Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

TREND WATCH: NY Bans

With New York's State Supreme Court ruling Thursday that the city's ban on dancing is constitutional, perhaps it's time to start the latest edition of Trend Watch -- bans already on the books.

I'll plug in the few I already know. Please send along other suggestions.

New York state:
  • women may not appear topless in public for purposes of business
  • smoking within 100 feet of a public building
  • women on the street wearing "body-hugging" clothing
  • greeting someone by putting a thumb to your nose and wiggling your fingers
  • flirting
  • throwing a ball at someone's head for purposes of fun
  • jumping off a building
  • smoking in bars and restaurants
  • divorcing for "irreconcilable differences" (unless, ironically, both agree)
  • walking on Sundays with an ice cream cone in your pocket
  • talking while riding elevators
  • wearing slippers after 10 PM
New York City:
  • dancing without a license
  • smoking in private establishments (aside from cars & homes)
  • Trans-fats (July 1st, 2007)
  • Menus without calorie contents for placed with "established" menus (July 1, 2007)
  • fathers calling their sons a "faggot" for purposes of discouraging "girlie behavior" (Staten Island)
  • watering lawns using automated devices (Staten Island)

TREND WATCH: Overselling Global Warming

"American lifestyles are creating a climate holocaust," says Frontline, India's "national magazine," in its March 9th issue.

Earlier:

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."

TREND WATCH: Proposed NY Bans

Gale Brewer is proposing, The New York Sun reports, to ban city businesses from leaving windows or doors open while air conditioners are on inside.

Earlier:

2007:
  1. Dogs from being tied up three-plus hours
  2. Talking/listening/playing while walking crosswalks
  3. Skinny models
  4. The "N-word"
  5. Electric-assist pedicabs
  6. Public pension investments in companies with business in Sudan
2006:
  1. pit bulls
  2. trans-fats
  3. aluminum baseball bats
  4. the purchase of tobacco by 18- to 20-year-olds
  5. foie gras
  6. pedicabs in parks
  7. new fast-food restaurants (but only in poor neighborhoods)
  8. lobbyists from the floor of council chambers
  9. lobbying city agencies after working at the same agency
  10. vehicles in Central and Prospect parks
  11. cell phones in upscale restaurants
  12. the sale of pork products made in a processing plant in Tar Heel, N.C., because of a unionization dispute
  13. mail-order pharmaceutical plans
  14. candy-flavored cigarettes
  15. gas-station operators adjusting prices more than once daily
  16. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
  17. Wal-Mart
  18. the process that makes steaks pink
  19. subway ads poking fun at outer boroughs

Monday, February 26, 2007

And a Reminder of the City's Pre-Eminent Bureaucracy!

Headline right now on New York's City Council website: "02/22/07 Speaker Quinn Brings A Tase Of NYC To Wounded Veterans."

FunkyPundit's Oscar Awards

Most Appreciated Performance by Underperforming Male Troupe: Will Ferrell/Jack Black/John C. Reilly. Funny, but not up their usually hilarious snuff.

Female in a Leading Role Most Likely To Amuse Without Eliciting Laughter: Ellen DeGeneres.

Performer Most Deserving of Future Hosting Role: Jerry Seinfeld. His two minutes were funnier than DeGeneres's four hours.

Greatest Failure in Attempts at Humor:
The rolling papers discovered while DeGegeneres "vacuumed" Kodak Theater. The lengthy set-up hardly justified the trite "musicians like pot" punchline.

Greatest Setback of a Social Movement: After so many Hollywood luminaries lectured America -- nay, the world, as they were wont to point out -- on the environmental violence wreaked by "global warming," expect the issue never to be taken seriously again.

Most Entertaining Non-Essential Feature: the "special effects choir."

Most Depressing Realization: Seeing in the eyes of Oscar recipients the sense that salvation had been reached. The teary pride was almost too much to bear. Receiving an Academy Award, for this crowd, is tantamount to entry into Heaven. Which is sad. The award is just a fake-gold trophy awarded by a bunch of like-minded, moral-preening sycophants who remove their heads from their asses only to engage their annual tradition of sanctimoniously informing how wondrous the smell. Hardly something to get worked up about.

UPDATE: David Kahane offers an insider's take.

TREND WATCH: Proposed NY Bans

New York City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Queens), is introducing legislation, New York 1 reports, banning dog owners from keeping their pets tied up for more than three hours. Vallone, recall, has previously attempted to ban pit bulls.

