Thursday, May 31, 2007

REVIEW: 28 Weeks Later

28 Weeks Later is the sequel to the surprisingly well-made 28 Days Later (2002). The first film was directed by Danny Boyle and starred then-unknown actors Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins) and Naomie Harris (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men's Chest).

The film was made for an estimated $8 million dollars and was already profitable from its United Kingdom release before it jumped the pond and grossed over $45 million more in the United States during the summer of 2003. The film became one of the first to be released in theaters with multiple endings (hopeful, hopeless and ambiguous) all of which are available on the DVD.

None of the principal actors or director return for the sequel, which is usually a decidely discouraging signal. The original's director Executive Produced 28 Weeks Later and personally selected Juan Carlos Fresnadillo who made the intriguing thriller Intacto to direct the sequel.

Surprisingly, the critics have responded with kind words with some calling it "better than the original." At the viewers rate the film more highly than critics (86% to 71%) and the film has taken in over $21 million in three most competitive weekends of the U.S. summer movie-going season.

28 Days Later was an exciting surprise; an unheralded film that comes out of nowhere to entertain, thrill and amaze. 28 Weeks Later arrives as a known, expected quantity but is actually a better film. It has a lesser emotional impact than the first movie because in this version one is not worried about whether the entire human race has been devastated by the "rage virus."

In this film, the rage virus has almost completely exterminated the population of United Kingdom, except for a very small number of survivors. About 6 months after (28 Weeks, get it?) the last infected person died of hunger the United States military has begun returning British citizens to a "heavily fortified Green Zone" in the capital city of the country. (Sound familiar?) There are other metaphorical allusions to the conflict in Iraq after the inevitable new outbreak of the virus (through the deployment of a reasonably plausible plot device: genetic mutation) we get scenes of U.S. troops acting as snipers, patrolling a bombed out urban landscape looking for hidden, dangerous residents (zombies) and using superior technology and firepower.

In the end the heart of the movie is again centered around the safety of two children and the movie does an excellent job of maintaining both the level of suspense and non-stop gory action sequences.


NH Governor Signs Civil Unions Bill Into Law

Democratic Governor John Lynch of New Hampshire signed HB 437 into law, making the state the fourth in the Union to enact a civil unions bill, and the first not compelled by a state supreme court to do so. Vermont (1999), Connecticut (2005) and New Jersey (2006) also have civil unions laws in effect. New Hampshire's law will go into effect January 1, 2008. The official press release from the Governor's office reads:
"Dating back to the Abolitionist movement, we in New Hampshire have a long, proud history of taking the lead in opposing discrimination. Today, that tradition continues. Today, we are taking an important step against discrimination. Today, we are acting to protect New Hampshire families," Gov. Lynch said.

"Over the last several months, I have spoken with hundreds of people about this issue, and most of those people support civil unions. Some support civil unions, but feel it may be happening too fast, or too soon. Others oppose civil unions altogether and see it as a threat to marriage.

"I've listened and heard all the arguments. I do not believe this bill threatens marriage. I believe this is a matter of conscience and fairness. And my view is that, it's never too soon to act to prevent discrimination.

"People in committed relationships should not have to worry about visiting a loved one in a hospital, or whether their loved ones will inherit their estate, or the many other legal protections so many of us take for granted," Gov. Lynch said. "How could any one of us look into the eyes of our neighbors, our friends, or our loved ones if we continued to deny them these basic legal protections?

"That is why I am pleased to be here today as we further the interest of fairness, dignity and the strengthening of families.

"That is truly the New Hampshire way," Gov. Lynch said.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Direct Proportionality and Gasoline Prices

Ahhh, another example of why Mathematics is Important, Reason #231! Recall the Ideal Gas Law, pV=nRT, which means that the volume V of a gas is directly proportional to the temperature T of that gas held at a fixed pressure. Why is this important? Gasoline!

In an article in the Los Angeles Times on May 9, 2007, "Not just inflated prices but inflated fuel":

The U.S. government defines a gallon of gas this way: At 60 degrees, a gallon is 231 cubic inches. But when fuel is warmer than 60 degrees, the liquid expands. When it's colder, the fuel contracts.

U.S. oil companies and distributors account for temperature when they sell to each other. Wholesale facilities are equipped with devices that adjust volumes to bring the gallon tally in line with the 60-degree standard.


That equity, however, stops short of retail fuel pumps. Service stations dispense gas and diesel as if every drop is flowing at 60 degrees — and they charge customers as if they are getting government-standard gallons.


Gasoline expands or contracts 1% for every 15-degree change in the fuel's temperature. Diesel volumes change 0.6% per 15-degree change. The difference seems small, but it adds up fast in California, where fuel temperatures can be much higher than 60 degrees and prices are steep. It's a bigger hit for truckers, whose rigs gulp 20,000 gallons or more of diesel a year.
So, as you think about rising gas prices, recall the principle of direct proportionality from your high school algebra class.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

India Hosts "Nigah Queerfest"

The New York Times is running a Reuters report on Nigah Queerfest '07 , a cultural festival highlighting homosexuality being held in New Delhi, India from May 25th to June 3rd. After spending two weeks in India earlier this year I am very interested in public policy involving the world's largest democracy, especially with regards to homosexuality (and other issues like health care, population control, poverty et cetera). India still has a colonial-era law called Section 377 which criminalizes homosexuality with up to 10 years in prison. There have been numerous protests over Section 377 and there is a pending court case attempting to repeal the provision.

Andy at TowleRoad has links to coverage of the Queerfest.


Mad Professah was invited by a friend (who happens to be the Executive Director of the Center for Health Justice) to see an invitation-only screening of the film ¡Salud! at the Billy Wilder Theater of the Armand Hammer Museum on Monday May 14th at 7pm in Westwood.

The film is an amazingly incisive meditation on the nature of health care around the world. It looks specifically at the case of four particular countries in the global South: Cuba, Honduras, The Gambia and Venezuela. Although it sounds like it might be awfully tendentious and possibly mawkish: a nearly 2-hour documentary on the state of international health care primarily in Spanish, the actuality is an emotionally powerful, thought-provoking experience that lingers with you long after the final talking head has delivered the last rhetorical question: "How long will we treat health care as a commodity instead of as a right?"


Monday, May 28, 2007

Tommy Haas and Marat Safin Shirtless Together

Greg Hernandez over at Out in Hollywood has some great shots of hotties Tommy Haas and Marat Safin in vintage tennis clothes and some more pictures of them wearing very little clothes. Fun :)

Something to do on a Memorial Day when the French Open is basically rained out!

FRENCH OPEN 2007: Venus and Serena Win First Round Matches

Venus Williams beat French teenager Alize Cornet 6-4, 6-3 seconds before the rain came down forcing the third rain delay of Day 2 at Roland Garros.

