Friday, June 29, 2007

Spitzer: I Don't Need the Legislature

Via Newsday:
ALBANY -- Frustrated by a legislative session that left many key issues hanging, Gov. Eliot Spitzer said Tuesday that he could govern without lawmakers.

Downplaying the importance of passing laws, the freshman governor said he favored regulatory changes and executive orders to run the state -- neither of which require prior approval by the legislature.

How the World Sees America

In an online series for Newsweek, Amar Bakshi is traveling the world, asking foreigners' opinions of America. Makes for interesting reading. Check it out.

Apparently They've Earned It

After spending last year's congressional campaign battering House Republicans for accepting automatic cost-of-living wage hikes, House Democrats Wednesday voted 244 to 181 to accept a $4,400 raise.

'Delta House was an institution that celebrated democracy'

Hollywood producer Sean Daniel says it's time to stop stigmatizing "Animal House" as the embodiment of foul behavior, which is a good point. He also says Vice President Cheney is eerily similar to Dean Wormer, which is not.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

George Voinovich, Still Crying

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

The fate of the Senate immigration bill may be decided today if supporters can't muster 60 votes to shut off debate and proceed. Although 64 senators on Tuesday supported going forward with the bill, more than a dozen did so only to allow debate on 27 amendments.

If the bill does go to a full debate, many C-SPAN watchers are hoping Ohio GOP Senator George Voinovich will play a prominent role if for no other reason than his entertainment value. You'll recall Mr. Voinovich broke into tears on the Senate floor in 2005 in opposing the nomination of John Bolton as U.N. ambassador, an opposition he later recanted. This week he echoed Sen. Richard Lugar's comments that the Iraqi troop surge had failed, but without any of his colleague's eloquence or depth.

Mr. Voinovich made the mistake of appearing on Sean Hannity's national radio show yesterday to speak on the immigration bill. The interview did not go well. Mr. Hannity's first question concerned the Fairness Doctrine, which liberal Democrats are seeking to revive as a means of imposing equal-time provisions on talk radio. Mr. Voinovich got off on the wrong foot by saying: "I'm all for the Fairness Doctrine, whatever that is."

When the discussion moved to immigration, Mr. Hannity proved to be more knowledgeable about what had happened on the Senate floor yesterday morning than the senator. When informed that an amendment by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison had failed, Mr. Voinovich responded, "I thought it passed because, frankly, I voted for it."

Mr. Voinovich certainly had a point about the ill-mannered and often ill-informed commentary on the immigration issue on talk radio. But he did nothing to improve the situation by putting on his best imitation of an arrogant solon who resented hearing from constituents: "I want everyone else to know: You do not intimidate George Voinovich. This is my 40th year in this business.... I've gotten calls from people that, basically, are intimidating me. They're saying, 'If you do this [vote for the bill], I'll do that [vote against you].'"

When Mr. Hannity pressed him on specifics of the legislation, Mr. Voinovich ducked by saying he had read "most" of the summaries of the bill. And he then launched into a tirade before hanging up on the ABC Radio/Fox News host. "I really don't think it's worthy to talk to you right now because you've got your mind [made] up, you're not really interested in hearing the other side of the coin. All you just want to hear is somebody agree with you. And I'm disappointed in you, because I had more respect for you. I wouldn't even have gone on this radio program with you if I hadn't thought that you'd give me an opportunity.... You haven't even given me a chance."

"You're running away because you can't answer a simple question," replied Mr. Hannity. With that, Senator Voinovich replied: "I hope next time around we have another subject that we can be more rational about." He then hung up. If Mr. Voinovich votes to kill the immigration bill today, it may be for no other reason than a desire to save himself from more embarrassment every time he talks about the subject.

For the record, Voinovich did indeed vote to kill the bill.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

TREND WATCH: Overselling Global Warming

The latest ...

International Center for Theoretical Physics: Paris sizzles, Mediterranean wilts from global warming

Greenpeace: Global warming could create some 200 million climate refugees by 2040 and the bulk of the affected will be people living in poor countries.

Jim Hansen (NASA): The Earth today is in "imminent peril."

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.

Earlier:

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."

TREND WATCH: Proposed NYC Bans

The latest ...

