Monday, April 23, 2007

Iraq, Indefinitely

Drudge has an e-mail from a soldier currently serving in Iraq who takes issue with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's argument that the war is already lost. Give it a read. Just another data point that would seem to favor an indefinite American commitment to Iraq.

Don't You Know Who I Am?

All anyone needs to know about Gov. Eliot Spitzer ... in a single anecdote:
Sanjaya Malakar, the shy, slender, 17-year-old "American Idol" reject, was at his table when a tall, middle-aged man stopped by to ask for an autograph. The boy's hosts, from People magazine, tried to shoo him away.

"We are trying to let him eat," they explained.

The man protested: "But I'm the governor of New York."

And so Eliot Spitzer got his autograph.

He's just like us -- only better.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Fred Thompson, Principled Conservative?


Here he is on taxes, from last Saturday's Wall Street Journal:
President John F. Kennedy was an astute proponent of tax cuts and the proposition that lower tax rates produce economic growth. Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan also understood the power of lower tax rates and managed to put through cuts that grew the U.S. economy like Kansas corn. Sadly, we just don't seem able to keep that lesson learned.

Now, as before, politicians are itching to fund their pet projects with the short-term revenue increases that come from tax hikes, ignoring the long-term pain they always cause. Unfortunately, the tax cuts that have produced our record-breaking government revenues and personal incomes will expire soon. Because Congress has failed to make them permanent, we are facing the worst tax hike in our history. Already, worried investors are trying to figure out what the financial landscape will look like in 2011 and beyond.

And the 2nd Amendment:
Virginians asked their legislators to change the university's "concealed carry" policy to exempt people 21 years of age or older who have passed background checks and taken training classes. The university, however, lobbied against that bill, and a top administrator subsequently praised the legislature for blocking the measure.

The logic behind this attitude baffles me, but I suspect it has to do with a basic difference in worldviews. Some people think that power should exist only at the top, and everybody else should rely on "the authorities" for protection.

Despite such attitudes, average Americans have always made up the front line against crime. Through programs like Neighborhood Watch and Amber Alert, we are stopping and catching criminals daily. Normal people tackled "shoe bomber" Richard Reid as he was trying to blow up an airliner. It was a truck driver who found the D.C. snipers. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that civilians use firearms to prevent at least a half million crimes annually.

Maybe Republicans should embrace Hollywood.

Politicians Attempt Subversion of Constitution; Cheer Themselves on

From today's Washington Post:

A bill giving the District its first full seat in Congress cleared the House yesterday, marking the city's biggest legislative victory in its quest for voting rights in nearly three decades.

Democrats on the House floor burst into applause, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) grabbed the arms of the District's nonvoting delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, as the 241 to 177 vote was announced.

"There was nothing but joy in the chamber this afternoon, because we knew we had given this bill the kind of send-off that can get it through the Senate," Norton (D) said later. ...

Supporters called the bill's passage their biggest victory since 1978, when Congress approved a constitutional amendment to give the city two senators and a House representative. The amendment died after failing to win passage by enough states. The current legislation would not give the District senators.

A news conference after the vote drew a jubilant group of members of Congress, D.C. leaders and activists. They hugged and shook hands, savoring the moment.

Yay! But, naturally, someone has to fund this affront to the Constitution:

The voting rights bill will cost about $2.5 million, largely because of the costs of the Utah seat. According to the legislation passed yesterday, the money will be raised by requiring people with incomes of at least $5 million a year to pay taxes slightly earlier.

"It will affect only 4,000 multimillionaires," said Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who led the Democrats' debate on the measure.

But Republicans fumed over the legislative engineering and Democratic efforts to keep them from offering amendments. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) called it "Orwellian democracy."

Hey, at least they're having fun!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Let Kids Drink

For whatever reason, the drinking age is suddenly a hot topic.

In calling for it to be lowered, National Review's John Miller notes:
When it comes to alcohol, the United States is more like Indonesia, Mongolia, and Palau than the rest of the world: It is one of just four countries that requires people to be at least 21 years old to buy booze. The only countries with stiffer laws are Islamic ones.
In today's New York Post, George Will discusses the drinking age's unintended consequences:
[John] McCardell, 57, president emeritus of Middlebury College in Vermont and professor of history there, says alcohol is and always will be "a reality in the lives of 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds." Studies indicate that the number of college students who drink is slightly smaller than it was 10 years ago, largely because of increased interest in healthy living. But in the majority who choose to drink, there have been increases of "binge drinking" and other excesses. Hospitalizations of 18- to 20-year-olds for alcohol poisoning have risen in those 10 years.
This is hardly surprising. Back in college, I argued (see pg. 6) that it's just not reasonable to expect teenagers to avoid alcohol. Attempts to use the heavy hand of the law to do so only criminalize behavior that is widespread and normal.

