Archive for September, 2007
27 Sep 2007

Down With Restroom Hand Dryers!

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Glen Whitman notes the basic fallacy:

1. They fail at their primary function: actually getting my hands dry.

2. And they take too much time in failing.

then goes on to attack the underlying theory.

27 Sep 2007

DC Gun Ban Didn’t Only Violate the US Constitution

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David Kopel explains that it also violated the 1987 Constitution of the state of “New Columbia,” adopted by the District’s Council to serve in a desired condition of future statehood, which included in its Bill of Rights, a Sec.102 whose text was identical to the federal Second Amendment.

Accordingly, when DC lawyers argue to lower federal courts, and to the U.S. Supreme Court, that the language of the U.S. Second Amendment is not an ordinary individual right, they are making an argument which is decisively contradicted by the very constitution adopted by the government whom the lawyers are representing.

Second, DC’s cert. petition makes the novel argument that the District of Columbia (an entity over which the U.S. Constitution grants Congress plenary power) is somehow already a sovereign state for purposes of the Second Amendment; they claim that the 1886 Supreme Court decision in Presser v. Illinois, which held that under the 14th Amendment Privileges and Immunities clause, none of the Bill of Rights are enforceable against states, immunizes D.C. today from the enforcement of the Second Amendment. Yet the New Columbia Constitution shows that D.C. wants to be a state and wants the exact language of the Second Amendment to be enforceable against D.C.

27 Sep 2007

Traduttore, Traditore!

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The Spanish newspaper El Pais yesterday published a leaked transcript of a conversation between George W. Bush and Spanish President José María Aznar in February of 2003 which the left blogosphere gleefully reported as having revealed that Bush intended to go to war whether or not Saddam complied with UN Resolutions.


So, the war didn’t happen because Saddam wouldn’t comply. It happened because Bush and the Republicans wanted it to happen no matter what, whether or not it was necessary.


My ability to bring you the full details on this are, to put it charitably, limited by my inability to accurately translate Spanish. But it seems someone in the Spanish government has leaked to El Pais transcripts of conversations between President Bush and then Spanish Prime Minister Aznar just before the outbreak of the Iraq War. The gist seems to be that Bush was rather candid about the fact that the efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis were a sham and that the war was a done deal.

Not a surprise certainly, but interesting to see it revealed as it was discussed by the actors at the time.

Alternate Brain:

As I’ve said before, the war in Iraq was a done deal in the neocon playbook since 1999. They just had to find the right excuse. (And the right idiot in the Oval Office.)

Libby Spencer:

My Spanish translation skills are also too rusty to come up with an accurate translation but surely it’s only a matter of time before someone of greater skill can tell us exactly what transpired in that conversation. As the White House once again tries to sell a case for another disastrous confrontation in the Middle East, it would be good to review the historical record on how this mess started before we allow our government to compound it.

But, whoops, here comes José Guardia today, demolishing the whole story.

But what the transcript doesn’t say, no matter the headlines, is that Bush was going to invade even if Saddam complied. What it says is that the US would be in Iraq in mid-March whether there was a second UN resolution or not, one that Bush said he would try to get by all means, which is an entirely different matter. As everybody knows, there’s certainly a debate on whether the first resolution was enough or not -many reputable experts think it was, though there’s not unanimity on this, certainly. But the issue is different. …

Clearly this is not an equivalent to the Downing Street memo, but a leak from a Zapatero administration official to an anti-Bush, anti-Aznar newspaper in the hope of embarrassing the two, and atrociously translated to make it all look worse. But I’m sorry to say they only embarrassed themselves. No matter how much you spin it, the memorandum shows exactly the opposite to what they say it shows. In layman terms, they got hoist by their own petard.

27 Sep 2007

Virginia State Climatologist Forced Out for Heresy

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Dr. Patrick J. Michaels

Patrick J. Michaels
, a Research Professor in Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, was appointed Virginia State Climatologist in 1980 by Governor John N. Dalton. Michaels subsequently served as president of the American Association of State Climatologists.

Because Professor Michaels is a skeptic concerning Global Warming catastrophe, in 2006 the left commenced serious efforts to discredit him. He was attacked by ABC News for receiving a research grant from a utility.