2007:
  1. Teenage possession of spray paint
  2. Businesses from leaving their windows or doors open while air conditioners are on inside
  3. Dogs from being tied up three-plus hours
  4. Talking/listening/playing while walking crosswalks
  5. Skinny models
  6. The "N-word"
  7. Electric-assist pedicabs
  8. 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

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

'He Saved Hundreds of Thousands of Lives'

Antonin Scalia defends '24', via Rush & Molloy:

It's hard to picture Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in his Barcalounger watching "24."

But the jurist is a fan, and he leapt to the defense of the show's character Jack Bauer at a recent international conference of top judges and homeland security officials in Ottawa debating the use of torture against alleged terrorists.

Scalia chafed when Canadian federal Judge Richard Mosley remarked, "Thankfully, security agencies in all our countries do not subscribe to the mantra, 'What would Jack Bauer do?'"

Bauer, who's played by Kiefer Sutherland, is rough on suspects, saying things like, "You are going to tell me what I want to know - it's just a matter of how much you want it to hurt."

"Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles!" Scalia blasted at the Administration of Justice and National Security in Democracies conference. "He saved hundreds of thousands of lives!

"Are you going to convict Jack Bauer? Say that criminal law is against him? Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don't think so!"

Scalia said that, in times of crisis, law enforcement needs latitude in dealing with terrorists. He was not moved by arguments that some prisoners, in places such as Guantanamo Bay, may be innocent.

"I don't care about holding people. I really don't," Judge Scalia added.

Other judges said that allowing torture is "a slippery slope" and noted that coerced confessions don't hold up in court anyway.

It didn't help Scalia's mood when another Canadian, human-rights lawyer Stanley Cohen, asked: "How many people are we going to torture to save L.A.?"

The session broke, and Scalia was still talking about the show. "There's a great scene where he told a guy that he was going to have his family killed," he said. "They had it on closed-circuit television - and it was all staged. ... They really didn't kill the family."

Sutherland is in Romania filming "Mirrors." Spokesmen for the Supreme Court and Fox wouldn't comment.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sen. Kennedy Rips Up Pro-Democracy Ad

Tomorrow the U.S. Senate takes up the so-called Employee Free-Choice Act. So-called because it's anything but. The bill is a union hand-out, intended to help stem organized labor's hemorrhaging membership rolls. Unless companies opt to do otherwise, the National Labor Relations Board requires workers seeking unionization to first reach majority consent via a secret-ballot election. Because unions have a hard time winning these elections, Big Labor wants to replace them with "card check," a system where workforces can unionize once a majority of workers sign cards indicating their desire to do so. Obviously, under card-check -- administered by union bigs looking to expand -- bullying and harrassing skeptical workers is to be expected.

The Center for Union Facts, an organization run by Rick Berman that is a foremost opponent of EFCA, recently ran the following ad in The New York Times, Roll Call, and USA Today:


































Watch bill-sponsor Senator Ted Kennedy's cutting rejoinder below:

Townhall.com's Amanda Carpenter has more.

Friday, June 22, 2007

What The Right Is Saying About Bloomberg

Brent Bozell: His "non-ideological" approach to governing is anything but.

Byron York asks: "Can anyone show me evidence that Americans are hankering for a Michael Bloomberg presidential candidacy?"

National Review: "It is easy to cast stones at Washington if, like Bloomberg, you simply say nothing of consequence about the Iraq war, the most important issue facing the nation."

The Wall Street Journal: "Mr. Bloomberg has been quoted as saying that he wouldn't run unless he could win. We hope he means it. He's rich enough to afford the race, but a candidate for the nation's highest office should have more on his agenda than competence, and should have reason to believe he'd be more than a political spoiler."

Robert George speculates that Bloomberg will attract more votes from the left than from the right. Championing issues like campaign finance reform, global warming, and gun control, I'd have to agree.

David From doesn't.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Excluding Libertarians

John Funds reports on a move by Iowa Republicans to shut out Ron Paul from its forthcoming GOP debate:
It appears that organizers of a forthcoming presidential forum in Iowa on June 30 have decided Mr. Paul will not be welcome. Six other candidates, ranging from Mitt Romney to Tom Tancredo, will be speaking.

