Friday, March 30, 2007

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Two Great Writers

Theodore Dalrymple reviews Mark Steyn's "America Alone" for the Claremont Review of Books. It's perhaps the least friendly I've read thus far.

Quote of the Day

The Senate March 2008 withdrawal plan "does not incentivize the government of Iraq to make tough decisions on reconciliation -- it sets the stage for the government collapse. The arbitrary deadline informs our enemies when they need no longer fear American military power. It signals to the population that their best bet for security really does rest in the hands of militias, rather than the government. It demonstrates to the government that they cannot rely on us -- after all, we are pulling out regardless of the situation or consequences. And it tells the terrorists that they -- not we -- will prevail."
-- John McCain (via Debra Saunders)

Today's Question

For any senator or congressman who voted for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq:

Without using the words "President Bush," or some variation thereof, please name one good thing a timetable will accomplish.

In the event given responses include the words "policing a civil war" it should be stated for the record that this congressman/senator does not believe in American intervention in Sudan.

Thanks for playing!

Real-Time Hypocrisy

So let me see if I've got this right. In 1993, then-President Bill Clinton fired 93 federal prosecutors. Democrats patiently informed that this way it would be easier to "carry forth the administration's agenda."

In 2005, President Bush fired 13 prosecutors, some of whom, seemingly, for political reasons. House leaders are now threatening to subpoena members of his administration.

Concurrently, Bush's nominee for U.S. ambassador to Belgium, Sam Fox, has been derailed by Democrats because of a $50,000 contribution he made in 2004 to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. His qualifications, meanwhile, have never been questioned. Today Bush rescinded the nomination.

So, according to Democrats, is factoring in politics OK when hiring and firing, or not OK? The principle seems to depend on the politics.

What we're seeing here is hypocrisy -- in real time.

Atlantic Yards: 'House of Cards'?

"In examining the $4 billion mixed-use Atlantic Yards project for approval, New York State's leading development agency never saw a business plan from developer Forest City Ratner," The New York Sun reports. Why does this matter? Recall my last Atlantic Yards posting:
State lawmakers seeking documents from the Empire State Development Corp., the public agency overseeing the project, detailing Forest City Ratner's full financial plan, were forced to litigate. And only then received a few indecipherable pages. Because the project involves more than a billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies, lawmakers understandably felt their constituents deserved knowing more about it. Earlier, the ESDC refused a Freedom of Information Act request.

So, what's the ESDC hiding? If this eminent-domain-dependent development is furthering the "public good," why must the public be kept in the dark?
Apparently, the only thing they were hiding was their own incompetence. Quoth the Sun:

A former city planning commissioner who opposes the project, Ronald Shiffman, said that in not seeing FCR's financial plan, the state did not provide appropriate oversight.

"One would believe they should look at it with a lot of due diligence, particularly with the amount of money they're putting into this," he said. "It's been a done deal from the beginning without anybody really looking at it."

A spokesman for Forest City Ratner declined to comment.

Develop Don't Destroy asks:

Does anyone who approved this project, for which the government intends to use the awesome power of eminent domain, even know if it's financially viable? Does anyone in Albany or in City Hall have any idea how Ratner's potential profit compares to the public's meager return? Does anyone know if Ratner might pull the plug on Phase Two if he makes all his money on Phase One? Apparently not.

In the face of the sub-prime loan default crisis, we think it's high time that someone in Albany get to the bottom of Bruce Ratner's $4 billion, eight-million square foot house of cards.

Virginia Is (Not) for Smokers

Will Virginia, the state whose flag features a patriot proudly atop a dead tyrant, impose its own tyranny? Leesburg Today reports:
The smoking section may become a relic of the past if the governor gets his way. Gov. Tim Kaine (D) announced yesterday that he is amending a house bill to ban smoking in restaurants. The original text of the bill would require restaurants that permit smoking to post warning signs near their entrances. Current law requires restaurants that seat 50 or more people to have designated smoking and nonsmoking sections.

