Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Daily Dose of Funk

"There Was a Time," Maceo Parker, live in Germany, 2003:

Classic Spitzer!

After a period of relative calm, The Post's State Editor Fred Dicker reports today that the storm clouds have returned:
ALBANY - Gov. Spitzer viciously berated a state lawmaker, saying, "I am a f - - - ing steamroller" who will crush the assemblyman and anyone else who stands in his way, The Post has learned.

Sources told The Post yesterday that an enraged Spitzer bitterly denounced Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco last week after the Schenectady-based Republican called to complain that he had been cut out of negotiations on a just-announced proposed new state ethics law.

"Listen, I'm a f - - - ing steamroller, and I'll roll over you and anybody else," Democrat Spitzer angrily yelled at Tedisco - who was driving in his car and speaking on a cellphone, sources familiar with the conversation said.

Spitzer then boasted about his political strength, saying, "I've done more in three weeks than any governor has done in the history of the state," the sources said.

Tedisco later said, "He [Spitzer] has a different side to him than a lot of people realize.

"I think at some point he is going to lose it," Tedisco added.

Turns out, Spitzer isn't just ill-tempered, he's unoriginal. Anyone remember James Taylor's "Steamroller," particularly the live version off his "Greatest Hits" album?

Well I'm a steamroller baby
I wanna roll all over you
Yes I'm a steamroller for your love, babe
I'd like nothing better than to roll all over you
I'm gonna inject your soul with some sweet rock & roll
And shoot you full of rythm and blues

Well I'm a cement mixer baby
A churnin' urn of burnin' funk (Yes!)
I'm a cement mixer for you baby
A churnin' urn of burnin' funk
Got down right now baby
Well I'ma demolition derby babe
A hefty hunk of steamin' junk
Mr. McD got the blues for you and me

(Solo break)

Well I'm a napalm bomb for you baby
Stone guaranteed to blow your mind
I'm a napalm bomb for you babe got to tell you one more time
To sit down, stand up, go home, back to LA
Stone guaranteed to blow your mind momma, yeah
And if I can't have your love for my own to take me home
And keep me warm there won't be nothing left behind (Oh!)
Broken heart, broken heart, oh
I just don't seem to cut loose
This here low down
No where
Half life
Freeze dried
Fat fried
Chicken chokin', mother f*cking pain
Oh, roll on over
I got those steamroller blues

Bonus trivia: Which adult contemporary star sang at Spitzer's inauguration? Answer here. (Thanks to my colleague Robert George for the reminder.)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

San Francisco v. Lawrence

In the 2003 Supreme Court Lawrence v. Texas decision upending every anti-sodomy statute in the country, the nation's highest court ruled that the Constitution's implied right to privacy precluded lawmakers from legislating sexual activity in the confines of a private residence. A debatable proposition, perhaps -- but, now, standing precedent.

More recently, members of a San Francisco suburb City Council unanimously voted to pass the most restrictive smoking ban in the world, effectively outlawing smoking entirely, even in private residences. The only places where smoking would still be allowed are single-family homes that are not part of condos/co-ops/apartment buildings.

Unlike New York and other areas where liberty is taken for granted, Belmont residents revolted, challenging whether these lawmakers should be able to legislate personal behavior in private places.

Which raises an interesting question. If the City Council stands firm, pressing ahead with one of the most brazen subjugations of liberty in modern American history, are these Bay Area legislators prepared to argue before federal courts that the Supreme got it wrong in Lawrence v. Texas?

'Great Vulgar Minds Think Alike'

Joseph Epstein on the media's obsession with the fact that this year's Super Bowl will feature two black coaches: "[W]on't America more truly have come of age as a tolerant and mature society when men and women can stand apart, on their own, without being weighed down by the heavy freight of their race, religion or ethnicity?"

UPDATE: The Assimilated Negro disagrees:
The hype around two African-American head coaches going to the Super Bowl has been impressive and appropriately reverent. I bet the first two white guys who coached in plain-jane Super Bowl I (no Caucasian research-links during Negro Bowl) are wishing their people endured three hundred years of ostensible and institutionalized oppression so they could bask in this multicultural media afterglow. Now this is what racism is supposed to be about! Good people of good character doing good things; plus they're black!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Rap & Funk, the Reunion

"New Orleans funk band Galactic is working on the follow-up to their 2003 release, Ruckus," Glide Magazine reports. "The band has been co-writing tracks with a variety of vocalists and MCs including Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na, Gift of Gab from Blackalicious, Mr. Lif, Lyrics Born, The Coup’s Boots Riley, Lateef the Truthspeaker, Ladybug of Digable Planets, and others."
In addition, the record will include various New Orleans icons including Mardi Gras Indian Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews.

The hip-hop themed record will meld Galactic’s own New Orleans street funk with some of today’s most progressive MCs, something the band has experimented with in their live performances. Over the last several years, the group has appeared with the likes of Lyrics Born, Talib Kweli, The Roots, Jurassic 5, and Z-Trip. They also recently backed Juvenile on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

“Everyone in the band listens to a lot of hip-hop” says saxophonist Ben Ellman. “We have always felt there is a natural connection between the New Orleans funk and brass band music that has inspired our sound and the rhythmic aspects of hip-hop. We wanted to push ourselves on this record to do something really different. We felt it would be fun to make an album with some of our favorite MCs with us as a foundation since its always felt great when we’ve had the opportunity to do it live.”
FunkyPundit will be seeing some of this for himself Friday night, when Galactic plays Irving Plaza with Brooklyn MC J Live. A review (hopefully) to follow.

So Creative, That Daily News

"Saving Gotham's Golden Goose," headline, New York Post editorial, Jan 23

"Saving N.Y.'s Golden Goose," headline, Daily News editorial, Jan 28

Friday, January 26, 2007

NIMBY Gets Militant

Cell phone tower construction leads to shootout, one dead:
Gunfire broke out Thursday between police and protesters opposed to construction of a cell phone tower south of Giza, and one man was killed and 20 people were wounded, authorities said.

