Seattle mayor orders gun ban

June 12, 2008

As most of the country moves toward greater respect for self-defense, Seattle’s mayor has decided to stand athwart history:

On Monday, Nickels announced he had signed an executive order, which does not require City Council approval, directing employees to draft a plan in 30 days to create a “gun-free policy” on city property. He has not set a date for the prohibition to take effect.

“Our parks, our community centers and our public events are safer without guns,” Nickels said at a news conference with Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske. “At many properties, including City Hall, you can bring a gun if you have a concealed-weapons permit. Under this order, people with concealed weapons will be asked to give up their weapon or leave.”

The city does not have the authority to arrest or fine people for bringing a gun onto city property. Only the state can enact laws governing firearms, and the mayor acknowledged the city could face a legal challenge.

The city can, however, charge violators with trespassing.

Brady campaign concedes defeat

June 12, 2008

We’ve lost the battle on what the Second Amendment means.”  (Via Instapundit.)

School choice passes in Louisiana

June 12, 2008

The AP reports.  (Via the Corner.)

Judge Walther under guard

June 12, 2008

Judge Barbara Walther — who ordered the removal of hundreds of children from the FLDS ranch in violation of the law and stalled their return — is under guard for her protection:

The home of the San Angelo judge who ordered the removal of 440 children from a polygamist ranch is under guard after Utah and Arizona authorities warned of “enforcers” from the sect, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

Police assigned to Judge Barbara Walther’s San Angelo house were provided dossiers and photos of 16 men and women deemed a threat, the Deseret News said.

(Via Instapundit.)

What the article doesn’t mention is any credible evidence of an actual threat.  It’s hard to tell from the article (thanks, AP!), but this sounds like little more than blog comments.  It could just be bad reporting by the AP (of course), but it’s just as likely that this is a PR stunt by the authorities.

Mugabe atrocities continue

June 12, 2008

Reported today: Zimbabwean authorities stole food aid from children and Mugabe’s goons burned a woman alive.

Does America have too much free speech?

June 12, 2008

Certainly not, most Americans would say, but some are not so sure:

“In much of the developed world, one uses racial epithets at one’s legal peril, one displays Nazi regalia and the other trappings of ethnic hatred at significant legal risk, and one urges discrimination against religious minorities under threat of fine or imprisonment,” Frederick Schauer, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, wrote in a recent essay called “The Exceptional First Amendment.”

“But in the United States,” Professor Schauer continued, “all such speech remains constitutionally protected.”

Canada, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Australia and India all have laws or have signed international conventions banning hate speech. Israel and France forbid the sale of Nazi items like swastikas and flags. It is a crime to deny the Holocaust in Canada, Germany and France. . .

Some prominent legal scholars say the United States should reconsider its position on hate speech.

“It is not clear to me that the Europeans are mistaken,” Jeremy Waldron, a legal philosopher, wrote in The New York Review of Books last month, “when they say that a liberal democracy must take affirmative responsibility for protecting the atmosphere of mutual respect against certain forms of vicious attack.”

(Via LGF.)

The article is pretty good, and it reminds us all why we turned our back on Europe in 1776. It’s certainly disturbing, though, that the New York Times would lend its (rapidly declining) respectability to the idea that we should limit free speech. The book review in which the NYT lent its pages to support censorship is here (membership required).

ASIDE: Remember that the NYT recently editorialized against academic freedom.

Iraq quagmire hurts recruiting

June 12, 2008

Terrorist recruiting, that is:

The United States is seeing a sharp drop in the number of foreigners entering Iraq to become al Qaeda suicide bombers, according to intelligence and Bush administration sources.

An administration official and a military adviser to Iraqi commanders attribute the decline to a fairly new phenomenon: Al Qaeda’s call for mass killings in the name of Islam is losing some of its appeal with young Arabs in North Africa and Saudi Arabia, where most of the bombers originate.

The decline also parallels the battlefield losses al Qaeda has suffered in the past 12 months in Iraq’s Anbar province and the greater Baghdad region. This has made it more difficult for al Qaeda in Iraq to facilitate the secret movement of foreigners from the Syrian border to safe houses where they are trained and assigned a target.

