Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bloomberg's Land Grabs

What should be one of the most controversial aspects of Mayor Bloomberg's tenure is his cavalier use of eminent domain. But for whatever reason, there just isn't much resistance -- outside the Atlantic Yards project, that is -- for top-down development projects, whereas City Hall plays the role of private developer.

The threat of eminent domain now hangs over property-owners' heads in Prospect Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Willets Point, and upper Manhattan. On that latter score, the Neighborhood Retail Alliance's Richard Lipsky reports on the latest:
It now appears that the City Planning Commission, unless there is some last minute intervention, will certify Columbia University's land use application at its June 4th meeting. This precipitous move, coming as it does before there has been any meaningful negotiations between Columbia and the community, has already begun to spark controversy.

In strongly worded letters, both CB#9 and the West Harlem LDC (formed to negotiate with the university), asked Planning Chair Burden to put off certification because, in the words of Board Chair J. Reyes-Montblanc, "It will be a great disservice to the Community, the Administration and Columbia University to issue such certification and referral during the month of June. The consequences of such an inadvisable action by DCP are dangerously enormous and may even involve public disturbance, this is how serious the situation could be." (emphasis added)

The LDC gets it just right when it tells CPC's Burden that certification this Monday, "will offend the essence of the ULURP process which is designed to seek community comment and involvement." The action also exposes the sham nature of these negotiations, proceeding along the lines of first getting the approval and then tossing the community as meager bone when it's under no pressure to really accomodate the local needs.
To qualify for a legitimate eminent-domain taking under New York law, the targeted area must be blighted if the project is intended for something other than a "public" project. That the city appears willing to pretend northern Manhattan is blighted so as to usher Columbia's expansion along doesn't reveal much respect for the limited nature of eminent domain law. Lucky for Bloomberg that not too many New Yorkers value the principle of private property.

UPDATE: Lipsky's latest.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The $25 Cigarette

New York Post columnist Steve Dunleavy, now pushing 80, is still being carded for a pack of smokes:

May 30, 2007 -- IT may not make the Guinness Book of Records, but I believe I paid the highest price in the world to smoke a single cigarette - $25, to be exact.

Up front, I have to say I deplore the evil habit of smoking. But there are so many souls out there, enslaved to the sinister cigarette, they will understand.

Now, back to the exorbitant price I paid for my sin of smoking.

I recently got my bill from a very charming boutique hotel in downtown L.A. called the Hilton Checkers.

On the 21st line of charges was the notation: "Smoking in the room: $200."

Yes, I had been told it was a nonsmoking hotel, but like most desperadoes in the grip of nicotine, I've gotten away with it before in nonsmoking rooms. (Wrong, I know.)

Over a period of four nights, I smoked two cigarettes a night, defying the prohibition. Total, eight cigarettes. Hence, my extra charge of $200 amounted to $25 a cigarette.

Listen, I'm not whining. I broke the announced rules, and I'll swallow (or inhale) the fine.

Back home now. For me it's an hour trip on the Long Island Rail Road to work. I stop at a Hudson News in Penn Station. Marlboro Lights, I ask, and this very sweet, polite young lady asks: "Can I see your ID?"

Digging through a thick wallet can be exhausting, so I leave the newsstand on the east side of the concourse and find another, on the west side. Again, politely, I'm asked, "Can I see your ID?"

I go upstairs to the Amtrak concourse, again request my fix, and again I'm asked for ID.

I finally produce a NYPD-issued press card, and I think the clerk was intimidated (something I hoped would happen), and she sold me a pack of smokes, although the press card did not state my birthdate.

Here I am, with more lines on my face than the San Andreas fault. I'm racing into my eighth decade seven months away, and these lovely ladies want to card me.

All right, I surrender on all counts. They've banned smoking at bars, hit us with giant taxes, but why declare war on us poor, wayward souls?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What's So Bad About Amnesty?

Tamar Jacobs says that if this bill represents amnesty, most Americans favor amnesty.

Slogans for Me, Not for Thee

The father of the "Two Americas" slogan, John Edwards, says the War on Terror is "a slogan designed only for politics," Tom Bevan writes:
On this point [eradicating American poverty being a "great moral issue"] we can't question Edwards' sincerity, but it certainly does bring up questions about his judgment. Last month during the first Democratic debate, MSNBC's Brian Williams asked the group of presidential hopefuls for a show of hands from those who would answer yes to this question: "Do you believe there is such a thing as a global war on terror?" Four candidates raised their hands; John Edwards was not among them.