Earlier:

2007:
  1. Talking/listening/playing while walking crosswalks
  2. Skinny models
  3. "N-word"
  4. Electric-assist pedicabs
  5. Public pension investments in companies with business in Sudan
2006:
  1. pit bulls
  2. trans-fats
  3. aluminum baseball bats
  4. the purchase of tobacco by 18- to 20-year-olds
  5. foie gras
  6. pedicabs in parks
  7. new fast-food restaurants (but only in poor neighborhoods)
  8. lobbyists from the floor of council chambers
  9. lobbying city agencies after working at the same agency
  10. vehicles in Central and Prospect parks
  11. cell phones in upscale restaurants
  12. the sale of pork products made in a processing plant in Tar Heel, N.C., because of a unionization dispute
  13. mail-order pharmaceutical plans
  14. candy-flavored cigarettes
  15. gas-station operators adjusting prices more than once daily
  16. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
  17. Wal-Mart
  18. the process that makes steaks pink
  19. subway ads poking fun at outer boroughs

'Culture of Corruption'?

Democrats go native.

Eat Your Heart Out, Dr. Bloomberg

Remember Jeanne Calment, the world's "longest-living" woman? At the tender age of 122, Calment passed away a lifelong smoker. Now, another centenarian -- Hong Kong's 107-year-old Chan Chi -- is being probed for his secrets to longevity.

To the horror of public-health impresarios everywhere, tobacco abstinence is not among them. Indeed, he still smokes. He did, however, credit the sexually abstinent life he's led since his wife's passing when he was just 30. (Whether this is a reasonable trade-off is, I suspect, in the eye of the withholder.)

These stories, and many more like them, prove that smoking is not prohibitive of a healthy, long life. It's a habit ripe for abuse, no doubt. But smoking bans, and the rhetoric used in backing them, unfailingly abjure even minimal tobacco use as unhealthy. This, quite obviously, is simply not true.

How To Fix Upstate New York?

Not through government "investments," writes a Buffalo ex-pat in today's Post-Standard:

A few years ago I wrote a letter regarding the "Come Home to Syracuse" campaign. At the time I wrote: "Come Home, Go Broke."

Three years later, the story is the same. Taxes haven't dropped one penny, and we still have the delusional government leaders thinking we need to dump even more money into schools, universities, economic development programs, blah, blah, blah. It's insanity!

This year I formed a company in Virginia Beach with a few ex-Buffalo residents, and we are going great guns. We are developing those much-talked-about "nanotechnology" products that seem to be the Upstate fantasy. And we are doing it with our own money, while giving a lot less in tax dollars to the local government.

Better yet, I received multiple patents in 2006 for some very high-end technology. I did it on my own dime, with no "University Technology Transfer" assistance. Who needs it? Just leave me alone, let me keep more of my tax dollars, and my personal Upstate economy will do just fine.

Scott Grimshaw
Marcellus

Friday, February 23, 2007

Lupica Watch: Readers React

To its credit, The Daily News runs an excellent letter to the editor today:
Double-dipping
New Hyde Park, L.I.:
Now that Mike Lupica is the new editorial voice of the Daily News, can he stop inserting his one-sided political views into his "sports" columns?

Michael J. Ogle

Earlier:
Mike Lupica: Still Not Thinking
Lupica the Lunatic

Thursday, February 22, 2007

TREND WATCH: Overselling Global Warming

Today, the University of Sydney announced: Global warming will cause children's fevers to soar.

Earlier:

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."

Liberty's Flame Burns On

Even with a smoking ban, it seems you can still smoke at bars in Washington, D.C.

D.C. - 1, NYC - 0

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Mike Lupica: Still Not Thinking

Mike Lupica, aka the FunkyPundit's favorite columnist, writes in today's Daily News:
You make up your own mind about the senator from New York, and whatever baggage you think she brings to all this. But she would make a better President than the one we have because anybody would. This isn't her war. It is his.
And later:

Hillary Clinton can admit she was wrong right after Gen. Colin Powell admits he was wrong to throw in with Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld on this war, and the trumped-up reasons for entering into it, in the first place.

Not Hillary Clinton's war. Theirs. It is theirs. She didn't make the world more dangerous than it already was. They did. You want an apology? They go first.

Wrong. America is at war. Not President Bush. Even those who voted against liberating Iraq must accept the vote's outcome. A Republican representative who disagrees with Senator McCain's campaign-finance bill cannot simply announce, "McCain-Feingold is McCain's campaign-finance bill, not mine. Therefore, I'm ignoring it." Indeed, that would be illegal.

One of the various features of a democracy is that nobody can get everything he or she wants. Nor can one pick and choose which legislation he or she abides by. When Congress voted to authorize American intervention in Iraq, it set the country upon an inalterable course. Regardless of what your opinions were leading up to the conflict, if you failed to convince Congress, that doesn't make you, as an American, any less a participant in the vote's resultant effects. Like it or not, this is how democracies work.

And why the war in Iraq is just as much George Bush's as it is Mike Lupica's.

The U.N.'s Hamburglars

Next on the United Nations' list of American outrages to vilify: cheeseburgers?

A recent report by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that meat consumption — beef and pork, in particular — have a greater responsibility for global warming than every SUV in the world. Indeed, all transportation combined.

