Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Quote of the Day

Via Powerline:

"According to [House Majority Whip James] Clyburn, a strongly positive report by Petraeus would be 'a real big problem for us.'"

Scientists Imitate The Onion

"World's Scientists Admit They Just Don't Like Mice" -- headline, The Onion, Dec. 8, 2004

"Scientists Breed World's First Schizophrenic Mice" -- headline, The Post Chronicle, July 29, 2007

Monday, July 30, 2007

Everyone Knows the Electric Slide Has 22 Steps

FunkyPundit friend Jessie Cantrell interviews the impressively bitter Rick Silver, inventor of the electric slide, for Black20 News

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

ROC Gets Rolled

"A restaurant that claims to be owned by former Windows on the World workers is 'a hoax' -- because the former World Trade Center employees have been forced out, a lawsuit charges," The New York Post reports today.

In papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, a group of former Windows workers said that despite promises, none of the 35 workers who invested hundreds of hours of work into opening the Greenwich Village restaurant Colors has any ownership interest.

Restaurant advocacy group ROC-NY and a group of Italian investors are the owners, and they've stiffed the workers the "cooperative restaurant" was built around, the suit says.

For more on this, I had a more in-depth look into ROC-NY back in March.

If you were thinking of reading today's New York Times to see how they report the story -- seeing as they've feted ROC/Colors with more than a dozen puff pieces over the years -- don't bother. The only mention of the suit comes in a one-'graf Metro Briefing by the AP.

What I'm Thankful for Today

Not being a girl born into the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Monday, July 23, 2007

And Reid Blames Bush for Congress's 14 Percent Approval ...

One week before Election Day, 2006:

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: “On taxes, you heard the Vice President, he said Democrats come in to control, taxes are going to go up?”

DNC Chairman Howard Dean: “That’s just Republican National Committee propaganda. Nancy Pelosi has said they’re will not be a middle class increase ... [I] have not heard one person in the leadership, Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi, talking about tax increases except unwinding tax breaks that were put in the middle of the night for the oil companies and insurance companies.”

With just six months of leadership under their belt, congressional Democrats have already proposed higher or brand-new taxes on cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, university endowments, pension funds, people earning $250,000-plus annually, private-equity managers, American workers oversees, American exporters, energy companies ...

Next thing you know, we'll find out they weren't even serious about reining in pork! (Oh wait ...)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

U.S. Troops Boogie With Iraqi Police & Tribesmen

"A video of US officers, Iraqi security personnel and Iraqi tribesmen dancing in Anbar Province has been making the online rounds," IraqSlogger reports:
Excerpted from a report on the US-funded Arabic-language broadcaster al-Hurra, the video features a gathering in Ramadi to celebrate gains realized by US-backed tribal forces and Iraqi security forces against al-Qa'ida-affiliated groups in the province.

Voicing over general shots of US military, Iraqi security forces, and tribal leaders dancing and celebrating together al-Hurra’s Omar Muhammad, explains that US forces, Iraqi security forces, and Iraqi tribesmen gathered in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar.

The video is undated.

A banner is shown, proclaiming that the “spark of liberation” has been unleashed in the province.

The first gentleman to be shown addressing the crowd over the public address system is the governor of Anbar province, Ma’moun Sami, who praises the efforts against “terrorists and takfiris.” Takfiri is a term employed for Sunni extremists who adopt takfir, or the practice of declaring less extremist Muslims to be unbelievers.

Then, Shaykh Khattab al-'Amir al-'Ali Sulaiman, son of the head of the Dulaim tribe, addresses the crowd, thanking the “allied forces” including the tribal fighters and Iraqi police.

At the end of the report the US-funded broadcaster’s reporter suggests that the battle continues for other parts of Iraq.

It's Hard To Care About America's Image Abroad

When the AFL-CIO pays your bills.

My Love Hath Scorned

My girlfriend is probably the best young female vocalist around. But that isn't to say I'd actually pay to see her perform live.

Bush Sounding Like a ... Conservative?!

On the matter of whether to massively expand a program that began as a small "safety net" for low-income, health-insurance lacking children but has slowly evolved in the entitlement de rigeur, President Bush says over his dead veto hand:
"I support the initial intent of the program," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post after a factory tour and a discussion on health care with small-business owners in Landover. "My concern is that when you expand eligibility . . . you're really beginning to open up an avenue for people to switch from private insurance to the government."