The governor said in a press release that he is opposed to a complete smoking ban in all public places, but that a ban is needed in restaurants "to protect the health of both patrons and employees."
Seems so.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

For the Record

Antibalas' new album, Security, is the best CD. Ever.

That is all.

Rudy Looking Better Every Day

The FunkyPundit's favorite for the 1996 & 2000 races for president, Steve Forbes, has just endorsed Rudy:
New York City – The Rudy Giuliani Presidential Exploratory Committee today announced that Steve Forbes, President and Chief Executive Officer of Forbes and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes magazine, has endorsed Rudy Giuliani for President of the United States. Mr. Forbes will serve as a National Campaign Co-Chair and Senior Policy Advisor.

“I am honored to support Rudy Giuliani for President,” Steve Forbes said. “As Mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani showed how exercising fiscal discipline – including tax cuts – lowers deficits, spurs economic growth, and increases revenue. It is time the rest of the country benefit from a true fiscal conservative leader who gets real results.”

“Steve and I share an economic vision that embraces supply-side economics, tax relief, and spending restraint,” said Mayor Giuliani. “I look forward to working with Steve and am proud to have him as a member of our team.”


A friend of FunkyPundit, Jessie Cantrell, is starring in a new film entitled Wheels. It's about love's habit of popping up in the most seemingly inopportune settings. Watch the trailer here.

Smoking Bans' Unintended Consequences

Mom Dukes sends along this story, via Rush Limbaugh:
I have to share this with you. I always check websites during the break here. Some online website called the Dunfermline Press -- it's gotta be some wacko little cult paper in the UK --has a story that has a really great lesson on the unintended consequences of actions taken by those who want to save us from ourselves. In this case, the unintended consequences of the smoking ban. Now, in order for you to appreciate this, and you'll be able to see it because we'll link to it on the website later, but for those of you watching on the Dittocam, I want to zoom in because you have to see this guy. He's the focus of the story.

I'm not going to be able to hold it here steadily while I do the story but just get a look at that guy and keep the memory of that face in your mind as we tell you what the story is about. He is a regular at a pub, and he goes in, and he has his adult beverages or whatever. He has been barred. He has been thrown out of this pub because he breaks wind. The guy cannot stop breaking wind. The guy's name is Stewart Laidlaw, and they say that "his bouts of flatulence" are so over the top that people in the bar "have almost been sick after exposure to the foul smells." (interruption) It won't work to tell 'em it's termites. He's 35 years old. He's furious. The name of the pub is Thirsty Kirsty's, and the guy is livid.

He's the first person to be barred from the pub for breaking wind. Now, the owner says he's been in there for years breaking wind and nobody knew it because you were able to smoke. But now that they've banned smoking, people who have been taking in the guy's wind all these years are for the first time in their lives able to smell it, and so he's been banned and so, see? The unintended consequences of banning smoking has caused this guy public humiliation. People had no clue it was happening because of the cigarette smoke that used to be in there. The title of the story is -- well, we're going to title this on the website -- "Gone with his Wind." (Laughing.) The picture! I wouldn't let the guy in if he smelled like Drakkar Noir cologne, just on the basis of his looks. He's bright-eyed. This guy looks like he's on something from the moment he gets in.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

People Think I'm Crazy

But I'll bet anyone who wants the action that a Republican will win the White House in 2008. I base this opinion entirely upon the quality of Democratic candidates.

Odds are 1-1. Inquire within.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Rock the Bells

Rock the Bells has announced its summer line-up, and it features some of the hottest hip hop artists playing today. Tickets for the July 28th Randall's Island show go on sale March 31st. Just about the only band I'm not excited about is Rage Against the Machine -- the headline act.

Woman Dead; Boston Blamed

From today's New York Post:

March 26, 2007 -- A brilliant, polished Southern belle who moved to New York to work in public relations was gunned down in a seedy Boston neighborhood - caught in a gang shooting at a rowdy after-hours party.

