Archive for April, 2007
27 Apr 2007

Legal Comedy

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The Washington Post reports a tale of spectacularly excessive litigation.

When the neighborhood dry cleaner misplaced Roy Pearson’s pants, he took action. He complained. He demanded compensation. And then he sued. Man, did he sue.

Two years, thousands of pages of legal documents and many hundreds of hours of investigative work later, Pearson is seeking to make Custom Cleaners pay — would you believe more than the payroll of the entire Washington Nationals roster?

He says he deserves millions for the damages he suffered by not getting his pants back, for his litigation costs, for “mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort,” for the value of the time he has spent on the lawsuit, for leasing a car every weekend for 10 years and for a replacement suit, according to court papers.

Pearson is demanding $65,462,500. The original alteration work on the pants cost $10.50.

By the way, Pearson is a lawyer. Okay, you probably figured that. But get this: He’s a judge, too — an administrative law judge for the District of Columbia.

I’m telling you, they need to start selling tickets down at the courthouse.

Oh, where to start: How about the car? Why should Ki, Jin and Soo Chung — the family that owns Custom Cleaners on Bladensburg Road NE in the District’s Fort Lincoln section — pay Pearson $15,000 so he can rent a car every weekend for 10 years?

The plaintiff, who says he has devoted more than 1,000 hours to represent himself in this battle, says that as a result of poor service at Custom, he must find another cleaner. And because Pearson does not own a car, he says he will have to rent one to get his clothes taken care of.

And somebody made this character a judge!

Read the whole thing.

26 Apr 2007

Someone Took Out the Trash at Yale

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Yale’s Hewitt Quadrangle has long unfortunately been permitted by the liberal administration to serve as the locus for leftwing protest art. A number of “shanties” erected to protest the policies of the former government of the Republic of South Africa were an eyesore for several years, until Dr. Elwood Bracey ’58 visiting Yale for a class reunion did us all a favor by setting fire to them.

Local communists had more recently installed the above “sculpture” made from pill bottles to protest pharmaceutical companies’ enjoyment of patent rights. The bottles evidently symbolized all the spongers and looters who allegedly perished because US companies did not simply give away the medicines they spent millions of dollars developing and producing for free.

The Yale Daily News reports that the noisome object

was badly damaged Thursday night, when it was apparently thrown by students involved in secret society Tap Night from Beinecke Plaza into the sunken sculpture garden on the plaza. …

Although no witnesses to the incident could be reached for comment, Jordan Strom ’07 said he had heard that the individuals responsible were a male wearing a Speedo swimsuit, a male dressed “in a baby costume wearing a diaper,” and a male in a purple dress, indicating that the vandalism was a result of secret society Tap Night* activities.

Jordan Strom said he was told that the three males were confronted by witnesses after they threw the pill bottle over the edge of the pit, but that the perpetrators were “too intoxicated to pay much attention.

All of which shows that good men and true still exist at Yale.

“Elwood Bracey, be like him. Dare to Struggle; dare to win.”

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* Tap Night is the Spring evening on which new members are “tapped,” i.e. invited to join, Yale’s exclusive senior societies.

26 Apr 2007

Yale Student Flag Burner Gets Slap on the Wrist

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AP reports that 23-year-old Said Hyder Akbar received 50 hours of community service and accelerated rehabilitation for setting afire an American flag hanging from a house in New Haven’s Chapel Street.

Akbar apologized to the owner of the house he endangered.

Original story

Follow-up posting

26 Apr 2007

Adolescent Rebellion and Self-Hatred

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Terrye reflects on the liberals’ commitment to bringing about American defeat.

There is a commercial I have seen in which some old baby boomer sitting in a fancy office says he is going to use some service {I forget what it is} so that he can stick it to the man. His young assistant says But sir, you are the man. To which the old boy responds, Maybe.

I think liberals have found themselves in a world in which they are the man. They are the people running the World Bank with all of its phenomenal corruption. They are the people responsible for the United Nations with its corruption and incompetence on display every day. They are the people who railed against the likes of Saddam Hussein for years, only to rail against the United States even more. The truth is if they have to choose between the leader of the free world, the President of the United States and some tin pot dictator with a swiss bank account…they are more than likely to choose the dictator.