According to the study, 37 percent of all human-induced methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times stronger than carbon dioxide, is produced by the digestive systems of ruminants.

"Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today's most serious environmental problems," said Henning Steinfeld, the report's senior author. "The environmental costs per unit of livestock production must be cut by one half, just to avoid the level of damage worsening beyond its present level."

What to do?

"Arguably the best way to reduce global warming in our lifetimes is to reduce or eliminate our consumption of animal products," recommends EarthSave International.

"It doesn’t have to be all the way to the extreme end of vegan," advised University of Chicago Professor Gidon Eshel. "If you cut down from two burgers a week to one, you've already made a substantial difference."

So let me see if I've got this right. Everyone knows cars are bad. Cigarette smoking, says Al Gore, also causes global warming. Now, Big Macs, too?

How about this: If the United Nations aspires to dictate properly climate-conscious behavior, how about leading by example? Why not start by banning smoking within U.N. headquarters, ditching the SUVs in favor of ergonomic bicycles and adopting enviro-friendly eating habits.

The FunkyPundit is reliably informed U.N. bigs count the French eatery Le Perigord as its mainstay. Yet Le Perigord serves such egregious environmental offenses as a Kobe Wagyu Burger with truffle sauce, roasted rack of lamb with flageolets and a grilled filet mignon with Wellington sauce.

Certainly, if Earth is in the balance, some good things just have to end.

Remember: Think globally, act locally!

A World Without America?

Our British friends imagine what such a world might look like.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Today's Funk

"Pula Ea Na," Hugh Masekela, live at SOBs, New York, mid-80s:

'Planet Gore'

National Review Online has launched a global-warming focused blog. Iain Murray's all over it, which in itself makes it bookmark-worthy.

Eminent Domain Watch: Brooklyn

Today, The New York Post reports, construction begins at the Atlantic Yards. Meanwhile, Develop Don't Destroy, an anti-Atlantic Yards organization funded through private contributions and fund-raisers (as opposed to subsidy-dependent Forest City Ratner), says the chances of a federal lawsuit blocking the project making it to trial appear strong:
An overflowing crowd of Brooklyn residents and reporters (some late arrivals had to watch the proceedings on closed-circuit TV in the courthouse's cafeteria) filled the courtroom of Federal Magistrate Robert Levy on February 7th, as the judge listened to initial oral arguments in the eminent domain lawsuit filed by property owners and tenants whose homes and businesses lie in the footprint of the proposed "Atlantic Yards" development.

The hearing, in the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse, was held in response to a motion to dismiss the case, brought by the defendants, who include the Empire State Development Corporation, Forest City Ratner, former Governor George Pataki and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The defendants are fearful of the case going to trial in Federal court, where the fate of Bruce Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" project would rest solely on the law – and with a politically independent, impartial judge.

If the case proceeds to trial – and many courtroom observers believe that Judge Levy's demeanor and his line of questioning indicate there's a good chance it will – it would derail Ratner's plans to erect an arena and a superblock of high-rise buildings in Prospect Heights. If the plaintiffs win, the project will have to go back to the drawing board, or be scrapped altogether, because the arena cannot be built, nor can streets de-mapped, without the plaintiffs' homes and businesses.

During the nearly four hours of sometimes-fascinating, sometimes-technical courtroom back-and-forth, Judge Levy seemed largely unmoved by the defendants' arguments; at one point, he interrupted ESDC lawyer Douglas Kraus to tell him "you and I have very different ideas about the law."
The Sun has more.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Rudy Giuliani, Diva

From The Smoking Gun:
Giuliani, 62, requires private air transportation to his gigs. But, the contract states, any old plane won't do: "Please note that the private aircraft MUST BE a Gulfstream IV or bigger." Such a jet sells for about $30 million, in case you're wondering. Giuliani's speech contract also requires him to be lodged in a two-bedroom hotel suite, which is to be flanked by rooms occupied by his security team. Rudy's suite must be registered in the name of a representative of the Washington Speakers Bureau, which arranges Giuliani appearances. And Giuliani is very picky about how he is to be photographed at gigs, apparently concerned that "direct, on-camera flash bulbs" result in none-too-flattering images.
Embarrassing.

Friday, February 16, 2007

France's Fog of Virtue

From this week's National Review:
A nationwide smoking ban went into effect in France, yet another blow to the stereotype of the French as a nation of louche but intellectual libertines, Jeanne Moreau and Alain Delon lounging in bed discussing Heidegger through a fog of cigarette smoke.

Before the health nuts tighten their grip on La Belle France to a stranglehold, though, we should like to remind everyone that the oldest person who ever lived -- at any rate, whose dates of birth and death are so chronicled that no one could doubt her age -- was a Frenchwoman, Jeanne Calment of Arles, who lives to be 122; and that Calment was -- gasp! -- a lifelong cigarette smoker.