"I'm not going to surrender a good and important idea before the debate really gets started," Bush said. "And I think it's going to be very important for our allies on Capitol Hill to hear a strong, clear message from me that expansion of government in lieu of making the necessary changes to encourage a consumer-based system is not acceptable."
Also, Bush gets brave, sticks up for Big Tobacco:
About 3.3 million additional children would be covered under the proposal developed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Republican Sens. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) and Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), among others. It would provide the program $60 billion over five years, compared with $30 billion under Bush's proposal. And it would rely on a 61-cent increase in the federal excise tax on cigarettes, to $1 a pack [plus a 20,000 percent tax hike on high-end cigars], which Bush opposes.

Bush said he is opposed to a bipartisan legislation that would allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products, which could lead to stronger warning labels and limits on nicotine and other ingredients.

"We've always said that nicotine is not a drug to be regulated under FDA," Bush said.

For more on SCHIP, see Kimberly Strassel.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Question of the Day

Is it possible that those who favor gun control most ardently tend to not trust their own psychological stability, i.e., their ability to contain emotional response?

The thought crossed my mind just now after a left-of-center, gun-control-supporting colleague said off-handedly, "The best argument in favor of gun control is the fact that I can buy a gun." The joke being that he's something of a drama queen who's prone to mood swings.

Those supporting gun-rights generally speak in terms of self defense. Those in favor of gun control, like Mayor Bloomberg, generally refer to man's susceptibility to his own rage.

Perhaps psychological discrepancies explain it?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Question of the Day

If congestion pricing really will work all the miracles Mayor Bloomberg promises -- fewer cars; cleaner air; less global warming; cures for AIDS, cancer, and racism -- why is he now declaring the plan "dead" simply because New York City has fallen out of the running for a $500 million bribe?

In the context of a city budget approaching $60 billion, $500 million is chump change -- indeed, Bloomberg could probably find it between the cushions on his Lear jet.

Please tell me he wasn't about to impose this unwieldy, invasive tax scheme -- which, I should add, is hated by New Yorkers -- simply to bank $500 million in free cash.

'He wants to cut your head off'

Thinking of quitting your job and starting a commercial fishing enterprise off the Iranian coast? Not a good idea.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What Is Al Gore Afraid Of?

He's asked to put his money where his fear-mongering mouth is -- and refuses. From today's Political Diary:

Al Gore thinks the climate crisis is so dire that he's written a book, produced a movie and organized a world-wide music event to raise awareness. These have helped to make him a rich man, but is he willing to put his money where his mouth is? Don't bet on it.

J. Scott Armstrong, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and expert on long range forecasting, has offered to bet Al Gore $10,000 that he can do a better job of predicting the future of climate change than the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose forecasts of rising temperatures are cited in virtually every media account. Mr. Armstrong and a colleague, Kesten Green of New Zealand's Monash University, examined the IPCC's work for last month's 27th Annual International Symposium on Forecasting and found it essentially valueless according to established principles of forecasting. "Claims that the Earth will get warmer have no more credence than saying that it will get colder," concluded the two.

So what's Prof. Armstrong's own climate prediction? No change at all. "The methodology was so poor that I thought a bet based on complete ignorance of the climate could do better," says Mr. Armstrong. "We call it 'the naïve model.' Things won't change."

Professor Armstrong is the author of Long-Range Forecasting -- the most frequently cited book on forecasting methods -- and Principles of Forecasting, which was voted a "favorite book" by researchers and practitioners associated with the International Institute of Forecasters. If Mr. Gore accepts his challenge, Prof. Armstrong has proposed that each man put $10,000 into a charitable trust at a reputable brokerage house. The winner would then choose a charity to receive the total amount.

So far, Mr. Gore -- usually quite the opportunist -- has balked at the opportunity to establish credibility with global warming skeptics. "Please understand that Mr. Gore is not taking on any new projects at this time," read a note to Mr. Armstrong from Mr. Gore's communications director.

-- Taylor Buley

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Well, if Democrats want to declare the surge a failure after just a couple of months, we can declare the Democrat Congress a failure. They haven't achieved any of their benchmarks. It's time for a new direction." -- Rush Limbaugh, on his show today

Since No One Ever Talks About the Benefits of Smoking ...

"Long-term and current smokers have a lower risk of Parkinson's disease than the general population, researchers say in a report that confirms previous observations that people with Parkinson's disease were less likely to be smokers," Forbes reports.

Dr. Beate Ritz of the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Public Health and colleagues analyzed data from 11,809 people involved in 11 studies conducted between 1960 and 2004. Of those, 2,816 individuals had Parkinson's disease.