Serena Williams beat Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova (who took out Venus last year 9-7 in the third set during the first round of the 2006 Australian Open) 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 on Day 1. Serena was down 5-6 (after coming back from 2-5 to level the match 5-5) with Pironkova ready to serve for the first set when a 5-hour rain delay occurred. After that gap, although Serena lost the first set, she won 12 of the last 13 games to win the match.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

REVIEW: Providence Restaurant (Los Angeles, CA)

Mad Professah checked out Providence Restaurant (5955 Melrose Boulevard near Vine, 323-460-4170) on Wednesday April 25th. Providence is listed at #35 on the Top 50 restaurants in the United States by Gourmet magazine. We had the 5-course prix fixe meal with wine pairing. In other words, it was a set 5-course meal with a different wine for each course.

Here are some pictures of our meal.

An amuse bouche of carrot ginger soup and shrimp with a crunchy wafer.

bobby’s block island sea scallops with
heart of palm, star anise gastrique, applewood smoked bacon.

king salmon (sitka alaska) with kumquats, fennel, baby turnips, black olives, saffron.

japanese kanpachi, pickled plum consommé, shiso leaf, cucumber.

new zealand john dory with crayfish,
ramps, lemon espuma, potato.

raspberry, basil, balsamic, graham.

The food was incroyable (incredible). The scallops were the most amazing things I have ever tasted. The dining experience was an absolutely memorable one. The service was insanely attentive. The meal was not cheap (the fixed price for the 5-course meal coupled with a different wine for each course is $110 per person) but it absolutely worth the money to spend about twice as much here as you would at Providence and forego eating at another "so-so" place at half the price.


Friday, May 25, 2007

30th Anniversary of Star Wars

Where were you when you first saw Star Wars? May 25, 1977 was the release date of George Lucas' classic science fiction film. Today is the 30th anniversary. I'm pretty sure I saw it that summer 2 or 3 times. I was already a huge sci-fi fan, having read J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. I think my favourite character was R2-D2.
The first film, officially titled "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope" has spawned 5 more films which have grossed well over $2 billion at the box office. It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director and won 6.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Carole Migden's Story Changes

A day after it was reported that she was involved in as many as three car accidents last Friday, openly gay State Senator Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) revealed today that she has been undergoing treatment for leukemia for the last decade. Migden is one of the most powerful openly gay elected officials in the state (if not the country), having already served 3 terms in the State Assembly, one term on the State Board of Equalization and is in her first 4 year term in the State Senate.

However, earlier this year openly gay Assemblymember Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), the author of the marriage equality bill, announced that he would be running in the June 2007 primary election against Migden.

It will be definitely interesting to see what impact the overwhelming coverage of the State Senator's recent "erratic driving" activities will have on the race for the emocratic nomination for the 3rd State Senate district (which covers San Francisco, Sonoma and Marin counties).

In a statement Friday, Migden said the accident occurred after she took her eyes off the road while reaching for a ringing cell phone.

But before the crash, the CHP received the calls about Migden's driving as she traveled more than 30 miles east on I-80 from the Bay Area.

"We have drivers calling from apparently down in Berkeley all the way up to where she crashed," CHP Officer Marvin Williford said. "Her driving was just erratic.

"Unfortunately, she crossed three different CHP districts, so by the time we got into position in one area, she was in a different jurisdiction."

Two witnesses who called 911 said Migden glanced off the concrete barrier dividing traffic on I-80, several miles before her accident, the CHP said.

"Based on her (Migden's) statement and the damage to her car, we know that she hit something. We're trying to determine where she hit it," Williford said.

In her statement to officers, Migden said "she did feel she brushed up against something," Williford said, although there is no mention of that in the statement released Friday by the senator's office.

Oropeza Loses Labor Support in 37th CD Race

Wednesday's Roundup from the Capitol Basement alerted me to an article on the 37th Congressional District race in the Daily Breeze:

The L.A. County Federation of Labor dropped its long-standing support for state Sen. Jenny Oropeza on Monday, endorsing her opponent in the race to succeed the late Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald.

The County Fed, the region's most influential labor organization, voted Monday night to put its considerable backing behind Assemblywoman Laura Richardson.

Oropeza traced the decision to her vote last month for five tribal compacts that would more than double the number of slot machines at California's American Indian casinos. Labor groups have strongly opposed the compacts on the grounds that they contain insufficient organizing protections.

Mad Professah has been blogging about this race for awhile, which pits African American Assemblymember Laura Richardson versus Latina State Senator Oropeza to fill the seat vacated by the untimely death on April 22nd of Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald. Another candidate in the race is Valerie McDonald, the Congresswoman's daughter. The special primary election is June 26.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

FDA Reiterates Gay Blood Ban reported on Wednesday that the Food and Drug Administration has reiterated its policy position supporting the ban on homosexuals (defined as any man who has had sex with another man since 1977) from donating blood.
What is FDA's policy on blood donations from men who have sex with other men (MSM)?
Men who have had sex with other men, at any time since 1977 (the
beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States) are currently deferred as
blood donors. This is because MSM are, as a group, at increased risk for HIV,
hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by
The policy is not unique to the United States. Many European
countries have recently reexamined both the science and ethics of the lifetime
MSM deferral, and have retained it (See the transcript of
the "FDA Workshop on Behavior-Based Donor Deferrals in the NAT Era" at for further information.
This decision is also consistent with the prevailing interpretation of the
European Union Directive 2004/33/EC article 2.1 on donor deferrals.

Why doesn't FDA allow men who have had sex with men to donate

A history of male-to-male sex is associated with an increased risk for
the presence of and transmission of certain infectious diseases, including HIV,
the virus that causes AIDS. FDA's policy is intended to protect all people who
receive blood transfusions from an increased risk of exposure to potentially
infected blood and blood products.

However, the FDA's statement fails to acknowledge that in recent years several countries such as Australia, Portugal, Russia, Spain and South Africa have changed their lifetime ban on gay men donating blood.

According to the Washington Blade, the American Association of Blood Banks, the Council of Community Blood Centers and the American Red Cross have called the lifetime ban for men who’ve had sex with men since 1977 “medically and scientifically unwarranted.”

Students at UCLA and other colleges have started to protest the lifetime ban on men who have sex with men from donating blood.

Update on IDAHO around the world

Andrés at Blabbeando has an excellent summary of the observations of International Day Against Homophobia all around the world, with particular scrutiny given to Central America and the Caribbean countries.
• Brazil: Among several activities that took place in different cities throughout the giant nation, Grupo Gay da Bahia organized a "Day without Homophobia." During the event they honored members of the LGBT community lost to homophobic violence by writing their names on colorful handkerchiefs and hanging them on a line with clothespins. Photos here.

• Guyana: The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) screened "Songs of Freedom" a documentary by Jamaican born director Phillip Pike that takes a look at homophobia in Jamaica. In doing so, organizers hoped to call attention on "the need of Caribbean societies to battle homophobia as one of the prejudices which retard the development of society." The country, which is located to the right of Venezuela and above Brazil at the north of the South American continent is populated by English-speakers and has stronger ties to Caribbean culture than to Spanish speaking South American countries.

