Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Friday, December 14, 2007

So That's Where My Green North Face Went

Missing items that turned over to the MTA are often stolen by the MTA, The Daily News reports:
At least the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's board is upfront when it picks riders' pockets.

With the MTA board poised to approve fare and toll hikes, a probe found dozens of instances where lost property turned over to workers simply disappears.

Investigators, posing as commuters, handed 26 items to bus and subway workers, saying they were found and must have been lost by a rider.

Only three of the items made it to the lost property storage unit, according to one report.

"Despite repeated attempts, we could not locate these items," auditors from the MTA's inspector general's office wrote.

The property - including cell phones, watches, glasses and clothing - were given to NYC Transit and Long Island Rail Road personnel.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

TREND WATCH: Proposed NY Bans

List is current as of 5:47 PM, Friday, December 14th ...

New York City:

2007:
  1. The display of nooses
  2. Homework that takes more than 2.5 hours/night
  3. Horse-drawn carriages from Central Park
  4. Feeding pigeons
  5. City Council ads with holiday messages that are taxpayer financed
  6. City Councilmembers using public funds for personal ads
  7. Styrofoam containers in food services
  8. Various contributions to city politicians
  9. Etching acid
  10. High rises in the Upper West Side
  11. 'Stealing' recyclables
  12. Peeping toms
  13. Videotaping in public without a permit
  14. Smoking in cars with minors
  15. The word "bitch"
  16. The word "ho"
  17. Free formula samples for new mothers at city hospitals
  18. Teenage possession of spray paint
  19. Businesses from leaving their windows or doors open while air conditioners are on inside
  20. Dogs from being tied up three-plus hours
  21. Talking/listening/playing while walking crosswalks
  22. Skinny models
  23. The "N-word"
  24. Electric-assist pedicabs
  25. Public pension investments in companies with business in Sudan
2006:
  1. pit bulls
  2. trans-fats
  3. aluminum baseball bats
  4. the purchase of tobacco by 18- to 20-year-olds
  5. foie gras
  6. pedicabs in parks
  7. new fast-food restaurants (but only in poor neighborhoods)
  8. lobbyists from the floor of council chambers
  9. lobbying city agencies after working at the same agency
  10. vehicles in Central and Prospect parks
  11. cell phones in upscale restaurants
  12. the sale of pork products made in a processing plant in Tar Heel, N.C., because of a unionization dispute
  13. mail-order pharmaceutical plans
  14. candy-flavored cigarettes
  15. gas-station operators adjusting prices more than once daily
  16. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
  17. Wal-Mart
  18. the process that makes steaks pink
  19. subway ads poking fun at outer boroughs
2004:
  1. Loud car alarms
  2. Vendors from Ground Zero
2003:
  1. Cell phones during public performances
2002:
  1. Toy guns
  2. Soft drinks and snacks in city public schools

New York:

2007:
  1. Texting while driving
  2. Using I-pods/cell phones while crossing the street
  3. Plastic bags
  4. Nooses
  5. Spectating dog fights
  6. Smoking in cars with minors
  7. Plastic water bottles
  8. Styrofoam used in food services
  9. Thin models

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Why Hillary Can't Win

Americans declare her the candidate they would "least like to watch on television for four years." Rudy Giuliani is the candidate Americans would most like to watch.

In this age, is there a poll that matters more?





















(via AEI's December Political Report)

Snoop's Sensual Seduction

This being funkypundit.blogspot.com, it seems mandatory to note that Snoop is declaring the G-Funk Era back on:

Well played, Mr. Snoop -- well played.

Stop the Checkpoints

If you were me, you would already be well aware that there's nothing quite as aggravating as a DWI checkpoint. But since you're not, a friend of the FunkyPundit, Sarah Longwell, breaks it down for you in the pages today's New York Sun:

Federal funding policy requires roadblocks to be "highly publicized." So authorities regularly publish roadblock times and locations in advance, allowing veteran drunk drivers simply to drive around them. The word also gets passed around via the word-of-mouth and cell phone networks, which are similar to truck drivers who tell their friends about speed traps.

Testimony from an official at Pennsylvania's Department of Transportation, Louis Rader, demonstrated that roving patrols, where cops swarm the roads looking for erratic drivers, are a superior tactic for catching drunk drivers. Mr. Rader testified that only 0.7% of all drivers stopped at DUI checkpoints are charged, while 7.7% of suspicion-based stops made by roving patrols yield charges. That's 10 times more arrests per car stopped.

In the war against drunk driving, setting up roadblocks is like expecting the enemy to walk into your camp and surrender. It would be laughable if it weren't so tragic.

To which a pundit of the funkiest variety could only add: Word.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Diversity Enthusiasts Beware!

Irish Independent columnist Ian O'Doherty declares he has "no respect or tolerance" for Sharia:

Anywhere in the world where Sharia law is practised, such barbaric and disgusting practises take place on a regular basis.

Don't believe me? Well, Iran has been in the news for the most recent example of a woman being sentenced to death by stoning. But they are also partial to hanging gay people and women with too much attitude.

And they quite like a bit of eye-gouging as well, when the mood takes them, such as the woman who had her eyes gouged out in a public square because she fought off a man who tried to rape her. Check that out on the internet when you fancy losing your lunch.

Or what about precious little Palestine, where 50 women have been killed by their own families this year alone, and where the beating of women who aren't sufficiently "modest" is common under the fanatics of Hamas.

Or Afghanistan, where women are routinely raped and murdered by family and strangers with impunity? Or Chechnya? Or Somalia? Or anywhere Sharia is practised.

And yet we are constantly instructed by the multicultural, liberal, chattering classes to show "respect" and "tolerance" towards Muslims who want to practise their cultural heritage in Western countries.

Well, you know what? I don't have any respect or tolerance for not just the actions, but also the mentality.

And, yes, he concedes, this makes him "Islamophobic":

Well, I am Islamophobic in the sense that I'm phobic towards the notion of treating women as third-class citizens, flogging people and killing them for having an independent thought.

I'm phobic towards the idea of killing Theo Van Gogh because he made a movie they didn't like. I'm phobic towards killing a Japanese translator because he worked on the Satanic Verses.

I'm also rather phobic to the notion that the Muslim world has the right to riot and kill each other because of a few unfunny cartoons in an obscure Danish publication.

Protestations from the Ivory Tower notwithstanding, there's nothing high-minded, chic or compassionate about tolerating barbaric acts of intolerance. Indeed, tolerating intolerance feeds its growth and provides its sanctuary. O'Doherty also reports that the Saudi woman who recently suffered the misfortune of being gang-raped and later sentenced to 200 lashes for the offense was also targeted for death by her very own brother. She had violated the family's "honor," after all.