Well, not quite lifelong: She actually quit at age 117, being then blind and too proud to ask people to light her cigarettes for her. After her 118th birthday, however, she resumed the habit. Calment died in 1997, leaving behind a faint whiff of cigarette smoke and a world from which the pleasures of tobacco are being methodically routed. God bless Calment, wherever she is, and may health nuts everywhere -- but especially in France -- choke on their own preening virtue.

Democrats' Doublethink

"Doublethink," as defined by In George Orwell's 1984, means holding "simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them ..."

Nancy Pelosi, today: "We owe our troops a course of action in Iraq that is worthy of their sacrifice. Today, we set the state for a New Direction on Iraq by passing a resolution of fewer than 100 words which supports our troops but disapproves of the President's escalation proposal. ... The bipartisan resolution today is nonbinding, but it will send a strong message to the President: we are committed to supporting the troops and we disapprove of the escalation."

Condi Raps

Discrimination Watch

University of Illinois bans Indians.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

On Congestion Pricing

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is the latest to get behind "congestion pricing," where, in an ostensible bid to lessen traffic, new fees are assessed for driving on popular roads at peak hours. Or, as the case may be, anytime. In Manhattan, where traffic can sometimes be an issue, the idea is gaining traction. This is worrisome for a number of reasons.

1. Effectiveness. In his State of the Borough speech, Stringer said, "London imposed congestion pricing on its economic center and added more bus service. Traffic plummeted. Mass transit use increased, and the city's business district was reborn."

From today's London Telegraph:

In the last two years the congestion endured by drivers in central London has actually got worse, according to Transport for London figures.

The amount of traffic entering the zone during charging hours has been cut by around 20 per cent since the charge was introduced in 2003, but this has been largely offset by a reduction in the capacity of the capital's roads, due to road works and the introduction of bus lanes.

Congestion fell by 30 per cent in the first year of the charging scheme but is now only 8 per cent below precharging levels.

The weswtward extension of the charging zone next week is expected to increase congestion in central London, as motorists living in Kensington and Chelsea will be entitled to discounted access to the existing zone.

Elsewhere, specifically the otherwise intelligent Manhattan Institute, it's argued congestion pricing is an easy revenue raiser, certain to ease financing infrastructure rehab elsewhere. Not quite.

From yesterday's Telegraph:

Motorists in London have paid more than £677 million since the introduction of the congestion charge in 2003 — but only a fraction of this has been invested in other transport projects.

And with Ken Livingstone, the capital's mayor, planning to extend the zone west into Kensington and Chelsea, opposition politicians claim much of the revenue has been swallowed up in the cost of running the scheme.

According to the Greater London Authority's own figures, the bill for the congestion charge is rising above the rate of inflation, from £120.8 million two years ago to £143.5 million last year. ...

The London experience will in crease public doubts concerning road pricing. To add to the controversy it has emerged that a large slice of the income made by Transport for London comes not from motorists who pay the charge, but from fines on those who don't.

2. Fairness. Congestion pricing is also plainly elitist, making public roadways available only to those who can afford them. Were the city to adopt congestion pricing, traffic in Midtown would lessen, certainly. But at the cost of pricing out low-income New Yorkers -- outer borough residents especially. Many small-business owners rely on their own transportation to move supplies, deliver finished products, etc. Congestion pricing would therefore become a tax on an economic constituency that can little afford it.

And for what? So the affluent needn't be bothered with such headaches as a traffic jam? Congestion pricing is as anti-democratic as it is anti-economic opportunity.

3. Taxes. New York City is already the most expensive place to drive in America. Parking your car for an hour costs upward of $20 if you use a garage, $2 if you somehow manage to find a spot on the streets. Crossing the Verrazano, George Washington and many other bridges costs around $10. Gas is generally 20-50 cents more per gallon than surrounding areas in New Jersey and Connecticut. Lastly, there's ... traffic, which also serves as a kind of tax.

Point being, there are already countless disincentives to driving in Manhattan. The people who use cars to get about the city either have to, or choose to. Adding yet more disincentives will likely make little difference besides pricing out the less wealthy.

So, what to do about traffic? First, a few things to remember. Like it or not, traffic will always be around. And, as noted above, the worse it becomes, the greater the disincentive becomes to driving. In that way, it's almost self-regulating.

But if the city is inclined to do something!, here are a few ideas:

1) More parking. Being a driver myself, I know only too well how frustrating it is to spend ten minutes driving somewhere, only to end up circling around the destination for two hours looking for a place to park. Not only is this annoying, it clogs up the roads with slow cars.

So why not free up thousands of potential parking spots by allowing cars to park in front of fire hydrants? Sounds crazy perhaps, but not for any real good reason. Firefighters could do one of two things: hang signs alerting drivers that if they park in front of a hydrant, they're agreeing to the risk of having their hoods scratched up in the unlikely event the hydrant is put to use. Or, they could simply make hydrants taller -- six feet? -- so that hoses don't even need to touch cars parked in front of them.