Iowans for Tax Relief and the Iowa Christian Alliance are important groups in Iowa politics and their membership includes a large number of faithful presidential caucus attendees. It seems passing strange why they wouldn't want Mr. Paul after cable networks such as CNN, Fox and MSNBC had included him in their debates. ABC also plans to include him in its upcoming debate in Des Moines on August 5. Lew Moore, Mr. Paul's Iowa campaign manager, sought an explanation from the Iowa forum's organizers but was rebuffed. He says he was simply told Mr. Paul wouldn't be allowed to participate. Other callers have been told that Mr. Paul has "fringe type" support and isn't a factor in the caucuses.

Hmmm.... Despite his controversial views, Mr. Paul was tied for sixth place in the Republican field in last week's Wall Street Journal/NBC national poll (he had 2%), and was ahead of several other candidates who've been invited to the June 30 forum. What makes his exclusion all the stranger is that Mr. Paul just placed second behind Fred Thompson in a straw poll of National Taxpayers Union members at the group's annual convention in Washington. One of the key organizers of the NTU event was none other than Iowans for Tax Relief, the co-sponsor of the forum that is excluding Mr. Paul.

Whatever one thinks of Ron Paul, libertarians are an important part of the right, a voting block being actively courted by the left. Giving them the brush off reeks not just of intolerance, but of stupid political gamesmanship.

TREND WATCH: Overselling Global Warming

The latest ...

Greenpeace: Global warming could create some 200 million climate refugees by 2040 and the bulk of the affected will be people living in poor countries.

Jim Hansen (NASA): The Earth today is in "imminent peril."

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.

Earlier:

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."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It Is Done

New Hampshire casts away freedom, embraces nanny-tyranny. The Boston Globe reports:
CONCORD, N.H. -- Governor John Lynch signed a law yesterday banning smoking in New Hampshire's bars and restaurants.

"The science is clear -- secondhand smoke poses a dangerous health risk, and that is why this new law is so important," Lynch said.

Actually, the science is ambiguous at best. If it's as clear as Gov. Lynch says, he should have no problem producing a list of all the New Hampshirites who've died from second-hand smoke. Still, this point is irrevelant. As the governor of a state bearing the motto "Live Free or Die" should know, if people want to work and patronize a bar that allows smoking -- even if it compromises their long-term health -- that is their choice.

But as with smoking bans everywhere, this bill concerns itself not with the interests of individuals, but politicians.

Opponents argued for education instead. They said restaurant and bar owners should decide when or whether to ban smoking, not the state.

They tried unsuccessfully to carve out an exception for "fully enclosed" smoking rooms in some businesses. The rooms would have been required to have separate ventilation systems, and employees would have been able to choose whether to enter them.

But ban supporters said allowing smoking rooms would make it difficult for workers to say no to their employers. They said the rooms would be bad for smokers and their children and for anyone seated near their doors.

Opponents could have argued for allowing smoking only so long as it is done within giant plastic bubbles. Ban proponents would have responded that children exposed to the sight of people smoking in giant plastic bubbles would think it's cool, and that we need to think first and foremost about The Children.

Politicians pushing bans in the name of public health care only about the self-satisfaction received from imposing their life choices on all those they control. Perhaps it's time for New Hampshirites to die, since they're certainly not living free. Or, at least, change their license plates.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Albany Reform Update

"Gov. Spitzer may replace MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow with another real estate mogul -- a financial backer of Democrats who once headed the nonprofit Citizens Budget Commission," The Daily News reports.

Dale Hemmerdinger is a leading candidate for the position, sources said. [...]

Hemmerdinger is the president of Atco Properties and Management, which owns and manages more than 2 million square feet of residential, commercial, industrial and retail space.

While he was chairman of the Citizens Budget Commission the group made recommendations on how to balance the MTA's budget, including higher fares for riders and more tolls and fees for motorists.

Hemmerdinger's wife has given $40,000 to Spitzer campaign committees since 2000, and the governor's wife hosted a Democratic Party fund-raiser at the Hemmerdingers' Central Park South penthouse in May.

An editorial in yesterday's New York Post weighs in on other Spitzer reforms underway:

Does Gov. Spitzer want to clean up Albany's well-earned reputation for political sleaze -- or just mock efforts to do that, including his own?