It's too bad President Bush and many of his Anglosphere allies are so jaded with misplaced notions of "tolerance" that almost nothing is said of women's abuse under Sharia law. Why not push for a United Nations resolution that simply expresses the belief that state-sanctioned abuse of rape victims is inhumane? It wouldn't have much practical effect, but it could go a long way reminding people there's no shame in being intolerant of barbarity.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pol of the Day: Tom Lantos

From The Wall Street Journal's Political Diary:

Dutch Treat

Guantanamo Bay is likely to close as the chief U.S. prison for terrorist suspects in the next year or so, but that doesn't mean it's stopped hosting delegations of outraged Europeans who want to make grandstanding points against the U.S.

Happily, at least one U.S. lawmaker has called some of the European headline-hunters on the carpet. During a recent meeting in Washington with Dutch parliamentarians who had just come from the U.S. Naval base in Cuba, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Tom Lantos minced no words. On being informed by the Dutch lawmakers that the prison was an abomination, the California Democrat coolly replied that "Europe was not as outraged by Auschwitz as by Guantanamo Bay."

Mr. Lantos, an 84-year-old Holocaust survivor, wasn't done yet. He offered advice to Dutch politicians who are debating whether to keep sending 1,600 troops to Afghanistan as part of the NATO mission there: "You have to help us, because if it was not for us, you would now be a province of Nazi Germany."

The Dutch did not take kindly to Mr. Lantos' perspective. "The comments killed the debate," Harry van Bommel, a member of the Dutch Socialist Party, told reporters. "It was insulting and counterproductive."

Perhaps, but it was also a refreshing departure from the normally vapid "diplomospeak" that such meetings are usually conducted in.

-- John Fund

Global Warming Update

The chart below plots atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide alongside a global monthly temperature mean. Presumably there should be a correlation, as the theory of global warming posits that the greater the concentration of CO2, the greater the greenhouse effect.
















Instead, as CO2 has risen steadily, average global temperatures since 1998 have been in decline. The reason for the 1998 spike is the super El Nino that warmed the Pacific. (Via ICECAP)

And in other global-warming news ...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sean Taylor, RIP

The hardest hitting safety in the NFL, the leader of the Redskins' secondary, Terrel Owens' worst nightmare -- Sean Taylor was these things plus, as teammate Pierson Prioleau said, "a dad, a brother, a friend of ours."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

'Clinton Style Evokes Concern Among Critics'

Anyone see this story that just moved over the Reuters wire? Surprising what passes as news these days:
Clinton Style Evokes Concern Among Critics

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Democrat Hillary Clinton vows to cave on terror, chooses confessed criminals as advisers and pretends nationalizing health care isn't socialism.

Add to those views a reputation for being power hungry, and Clinton often evokes the word "scary" from opponents who find this self-aggrandizing image that serves her so well in New York now a cause for concern as she seeks the U.S. presidency.
What's that? This can't be a real story? True, it's not -- but this is:

Giuliani Style Evokes Concern Among Critics

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Republican Rudy Giuliani vows to be tough on terror, chooses advisers who want to bomb Iran and doesn't think pretending to drown prisoners is torture.

Add to those views a reputation for being combative, and Giuliani often evokes the word "scary" from opponents who find the tough-guy image that served him so well after the September 11 attacks now a cause for concern as he seeks the U.S. presidency.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Spitzer vs. the Little Guy

In 2005, The New York Times ran an in-depth series on Medicaid fraud in New York. By the paper's estimate, New York was annually losing upward of $18 billion on fraud, waste, and abuse. This put attention on then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, whose office was responsible for overseeing the system. His Democratic opponent for governor, Thomas Suozzi, accused the AG of neglecting state interests, focusing too much on high-profile cases.

Spitzer said Medicaid was receiving his investigators' attention, announcing as an example litigation against a Park Slope dentist. The suit alleged that Leonard Morse had bilked more than $1 million from New York. But as The Post reports today:

The charges collapsed at trial after reams of records were ruled inadmissible.

In the end, prosecutors asked Justice John Walsh to consider charges that Morse stole just $3,000. The judge found the dentist not guilty on that charge.

But today, Morse's patients are long gone -- scared off, he says, by the barrage of press releases calling their dentist a thief.

Claiming to having lost his client base, Morse is now suing Spitzer for $75 million.

"I think I want beyond money," said Morse. "I want justice. I want my good name back. I want all those thousands of patients back who I treated for 30 years. I want all my friends and neighbors and relatives to see that I didn't do anything. I became a political pawn."
Spitzer's suit was curiously timed in that its evidence was an audit performed in 2002. Last year I wrote about another instance where AG investigators uncovered small-time villains at the perfect moment; three small-time gas station were sued for alleged price gouging -- just as soaring prices filled headlines and airwaves. Because the piece is no longer available online, I'm reprinting it below:
SPITZER'S TWISTED GAS CRUSADE -- June 5, 2006

WHAT does Eliot Spitzer have against small New York businesses?

Asking that question are three gas station operators whom the attorney general is suing for "price gouging" in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

In the midst of the late '70s oil panic, the Legislature made it a crime to "sell or offer to sell any [vital goods and services] for an amount which represents an unconscionably excessive price." When gasoline prices spiked in Katrina's wake, Spitzer invoked the statute against stations across the state.

Last September, the AG's office subpoenaed sales information from dozens of gas stations across the state, subsequently offering settlements to those it determined had gouged. Most chose to pay a fine rather than fight. But three refused; Spitzer is now pursuing civil cases against all three.

"[Spitzer's] ruined my reputation in [Oswego County] forever," fumes Joe Wiedenbeck Jr., who owned the Penn-Can Truck Stop Mobil in Center Square (Oswego County) at the time of the alleged gouging (he's since sold his business and retired to Florida). "We were in business for 31 years; we donated to every cause in the area.

"Why is he coming after me?" asks Danny Cianciulli, owner and manager of My Service Center in New Rochelle -- who says that his station lost money in the post-Katrina weeks, and on the year. In fact, he put up $50,000 of his savings just to keep the station afloat.

"Price gouging?" asks Cianciulli. "I haven't taken a vacation since 1985. I work from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., six days a week. . . . It's my obligation to sell as low as I can. When gas prices go up, I lose money. If people think they're being mistreated, they go elsewhere."

Joe Alonzo, a partner at Wever Petroleum, which runs the Schaghticoke Mobil station in Rensselaer County, points out that at the time referenced in Spitzer's suit, he was charging 10 cents a gallon less than the nearest other station.

Cianculli says he sets his price by maintaining a 10-cent margin over whatever Exxon currently charges him for gas.

Wiedenbeck says he always set his price by adding a cent to whatever Wal-Mart and Fast Track were charging. After Katrina, "the supplier was changing his prices two to three times a day," he explains. "You have to be able to afford the next shipment of gasoline, because you have to pay for it before you receive it."

Spitzer says the stations did wrong by raising their prices on gasoline that they'd already bought at a lower price. "If they had gas in the ground, that they paid a specific price for, their costs did not go up, nor is it an acceptable excuse to raise their price," argues Paul Larrabee, a spokesman for the attorney general. Adjusting prices to changing costs, says Larrabe, "is not a defense under the [price gouging] statute."