Chiara Maria Levin, 23, who spoke seven languages, traveled extensively in the United States and Europe, and dreamed of working as a translator, was killed by a bullet to the head when she wound up in the wrong place at the wrong time early Saturday.

The beauty, with long brunette curls and a stunning smile, was a native of Danville, Ky., who had graduated from the University of Michigan last June and moved shortly afterward to 100 Maiden Lane in downtown Manhattan.

"If there ever was anyone who lit up a room, it was her," said Arielle Myers, 21, a sorority sister at the university.

The tragedy unfolded in Boston, where Chiara had gone to celebrate a great-aunt's birthday. On Friday night, she went partying with friends.

When a bar closed at 2 a.m., she and two pals complained that bars in New York stay open until 4 a.m. A group of men overheard the remark and offered to take the revelers to an after-hours party in Dorchester, a neighborhood plagued by gangs and violence.

Of course, the shooter is responsible for Chiara's death -- not the Boston solons who created the 2 AM booze cutoff. However, were Boston to allow bar patrons to keep partying into the morning hours, there'd be no need to look for after-hours parties in seedy neighborhoods far out of sight of the municipal police.

Boston needs to re-think this dangerous bit of nannyism.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people." -- Admiral Hyman Rickover

(via Madscripe @ RAG)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

ROC Lobster

What to do when the restaurant you've created starts collapsing thanks to its untenable, workers-exploiting business model? There's always hope you'll receive the same good fortune as the Noho eatery Colors, which The New York Times recently treated to an advertorial guised as hard news.

Pulling on New Yorkers' 9/11 heartstrings, Metro reporter Emily Vasquez retold Colors' faux-bio: Post-9/11, surviving Windows of the World workers banded together to create a restaurant that would set a new standard for workers -- ownership would take the form of a employee co-op, wages far surpassed the industry average and staffers' ethnic culinary traditions made up the menu.

But somehow, Vasquez reported, business failed to hold steady after the original media-generated fanfare died down. Workers are worried and confused, she said.

What the Times didn't report is that by month's end, former Colors workers are expected to sue its management, alleging this supposed model of workers' rights is actually, in one former co-op-board director's words, "one of the most abusive in the city."

In today's Post, I tell that story:
Colombia-born Orlando Godoy, 54, had been a floor captain at Windows. He joined up with ROC [which runs Colors] post-9/11, and stuck with it even after most other Windows workers left, because Jayaraman was offering a chance for him to realize his lifelong dream: to become a "co-owner" in a new restaurant venture.

Then came a demand to sign a contract in which workers/owners would agree to certain conditions: "paying monthly dues," "attending protests (at least one per campaign)," "supporting workers [at other restaurants] in any dispute with employers," "testifying in favor of worker legislation" and "holding my elected representatives accountable to his/her responsibilities."

Nonplussed - what did any of this have to do with running a restaurant? - Godoy refused to sign; he was subsequently forced out of ROC altogether.

The problem, he said in a recent interview, is that being a part of ROC and its offspring Colors requires a total embrace of Jayaraman's radicalism - even including trips to D.C. to protest the Iraq War.

"Saru thinks of herself as a workers' Che Guevara, but she's really a Stalin," says Behzad Pasdar.

Indeed, Pasdar charges, Jayaraman used ex-Windows staffers as a "golden goose." "She dragged them around town to [raise money from] foundations. But she wouldn't even pay them as promised."

Read it all.