“There has been a sharp decline in the amount of suicide bombers coming into Iraq,” said a senior intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “It’s harder for suicide bombers to get into the country. The al Qaeda in Iraq is a shadow of what it once was. And Iraq is a more hostile area for suicide bombers to operate.”

(Via Instapundit.)

The staggering inefficiency of light rail

June 11, 2008

Also apropos of my conversation yesterday, here’s a (year-old) calculation of the costs of the Los Angeles light rail system, showing that it would have been cheaper for LA to buy every one of its riders a Prius.

To give this some currency, here’s a recent Bill Steigerwald article on America’s disastrous mass transit systems, with a particular focus on Pittsburgh’s Port Authority.

The Soviet environmental record

June 11, 2008

Apropos of a conversation I had yesterday, here’s a gallery of photos of Soviet environmental atrocities.  (Reader warning: some of these photos are quite disturbing.)  (Via Classical Values, via Instapundit.)

This should serve as a warning to those who think that unfree societies will protect the environment better than free ones.

UPDATE (2020): Fixed linkrot.

Another reason to skip the Olympics

June 11, 2008

If it’s not enough that Olympic visitors will be supporting China’s oppressive regime, they will also be exposing themselves to espionage:

National security agencies are warning businesses and federal officials that laptops and e-mail devices taken to the Beijing Olympics are likely to be penetrated by Chinese agents aiming to steal secrets or plant bugs to infiltrate U.S. computer networks. Chinese government and industry use electronic espionage to “easily access official and personal computers,” says one recent report by the Overseas Security Advisory Council, a federally chartered panel comprising security experts from corporations and the State, Commerce and Treasury departments.

Equipment left unsupervised for just minutes in a hotel or even during a security screening can be hacked, mined and bugged, adds Larry Wortzel, who chairs the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a federal panel that monitors China-related security issues for Congress. China’s government also controls Internet service providers and wireless networks, he says, so computers and PDAs can be monitored and planted with bugs remotely, too.

“There is a high likelihood ? virtually 100% ? that if an individual is of security, political, or business interest to Chinese ? security services or high technology industries, their electronics can and will be tampered with or penetrated,” Wortzel says.

(Via Knoxville Talks, via Instapundit.)

Obama still smokes

June 11, 2008

Obama admits that he still smokes cigarettes.  (Via Instapundit.)

Obviously, this is something short of a scandal, but there are a few reasons why we should care.  As I noted last April, Obama’s campaign has seen in the past fit to lie about his smoking, and they’ve chosen to make political his ability to quit.  Also, as the ABC report points out, his continued smoking gives additional reason for concern over his refusal to release his medical records (in contrast to McCain’s open disclosure).

Of course, if it were revealed that McCain secretly smokes, I don’t doubt it would become a huge political issue.

New life for Colombia free trade?

June 11, 2008

It’s a third-hand report, but for what it’s worth: Investor’s Business Daily says that Colombian Trade Minister Luis Guillermo Plata says that US Treasury Secretary Paulson says that things are looking up for the Colombian free trade agreement.  (Via Instapundit.)

I hope so.  Recall that the Democrats changed the House rules to avoid a vote on the agreement, for no reason whatsoever.

A new kind of politics, same as the old

June 11, 2008

Obama’s surrogates distort McCain’s remarks regarding Iraq.  (Again.)  (Via Instapundit.)

New iPhone will cost $10 more per month

June 10, 2008

One detail left out in yesterday’s iPhone 3G extravaganza was the cost of a service plan.  Since the new iPhone moves up to 3G from EDGE, one could expect a hike in price.  Now Fox News reports that the extra cost will be $10 per month.

That’s less than I expected, but, oddly, the article makes it out to be bad news.

Senate figures out how to improve service

June 9, 2008

The US Senate votes to privatize its restaurants:

Year after year, decade upon decade, the U.S. Senate’s network of restaurants has lost staggering amounts of money — more than $18 million since 1993, according to one report, and an estimated $2 million this year alone, according to another.