For years, they played the rebellious teenager speaking truth to power and now they find they are the power. And guess what? They are no better than the other guy. That is what is eating at them. They know they can’t reason with the Iranians or the Syrians or people like Hugo Chavez or that nutcase in North Korea. They have shown time and again that all they can do is declare defeat and demand reform. They are good at the defeat part, after all it is some other poor bastard who is sitting out on that limb they are sawing off, but the reform part…not so good. They will spend a lot more time complaining about Wolfowitz than they will the 800 billion lost to corruption at the World Bank. After all, if they go after the Mugabes of the world they will lose the support of those dictators. Better to let them line their pockets and pretend not to notice the kickbacks. Just blame the poverty on capitalism and free trade and ignore the obvious thievery.

They will not demand anyone go to jail over the Food for Oil scandal even though it made a mockery of the United Nations, an institution they show reverence for. No, they will go suck up to Assad and pretend he did not kill the political opposition in Lebanon. They will turn their back on democracy in Iraq. They will whine about the Patriot Act, but they will demand we talk to the Mad Mullahs who are proud of the fact that they publicly execute women of ill repute. They will worry over global warming and the supposed end of the world, but they will not deal with the threats that face us in the here and now. They don’t know how.

The Democrats woke up in the world of the 21st century and discovered they are the man. And all they know how to do is bitch. And while bitching might be fun, it doesn’t fix a damn thing.

26 Apr 2007

10 Most Common Passwords

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Steve Johnson at the Chicago Tribune lists the most popular choices, and wonders who would tell his password to a pollster?

1. password

2. 123456

3. qwerty

4. abc123

5. letmein

6. monkey

7. myspace1

8. password1

9. blink182

10. (your first name)

26 Apr 2007

This Year’s Brokeback Mountain

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Opening this week in New York fresh from Robert Redford’s Sundance Festival, this year’s answer to Brokeback Mountain takes the contemporary cinema’s defense of forbidden love one step further.

New York Times:

The director Robinson Devor apparently would like viewers who watch his heavily reconstructed documentary, “Zoo,” to see it as a story of ineluctable desire and human dignity. Shot on Super 16-millimeter film, with many scenes steeped in a blue that would have made Yves Klein envious, “Zoo” is, to a large extent, about the rhetorical uses of beauty and metaphor and of certain filmmaking techniques like slow-motion photography. It is, rather more coyly, also about a man who died from a perforated colon after he arranged to have sex with a stallion.

26 Apr 2007

WWI Trophy Means Legal Problems For Smalltown Library

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German Maschinengewehr 08

The Boston Globe reports that the discovery in its attic of a German machine-gun captured in the course of one of the most famous American battlefield feats of valor in WWI has delivered the smalltown library of Nahant, Massachusetts into the clutches of the BATF.

The National Firearms Act of 1934 required fully-automatic weapons (even war trophies) to be federally licensed.

Sergeant Alvin York‘s against-all-odds capture of a heavily fortified German machine gun nest in the Argonne Forest of France 89 years ago made York an American legend.

With seven other American infantrymen, he took 132 German prisoners and silenced German machine guns that had slaughtered Allied troops. His actions earned the humble Tennessee farmer an iconic status alongside Daniel Boone and a title declaring him the greatest American hero of World War I. He was held up as the very embodiment of humility and courage.

Which is why officials at Nahant’s public library were thrilled four years ago to discover what they say is one of the captured German machine guns in the library attic.

“I tripped over the gun one day, not knowing what it was,” said Daniel deStefano, the library’s director. “I picked up what I thought was a pipe. It was the barrel of the gun.”

Library officials say they researched markings on the gun and searched local newspaper archives and town documents for answers about the weapon’s origin, determining that the gun had been given to the town in 1918 by an Army clerk, Nahant native Mayland Lewis.

According to the research, Lewis had plucked the weapon from a pile given up by surrendering Germans and shipped it home. Briefly prized as a souvenir of the war, it was paraded through the town on Armistice Day in 1919 by Boy Scouts who towed it in a red wagon. But over the years it faded from public view.