But that's how small service stations do business, the defendants argue.

"We would have been out of gas if we sold by prices set in the past," said Adam Peska, an attorney for My Service Station. "Besides, whatever [short-term] profits he made were immediately eaten up by the next shipments."

Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, an industry group, says, "There's a longstanding established practice of pricing motor fuel at replacement cost."

He compares it to real estate: If I bought a house four years ago for $100,000, he asks, and I sell it for $100,000 when prices have doubled, "how would I afford my next house in the new real-estate market?"

But the defense attorneys have a better reason for confidence: The statute's simply too unclear. It fails to define the "gross disparity" in prices that it says constitutes gouging. The standard is so vague that someone who wants to obey the law can't know how to obey.

Even Spitzer implicitly concedes this point: He has asked the Legislature to amend the price-gouging law so that prosecution would be more practical.

So why did he bring up these cases in the first place? He insists he's just fighting for the public good. Indeed, he brings the issue up on the campaign trail -- bragging that he's the nation's toughest state attorney general in fighting gas-price-gouging. (In fact, a new Federal Trade Commission study shows that Georgia's AG beat him, having settled with 64 gas stations, to Spitzer's 18 total.)

The defendants see politics in the timing. All three refused to pay the fine demanded in Spitzer's initial letter, instead submitting the requested documentation on their post-Katrina pricing. When they heard nothing more, they assumed Spitzer had decided to drop a weak case.

Then gas prices hit the news again in April -- and so did another Spitzer press offensive, announcing the three prosecutions. In fact, the defendants first heard of the suits from the media.

Spitzer's people managed to alert the press in time for the papers of Friday, April 21 -- but failed to serve any of the paperwork on the operators until the next Monday or Tuesday. ("We attempted to serve these stations prior to the public release of this information," insists a Spitzer spokesman.)

If politics is Spitzer's motive here, he's safe even if the cases eventually get thrown out of court: The proceedings likely won't wrap up before Election Day.

Meanwhile, he can keep on alleging that these small-time gas operators that struggle to stay in business have intentionally ripped off consumers -- a telling presumption for their aspiring governor.
UPDATE: The Morse complaint is here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

TREND WATCH: Proposed NY Bans

List is current as of 5:58 PM, Friday, November 16th ...

New York City:

2007:
  1. Feeding pigeons
  2. City Council ads with holiday messages that are taxpayer finance
  3. City Councilmembers using public funds for personal ads
  4. Styrofoam containers in food services
  5. Various contributions to city politicians
  6. Etching acid
  7. High rises in the Upper West Side
  8. 'Stealing' recyclables
  9. Peeping toms
  10. Videotaping in public without a permit
  11. Smoking in cars with minors
  12. The word "bitch"
  13. The word "ho"
  14. Free formula samples for new mothers at city hospitals
  15. Teenage possession of spray paint
  16. Businesses from leaving their windows or doors open while air conditioners are on inside
  17. Dogs from being tied up three-plus hours
  18. Talking/listening/playing while walking crosswalks
  19. Skinny models
  20. The "N-word"
  21. Electric-assist pedicabs
  22. Public pension investments in companies with business in Sudan
2006:
  1. pit bulls
  2. trans-fats
  3. aluminum baseball bats
  4. the purchase of tobacco by 18- to 20-year-olds
  5. foie gras
  6. pedicabs in parks
  7. new fast-food restaurants (but only in poor neighborhoods)
  8. lobbyists from the floor of council chambers
  9. lobbying city agencies after working at the same agency
  10. vehicles in Central and Prospect parks
  11. cell phones in upscale restaurants
  12. the sale of pork products made in a processing plant in Tar Heel, N.C., because of a unionization dispute
  13. mail-order pharmaceutical plans
  14. candy-flavored cigarettes
  15. gas-station operators adjusting prices more than once daily
  16. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
  17. Wal-Mart
  18. the process that makes steaks pink
  19. subway ads poking fun at outer boroughs
2004:
  1. Loud car alarms
  2. Vendors from Ground Zero
2003:
  1. Cell phones during public performances
2002:
  1. Toy guns
  2. Soft drinks and snacks in city public schools

New York:

2007:
  1. Texting while driving
  2. Using I-pods/cell phones while crossing the street
  3. Plastic bags
  4. Nooses
  5. Spectating dog fights
  6. Smoking in cars with minors
  7. Plastic water bottles
  8. Styrofoam used in food services
  9. Thin models

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Why Do I Hate the Candidates I Like?

Readers may recall that an earlier political quiz identified the FunkyPundit as a Brownback man. Well, he's come and gone. And I've since come across a new political matchmaking site called Glassbooth. This time I've most closely identified with ... Tom Tancredo?

What gives? I love Mexicans!

Anyone else getting interesting results?

Question of the Day

Is, or is not, Ticketmaster the absolute worst company in the United States of America?

Having just purchased two $25 tickets from Ticketmaster and receiving a final bill -- after its Orwellian "convenience charge" -- of $72(!!!), I'm now thinking I haven't been ripped off this badly since ... since ... well, since my last Ticketmaster purchase! Actually, there's also last month's Cablevision bill, which is perhaps the only reason why today's answer could very well be, "no."

By the way, this is what I'll be seeing. Everyone of sound mind ought to do the same.

Politicians Being Politicians

For it's impressive distillation of nauseating backslapping, mawkish self-celebration, and dubious factuality into one hugely lame quote, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's comments in a Governor Spitzer press release on New York's self-imposed Kyoto Protocol could go down as a politicians-being-politicians quote of the year:
“Bravo to Governor Spitzer for striking this blow against global warning and greenhouse gas emissions—and for recognizing that with a little courage, being ‘green’ is much easier than people think. Here in cutting-edge Brooklyn, we’re proud of our solar-powered subway terminal at Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island, our co-gen co-ops in Clinton Hill, our huge new green roof in Red Hook, our food justice efforts in East New York—the kinds of sustainable initiatives that have the rest of the country saying ‘Brooklyn, NYC, and New York State — How green it is!’”
Yes, that's exactly what everyone's saying.

This Is a Public Service Announcement From The Gza


























We will now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Today's Funk Special

Beck plays "Nicotine and Gravy" at Germany's Bizzarefest in August 2000:

Thanks my friend Pat, this song has been stuck in my head since Saturday night. Now it will be stuck in all of yours!

Huffington's Huff of the Day

In the course of criticizing Democrats for being insufficiently aggressive with Republicans, Yale Professor David Bromwich offers this:
Given the chance to resist as a formed majority, their opposition has, in less than a year, been whittled down to ceremonial remonstrance. And the pattern is now almost ingrained. After all, this was the first president in our history to boast of assassinations: "All told, more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries," he said in his State of the Union address of 2003. "Many others have met a different fate. Let's put it this way -- they are no longer a problem." President Bush, in his own words, told us that he was talking about suspects, not men convicted on evidence of a crime. The president made us all his accomplices when he remarked that the murdered men had not been given a legal process. That easy slide into the argot of hoodlums by the leader of the free world was noticed by a few at the time.
No comment.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Americans Want To Hear More About Iraq ...