• Venezuela: IDAHO reports that the Caracas-based Asociación Civil Unión Afirmativa (Affirmative Civil Union Association) was to hold a kiss-a-thon in front of the Venezuelan Supreme Tribunal to ask the court to rule on a petition submitted more than two years ago to determine if the Venezuelan constitution grants certain partnership rights to same-sex couples. I couldn't find coverage in the local press.

• Paraguay: The LGBT-rights organization Paragay announced a campaign to promote a bill that would amend an existing anti-discrimination law in order to protect specific social groups including gays and minorities from discrimination (Jakueke).

• Chile: In Chile, the Homosexual Integration and Mobilization Movement (MOVILH) promoted conjugal visits for imprisoned gay, lesbian and transgender inmates (OpusGay).

• Argentina: The CHA launched an initiative to promote national and regional measures to ban discrimination, criminalization and persecution of individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity (Territorio Digital).

• Dominican Republic: Finally, in Santo Domingo, IDAHO was celebrated through an event recognizing the work of "seventeen individuals and eight institutions that have maintained a non-discriminatory attitude" towards gays and lesbians.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Interesting Visual Illusion

The Mixing Memory science blog has an interesting post on Kanisza's Triangle (shown above). The blog links to 3-D versions and animated versions of this classic visual illusion. The very cool 3-dimensional, animated version of Kanisza's Triangle won second prize in a Best Visual Illusion of the Year contest.
Check them out, they're way cool!

California Set To Spend More on Prisons Than Higher Education

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the recently enacted comprehensive prison reform bill (AB 900) will lead to increased state expenditures in the prison-industrial complex that will exceed state spending on higher education in the foreseeable future.
As the costs for fixing the state's troubled corrections system rocket higher, California is headed for a dubious milestone -- for the first time the state will spend more on incarcerating inmates than on educating students in its public universities.

Based on current spending trends, California's prison budget will overtake spending on the state's universities in five years. No other big state in the country spends close to as much on its prisons compared with universities.


Under a new state law, California will spend $7.4 billion to build 40,000 new prison beds, and that is over and above the current annual operating budget of more than $10 billion. Interest payments alone on the billions of dollars of bonds that will be sold to finance the new construction will amount to $330 million a year by 2011 -- all money that will not be available for higher education or other state priorities.

This is profoundly disturbing. Especially, since the politicians themselves know that this is bad public policy. "Asked if the prison spending accurately reflected the state's values and priorities, several politicians insisted it did not, and some suggested it was something of an embarrassment for a state that in other areas, such as environmental programs, likes to think of itself as a pioneer in smart policymaking."

In the Governor's proposed 2007-08 budget the state will spend $10 billion on prisons and $12 billion on higher education, but the Legislative Analyst estimates spending on universities will increase by 5% per year while spending on prisons will increase by 9%.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Carter Quoted Calling Bush Administration Worst Ever

Oh my! The blogosphere is buzzing with news reports of President Jimmy Carter's quotes to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette which is running on the AP Wire declaring that "I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history."
“We now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered,” he said. “But that's been a radical departure from all previous administration policies.”

Mr. Carter, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, criticized Mr. Bush for having “zero peace talks” in Israel. Mr. Carter also said the administration “abandoned or directly refuted” every negotiated nuclear arms agreement, as well as environmental efforts by other presidents.

Mr. Carter also offered a harsh assessment for the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which helped religious charities receive US$2.15 billion in federal grants in fiscal year 2005 alone.

“The policy from the White House has been to allocate funds to religious institutions, even those that channel those funds exclusively to their own particular group of believers in a particular religion,” Mr. Carter said. “As a traditional Baptist, I've always believed in separation of church and state and honoured that premise when I was president, and so have all other presidents, I might say, except this one.”

The White House struck back, calling Carter "irrelevant." As Oliver Willis points out, you're not that irrelevant when the White House issues a personal and specific attack against you!

Now it looks like The Big Dogs have gotten to Carter, because today he is calling his own remarks "careless" and "misinterpreted."

Carter said Monday that when he made the comment, he was responding to a question comparing the Bush administration's foreign policy to that of Richard Nixon.

"And I think Richard Nixon had a very good and productive foreign policy and my remarks were maybe careless or misinterpreted. But I wasn't comparing the overall administration and I was certainly not talking personally about any president," Carter said.

He added: "I think this administration's foreign policy compared to president Nixon's was much worse," Carter said. But he said he did not mean to call it the worst in history.

"No, that's not what I wanted to say. I wasn't comparing this administration with other administrations back through history but just with President Nixon."

Deputy White House press secretary Tony Fratto, with Bush at the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas, said Monday: "I think it just highlights the importance of being careful in choosing your words. I'll just leave it at that."

Hmmmmm. Well, let's just hope that the Bush Administration hasn't made any recent overhauls to the Secret Service like they have to FEMA or the Justice Department or the EPA. Or else Mr. Carter might have an "unfortunate accident." I wouldn't put anything as unthinkable with this administration, would you?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The King is Dead; Long Live The King!

R. Federer d. R. Nadal 26 62 60

Federer beats Nadal on clay for the first time

Wow! After playing pretty badly (mostly due to his horrendous mid 30s service percentage) and losing the first set easily, World #1 Roger Federer defeated World #2 Rafael Nadal by coming back from a set down and facing two break points at 2-6, 1-1, 15-40 to win the second set 6-2 and roll through the deciding 3rd set 6-0, only the second time he has "bageled" the Spaniard. The convincing win over his arch rival at the German Open (ATP Masters Series Hamburg) on Sunday was his 37th consecutive win and 8th consecutive title on German soil and ended Nadal's astounding record-breaking streak of 81 consecutive wins on clay, the longest existing streak on any surface. Federer ended with 31 errors and 31 winners, to just 20 winners and 34 errors for Nadal. Nadal was attempting to become the first player to win all 4 great clay tournaments in one season, but instead Federer picked up his 4th Hamburg Masters Series title, his 13th Masters Shield over all, 4 behind all-time leader Andre Agassi.

