January 30, 2007

City Strobe

More evolution proof?State Republican senators (of all people) are proposing (of all things) more money for education in (of all subjects) science and math. Conservative Christian Republicans in Kentucky are not known for either funding education or holding much truck with science, but there they were last week, touting bills that would boost science education in Kentucky public high schools.The bills would create $10,000 grants for schools that start advanced placement classes in calculus, physics and chemistry, and reward teachers as much as $10,000 per year if their students do well on tests in those subjects. The goal is to create some new nerds for the information age, as opposed to the current program of preparing kids to sell information-age nerds their Sobe Adrenaline Rush and Axe Body Spray. Combined with President Bush’s straight-faced State of the Union acknowledgment of global warming and a call for Americans to conserve gasoline, the Frankfort science bills might indicate that evolution is happening even faster than the Intelligent Designer planned. —Jim Welp Yarmuth celebrates ‘the end of the beginning’In his first rally since becoming the guy on which the fate of the Bridges Project hinges — and by extension, his own fate, if the paper of record around here is to have a say about it — U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth showed off some hot measures the new House regime passed in the first 6,000 minutes of the 110th Congress. The gathering — more than 100 people at an IBEW hall on Preston Highway last Saturday morning, including a slew of state and local Democrats — had that pervasive stink of promise: It was clear that the “wave” Yarmuth supposedly rode to victory in November has yet to break.Maybe this is why: House Democrats, much to the surprise of scores of national talking heads now reeling in an ever-constant state of bobble, stomped into D.C. and did something to prove their worth — seven things, in fact. The much-hyped “100 Hours” agenda worked magnificently, at least in terms of passing the House and garnering some sweet press. It’s got the workin’ man’s blues now, with a few uppity senators blocking the minimum wage hike because it has no tax break component to supposedly help the business community cope. But fear not: The other six bills are also resolutely progressive, giving rise to the first bubbling of hope since the rotting lesion of an administration developed on the national character seven years ago and started making everything black (wow, has it really been that long?).Introducing vignette speakers representative of each modern struggle addressed by the bills, Yarmuth ran through the list: H.R. 1: Enacts recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission, which include significant steps toward improving homeland security that are decidedly more concrete than simply creating an Office of Homeland Security. H.R. 2: Ups the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour over a two-year period (this was the occasion for Yarmuth’s first floor speech); this is being blocked in the Senate. H.R. 3: Expands funding for stem cell research (the subject of Yarmuth’s second floor speech, in which he talked at length about the various medical breakthroughs that are becoming par for the University of Louisville). H.R. 4: Requires the government to negotiate with drug companies the prices of prescription drugs for Medicare Part D recipients. H.R. 5: Halves the interest rates on student loans over a five-year period. H.R. 6: Puts an end to the unconscionable tax breaks Big Oil has been gifted by Republicans under the Bush administration; also develops a strategy to research and implement various alternative modes of energy in the coming years. H. Res. 6: Ethics reform package, requiring members of Congress to divulge earmarks in any bill, enacting pay-as-you-go rules that call for offsetting tax cuts and certain kinds of spending in the federal budget, tightening rules on gifts members can receive from lobbyists, banning travel on corporate jets, as well as several other changes. Speaking between various rolls of applause, Yarmuth called the passage of the “100 Hours” agenda “the end of the beginning,” invoking a 1942 speech in which Winston Churchill informed the House of Commons that Britain had finally achieved a victory on the battlefield — the Battle of Egypt. It seems a fitting choice. —Stephen GeorgeA shot in the arm for death penalty foesWhen Jeb Bush’s Florida botched an execution in December, it proved not only that Florida executioners have bad aim and that capital punishment is rubber and the criminal justice system is glue and that the Bush family is destined to kill and torture, but also that if you’re going to administer a lethal injection, it’s probably a good idea to have a doctor present. The clumsy Floridians shot sodium thiopental into the inmate’s flesh instead of his veins, resulting in a brutal, excruciating slow-death torture not seen in Florida since Katherine Harris puckered her rose-red lips and lustily mouthed the words “hanging chads.”Now, three death-row inmates in Kentucky have seized the day by pointing out a legal conundrum: Federal law requires that a doctor administer sodium thiopental, but Kentucky law forbids doctors from participating in executions. Public defenders of Thomas Clyde Bowling, Ralph Baze and Jeffrey Leonard are arguing in a federal lawsuit that the conflict effectively makes capital punishment illegal in Kentucky. Similar suits are under way in other states and the matter will likely end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, potentially meaning a technicality could succeed where common sense, morality, social ethics and lots and lots of money have failed. —Jim Welp A horse is a horse, of course, of courseConsider it a dead horse beaten: Barbaro was euthanized Monday, ending a strange and nostalgic eight-month saga that’s provoked the most ill-advised deluge of dramatic adjectives among sportswriters since the “Miracle On Ice.” Sure, it’s sad that such a majestic, profitable animal had to anguish in pain for this long, perhaps at significant monetary loss to its owners. But there have been entire Web sites and message boards devoted to the well wishing of a horse. If the folks at Pixar have any vision, they’ve got this story in production right now. Now, as for the masses, can we all please stop distracting ourselves with this? It’s an equine being. It cannot read! It just can’t. —Stephen GeorgeFind your daily dose of Strobe at The Lip: LEO’s News Blog, www.leoweekly.com. Make peace with the writers at citystrobe@leoweekly.com