But the media has moved on. From a Pew Research Center analysis:

News about the Iraq war does not dominate the public’s consciousness nearly as much as it did last winter. Currently, just 16% of Americans name the Iraq war as the news story that first comes to mind when asked what has been in the news lately. In December and January, a period when U.S. policy toward Iraq and President Bush’s troop surge drew extensive news coverage, as many as half or more named the Iraq war as the first story that came to mind.

Despite decreased public interest in the war [this doesn't logically follow the last 'graf -- FP], a growing number of Americans fault news organizations for providing too little, rather than too much, coverage of the war. In particular, the public believes that the challenges and experiences of U.S. soldiers – both while serving in Iraq and after returning to the United States – are receiving too little news coverage.

Fully 63% say that “the challenges faced by some U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq” have received too little news coverage; about the same number (61%) say that reports about soldiers’ personal experiences have been undercovered.
It's no surprise the media's clammed up on Iraq just as the reasons for hope grow steadily stronger. For the last three years, most major media outlets have invested their personal credibility in the all's-doomed angle. Allowing that this call may have been premature is embarrassing. But more interesting is the implicit conceit that there's no such thing as good news, as World News Tonight anchor Charlie Gibson recently opined:
One item from Baghdad today. The news is … that there is no news. The police told us that, to their knowledge, there were no major acts of violence. Attacks are down in Baghdad and today no bombings or roadside explosions were reported.
Apparently, Americans disagree -- this is news.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Great News in the World of Sports

The bidding war Alex Rodriguez assumed would erupt just as soon as he left the Yankees has failed to materialize.

Save Lives: Bring Back Trans Fats!

Today The New York Times reports that obesity increases a person's chances of surviving various diseases:
Linking, for the first time, causes of death to specific weights, they report that overweight people have a lower death rate because they are much less likely to die from a grab bag of diseases that includes Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, infections and lung disease. And that lower risk is not counteracted by increased risks of dying from any other disease, including cancer, diabetes or heart disease.

As a consequence, the group from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute reports, there were more than 100,000 fewer deaths among the overweight in 2004, the most recent year for which data were available, than would have expected if those people had been of normal weight.

Their paper is published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers also confirmed that obese people and people whose weights are below normal have higher death rates than people of normal weight. But, when they asked why, they found that the reasons were different for the different weight categories.

Wouldn't it be ironic if New York City's chief of the food police, Dr. Thomas Frieden, was actually responsible for increased mortality rates owing to his ban on trans-fats?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Nanny Inquisition

The crusade continues, The New York Times reports:
Moonshine is the kind of cozy, lived-in Brooklyn bar that allowed customers to bring dogs inside and meat for the grill outside, both of which, it would come to learn, are against New York City health department regulations. But no one foresaw one violation uncovered during a recent surprise inspection of the Red Hook tavern.

It was tucked within the array of more common infractions on the inspectors’ forms for which Moonshine was cited: the grills, the “live dog” in the bar, fruit flies and “7 mice excreta” in the basement. If widely enforced, it is not an exaggeration to say that the rule would radically change the way thousands of bartenders do one small but vital part of their job every single day.

“A male worker observed having bare-hand contact with one slice of ready-to-eat lime while placing on top of beer bottle for patron in bar,” the citation, dated Oct. 9, states. Bare-hand contact? How else is a bartender supposed to get a ready-to-eat lime slice into a bottle of Corona for a patron? According to the health department, there are two solutions.

Plastic gloves or tongs.

In other words, every time a bartender in New York City puts a lime slice in that Corona with bare hands, he or she is breaking the law. ...

An informal survey of several bartenders on whether they use gloves or tongs when garnishing beer bottles was met with incredulity, ridicule and disdain. But when asked to perform this alien ritual, they did their best with the tongs, gripping the little wedges and guiding them into the bottles. Some fumbled, while others took to it like surgeons performing a transplant. None of them seemed happy with the thought of doing it every day.

The first stop was Smith & Wollensky, the revered brass-rail bar and steakhouse in Midtown where the staff wears sharp white coats. Patrick Ford, a bartender for 35 of his 53 years, was standing behind the polished bar amid gleaming bottles on a busy Tuesday night as he considered how to legally garnish a beer.

“I won’t wear gloves,” he said, his tall frame so thin it seemed his white coat was still on a hanger. “It’s not a doctor’s office. It’s a saloon.”

He fished out a Corona and looked around. “We don’t have tongs,” he said. “I’ll use a fork.”

He speared a little wedge of lime and walked past several amused regular customers, toward a waiting Corona. In his coat, holding the fruit before him, he looked like a mad scientist with a laboratory specimen. The lime addressed the lip of the beer bottle with uncertainty, but when Mr. Ford removed the fork, it stuck there. Men cheered.

“Hey, Patty,” one man bellowed. “Give me a Corona over here! Be sure to use a fork!”

While putting lime in beer borders on criminal, I believe the surgeon general recommends that anyone who would ban the practice be kept at least 100 yards away from any position of authority. It's just safer for everyone.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Around the Web

-- The New York Times is no johnny-come-lately on climate change. One of its first distress signals was printed way back in '95 -- 1895, that is!

-- Here's something as rare as a "smoking permitted" sign: The Wall Street Journal's Hugo Restall spends an entire column waxing rhapsodic on the joys of smoking.

-- The birthplace of Ebenezer Scrooge moves to ban Santa Claus.

-- Be proud: Your tax dollars are financing post-Thanksgiving congressional vacations to Brazil.

-- Councilman James Oddo, fresh from his long, lonely and hard-fought battle to ban metal baseball bats, has another big idea.

Friday, November 2, 2007

An Eco-Warrior of Convenience

Today Mayor Bloomberg is delivering the keynote address at a Seattle climate-change conference sponsored by the United States Conference of Mayors. He will propose taxing carbon emissions, which will be levied upon companies -- not individuals themselves -- which is an important distinction.

A recent New York Post analysis of Hizzoner's real-estate portfolio and travel style found that no one holds a candle his massive energy consumption (well, except for maybe Al Gore). His personal carbon footprint equals that of "18 average Americans, 53 Europeans or 404 Guatemalans."

His (conservatively) estimated 364 annual tons of smog-inducing carbon dioxide is equivalent to "keeping 69 cars a year on the road or lighting the Empire State Building for 4 days," The Post reported.

Besides his spacious Upper East Side townhouse, the mayor owns five homes: a country house in Armonk; a farm in North Salem, both in Westchester; a four-bedroom condo in Vail, Colo.; a palatial flat on London's posh Cadogan Square, and a sprawling, 6,000-square-foot beachfront spread in Bermuda.

Together, the properties boast enough square footage to swallow two mansions like the 10,000-square-foot one owned by former Vice President Al Gore, one of several leading climate-change critics rapped lately for being voracious energy users themselves.