The financial condition of the world’s most exclusive dining hall and its affiliated Capitol Hill restaurants, cafeterias and coffee shops has become so dire that, without a $250,000 subsidy from taxpayers, the Senate won’t make payroll next month.

The embarrassment of the Senate food service struggling like some neighborhood pizza joint has quietly sparked change previously unthinkable for Democrats. Last week, in a late-night voice vote, the Senate agreed to privatize the operation of its food service, a decision that would, for the first time, put it under the control of a contractor and all but guarantee lower wages and benefits for the outfit’s new hires.

The House is expected to agree — its food service operation has been in private hands since the 1980s — and President Bush’s signature on the bill would officially end a seven-month Democratic feud and more than four decades of taxpayer bailouts. . .

All told, [the Senate Restaurants] bring in more than $10 million a year in food sales but have turned a profit in just seven of their 44 years in business, according to the GAO.

In a masterful bit of understatement, Feinstein blamed “noticeably subpar” food and service. Foot traffic bears that out. Come lunchtime, many Senate staffers trudge across the Capitol and down into the basement cafeteria on the House side. On Wednesdays, the lines can be 30 or 40 people long.

House staffers almost never cross the Capitol to eat in the Senate cafeterias.

It’s a perfect little tale of private versus government management:

In the past 10 years, only 20 new items have been added to the Senate menus. So rare are new entrees that last year’s arrival of daily fresh-made sushi was treated in some senatorial quarters as if a new Nobu had opened in the Capitol dining room.

Even revenue in the once-profitable catering division has been decimated, as senators have increasingly sought waivers to bring in outside food for special events with constituents and private groups.

Operation of the House cafeterias was privatized in the 1980s by a Democratic-controlled Congress. Restaurant Associates of New York, the current House contractor, would take over the Senate facilities this fall. The company wins high praise from most staffers and lawmakers, who say they are pleased with the wide variety of new items offered every few months.

Most important to Feinstein, Restaurant Associates turns a substantial profit — paying $1.2 million in commissions to the House since 2003.

This makes good sense, and it’s surprising to see a Democratic Senate agree to do it.  They’re own interests were at stake, though, so maybe it’s not so surprising.  Since they used a voice vote, there’s no way of knowing how individual Senators voted.

Meanwhile, talk of nationalizing health care proceeds apace.

POSTSCRIPT: It would be been even smarter if they had hired a different contractor than the House, to introduce some competition, but I guess there’s a limit to how much free enterprise Senators can tolerate just to get good meals.

(Via the Corner.)

Most see reporters as biased

June 9, 2008

According to a Rasmussen poll, just 17% say reporters even try to give unbiased coverage of politics, versus 68% who say they try to help their preferred candidate.  Even 50% of liberals say reporters are biased.  (Via Instapundit.)

Chavez to FARC: lay down your arms

June 8, 2008

This is strange:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez urged Colombian rebels on Sunday to lay down their weapons, unilaterally free dozens of hostages and put an end to a decades-long armed struggle against Colombia’s government.

Chavez sent an unexpected message to leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, saying their ongoing efforts to overthrow Colombia’s democratically-elected government were unjustified.

“The guerrilla war is history,” said Chavez, speaking during his weekly television and radio program. “At this moment in Latin America, an armed guerrilla movement is out of place.”

The strong statements were uncharacteristic of Chavez, a self-described socialist who earlier this year called on world governments to remove the FARC from terrorist lists and suggested the guerrillas should be recognized as a legitimate insurgent force.

“Uncharacteristic” is an understatement. What could account for this? It’s possible that Chavez has decided on a Qadhafi-style rehabilitation of his image, but that doesn’t strike me as likely.  Perhaps this has something to do with the captured FARC files?

Pakistan to EU: restrict free speech

June 8, 2008

If not, more attacks on EU diplomatic missions cannot be ruled out.

Obama’s plan to disarm the US

June 8, 2008

IBD doesn’t like it.  (Via LGF, which has the video.)  The Democrats haven’t run anyone this hostile to defense in years.