New Yorkers may find out later this year -- when the powers-that-be move to overhaul thoroughbred-horse racing in New York, perhaps selecting an operator for a slot-machine megaplex at Aqueduct and expanded gambling operations at Belmont.

The clear front-runner for the mechanical-gambling franchise appeared last week to be a company called Excelsior Racing Associates -- whose main investors include one Richard Fields -- a, let's say, generous donor to the gov.

Fields contributed some $200,000 to Spitzer's 2006 campaign through his various limited-liability companies -- the same kind of donations the gov says he wants to end through campaign-finance reforms, but which he continues to accept.

According to a report in yesterday's Albany Times Union, NYRA's directors have already agreed to a Spitzer plan where Excelsior "would get the rights to operate a video lottery terminal casino now earmarked for Belmont Park."

The Post editorial also touched on Spitzer's campaign-finance reform push:

Consider: The gov demands the elimination of LLC donations, which are exempt from the $5,000 donation cap on other corporations - and from which he personally benefited during his campaign (see above).

Meanwhile, he had his wife hosted a cocktail party at which the state Democratic Party eagerly accepted LLC donations of up to $94,200.

Earlier, Spitzer solicited re-election campaign funds from "bundlers" - megabucks put together by individual fund-raisers - with goals of up to $1 million.

In return, the bundlers get private access to the governor, including quarterly meetings with Spitzer and periodic conference-call updates from him and his staff.

The New York Sun's Jacob Gershman has more on this here.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Today's Funk

Courtesy of Ragged Thots' Robert George, A Tribe Called Quest on the Arsenio Hall show sometime in 1991 (notice how skinny Busta Bust):

New Yorkers Are in Good Hands

With less than a week before the latest legislative session wraps up, Albany is taking care of the important business first, The Albany-Times Union reports:

Assemblyman Thomas O'Mara wants to name this noble cultivar the official state grape. Moreover, O'Mara, a Republican from Horseheads, wants to designate grape juice the official state juice.

And other important matters await debate:

Audrey Pheffer, a Democratic Assemblywoman from Queens, wants to let medical doctors care for "orangutans, chimps, gorillas and other great apes."

Brooklyn Democratic Assemblyman Felix Ortiz wants a hot line allowing people to report violations of an earlier law he spearheaded that makes it illegal to talk on cellphones while driving. Presumably, tipsters will use hands-free devices if they're driving, or pull off the road to call in infractions.

Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, a Democrat from Mount Vernon, would ban pickup trucks from the Bronx River Parkway, citing the road's narrow, curvy nature and its scenic beauty. The law, though, doesn't propose banning ugly, rusted cars, or behemoth SUVs, which can dwarf some pickups.

A flurry of measures are pending to add more personalized or official-sounding license plates to the state's roster of more than 250 specialized tags. Proposals include special plates for members of the U.S. Power Sqaudron, a boating safety club; those who have been stationed in the military in Korea (their spouses, too); Kiwanis club members; African-American veterans; osteopathic physicians; nurse practitioners; and disabled volunteer firefighters.

I suppose one would have to be supremely optimistic to hope these bills will help stem the tide of young people fleeing New York.

Finally

DemocraticGovernors.org: "NY -Gov. Eliot Spitzer has announced an executive order establishing an ongoing task force of high level state officials to advance programs and policies to benefit children."

Friday, June 15, 2007

Beasties on Tour




























Pretty cool. The Beasties have a Flickr page up where they're posting shots from the road. They also have blogs -- one regular, and one for the tour. After (yet another) European tour, they're playing East Coast shows in early August. Sadly, the two NYC shows -- Summerstage in Central Park and McCarren Pool in Brooklyn -- are insanely expensive ($60 after Ticketbastard's $10 rape fee). I'll be attending the show in the BK, and hanging out in Central Park, hopefully close enough to hear the music without having to fork over the remainder of my life savings.

For those who haven't heard their latest album, The Mix Up, you really oughta. Mike D described it as different from The In Sound From the Way Out, despite both being instrumentals only. But he's wrong. It's just as funky, just as dank, and just as worthy of everyone going out and picking up a copy. My only complaint is that it's too short. Each track clocks in around 4 minutes, and with only 10 or so songs, the whole thing's over before you've even put on your leisure suit.