By beating the "King of Clay," the "King of Grass" gives himself a mental boost before the 2nd Grand Slam of the year, the only title he hasn't won, where Nadal beat him pretty easily in 4 sets last year and is the 2-time defending champion: Roland Garros, which starts Sunday May 27th.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Another Federer versus Nadal Final

Roger Federer (SUI) [1] vsRafael Nadal (ESP) [2]

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal both needed 3-sets to advance to their second clay court final of 2007, defeating former World #1's Carlos Moya and Lleyton Hewitt, respectively at the ATP Master Series Hamburg clay court tournament. Nadal has never lost to Federer on clay (leads 5-0) and in fact has a 7-3 advantage in their career head-to-head although the Swiss player has 10 Grand Slam titles to Nadal's 2. Nadal has won the last 81 matches he has played on clay and beat Federer on clay in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 at the ATP Master Series Monte Carlo tournament four weeks ago. Federer has won the ATP Master Series Hamburg tournament 3 times before (2002, 2004, 2005) while Nadal has never won the tournament. However, Nadal has won the last two French Open titles (2005, 2006) and the two other Master Series titles on clay this year. No player has ever won all four clay court titles (Monte Carlo, Rome, Hamburg and Paris) in one year.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Tennis: Federer vs Moya; Nadal vs Hewitt, Serena loses

The dreary clay court season continues... Serena Williams lost to crafty lefty Swiss Patty Schnyder 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(5) at the Italian Open in Rome on Friday after handily beating gritty Israeli Shahar Peer in straight sets the day before. Schnyder will face Jelena Jankovic in one semifinal while Svetlana Kuznetsova faces Daniela Hantuchova in the other.

On the men's side, World #1 Roger Federer continued his recent shaky play by struggling to beat Spaniard hottie David Ferrer 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to move into a semifinals at the German Open in Hamburg versus former Spanish hottie Carlos Moya who dismissed the heir apparent Sebian Novak Djokovic in a tough 3-setter 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-5. World #2 Rafael Nadal extended his clay streak to 80(!) match wins by defeating Chilean hottie and 2007 Australian Open finalist Fernando Gonzalez for the second time in two weeks, this time 6-4, 6-4. Nadal will play Aussie assh*le Lleyton Hewitt who took out talented youngster Nicolas Almagro in straight sets 6-3, 6-4.

Another Nadal versus Federer final on Sunday could be interesting but if Federer were to somehow win that match it might turn around his recent funky play.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

May 17 is 2nd International Day of Homophobia

I'm glad to see that Pam's House Blend is promoting the 2nd International Day of Homophobia. She reports that LGBT groups in more than fifty countries will participate in activities to support the initiative to promote awareness of homophobia around the world.

Last year Mad Professah noted that May 17th was chosen by the organizers of IDAHO because of its significance as the anniversary of the date in 1990 when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from their list of mental disorders. Interestingly, May 17th is also the anniversary of the date that same-sex couples could begin to get legally married in Massachusetts.

This year the organizers of IDAHO are promoting a petition for a universal decriminalization of homosexuality:
Petition “For a universal decriminalization of homosexuality”


The Universal declaration of Human Rights

Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 12.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.


The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (adopted by General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI) of 16 December 1966, entry into force 23 March 1976)

Article 17

1. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.

2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.


The Human Rights Committee’s decision in Toonen v. Australia (04 April 1994)

We ask the United Nations

to request a universal abolition of the so-called “crime of homosexuality”, of all “sodomy laws”, and laws against so-called “unnatural acts” in all the countries where they still exist.

3rd Anniversary of Massachusetts Marriage Equality Today

On May 17, 2004 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial court ruling in Goodridge went into effect and for the first time in the United States, same-sex couples could get married and have those marriage licences recognized by their city, county and state governments.

Today, three years later, the world has not ended.

However, the right of same-sex couples to get married in Massachusetts is hanging by a thread. is reporting that a second vote to place a constitutional amendment on the November 2008 ballot is currently too close to call. A state constitutional amendment in Massachusetts requires only the support of 50 state legislators out of 200 sitting as a constitutional convention in two consecutive sessions of the state Legislature. On Janury 2, 2007 the state legislature passed the constitutional amendment with 61 votes in favor (and 132 votes opposed) on the very last day of the previous legislative session.

Today's Boston Globe reports ("Legislative support slim for same-sex marriage ban") that many Massachusetts politicans are doing their best to defeat the constitutional amendment:
A proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages is clinging to a razor-thin margin in the Legislature, as major political figures from Beacon Hill to Capitol Hill step up their attempts to kill the measure.

With a lawmaker who opposes same-sex marriage eyeing a new job and several others ready to switch their votes, Beacon Hill leaders and gay political activists are convinced that they are within at most four votes, and perhaps as few as three, of stopping the amendment from reaching the 2008 ballot and preventing a heated campaign that could draw energy and money away from the Democratic Party's national efforts.


At least four lawmakers who had initially voted for the gay marriage ban in January have signaled that they may switch their votes, the sources said, giving same-sex marriage supporters growing confidence they can kill the measure and spare Massachusetts from becoming the epicenter once again in the country's cultural wars during a presidential election. On May 17, 2004, just six months before the last presidential contest, the nation's first legal same-sex weddings took place in Massachusetts, following a landmark state high court decision.


A final vote by the Legislature on the constitutional ban could take place as early as June 14, when lawmakers reconvene at a constitutional convention, but would be delayed by leaders if the votes are not yet in place.

Drug Companies and Poor Countries Battle Over Anti-HIV Drug Prices

The invaluable Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report has a number of articles in the about the ongoing battle between the paharmaceutucal industry who produce life-saving medications and the people who need them.

In Thailand, one day after failing to come to a price agreement with Abbott Laboratories about its anti-HIV drugs Aluvia and Kaletra, the Health Minister Mongkol Na Songkhla announced that the country will not issue compulsory licences to produce low-cost versions of anti-retroviral drugs as long as pharmaceutical companies match the price of generic versions of those drugs.
The Thai government in November 2006 and January [2007] issued compulsory licenses to produce lower-cost versions of Merck's antiretroviral Efavirenz and Kaletra, respectively. Since then, the government and drug companies have continued negotiations. Abbott earlier this week offered to sell Aluvia at a reduced price in Thailand on the condition that the country agrees not to allow generic versions of the drug into the market, Siriwat Thiptaradol, secretary-general of Thailand's Food and Drug Administration, said. Abbott offered to sell Aluvia for about 34,000 baht, or $1,000, per person annually. Indian generic drug maker Matrix Laboratories has offered to sell a generic version of Aluvia to Thailand for 24,324 baht, or $695, per person annually. Siriwat said that the offer would be considered by Mongkol. Under the terms of the offer, Thailand would have to agree not to seek compulsory licensing for Aluvia and the price of Aluvia could not be reduced any further (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/15). According to Reuters Alertnet, Aluvia is needed in Thailand because it is a heat-stable version of Kaletra and eliminates the need for costly refrigeration (Reuters AlertNet, 5/15).

The recent actions of Thailand and Brazil are being noticed by other pharmaceutical companies. Boehringer Ingelheim announced on Tuesday May 15 that it will sell its anti-retroviral drug nevirapine at a reduced price of 50% or 90% below it's previously announced prices, depending on the relative wealth of the country. Nevirapine is a widely used drug to dramatically reduce the rate of transmission of HIV from pregnant mothers to their newborn children. When the drug is given in pill form to HIV-positive mothers during the end of their pregnancy and labor and to the baby in syrup form within 72 hours of birth it is found to reduce the transmision of HIV from mother to child.
[T]he drug will cost 60 cents per patient daily in 78 low-income countries and $1.20 per patient daily in 67 middle-income countries. In developed countries, the drug costs between $10 and $14 per patient daily. The company also will waive a 5% royalty fee, reporting requirements and other existing obligations for generic drug producers that have World Health Organization approval to make nevirapine using voluntary licenses.
The story doesn't clarify which countries will qualify as "low-income" and which will qualify as "middle-income." Regardless, Mad Professah is happy to see that countries standing up to drug companies is starting to result in drug companies making their drugs cheaper to more people which will save many lives around the world.