Several thousand residents of Kafr Turk, a town about 19 miles south of Cairo's twin city of Giza, had gathered to protest an attempt by Orascom Telecom _ the owner of the MobiNil cell phone company operator in Egypt _ to erect the tower in the area.

The angry residents were afraid that exposure to electronic signals from the tower would cause health problems.

On Nanny Ninnies

C.S. Lewis:
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busy-bodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

The Cult of Competitive Moralism

My, how cultish be the politician. Since first observing last November the then-nascent trend of outlawing smoking in cars where "children" are present, the rush with which fellow legislators have fallen over themselves to follow suit has proven tremendously embarrassing -- that is, if thinking for oneself is still considered a virtue. Identical bills have since been proposed in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Maine, Utah, Kansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.

Now comes Jonah Goldberg to join my anti-children campaign:
Democrats love The Children.

Well, I don’t.

In truth, I do love kids. But it’s the “the” in The Children that’s the problem. It transforms children into a principle for which any violation of limited government is justified.
Read the rest for the interesting back story on whence this campaign of pot-shot moralism derives.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Dirty Jerse ...

... Sure produces some thoughtful lawmakers:
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- New Jersey may have unresolved problems with taxes, child welfare and gangs, but lawmakers are ready to crack down on one perceived danger: talking on a cell phone while riding a bike.

A legislative committee has approved a bill that would make it illegal for people to use a hand-held telephone while riding a bicycle on a public road. Hands-free devices would be allowed and lawbreakers would face fines ranging from $100 to $250.

Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, a bill sponsor, said the measure is meant to protect bicyclists and the people they may strike when riding and yakking at the same time.

"That is, in our judgment, a danger to pedestrians as well as to the bicyclists themselves, due to the fact that now they have one hand on the handlebars, they're talking to someone and they're on a public highway,'' said Bramnick, a Union County Republican.
Meanwhile ...
TRENTON, N.J. New Jersey is warning residents to limit their consumption of squirrels killed near a toxic waste dump.

Many residents of Ringwood are members of an Indian tribe who hunt and fish in the area.

A squirrel contaminated with lead was found there two months ago.

State officials sent out letters advising that adults who eat squirrels should eat no more than two a week. It should be even fewer for children and pregnant women.
These, I think, speak for themselves.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Lupica the Lunatic

Mike Lupica has never been much of a sports columnist. I believe the first letter I ever wrote to a newspaper was as an 11-year-old, writing Mr. Lupica to let him know how incredible I thought it was that he could at once be so consistently unoriginal and so consistently wrong. Rare is the day an original thought arrives in his head, and, should he suffer the folly of expressing himself in those infrequent moments, unfailingly it proves false.

Which makes it all the more confounding why The Daily News would think Lupica should expand his repertoire to international politics. The day President Bush announced his new strategy for Iraq, Lupica penned a column [warning: don't click that link] that made Maureen Dowd look like Aristotle, arguing Bush's plan was flawed because instead of withdrawing the troops, he was sending more, and that means more war. And, you know, more death.

Today, he's back in the front of the book, arguing ... well, it's not quite clear what he's attempting to argue. No matter. Whatever Lupica lacks in logical argument he certainly makes up for in distempered passion. The piece is all over the place, jumping from one angry bromide to another with all the felicity of a DailyKos blogger. And like DailyKos, the only common thread tying these otherwise scattered thoughts together is a seething hatred for George Bush.

Take this typically penetrating Lupica insight:

Sen. McCain served this country bravely and proudly. If he thinks continuing to align himself with this President, on this war, is some kind of brilliant move toward higher office, he should ask a distinguished soldier like Gen. Colin Powell how that worked out for him.

Eh, what's that? Which "higher" office was it again that Powell ran for after leaving the Bush administration?

Or this:
One year ago George W. Bush talked about working with the Congress when it was still controlled, all of it, by his own party. Last night he talked about reaching out to Congress again. Yet when he makes the unilateral decision to send more troops to Iraq, when he sends a number that wouldn't have been enough back in the summer of 2003, when we still had a fighting chance over there, he doesn't want to hear from anybody. Then his outgoing vice president, Cheney, goes on television and says that you can't run a war by committee.
Here Lupica comes closest to actually advancing an argument. While difficult to decipher, I'm pretty sure he's suggesting Bush wasn't being earnest in his previous attempts at bipartisanship because he's now sending more troops, despite the current "surge" not being satisfactory had it hypothetically occurred three years ago. Yet Democrats were the ones recommending a surge, right up until the point where Bush started agreeing. So for Bush taking the Democrats up on their advice, but not realizing their advice would also switch, he's obviously ... ah, my head's starting to hurt.

To boil this all down into one bite-sized concluding blog sentence: With writing like this, Mike Lupica is the best thing that ever happened to The New York Post.

When Banning Becomes Banal

Last December, The Post compiled a list of things (some tangible, some inanimate) that a city councilmember had proposed banning during 2006:
  • pit bulls
  • trans-fats
  • aluminum baseball bats
  • the purchase of tobacco by 18- to 20-year-olds
  • foie gras
  • pedicabs in parks
  • new fast-food restaurants (but only in poor neighborhoods)
  • lobbyists from the floor of council chambers
  • lobbying city agencies after working at the same agency
  • vehicles in Central and Prospect parks
  • cell phones in upscale restaurants
  • the sale of pork products made in a processing plant in Tar Heel, N.C., because of a unionization dispute
  • mail-order pharmaceutical plans
  • candy-flavored cigarettes
  • gas-station operators adjusting prices more than once daily
  • Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
  • Wal-Mart
But it seems we forgot a few things. Councilmembers also recommended banning:
This year, the City Council is off to another fantastic start. So far, Leroy Comrie (D-Jamaica) has proposed banning the "n-word" (what, and crosses and gasoline get off scot-free?). And the City Council plans to ban pedicabs with electric-assist motors!