POSTSCRIPT: Missile defense is just one part of Obama’s diatribe, but I have to ask:  He calls missile defense “unproven” despite dozens of successful tests.  What would it take for such a system to be proven?  Can anything “prove” the system other than intercepting a real missile in flight?  That’s the one proof that Obama wants to make sure we can never have!

Anti-semitism at

June 8, 2008

There’s a downside to incorporating Daily-Kos-style diaries into your official campaign website, as has done.  When anyone can post a diary/blog, the world can hear from some of your supporters that you would prefer remained silent.

Charles Johnson finds that the Obama campaign has not been very vigilant in deleting the anti-Semitic material posted on their web site.  Being a helpful sort, Johnson has started doing their work for them.  Of course, he kept screen captures.

Canada does not have freedom of speech

June 8, 2008

Or freedom of religion or freedom of the press either, for that matter. To wit: Stephen Boissoin, a pastor, wrote a letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate, criticizing the “wicked” homosexual agenda. The letter was published. A professor at the University of Calgary filed a complaint with the Alberta “Human Rights” Commission.

The Red Deer Advocate folded before the case was heard, agreeing to institute a new letter policy stating (pdf link, paragraph 6):

The Advocate will not publish statements that indicate unlawful discrimination or intent to discriminate against a person or class of persons, or are likely to expose people to hatred or contempt because of …sexual orientation.

But the Red Deer Advocate was just a sideshow. The real case was against Rev. Boissoin. The commission’s Lori Andreachuk ruled that (paragraph 357):

Having considered the Charter [of Rights] and the balancing of the freedoms set out in the Charter, I have interpreted the [Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism] Act in a manner which respected the broad protection granted to religious freedom. However, I have found that this protection does not trump the protection afforded under the Alberta human rights legislation in s. 3. to protection against hatred and contempt. I also take the view that s.3(2) required a balancing of these freedoms afforded to individuals under the Charter, with the prohibitions in s. 3(1) of the Act. In this case, the publication’s exposure of homosexuals to hatred and contempt trumps the freedom of speech afforded in the Charter. It cannot be the case that any speech wrapped in the ‘guise’ of politics or religion is beyond reproach by any legislation but the Criminal Code.

Having earlier found that the needs of censorship trump freedom of speech and religion, on May 30 she issued her remedy, ordering (pdf link, paragraph 14):

That Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. shall cease publishing in newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public speeches, or on the internet, in future, disparaging remarks about gays and homosexuals. Further, they shall not and are prohibited from making disparaging remarks in the future about Dr. Lund or Dr. Lund’s witnesses relating to their involvement in this complaint. Further, all disparaging remarks versus homosexuals are directed to be removed from current web sites and publications of Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc.


That The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. and Mr. Boissoin shall, in future, be restrained from committing the same or similar contraventions of the Act.

Wow. This pastor is forever barred from any disparaging statements against homosexuals or against Lund (the professor who filed the complaint), in any medium including public speeches. In America we call that “prior restraint.” He also is required to write an apology and pay damages.

There’s more, notes Ezra Klein, but this is enough, isn’t it? (Via the Corner.)

(Previous post.)

A kangaroo court prediction

June 7, 2008

In the Maclean’s kangaroo court case, Nigel Hannaford of the Calgary Herald, predicts:

Goodness knows what the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal will do with their hearing about Maclean’s and Mark Steyn. Probably what they did with their 1997 case against North Vancouver columnist Doug Collins: Release the steam by calling them horrible people but not quite hateful enough to be convicted, then write in some judicial refinement for future use against less well-equipped defendants who have no powerful friends and can’t afford counsel like Julian Porter and Roger McConchie.

(Via Instapundit.)

That seems likely to me. Ruling for the complainants here would be a Pyrrhic victory for the censors. As Andrew Coyne, a blogger for Maclean’s, wrote:

Actually I am rooting for [the complainants], in a strange sort of way. Don’t tell my employers, but I’m sort of hoping we lose this case. If we win—that is, if the tribunal finds we did not, by publishing an excerpt from Mark Steyn’s book, expose Muslims to hatred and contempt, or whatever the legalese is—then the whole clanking business rolls on, the stronger for having shown how “reasonable” it can be. Whereas if we lose, and fight on appeal, and challenge the whole legal basis for these inquisitions, then something important will be achieved.