Proposition 71 Upheld By California State Supreme Court

The California State Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of an Appellate Court ruling that declared that Proposition 71 passed by voters 59%-41% in November 2004 is constitutional. The action by Justice Joyce L. Kennard in the case of California Family Bioethics Council v. California Institute for Regenerative Medicine means that $3 billion in bond money will immediately become available towards state-sponsored research in embryonic stem cells.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Race to Replace Millender-McDonald Heats Up

The Los Angeles Times reports that the filing deadline has passed for the 37th Congressional district special election to fill the seat of recently deceased U.S. Representative Juanita Millender-McDonald and a slew of people have taken up the offer.
Nineteen candidates have filed nomination papers to be on the ballot in a June 26 special election in the 37th Congressional District.


State Sen. Jenny Oropeza (D-Long Beach), Assemblywoman Laura Richardson (D-Long Beach) and Valerie McDonald, Millender-McDonald's daughter, are considered the front-runners in the race to represent the district that encompasses Compton, Carson, much of Long Beach and parts of South L.A.

The other candidates are Democrats Lee Davis, Mervin Evans, Felicia Ford, Bill Francisco Grisolia, Peter Mathews, George A. Parmer Jr., Jeffrey S. Price and Ed Wilson; Republicans Leroy Joseph "L.J." Guillory, John M. Kanaley, Jeffrey "Lincoln" Leavitt, Gwen Patrick and Teri Ramirez; Daniel Abraham Brezenoff of the Green Party; Herb Peters, a Libertarian; and Al Salehi Agassi, an Independent.

A final list of candidates will be released after the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder verifies signatures submitted by candidates. Each candidate is required to submit 40 valid signatures. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, a runoff between the top candidates in each party will be held Aug. 21.

However today the leading candidate Richardson was blasted as being homophobic by openly gay State Senator Sheila J. Kuehl who has endorsed her colleague State Senator Jenny Oropeza for the open congressional seat. Kuehl is referring to an unfortunate incident in 1996 when Richardson was running against openly lesbian Gerrie Schipske for a Long Beach area State Assembly seat and sent a mailer during her losing campaign for the Democratic nomination in which she claimed that Schipske was "committed to the radical gay agenda" and "strongly backed by ultra-liberal Santa Monica Assemblymember Sheila Kuehl, the Assembly's only openly gay member." Schipske decided over the weekend NOT to enter the race for the 37th district Congressional seat.

Jasmyne Cannick was quoted in the Capitol Weekly article ("Kuehl slams Richardson in 37th C.D; Schipske out") saying "Richardson is not homophobic. Ten years ago was 10 years ago, and a lot can happen in that span of time, including education and new sense of right and wrong. Ten years ago, Richardson looked at things differently as it related to the gay community and in that 10 years, she's changed."

As far as MadProfessah can discern, Richardson is not a co-sponsor of any of the California LGBT community's major legislative priorities in the State Legislature: Mark Leno's AB 43 (Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act) or Kuehl's SB 777 (Student Civil Rights Act) or John Laird's AB 14 (Civil Rights Act of 2007). A lack of such sponsorship does not mean that she's homophobic, but since most of the Democratic caucus is signed on to all or at least one of these pieces of legislation it is significant that Richardson's name is nowhere to be seen, especially considering she represents a district which is putting on the third largest gay and lesbian pride celebration in the country this weekend.

Today, Cannick posted multiple pictures of Richardson appearing with Black LGBT activists as well as a picture of Kuehl herself appearing with Richardson from 2006. It appears as if Richardson AND Kuehl have some "splainin" to do. So far silent in the dispute is State Senator Jenny Oropeza, who may be waiting to see how the dispute between the African American and LGBT communities shakes out and hope that bolsters her candidacy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell Is Dead

I read the news at Pam's House Blend: Reverend Jerry Falwell is dead at the age of 73. The New York Times has more:
The Rev. Jerry Falwell, the fundamentalist preacher who founded the Moral Majority and helped bring the language and passions of religious conservatives into American politics, died today shortly after he was found unconscious in his office at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. He was 73 years old.

Mr. Falwell had a history of heart problems, and probably died of cardiac arrythmia, his physician, Dr. Carl Moore, said today. Mr. Falwell had no pulse when he was found, the doctor said, and efforts to revive him at the university and on the way to the hospital were unsuccessful.

Dr. Moore said Mr. Falwell was pronounced dead at 12:40 p.m. Eastern time.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Survivor Fiji Winner

The Survivor Fiji winner of one million dollars is Earl, a 35-year old African American ad executive from Santa Monica, California although the best player on the show was Yau-Man, who was clearly the smartest player although not the physically strongest. Yau-Man ended up fourth, after he made a deal with Dreamz, 25-year old formerly homeless African American from Wilmington, North Carolina that if Dreamz would win immunity at the Final Four stage then he would give the immunity to Yau-Man in exchange for a $60, 000 Ford truck. Yau-Man had won the truck during the reward challenge when six people were left. Dreamz agreed to the deal but then reneged after learning that the final 3 would be facing the jury of nine for the million dollar prize.

"The curse of the car" continued since neither Yau-Man nor Dreamz became the "sole Survivor."

After making such a clear betrayal of trust there was very little chance the jury would vote for Dreamz, but one thing was clear: an African American would be walking away with a million dollars. Actually, two things were clear: there was no way that the third finalist, Cassandra a 42-year old college administrator at the UCLA Civil and Environmental Engineering department, would even get a vote from the jury.

For the first time in Survivor history the jury's decision was unanimous: 9-0 in favor of Earl.

UPDATE: Great minds think alike: Keith Boykin still watches Survivor, too!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

EW's Top 25 Sci-Fi Projects of the last 25 years

Entertainment Weekly has a list of the Top 25 science fiction television or movie projects since 1982 (thanks to diggtomanjeri for typing in the list):

25. V: THE MINISERIES (1983)
24. GALAXY QUEST (1999)
23. DOCTOR WHO (1963-Present)
22. QUANTUM LEAP (1989-1993)
21. FUTURAMA (1999-2003)
20. STAR WARS: CLONE WARS (2003-2005)
18. HEROES (2006-Present)
16. TOTAL RECALL (1990)
15. FIREFLY/SERENITY (2002/2005)
14. CHILDREN OF MEN (2006)
11. LOST (2004-Present)
10. THE THING (1982)
9. ALIENS (1986)
7. E.T. (1982)
6. BRAZIL (1985)
4. THE X-FILES (1993-2002)
3. BLADE RUNNER (1982)
1. THE MATRIX (1999

What would your Top 25 be?