Almost nobody knows this, but cars are actually prohibited from parking anywhere within 16-feet of a hydrant. Sixteen feet! That's approximately four parking spaces needlessly wasted per hydrant, with roughly six hydrants per block. Citywide, that's a lot of unused parking spots. In Manhattan, it should be noted, the rule seems to only be enforced for approximately 10 feet, or the length of just one car. Still, it stands to reason that if we can park a car on the moon, shouldn't we be able to park one in front of a hydrant without putting anyone at risk?

2) Less construction. Currently three major bridges are being refurbished: the Manhattan Bridge's lower level is out of service for the year, the Verrazano is under construction for at least a year, and a Bronx-Harlem bridge is also out of service for 12 months-plus. (For nondrivers: One year is a really long time for such major thruways to be completely off line.) After the Golden Gate was seriously damaged in a 1989 earthquake, the whole thing was repaired in a few months. Watching the workers on the Manhattan Bridge every morning, I'm always struck by how little they're actually doing. Generally one guy experiments with a jackhammer, while the other 10 look on, sipping coffee. Why not put the workers from all three of these jobs onto just one at a time, with three shifts, so that, by working around the clock, each can be wrapped up in a matter of weeks?

3) Better mass transit. More people will use mass transit if mass transit becomes more appealing. Subway service needs to be more regular and less unpredictable. The city needs to issue more taxi medallions and reduce taxes so that fares are less expensive.

4) Better stoplights. I'm convinced that the current system, which hasn't changed much at all since the debut of the combustible engine, is wasting everyone's time. Certainly, if some geeks at MIT put their minds to it, a fully-automated, computerized system that's responsive to actual traffic patterns shouldn't be too difficult. If you're stopped at a red light and there are no cars driving perpendicularly to you, you're witnessing government inefficiency in action.

Related: The Washington Post asks for congestion pricing in D.C., also citing London as an example.

Crazy for You

Happy Valentine's Day:

Monday, February 12, 2007

On Democrat Rhetoric

With the House nearing closer to a vote denouncing President Bush's handling of the Iraq War, now might not be a bad time for Americans to think about some of the opinions recently expressed by insurgent leaders in Iraq.

"With our brave fighters dying everyday at the hands of the American occupiers, it's become increasingly clear this war can’t be won militarily," said Ibrahim al-Shimmari, a spokesman for a Sunni insurgent group. "It's time for a new direction."

"We haven't sent in enough fighters. We've been out-manned since Day One," said Abraham al-Manari, a spokesman for the Ansar al-Sunna, a Sunni insurgent group.

Citing what he describes as Mugtada al-Sadr's "failed" leadership of the al-Mahdi Army, Abu Sajjad, a Mahdi spokesman, said "this insurgency is being incompetently managed with disastrous results."

Still others are exasperated with the frequency with which the successor to Abu Musab al Zarqawi of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Hamzah al-Muhajir, is losing fighters.

"We need to place a limit on the numbers of our brave young warriors being sent to fight holy war," said one al Qaeda fighter on an Internet message board. At the least, he said, "We must demand a timetable for withdrawal."

Many Ba'athist insurgents, disillusioned by their dwindling ranks, take an even stronger position, arguing the insurgency should be called off altogether.

Well, not really. While these quotes may ring familiar, it's for all the wrong reasons. These are the Democratic tropes Iraqis have been hearing over the last three years.

But had insurgents leaders really uttered them, imagine the average American's response. Perhaps, sensing widespread despair, many might suddenly feel . . . emboldened? Who knows, some might even suggest doubling up on troops to "finish 'em off."

Too bad it's the opposite that's happening: Our enemies daily take in such worried rhetoric from American political "leaders."

Asked how Democrats can support the troops but not their mission, Senator Charles Schumer let the cat out of the bag: "Well, that's the difficulty. A resolution that says we're against this escalation, that's easy. The next step will be how do you put further pressure on the administration against the escalation but still supporting the troops who are there? And that's what we're figuring out right now."

Political cover first; troops-assistance later.

In their rush to denounce the commander-in-chief’s leadership, Democrats inescapably aid al Qaeda in Iraq and its cohorts. Like those before them, George Orwell said of the Brits advocating withdrawal from World War II: "This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side, you automatically help out that of the other side."

Asked whether Democratic rhetoric could embolden the enemy, Sen. Joe Biden huffed, "It's not the American people or the U.S. Congress who are emboldening the enemy, it's the failed policy of this president going to war without a strategy, going to war prematurely."

Blaming Bush certainly makes for easy politics. But even Bush's greatest blunders rank nowhere near the detriment caused by the politician who willingly talks his nation into defeat so that he may achieve some small, personal political gain.