Bloomberg's carbon footprint swells to epic proportions when you include his penchant for reaching his far-flung getaways by one of the handful of private jets owned by his financial information firm, Bloomberg LP.

Fortunately, this chief of the Green Police has a get-out-jail card.

A City Hall spokesman said the mayor has chosen instead to donate to worthy causes -- "public health, the arts and education" -- while seeking "broader change."

Beyond taxing businesses guilty of producing the energy Americans demand, Bloomberg has also proposed city-specific policies: energy quotas on Gotham's private sector, mandatory hybrids for all cabbies, an $8 motorist tax for driving in Manhattan, new taxes on consumers' electricity bills. He's even threatening to devastate Gotham's natural landscape by planting one million new trees.

In other words, by forcing New Yorkers to consume less, the city serves as Mayor Mike's personal carbon offset.

How convenient.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Huffington's Huff of the Day

It's a long one, but totally worth it. "Writer, director and producer" Bob Cesca says its time to put President Bush's nominee for attorney general, Michael Mukasey, "out of his misery":

It shouldn't be this difficult. Waterboarding is torture. Holy shit. How disgraceful is it that Americans have been forced to define waterboarding and various other torture techniques in the first place? Yet thanks to the Bush administration here we are anyway, and the Mukasey hearings haven't even really enumerated the syllabus of other enhanced interrogation techniques presently listed on the American torture menu.

Why is Mukasey and the White House being deliberately deceptive? Naturally because we're torturing detainees. Right damn now.

And if that makes you feel safer, then you're an idiot.

You're an idiot for fearing Filet-O-Fascism in the first place, since, despite what Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee say, the Filet-O-Fascists are absolutely not the biggest threat America has ever faced. Not by a long, long, long shot. Giuliani, Huckabee and the other fear-merchants are, in effect, inflating the egos of al-Qaeda by elevating their strength and capabilities to a level more dangerous than Nazi Germany or the Cold War Soviets. Talk about emboldening the enemy.

No comment.

Speaking of Sharon Jones ...

In the latest Harp Magazine, Andy Tennille, the brother of a FunkyPundit friend, has a feature on the Daptone Records' origins. In the beginning, label co-founder and Dap Tones bassist Gabe Roth struggled to find an audience for vintage soul and funk:
Obsessed vinylphiles were always looking for old, limited-edition pressings of rare funk and soul 45s, the more obscure the better. A few months later, Desco issued The Revenge of Mister Mopoji by an unknown group named Mike Jackson & the Soul Providers, heralding it as the long-awaited reissue of a soundtrack to an obscure ’70s kung fu movie.

“It was a fake reissue of a soundtrack to a kung fu movie that never actually existed,” Roth confesses with a sly grin. “We would go to record shops in New York to sell the album and store clerks would tell me, ‘I don’t want that. I got the original.’ There was no original soundtrack; there was no fucking movie to begin with. It was unbelievable. That’s when I realized how full of shit most of these people were.”

Should you have an interest, the whole piece is available here.

Funk's Video of the Day

Hot off the editing reels!

It's my hero, mentor and life-long love, Sharon Jones, with her hit "100 Days, 100 Nights" off their new album of the same title. According to the director, it was filmed with two vintage TV cameras purchased off e-Bay for $50 apiece.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Funk Fund -- Week 8

For the latest in an experiment that has gone horribly awry, here are this week's picks, per week one's guidelines:

-- $20 6-point teaser on Colts (-7), Giants (-10), & Saints (-1) (payout: $52)

-- $10 straight bets on Colts, Giants, & Saints (payout: $20 each)

-- $5 3-game parlay on Colts, Giants, & Saints (payout: $36)

This week's total possible payout: $145

Current account balance: $-104

UPDATE:
Karol is insistent I start providing updates after each Sunday. I said it's too embarrassing to report that my vaunted strategy is failing week in and week out.

Nonetheless, like so many weeks before, week eight missed out on a profit by a mere point. The Colts won 31-7, the Saints won 31-10, but the G-Men gave up a late-game touchdown to win by just 3, thereby losing the teaser. Once again, the only bets to hit were two straights. Ironically, I was pulling for the Dolphins to make it close, as I was personally predicting they would cover the spread.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Question of the Day

Should dueling be brought back?

What about public hangings?

Please discuss. Thanks.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Karol Sent Me This

And it is terrifying.

She also sent me this -- a helpful explanation of why my interest in converting to Japanese is waning.

Huffington's Huff of the Day

Bob Cesca, a "writer, director and producer," on why America isn't generally conservative:
The United States of America is composed of around 300 million mostly good people who are sometimes misguided, destructive, religious, arrogant, ignorant and self-important -- conditioned to consume everything. We're fat, prone to addiction and we love awful things like Steve Doocy and BK Stackers. We're a lot of crazy things, Senator McCain, but America is definitely not "right of center."
Also, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson asks where the National Guard is:
In California, the Guard force is authorized to have over 21,000 members. Today, that number is just under 15,000. Why the decline? I believe it has nothing to do with a diminished commitment to service, but rather is a frustration with having that commitment abused, and families turned upside down, just so President Bush can continue to pretend his war can succeed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Quote of the Day

Via The Wall Street Journal's Political Diary:
"I have never before witnessed such a disgrace in professional journalism.... I should know. I live in Jena. My wife has taught at Jena High School for many years. And most important, I am probably the only reporter who has covered these events from the very beginning.... According to the expulsion committee, the crudely constructed nooses were not aimed at black students. Instead, they were understood to be a prank by three white students aimed at their fellow white friends, members of the school rodeo team. (The students apparently got the idea from watching episodes of 'Lonesome Dove.') The committee further concluded that the three young teens had no knowledge that nooses symbolize the terrible legacy of the lynchings of countless blacks in American history. ... As with the Duke Lacrosse case, the truth about Jena will eventually be known. But the town of Jena isn't expecting any apologies from the media. They will probably never admit their error and have already moved on to the next "big" story" -- Craig Franklin, assistant editor of The Jena Times, writing in the Christian Science Monitor (available at csmonitor.com).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Around the Web

  • An anti-tobacco activist says New York City's health czar, Dr. Thomas Frieden, manipulates the science of second-hand smoke in the tradition of the infamous Tobacco Institute.
  • A British editorial says a proposed regulation that will "warn" parents of obese "seem to assume a level of stupidity among the general public." It also has an intriguing suggestion for remedying obesity: "eat less and exercise more."
(hat tip to my pops & the Center for Consumer Freedom)

Monday, October 22, 2007

This Should Solve It

Responding to a recent proliferation of nooses, New York lawmakers are proposing "to make it a felony to etch, paint, draw or otherwise place or display a noose on public or private property."

From the press release:
"This is a vile act that must be dealt with harshly," said New York State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos [who sponsored the legislation]. "There is no place for racism and intimidation in America and this rash of incidents clearly demonstrates the need for tough new penalties. The Senate will act today to make displaying a noose a felony and I encourage the Assembly to reconvene and pass this legislation as soon as possible."