At this rate, councilmembers will have proposed banning 34 things by the end of the year, easily topping last year's impressive 19.

Spiders on Drugs

What happens when a spider smokes crack?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

'The End of Civilization'?

"A few climate scientists are beginning to question whether some dire predictions push the science too far," The Houston Chronicle reports.

Hmm, you think?

"We face a challenge in the conservation of democracy that we must be up to in order to save the climate balance on which our civilization depends." -- Al Gore

"Disease spread by global warming could kill an extra 185 million people in sub-Saharan Africa by the end of the century and turn millions more into refugees unless rich nations take action now." -- Christian Aid.

"We have less than 10 years." -- James Hansen, NASA scientist

"The earth has a fever that could boost temperatures by 8 degrees Celsius making large parts of the surface uninhabitable and threatening billions of people's lives ... A hot earth couldn't support much over 500 million." -- James Lovelock, climatologist

"The Amazon rain forest could become a desert." -- Woods Hole Research Centre

"40 percent species face extinction." -- the British government

"Two-thirds of world species could be on route to extinction by the end of this century." -- Peter Raven, Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden

"One quarter of world's mammals face extinction within 30 years." -- The UN

"By 2050, rising temperatures exacerbated by human-induced belches of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases could send more than a million of Earth's land-dwelling plants and animals down the road to extinction." -- Chris Thomas, conservation biologist

UPDATE: Science Direct reports: "Global warming possibly linked to an enhanced risk of suicide."

The Times Fails Global Warming 101

For a page so sanctimonious about its global-warming campaign, the least The New York Times' editorial page could do is get basic facts right. In an editorial yesterday, the Times begins:
Four major bills have recently been offered in the Senate calling for mandatory controls on carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas.
Wrong. The main global warming gas is water vapor. If the Times' editorialists were referring to anthropogenic gases, they're still wrong. Methane -- almost all of which, incidentally, is not manmade -- contributes to the "greenhouse gas effect" 20 times more than carbon dioxide. (Ironically, the Times' editorial page acknowledged as such less than a month ago.) And even of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, less than four percent is manmade. The rest is a naturally occurring atmospheric element, or is created by the natural world -- you know, forests, and "the environment."

This stuff is Global Warming 101. Which makes the Times' mistake all the more embarrassing -- and revealing.

Friday, January 19, 2007

What Are They Really Afraid Of?

For reasons that perhaps a truly great mind (probably not a scientist) will someday explain, the tendency within the scientific "community" to accuse anyone harboring religious or conservative proclivities of being "anti-science" seems to be growing. The accusation itself is confounding, in that its purveyors hurl it as some sort of self-evident truth, despite the sheer nonexistence of corroborating information.

Isn't it ironic, then, how many stories there are in the news these days about "scientists" trying to silence competing scientists? In the examples offered below, the former category are all adherents to the conventional school of "global warming," while the latter are scientists evincing skepticism.

Most notable is the story of a Weather Channel meteorologist who called for the stripping of professional certification for any weatherman who publicly questions the "world-is-doomed" dogma. (This is a sad day in FunkyPundit Land, as the Weather Channel was once cable's untopped station. Alas, no more.)

Next comes courtesy of Hollywood's cosmopolitan demigod, Al Gore. In a Thursday oped for The Wall Street Journal, environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg and newspaper editor Flemming Rose describe an (almost) meeting with the former veep:
Al Gore is traveling around the world telling us how we must fundamentally change our civilization due to the threat of global warming. Today he is in Denmark to disseminate this message. But if we are to embark on the costliest political project ever, maybe we should make sure it rests on solid ground. It should be based on the best facts, not just the convenient ones. This was the background for the biggest Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, to set up an investigative interview with Mr. Gore. And for this, the paper thought it would be obvious to team up with Bjorn Lomborg, author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist," who has provided one of the clearest counterpoints to Mr. Gore's tune.

The interview had been scheduled for months. Mr. Gore's agent yesterday thought Gore-meets-Lomborg would be great. Yet an hour later, he came back to tell us that Bjorn Lomborg should be excluded from the interview because he's been very critical of Mr. Gore's message about global warming and has questioned Mr. Gore's evenhandedness. According to the agent, Mr. Gore only wanted to have questions about his book and documentary, and only asked by a reporter. These conditions were immediately accepted by Jyllands-Posten. Yet an hour later we received an email from the agent saying that the interview was now cancelled.
Finally, ExxonMobil announced it will no longer fund organizations skeptical of the dire consequences of "global warming," like the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Why? Because the "Union for Concerned Scientists" and Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Olympia Snowe told it to.

Now, admittedly, in the second example Gore isn't explicitly trying to silence his critics. But if he's as confident in his climate-change knowledge as he claims, why is he afraid to mix it up with someone bearing different ideas? It's now been well over a year since Steve Milloy, publisher of, challenged Gore to debate climate change. So what is Gore afraid of?

For that matter, what is Weather Channel lady afraid of? What is Olympia Snowe, Jay Rockefeller and the Union of Concerned Scientists afraid of? If the case for "global warming" is so certifiably obvious, why such paranoia?

Atlantic Yards' Latest Blemish

The Brooklyn Papers reports:
The future home for the Brooklyn Nets will be emblazoned with the corporate logo of a British bank that was founded on the slave trade, collaborated with the Nazis and did business with South Africa’s apartheid government.
Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Prospect Heights) has some choice commentary:
“[Black] supporters of Atlantic Yards were just tools used by Ratner to get this project passed ... Now that the project has been approved, they don’t serve his purpose anymore. Now, he can insult them by signing an agreement with a bank that financed the slave trade and supported the apartheid system. He’ll take money from anyone.”
But as The Brooklyn Papers editorial notes:
That an old, established, global bank has some skeletons in its closet should not surprise anyone. But the particular nature of Barclays skeletons should have given Ratner pause.