The same summer, as the Charlottesville Daily Progress reports, Secretary of the Commonwealth Katherine Hanley, an appointee member of the administration of democrat Governor Timothy M. Kaine, proceeded to dissociate the state government from the office of State Climatologist. Responsibility for choosing a State Climatologist was relinquished by the Governor’s Office to the University of Virginia.

This week, Michaels, age 57, announced that he had negotiated a retirement package with the University of Virginia, would become a part-time faculty member on leave of absence, and was resigning as State Climatologist.

The Charlottesville Daily Progress reports that Michaels identified “his resignation (as) a sad result of the fact that his state climatologist funding had become politicized… which… compromised his academic freedom.”

“It’s very simple,” Michaels said in an interview. “I don’t think anybody was able to come to a satisfactory agreement about academic freedom.”

Former Gov. George Allen, a friend of Michaels, had twice intervened on behalf of his office funding in state budget wrangles. In 1994 as governor, Allen restored a cut to the State Climatology Office of more than $100,000 proposed by former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.

Allen, considered Michaels’ political godfather, acted eight years later as a U.S. senator to rescue Michaels’ office from other proposed cuts when the climatologist said his office faced the loss of half its $113,000 budget in 2003 and 100 percent of it in 2004. …

The politicized funding of his office budget from the state and his private research funding led to a situation that Michaels called “untenable.” He said he now loves his freedom of speech and work at the libertarian-conservative Cato Institute in Washington, where he works while on leave from UVa.

“I feel I can speak more freely,” he said.

26 Sep 2007

The Mystery of September 6th

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George Friedman, at Stratfor, speculates intelligently on what the September 6th Israeli strike on Syria was all about, and why it is that Israel and the United States have been behaving so mysteriously.

I’ve been waiting with some eagerness to the read the Stratfor subscription service’s take on this one myself.

…by remaining ominously silent, the Israelis and Americans might be trying to shake Iran’s nerve, by demonstrating their intelligence capability, their special operations ability and the reach of their air power. With the Israelis having carried out this attack, this very visible secrecy might be designed to make Iran wonder whether it is next, and from what direction an attack might come.

Normally such international game-playing would not interest us. The propensity of governments to create secrets out of the obvious is one of the more tedious aspects of international relations. But this secret is not obvious, and it is not trivial. Though it is true that something is finally being leaked three weeks after the attack, what is being leaked is neither complete nor reliable. It seems to make sense, but you really have to work hard at it.

At a time when the United States is signaling hostile intentions toward Iran, the events in Syria need to be understood, and the fact that they remain opaque is revealing. The secrecy is designed to make a lot of people nervous. Interestingly, the Israelis threw a change-up pitch the week after the attack, signaling once again that they wanted to open talks with the Syrians — a move the Syrians quickly rebuffed.

When events get so strange that interpretation is a challenge, it usually indicates it was intended that way, that the events are significant and that they could point to further instability. We do not know whether that is true, but Israel and the United States have certainly worked hard to create a riddle wrapped in a mystery.

Earlier postings.

26 Sep 2007

Books by the Foot

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When Paramount Pictures needed books for Professor Indiana Jones’s library, they went to the last survivor of New York City’s old book row: the legendary Strand Bookstore. As Austin Kelley reports in the New Yorker, the Strand is quite accustomed to such requests, and in fact has been offering “books-by-the-foot” (.3048 meters) decorating services since since 1986.

Customers can choose from eighteen basic library styles, for purchase or rental. “Bargain books,” a random selection of hardbacks, is the cheapest, at ten dollars per foot of shelf space. For thirty dollars, clients can customize the color. For seventy-five, they can get a “leather-looking” library, which, as the Strand’s Web site puts it, “is often mistaken for leather.”

For Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), the Strand carefully selected books on appropriate subjects, including paleontology, marine biology, and pre-Columbian society, all in editions published prior to 1957.

Read the whole thing.

26 Sep 2007

Inner-City Equestrianism Endangered by Development

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The Wall Street Journal reports a heart-warming story of the proverbial blade of grass succeeding in growing up right through the urban asphalt of a Philadelphia combat zone neighborhood. Naturally, the combined forces of government and economic progress are threatening to eliminate it.

Philadelphia — In a gritty, inner-city neighborhood here, a group of teenagers, older men and a few women gathered one Saturday recently — to parade their horses.