Friday, May 11, 2007

UPDATE: Oregon Heterosexist Supremacists Targeting Recent LGBT Victories

Ahhh, here they come.... Thursday's Oregonian newspaper carried an article entitled "Gay-rights battle won; war still looms" about attempts by right-wing groups in Oregon to "refer" the two LGBT rights bills recently signed into law by the Governor to a majority vote by the Oregon eletorate (which is vote-by-mail only).


The Oregon Family Council, a Christian group that led the fight against the bills, on short notice summoned 500 pastors to Salem to lobby against them, said Tim Nashif, the group's political director. Rep. Diane Rosenbaum, D-Portland, chair of the House committee that held public hearings on the bills, received more than 1,000 calls and e-mails. Some were so threatening that she was escorted to and from public hearings by Oregon State Police officers.

But since the bills passed, calls and e-mails from both supporters and opponents have dwindled to a trickle.

That raises the question of whether there is sufficient momentum among opponents to put the two measures before voters in the November 2008 election. To do so, they must collect 55,179 signatures from registered voters within 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.

The Oregon Family Council proved it has the clout to organize a referendum with its successful campaign to put Measure 36 on the ballot. But the council says it will not refer the laws.

Jack Brown of Grants Pass, chairman of the Constitution Party of Oregon, says he and other members will. They are forming an independent committee to organize a referral effort and file with the Oregon Secretary of State by Monday, he said.

The group sees the anti-discrimination bill as granting special rights to gays and lesbians. And domestic partnerships fly in the face of Measure 36, Brown said. The bills represent "a flagrant violation of the public trust by elected representatives," he said.


The Oregon Family Fairness Act (enacts same-sex domestic partnerships in the state with several but not all the rights, responsibilities and benefits of marriage) and Oregon Equality Act (adds sexual orientation and gender identity to non-discrimination Oregon's statutes) would go into effect January 1, 2008 unless a ballot measure attempting to repeal the measures qualifies before then.

Basic Rights Oregon is the main group which has fought and defeated past anti-LGBT ballot measures in Oregon and will be the central organizers to defend the hard-fought victories of equal rights for all LGBT citizens of Oregon in the face of any future ballot measures.

PhRMA Wins Another One, Everyone Else Loses

David Sirota of the WorkingforChange blog reports about the vote on Monday in the United States Senate on a poison-pill amendment to Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA)'s S. 1082, the Prescription Drug User Fee Amendments of 2007:

The Associated Press reports "In a triumph for the pharmaceutical industry, the Senate killed a drive to allow consumers to buy prescription drugs from abroad at a significant savings from domestic prices." The legislation to allow imports of FDA-approved medicines from other industrialized nations (a practice used by other industrialized nations themselves) was sponsored by North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) and has long been supported by the vast majority of the American public in opinion polls.

Yet right there on the floor of the U.S. Senate yesterday afternoon, 49 senators [including 16 Democrats] voted through a poison pill amendment, invalidating Dorgan's legislation and protecting drug industry profiteering. The sheer disregard for the truth and for consistency when it came to both the policy and politics of this vote was, in a word, stunning.

So, despite recent good news like Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva refusing to pay price-gouging amounts for anti-HIV meds from Merck and former U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton and his charitable foundation's success at negotiating lower-cost meds for second-line anti-HIV treatment for patients in low- and middle-income countries to a mere US$339 per person per year, in the United States the pharmaceutical companies are running "buck wild."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Federer Loses (Again)

Craig has the details of World #1 Roger Federer crashing out of the Roma ATP Master Series clay court tournament to unheralded Italian Filippo Volandri in straight sets 6-2, 6-4.

Federer made 44 unforced errors, compared to Volandri's 23. He made only two forehand winners, which most tennis commentators call "the best shot in tennis."

World #3 Andy Roddick also lost in Rome today, to clay court specialist Argentinian Juan Ignacio Chela 6-0, 6-4.

World #2 Rafael Nadal racked up his 74th consecutive clay court win despite going to the hospital for a dizzy spell earlier in the day by defeating Michael Youzhny 6-2 6-2.

UPDATE: The Hussy Speaks!

Last week, Mad Professah blogged about the case of Lord Brown, the former CEO of British Petroleum and one of Britain's top business executives being outed by a London tabloid and being forced to resign after making false statements to a court about his longtime relationship with Canadian student Jeff Chevalier.

This week Towleroad has the dish, from Chevalier's side. We have links to revelations, pictures, and more and we find out that Lord Brown was more than twice the kid's age (27 to 59 now) and that the relationship started when Jeff was 23.

Nadal/Moya Beat Federer/Wawrinka in Rome

The new Deuce! tennis blog by Greg Hernandez of the Out in Hollywood blog has been doing a good job of covering several tennis stories that I would have blogged about here at TMPL.

However, I did want to give my readers the pleasure of seeing a picture of Spaniards World #2 Rafael Nadal and former World #1 Carlos Moya playing doubles together at the Rome ATP Master Series tournament against current World #1 Roger Federer and his best friend on the Tour, World #48 Stanislas Wawrinka, also from Switzerland.

The Spaniards won 6-4, 7-6(5). Sheeeesh, will Federer ever beat Nadal on a clay court?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Oregon Governor Signs LGBT Equality Bills Into Law

Ross William Hamilton/The Oregonian

A diarist named torridjoe at Daily Kos has the details of what was apparently an emotional bill signing ceremony by Governor Ted Kulongoski with over 100 LGBT activists and allies in attendance at The Capitol in Salem, Oregon on Wednesday. As torridjoe put it, this is "another reminder that ELECTIONS MATTER. These bills died in 2005 despite a Dem-led Senate and Governor's mansion; the House was still led by the GOP. In 2006 control flipped and--like magic, NOT!--now suddenly they are law."

Other sources also noted the attendance of former governor Barbara Roberts and the fact that today's historic signing ceremony of the Oregon Family Fairness Act (HB 2007) and the Oregon Equality Act (SB 2) was the culmination of at least 30 years of work. In fact, during his stint as a state legislator back in 1975 Kulongoski had introduced a bill to add sexual orientation to the list of categories protected from employment discrimination but the legislation was not enacted.

Both bills go into effect on Janury 1, 2008, if heterosexual supremacist groups do not file ballot initiatives to repeal either measure. In November 2004, Oregon narrowly passed a ballot measure to amend it's constitution to ban gay marriage and in the decade before that had been the site for nearly a dozen anti-gay ballot measures, almost all of which had been defeated, most notoriously Ballot Measure 9, which the fight against was made into an award-winning documentary by Heather MacDonald. So far, their have been no quotes from conservative "family" groups that they intend to put the civil rights of LGBT individuals of Oregon up for popular vote.