Those who downplay the significance of having the Barclays name atop a publicly subsidized arena that African-Americans will walk past every day — and where African-Americans will earn their living, both on the court and in the concessions stands — should put themselves in the shoes of the descendents of the slaves that Barclays family members once traded as property.

Noting that the arena will largely be funded through public subsidies, Develop Don't Destroy wonders why Forest City Ratner gets to pocket the full $400 million. Incidentally, if, as the Empire State Development Corp. says, the Atlantic Yards is a "public arena" -- and it's certainly true it's to be publicly financed with triple-tax-free bonds -- then why, pray tell, don't we the people get naming rights?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Lesson for Mayor Mike

Mayor Bloomberg isn't simply for "gun control" -- he's against the Second Amendment. Already, getting a permit to own a gun in New York City is practically impossible; that is, unless you're a celebrity. In December, Bloomberg announced that he wants to make the process even more difficult:
The city should slash the number of people who are allowed to carry concealed weapons, Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday.

"We've taken a look at it to see whether we couldn't have fewer," Bloomberg said. "I can tell you one thing: We will keep it to as a minimum as we possibly can."

Bloomberg added that he has asked Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to tackle the issue.

"If you want a gun permit, you should have to really show that your life is in danger, and that having a gun will protect you, will improve the chances of you surviving," the mayor said.

Such an idea is plainly unconstitutional, not that politicians bother much these days heeding such quaint concepts as constitutionality. Also troublesome, though, is the impact such strict gun-licensing laws have on general safety. As Glenn Reynolds writes in today's New York Times:

IT’S a phenomenon that gives the term “gun control” a whole new meaning: community ordinances that encourage citizens to own guns.

Last month, Greenleaf, Idaho, adopted Ordinance 208, calling for its citizens to own guns and keep them ready in their homes in case of emergency. It’s not a response to high crime rates. As The Associated Press reported, “Greenleaf doesn’t really have crime ... the most violent offense reported in the past two years was a fist fight.” Rather, it’s a statement about preparedness in the event of an emergency, and an effort to promote a culture of self-reliance.

And it may not be a bad idea. While pro-gun laws like the one in Greenleaf are mostly symbolic, to the extent that they actually make a difference, it is likely to be a positive one.

Greenleaf is following in the footsteps of Kennesaw, Ga., which in 1982 passed a mandatory gun ownership law in response to a handgun ban passed in Morton Grove, Ill. Kennesaw’s crime dropped sharply, while Morton Grove’s did not.

To some degree, this is rational. Criminals, unsurprisingly, would rather break into a house where they aren’t at risk of being shot. As David Kopel noted in a 2001 article in The Arizona Law Review, burglars report that they try to avoid homes where armed residents are likely to be present. We see this phenomenon internationally, too, with the United States having a lower proportion of “hot” burglaries — break-ins where the burglars know the home to be occupied — than countries with restrictive gun laws.

If Bloomberg's safety messianism was based not on an elitist distaste for personal weaponry but on an actual interest in protecting Gothamites, he'd learn the lesson of Kennesaw, Ga., and remove the barriers to more ubiquitous gun ownership.

UPDATE: The New York Sun's Bradley Hope reports on an Idaho mayor who's dropped out of Mayor Bloomberg's "Mayors Against Illegal Guns" alliance. The mayor said, "I found there's probably a little more of an agenda coming from Mayor Bloomberg's office than I anticipated ... So as I looked into it, I could see there was a conflict with the NRA and some of the beliefs we have here in Idaho."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Trans-Fat Solution: Wal-Mart?

The Manhattan Institute's Paul Howard has a piece in today's Washington Post arguing New York City's ban on trans fats will make the city less healthy. He makes a point I've made here before -- that even from a social engineering standpoint, the trans-fat ban fails. By tricking consumers into thinking fatty junk food will suddenly become healthy, consumption will increase, and the likelihood of people adopting healthier lifestyles becomes further removed.

The real solution to improving the city's health, Howard argues, is abandoning the elitist mentality guiding Bloomberg's health jihad:
Indeed, even America's justly celebrated diversity makes it difficult to craft one health message that can speak to different ethnic groups, many of which have very different ideas about "good eats" than those that are held on Manhattan's Upper West Side. If any problem begged for a market-based solution, this would be it. And there is plenty of evidence that the market is responding. From McDonald's to Martha Stewart, companies are rushing to educate consumers on how to exercise, eat better and stay healthy.

The problem is that many of these options are out of the reach of the urban poor. In fact, if policymakers are serious about helping low-income Americans get better access to healthier and more affordable food, they need to make poor urban areas more market-friendly.

The first thing they can do is to make it easier for "big-box" stores like Wal-Mart, Costco and Pathmark to open in low-income urban areas that are often only served by small, expensive bodegas and grocery stores. For instance, a 2006 Brookings Institution study found that "higher priced, small grocery stores are concentrated in New York's lower income neighborhoods." ...

Rather than treat larger chain stores for what they are -- a godsend for low-income consumers -- local politicians (driven by local interests) have fought to keep large grocery retailers out of low-income neighborhoods. The result is that a market-driven menu, including organic and bulk options, has blossomed in the suburbs while the choices available to poor consumers have remained stagnant for decades.

Targeted deregulation, rezoning, and a willingness to confront entrenched political interests would all help expand inexpensive grocery options for poor urban consumers, leveling the health gap between them and their affluent neighbors. While trendy shoppers look to Whole Foods for organic produce, low-income shoppers can buy the same vegetables at Wal-Mart.

Over two hundred years ago, Adam Smith wrote in the Wealth of Nations that market competition, by driving down prices, disproportionately benefits the poor, who spend more of their income on such necessities as housing and food. Policymakers (and too many affluent urban voters) take market competition for granted, precisely because they never have to worry about finding healthful food options.