Its rediscovery stoked dreams of a big windfall for the library, where officials had been pondering ways to finance an expansion of the cramped facility and an upgrade of an antiquated cataloging system. Library officials said they contacted several auctioneers in New England who estimated the weapon’s value at $100,000 and perhaps several times more than that.

But the dreams didn’t last long. Library officials soon learned that the gun is illegal and that they can do very little with it.

Federal gun laws prohibit possession or sale of automatic guns unless they are registered with the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. In the library attic for years, the German machine gun was never registered. The library isn’t allowed to register the gun now because federal law prohibits new registrations on automatic weapons, except in rare circumstances.

Since it is illegal for the library even to have the gun, Nahant police took it and stored it under lock and key in an evidence locker, forestalling seizure by the ATF.

“We cannot hold onto this weapon,” deStefano said. “If we kept it on the premises, they were going to come and get it, and they were going to destroy it. This is a piece of history. We’re kind of caught between a rock and a hard place.”

The town has appealed to the ATF for permission to sell the gun, but so far, bureau officials have rejected the pleas.

A spokesman for the ATF said yesterday that it would be possible for the Nahant police to register the gun and take responsibility for it, which would prevent it from being destroyed. They could also possibly transfer it to another public agency, but it’s unlikely that it can be sold on the market , according to Jim McNally, a spokesman in Boston for the ATF .

He said the agency — at the request of US Representative John F. Tierney, a Salem Democrat — is researching options that Nahant might be allowed under the law, such as transferring the gun to a private museum.

“There are pretty clear-cut laws when it comes to automatic weapons,” McNally said yesterday. “This is a unique weapon, and it would be sad to see it destroyed. Whether it can raise money for what they’re looking for is another matter.”

In an effort last fall to get special permission to register the gun, town officials approached Tierney and Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry for legislation that would grant the town an exception to the restrictions. Neither Kerry nor Kennedy responded.

Tierney issued a statement yesterday calling the machine gun a “remarkable object” and said his office is engaged in discussions with the ATF.

The library’s machine gun discovery was first reported Monday by The Daily Item in Lynn.

Richard Hallion, a military historian who has studied Hiram Maxim, a Maine native who built the first effective machine gun, said he knew of no other gun from the York battle. He believes that numerous museums might be interested in preserving this one.

But Chris Berg, who owns a company that specializes in historic military weapons, said that the library’s gun is worth little because it is not registered.

“In all honesty,” he said, “it’s only worth $500.” He said if it were registered and legal to sell, he would pay at least $50,000.

25 Apr 2007

Yale Changes Its Mind

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Abashed by nationwide ridicule resulting from Dean Betty Trachtenberg’s ban on stage weapons in university theatrical productions, the Yale administration has announced its cancellation of the ban on free speech grounds. Yale should also reverse its ban on possession of firearms on campus, on second Amendment grounds, but that’s hardly likely, is it?

The Yale Daily News:

Stage weapons will again be allowed in University theatrical productions, in a reversal of last week’s ban, Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said Tuesday morning.

Administrators decided Monday afternoon to require that audiences instead be informed of the use of stage weapons before the start of every performance, she said. In the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre, which left 33 students dead last Monday, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg had told students that they would be required to substitute obviously fake props for realistic stage weapons in theatrical productions.

Klasky said the University reversed the policy because of concerns about free speech.

“As an institution that has always valued free speech, we wanted to uphold the principles that we have always adhered to,” she said.

Klasky said the policy of announcing the use of stage weapons in advance will hold for all future campus productions.

The ban affected at least two shows that went up over the weekend: the play “Red Noses” and the opera “Orpheus in the Underworld,” and attracted national media attention as well as causing a stir among students involved in theater on campus. Several students complained that the requirement infringed on their free speech, while others pointed out that the policy was unlikely to assuage anxiety about Virginia Tech.

But over the weekend, Trachtenberg, who is retiring at the end of the academic year, said student criticism of the stage weapons ban had been exaggerated.

“I think people should start thinking about other people rather than trying to feel sorry for themselves and thinking that the administration is trying to thwart their creativity,” Trachtenberg said. “They’re not using their own intelligence. … We have to think of the people who might be affected by seeing real-life weapons.”

Klasky declined to name the people involved in making Monday’s decision.

25 Apr 2007

Habitable Planet Discovered

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Only 20 light years away.