Both Will and Miller interview John McCardell of Choose Responsibility, who makes a number of important points regarding the drinking age's unintended corrosive effects on family bonding, teenagers' respect (or lack thereof) for authority, and the similar dynamic seen today between college administrators and u-21 students.

The rule is simple: Don't treat as children those from whom you expect adult-like behavior.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Most Honest Line Ever To Appear in a New York Times Editorial?

"This page normally has little patience for people who gripe about paying taxes." -- from today's lede editorial on the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Actually, it's still less than totally honest. The page always has little patience for those who gripe about paying taxes. One proffered "fix" of the AMT, for example, is a repeal of the Bush tax cuts.

Friday, April 13, 2007

New York Ban Update


In today's Daily News, Benjamin Miller, a fellow at Columbia University's Earth Engineering Center and author of "Fat of the Land: Garbage in New York, the Last Two Hundred Years," brings attention to another misguided proposed ban:

New York's Legislature is considering a ban on plastic shopping bags. The move, following the lead of San Francisco - which passed a citywide ban last month - would force supermarkets throughout the state to provide bags made of paper, degradable plastic or fabric, as opposed to plastic bags, which are made from petroleum.

The bill's sponsor, Assemblyman William Colton (D-Brooklyn), claims this will save the state money, reduce oil consumption and help the environment.

Don't count on it.


Council Speaker Christine Quinn is threatening to override Mayor Bloomberg's veto of a bill banning electric-assist pedicabs. Meanwhile, the lobbyist hired by the Committee for Taxi Safety, Emily Giske, is friends with the speaker, lives in the same building as the speaker, and once said, upon Quinn's ascent to the speakership: "As a lesbian and as a Democrat, I've never been more proud of anything in my life."


Trend Watch: New York Bans
Trend Watch: Proposed New York Bans

Saving the World One Tax Hike at a Time

In car-obsessed California, one lawmaker wants to penalize those who drive the wrong kind, the San Jose Mercury News reports:
Call it the Robin Hood approach to global warming. California drivers who buy new Hummers, Ford Expeditions and other big vehicles that emit high levels of greenhouse gases would pay a fee of up to $2,500.

And drivers who buy more fuel-efficient cars - like the Toyota Prius or Ford Focus - would receive rebates of up to $2,500, straight from the gas-guzzlers' pockets.

That's the provocative proposal from a Silicon Valley legislator whose "Clean Car Discount" bill is gaining momentum, sending car dealers into a tizzy and sparking passions among motorists.

Why? It's the first time California has considered penalizing consumers to limit global warming, rather than just providing incentives such as solar power rebates or special access to the carpool lane for hybrid vehicles.

"If we are going to effectively fight global warming, we are going to have to find a way to get the cleaner cars on the road and the dirtier cars off the road," said Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Los Altos. "We need to have both carrots and sticks."

Ruskin's bill, AB493, won approval of the Assembly Transportation Committee two weeks ago.

The Times's Odd Silence

Now that the Duke Three have been cleared, The Neighborhood Retail Alliance's Richard Lipsky wants The New York Times to apologize for its earlier coverage:
Day two after the exoneration of the Duke lacrosse case, and all we have is editorial silence from the self-described paper of record. ... We did have a long front page article on the exoneration yesterday from Duff Wilson, the same reporter who disgraced the paper in August with a 6,000 word miasma of innuendo that manged to keep suspicion alive with unseen "evidence." In yesterday's piece the Duffer avoided any reference to his earlier journalistic malpractice, and went ahead blithely with a piece that underscored the scathing remarks of AG Cooper, words that highlighted the rogue prosecutorial actions of the disgraced Nifong.

In his remarks Cooper emphasized that there were a lot of people who owed the boys apologies. Duff Wilson sits right near the top of the list and he should be joined by his equally disgraceful colleagues from the sports page-Harvey Araton and Serena Roberts. In August, as KC Johnson and Andrea Peyser have pointed out, Wilson had told the Times readers that evidence only the Times was privileged to see established that, although there were some holes in Nifong's case , "there is also a body of evidence to support his decision to bring the matter to a jury."