Rather than foisting patronizing policies upon the poor, policymakers across the country should focus on giving better market options to the least advantaged.
Let's hope the Post's editors actually read the piece, seeing as they're calling for the same nonsense to be foisted upon their city.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Times' Economic Illiteracy

In "Tax Cuts and Consequences" in today's New York Times, the editorialists pick up on a CBO study purporting to show that higher-income earners have disproportionately benefited from the Bush tax cuts. In a strict sense, yes, of course they have. Because higher-income earners make higher-than-average incomes, it's little surprise that slashing 5 percent off the capital gains tax, for instance, will help this income bracket realize a greater tax benefit than those earning less off capital assets.

The article is useful, though, in highlighting just how illiterate the Times is when it comes to economics. The piece leads, for example, by saying: "The tax system in the United States is supposed to mitigate inequality." No, that's what a socialist tax system does. The purpose of America's tax system is to collect enough money to fund the government. Nothing more, nothing less. As Ronald Reagan said, "We cannot have ... a tax policy ... [that] is engineered by people who view the tax as a means of achieving changes in our social structure."

The editorial goes on to make the usual claims about how, were only rich people taxed more, income inequality would evaporate. The fact of the matter is, no one hates low taxes more than The New York Times, and this editorial is merely the latest in its campaign to move America toward their envisioned socialist wonderland.

Last year after Congress extended President Bush's tax cuts, The Times’ editorial page was at it again, once again revealing that economic literacy is not among its virtues.

That editorial attempted to disprove the fact that Bush’s lowered rates have generated so much growth in tax revenues that they've more than “paid for” themselves -- something The Times calls “seriously delusional.”

To justify its love affair with high taxes, this is a point The Times belabors constantly. An April 11 editorial wrote, “Contrary to the claims of tax-cut supporters, there is no meaningful evidence that the low investor tax rates spur the economy, and, in so doing, pay for themselves.”

But if anyone is delusional, it’s The Times. One simply needs to look at government receipts to see whether this is true.

In 2003, the year Bush’s “Jobs and Growth” tax act went into effect, the federal government collected a little less than $1.7 trillion in taxes. For fiscal year 2006, the government expects to collect a little less than $2.3 trillion.

That’s an increase of $600 billion. While the slice of the pie might be smaller, the pie has grown much larger. This, bear in mind, has all happened while the other variables affecting the economy besides taxes — disruptions like hurricanes and high energy prices — have been almost uniformly negative.

State revenues have also shot up from the Bush tax cuts, rising 9 percent last year and 8 percent in 2004.

But The Times’ economic illiteracy is far more expansive than misunderstanding tax revenues.

On March 21, The Times weighed in on the federal deficit, arguing Bush’s tax cuts should be repealed. “Republicans want voters to believe that the deficit is the result of spending increases alone — not tax cuts. That’s false. The swing from a $236 billion budget surplus in 2000 to a $371 billion deficit today is a huge deterioration in the nation’s fiscal balance, equal to 5.3 percent of the economy. Of that, fully 62 percent is due to lower tax revenues.”

Claiming that 62 percent of the change in the federal fiscal balance over six years is due to tax cuts makes less than no sense. In 2000, the federal government spent $1,789 billion. In 2005, the federal government spent $2,470.

Yes, it's ridiculous, but consider this: What if Congress had held spending steady since 2000? We’d currently be a more than half-trillion surplus.

It’s not complicated, which makes The Times’ inability to understand all the more embarrassing.

On Jan. 30, 2006, The Times weighed in on America’s “trade deficit.” After warning against allowing foreigners to continue investing in our economy at their current, heavy rate, The Times gets upset that its theory isn’t panning out in reality: “The dollar, which theoretically should have declined under the debt load in 2005, was buoyed last year by foreigners’ willingness to park their cash in higher-yielding dollar-based assets while other developed economies sputtered.”

Perhaps the problem isn’t with foreigners investing their money in America, but with The Times’ theory that doing so causes higher interest rates and thus weakens the dollar. Foreigners invest in American assets because America remains an attractive place to invest. And as Americans become wealthier every day, foreign goods are being imported at record rates. This is why the global economy does well when America does well.

So attacks on the phony “trade deficit” amount to attacks on global wealth creation.

In the same editorial, The Times says the U.S.’ recent powerhouse performance is owed to Americans’ enhanced ability to “borrow and spend” due to “the housing boom.”

Such an explanation mistakes causes with effects. Housing prices increased because demand increased. Demand increased because of Americans’ rising purchasing power, brought on by new wealth and a then-strong dollar.

Arguing that it’s the other way around is a mistake of the highest order.

The Times then compounds the mistake by indulging in another lefty economic canard: “Deeply in debt, individual Americans can’t be expected to keep borrowing and spending.” Accordingly, The Times sees economic collapse on the horizon.

But this is brutally dishonest. Individual debt cannot be reasonably assessed without looking at assets. And here, Americans are going gangbusters. The average American household’s balance sheet — the value of its cash, stocks, bonds, real estate, etc., minus debt — is at a record high. Net household worth is $51 trillion. The Times’ claims notwithstanding, Americans are hardly going broke. ($12.1 trillion of this, according to the American Shareholders Association, is owed to the Bush tax cuts.)

And it gets worse. In a Nov. 15, 2005 editorial on the federal deficit, The Times decried Republican attempts to pass “a new round of ridiculous tax reductions for the wealthy.”

Clarification about tax cuts for “the rich” is overdue. For starters, the reductions of twice-taxed capital — corporate dividends and individual capital gains — benefits the investor class, which now encompasses nearly 60 percent of American households. Surely The Times isn’t suggesting that more than half of America is now “wealthy”?

Besides, the investor class increasingly transcends class barriers. While 93 percent of Americans earning more than $75,000 a year own equities, 56 percent of those earning up to $75,000 own stocks and 30 percent of those making less than $50,000 do, too. These tax cuts help people of all income brackets.