Is the plight of the poor (in the richest country in the world, no less) really a greater moral issue than dealing with a worldwide movement of religious fanatics who slaughter innocents around the globe -- including more than three thousand of our own citizens on September 11 -- and whose stated mission is the destruction of the United States?

Actually, this makes perfect sense -- if you're crazy.

Friday, May 25, 2007

John Edwards, Crazy

A not-to-be missed item from yesterday's Inside Politics column from The Washington Times:
Bob Shrum, the famed consultant to a string of failed Democratic presidential candidates, including Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, seems determined to embarrass his former client and current presidential hopeful John Edwards in the forthcoming book "No Excuses: Confessions of a Serial Campaigner," the New Republic's Michael Crowley writes at

Mr. Shrum's book "repeatedly portrays Edwards as a hyper-ambitious phony," Mr. Crowley said.

For example, Mr. Shrum says Mr. Kerry had qualms about choosing Mr. Edwards to be his presidential running mate in 2004, but grew "even queasier" after Mr. Edwards said he was going to share a story with Mr. Kerry he had never told anyone else — that after his son, Wade, had been killed, he climbed onto the slab at the funeral home and hugged his body and promised that he would do all he could to make life better for people.

"Kerry was stunned, not moved, because, as he told me later, Edwards had recounted the exact story to him, almost in the exact same words, a year or two before — and with the same preface, that he'd never shared the memory with anyone else. Kerry said he found it chilling, and he decided he couldn't pick Edwards unless he met with him again."

Mr. Shrum says that, in the end, Mr. Kerry "wished that he'd never picked Edwards, that he should have gone with his gut" and selected former Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri.
You know how you can tell Edwards is deep into wacko-land? He makes John Kerry look normal by comparison.

New Yorkers on 'President Bloomberg'

From today's Political Diary, from The Wall Street Journal:

Despite New York's reputation as the bluest of liberal states, Mr. Bloomberg would have a chance. The latest Quinnipiac Poll finds that his approval rating in overwhelmingly Democratic New York City is 74%. Only 19% disapprove. As for what office they would like their popular mayor to run for, New Yorkers say he should aim for the governor's mansion.

If Mr. Bloomberg runs for president, 37% of New York City voters say they "definitely" or "probably" would vote for him, while 54% say they "probably" or "definitely" wouldn't vote for him. That would make it difficult for Hizzoner to win even New York's electoral votes, given upstate New York's historic suspicion of Big Apple mayors.

But the governor's race is another matter. For that office, 60% of New York City residents say they "definitely" or "probably" would vote for him, with 33% saying they "probably" or "definitely" wouldn't.

Says Quinnipiac Poll director Maurice Carroll: "Mayor Bloomberg is like the Energizer Bunny: He keeps running and running. But what is he running for? While the press speculates, the public is divided -- the White House or the Executive Mansion? Albany beats Washington as the favored destination for a post-mayoral Mike."

Even if the White House were his ultimate objective, starting with New York might be his smartest next step.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

'Live Free or Die'

Lives another day. The Union Leader reports:

The mandatory seatbelt bill hit a bump in the road when the Senate Transportation and Interstate Committee voted to recommend the bill be killed.

The committee voted 3-2 on the recommendation and the full Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill May 31. ...

The bill, HB 802, passed the House last month by 13 votes. New Hampshire is the last state in the country without a mandatory seatbelt law, although restraints are required for children and teenagers. ...

[Republican Sen. Bob] Clegg said after the committee vote, "I don't think we should ever fear punishment as a reason to do anything. Government shouldn't be something everybody is afraid of. If seatbelts are a good idea, then we ought to educate people so they'll use them.

He said he does not use a seat belt when he drives his truck, and is not convinced that seatbelts provide a fail-safe remedy to highway deaths.

"My son once slid sideways on the ice and ended up with a branch through the door of his car. If he'd been wearing a seatbelt, it would've skewered him. Instead, the branch pushed him to the other side of the car," Clegg said. "So no, I choose not to buckle, and I think it's baloney that the government would tell me that I have to, or else."

UPDATE: James Taranto relays another story where wearing a seatbelt would have ended a driver's life. Is it not clear drivers ought to be able to decide for themselves whether wearing a seatbelt is in their own best interests?