Earlier: Restaurant Revolutionaries

UPDATE: The blog of Kreitzman Mortensen & Borden picks up on the story, adding its own example of labor-related hypocrisy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spitzer's "Loopholes"

New York's Business Council calls out Governor Eliot Spitzer and The New York Times for their continued use of the phrase "closing loopholes" when they're actually describing tax hikes:
The New York Times continues its policy of referring to Governor Spitzer's business-tax proposals as efforts to close "loopholes," thus buying into one side's arguments in the debate over tax policy. Our Webster's defines "loophole" as: "an ambiguity or omission in the text through which the intent of a statute, contract, or obligation may be evaded." Most of the proposed tax changes in the Executive Budget affect provisions that previous governors and legislators wrote purposefully into the law, and that employers in New York are using exactly as intended. Senate Majority Leader Bruno, Assembly Minority Leader Tedisco, The Business Council and others have pointed these things out repeatedly. Senator Bruno even quoted from a Business Council brochure on the subject during Tuesday's leaders meeting: "These are no mere 'loophole' closings.'" The Times apparently hasn't noticed -- or maybe its reporters just disagree.
Earlier: Read His Lips
Albany Formula of 3 Men in a Room Expands to 6, With One at Odds with the Rest [NYT]
Bottle Bill Revenue a Bone of Contention [Middletown Times-Herald Record]

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Great Moments of the E.U.

From the AP:
BERLIN — An EU official called on Germany to give up the famous freedom of its highways and impose speed limits on the autobahn to fight global warming — a demand that drew angry responses on Sunday in a country that cherishes what it calls "free driving for free citizens."

Dr. Frieden Redefining Hip

The Connoisseur of Cool, city health czar Dr. Tom Frieden, says the (supposed) decline in smoking among city women reflects changing attitudes, The New York Post reports:

"Women are taking charge of their health," said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden.

"It may reflect that smoking is less and less cool. Most people don't want to smoke," Frieden told The Post.

Which brings to mind just one question.

On matters of what's "cool," who are you going to trust?


Or these guys?

Mom e-mails: "I don't think I'd use a picture of Sammy Davis in your smoking thing as he died a very painful death due to his smoking--throat cancer. Maybe you could use Bogart. Oops, no. He died of esophageal cancer because of smoking. How about Yul Brenner? Nope, lung cancer because of . . . oh nevermind. (It's a mother thing.)"

Read His Lips

"Oh, there's one thing we're not going to raise: your taxes. You can take that to the bank." -- Eliot Spitzer, campaign commercial, Fall 2006

"New Bottle Bill Taxes Industry in Quest for Cash" -- headline, Syracuse Post-Standard, March 20, 2007

Quote of the Day

From an e-mail from fellow funkateer, Eric "E-Rockafella" Silvestri:
Don't forget: "An object in funky motion tends to stay funky" - Sir Isaac Newton

Monday, March 19, 2007

300 & Conservatism

Robert George says its "surprising" how conservatives are praising the film 300. As it happens, I attended the movie with Robert and came away somewhat less perplexed. The movie, as most probably already know, is roughly based on the Battle of Thermopylae in 580 BC. There, Spartan king Leonidas strode against popular opinion and, alongside 300 elite soldiers, withstood for two days an advancing Persian army of infinitely greater size.
The very first statement heard in 300 are words that should disturb other more conventional conservatives. Forgive the SPOILERS that will come with this making this observation.

The narrator casually explains that Spartan baby boys are examined to see if they are healthy. Those that are not -- or are deemed weak or too sickly -- are, well, discarded. As in, tossed and left to die.

Call it complete post-birth abortion.

Furthermore, the film, arguably justifies this by -- another SPOILER COMING UP -- a plot point that turns one of the few survivors of this quaint cultural practice, ugly hunchback, into a traitor. Ephialtes betrays the Spartans by throwing in with Xerxes (after being told by Spartan King Leonidas that he is of too low a stature to be of help his fellow Greeks on the battlefield). So, there's a lesson for a "proper" military culture: Kill the weak and sickly -- lest they help destroy the best in your society.
That's not quite right. In the film, Leonidas is impressed with the hunchback's will to fight, even complimenting his strength. But when the hunchback is unable to raise his shield with his left arm, owing to his disfigurement, Leonidas regretfully informs him that the key to Spartan warfare is soldiers' acting as a single organic unit, thus necessitating nimble shield maneuvering. Leonidas also suggests a variety of ways the hunchback can still be of service to the war-fighting effort -- removing bodies from the field of battle, allocating water for the fighters, etc. The hunchback, though, ultimately considers these gestures demeaning. Instead, he gives in to personal temptations, revealing an Achilles heal of Leonidas' position in exchange for pleasures of the flesh from the Persian king.