The data showed that current smokers and those who had continued to smoke within five years of Parkinson's disease diagnosis had the lowest risk. People who quit smoking up to 25 years before diagnosis also had a reduced risk. Other tobacco products such as cigars, pipe tobacco and chewing tobacco showed reduced risk as well.

New York News Wrap

Charting New York's implosion:

Albany Times Union: Economic worry rising in New York; Poll finds 43 percent say state finances worsened over the past year, one-third find cause for optimism

Jamestown's Post-Journal: State Ranks Fourth Worst For ER Wait

Utica Observer-Democrat: Herkimer Co. business leaders voice concerns; Forum addresses high taxes, competition

What Awaits Vitter

From today's Political Diary:
The 46-year-old [Senator David Vitter] seemed to be on track after his 2004 election to the U.S. Senate and his shrewd positioning this year as Rudy Giuliani's top Southern supporter. But all that ended last night as Mr. Vitter admitted that he was involved in the so-called "D.C. Madam" prostitution ring scandal. As the phone records of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, alleged owner of the Beltway prostitution service, were posted on the Internet, Mr. Vitter issued a statement acknowledging "a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible.... I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way."

Mr. Vitter doesn't come up for re-election until 2010 and political handicappers say it's likely he can weather the storm given his current 70%-plus approval ratings. But any hope of being a vice presidential pick is gone. His marriage to wife Wendy may also be in a precarious state. Mr. Vitter has acknowledged seeking marriage counseling and Mrs. Vitter is on record in a 2000 interview with Newhouse Newspapers about her attitude toward marital fidelity. When asked if she would be as forgiving as Hillary Clinton, Mrs. Vitter said: "I'm a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary. If he does something like that, I'm walking away with one thing, and it's not alimony, trust me." Mrs. Vitter added: "I think fear is a very good motivating factor in a marriage. Don't put fear down."

Al Qaeda: No Big Fans of Jews, Children

"The radical leader of Islamabad's Red Mosque, under siege for the last six days by hundreds of Pakistan troops, said the 1,800 children he claims are still in the religious-school complex have taken oaths on the Quran to fight to the death, a frightening possibility confirmed by frantic parents who have spoken by cell phone with sons and daughters who say they soon hope to be martyrs," WorldNetDaily reports.
Ghazi, who has said he and his followers will fight to the end, now says the 1,800 children he holds have been divided into two groups and will join his fighters against any assault. [...]

"The boys are the first line of defense, then the girls," he said. "They have all sworn an oath on the Koran that they will fight to the death."

All Ghazi needed was eight weeks:

Khan, the desperate father and shopkeeper, succeeded Friday in getting his two daughters to leave the compound with a ruse.

Reaching them once again by cell phone, he told them their mother was ill and lay unconscious on the pavement outside. The two girls left the compound and were taken by their father.

Saima, Khan's 10-year-old daughter, denounced the trick.

"The teachers taught us about martyrdom and that it is a great achievement," she told the Times. "I could see the fighting was in front of me and I could understand that we would die. I felt real anger about what my father did. He tricked me."

"I'm taking them back to our village," Khan said. "They were ready for martyrdom and they're very angry with me. I'm just happy I've got my daughters back, and sorry for those whose daughters are still in there."

According to Khan, Saima's transformation had taken only eight weeks.

Also, Karol directs readers to this story, from Michael Yon, reporting from Iraq:

At first, he said, they would only target Shia, but over time the new al Qaeda directed attacks against Sunni, and then anyone who thought differently. The official reported that on a couple of occasions in Baqubah, al Qaeda invited to lunch families they wanted to convert to their way of thinking. In each instance, the family had a boy, he said, who was about 11-years-old. As LT David Wallach interpreted the man’s words, I saw Wallach go blank and silent. He stopped interpreting for a moment. I asked Wallach, “What did he say?” Wallach said that at these luncheons, the families were sat down to eat. And then their boy was brought in with his mouth stuffed. The boy had been baked. Al Qaeda served the boy to his family.

Politicians make much of their passion for The Children, passing bans on everything from smoking to dodge ball out of concern for their well-being. Meanwhile, House Speaker Speaker Nancy Pelosi is promising a "month of action" to "end the war," thereby ensuring stories like those above become only more frequent. Too bad Iraqi/Pakistani parents don't vote in Democratic primaries.