Peep the video for Off the Grid:

Aside from the posted tour dates, they'll also be playing a number of secret shows. From their e-mail:
THE GALA EVENTS will be in smaller spots, more exclusive, more intimate. this will be more like quality time, our time, just you and the band sitting by a fire on a tropical beach late at night being serenaded with love songs. these shows are for people that are into our weird stuff, so if you want to get weird together, this is your call. these shows will be based around the instruments. some songs will have vocals, others will be instrumental. BUT if you'd like to come to one of these shows, then dress to impress, wear a suit, a tie, a dress, a gown or whatever you feel dressed up in... AND PLEASE leave your cargo shorts, birkenstocks and t-shirts at home, this is not that kind of party.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Bedpans on the Mind of Joe Klein

"[Donald Rumsfeld] was the worst SecDef in American history. He should be emptying bedpans at Walter Reed" -- Joe Klein, writing in his Time Magazine Swampland blog, May 1, 2007

"Take some time to clear your head, a lot of time, and pay for your sins by emptying bedpans at Walter Reed" -- Joe Klein, offering advice to the White House's recently departed Peter Wehner, May 24, 2007

"Instead of sending Scooter to jail, at public expense, I'd rather have [Karl Rove] paying back the public by emptying bedpans at Walter Reed" -- Joe Klein, June 13, 2007

(H/T: JPod)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

'Ms. Clinton, Thinking Small'

There are a number of lessons Hillary Clinton never learned from her husband's presidency. Chief among them is the value of supporting free and open trade with the world, a surefire method to bring wealth to poor countries, lower the cost of living here at home, all-the-while improving America's image abroad. The Washington Post says Clinton's opposition to a proposed trade agreement with South Korea represents a strategic mistake of the very worst sort:

The United States and South Korea in April concluded 10 months of negotiations to sign what would be, if ratified, the most far-reaching trade agreement since the pact with Mexico and Canada that President Bill Clinton championed in 1993. It's a pact between the world's largest and 11th-largest economies that would benefit workers, farmers and companies on both sides. As a democracy with a strong trade union movement, South Korea doesn't pose the workers' rights challenges that vex unionists in agreements with poorer countries. This deal would open the Korean market to a wide array of U.S. agricultural, industrial and cultural products and services; in fact, the political risks in South Korea are far higher than here. And it would demonstrate U.S. commitment to a vital region at a time when China is steadily gaining ground.

But forget all that; Ms. Clinton objects that South Korean manufacturers sell many more cars here than do American carmakers over there. Never mind that the agreement requires Korea to remove discriminatory tariffs and taxes on U.S. cars; never mind that U.S. tariffs on Korean cars can "snap back" if Korea doesn't keep its word. Not good enough, says Ms. Clinton. What more could she have wanted for Detroit? She won't say.

Will any Democratic presidential candidate take the responsible position on trade? John Edwards, a labor lackey, announced his opposition to the South Korea agreement in April; Barack Obama says he's still thinking it over, according to the Post. When will Democrats learn that Bill Clinton succeeded because he wasn't a conventional leftist?

Spitzer Endorses Religious Freedom

"Governor Eliot Spitzer introduced legislation Monday that would help protect religious freedom in New York," the Poughkeepsie Journal reports.
The proposed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, modeled after federal legislation, would ensure that state and local laws accommodate important religious practices.

Under the proposed act, all statutes, regulations or other government actions that “substantially burden” religious exercise must be justified by a compelling government interest.

The standard set by his proposed bill was applied nationwide until 1990, noted Spitzer in a press release. At that time the Supreme Court issued a decision indicating that a lower standard should apply.

Since then, federal government and other states such as Conn., R.I., and Fla. adopted statutes reinstating the higher standard in an effort to protect religious liberty.
One wonders whether protected religious practices will include distributing pamphlets at abortion clinics.

Impeachment Time?

President Bush rocks Crocs.





















(H/T: Will Moyer)

'If there's a hell on earth, it's probably Zimbabwe'

There are things about Fred Thompson that concern me. Namely: his choices for advisers, his supply-side credentials, his past life as a trial lawyer, his past support of McCain-Feingold, his conviction (does he have the same clear purpose that made Reagan's administration so successful?).