The message to be taken from this is very much conservative. Whereas liberals exalt individual human beings as inherently decent, faulting society for its capacity to corrupt, conservatives, more often than not, view individual human beings as flawed, looking toward civilizing institutions (like the church) to install moral boundaries, humbleness, and a sense of purpose. In other words, conservatives recognize that nobody's perfect, and work from there, while liberals think "just being yourself" is perfect.

When the mis-figured Spartan wasn't treated as an obvious equal to his physically perfect compatriots -- despite his painfully obvious handicap -- he takes his frustrations out by becoming a traitor, thus elevating his own personal self-interest above that of his country's collective security. Unreasonably inflating individual self worth at the expense of common-sense perspective is at the very heart of contemporary liberalism.

Robert's point is largely that as a people who practiced abortion as a means of perfecting their country's warrior ethos, 300's Sparta can't reasonably be embraced by "conventional," or pro-life, conservatives. Unless I've missed it, this is something of a straw man, as I've yet to see anyone lauding this disturbing method of social engineering. In that particular respect, who today wouldn't condemn the abhorrent practice? A therefore flawed society, Spartans are by no means supposed to personify perfection.

But they do value liberty and realize it does not come cheaply. These Spartan virtues, as described by historian Victor Davis Hanson, are where conservatives can appreciate 300's compelling story:
Most importantly, 300 preserves the spirit of the Thermopylae story. The Spartans, quoting lines known from Herodotus and themes from the lyric poets, profess unswerving loyalty to a free Greece. They will never kow-tow to the Persians, preferring to die on their feet than live on their knees.

If critics think that 300 reduces and simplifies the meaning of Thermopylae into freedom versus tyranny, they should reread carefully ancient accounts and then blame Herodotus, Plutarch, and Diodorus — who long ago boasted that Greek freedom was on trial against Persian autocracy, free men in superior fashion dying for their liberty, their enslaved enemies being whipped to enslave others.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Gotham's Upcoming Funk

Where the Funk Doctor will be bumping his funky rump over the next two months:

March 27: Guru's Jazzmatazz @ Bowery Ballroom

April 13: Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings @ United Palace Theater

April 14: Toubab Krewe @ B.B. King's

April 22: Jedi Mind Tricks @ Gramercy Theatre [sic]

April 26: Clipse @ B.B. King's

April 28: Amon Tobin @ Gramery Theatre [sic]

May 3: Brother Ali @ The Knitting Factory

May 5: Antibalas @ ?? (they announced it at their last show, but I forget the venue)

May 5/6: Beirut @ Bowery Ballroom

May 10: Air @ The Theater at Madison Square Garden

May 11: Damien Marley @ Nokia Theater

May 12: Greyboy Allstars @ Highline Ballroom

June 8: Joss Stone @ Summerstage

July 7: Cinematic Orchestra

***Note: The shows in bold come highly recommended.

'They're All 'F' Trains'

Nicole Gelinas's recent Wall Street Journal oped takes Mayor Bloomberg to task for spending oodles on health care and education while the city's subways fall into greater disrepair. To which I'd only add: hear, hear:
As New York grows more crowded by the day, and subway ridership increases—up 33% since 1996 and at the highest level in 50 years—conditions are dismal. Day after day, people wait 10-deep to get on the escalators to enter stations on Manhattan's East Side, then wait again in standing-room only crowds to exit through dangerous floor-to-ceiling-turnstiles. In Brooklyn, a borough that's seen more than 30,000 apartments go up in a decade, crowding worsens every week on the L and F lines, as more people start their commutes from new buildings. ...