"This legislation recognizes that a noose continues to be a powerful symbol of racism and intimidation towards African Americans, and that it is solely meant to harass and threaten another person or a group of people. Today the Senate Majority will take decisive action to protect all New Yorkers from the menacing and disturbing actions of a few," [Republican] Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said.
Yes, banning the drawing of nooses (even on private property) certainly does qualify as "decisive action." Whether it's a decisive in the direction of common sense is, alas, quite another question.

Congestion Indiscretions

"Mayor Bloomberg says congestion pricing will raise $390 million a year for mass transit, but that figure is nothing more than an educated guess," The Daily News reports.

Reviewing internal documents made available through a Freedom of Information Act request, the News finds that in January 2007 the Department of Transportation was developing a congestion-pricing "System [that] runs 346 days each year, capturing cars and trucks four times on every trip, processing 6,052,000 transactions each day. Each license plate costs 75 cents to read. The annual operating cost is $884,168,938, or 44.4% of total revenue."

But by April, after some tweaking to predicted costs, the numbers changed: "System runs 248 days each year, capturing cars and trucks two times on every trip, processing 2,796,000 transactions each day. Each license plate costs 15 cents to read. The annual operating cost is $232,640,000, or 35.2% of total revenue."

In London, operational costs consumed nearly two-thirds of the system's revenue in its first year. Afterward the toll was raised to $16 from $10. By nature governmental programs cost more to run than anticipated -- New York's especially. The News therefore notes that Bloomberg's estimated $390 million in new MTA revenue can't be counted on: "While the mayor's plan assumes it will cost $232 million a year to operate the system, just two little tweaks in the model -- four sensors per trip, and 75 cents to read a license plate -- would raise the cost to $685 million per year, leaving nothing for mass transit."

Meanwhile, Richard Lipsky at the Neighborhood Retail Alliance says Bloomberg's prediction that congestion pricing will ease traffic volume 6.3 percent seems to have been pulled from thin air.

Spitzer News Wrap

  • Despite calling only months ago for a "new humility" in politics, The New York Times says Spitzer has gone "on the attack once again."

  • Officials at the Board of Elections worry Spitzer's drivers' licenses-for-illegals plan could lead to widespread voter fraud, The New York Post reports.
  • New York Democrats are worried Spitzer could harm other Democrats at the ballot box -- even threatening the presidential chances of Sen. Hillary Clinton, The Post reports.
  • "Gov. Spitzer touted support yesterday from terror expert Richard Clarke for his plan to issue illegal immigrants driver's licenses -- but critics promptly revealed the former federal official had raised concerns about the idea just months ago," The Post reports.
  • "Critics of Gov. Spitzer's plan to let illegal aliens get drivers' licenses tore into the administration yesterday for backing off a policy they say would have made it tougher for illegals to unlawfully register to vote,"The Post reports:
    Social Security numbers cannot be required to get motor-voter registration forms from the Department of Motor Vehicles, the administration now says, marking a policy shift reported yesterday by The Post.
  • The Spitzer administration, which has pledged "full cooperation" with investigations into the dirty-tricks scandal, has "officially notified the Senate Investigations Committee that [it] will fight subpoenas issued to Spitzer's top aides seeking documents over an alleged plot to smear Senate Republican Leader Joseph Bruno," The Press & Sun Bulletin reports.
  • "Illegal immigrants in New York who don't drive but nevertheless want official state identification will be eligible to receive nondriver IDs under Governor Spitzer's new policy," The New York Sun reports:
    The contentious debate over Mr. Spitzer's immigration policy has focused on his recent decision to grant driver's licenses to state residents without regard to their legal status.

    Republican lawmakers hostile to the governor's policy are now trying to draw attention to the fact that undocumented New Yorkers, many of whom don't own a car or drive to work, can apply for nondriver photo identification cards, which serve the same identification purposes as driver's licenses. Lawmakers argue that granting nondriver IDs to illegal immigrants undercuts one of the main arguments Mr. Spitzer has articulated in defense of the policy.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Funk Fund -- Week 7

This weeks picks, per week one's guidelines:

-- $20 6-point teaser on Steelers (-3.5), Pats (-15.5), & Bengals (-6.5) (payout: $52)

-- $10 straight bets on Steelers, Pats, & Bengals (payout: $20 each)

-- $5 3-game parlay on Steelers, Pats, & Bengals (payout: $36)

This week's total possible payout: $145

Current account balance: $-89

Friday, October 19, 2007

Selective Health Paternalism

From today's Best of the Web:
The Associated Press reports, "[San Francisco] health officials took steps Thursday toward opening the nation's first legal safe-injection room, where addicts could shoot up heroin, cocaine and other drugs under the supervision of nurses."

Meanwhile in Portland, Maine, the AP reports that "school officials on Thursday defended a decision to allow children as young as 11 to obtain birth-control pills at a middle-school health center."

In both San Francisco and Portland, however, smoking in bars is strictly prohibited. It's bad for your health, after all.

Meanwhile, in other health news:

-- Hillary Clinton makes fun of Americans for being fat.

-- New York City's Health Department will be visiting homes in Harlem to ensure nobody is smoking around children.

Friday Funk

From prison guard to soulstress hero, a short CNN clip on Ms. Sharon Jones.

Completely unrelated but also worth checking out is this compendium of foreign movies nominated for Oscars.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fact of the Day

Bluefin tuna can accelerate faster than a sports car. Also interesting is that they weigh up to a 1,000 pounds and are worth as much as $15,000 each.

The Noose Nuisance

Mirroring my own thoughts on the matter, New York Sun columnist John McWhorter says, "The next time somebody plants a noose, let's just ignore it. Really. No press conferences, no news stories. Nothing."

Since a hangman's noose found its way onto the office door of a Columbia University professor and a media kerfuffle ensued, reports of noose sightings have been popping up everywhere: Downtown Manhattan, Long Island, Coast Guard locker rooms, and, I'm sure, elsewhere. My own suspicion isn't that a budding white power movement is responsible, but rather rascally teenagers toying with the media. Teenagers love nothing better than making trouble, and what easier way than simply hanging up a piece of knotted rope?

The simplest remedy, then, is just ignoring them.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

We're #1!

Today I'm brimming with patriotism. I've just learned that American Internet users lead all other nationalities in Google searches for "burrito."

To be fair, I deserve most of the recognition, considering my tireless efforts. But I don't mind at least partially sharing the glory with my fellow compatriots. Americans are indeed intrepid explorers of the vast wilderness of the World Wide Web, and something tells me our efforts could soon clear the way for a more peaceful world.

















(The above image comes from a Google image search for "burrito"!)

UPDATE: Thanks to my bro for the new & improved version.

This Is Going To Be Fun

The Times' editorial board now has a blog. And judging from its first posts, there'll be even less restraint than usual.