But one area where Thompson is spot-on is his take on the United Nations:

Two United Nations agencies have just released a report saying that 4 million people in Zimbabwe are in danger of starving. That's a third of the entire country's population. Take note that I said "two United Nations agencies" are predicting the mass starvation.

The reason I want you to take note of that is that, last month, the same United Nations elected Mugabe's Zimbabwe to lead the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. That's the organization charged with promoting sound long-term economies.

Now you might ask why a country in economic freefall would be chosen by the UN to advise the rest of the world about economic growth. But you might also ask why Iran was made vice-chair of the UN Disarmament Commission last year -- even as it ramped up its nuclear weapons program and threatened to destroy Israel. Or, for that matter, you might wonder why Libya was made chair of the Commission on Human Rights -- as Libyans don't even have basic democratic rights.

The UN never seems to have good answers, but I'll offer one. Robert Mugabe was given chairmanship of the commission because his view on sustainable development fits right in with much of the UN's.

Always refreshing to see politicians eschew diplomacy in favor of honesty.

Getting What We Pay For?

"New Yorkers are paying a four-star tax bill; we see that every time another study comes out ranking spending on this or that program," the Times Herald-Record writes. "If New Yorkers were getting four-star results, there might not be much to complain about. But they are not, so there is." The editorial continues:
Earlier this year, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston calculated that New York has average spending needs and well-above-average taxation. The Fed concluded that state and local taxes in New York are the highest in the nation when measured against the state's ability to produce revenue — 34 percent above the national average. Maine, a small and mostly rural state, was second at 18 percent, and several large states more comparable to New York — Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania — all had taxes significantly lower.
The future will not be much more affordable. Gov. Spitzer has promised more state aid to schools, which will push spending higher but not do anything to lower the tax burden on localities. All the talk about a Michigan-style tax revolution — raising some other tax, lowering the property tax, imposing state controls on spending — has gone away to be replaced by a convoluted system of rebates that require homeowners to apply and calculate and then cash checks for a few hundred dollars.
Click here for the rest.

(Via the Business Council's Knickerbocker Blog)

Friday, June 8, 2007

Downtown Decongestant

Mayor Bloomberg's pitch to tax the poor off of Manhattan streets appears to be picking up steam. So what better time to check in on London, where a similar experiment is three years deep. Paul Biggs of the British Drivers Association offers this analysis:
To start, the whole project has been very expensive to implement, and has generated less revenue than anticipated. Setup costs were about $600 million (U.S.). The charge promised to raise $400 million per year for public transportation projects, but the estimate quickly dropped to $140 million. In the first two years, nearly $200 million was "lost" in running costs.

The lower-than-expected collections should not distract us from a far bigger problem: business in London has been hurt, and working families have been stretched. On one of the busiest streets in Europe, centrally located Oxford St., stores such as Selfridges and John Lewis reported a 10% decline in sales in the first 18 months. Overall, 84% of businesses said their income was down - and 62% blamed the congestion charge.

Residents in poorer parts of London complained of less visits by family and friends, and around a third were having difficulty paying the charge.

All these results are culled from an official government survey.

Moreover, what started as a supposedly modest charge has been hiked beyond what many can afford. The £5 ($10) initial fee was not to be raised for 10 years; it has already gone up to around $16. Bus fares are still rising despite a £500 million ($1 billion) subsidy.

Well, at least traffic is down and travel through London is causing fewer headaches, right? Not exactly. Recently, Transport for London's head of traffic management admitted that traffic was creeping back up -- and was 5% higher on boundary roads than before the scheme began. And because it's buses, trucks and taxis - which operate unfettered -- that cause the worst pollution, air quality has not improved.

Still, it's worth a shot, right?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Atlantic Yards Update

"In an emphatic yet potentially questionable decision, U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis yesterday dismissed Goldstein v. Pataki, the federal lawsuit challenging eminent domain that Atlantic Yards opponents have considered their best hope for stopping the project," writes the Atlantic Yards Report:
In his decision, Garaufis ruled that even if public benefits—including new tax revenues, housing, jobs, and the elimination of blight—are less than promised, they’re sufficient to overcome allegations that the project is a sweetheart deal benefiting developer Forest City Ratner.