Mr. Bloomberg seems unconcerned about overcrowded and vulnerable subways. When New York Times magazine reporter Jonathan Mahler asked him last year about overcrowding on the East Side line, he replied that commuters should wake up earlier if they don't like rush hours. To be fair, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, accountable to the governor, not the mayor, runs the system. But that's no excuse. The fact that the mayor didn't run the city's dysfunctional education department six years ago didn't stop him from taking control to fix problems there.

Proud To Be an American

From the AP:
TOKYO -- The secret behind Japan's plunging birth rate? A record 39.7 percent of Japanese citizens ages 16-49 have not had sex for over a month -- up 5 percentage points from two years ago -- according to a survey published this week by the Japan Family Planning Association.

Among married couples, the rate was only slightly lower, at 34.6 percent.

"This is very bad news for the country's birth rate, and something the government needs to look into urgently," said Dr. Kunio Kitamura, the family planning association's director.

The survey comes amid concerns over Japan's faltering birthrate, which fell in 2005 to a record low of 1.26 births in an average woman's lifetime. The decline has stoked fears of impeding tax revenue shortfalls and labor shortages.

"The situation is dismal," Kitamura said. "My research shows that if you don't have sex for a month, you probably won't for a year."

Kitamura partly blamed stress from busy working lives.

A decline in physical communication skills in an increasingly Web-based society was also a factor, he said.

The association said it handed out survey forms to 2,713 randomly selected people, and received responses from 636 men and 773 women in November 2006. It gave no margin of error. In a similar poll taken two years ago, 35 percent reported having no sex for a month.

Japan came last in a 29-country study of sexual satisfaction published by the University of Chicago last year, with a mere 25.7 percent of lovers expressing satisfaction in bed.

The country was also in last place among 41 nations in a 2005 poll by condom manufacturer Durex, with people having sex just 45 times a year compared to a global average of 103.

Space-Saving Solutions

Via Russia:

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian woman paid a former convict to kill her 17-year-old son because she was fed up with sharing her small one-room apartment with him, the newspaper Izvestia reported on Wednesday.

The 42-year-old crane operator paid the man a 2,100 rouble ($80) deposit to kill her son, Izvestia said. But the would-be hitman told the police who set up a sting operation and arrested her when she handed over the 900 rouble 'completion' payment.

The woman and her son shared the tiny apartment in the Moscow region with their respective partners and there were frequent rows, which became worse when the son's girlfriend became pregnant.

"The woman decided that by snuffing out her son she could solve her housing problems," the paper said.

Prosecutors confirmed the report and said the suspect would be charged soon.

Chronic housing shortages have dogged Russia for decades. The problem has eased slightly since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but many families of several generations still share cramped apartments.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sorry About Your Dead Baby!

What better way to soothe a guilt-ridden soul than an e-card?
Although greeting card offerings have expanded in recent years to include such milestones as divorce, potty-training and half-birthdays, Baker said she was unaware of anyone else providing after-abortion cards online. The inspiration for the project came in part from a longtime abortion provider who frequently observed there were no Hallmark cards for abortion, she said.

Who Do They Think They're Impressing?

New York City Council bans metal baseball bats, in a 40-6 vote.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Off the Wire

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Related: Wayne Gretzky inducted to Cooperstown.

Happy St. Patricks Day, From the MTA

On the day when the MTA, if it cared at all about cultural traditions, ought to be serving green beer on all every train going to and fro New York City, alcohol is instead being banned, The New York Sun reports:
Anticipating an inebriated crowd commuting into and out of Manhattan to celebrate the holiday along the parade route Saturday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's two commuter railroads, the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad, are banning alcohol from their property that day and into early Sunday, making the Roman Catholic feast day the sole religious holiday when bar cars are closed for business and stations and trains run dry.

"It definitely looks like stereotyping, and that's what the MTA should be faulted for," state Senator Martin Golden, a Republican of Brooklyn who is Irish, said. "Some people do get out of control, but to focus on that day, and on certain segments of the population like that, is totally wrongheaded."