(H/t: Mr. Wilson)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

'It Shines for All'

The paper with the best movie reviews in the city is in my opinion The New York Sun. Its website recently went totally free, and these movie reviews are now available in an online archive here. A great resource for any cinephile.

Monday, October 15, 2007

TREND WATCH: Proposed NY Bans

Note: I'm now including a category for New York state. I'm sure I've missed a bunch, so don't hesitate to bring others to my attention. I'm also including older proposed bans, too.

The latest ...

New York City:

2007:
  1. City Councilmembers using public funds for personal ads
  2. Styrofoam containers in food services
  3. Various contributions to city politicians
  4. Etching acid
  5. High rises in the Upper West Side
  6. 'Stealing' recyclables
  7. Peeping toms
  8. Videotaping in public without a permit
  9. Smoking in cars with minors
  10. The word "bitch"
  11. The word "ho"
  12. Free formula samples for new mothers at city hospitals
  13. Teenage possession of spray paint
  14. Businesses from leaving their windows or doors open while air conditioners are on inside
  15. Dogs from being tied up three-plus hours
  16. Talking/listening/playing while walking crosswalks
  17. Skinny models
  18. The "N-word"
  19. Electric-assist pedicabs
  20. Public pension investments in companies with business in Sudan
2006:
  1. pit bulls
  2. trans-fats
  3. aluminum baseball bats
  4. the purchase of tobacco by 18- to 20-year-olds
  5. foie gras
  6. pedicabs in parks
  7. new fast-food restaurants (but only in poor neighborhoods)
  8. lobbyists from the floor of council chambers
  9. lobbying city agencies after working at the same agency
  10. vehicles in Central and Prospect parks
  11. cell phones in upscale restaurants
  12. the sale of pork products made in a processing plant in Tar Heel, N.C., because of a unionization dispute
  13. mail-order pharmaceutical plans
  14. candy-flavored cigarettes
  15. gas-station operators adjusting prices more than once daily
  16. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
  17. Wal-Mart
  18. the process that makes steaks pink
  19. subway ads poking fun at outer boroughs
2004:
  1. Loud car alarms
  2. Vendors from Ground Zero
2003:
  1. Cell phones during public performances
2002:
  1. Toy guns
  2. Soft drinks and snacks in city public schools

New York:

2007:
  1. Using I-pods/cell phones while crossing the street
  2. Plastic bags
  3. Nooses
  4. Spectating dog fights
  5. Smoking in cars with minors
  6. Plastic water bottles
  7. Styrofoam used in food services
  8. Thin models
NOTE: List updated again as of 12:12 PM, October 16th.

Huffington's Huff of the Day

Marty Kaplan offers a primer on the Constitution:

Article V explains the process for amending the Constitution. An amendment is like a PS; it's something that the Founders forgot to say. Examples of things they forgot to say include: gay love is sin, abortion is murder, and flag-burning should be punishable by death.

Article VI says that no religious test should be required as a qualification for public office. Isn't that marvelous? In practice, this means that Christians never have to take a test to prove they believe in Jesus; that Jews get the benefit of the doubt because they're on the road to being perfected as Christians; and that Muslims have to swear on the Koran that they're not terrorists.

This Probably Won't Go Anywhere ...

But it says quite a lot that after only 10 months in office, New York assemblymen are talking about orchestrating a recall effort to oust Governor Spitzer from office.

In other Spitzer news ...

-- A new Siena poll finds that fully 22 percent of New Yorkers support Spitzer's plan to furnish illegal immigrants with drivers' licenses.

-- "Gov. Spitzer has lined up a Manhattan lawyer - at taxpayer expense - to help him quash subpoenas sent to his office by a GOP-controlled panel investigating the Troopergate scandal," The Daily News reports.

-- After Democratic Assembly Minority Leader confessed to being in on a plot with Spitzer to sic the IRS on Republican Senate Majority Speaker Joe Bruno, Spitzer "angrily called Smith and 'questioned his ability to remain as the minority leader,'" Fred Dicker reports today in The Post.

-- Dicker also reports today that "even Democrats fear 'dirty tricks' from Spitzer.

-- Spitzer's most powerful political ally, Assembly Leader Shelly Silver, is asking the governor to call off the attack dogs after it was reported last week he was behind in the IRS plot against Bruno.

-- The Post editorializes today that Spitzer's plan to cure upstate New York's economic maladies will only make things worse.

-- And, finally, The New York Sun's Albany reporter, Jacob Gersham, imagines himself inside the mind of our beleaguered governor:
I was once Wall Street's top cop, the "enforcer," the "crusader of the year." Now, I'm taking orders from Sheldon Silver. My most powerful political ally is an obscure comptroller. And I'm insulted on a daily basis by a discredited, retired boxer named Joe Bruno.

'It was time, I felt, for an Agonizing Reappraisal of the whole scene.'

My colleague Steve Couzzo took to the pages of yesterday's Sunday Post (in the brand new Post Script section) to offer the definitive account of Bloombergism -- the "independent" form of governance wholly preoccupied with busybodying even as core responsibilities (infrastructure, power, civil services) suffer -- in all its messy infamy:

The city's still in sound shape, and Bloomberg is entitled to a share of the credit. Crime is at record lows and the town is more bustling and cosmopolitan than ever.

But are we having fun yet? Not enough for the mayor, who wants us to take our medicine and be happy about it. He's left the Republicans and the Democrats behind to forge a new kind of political philosophy: Benign Billionaire Knows Best.

For him, our waistlines, our sex lives, even the behavior of our pets are fair game for improvement. Just as rezoning will produce a more sleekly contoured New York, so will tinkering with our everyday habits yield a bountiful future where no one need be fat -- or even, God forbid, stuck in traffic.

In Mayor Mike's ideal metropolis, the town would be cleansed, not only of cigarette smoke, but of a lengthy hit list of real and presumed urban evils -- among them, dogs that bark too loud and fast-food restaurants that fail to warn you of every calorie.

If you read one piece today, read this one.

Extra Credit: Anyone know where the hed for this post comes from?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Funk Fund -- Week 6

I hope none of you are playing along at home. Here are this weeks picks, per week one's guidelines:

-- $20 6-point teaser on Eagles (-4), Bengals (-1) & Cardinals (-6) (payout: $52)
-- $10 straight bets on Eagles, Bengals & Cardinals (payout: $20 each)
-- $5 3-game parlay on Eagles, Bengals & Cardinals (payout: $36)

This week's total possible payout: $145

Current account balance: $-54

UPDATE:

Out of curiosity, I looked to see how the Funk Fund would have performed in Week 1. (I hadn't started it until Week 2.) The picks would have been: Steelers (-4.5), Eagles (-3), Seahawks (-6). The Steelers and Seahawks both covered; Eagles lost by three. That means the straight bets on the Steelers and Seahawks were good, the parlay failed and the tease hit. Because the Eagles lost by 3, that makes that game a push in the tease (as it "teases" the spread six points in the your favor). When there's a tie, the payout is reduced by one game -- in this case, the "decimal multiplier" is reduced from 2.6 to 1.83. So a $20 bet would have paid $36.6. That means week 1 would have actually won $21.