As Biden well knows, reckless rhetoric carries consequences. With Democrats having successfully assumed office and the responsibilities entailed, a recognition of such is, I shouldn't think, asking too much.

Our Looming Purgatory

Over the weekend I was attempting to chip away at some very stubborn paint with my new cordless Dremel rotatory tool. After sensing it was being overburdened, I did the unthinkable and actually checked the owner's manual. While there weren't any specific warnings as to what users should look out for for signs of excessive use, the manual did helpfully advise that using the power tool for dental work was not recommended. Curious, I generously opted to tackle the cavity that's been pestering Gouverneur Morris, my hamster. Results are still pending.

So whence arrives such pervasive, needless warnings? Count it up as another consequence of America's litigious society, says Wally Olson in The Times of London:
Remove Child Before Folding, which takes its title from the warning on a stroller, contains such invaluable safety tips as: do not consult a telephone directory while driving your car (#84); do not use bubble-bag packing as a flotation device (#37); do not use a curling iron while sleeping (#26); and do not eat the toner in your printer cartridge (#10). Nor, unless you are a fish, should you eat or otherwise ingest common forms of fishing tackle, whether it be a barbed three-hook lure (#30) or worms either live or plastic (#49 and 50). ...

The labels, of course, are mostly there because product makers fear lawsuits. The author of the book, Bob Dorigo Jones, heads an anti-litigiousness advocacy group in Michigan and collects these examples by way of an annual contest. Jones says he’s tracked down some of the real-life lawsuits that underlie the warnings, including ones that arose after a man unwisely used a woodworker’s drill to perform self-care dentistry on his own teeth, and after a student jiggled a Coke machine until it tipped over in hopes of getting it to dispense a free drink.
Beyond do-it-yourself dentistry, Olson describes a more fundamental problem underlying the proliferation of inane cautionary directives:
And of course there is a yet more serious side to the matter in that over-warning can have results that are perverse for the cause of safety itself. It buries the two or three meaningful and non-obvious cautions about, say, a prescription drug, among dozens of the boilerplate kind. By inuring the public to warnings, it teaches us to tune them out.
Elsewhere in the widening world of nanny-statism ...

Vermont dreams up new infringements:
Vermont lawmakers are considering a measure that would ban eating, drinking, smoking, reading, writing, personal grooming, playing an instrument, "interacting with pets or cargo," talking on a cell phone or using any other personal communication device while driving. The punishment: a fine of up to $600.

Similar bills are under consideration in Maryland and Texas, and Connecticut has passed one that generically bans any activity that could interfere with the safe operation of a motor vehicle.

Radley Balko says: "Here's a novel idea: Why not ignore what's going on inside the car, and just pull people over and fine them when they drive recklessly?

Jacob Sullum differentiates between the political paternalism practiced by Republicans and Democrats.

And Theodore Dalrymple reports on what Britain's bureaucratic bloat has wrought:

Frank Chalk’s book, It’s Your Time You’re Wasting, tells essentially the same story, this time with regard to education. It surely requires some explanation that, in a country that expends $5,200 a year for 11 years on each child’s education, a fifth of children leave school virtually unable to read or write, let alone do simple arithmetic. It takes considerable organization to achieve so little, especially when the means by which practically all children can be taught to read to a high standard are perfectly well-known. A small local educational authority in Scotland, for example, West Dumbarton, has virtually eliminated illiteracy in children, despite the fact that its population is among the poorest in Scotland, by using simple teaching methods and at an additional cost of precisely $25 per pupil.

In the looking-glass world of modern British public administration, nothing succeeds like failure, because failure provides work for yet more functionaries and confers an ever more providential role upon the government. ...

The beauty of the system is that dependence on expensive failure reaches quite low levels of the administration ... The state has become a vast and intricate system of patronage, whose influence very few can entirely escape. It is essentially corporatist: the central government, avid for power, sets itself up as an authority on everything and claims to be omnicompetent both morally and in practice; and by means of taxation, licensing, regulation, and bureaucracy, it destroys the independence of all organizations that intervene between it and the individual citizen. If it can draw enough citizens into dependence on it, the central government can remain in power, if not forever, then for a very long time, at least until a crisis or cataclysm forces change.

At the very end of the chain of patronage in the British state is the underclass ... Impoverished and degraded as they might be, they are nonetheless essential to the whole system, for their existence provides an ideological proof of the necessity of providential government in the first place, as well as justifying many employment opportunities in themselves. Both Copperfield and Chalk describe with great eloquence precisely what I have seen myself in this most wretched stratum of society: large numbers of people corrupted to the very fiber of their being by having been deprived of responsibility, purpose, and self-respect, void of hope and fear alike, living in as near to purgatory as anywhere in modern society can come.
That's where New York City's headed, if it's not there already.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Great Minds Think Alike

"Disgusting, Illogical, Stupid," Jonah Goldberg, posting on The Corner:
Those are just some of the words that come to mind from this passage by Ellen Goodman:

I would like to say we're at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let's just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.