Brooklyn's Hollywood Saga

Anyone not following the Atlantic Yards project is missing out on a classic Hollywood tale unfolding in a real-life setting. We have a classic big-bucks developer (Bruce Ratner) who, in cahoots with public officials with questionable motives (Mike Bloomberg and, earlier, George Pataki and Charles Gargano), are commandeering private property for a project local residents say will destroy their neighborhood. Some recent developments:

-- State lawmakers seeking documents from the Empire State Development Corp., the public agency overseeing the project, detailing Forest City Ratner's full financial plan, were forced to litigate. And only then received a few indecipherable pages. Because the project involves more than a half-billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies, lawmakers understandably felt their constituents deserved knowing more about it. Earlier, the ESDC refused a Freedom of Information Act request.

So, what's the ESDC hiding? If this eminent-domain-dependent development is furthering the "public good," why must the public be kept in the dark?

-- New York State Supreme Court Justice Ira B. Harkavy ruled yesterday that Forest City Ratner illegally obtained property from a landowner within the proposed Atlantic Yards "footprint." The property has been given back to its owner.

-- A new study finds that Park Slope drivers looking for parking spots account for half of the neighborhood's traffic. What's needed? How about another 20,000 cars?

-- In what's likely to be the Atlantic Yards' death knell, NoLandGrab unearths yet another example of the MTA offering explicit favoritism to FCR during the project's earlier stages:
Ratner, [MTA spokesman Tom] Kelley said, "would be given preference" for development [of the railyards] since he has already built the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal in the immediate vicinity.
As Develop Don't Destroy notes,
In his concurring opinion to the Supreme Court's decision in Kelo vs. New London, Justice Anthony Kennedy warned that projects in which there was an "impermissible favoritism" might not pass constitutional muster. Examples of impermissible favoritism, Kennedy wrote, would include instances in which a governmental entity picked out "a particular transferee beforehand."
My prediction: The Atlantic Yards will be defeated in federal court, with Mayor Bloomberg haughtily blaming community organizations like Develop Don't Destroy. The real culprit -- political arrogance -- will go unmentioned.

-- Finally,
Reverend Dr. Daniel Meeter, pastor of Brooklyn's Old First Reformed Church, looks to the Good Book for the morality of eminent domain:
The concentration of power is a moral issue, because it affects human freedom and human choices, especially the freedom and choices of the weak and powerless. The Bible regards the secure possession of private property and its protection from eminent domain as a sign of human freedom and dignity. The defining story is 1 Kings 21, the story of Naboth's Vineyard.

Naboth had a vineyard. A little vineyard, because he was a nobody. But it was close to the palace of King Ahab, and Ahab desired it. Had Ahab been king of any other people than Israel, he could have just taken it. It's what kings do. But the Torah forebade it. The Torah protected as sacred the private property of the family. But Queen Jezebel, herself a gentile, and familiar with the ways of gentile kings, found this preposterous. So she used the tools of royal power to get Naboth's vineyard.

They got away with it. God did not intervene. But the anger and judgment of God was made clear, and in the end, the House of Ahab paid. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house." In the Israel of God, not even kings have eminent domain.

Monday, March 12, 2007

TREND WATCH: Overselling Global Warming

It's hard to keep up, but here's an updated list.

The UK's Stern Report: Global warming will worsen gender inequality, lead to forced marriages.

Turkish textile company: "Due to global warming, knitwear is not attracting enough costumers. This phenomenon ... has pressured us to stop our production."

Aussie imam: Global warming is Allah's revenge for secularism.

Terry Root, Stanford University: "We truly are standing at the edge of mass extinction" of species.

The U.N.: North America "has already experienced substantial ecosystem, social and cultural disruption from recent climate extremes," such as hurricanes and wildfires.

Brothel owner: Global warming hurting business

Apparently, I'm not the only one cataloging the hype. John Brignell's is much longer.