Daily Mail

The discovery was announced today by a team of European astronomers, using a telescope in La Silla in the Chilean Andes.

The Earth-like planet that could be covered in oceans and may support life is 20.5 light years away, and has the right temperature to allow liquid water on its surface.

This remarkable discovery appears to confirm the suspicions of most astronomers that the universe is swarming with Earth-like worlds.

We don’t yet know much about this planet, but scientists believe that it may be the best candidate so far for supporting extraterrestrial life.

The new planet, which orbits a small, red star called Gliese 581, is about one-and-a-half times the diameter of the Earth.

It probably has a substantial atmosphere and may be covered with large amounts of water – necessary for life to evolve – and, most importantly, temperatures are very similar to those on our world. …

This new planet – known for the time being as Gliese 581c – is a midget in comparison, being about 12,000 miles across (Earth is a little under 8,000 pole-to-pole).

It has a mass five times that of Earth, probably made of the same sort of rock as makes up our world and with enough gravity to hold a substantial atmosphere.

Astrobiologists – scientists who study the possibility of alien life – refer to a climate known as the Goldilocks Zone, where it is not so cold that water freezes and not so hot that it boils, but where it can lie on the planet’s surface as a liquid.

In our solar system, only one planet – Earth – lies in the Goldilocks Zone. Venus is far too hot and Mars is just too cold. This new planet lies bang in the middle of the zone, with average surface temperatures estimated to be between zero and 40c (32-102f). Lakes, rivers and even oceans are possible.

It is not clear what this planet is made of. If it is rock, like the Earth, then its surface may be land, or a combination of land and ocean.

Another possibility is that Gliese 581c was formed mostly from ice far from the star (ice is a very common substance in the Universe), and moved to the close orbit it inhabits today.

In which case its entire surface will have melted to form a giant, planet-wide ocean with no land, save perhaps a few rocky islands or icebergs.

The surface gravity is probably around twice that of the Earth and the atmosphere could be similar to ours.

24 Apr 2007

Modern Burglar Gun

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Operated by PC.

2:52 video

vCrib.com

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

24 Apr 2007

Kryptonite Discovered in Serbia

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Reuters:

Kryptonite, which robbed Superman of his powers, is no longer the stuff of comic books and films.

A mineral found by geologists in Serbia shares virtually the same chemical composition as the fictional kryptonite from outer space, used by the superhero’s nemesis Lex Luther to weaken him in the film “Superman Returns”.

“We will have to be careful with it — we wouldn’t want to deprive Earth of its most famous superhero!,” said Dr Chris Stanley, a mineralogist at London’s Natural History Museum.

Stanley, who revealed the identity of the mysterious new mineral, discovered the match after searching the Internet for its chemical formula – sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide.

“I was amazed to discover that same scientific name written on a case of rock containing kryptonite stolen by Lex Luther from a museum in the film Superman Returns,” he said.

The substance has been confirmed as a new mineral after tests by scientists at the Natural History Museum in London and the National Research Council in Canada.

But instead of the large green crystals in Superman comics, the real thing is a white, powdery substance which contains no fluorine and is non-radioactive.

The mineral, to be named Jadarite, will go on show at the London’s Natural History Museum at certain times of the day on Wednesday, April 25, and Sunday, May 13.

Hat tip to Dr. Milton Ong.

23 Apr 2007

A Message For Harry Reid

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Corporal Tyler Rock USMC to Senator Harry Reid courtesy of Pat Dollard.

yeah and i got a quote for that douche harry reid. these families need us here. obviously he has never been in iraq. or at least the area worth seeing. the parts where insurgency is rampant and the buildings are blown to pieces. we need to stay here and help rebuild. if iraq didnt want us here then why do we have IP’s voluntering everyday to rebuild their cities. and working directly with us too. same with the IA’s. it sucks that iraqi’s have more patriotism for a country that has turned to complete shit more than the people in america who drink starbucks everyday. we could leave this place and say we are sorry to the terrorists. and then we could wait for 3,000 more american civilians to die before we say “hey thats not nice” again. and the sad thing is after we WIN this war. people like him will say he was there for us the whole time.