UPDATE II: New Hampshire becomes the 13th state to reject Congress's Real ID program mandating updated state drivers licenses.

Americans, Second-Best Tourists ...

But the worst dressed? So say 15,000 European hoteliers.

(Via Karol)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Good News From Iraq

From Time, of all places:
There is good news from Iraq, believe it or not. It comes from the most unlikely place: Anbar province, home of the Sunni insurgency. The level of violence has plummeted in recent weeks. An alliance of U.S. troops and local tribes has been very effective in moving against the al-Qaeda foreign fighters. A senior U.S. military official told me—confirming reports from several other sources—that there have been "a couple of days recently during which there were zero effective attacks and less than 10 attacks overall in the province (keep in mind that an attack can be as little as one round fired). This is a result of sheiks stepping up and opposing AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq] and volunteering their young men to serve in the police and army units there." The success in Anbar has led sheiks in at least two other Sunni-dominated provinces, Nineveh and Salahaddin, to ask for similar alliances against the foreign fighters. And, as TIME's Bobby Ghosh has reported, an influential leader of the Sunni insurgency, Harith al-Dari, has turned against al-Qaeda as well. It is possible that al-Qaeda is being rejected like a mismatched liver transplant by the body of the Iraqi insurgency.

Iraq Unplugged

"Throughout history, soldiers have written and played music that has rarely been available to the public. However, today's technology allows us to share our music with you, straight from Baghdad."

Tune in.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Shades of '1984'

Is this kid anything other than brainwashed?

An Easy Way To Cut the Deficit

End this baloney:

Method Man's Head Fried Like a Bad Perm

"The bad seed from the bad sperm
Weed got my head fried like a bad perm
What the blood -
We smoke pot
You wanna think twice i think not
The iron lung ain't gotta tell ya where I'm comin' from"

-- Method Man on "Triumph" by the Wu Tang Clan

The Daily Dish reports:

Wu-Tang Clan rapper Method Man was arrested in New York City on Thursday night for driving under the influence of marijuana.

The 36-year-old hip-hop star, real name Clifford Smith, was stopped at the Battery Tunnel toll booths in Brooklyn at 10 pm.

Smith was attempting to pay the tunnel toll when Officer Donald Johnston spotted his vehicle's inspection sticker had expired and upon investigation, allegedly found the rapper smoking a joint.

Police allegedly discovered 28 grams of marijuana in Smith's Lincoln Navigator vehicle, the New York Daily News reports.

The Grammy winner was arraigned in Brooklyn Criminal Court Friday and charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, criminal possession of marijuana, operating a motor vehicle under the influence and driving an uninspected motor vehicle.

And herein lies another possible ad campaign for E-ZPass.

Chuck D, Supply-Sider?

A Newsday editorial today reports that Public Enemy's Chuck D recently spoke about the tax climate in his hometown, Roosevelt, L.I.:
At a ceremony Saturday in his hometown of Roosevelt, legendary rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy said he is proud to tell the world of his love for this poor square mile within affluent Nassau County, where he still owns a house. But in his closing remarks he sounded more like thousands of frustrated Roosevelt homeowners: "The taxes are way too high."

True that. So it's easy to understand why voters last week rejected Roosevelt's school budget: In a community that pays the highest property taxes in the county relative to values - and gets the poorest performing school district for its dollars - the proposed 7 percent hike was undoubtedly too much to bear.
No doubt.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Cultural Condescension

From the Daily News. Here's today's lede editorial on a gun raffle Virginia gun makers organized in honor of Mayor Bloomberg:
"Well, golly gee, Gomer, that were a butt-kickin' gun giveaway down in ol' Virginny t'other night, weren't it?" In case you missed it, something called the Virginia Citizens Defense League held a "Bloomberg Gun Giveaway" to raise funds to pay the legal fees of firearms dealers who are being sued by Mayor Mike for illegally selling weapons.

According to the league, the prizes were "a beautiful Para Ordinance [sic] PX745E handgun" and "a sweet Browning Varmint Stalker," and we thank the league for offering the rare opportunity to use the words "sweet," "varmint" and "stalker" in the same sentence.

The weapons were said to be worth about $1,000 apiece, which, as civilized people know, is nowhere near the value of a single human life, approximately 29,500 of which are lost in the U.S. annually because of guns.