Femi Kuti, son of the Afrobeat godfather, Fela Kuti, takes the (Summer)stage this Wednesday night in Central Park. Michael Woodsworth, a former colleague, has more on the show here.

More details from SummerStage:
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
From 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Central Park SummerStage

The power of Afrobeat is showcased live and on film, as an accomplished son pays tribute to his father’s achievement.

Since the 1997 death of his father, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Femi Kuti has become the undisputed king of Afrobeat, having taken the style worldwide over the last ten years with his band Positive Force. Collaborating with hip-hoppers like Mos Def and Common and touring with alt-rock icons Jane's Addiction, Femi has expanded the music’s scope without sacrificing its relentless, hypnotic beat or its urgent political concerns. Femi’s performance will be followed by a screening of Music Is A Weapon, the 1982 film by Stephane Tchal-Gadjieff & Jean Jacques Flori that remains the definitive documentary on Fela Kuti and his times. Fela Kuti’s influence on black contemporary music cannot be overestimated; virtually all modern forms of black music (from funk to electronic) owe something to his irresistible Afrobeat groove.

A respected DJ and spoken word artist, Rich Medina has worked with Jill Scott, King Britt, Bobbito, DJ Spinna and many others. With residencies at New York’s S.O.B.’s, APT and Table 50, and Philadelphia’s Tragos and Fluid, Medina is familiar to club goers up and down the East Coast. Marked by a strong message of self-empowerment and hope, his sets are equal parts call-to-party and call-to-action.

See you there.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Don't Worry About Terrorism; Eat Vegetables

If Mayor Bloomberg ever gets serious about running for national office, particularly for the presidency, he's going to have to stop equating the War on Terrorism with his adventures in babysitting.

This Monday, following attempted car bombings in London and Glasgow, Mayor Mike said the biggest threats to New Yorkers have nothing to do with terrorism: "Don't go the beach where there's no lifeguards or to pool where there's no lifeguards. Sadly at the end of this weekend, or this week, you'll find that probably a lot more people were killed there than will be killed by terrorism."

Earlier this month, following a foiled plot to blow up New York City's own JFK Airport, incinerating thousands in the process, Bloomberg said: "There are lots of threats to you in the world. There’s the threat of a heart attack for genetic reasons. You can’t sit there and worry about everything. Get a life."

Before that, he used the occasion of Memorial Day to trumpet his congestion-pricing plan, as The New York Post then reported:
U.S. troops will be fighting in vain if New Yorkers aren't healthy enough to enjoy the freedoms they are defending, Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday -- making a tenuous Memorial Day link between the war and his congestion pricing plan.

After marching in the Laurelton Memorial Day Parade, Bloomberg made a push for his plan, calling it a "win, win, win, for everybody."

"Our soldiers are fighting so that we have our freedoms. Unless you have good health, you're not going to be around to enjoy them," Bloomberg said.

"The pollution that's going into the air today is causing our kids in a lot of neighborhoods in New York City to have four times the national asthma rate."

The mayor enlisted a group of environmental activists to buttress his case and emphasized that the city's air is simply not good enough.

"It is not healthy for you; it's not healthy for our children yet to be born, or our children who are here today.

"We have to do something to reduce the pollution in the air and the only solution really is mass transit and the only place money is going to come for mass transit is from something like congestion pricing," Bloomberg said.

Adam Brodsky says without a strong stance in the terror war, Bloomberg has no real reason to run.

If Only You Could Drink Ethanol

Tomorrow, or tonight, as the case may be, when you head out boozing and notice the price of beer has crept north since the last time you got housed in honor of America, thank politicians, and their myopic approach to energy. From USA Today:
Americans hosting Fourth of July barbecues will pay more cold cash for the cold ones this year as beer joins the list of foods and beverages whose prices are jumping, in part because of the booming ethanol market.

Retail prices for beer at supermarkets and other stores were up 3% in May from a year earlier, the biggest increase in 2½ years, according to the latest data from the Labor Department. That's higher than the inflation rate for the overall economy, and a bigger gain than in prices of liquor and wine bought to be consumed at home.

Those going out will also pay more for beer. Prices for beer poured away from home were up 3.8% in May from a year earlier.

The Wall Street Journal has much more on this.

Heroin, OK; Tobacoo? Not So Much

Reuters reports from Kabul:
Afghanistan may be the world's largest producer of heroin, but the government has taken the first step towards to a ban on smoking in public places.

Local media said on Tuesday that the council of ministers had ordered a campaign through the media and mosques to inform the public that smoking in educational institutions, hospitals and government offices has been outlawed.