If in August there was a "body of evidence," but today, according to AG Cooper there is "an overwhelming lack of other evidence," where did Duff's evidence go? Maybe we'll find it with the Iraqi WMDs? And if it doesn't exist, why hasn't the Times corrected this deliberate attempt to inculpate innocent Duke athletes? And lastly, why hasn't the paper fired Wilson and ordered Araton and Roberts to apologize for their slandering of the innocent?

Quote of the Day

"I hope this ordeal doesn't result in a discontinuation of his delicious salsa." -- my brother, Bently, weighing in on the Imus affair

Monday, April 9, 2007

Note to Handsome Readers

The FunkyPundit will be helping hold it down over at while host Karol Sheinin and her merry band of pranksters terrorize Las Vegas. Should last through Wednesday, I believe.

So, like, check it out. Or something.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Frieden's Tax Hikes

"THE city's Ministry of Culinary Righteousness struck again yesterday, shutting popular Park Avenue South eatery Les Halles for health-code violations including 'conditions conducive to rodents' -- although there were no actual rodents," The Post's Steve Cuozzo reports.

The question that TV-loving Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden should answer is: Does his face turn red in the privacy of his own mirror?

The city's transparent campaign to cleanse itself of the recent KFC-Taco Bell rat stench is bad business in a town where eateries are already besieged by food police who dictate the oils in which french fries can be cooked.

Two months ago, rats were photographed cavorting through a KFC-Taco Bell the day after an inspector found nothing wrong.

Frieden was stung up the wazoo by public and press outrage. Ever since that embarrassment, his food cops have been closing places at three times the previous rate.

And not for entirely just reasons:

Many violations criteria are useless for safeguarding customers' health - like a missing "no spitting" sign or a jar of olives left on the floor, as happened at Coffee Shop.

The city denies targeting the well-known places, saying each posed "an immediate threat to public" health like others closed.

But as Frieden should know, if it looks like a rat and it smells like a rat - it's a rat.

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance's Richard Lipsky adds an important point:
The regulatory jihad is costing local eateries close to $30 million a year, and the decision to force calorie posting will cost an additional $46 million. Very little of the department's activities has any good impact on protecting the health of New Yorkers. It does, however, directly imperil the health of the city's restaurants, a sector that employs hundreds of thousands of our folks. Just another reason why the expansion of government often means trouble for the industrious among us -- and the average citizens who depend on their enterprise.
Herein lies the greatest problem with the city's Health Dept. Policies' actual effects on businesses are never considered. The "menu mandate," which requires many city restaurants to post calorie contents next to menu items in the same type-size, is essentially a tax increase that has a side-effect of altering city menus.

Like the circumcision campaign, there's no scientific data suggesting it will achieve the desired result. Therefore, its one, certifiable impact -- increasing the cost of business -- should be what attracts the greatest attention.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

A Few Must-Reads

-- The Washington Post, hardly a lapdog of the president, absolutely eviscerates Madam Speaker Pelosi's diplomatic adventures in Syria.

-- In a "loosely scientific" analysis, Radar details The New York Times' top 10 most error-prone reporters. In rather biting fashion, to boot.

-- Robert Tracinski says the Supreme Court ruled Monday that "the EPA is obliged to treat every substance on earth as a pollutant to be regulated, unless it can demonstrate why that substance is not a pollutant." Well, just the ones involved in any part of the economy, anyway.

Frieden Wants Your Foreskin!

The New York Times reports:

In the United States, “New York City remains the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic,” Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city’s health commissioner, said in an interview. Referring to H.I.V., he said, “In some subpopulations, you have 10 to 20 percent prevalence rates, just as they do in parts of Africa.”

His department has started asking some community groups and gay rights organizations to discuss circumcision with their members, and has asked the Health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs city hospitals and clinics, to perform the procedure at no charge for men without health insurance. ...

No spontaneous outcry for circumcision has arisen in New York, Dr. Frieden conceded.

“This is not something that has a lot of buzz,” he said.

But he added that even 1,000 circumcisions in the right subgroups might slow the spread of AIDS.

You know what else might discourage the spread of AIDS? Not promoting sex with strangers.