No, Ellen. Let's not just say that.
"Denying The Future," James Taranto, posting on Best of the Web:
The Boston Globe's Ellen Goodman starts off a column about global warming on a loopy note:

On the day that the latest report on global warming was released, I went out and bought a light bulb. OK, an environmentally friendly, compact fluorescent light bulb.

Wow, Ellen, thanks for sharing! But a few paragraphs later she tries to make a serious point and ends up making a serious moral and intellectual error:

I would like to say we're at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let's just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.

No, Ellen. Let's not "just say" it.

Must Be Some Good Fish

From the AP:
ORANGO ISLAND, Guinea-Bissau (AP) -- He was 14 when the girl entered his grass-covered hut and placed a plate in front of him containing an ancient recipe.

Like all men on this African isle, Carvadju Jose Nananghe knew exactly what it meant. Refusing was not an option. His heart pounding, he lifted the steaming fish to his lips, agreeing in one bite to marry the girl.

"I had no feelings for her," said Nananghe, now 65. "Then when I ate this meal, it was like lightning. I wanted only her."

In this archipelago of 50 islands of pale blue water off the western rim of Africa, it's women, not men, who choose. They make their proposals public by offering their grooms-to-be a dish of distinctively prepared fish, marinated in red palm oil.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Kid Is Hot Tonight

A friend of the FunkyPundit, Steve Dolan, has a video up on YouTube well worth viewing. He explains the background thusly:
I entered a film into an agency-wide film festival. We recently had the big screening. Two of the films were awarded with submission into Sundance (no joke). This film wasn't one of them (no joke). So, the rules were to create a movie under 7 minutes long and, to ensure originality, somehow incorporate ink (a theme carried throughout our company website/communications). I "wrote" this idea with my friend Kevin -- curly-haired bloke.
Get your laugh on:

New York Ban Watch

Updated list for 2007, as of 4:50 PM Feb. 8:

New York Assembly:
  1. Talking/listening/playing while walking crosswalks
  2. Skinny models
New City Council:
  1. "N-word"
  2. Electric-assist pedicabs
  3. Public pension investments in companies with business in Sudan
Earlier: When Banning Becomes Banal

Quote of the Day

On Speaker Pelosi's request for a larger military aircraft, from John Rutledge:

The following item appeared in today's AM edition of the National Journal's CongressDaily:

HOUSE LEADERSHIP: Pelosi Says She Did Not Ask For Change To Bigger Plane.

Bigger plane? I don't even have a smaller plane. I thought she worked for me.

Sure doesn't take long for those leadership perk habits to set in, does it?

JR

PS: This is not a knock on Democratic politicians. They are still amateurs in the abuse department compared with the Rebublican leaders they ousted. It's a knock on Congress, the only whorehouse in America that loses money.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Speaking of Racial Politics ...

Over at my friend/colleague Robert George's blog, he's posted a PBS link celebrating Percy Julian, a.k.a. "the first black chemist ever elected to the National Academy of Sciences."

At our place of employment, which I gather is typical, we receive daily e-mails from HR filled with interesting facts like, "Did you know Mills Barker was the first African-American herpetologist to castrate a 12-foot python using only his left hand?"

Bits of trivia that make me wonder: If it's wrong to call blacks "smart" or "articulate" because it presupposes such talents to be infrequent among those of African descent, why, exactly, is it appropriate to celebrate Percy Julian for his chemistry talents? I should hope PBS isn't suggesting that rare is the black man with a natural gift for chemistry!

The Nuances of Racial Politics

As by now everyone well knows, Joe Biden simultaneously launched and crashed his presidential campaign last Wednesday when an article in The New York Observer quoted the loquacious senator thusly: "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American [Barack Obama] who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy ... I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

The real controversy seemed to stem from his use of the words "clean" and "articulate" -- both words being pejorative as they supposedly imply such traits as unnatural for blacks. (Indeed, President Bush received the same criticism for the same PC faux pas.)

Perhaps the strangest thing about this whole episode is the choice of alleged misdeeds. It was only a month earlier, after all, when Biden offered up this interesting performance while stumping at a South Carolina Rotary Club:

The senator then pounced on a member’s announcement that the club would hold its annual Christmas party at the state Department of Archives and History where members could view the original copy of the state’s Articles of Secession.

Biden asked, “Where else could I go to a Rotary Club where (for a) Christmas party the highlight is looking at the Articles?”

Biden was on a roll.

Delaware, he noted, was a “slave state that fought beside the North. That’s only because we couldn’t figure out how to get to the South. There were a couple of states in the way.”