More than 60 horses are squeezed into a row of rickety brick stables and a dusty vacant lot here on West Fletcher Street in the rough neighborhood of Strawberry Mansion. They are among the last major remnants of a decades-old tradition in Philadelphia of inner-city riding, on horses kept in yards and odd corners of the city. …

The horsemen that weekend were also worrying about their future. For decades, Fletcher Street and most of the city’s horsemen were largely ignored by officials. Stables came and went over the years, but there has always been vacant land to claim or another stable to squeeze into.

Now, inner-city development is creating competition for property. Stables around town have been condemned and torn down.

The city has not announced specific plans for Fletcher Street. But the local city councilman, Darrell Clarke, says he wants to see houses replace the stables. Mr. Clarke grew up in the neighborhood and knows several of the older horsemen from his childhood. But, he says, “It’s not an ideal place for them. They are in the middle of a residential block.”

Most horsemen are unprotected. Half the block is owned by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, an agency charged with developing underused property, with a special emphasis on affordable housing. The city aims to finish a major renewal project just to the south of Fletcher Street by 2010.

Neighbors have complained of the noise and smell, and city animal-control officials have fingered Fletcher Street as a “problem area” — a finding the horsemen dispute. Mr. Clarke and other city officials say they believe the horsemen are doing something good for the community but cannot protect them.

“To be candid, it is not a priority,” says Joyce Wilkerson, chief of staff for Mayor John F. Street. Ms. Wilkerson, who keeps a horse of her own in a stable in nearby Fairmount Park, says, “I look at a city that has an operating deficit, a school system with problems,” and too much crime. “I don’t think you take a sport like horses and make it a priority.”

Comments like those have made the horsemen anxious. “There’s a pushout coming,” says Devon Teagle, a 43-year-old former jockey, as horsemen around him nod. “I don’t know when, but it’s coming.” If the stables weren’t here, says Mr. Gough , a retired welder, “I’d just be home twiddling my thumbs.” He comes to Fletcher Street every day to be with old friends.

Read the whole thing.


2:20 video

Temple article

There’s an old saying that there is nothing better for the inside of a boy than the outside of a horse. You’d think the City of Philadelphia would take a more positive interest in promoting a traditional local activity which brings the community together, and which attracts young people and offers a positive alternative to substance abuse and crime.

All the contact information (for donation purposes) I’ve been able to find is:

Strawberry Mansion Equestrian Center
2600 Block Fletcher Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

email link

25 Sep 2007

Ahmadinejad at Columbia


Brett Stephens, in today’s Wall Street Journal, remarks on the futile aspects of liberals listening to dictators.

In a March 1952 essay in Commentary magazine on “George Orwell and the Politics of Truth,” Trilling observed that “the gist of Orwell’s criticism of the liberal intelligentsia was that they refused to understand the conditioned way of life.” Orwell, he wrote, really knew what it was like to live under a totalitarian regime–unlike, say, George Bernard Shaw, who had “insisted upon remaining sublimely unaware of the Russian actuality,” or H.G. Wells, who had “pooh-poohed the threat of Hitler.” By contrast, Orwell “had the simple courage to point out that the pacifists preached their doctrine under condition of the protection of the British navy, and that, against Germany and Russia, Gandhi’s passive resistance would have been to no avail.”

Trilling took the point a step further, assailing the intelligentsia’s habit of treating politics as a “nightmare abstraction” and “pointing to the fearfulness of the nightmare as evidence of their sense of reality.” To put this in the context of Mr. Coatsworth’s hypothetical, Trilling might have said that in hosting and perhaps debating Hitler, Columbia’s faculty and students would not have been “confronting” him, much as they might have gulled themselves into believing they were. Hitler at Columbia would merely have been a man at a podium, offering his “ideas” on this or that, and not the master of a huge terror apparatus bearing down on you. To suggest that such an event amounts to a confrontation, or offers a perspective on reality, is a bit like suggesting that one “confronts” a wild animal by staring at it through its cage at a zoo. …

So there is Adolf Hitler on our imagined stage, ranting about the soon-to-be-fulfilled destiny of the Aryan race. And his audience of outstanding Columbia men are mostly appalled, as they should be. But they are also engrossed, and curious, and if it occurs to some of them that the man should be arrested on the spot they don’t say it. Nor do they ask, “How will we come to terms with his world?” Instead, they wonder how to make him see “reason,” as reasonable people do.