What might happen, I wonder, were a Virginia paper to do the same, except using the broken English of ebonics to rip New Yorkers? The Daily News would scream racism. Good thing liberal elitists are incapable of anything so dastardly.

'Bad Habits Fuel Longevity'

Perhaps Mayor Bloomberg and his health czar, Thomas Frieden, can hire Zhang Shuqing to head up a new outreach program. China Daily explains:

Zhang Shuqing, a centenarian in Pixian, Sichuan, has his own secret for long life - smoking every day and drinking liquor after every meal.

Zhang, whose daughter died eight years ago, turned 100 on May 7. He lives with his nephew Zhang Chenggui.

Zhang senior said he started smoking and drinking strong liquor when he was in his early 20s. Since then, he has smoked every day and taken a drink with every meal.

According to his grandson Xu, Zhang has consumed 15 tons of liquor and more than a ton of tobacco in his lifetime.

Zhang, who is in good health, has a huge appetite, with a standard meal comprising two chicken legs, a bowl of steamed pork fat and glutinous rice, vegetables and fruit. And he eats the lot in less than 20 minutes.

(Via Fark)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Don't Look! Hide Your Children!! It's Amnesty!!!

Reading some of the reactions to the immigration bill that passed the House yesterday, one might think the word "amnesty" is the dirtiest in the English language.

Above a picture of senators laughing, Katheryn Lopez writes, "Let's pretend it's not amnesty."

Charles Krauthammer: "Look, this is clearly amnesty."

John Hinderaker at Powerline: "I'm afraid that no matter what the 'compromise' ostensibly consists of, the feature that will actually be implemented is amnesty for the 12 million existing illegals."

John Mirengoff at Powerline: "The only part of the program a conservative rationally can expect to work is amnesty."

And Michelle Malkin, of course, hasn't stopped muttering the "a" word since the House vote.

And so on and so on and so on ...

So, why, exactly, is amnesty such a dirty word? According to one politician, because it means people broke "our nation's laws" to get into the country. Congressional authors hoping to avoid charges of amnesty created a series of penalties that, once paid, allow illegal immigrants to enter a path toward citizenship. The punitive process involves paying a $5,000 fine, returning to your native country, applying for citizenship (at which point you're allowed back), and then waiting anywhere from eight to 13 years.

Is this not harsh enough? To many on the right, it's tantamount to a get-out-of-jail free card. Which makes me wonder: Just what do they want? Nothing short of deportation? (For Mark Krikorian, that's a rhetorical question.) Seriously, though, can anyone actually imagine attempting a mass round-up and send-off of 12 million people? It would be a ghastly affair, with mothers being torn from the arms of their American-citizen children.

So if it's not mass deportations, as Krikorian favors, what policy suffices? The dearth of ideas on this front isn't dissimilar from anti-war types who proclaim their hatred of violence yet are conspicuously unimaginative about how to confront violence in its most aggressive forms.

Personally, illegally entering this country doesn't exactly strike me as the crime of the century. It's like leaving the gates to your swimming pool open and then scolding the children next door for using it -- even when you could see perfectly well the weekly pool parties they've been throwing for the last ten years from the comforts of your second-floor balcony. The only difference is that those who illegally enter America -- and I'm talking, for the most part, about Mexicans and South/Central Americans -- risk life and limb to do so. Not because they have some sort of vendetta against U.S. immigration formalities, but because their present circumstances are so unmitigatedly horrible that they've considered the options and deemed the potentially fatal risk worth taking. It may be illegal, but it's the sort of crime I could see myself committing were I in similar circumstances. (And I'm a pretty good guy.)

If politicians want to get serious about immigration, you can't continue leaving the gate open and then feigning outrage whenever people take advantage.

My solution? Build the fence. Then man it with immigration agents who can immediately process the new arrivals. America needs more people who aspire to be American. If overpopulation is a concern -- and I don't think it is -- some intrepid politician ought to think of a way to ease the ability to remove those who outwardly hate this country. Make space for those who love it, I say.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Interesting Reading

Scientists who have reversed their opinion on global warming.

Behold ...

A rarely attempted, yet beautifully executed, goofy-footed reverse baby flip -- a reliable crowd pleaser.

(H/T: O.D.B.)

UPDATE: Remix!

TREND WATCH: Overselling Global Warming

There have been so many since the last installment, but the latest definitely needed to be bookmarked for posterity.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF): 'We have five years to save the planet'

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."