Keith Boykin Quoted Dissing Oprah

Oh my! Black gay blogger Keith "I love Oprah Winfrey" Boykin but was quoted in Tuesday's New York Times business section ("Beyond Books: Oprah Winfrey’s Seal of Approval Goes Presidential") discounting the impact of Queen of All Media's endorsement of Barack Obama for president on Larry King's show on CNN:
Keith Boykin, a frequent commentator on CNN who was a classmate of Mr. Obama at Harvard Law School and worked in the Clinton White House, said Ms. Winfrey’s endorsement did not mean Mr. Obama was a shoo-in for president. “Oprah was behind the movie ‘Beloved,’ and it was a flop, so it’s not true that everything she touches turns to gold,” he said.
Well, first of all Keith is correct. Beloved was a hot mess. But do you really want to be quoted in the New York Times dissing a billionaire?

'Lost' And ABC Agree To Show's End

The executive producers of Lost, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, announced an agreement on Monday with ABC to end the show in 2010, following three more seasons in 16 consecutive episode chunks after the Season 3 May 23 finale.

Lost has lost significant ratings heft this season, although it is still averaging over 15 million viewers per episode and is one of the most watched show on digital video recorders and on new platforms like the web and video ipods. After a sucky beginning the third season has become gripping as we have learned more about the Others and the writers gave excellent actors Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliette) and Michael Emerson (Ben) more screen time.

Tonight's episode is about Ben's backstory, next week is Charlie's and the season finale will be all bout Jack. After that the next episode (the first of the final 48) will not be until January 2008!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Uniting American Families Act Re-Introduced Today

Pam Spaulding at The Blend is reporting that the Uniting American Families Act (formerly known as the Permanent Partners Immigration Act) will be re-introduced into Congress Tuesday May 8. The UAFA would allow the same-sex unmarried partners of United States citizens or permanent residents to be sponsored for resident alien status in this country. The main organization in the United States which has been responsible for promoting this bill is Immigration Equality, a group whose Los Angeles chapter I used to be on the board of directors of for nearly half a decade. In those days, larger groups used to look at us like we were crazy if we mentioned that immigration policy was an LGBT rights issue. And this was with a Democratic congressional majority!

Nowadays, both HRC and The Task Force appear to be firmly committed to passing legislation to allow "binational couples" to remain together.

Of course, the United States is behind the curve on this issue; there are nearly 18 countries that have some recognition of same-sex couples for immigration purposes.

UPDATE TUE 05/08/07 1:35PM PDT: Immigration Equality has launched a new blog in conjunction with the reintroduction of UAFA.

Fallout of "May Day Melee" Continues

Intersections is a Los Angeles-based blog by Daniel Hernandez which I discovered recently. He has been covering the events and repercussions surrounding the violent police actions at an immigration rights march in MacArthur Park last Tuesday which local television stations are calling the "May Day melee."

KNBC-TV is reporting that the LAPD Deputy Chief who was the highest-ranking officer on duty during the melee has been demoted to commander and another high-ranking commander has been reassigned.
In addition to the reduction in rank, Cayler "Lee" Carter was placed on home assignment while a series of investigations continue into the rally last Tuesday that ended with officers firing foam-rubber bullets and using batons to strike some demonstrators and media gathered in the park.

Carter, a 33-year veteran of the LAPD, is commanding officer of operations at the department's Central Bureau.

Meanwhile, Cmdr. Louis Gray -- the second-in-command during the rally and assistant commander of the Central Bureau -- was reassigned to the Office of the Chief of Operations, Bratton said. Gray is a 39-year department veteran.

In addition, the Los Angeles Times has a story up on its website entitled "Bratton moves to address morale of officers following harsh words" in which a "high-level city official" offers up a juicy quote to the city's paper of record:


At 6:15 p.m. on May 1, about the time that officers began advancing on the crowd to drive them from the park, Bratton was arriving at the Sheraton hotel in Universal City to attend a political fundraising reception for Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, officials said.

Bratton stayed at the Cooley reception only briefly, a spokeswoman said, but it meant he was not in MacArthur Park when the melee broke out.

"It raises grave concerns about our city's commitment to public safety when, during the largest and most controversial demonstration of the year, our mayor is out of the country and our police chief is schmoozing with political donors at a fundraiser," said one high-level city official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid hurting relations with the powerful chief.

Dayum! This is the second time the Times has been the conduit for the Establishment to communicate reasons for why the LAPD should not to be blamed for the events in the Park on may 1. First it was the idea that "elite officers" had left the scene before the instigators started throwing "missiles" at police officers. Now, they're trying to throw the fecal matter on Bratton himself.

Are you sure you want another five years at the head of this Police Force, Chief?

Who Is It OK To Hate?

TerranceDC at Republic of T posted this amazing article detailing some of the many victims of hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity over the past several years who would be covered by legislation called the Matthew Shephard Hate Crimes Prevention Act which recently passed the House of Representatives.

read more | digg story

Monday, May 07, 2007

Karl Rove is an Atheist!

Terrance at Republic of T alerted me to the existence of an interview with Christopher Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, in New York Magazine first highlighted by the blog Atheist Revolution where Hitchens reveals that White House presidential adviser Karl Rove is an atheist.
Has anyone in the Bush administration confided in you about being an atheist? Well, I don’t talk that much to them—maybe people think I do. I know something which is known to few but is not a secret. Karl Rove is not a believer, and he doesn’t shout it from the rooftops, but when asked, he answers quite honestly. I think the way he puts it is, “I’m not fortunate enough to be a person of faith.”
Although this fact has apparently not been previously widely publicized, it has not been common knowledge.

However, with Political Animal Kevin Drum also posting about this story this weekend, this will probably change soon. Mad Professah agrees with Kevin that Rove has always appeared to be the kind of guy who is not a true believer in anything, but was basically doing whatever it took to deliver the "W" for his team.

I must say it is odd to think I have something in common with Karl Rove: We both do not believe in the existence of God.

Former Math Professor Earns $1.7 BILLION in 2006

The news that some top hedge fund managers are earning receiving annual compensation packages of over one billion dollars per year is finally cutting through the clutter in our capitalist society. Alpha magazine has compiled a list of the most highly compensated hedge fund managers. The top three all made over one billion dollars: former mathematics professor James Simons of Renaissance Technologies, $1.7 billion; Kenneth Griffin of Citadel Investment Group , $1.4 billion and Edward Lampert of ESL Investments, $1.3 billion; George Soros just missed the "billionaire boys club" by only taking home $950 million in salary last year.
1) James Simons,Renassance technologies, $1.7 Billion
2) Ken Griffin,Citadel Investments, $1.4 billion
3) Edward Lampert, ESL Investments, $1.3 Billion
4) George Soros, Soros Fund, $950 Million
5) Steven Cohen,SAC Capital, $900 Million
6) Bruce Kovner,Caxton Associates,$715 Million
7) Paul Tudor Jones,Tudor Investments, $690 Million
8) Tim Barakett, Atticus Capital, $675 Million
9) David Tepper,Appaloosa Management, $670 Million
10) Carl Icahn, Icahn Partners, $600 Million

The Los Angeles Times quotes Stephen Lerner from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) as saying about such massive salaries: "It's just not healthy for society."

