cigarettes

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/26/2009 04:03pm
Category: Creative, New Yorkin', Tech
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Our primate cousins have been much in the news lately, mainly thanks to Travis the Chimp’s wild rampage through Connecticut (not to mention the inspirational fallout for the New York Post).

Throughout this coverage, rule-of-thumb quips have been dropped by experts about how much stronger ape is than man — usually five times more and up. Turns out that those pros should know better:

But the “five times” figure was refuted 20 years after [biologist John] Bauman’s experiments. In 1943, Glen Finch of the Yale primate laboratory rigged an apparatus to test the arm strength of eight captive chimpanzees. An adult male chimp, he found, pulled about the same weight as an adult man. Once he’d corrected the measurement for their smaller body sizes, chimpanzees did turn out to be stronger than humans—but not by a factor of five or anything close to it.

Repeated tests in the 1960s confirmed this basic picture. A chimpanzee had, pound for pound, as much as twice the strength of a human when it came to pulling weights. The apes beat us in leg strength, too, despite our reliance on our legs for locomotion. A 2006 study found that bonobos can jump one-third higher than top-level human athletes, and bonobo legs generate as much force as humans nearly two times heavier.

So it turns out that “kicking monkey ass” is not as daunting a prospect as is commonly supposed. Somebody crank up the pay-per-view machine!

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/26/2009 02:53pm
Category: New Yorkin', Science
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It makes sense: During this economic crisis, the monthly household bill for broadband Internet access can seem like an unnecessary luxury. The surviving dial-up ISPs are pouncing on that notion by doubling-down on their marketing efforts to convince strapped consumers to revert to narrowband, because even a slow connection still “takes you to the same Internet”.

But how realistic is it to expect people to downgrade?

“It’s a smart move, in my opinion, for them to focus on the value message,” says Doug Williams, an analyst at Forrester Research.

He is skeptical, however, that dial-up services will attract many broadband users, pointing to a survey of U.S. consumers in which only 4% said they would downgrade their service and 2% said they would cancel it altogether.

Fact is, a step down in speed will appeal only to a very narrow slice of online users: Those who already don’t “live” on it, and access the Web a small handful of times a week to infrequently check email and such. Those folks probably got broadband only because they started experiencing peer pressure to do so — a regular flood of emailed hi-res pictures of their grandchildren, etc. They’re not going to miss the advantages of broadband because they never fully experienced them to begin with.

For the rest of us? Broadband makes all the high-capacity Web media that we experience possible. If anything, I expect the cable TV portions of the average household media-services bill to take a hit, precisely because more and more mainstream consumers are figuring out that they can get their television programming online for free.

In addition, there is a third way between household broadband and dial-up: Wireless-phone Web access. It’s not ideal, but if the broadband bill is so daunting, a bundled substitute could be the all-you-can-eat data plans that mobile phone providers are offering up. When you match them with true Web-enabled handsets like the iPhone, you’re really not downgrading by much.

And speaking of phones: Keep in mind that the base cost of an Earthlink or NetZero account doesn’t factor in the additional cost of maintaining a landline telephone in order to actually use dial-up. Granted, more households still have a landline than not, but a good chunk don’t — they’ve migrated to wireless-only phones for the entire house. Add it all up, and that ten bucks a month for slow Internet actually doubles — putting it almost in line with the average broadband bill of around $30. The savings shrink, for questionable return value.

So as logical as it may seem to see a resurgence in dial-up, I think the providers are indulging in a good bit of wishful thinking. At best, they’ll see a flattening of their market erosion; at worst, their existing low-end customers will start cutting the cord, and ironical to this strategy, the dial-up companies will finally go under thanks to the recession.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/26/2009 02:09pm
Category: Internet, Society, TV
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