“Because Plaintiffs concede that the Project will create large quantities of housing and office space, as well as a sports arena, in an area that is mostly blighted, Plaintiffs’ allegations, if proven, would not permit a reasonable juror to conclude that the 'sole purpose' of the Project is to confer a private benefit,” Garaufis wrote. “Neither would those allegations permit a reasonable juror to conclude that the purposes offered in support of the Project are 'mere pretexts' for an actual purpose to confer a private benefit on FCRC.”
Develop Don't Destroy responds:
Because Judge Garaufis failed to consider that there was no comprehensive development plan, that the project was developed and driven by Forest City Ratner from the beginning, that FCR planned the footprint of the properties to be seized, that Forest City was known to be the beneficiary before the takings occurred and that there was no legislative oversight -- all characteristics of an unconstitutional taking according to the U.S. Supreme Court in Kelo v. the City of New London -- we are taking an immediate appeal to the United States 2nd Circuit (federal) Appeals Court. But we will not stop there. If necessary, we will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear our claims.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff adds:
“We have a nice issue for an appellate court to decide. Undisputed facts lead to an inference that this was driven for Ratner’s benefit. It’s undisputed that no other developer was considered to do this project, that the genesis was Forest City Ratner, that they identified my clients’ properties [for eminent domain], and that the government, broadly speaking, agreed to do exactly what [the developer] asked for. If those facts don’t give rise to a claim under the public use clause, it’s definitely a dead letter, for anybody.”
With an appeal forthcoming and another suit challenging the environmental review currently in state courts, it will be a long time yet before this matter is resolved.

Spitzer Nominates McCall to SUNY board

Story here. Let's just hope he's not heading up SUNY's compensation committee.

'I'm not giving up my family's house'

Facing the threat of eminent-domain-driven evictions, Brooklyn residents aren't going quietly, Julia Vitullo-Martin reports for The New York Sun:

If New York City had such a thing as the Most-Endearing-House-in-the-Five-Boroughs Award, the tiny four-story frame house at 493 Dean St. in Brooklyn, built sometime in the 1830s, would be a contender. Fronted by a fenced herb garden, casement windows above and a small Alice-through-the-looking-glass door below, the house seems to beckon visitors in from the street. At Sunday's Garden Walk 2007, held by the Brownstone Brooklyn Garden District Association, the owner, Jerry Campbell, said his grandfather bought the house 50 years ago, moving to Brooklyn from Sugar Hill in Harlem. He wanted a house he could afford on his own, not share, Mr. Campbell said. Sugar Hill had gotten expensive.

Mr. Campbell's house and his neighbor's at 491 Dean were chosen for the walk in part because their backyard gardens grow at the edge of the neighborhood's first known garden, Parmentier's Horticultural and Botanic Gardens, established in 1825 on 25 acres by a Belgian nurseryman, AndrĂ© Parmentier. The remaining "petits Parmentiers" are imperiled, the tour organizer, Patti Hagan, said, because they occupy the western edge of Bruce Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards development, which the association's brochure calls a "24-acre House & Garden Grab." Arguing that the area's heritage is important, Ms. Hagan said it was known as Rose Hill a century ago, when it was Irish. Indeed, roses still bloom in nearly every garden on the tour. Of the 16 listed gardens, only two are in the Atlantic Yards footprint, though nearly everyone — owners and visitors alike — expressed dismay at the looming threat of eminent domain.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Time To Change the License Plates











New Hampshire is throwing tradition to the wind. The Boston Globe reports the state House voted 224-117 to pass a smoking ban, which Governor John Lynch said he plans to sign. The bill has already passed the Senate, where a similar bill was blocked last year. The difference? More Democrats came to power in the last election.

Ninety days after Lynch signs the bill, Granite State residents will be forbidden from smoking in bars and restaurants.

This is a sad day for liberty. If we've lost New Hampshire, where else can liberty-minded people go to settle and pursue happiness without being told how to pursue happiness? Even that promiscuous den of sin Las Vegas has passed a smoking ban.

Perhaps it's time to move to Communist China, Communist Cuba, Stalinist North Korea, repressive Singapore, or Iran, all countries that still afford their people the right to smoke as they please in public places.

(H/t: Karol)