Hey, now when a student says "what is this math good for?" I can reply, "If you're good at it, you could beome a billionaire!"

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Statistical Analysis Reveals Racial Biases in NBA

The New York Times reported on Wednesday on a peer-reviewed article by economics professors with a story called "Study of N.B.A. Sees Racial Bias in Calling Fouls." The research paper is entitled "Racial Discrimination Among NBA Referees" and was written by Joseph Price (Cornell) and Justin Wolfers (University of Pennsylvania). Samantha Cook, a recent Harvard Ph.D. in Statistics and a post-doc at Columbia, has a blog called Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science where she analyzes the Price and Wolfers paper (posts the abstract of the paper and has direct link to the paper's pdf that I have placed above):
The estimated difference is 0.2 fouls per player on the court per game, which comes to 1 foul per game for a team with all black players. Also, teams give black players less playing time (on average) when the refs are white--this looks like it hurt them more than the foul calls.

Looking at the raw data, white players commit lots more fouls per minute than blacks, but much of this can be explained by whites being more likely to be centers (presumably a more physical position with fouls as part of the job) and benchwarmers. Which reminds me that the data show a familiar pattern also noted in historical baseball data by Bill James: the black players are, by most measures, better than the whites (more points scored, more points per minute, more minutes played, more likely to be starters), which is consistent with discrimination in hiring (picking good-but-not-great whites over good-but-not-great blacks).


Finally, black referees call more fouls than white refs--lots more for white players, but slightly more for black players too. Price and Wolfers characterize this as bias in judging white players but not in judging black players, but another interpretation is that black referees are just tougher about calling fouls in general

Ms. Cook likes the paper and so does Mad Professah. I see it as an excellent example of mathematics and social justice, the topic of the conference I attended last week. One aspect of mathematics and social justice is the use of mathematics to highlight and understand issues of social justice, in this case the existence of race-based disparities in modern society.

This favorable opinion of the article has not been shared by the NBA, its players and many other commentators in the blogosphere and mainsteam media.

Today is 05/06/07!

Just a funny numerical oddity: at 2:34pm today the time was 02:03:04 05/06/07.

Backlash against '24' building?

Last Monday's Los Angeles Times Calendar section had an article by Scott Collins entitled "Is '24' running out of time?" which detailed the declining ratings and building critical and viewer displeasure for the reigning Emmy-award winning drama.
After peaking in the ratings last year, Fox's thriller "24" has been getting dumped on by seemingly everyone in this, its sixth season. Critics and fans alike are aiming tomatoes at the stage, carping about the soapy and repetitive plotlines that unspool Jack's unlikely familial past, tiresome romantic triangles in the security bureaucracy and endless bickering among Oval Office advisors.

Last week, with a fresh episode designed to lay the groundwork for what the creators promise will be a typically suspenseful finale next month, "24's" ratings in the key young-adult category swooned to their lowest level in more than three years, with a total audience of just 10.4 million, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research.

More than one-third of viewers have bailed since the special four-hour season premiere that aired over two consecutive nights back in January. And if that wasn't enough bad news for the series, last week "24" was one of the prime-time shows that the Federal Communications Commission singled out in urging Congress to curb TV violence.

Bizarrely, the article doesn't seem to state the obvious that the reason for the decline in 24 is the competition: NBC's Heroes airs in the same time slot, Mondays at 9pm.

It's unsurprising really. What show can sustain intense critical and ratings success in its 6th season? ER and The Simpsons come to mind but those are all-time classic shows.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Newsweek: Bush approval hits all time low of 28 percent

NEWSWEEK Poll: Bush Hits All-Time Low - George W. Bush has the lowest presidential approval rating in a generation, and the leading Dems beat every major '08 Republican. Coincidence?

read more | digg story

Brazil Puts HIV+ People Before Patents is reporting that Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva issued a "compulsory licence" on Friday May 4th which would allow the country to bypass Merck's patent on the anti-retroviral drug Efavirenz in order to produce generic version of the medicine which it will distribute free to HIV+ Brazilians. The BBC reported:
Merck offered Brazil almost a third off the cost - pricing the pills at $1.10 instead of $1.59.

But Brazil wanted its discount pegged at same level as Thailand, which pays just $0.65 per pill.

Now, though, it will source Indian-made versions of Efavirenz for just $0.45 each.

Nearly 75,000 Brazilians use Efavirenz although the country distributes free anti-HIV drugs to 180,000 of its citizens. By issuing the compulsory licence, Brazil is likely to save $240 million between now and 2012 when the Merck patent for the drug expires, the Brazil Health Minstry exstimates.

The evil Michael Weinstein, executive director of the equally monstrous AIDS Healthcare Foundation, agrees with Mad Professah (just this once!) that Brazil is doing a wonderful thing by putting patients before patents (and profits). "We salute the courage of countries such as Brazil, Thailand and Mexico who are fighting to ensure drug access for AIDSpatients the world over. Today is a victory for AIDS activists and patientseverywhere, and proof that drug companies will go down in defeat every time they place themselves in the way of justice for AIDS patients."

Friday, May 04, 2007

Colorado close to passing gay rights bill

Colorado is likely to become the next state (the 20th) to enact a non-discrimination bill based on sexual orientation. Senate Bill 25 is sponsored by openly gay state senator Jennifer Veiga and passed the State Assembly by a vote of 44-18 on Wednesday May 2. Bizarrely, if the bill passes it would become the first gay rights bill since New York's SONDA in 2002 to be enacted that does not include transgendered protections.

UPDATE FRI 5/4/07 8:12PM: The Colorado State legislature has passed the gay rights bill and Governor Bill Ritter has said that he intends to sign it into law.

Oregon Completes West Coast Domestic Partnership Trifecta is reporting that the the Oregon legislature has passed HB 2007 (The Oregon Family Fairness Act) which would enact a statewide domestic partnership registry and bestow limited state recognition, responsibilities and benefits to registered domestic partners in the state similar to California's and Washington's domestic partner statutes. Governor Ted Kulongoski has said that he will sign the bill into law.

At the beginning of the year, California was the only state west of Pennsylvania to have a statewide domestic partnership statute. Now it is not even June and the entire west coast will be comprised of states that have statewide domestic partnership laws! (Alaska has their own drama with domestic partnership benefits for state employees which has been going on for years but I don't really consider them part of the "Left Coast" anyway.) In addition, New Hampshire has enacted a civil unions bill, New Jersey's previously enacted civil unions bill came into effect and Iowa, Oregon and Colorado are all very likely to pass sexual orientation and gender identity non-discrimination bills; Oregon and Iowa already have!


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