Because this is an experiment in the interests of furthering science, I am going to retroactively adjust the net balance as if the Funk Fund had been in around for the entirety of this season (i.e., Week 1). This post will be retitled Week 6, and the current account balance is changing to -$54 from -$75.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fact of the Day

Ninety-four percent of Japanese women in their 20s own a Louis Vuitton item.

Video of the Day

Does Stacy Hedger even need an introduction?

Gotham's Butter Cops Run Wild

The first fines in New York City have been issued for illegal possession of margarine. The so-called grace period, where restaurants received warnings as opposed to fines for use of trans fats, expired September 30th. From Oct. 1 through Oct. 5, 20 restaurants received trans-fats citations -- most for possession.

The Post reports:
The fines ranged from $200 to $2,000, and all the restaurant owners are entitled to challenge the summonses at hearings.

Nearly all of the ticketed eateries were cited for using trans-fat-laden margarine.

Only one, Ballato on East Houston Street, which has hosted the likes of Sophia Loren, Roberto Benigni and Daniel Day-Lewis, was cited for using oils that lacked proper labels about the trans-fat content.

In other words, it's now illegal to possess unlabeled containers of oil. So much for those exotic, high-end olive oils retailed in ornate bottles -- too much work for the food cops to determine whether the law is being broken.
Owner Emilio Vitolo said he'll fight the summons because the oil in question was peanut oil -- one that doesn't contain the offending fats. He insisted that he never uses trans fats in preparing his meals.

Workers at nearly every restaurant contacted by The Post said the infractions were for stray containers of spreads or oils that hadn't been tossed out -- and they insisted their cooking is trans-fat-free.

"I didn't know [the new rules] applied to bakeries as of yet," said Rajandra Mahase, owner of Little Guyana Bake Shop in Queens.

That's also news to the Health Department -- from a recent press release: "This first phase of the regulation applies to oils, shortening and margarines used for frying and as spreads. It does not apply to baked goods or prepared foods, or to oils used to deep-fry dough or cake batter. Those products are covered by the second phase of the initiative, which takes effect on July 1, 2008."

And all this while the science behind the ban is dubious at best.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Councilman Oddo Threatens to 'Beat the S**t Out of' a Female Reporter; Daily News Cheers

Councilman James Oddo would appear to want nothing more than to go down as the guy who pried metal baseball bats from the hands of New York City's little leaguers. The Staten Island councilman, a self-described "conservative Republican," insists wooden bats are far safer.

It's a good thing bats of either variety were absent from his recent interview on Ricket's Rost, a Colbert Report-type fake-news show in Norway. After Oddo quickly realized he was to be made the butt of a joke, he called in his assistant and demanded an explanation. Anger then morphed into rage: "Get the fuck out of my office!" Sixteen f-bombs later, fully inebriated by his own rage, Oddo threatens "to beat the shit out of" the interviewer, a cute 26-year-old Scandinavian comedienne.

Today The Daily News editorializes in favor of Oddo's outburst. "We salute the man as a genuine Stand-Up New Yorker," the editorialists write. "Our compliments."

Here's the video -- judge for yourself whether his behavior is commendable:


Oddo's mistake was his own, in that he believed European media was actually interested in seriously interviewing him. While it's certainly understandable that he was upset his time was being wasted on a prank, it takes a righteous sense of self-importance to fly off the handle so quickly. A classier, cleverer man would have turned the joke back around on his interlocutor -- "May I ask you something? Is it true that only left-handed Norwegians know how to read?" Or, "On what day does Thor's birthday fall? Or are there other holidays you pagans celebrate?"

A great statesman Oddo is not. At least as compared to masters like Winston Churchill. When Lady Astor huffed, "If I were married to you, I'd put poison in your coffee," Winston curtly replied, "If I were your husband, I'd drink it!" My colleague John Wilson reminds me of another: Once at a dinner party, a woman at the prime minister's table angrily accuses him of being drunk, to which Winston responds, "This may be well and true, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly."

These of course require being quick witted and bright. Oddo instead is just your stock school-yard bully.

Full disclosure: I am eminently biased on this subject. As part of my day job I was once required to call up Mr. Oddo to ask whether his bat-banning bill included a school-budget supplemental to finance the costs of replacing the wooden bats that would inevitably break throughout the season. Oddo was displeased The Post's editorial page would be weighing in against the ban yet again, shouting words to the effect of, "You f*cking think I'm going to f*cking give you the bullets to shoot me down. You've already shot me down three f*cking times. I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid." It was pretty much like the video, except that it went on for about 10 minutes. Here's the editorial.

Dr. Frieden, Call Your Office

New York City may have already sicced its food cops on anyone using trans-fats, but according to a new report, that may have been premature. John Tierney reports in yesterday's New York Times:

In 1988, the surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, proclaimed ice cream to a be public-health menace right up there with cigarettes. Alluding to his office’s famous 1964 report on the perils of smoking, Dr. Koop announced that the American diet was a problem of “comparable” magnitude, chiefly because of the high-fat foods that were causing coronary heart disease and other deadly ailments.

He introduced his report with these words: “The depth of the science base underlying its findings is even more impressive than that for tobacco and health in 1964.”

That was a ludicrous statement, as Gary Taubes demonstrates in his new book meticulously debunking diet myths, “Good Calories, Bad Calories” (Knopf, 2007). The notion that fatty foods shorten your life began as a hypothesis based on dubious assumptions and data; when scientists tried to confirm it they failed repeatedly. The evidence against Häagen-Dazs was nothing like the evidence against Marlboros.

Read the whole thing. It's a fascinating take on how one myth can cascade into conventional wisdom. This seems to be exactly what's happened with fears of secondhand smoke.

The Tyranny of 'Universal' Health Care

No matter how chippy the Democratic presidential primary eventually becomes, at least the candidates will always be able to agree on the nation's pressing need for "universal" health coverage. Every major Democratic candidate has such a plan, the idea being that only this way will the country's "49 million" uninsured find reprieve. But government-run health insurance carries unintended consequences -- chief among them is a loss of civil liberty.

In today's D.C. Examiner, I have a piece exploring how national health coverage necessarily entails a loss of personal freedom. After comparisons to what Mayor Bloomberg has done here in New York City, the piece concludes:

Universal coverage invites Congress to legislate approved lifestyles. And this while a recent Gallup poll finds that Americans now “express less trust in the federal government than at any point in the past decade, and trust in many federal government institutions is now lower than it was during the Watergate era.” Don’t like the decisions politicians are making for you? Have fun lobbying both houses of Congress to relinquish their new power.

The last few years have demonstrated that rare is the place politicians are unwilling to tread in the name of public health. Delegating greater responsibility to the government is a bad bargain that will inevitably lead not to better care, but to increased coercion.

Here's the whole thing.