Interestingly, though, Frieden's latest campaign has no actual scientific grounding, as he himself concedes:
In three recent clinical trials in Africa, circumcision was shown to lower a man’s risk of contracting the virus from heterosexual sex by about 60 percent. On March 28, the World Health Organization officially recommended that countries adopt the procedure as part of their AIDS prevention plans. ...

The studies, done in Uganda, Kenya and South Africa, enrolled men who said they had sex with women, while New York’s highest-risk groups are men who have sex with men, men who inject drugs and people who have sex with those men.

Nonetheless, Dr. Frieden said, it is logical to assume that circumcision would offer protection in some types of gay sex.

A man’s risk from performing penetrative anal sex is about the same as his risk from vaginal sex, Dr. Frieden said, so circumcision would presumably confer the same protection as it did in the African trials.

The risk from receptive anal sex is five times higher, he said, and circumcision would obviously not protect those men. Oral sex is much less risky.
From extrapolation, to projection, to social policy. So runs the mind of Dr. Frieden.

UPDATE: The New York Times reports this latest Frieden adventure may be too much even for the famously maternal Mayor Bloomberg.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Good News From Iraq

Courtesy of ABC News. Seriously.

Good thing congressional Democrats want to revert back to the bad old days.


From The Corner:

Oh, Yes, That's What Bothers Me So About This Whole Spectacle [Kathryn Jean Lopez]

From the Telegraph:

The only wry smile to be derived from the humiliating circumstances in which our 15 sailors and Royal Marines were captured by just six Iranians came from the comment by Patricia Hewitt. "It was deplorable," pronounced our tight-lipped Health Secretary, "that the woman hostage should be shown smoking. This sends completely the wrong message to our young people."
(h/t: Karol)

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Supremes' Green Dreams

Five members of the Supreme Court ruled Monday that an unelected federal bureaucracy must regulate -- or, failing that, explain clearly why it will not -- the emission of carbon dioxide, a gas that human beings exhale with every breath. How this will play out is anyone's guess.

The Wall Street Journal speculates:
The ruling means the EPA must regulate automobile emissions unless that agency can show the science of global warming, or the potential harm it may cause, are too uncertain to justify action. The Bush EPA will no doubt be sued whatever it does. Congress will also dive in with more regulation, if only to clear up the legal uncertainty.
Cato's Patrick Michaels expounds on the ruling's ominous implications:
The implications may be quite staggering. The decision means that carbon dioxide qualifies as a 'pollutant', something that causes net harm. This surely will open up a massive number of subsidiary cases. What levels of carbon dioxide emissions, if any, are allowed without being labeled pollutants? There is very little in our society that does not have some relationship to the production of carbon dioxide. Make no mistake -- we have now entered the era where the courts will enter into almost every aspect of our lives.
The last I checked, the Constitution was designed specifically to prevent unaccountable, distant bureaucracies from imposing rules on Americans. Yet the EPA has essentially just been given a green-light to control every facet of American life. This can't be constitutional.

Then again, what do I know? I'm not a Supreme Court justice.

Related commentary:

Jonathan Adler: Hot Times in the High Court
The Wall Street Journal: Jolly Green Justices
Henry Payne: The Green Supremes

Drunken Driving Still Allowed in Jersey

... if you drive a zamboni.

N.J. Judge: No such thing as zamboni DWI [White Rock Reviewer]

(h/t: E-Rock)

Emperor Penguins

Today's video:

Monday, April 2, 2007

Quote of the Day

"I so admire the courage of the new voters we had on this," Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said moments after Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) helped deliver a 50-48 majority on the [decision to announce an American surrender in Iraq] issue.

Interesting, Reid's conception of courage.

Empire State Smokeasies

Since New York City banned smoking pretty much everywhere, there remains no shortage of bars that allow patrons to puff away. In upstate New York, though, where a statewide ban prohibits smoking, the Albany Times Union reports bar-owners are a bit less circumspect.
Walk into the music club Positively Fourth Street in Troy on some nights and you'll find several people smoking. Owner and musician Artie Fredette will not admit to allowing smoking, but he will loudly express his disdain for the law. A few years ago, his band, the Lawn Sausages, released a single called "Smoke This, Joe Bruno," in reference to the Senate majority leader.

"We are losing so many rights every day," said Fredette, who has owned a number of bars in Troy over the years. "Now you can't use trans fats in New York City and they are talking about making kids wear helmets while sledding. I'm not selling holy water here."
Fredette has a perfectly reasonable suggestion:

Fredette believes bar owners who want to allow smoking in their establishments should be able to pay for an additional license.