And, if we’re to take seriously The Times’ stated interests in enriching the underclass, increasing their representation in the investor class is a no-brainer.

The high percentage of equity-wielding senior citizens are also well-served by capital market growth; as are owners of 401(k)s, IRAs, pensions, employees of universities with endowments and people economically linked with anyone above. I.e., everyone.

Secondly, the Bush tax cuts did not disproportionately benefit the wealthy, as whines The Times again this week. The nation’s top 1 percent of earners now pay approximately 35% of taxes. Absent the Bush tax cuts, the Treasury Department estimates their share would fall to 30.5 percent. This is consistent with Reagan’s tax cuts, which resulted in the nation’s richest 1 percent seeing their tax obligation climb from 17.5 in 1981 percent to 27.5 percent in 1988. Also, Bush’s tax cuts led to more than two million low-income taxpayers seeing their tax obligations evaporate entirely.

The Times also never misses a chance to call for higher taxes. In a Sept. 19, 2005 editorial on Bush’s pledge to spend “whatever it takes” to rebuild a Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast, The Times insisted that tax hikes were the only “responsible” way to pay for the reconstruction. When Katrina threatened to raise gas prices, the Times recommended higher gas taxes to finance research into alternative fuels. When the higher gas prices failed to ruin the economy as the Times had predicted and receded much earlier than expected, the Times called for gas tax hike to intentionally keep it prohibitively expensive.

The New York Times: All the economic illiteracy that’s fit to print!

Smoldering Shoulder Pads Ignite Sweating Dancing Infernos

For those of you wondering, Leslie Hall's career appears to be skyrocketing (as I'd always known it would). Apparently W Magazine had a feature in its December issue (though I can't find it online). For those of you who have no idea who this lovely young lass is, let the video below serve as a brief introduction to the majestic, triumphant glory that is Leslie Hall.

P.S. She also has a special holiday greeting out, should anyone want to get ahead on their 2007 Christmas shopping.

Let There Be Blight

In today's Wall Street Journal, William Maurer, author of "A False Sense of Security: The Potential For Eminent-Domain Abuse in Washington" shares this troubling story from Burien, Wash., a place where pols pronounced post-Kelo that "it could never happen here":
The city of Burien, Wash., recently decided that a piece of property owned by the seven Strobel sisters that had long housed a popular diner-style restaurant was not upscale enough for the city's ambitious "Town Square" development, which will feature condos, shops, restaurants and offices. Rather than condemn the property for a private developer and risk a lawsuit, Burien came up with a plan--it would put a road through the property, and the city manager told his staff to "make damn sure" it did. When a subsequent survey revealed that the road would not affect the building itself, but only sideswipe a small corner of the property, the staff developed yet another site plan that put the road directly through the building. A trial court concluded that the city's actions might be "oppressive" and "an abuse of power"--but allowed the condemnation anyway. The Washington Court of Appeals affirmed, and the Washington Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Welcome to the post-Kelo world.

The piece goes on to note how state and local governments have perverted the definition of "blight" to include just about anything. Sounds familiar.

Pelosi's Preference

Remember that C.S. Lewis quote posted here yesterday?
"One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up. That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons-marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning."
Something to bear in mind while reading today's Washington Post story on Nancy Pelosi's decision to ban smoking from the Capitol Building:
Some fresh air blew into the Capitol yesterday, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi banned smoking from the most venerable nicotine haven on the hill -- the Speaker's Lobby outside the entrance to the House floor.

Pelosi, of smoke-free California, is known to detest the tobacco habit. Ever since her ascension as top Democrat with authority over the lobby and most other space in the House, smokers have been bracing for the moment when they'd be ordered to extinguish their butts.

The FunkyPundit is known to detest pompous, self-righteous assholes. But notice he's not manipulating the government to have them banned.

Oh, and by the way, Boehner, you're a pussy:
One of the heaviest smokers, Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who is partial to Barclays, was resigned to the new reality yesterday. As majority leader in the last Congress, Boehner ignored calls to ban smoking from the Speaker's Lobby. But now, as minority leader, he has little choice but to abide by Pelosi's wishes and told reporters he was fine with the ban.
Tradition? Who cares about tradition when we've got "scientists":

For generations, the Speaker's Lobby has been the most visible space where smokers gather inside the Capitol. It is an ornate space dotted with fireplaces, leather armchairs and chandeliers. Lawmakers relax there between votes and debates, often meeting with staff members, reporters or the public and huddling in informal groups. Cigarette smokers tended to dominate the daytime hours there; at night, the cigar smokers took over.

Pelosi said she was banning smoking from the area to protect the health of the staff, reporters and public who spend time in the lobby. "Medical science has unquestionably established the dangerous effects of secondhand smoke, including an increased risk of cancer and respiratory diseases. I am a firm believer that Congress should lead by example," Pelosi said in a statement. "The days of smoke-filled rooms in the United States Capitol are over."

No one believes secondhand smoke causes cancer. Not even "scientists." No matter. Tobacco bans are very in these days, and Nancy Pelosi is nothing if not trendy.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Inspired by that C.S. Lewis quote posted earlier, expect to see more erudite or otherwise inspiring quotes as a regular feature.

Here's one to kick things off:

"The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

-- Abraham Lincoln, from the March 4, 1861 Inaugural Address

Another Reason To Bomb San Fran

That bastion of sensitivity, that comfort-zone for the oppressed, that beacon of tolerance, that city of liberal piety, San Francisco, recently saw its locals attack Yale's all-male singing group, The Baker's Dozen, with words like "faggot" and "homo" and, later, with assaults of a more physical variety.


The Dozen had earlier launched into a patriotic rendition of The Star Spangled Banner.