In just a few years, some of these men will be rushing a beach at Normandy or caught in a firefight in the Ardennes. And the fact that their ideas were finer and better than Hitler’s will have done nothing to keep them and millions of their countrymen from harm, and nothing to get them out of its way.

My own problem with all this simply has to do with the fact that it is obviously regarded as daring and being leading-edge to invite Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to give an address at Columbia, when Larry Summers is considered too wicked to be allowed to speak at UC Davis, and Stanford views Don Rumsfeld the way vampires look at crucifixes.

It is quite traditional for universities to feature speaker programs, often affiliated with an undergraduate debating forum, which will host speeches from all sorts of public figures currently in the news. The exposure of undergraduates to celebrities right out of the day’s headlines, the opportunity afforded young people to meet famous men, shake their hands, and interact with them by asking a few questions has real educational value. If nothing else, it provides the young with the understanding that famous men get tired, make slips of the tongue, and sometimes get drunk, too.

There is obviously something, though, which smacks of a canine appetite for intercourse with the headlines in inviting a figure as lurid as Ahmadinejad, associated with the most fatal kind of international relations, head of an extraordinarily barbarous and repressive regime, who is such an avowed enemy of the United States.

This invitation provokes the suspicion that Columbia invited Ahmadinejad, not despite his hostility toward the United States, but because of it. There was a distinct air of Leonard Bernstein hosting the Black Panthers (a lá Radical Chic), with only faintly-concealed pride at pulling off the catch of the season, about the whole thing.

25 Sep 2007

Bush the Incompetent

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Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post is a leftwing editorialist I don’t commonly agree with, but I think the opening, at least, of today’s column hits the nail on the head.

The last two times the Pew Research Center asked people to describe President Bush in a single word, chief among the overwhelmingly negative responses was the word “incompetent.”

What makes that particularly fascinating is that it’s a realization that the public has reached pretty much on its own.

Unfortunately, Froomkin then goes right off into leftwing subjectivity land, repeating the usual memes about unsatisfactory management of the war in Iraq, failure to perform Moses-level miracles on flooded New Orleans, and (quelle horreur!) actually trying to appoint Republicans to DOJ positions.

Froomkin essentially takes the opposite of the facts as his basis to lambaste Bush.

Iit’s well past time to ask ourselves: What has Bush done to our government?

Bush’s two top advisers — Vice President Cheney and just-departed political guru Karl Rove — made little secret of their desire to have the wider federal bureaucracy serve their purposes. But just how much has the exertion of absolute White House political control, through a network of loyalists put in key positions, damaged government agencies’ ability to accomplish the tasks the American people expect of them?

How many long-time senior career employees have been marginalized, micromanaged or driven out of government?

Unfortunately, the real reason Americans think Bush is incompetent is precisely the reverse. Americans have concluded that Bush is incompetent because he cannot defend his own Attorney General when he tries to replace some federal attorneys. They believe that he is a weak leader because he could not compel large portions of the State Department and the Intelligence community to support his policies.

This president did not succeed in replacing disaffected senior officers in the CIA or reforming the Agency, and when National Security information was leaked repeatedly in the New York Times and Washington Post, no one was ever prosecuted or punished.

On the other hand, his adversaries successfully managed to criminalize even questioning the bona fides of Ambassador Wilson’s testimony, and succeeded in convicting the Vice Presidential Chief of Staff of perjury in a case where no crime could possibly ever have occurred. It was George W. Bush himself who appointed the man who aimed the torpedo at the midships of his administration. Bush made James B. Comey (Martha Stewart’s nemesis) Deputy Attorney General, and when John Poindexter (angry at not being reappointed) called for a washbowl and a towel and recused himself, James B. Comey selected the special prosecutor.

Bush is not incompetent because he tyrannically remodeled the bureaucracy. He is incompetent because he has failed to get control of the government he was elected to head, and because he has failed both to punish his enemies and to defend himself and his friends.

25 Sep 2007

Marine Corps Denied Permission to Film Recruiting Commercial in SF

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The city of San Francisco has a long relationship with the United States Naval Service. It was frequently the embarcation port for Marines departing for combat in the South Pacific. Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief of Pacific Forces during WWII, resided in San Francisco, and is buried in one of the cemeteries just beyond the city limits.