Quote of the Day

Via yesterday's Best of the Web:
"Wouldn't it be weird if French President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy turns out to be more pro-American than all the Democrats running for U.S. president?"--Jim Seay of Henrico, Va., quoted in the Richmond Times Dispatch's "Your Two Cents" feature

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hello, I'm Tom Elliott, and I Smoke While Driving

I have a confession. Sometimes, when I'm all alone, when I'm relaxing in the privacy of my car, when I'm at one with myself and the open road, I smoke a cigarette. I enjoy it. I find it helps train the mind. When it's been a long trip and I'm starting to fade, nicotine reliably refocuses to the task at hand. Cigarettes, in my mind, help make the trip safer. Not only by boosting energy, but by bringing a sense of pleasure to driving. While others react frantically to an onset of traffic, cutting others off in road-rage inspired mania, I'll reach for a Camel Light, turn up the music, and relax.

So lucky for me, then, that this seemingly personal recreation is now being targeted by the health fanatics of the world. The Guardian reports on an effort to ban Smoking While Driving in Britain:
Britain's senior road safety campaigners are calling for a ban on smoking while driving, in an attempt to cut the number of crashes.

The Department of Health said last night that it would seriously consider a ban, which is also being looked at in Germany, Australia and America. The move was backed by anti-smoking campaigners but drew criticism from others as an attack on personal freedom. From 1 July, England will join the rest of the UK by introducing a ban on smoking in enclosed public places and at work.
How is Smoking While Driving dangerous?
The association claims that drivers are in danger when they take their hands off the wheel to find, light and smoke cigarettes, and are particularly at risk if a lit cigarette or ash falls in the car or is blown back through the window. The organisation, which represents 180 of Britain's 200 local roads authorities, fears that once people who drive are stopped from lighting up in other places from 1 July, they will smoke more while in their own cars.
The Guardian goes on to helpfully note that "Last year there were 3,201 deaths on Britain's roads." How many of these deaths were caused by Smoking While Driving is unclear. I'd guess somewhere near zero. Sure, smoking can be distracting -- though I somehow doubt I'm the only one who's able to retrieve a cigarette, use the car lighter, push the window-down button, all without taking my eyes off the road. The reality is that Smoking While Driving can be perfectly safe.

A spokesman for the association, Simon Ettinghausen, said: "In this country, we're libertarians, we like to give people freedoms, but if you are distracted unfortunately your freedom to do these things can affect other people's lives."

We like to give people freedoms. Ettinghausen's high opinion of himself notwithstanding, public officials don't "give people freedoms." People are born free. It is only upon first confronting government, with its monopoly hold on coercive power, that an individual's naturally-endowed liberty is curtailed.

Universally limiting liberty should only be done under the most dire of circumstances. The apparently empirically baseless notion that banning Smoking While Driving enhances safety is anything but.

(H/t: Karol)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Paging Andrew Sullivan

Ralph Peters asks:

Whether you're left, right or in between, ask yourself this yes-or-no question: If torturing a known terrorist would save the life of the person you love most in the world, would you approve it?

If your answer is "no," you're not a moral paragon. You're an abomination. And please make your position clear to your husband or wife, mother or father, son or daughter. Just tell 'em, "Sorry, honey, but I'd rather see you dead than mistreat a terrorist. It's a moral issue with me."

'Where's the Beef?'

Kevin Hassett says Barack Obama is looking a lot like Gary Hart:
Back in the 1984 presidential campaign, Hart challenged Walter Mondale, the heavy favorite for the Democratic Party nomination, by billing himself as the candidate of ``new ideas.'' Hart was gaining momentum, winning a number of state primaries, including Florida. He began to fold, however, after Mondale famously challenged his ``new ideas'' with the immortal line: ``Where's the beef?'' ...

The Hart story suggests an important lesson for those seeking office. It is a bad idea to bill oneself as the candidate with new ideas. If the ideas are truly innovative strategies to solve our nation's problems, then things might work out. But if the ideas are weak or rehashed, the candidate is in trouble.
To paraphrase a Robert George quip, Obama's ideas are about as "fresh" as a 1976 copy of Mother Jones.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Why Bloombergism Would Never Work on a National Scale

Speaking today in Houston, Mayor Bloomberg outlined a national energy plan that includes ... banning "incandescent lightbulbs."