The ban will be widened later to cover hotels and restaurants.

The reports did not say how the government would monitor the ban or what penalties there might be for violators.

There are no official figures on the number of smokers among Afghanistan's 25 million people, but unscientific observation and questioning by Reuters correspondents suggest around half the men have smoked at some point or another.

Afghans say there are very few women smokers.

War-torn Afghanistan produces over 90 percent of the world's heroin and despite the government's repeated efforts, backed by force and tens of millions of dollars from donor countries, drugs cultivation and consumption is rising each year.

(Hat tip: Karol)

'Bonfires & Illuminations'

In it's annual Fourth of July tradition, The New York Sun renews its call for the repeal of New York's ban on fireworks, to which I'd add a hearty hear-hear:

The Declaration of Independence, signed 231 years ago tomorrow, shines brightly to this day as a beacon of liberty in a world still too oppressed. So why, we ask in our annual Fourth of July editorial, are New Yorkers forced to celebrate in the dark? The Founding Fathers believed that the Fourth of July should be celebrated with "bonfires and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other, from this day forward ever more." Yet at this end of the continent, we New Yorkers live in one of only five states that completely outlaw personal use of fireworks. The state has had a ban on the books in one form or another since 1965.

Although safety is often cited as a justification for such laws, personal responsibility seems to have more bearing on safety than the fireworks themselves. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, a trade group, consumption of fireworks, measured in millions of pounds, increased 870% between 1976 and 2005. During the same period, injuries, measured in injuries per 100,000 pounds of fireworks sold, fell 90.1%, so that last year there were only 3.8 injuries reported per 100,000 pounds sold. Fireworks account for only about 0.01% of the 70 million personal injuries suffered by Americans each year. Ovens are at least four times as dangerous.

New York's ban seems even more insulting when one considers the completely unnecessary burden it puts on law enforcement. Already this year the New York Police Department has seized 29 cars carrying illegal fireworks, arrested 91 people on charges related to trafficking and possessing illegal fireworks, including six on felony charges, seized 721 cases of fireworks, and given out 61 summonses and six juvenile reports.

An NYPD spokesman, Assistant Chief Michael Collins, attributed significantly fewer arrests and seizures this year to increasing awareness of the NYPD's heightened enforcement measures. The city's enforcement efforts on fireworks read like something more worthy of a counterterrorism program. This year, the police department has worked with surrounding jurisdictions to track down traffickers and used checkpoints at the bridges and tunnels to search vehicles for fireworks as they enter the city. In addition, on Monday Police Commissioner Kelly said, "We are very openly monitoring activities in other states."

What kind of message is that sending to the youngsters of this city? George Washington would have been disgusted. We don't blame the police commissioner or the police; they don't write these laws. They are sworn to enforce them. The legislature owes them other priorities. On this Independence Day holiday, Americans are indeed in danger. But the danger comes from those terrorists who seek to destroy our liberties, not from the means ordinary New Yorkers would like to use to celebrate the country's founding, the very way for which the Founders themselves called. The signers of the Declaration of Independence took a great risk in affixing their names to that parchment. There's absolutely no reason for Albany to spoil our national holiday by preventing New Yorkers from taking their own risks to celebrate that achievement.

'The French fries look like they've been standing on a steam table for an hour'

So says William Gounaris, owner of the Queens restaurant Brooks 1890, in regards to how New York City's newly-effective ban on trans fats has affected his eatery's fries, as reported in today's Wall Street Journal:
Fried chicken doesn't get as crispy in the new oil, Mr. Gounaris complains, and the fries are pale and limp.

Patrons used to slather their baked potatoes and corn on the cob with margarine from a four-ounce tub at Dougie's Bar-B-Que & Grill in Brooklyn, one of a six-unit kosher restaurant chain in New York and New Jersey. By law, the restaurant, where huge portions are the norm, can now only provide petite, foil-wrapped portions of margarine. Customers "think we're making fun of them," says co-owner Barbara Landau, who says she's paying 20 percent more for kosher-certified, nondairy, trans-fat free oils and fats. [...]

The city's roughly 350 kosher restaurants have had a particularly hard time due to the prohibition on meat and dairy products being made or consumed together. "Margarine is a major staple in the kosher industry," says Yoel Schonfeld, a rabbinic coordinator for the Orthodox Union, a large, kosher-supervising agency based in New York.
The trans-fat ban boils down to this: fried food remains unhealthy, it now just tastes worse and costs more.