'We Seem To Be Choking on Tigers, While Our Bellies Fill With Gnats'

When the walls of Western Civilization come tumbling down, who will bear responsibility for letting its foundation erode? Not the external threat of Islamic terrorism. Terrorists have no involvement in the structural health of Western society. A more likely culprit will be the well-intentioned agents of do-goodery, those mom and dad types whose every legislative turn inspires a return to child-like psychological weakness.

Jonah Goldberg writes today on the dangers lying beneath infantilizing America. Quoting a certain editorial in a certain publication, he begins:
The New York Post recently compiled a list of the things that the New York City Council tried to ban — not all successfully — just in 2006 alone: pit bulls; trans-fats; aluminum baseball bats; the purchase of tobacco by 18- to 20-year-olds; foie gras; pedicabs in parks; new fast-food restaurants (but only in poor neighborhoods); lobbyists from the floor of council chambers; lobbying city agencies after working at the same agency; vehicles in Central and Prospect parks; cell phones in upscale restaurants; the sale of pork products made in a processing plant in Tar Heel, N.C., because of a unionization dispute; mail-order pharmaceutical plans; candy-flavored cigarettes; gas-station operators adjusting prices more than once daily; Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus; Wal-Mart.

On Jan. 2 here in Washington, D.C., the city council’s smoking ban was extended to bars and nightclubs. Even private clubs, where members must pay through the teeth to associate voluntarily, are forbidden to allow smoking on their own property. In some states, you can’t smoke in your car if young children are present — your own children that is. In California, outdoor smoking bans are all the rage. In 2005, a Pennsylvania legislator received national attention for his effort to mandate that all dogs must wear seatbelts in cars. He got the idea from the winner of his annual “There Ought to Be a Law” contest, a busybody kid who thought it was hypocritical that canines be exempt from mandatory seat-belt laws. My daughter seems well on track to spend her entire childhood in a world where eating a peanut product would be as unthinkable as lighting up a stogie.

In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville warns: “It must not be forgotten that it is especially dangerous to enslave men in the minor details of life. For my own part, I should be inclined to think freedom less necessary in great things than in little ones. ...”

“Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately,” he continued. “It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their own will.” He goes on to note that in the “great things,” the burden of (temporarily) lost freedom must inevitably fall “upon a small number of men.” For example, in war we understand that some men (and now women) surrender the bulk of their liberties to protect the liberties of everybody else.
A reader sends Goldberg this quote from C.S. Lewis's "Mere Christianity," which rather perfectly describes nanny-statists:
"One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up. That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons-marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning."
My pops responds, noting:
Liberals are also the leading practicioners of manipulating voters by encouraging envy and coveting what rightfully has been earned by others.
Detestable people.
The cult of paternalistic politics portends dark days ahead. Goldberg concludes:
On countless fronts, the natural pastures of daily liberty have become circumscribed by dull-witted but well-meaning bureaucrats slapping down the paving stones of good intentions on the road to hell.

The rule of thumb for a free society should be that it infringes liberties rarely, but when it does so it is for important reasons. Today, that thumb has been cast down, Caesar-like, pointing in the opposite direction. We have democratized the small assaults on freedom so that everyone must endure them, while we caterwaul about the tyranny of any real inconvenience that might fall “disproportionately” on the few. We ban using trans fats for millions but flinch at the idea that some kid might have to endure the Pledge of Allegiance or a moment of silence in school if it conflicts with his conscience. Everyone must surrender his shoes, his regular-sized toothpaste and shampoo at the airport, but we man the barricades to protect a few young Muslim men from being inconvenienced for an extra five minutes at the airport.

Free speech is most restricted where it is most important — in political contests near Election Day — while it is maximized to an absurd level at the fringes of culture and decency. Banning “hate speech” from everybody’s lips is a progressive priority, but electronic eavesdropping on a few terrorists is an impermissible leap down the slippery slope to the police state.

Of course, there are legitimate objections to infringements of liberty or principle on what de Tocqueville would call the “great things.” What is so disturbing is how few legitimate objections are raised about the “little things.” And I can’t help but shake the feeling that civilizations fall apart, or get plowed under by the wheels of history, when they fail to understand these distinctions. One of my favorite sayings is that America can choke on a gnat, but it swallows tigers whole. These days, we seem to be choking on the tigers while our bellies fill with gnats.

E Pluribus Unum

In "The United Nations of New York" the Daily News delivers an awesome feature, talking to "people from 100 countries, revealing why they moved to New York and what they love about the city they now call home." With an immigrant arriving in America every 27 seconds and one million having settled in Gotham since 2000, clearly the melting pot endures.

I humbly suggest reading it all -- though the online version isn't quite as good, as not everyone is featured in a photo -- but here are some samples:


Fabian Lliguin, 43, Manhattan, Hair styliSt

Came here in 1989, "out of curiosity."

Why I love New York: "Its multicultural tapestry, the best food in the world and the best-looking people representing every race on the planet."


Marie-Helene Sanoussi, 26, Manhattan, executive assistant

Came here in 1990 when her father was appointed Guinea's UN ambassador.

Why I love New York: "For the endless opportunities it offers to anyone who comes in search of a better life. I love the energy New Yorkers possess and how bluntly honest they can be.


Hamid-Abdul Nazary, 65, Queens
Elevator operator/ maintenance

Came here in 1981 to have a better life for himself and his family.

Why I love New York: "People are so good in this country. I work in the Port Authority building [on 42nd St.] 23 years now. Many people here have helped me get this good job."


Emil Gaspari, 54, Westchester, Salesman

First came here 45 years ago; became a citizen in 1977.

Why I love New York: "This is the most dynamic place in the world to trade. As long as you put forth the right amount of effort, you can accomplish whatever you want."


Mehret Mandefro, 30, Harlem, physician at Montefiore

Came here in 1977 after fleeing a Communist takeover.

Why I love New York: "Being able to find a place to dance any night of the week."