Quote of the Day

"I can only hope this means that the MPAA will strip such films as 'Casablanca' . . . of their G ratings and relabel them for what they were: insidious works of prosmoking propaganda that led to millions of . . . deaths." -- Christopher Buckley, author of "Thank You for Smoking," on the Motion Picture Association of America's decision to factor smoking into its movie ratings.

More on this, incidentally, to come.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

'Intellectual Pigmies'

One of the smartest guys alive, George Gilder, author of "Wealth and Poverty" and now something of a microchip genius, weighs in on Al Gore and his horror flick, "An Inconvenient Truth":
The disabling flaw of the Al Gore movie is that nearly all the details (Kilamanjaro, the Chad lake, the spread of diseases and on and on) dissolve as soon as you investigate them. (It’s been colder than usual on Kil; the lake is a few feet deep and disappears cyclically; the diseases are unrelated to GW.)

The key to his scientific argument is the famous Academy Award extrapolation of CO2 increases to the skies, as dramatized by his elevator lift scene.

But far from an exponential, CO2 does not even have anywhere near a linear impact on temperatures. If he compared the increase in CO2 not to existing CO2 but to the gyrations of other greenhouse gasses, particularly water vapor, which is 130 times more voluminous, he would have had to crawl along the bottom of the chart with a magnifying glass.

The idea that CO2, which is absorbed by plants and sustains them (to the extent of a 28% increase in foliage in recent years), is a pollutant of any kind will be regarded by future scientists as the looniest notion of our increasingly innumerate media culture. Nick Tredennick did a great short essay on this. (See

As Richard Feynman pointed out about adjectival "sciences," environmental science probably isn't. It's science for rich upper class dummies like Bobby Kennedy and Sharon Rockefeller who think they should be able to push around current wealth creators because their own wealth is "well seasoned" by time and refined by Ivy "liberal arts." They themselves are intellectual pigmies compared to their forbears in business whom they depend on for their trust fund support and disdain in politically correct fatuities.
Link here (2nd item)

Monday, May 7, 2007

Has the Media Learned Nothing?

In today's D.C. Examiner, I expand on some earlier thoughts, taking Washington's press corps to task for it's curious lack of interest in asking tough questions to Democrats proposing "a new way forward" in Iraq:

Having failed to survive Bush’s veto, Democrats are now scrapping “timetables” in favor of “benchmarks.” Ostensibly these make America’s continued support conditional upon verifiable progress from Iraq’s government.

Again, the press, Washington’s (with its closer access) in particular, has an opportunity to prove its mettle. Tough questions:

» Does it make sense to threaten American allies?

» How can Congress be sure “benchmarks” won’t increase short-term violence, whereby insurgents could ensure discontinued U.S. support?

» Who creates the benchmarks? How will they be verified? How will it be determine they’ve been met to satisfaction?

Read the rest here.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Notes From the Puddle Strut

My friend Seth Hayden, who lives in Seattle -- and plays the guitar (of course) -- has created a blog. It's called Notes from the Puddle Strut, which probably means something that I'm not cool enough to understand. You should totally read it, because he writes about Seth Hayden, and what more could any surfer of the blogosphere want than that?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

New Beasties

Hooray! The Beastie Boys are cutting their usual four-year post-album-release slack-off period to a mere three years! This June they're releasing "The Mix-Up," the band's second instrumentals-only album.

"There are no vocals, no samples," Mike D tells Pitchfork. "We played everything. But as different as that might be from To the 5 Boroughs, it's equally different from instrumental songs we've done before, like the ones that were on The In Sound From Way Out! That was kind of one direction and this one [has] different influences, like Public Image Ltd., Gang of Four, the Slits, Killing Joke."

Who those bands are, the FunkyPundit has no clue -- though many sound suspiciously indy. There is, though, reason for hope:
"What we do a lot is listen to music together, things that we're inspired by, everything from post-punk to Afrobeat to hip hop to whatever. We're almost as much music fans as we are a band that makes music."

Another good portion of the album came from sessions with frequent collaborator Mark Ramos-Nishita, aka Money Mark, and Beasties "regular percussion player" Alfredo Ortiz. Both musicians "embellished on top of what we had already made and arranged," said Mike D.

The Beastie Boys will have a chance to air out material from the new album at a series of instrumental shows scattered throughout their beefy schedule of festival dates, where they'll stick to their hits.