Waxing nostalgic for slavery, or calling someone "clean" and "articulate." That it's the latter that's garnered all the finger wagging says something about contemporary racial politics. What, exactly, I'm not quite sure.

Happy Birthday, Ronald Reagan

PapaFunk writes:
He overcame considerable odds to give America and the world the priceless gift of expanding liberty and though it, global prosperity. But as RR always said freedom is never more than one generation from extinction and it appears that the bad actors of history are about to test us and challenge once again the core of our beliefs.
More good reading, courtesy of Kathryn Lopez, available here.

UPDATE: A clip from the speech that elevated him to a statesman:

Why Rudy's Winning

Prior to yesterday's announcement that he is definitely (maybe) going to run for president, Rudy Giuliani was already ahead in most GOP primary polls. Below are the other presumed Republican candidates, their current professions, and their current take.
  • Rudy Giuliani -- president, Giuliani Partners -- 34%
  • John McCain -- U.S. senator -- 22%
  • Newt Gingrich -- author & think-tank chairman -- 15%
  • Mitt Romney -- governor -- 3%
  • Duncan Hunter -- U.S. congressman -- 2%
  • Sam Brownback -- U.S. senator -- 1%
  • Mike Huckabee -- governor -- 0%
  • Chuck Hagel -- U.S. senator -- 0%
According to the "experts," Rudy has no shot in the GOP primary because he's not a bible-humping whack-job. I think that's missing the cathedral for the cobblestones. While Rudy is left of right on "God, guns and gays," to borrow the popular formulation, he's not flamboyantly so. While sympathetic to gay-rights arguments, for instance, he's hardly the sort of rapid cultural warrior threatening to ensure every American attend at least one gay nuptials. Simply being left alone to live according to their personal moral code -- that's all so-called values voters really want.

Notice on the list above how two of the top three candidates are not currently politicians. The other, McCain, casts himself as a "maverick" who cuts against the political grain.

Mitt Romney serves as an example of the converse. A pro-lifer who turned pro-choice in time for a run for office in Massachusetts only to later tack back toward pro-life in time for a run at national office, Romney won't find much a reception with culturally conservative audiences should they feel they're merely being pandered to. An elected representative is only as good as his word, and Romney's is roughly the current market value for that of your average American politician -- near worthless.

Conservatives seek principled leaders so they know what to expect. But politicians, by their very nature, are unpredictable. Little surprise then who's currently leading.

Today's Funk

"Ghost," Phish, July 6th, 1998 -- Prague, Czech Republic

Monday, February 5, 2007

Restaurant Revolutionaries

As a state that trails only Hawaii in the percentage of workforce that's unionized, New York is no stranger to the darker side of organized labor. Last year's crippling transit worker strike is but the latest notable example.

In a piece that ran in Sunday's Post, I describe the latest organization to turn the city's private-sector economy into its personal plaything. Using rather unconventional means, the Restaurant Opportunity Center-New York aims to remake the city's restaurant industry into something more to the liking of Karl Marx, all the while masquerading as a charity:

ROC chief Jayaraman, a Yale/Harvard-trained lawyer, says her goal is to organize "the 99 percent of the [restaurant] industry that's non-union." Yet her group hasn't unionized anything - not even its own eatery.

Soon after Colors opened, its employees (who had invested money in what they believed was a cooperative enterprise) revolted, upset that ROC management was pocketing 40 percent of the earnings and giving seed investors another 40 percent, leaving just 20 percent to the staff.

How could a pro-labor group open a non-union shop? Well, ROC isn't a union - it's a charity.

Indeed, founded after 9/11 as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt charity, ROC's official goal was to help dislocated workers from Windows on the World, the eatery that used to top the World Trade Center.

That worthy aim drew in $500,000 in start-up cash from Unite HERE Local 100, which represents hotel and restaurant workers. The Red Cross and the September 11th Fund also donated.

Based on what ROC's "help" turned out to be, they should ask for their money back.

Read the rest.

Update: Over at the Democracy Project, Phil Orenstein offers these thoughtful suggestions as to how to deal with ROC:

But we can and will fight back. One way is to dine and tip generously at the besieged Cite and Park Avenue CafĂ© and other restaurants targeted by NYU professor/activists and their disciples. Another way to end the political indoctrination in the classroom is to cut off funding to NYU. Most of NYU’s support comes from endowments, grants and donations from alumni. A small percentage comes from tuition. All alumni should call up and pledge not to donate another cent to NYU as long as such radical professors are indoctrinating and recruiting students in the classroom. As long as professor Saru Jayaraman is teaching students to fight for social justice in order to end capitalism in the restaurant industry, all alumni and donors should tell the president that they will withhold contributions until that professor is discharged and an academic environment is restored at NYU.

Another way is to lobby our state lawmakers to get them involved when we observe such professors using the classroom for their pet political causes. We should call our representatives and let them know that the abuses of higher education are a troubling phenomenon.