Natives can be thankful, too. Immigrants remind us all how lucky we are to live in a free country (notwithstanding the best intentions of Nannies Bloomberg and Friedman).

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Why Brooklyn's Better

In its 2007 "Blue List" of must-see yet seldom traveled to destinations, the backpackers bible, "Lonely Planet," lists Brooklyn among its top spots, the Daily News reports:

Citing its multiethnic character and multiplying number of trendy neighborhoods, the book lauded the borough as "the hippest part of New York City."

"It's a diverse place," Lonely Planet spokesman Frank Ruiz said. "There are hipster bars, there's great shopping, all along with an intimate neighborhood feel."

So adventurers seeking wild fauna in their natural habitat should go to Honduras for howler monkeys, Gabon for elephants and Brooklyn for tattooed bloggers in $50 T-shirts?

"I'm not a big fan of hipsters, but I guess it's sort of exciting that they're attracting people from the outside who want to see what's going on, what all the fuss is about," said Scott Beard, 31, co-owner of Barcade in Williamsburg, which was singled out by Lonely Planet for vintage arcade games and local brews. ...

Other Brooklyn recommendations range from the well-known - the hot dog-eating contest in Coney Island - to insider favorites like a Slope bed-and-breakfast or dinner at the Carroll Gardens Mexican restaurant Alma.

"We have a lot of people coming in from Norway, Sweden and Germany," Alma owner Ronald Starns said. "A lot of people say they don't feel like they're in the city. They're almost on vacation while they're on vacation."

See, the beauty of Brooklyn is precisely that is not Manhattan. That a Manhattan-based developer and a Manhattan-based mayor and a Manhattan-based Empire State Development chief and a Manhattan-based governor all seek to "improve" Brooklyn through the government-orchestrated development of the Atlantic Yards helps explain why Brooklynites are so uniformly opposed to the project. Turn Brooklyn into Manhattan, and that which makes Brooklyn better will be gone forever.

Sure, We Treat 'Em Like Children, But We Love the Troops!

"The retired New York City Firefighter Flip Mullen tells of an encounter with a 19-year-old soldier named Keith whose only complaint had nothing to do with having lost a leg in Iraq," Michael Daly writes in today's Daily News.

"He said, 'I can't get a drink,'" Mullen recalls.

Keith meant he was considered old enough to go to war but too young to go into a bar or a nightclub. He is among some 5,000 G.I.s who were wounded in Iraq when they were not yet 21. Exactly 550 have been killed before they were of an age to have a legal beer.

The column itself isn't one I'd describe as "strong" or necessarily "worth reading," but the point raised is nonetheless important: How again is it sensible that people as young as 17 can fight and die -- or, as Daly details here, lose limbs -- for their country, but that country treats them as too immature to knock back a couple of cold ones? I'll go ahead and answer that myself. A 21-year-old drinking threshold makes no sense. And politicians who perpetuate it ought to be embarrassed.

Oh, Joy!

In Bangor, Maine, the City Council has passed a law protecting those treacherous little lemmings known as "the children" from ... whom? Ah yes, their parents.

It is now illegal to smoke cigarettes in the privacy of your own car, should any length-of-time-on-Earth challenged persons also be present. Oh, merry mother of maple syrup, what mind-sucking asininity.

Hey Bangor, Maine: Your lame town is an embarrassment to America. Please move it off the premises, perhaps to Canada, where such pat-yourself-on-the-back moralism is more culturally acceptable.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Funk's Resolutions

OK, maybe it's already three days into the Y2K7, but surely God will appreciate a few resolutions, however belatedly? So, here goes:

-- Less talk, more funk.

-- Cut down collection of stray cats by 10 percent.

-- Invent more creative methods of arson, possibly including baby formula.

-- Make fun of more weird-looking hobos.

-- Drop heroin habit. (Outside of regular users group.)

-- Eat less exotically.

-- Mount a coup.

-- Put the days of petty crime behind me; find a way to finally break into white-collar crime.

-- Look into cornering the emerging trans-fat blackmarket, likely involving increased hawking of my delectable Extra Crispy Smorestaco™ at Washington Square Park.

-- Re-convert to Paganism.

-- Memorize every line in "Blood In, Blood Out," aka cinema's pinnacle achievement, until my (Caucasian) Mexican street gang figures out how to improve our street cred.

-- Train my robot to dance like a gypsy. (Could be funny.)

-- Less Internet, more TV.

-- Plant a tree.

-- Infiltrate a subculture.

-- Orgies!

-- Use profits from freelance architecture projects to finance sustainable development of the efforts to raise awareness of the HIV-strain ravaging the gay community of Algerian spider monkeys populating West Bengalese ghettos. Afterward, write an ironic poem about the whole episode.

-- Build that sprawling 12-room mansion I've designed (replete with guest houses, 9-hole par-three golf course, Olympic-sized swimming pool and tennis courts) in Brazil's beautiful Amazon Rainforest.

-- Train my gypsy to dance like a robot. (Could be funny.)

-- Write the screenplay depicting my epic rise in the sordid world of Brooklyn's underground freestyle rap battle scene, culminating with my improbable defeat of that punk-ass, 50 Cent. Related: Sue producers of "Rap War One" for using my life story without proper acknowledgment.

-- Start a book (burning) club.

-- Hit lecture circuit; speak out on how pervasive major-league sports leather jackets threaten reputation for urban areas' trend-setting position in global fashion.

-- Incorporate the phrase "monkey's dalliance" into regular parlance. Ensure context -- e.g., "Talk about putting the finger paint in the tomato jar, his third-quarter presentation was a veritable monkey's dalliance" -- never leaves the impression that the phrase actually means something.

-- Clean up the large blood stain currently hidden by love seat.

-- Challenge Mayor Bloomberg to a wrestling match, Health Commissioner Frieden to a 10k. Smoke cigarettes throughout duration of said competitions.

-- Rake more muck!

Happy New Years!