Mike joked that they plan to use some of their festival dates to expand their fanbase. "We're trying to really cross over into the whole jam band, Bonnaroo, Government-- what's it?-- Gov't Mule? That whole genre. We can play up the jam band [aspect], have a hacky sack tent. The 'Hack Sack Hand'... 'Sack Hand State Fair', we're going to be performing at. We're going to be performing at a lot of state fairs and a lot of pie-eating contests, too."

When asked if The Mix-Up might provide a pastry-oriented twist on the old Spacemen 3 axiom Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To, he said, "Yeah, it would be a great record to eat pie to."
Just what my record collection has always been missing.

Quote of the Day -- II

This one via The Wall Street Journal's Political Diary:
"Intelligence reports say Castro is very worried about me. I'm very worried that we can't come up with something to justify his worrying" -- from a 1981 entry in the soon-to-be published diaries of President Ronald Reagan, quoted in today's Washington Post.

Quote of the Day

"It appears we have appointed our worst generals to command forces, and our most gifted and brilliant to edit newspapers! In fact, I discovered by reading newspapers that these editor/geniuses plainly saw all my strategic defects from the start, yet failed to inform me until it was too late. Accordingly, I'm readily willing to yield my command to these obviously superior intellects, and I'll, in turn, do my best for the cause by writing editorials -- after the fact."

Robert E. Lee, 1863

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Where's the D.C. Press Corps Now?

“The war is lost,” Senate Leader Harry Reid announced last week. As if to ensure the reality matched the rhetoric, this week congressional Democratic leaders followed up Reid’s statement with votes mandating troop withdrawals from Iraq starting as soon as July.

Reid has not been particularly circumspect in describing his motivations, admitting rather unashamedly the Senate vote is baldly political. “We are going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war,” he predicted.

Is this the right strategy? Hard to say — no prominent Democrat has yet to really be challenged on it.

Which raises the question: Where’s that famously ruthless D.C. press corps?

Both Democrats and the media never tire of informing just how grave the stakes in Iraq . People are dying -- American troops, innocent Iraqis. America’s reputation is being ravaged. Iraq’s imploding into civil war.

And this is the Democrats’ cure-all -- a pork-laden war-funding bill pronouncing America ’s impending surrender?

For a press corps that takes itself as seriously as Washington’s, one might hope at least a few basic questions would be put toward Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and every other politician advocating timetables.

Rather obvious, and natural, questions — like:

  • Is a timetable for withdrawal intended to hasten a U.S. victory — or defeat?
  • If it’s victory, how will a withdrawal help?
  • If it's defeat, how does that help U.S. national interests?
  • How will abandoning Iraq ’s burgeoning government affect America ’s reputation in the region?
  • A Taliban spokesman recently stated Osama bin Laden is coordinating insurgent attacks in Iraq. If true, how is it possible to simultaneously fight the War on Terror but not insurgents in Iraq ?
  • What are some possible worst-case scenarios of withdrawing from Iraq ?
  • Should such a scenario manifest, what are Democrats’ contingency plans?
  • The recently passed war-funding bill mandates the last of the U.S. troops stationed in Iraq leave by September 2008. What’s significant about this date other than being two months prior to the next presidential election?

We don’t get these questions because the answers are obvious: abandoning Iraq will hasten an American defeat; leaving the country halfway broken will leave a permanent scar on America’s regional reputation; it’s impossible to fight the War on Terror but not Iraq’s insurgents; leaving Iraq could beget a full-fledged regional war; Democrats have no plan should such a contingency arise; the final pullout date is arbitrary aside from its intent of removing Iraq from the next election’s political equation.

Reid wouldn’t answer this way, of course. He’d say this is President Bush’s war and that any such negative externalities are in his hands.

Which is precisely the problem. Having expended so much effort using Iraq to bring down Bush, the credibility of Democrats and the major media now hangs in the balance. Diverting even a fraction of energy spent challenging the president over his war plans to do likewise with Democrats threatens not only Democratic leaders, but the D.C. press corps itself.

Herein lies the provenance of a subtle bias, perhaps subconscious, that poses an enormous threat American security.

In keeping their personal interests on high -- thus ignoring possible consequences of Democratic actions -- Democrats and their D.C. press corps brethren invite the very dystopic Iraqi finality they’ve spent so long predicting the Bush administration was inspiring.

And all because reporters are still not doing what they now blame themselves for failing to do in the run-up to the war: asking tough questions.