23 Apr 2007

A Very Questionable Shooting

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AP:

A man and a woman were killed at a luxury oceanfront resort when police fired into their bungalow after they refused to drop a handgun, authorities said.

Is that so?

The story says there was an affluent couple, a domestic dispute, a naked woman, and two people pointing the gun at the police in turn.

They can’t really both have been pointing the gun at the police at the same time, now can they? So why did these cops need to shoot both of them? For that matter, since the police story does not include anyone actually firing at the police, why was it necessary to shoot anybody.

The last few decades have featured the ill-advised militarization of American police; a virtually infinite increase in police paranoia, cowardice, and incompetence; and the vanishing of common sense from police work. There are federal sources of training, operational standards, and philosophy behind these developments which badly need to be stopped.

23 Apr 2007

Mark Steyn on Liberal Hoplophobia

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Mark Steyn comments pretty acerbically on the academic intelligentsia’s aversion to weapons and self-defense… and to reality.

…at Yale, the dean of student affairs, Betty Trachtenberg, reacted to the Virginia Tech murders by taking decisive action: She banned all stage weapons from plays performed on campus. After protests from the drama department, she modified her decisive action to “permit the use of obviously fake weapons” such as plastic swords. …

I think we have a problem in our culture not with “realistic weapons” but with being realistic about reality. After all, we already “fear guns,” at least in the hands of NRA members. Otherwise, why would we ban them from so many areas of life? Virginia Tech, remember, was a “gun-free zone,” formally and proudly designated as such by the college administration. Yet the killer kept his guns and ammo on the campus. It was a “gun-free zone” except for those belonging to the guy who wanted to kill everybody. Had the Second Amendment not been in effect repealed by VT, someone might have been able to do as two students did five years ago at the Appalachian Law School: When a would-be mass murderer showed up, they rushed for their vehicles, grabbed their guns and pinned him down until the cops arrived.

But you can’t do that at Virginia Tech. Instead, the administration has created a “Gun-Free School Zone.” Or, to be more accurate, they’ve created a sign that says “Gun-Free School Zone.” And, like a loopy medieval sultan, they thought that simply declaring it to be so would make it so. The “gun-free zone” turned out to be a fraud — not just because there were at least two guns on the campus last Monday, but in the more important sense that the college was promoting to its students a profoundly deluded view of the world.

I live in northern New England, which has a very low crime rate, in part because it has a high rate of gun ownership. We do have the occasional murder, however. A few years back, a couple of alienated loser teens from a small Vermont town decided they were going to kill somebody, steal his ATM cards, and go to Australia. So they went to a remote house in the woods a couple of towns away, knocked on the door, and said their car had broken down. The guy thought their story smelled funny so he picked up his Glock and told ’em to get lost. So they concocted a better story, and pretended to be students doing an environmental survey. Unfortunately, the next old coot in the woods was sick of environmentalists and chased ’em away. Eventually they figured they could spend months knocking on doors in rural Vermont and New Hampshire and seeing nothing for their pains but cranky guys in plaid leveling both barrels through the screen door. So even these idiots worked it out: Where’s the nearest place around here where you’re most likely to encounter gullible defenseless types who have foresworn all means of resistance? Answer: Dartmouth College. So they drove over the Connecticut River, rang the doorbell, and brutally murdered a couple of well-meaning liberal professors. Two depraved misfits of crushing stupidity (to judge from their diaries) had nevertheless identified precisely the easiest murder victims in the twin-state area. To promote vulnerability as a moral virtue is not merely foolish. Like the new Yale props department policy, it signals to everyone that you’re not in the real world.

The “gun-free zone” fraud isn’t just about banning firearms or even a symptom of academia’s distaste for an entire sensibility of which the Second Amendment is part and parcel but part of a deeper reluctance of critical segments of our culture to engage with reality. Michelle Malkin wrote a column a few days ago connecting the prohibition against physical self-defense with “the erosion of intellectual self-defense,” and the retreat of college campuses into a smothering security blanket of speech codes and “safe spaces” that’s the very opposite of the principles of honest enquiry and vigorous debate on which university life was founded. And so we “fear guns,” and “verbal violence,” and excessively realistic swashbuckling in the varsity production of ”The Three Musketeers.” What kind of functioning society can emerge from such a cocoon?

Whole thing.

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