Marines Memorial Association, San Francisco

In 1946, the US Marine Corps chose to locate the Marines Memorial Association in downtown San Francisco, a short distance from Union Square.

But, more recently, San Francisco’s film czarina Stephanie Pleet Coyote, a former location manager and wife of actor Peter Coyote appointed in 2004 by Gavin Newsome as head of the city’s Film Commission, refused the US Marine Corps Silent Drill Team a permit to film a recruiting commercial.

The Marines wanted to shut down one lane of California Street for a few minutes at the start of morning rush hour on the anniversary of 9/11 so that the Drill Platoon could be filmed performing against the background of morning traffic. Ms. Coyote said that traffic control was the issue, but the production crew was offered permission to film on California Street as long as no Marines were in the picture.

Marine requests to use one lane of the Golden Gate Bridge were also denied by Ms. Coyote. So the Marines wound up filming in the Golden Gate Recreation Area, in Marin County, overlooking the Bridge.

San Francisco routinely permits traffic to be blocked by demonstrations, most notoriously by Critical Mass bicyclist demonstrators who on the last Friday of every month deliberately block commuter traffic.

This latest insult to the military follows a number of previous gestures by the city administration, including renaming Army Street for the late leftwing labor agitator César Chávez, refusing to berth the retired Battleship Iowa, abolishing Junior ROTC programs in city high schools, and unsuccessfullly trying to cancel the annual Blue Angels air show.

Stephanie Pleet Coyote


4:17 video

Same recruiting commercial being filmed in Times Square 8:49 video

24 Sep 2007

50 Worst Cars of All Time

Dan Neil, in Time, invites the all-time 50 Worst Cars to his own rhetorical demolition derby.

Roger Viollet - Getty
1956 Renault Dauphine

The most ineffective bit of French engineering since the Maginot Line, the Renault Dauphine was originally to be named the Corvette, tres ironie. It was, in fact, a rickety, paper-thin scandal of a car that, if you stood beside it, you could actually hear rusting. Its most salient feature was its slowness, a rate of acceleration you could measure with a calendar. It took the drivers at Road and Track 32 seconds to reach 60 mph, which would put the Dauphine at a severe disadvantage in any drag race involving farm equipment. The fact that the ultra-cheap, super-sketchy Dauphine sold over 2 million copies around the world is an index of how desperately people wanted cars. Any cars.

Perfectly true. I knew someone who had one. Flooring it down a steep hill for a long time would barely get it up to 60. Riding in it was like occupying a rickety old house in a windstorm. It made an endless variety of demoralizing noises, some suggesting the imminent break-down of a vital component of the drive train, others merely alerting you to the continual flexing of the frame and body. You were always under impression that pieces were soon going to start falling off.

24 Sep 2007

Freedom: the Desire of Every Human Heart?

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Maybe not, too, observes Mark Steyn.

Our theme for today comes from George W Bush: “Freedom is the desire of every human heart.”

When the president uses the phrase, he’s invariably applying it to various benighted parts of the Muslim world. There would seem to be quite a bit of evidence to suggest that freedom is not the principal desire of every human heart in, say, Gaza or Waziristan. But why start there? If you look in, say, Brussels or London or New Orleans, do you come away with the overwhelming impression that “freedom is the desire of every human heart”? A year ago, I wrote that “the story of the Western world since 1945 is that, invited to choose between freedom and government ‘security,’ large numbers of people vote to dump freedom – the freedom to make your own decisions about health care, education, property rights, seat belts and a ton of other stuff.”

Last week freedom took another hit. Hillary Rodham Clinton unveiled her new health care plan. Unlike her old health care plan, which took longer to read than most cancers take to kill you, this one’s instant and painless – just a spoonful of government sugar to help the medicine go down. From now on, everyone in America will have to have health insurance.


And, if you don’t, it will be illegal for you to hold a job.

Er, hang on, where’s that in the Constitution? It’s perfectly fine to employ legions of the undocumented from Mexico, but if you employ a fit 26-year-old American with no health insurance either you or he or both of you will be breaking the law?

That’s a major surrender of freedom from the citizen to the state. “So what?” says the caring crowd. “We’ve got to do something about those 40 million uninsured!

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