Frontline Magazine: "American lifestyles are creating a climate holocaust."

University of Sydney: "Global warming will cause children's fevers to soar."

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

Al Gore: "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."

Christian Aid: "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."

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

James Lovelock, climatologist: "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."

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

British government: "40 percent species face extinction."

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

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

Chris Thomas, conservation biologist: "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."

'The Great Global Warming Swindle'

I haven't had time to watch this documentary in full, but reliable sources inform it's well worth watching:

Friday, March 9, 2007

Remember the King

Ten years ago today, the Triple Beam Dream passed.

I remember driving in New Canaan, Conn., and tuning into Hot 97. Angie Martinez was crying, taking calls, asking "when is it going to end?" (recall that Tupac had also recently passed). Realizing what had happend, I too shed some tears. Ten years on, looking out at the hip-hop landscape, Biggy Smalls is missed more than ever.


Thursday, March 8, 2007

Questions for Democrats

Roll Call reports today that "Senate Democrats emerged Wednesday from a closed-door meeting with details of a new Iraq resolution calling for phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from that country beginning within three months."

This brings to mind a number of questions. Were I a Washington-based journo, here are 10 I'd think to ask:

1) Yes or no: Is victory in Iraq possible?

2) If no, What does it mean that America can conquer the Axis Powers of World War II but not Iraq-based Islamic insurgents?

3) If yes, Is victory an outcome you favor?

4) If it is, How does a phased withdrawal help achieve victory?

5) If it is not, Is failure consistent with upholding America's national security? If so, how?

6) A recent Pentagon statement credits heightened Baghdad patrols for insurgent attacks falling off 80 percent. If, then, the "surge" is working, why demand its end?

7) What's the worst that could happen from a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq?

8) What are Democrats planning should such a contingency arise?

9) If Osama bin Laden says Iraq is the central front in his Jihad versus the West, how does withdrawal advance the War on Terror, or, less specifically, America's general national security?

10) According to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plan for withdrawal, the latest possible date American troops could remain in Iraq is September 2008. Is there anything significant about this date, other than the fact that it's two months prior to America's next presidential election?

These questions are fairly basic. I'd like to think any halfway serious journalist would ask at least a couple of them. So why is it we won't hear the answers to any?

Great Moments in Public Education

From yesterday's Washington Post:

A health teacher at Argyle Middle School in Silver Spring spoke to eighth-graders yesterday about sexual orientation. And so began a pilot program in Montgomery County schools that delves deeper into issues of sexual and gender identity than most other school systems in the Washington region, if not the nation.

The field test, which will start in five other schools by the end of the month and -- barring legal intervention -- the rest of the county in fall, marks the first time Montgomery teachers have broached homosexuality as a part of the official lesson plan in eighth- and 10th-grade health classes.

About 30 students attended the first session yesterday. Teacher Katie Becker held to a rigid script because of legal concerns. She read, "Today, we will look at behaviors that can have an effect on relationships, including stereotyping based on human sexuality."

Students also studied a "word tree" that showed the effect of derogatory remarks such as "You walk like a girl." And they were asked in a homework assignment to "describe a school where there is empathy, tolerance and respect."

More than 60 Argyle students will receive the new sex-education lessons this week, said Carol Boyd, president of the school's PTSA. The lessons, which require parental permission for students to take, are taught to two classes on alternating days and raise the topic of sexual orientation at grade 8 in a discussion that centers on tolerance, stereotyping and harassment. Grade 10 lessons define the terms in greater depth as part of a frank discussion about the search for sexual identity. These are the lessons that have stirred most of the rancor.

Opposition centers on passages, mostly from the more candid high-school curriculum, that describe gay, lesbian and transgender people "celebrat[ing] their self-discovery" and transsexuals choosing sexual reassignment surgery to "match how they feel."
The program expands nationwide next year.

And we wonder why America's young leave school so stupid?