"That way, the state will make all the money they need to make," he said. "And when you hire someone, you should have them sign a waiver to say they know they are working in a smoking environment."

Unlike New York City, where complacency is too-often the rule, upstaters are less enthusiastic to see their liberty extinguished:
Champagne, the Rensselaer environmental health director, said it is often frustrating to investigate neighborhood bars, because employees and clientele are often hostile when it's suggested they put down their smokes. He said one of his inspectors was threatened at a bar this winter and had to call police.

"All the people in there smoke," said Champagne. "At that point, who are we protecting in terms of public health?"

No matter. Whether bar workers like it or not, health cops will "protect" them.
Since the smoking ban went into effect in 2003, "20 percent of our members went out of business," said Scott Wexler, executive director of the Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association.

"There is no question that it had a short-term severe economic impact on the industry," he said. "The independent operators will adjust, but there are victims of this. Not only the owners, but the employees that lost their jobs."

Workers will "protected" -- even if it comes at the cost of their livelihoods. Such is the moralism of today's health crusade.

Fit To Be Embarrassed

Egged on by Bob Herbert, New York Times letters writers tried their hands this weekend at predicting why the White House is really opposed to congressional representation for D.C. denizens.

The first letter speculates gun-lobby pandering:

What could possibly be the rationale behind denying taxpaying Americans representation in Congress?

Bob Herbert says pressure from the gun lobby helped torpedo recent legislation to give District of Columbia residents just one seat in the House of Representatives, saving President Bush from having to live up to his threat of a veto.

The second speculates racism:

Bob Herbert’s welcome plea to create Congressional representation for the District of Columbia’s nearly 600,000 citizens doesn’t note one key explanation for the administration’s opposition: the District is 65 percent black; its new House member would undoubtedly be black (and a Democrat); and if the new House bill is a steppingstone to true and full Congressional representation — two senators as well — those folks would share the same demographic and political characteristics.

In New Orleans, we’ve already seen the disrespect and neglect the administration shows to black-majority cities. Why would we expect things to be different for Washington?

Must it always be a conspiracy? Why not: Because it's plainly unconstitutional?

Or perhaps the Times' letters editor is secretly a Bush operative, furtively drawing attention to embarrassing displays of Times readers' ignorance.

The Middle East's Fading Anti-Americanism

For those interested in formulating an opinion on what America's doing right now in Iraq, Amir Taheri's writing is indispensable. In his latest for the Post, Taheri apprises of how political parties are developing in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most interesting: leftist groups are allying, and rejecting their ingrained anti-Americanism.

Here are a few nuggets:
* In Iraq, two rival Communist parties, along with Social Democrats and other center-left groups, supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and continue to play a significant role in the new pluralist system. They are resolutely opposed to a premature withdrawal of American and allied forces, as demanded by the U.S. Congress. ...

BEFORE the U.S.-led inter ventions in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2003, much of the Middle Eastern Left shared the views of its U.S. and European counterparts with regard to America.

"We looked to the Left in the West and imitated it," says Awad Nasir, one of Iraq's best-known poets and a life-long Communist. "We heard from the United States and Western Europe that being Left meant being anti-American. So we were anti-American. And then we saw Americans coming from the other side of the world to save us from Saddam Hussein - something that our leftist friends and the Soviet Union would never contemplate." ...

IRAQ'S parties of the Left were shocked when the new So cialist government in Spain decided to withdraw from the U.S.-led coalition in 2004. "We had hoped that with a party of the Left in power in Madrid we would get more support against the Islamofascists, not a withdrawal," says Aziz al-Haj, the veteran Iraqi communist leader.

Tareq al-Hashemi, vice president of Iraq, has also gambled his impeccable progressive record on the success of the pluralist experiment in his country. "Our enemy is al Qaeda, not the United States," he says.

Jumblatt, the Lebanese leader, says he realized that his life-long anti-Americanism had been misplaced when he saw "long lines of people, waiting to vote in Iraq, in the first free election in an Arab country. ...

SKIMMING through the Middle Eastern press these days can produce unexpected results. It's not rare to see a virulently anti-American article by an American or Western European leftist - and, alongside it on the same page, a pro-American article from an Arab, Iranian or Afghan progressive figure.
We're winning.