Philly’s lawless sheriff

June 7, 2008

Philadelphia’s sheriff refuses to carry out a court-ordered foreclosure auction:

Sheriff John Green has spent 37 years in law enforcement. But these days he’s best known around town for the law he won’t enforce.

With the economy soft and thousands of Philadelphians delinquent on their mortgages, Sheriff Green this spring refused to hold a court-ordered foreclosure auction. His move raised eyebrows on the bench and dropped jaws among lenders and their attorneys, who accuse him of shirking his duty to enforce legal contracts.

Sheriff Green is unconcerned about the law:

Mr. Green and Judge Jones are casual golfing buddies. Still, Judge Jones warned the sheriff at a meeting soon after the announcement that a blanket moratorium on the sales was “unwise and more-likely-than-not illegal.”

Mr. Green says he never considered the legality of his decision to halt foreclosure sales. His aides say he is being cagey and that he saw himself as a catalyst to get the court to take action.

“It’s not the sheriff’s job to sell houses,” says Deputy Sheriff’s Officer Paris Washington, a veteran of the department and its head of training. “It’s the sheriff’s job to serve the people who elected him. Because he was elected by the people, he has to listen to the people. Aren’t the people the law?”

Philadelphia is the city that gave us the rule of law; now they’re turning their back on it.

(Via Snowflakes in Hell, via Instapundit.)

Barack Obama: “lightworker”

June 7, 2008

The latest messianic account of the one man who can heal our souls, comes from the San Francisco Chronicle, in a piece entitled “Is Obama an enlightened being?” Here’s the gist:

Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul.

(Via LGF.)


It’s about time

June 7, 2008

The US is giving up on the worse-than-useless UN “Human Rights” Council, which is controlled by the world’s worst human rights offenders:

The United States has quietly informed Western allies of its intention to walk away from the U.N. Human Rights Council, diplomatic sources said on Friday.

The U.S. delegation has observer status, with the right to speak, in the 47-member state forum, which meets in Geneva, and has never stood for election to the Council since it was set up two years ago.

Diplomatic sources and rights activists said that U.S. officials had informed the European Union on Friday morning of its intention to halt its involvement in the Council. . .

[The Council] is seen by critics as having fallen under control of a bloc of Islamic and African countries, which have a majority when backed by their frequent allies Russia, China and Cuba.

(Via LGF.)

Iraq gets bigger every day

June 7, 2008

I once saw a professional debunker on television. His topic of the day was the Bermuda Triangle, in which ships have supposedly disappeared at a statistically improbable rate. He said that when they went about locating the Bermuda Triangle disappearances on a map, they had to get a much bigger map. Ships that had supposedly been lost in the Bermuda Triangle had actually been lost all over the world, and had been listed as Bermuda Triangle losses based on the most tenuous connections (for example, they were scheduled later to pass through the Caribbean Sea).

We may be starting to see a similar phenomenon with Iraq casualties. An Orlando Sentinel story under the banner “U.S. WAR CASUALTIES” reports the latest casualty, a Pfc. Howard A. Jones of Chicago. James Taranto uncovers that Jones was not killed in Iraq at all:

Pfc. Howard A. Jones, Jr., 35, of Chicago, died May 18 in Chicago from injuries sustained when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver while on leave from the Iraq theater of operations.

So being assigned to Iraq is now enough to classify a sadly commonplace death as a “U.S. WAR CASUALTY.”

To be sure, the Defense Department has to take some blame for issuing Jones’s name in a press release in the first place. Today’s media can’t be expected actually to read a press release before plugging it into their narrative. Still, the DoD has pulled their press release. (Taranto’s link has gone stale, and release 11946 no longer appears here.) The Orlando Sentinel however has yet to issue a correction.

Think globally, act foolishly

June 6, 2008

Seattle may ban beach bonfires because they cause global warming.  (Via the Corner.)

This is so stupid.  A few bonfires on Alki beach aren’t going to make a whit of difference to the CO2 content of the atmosphere.  Fireplaces alone dwarf those few bonfires and no one would suggest that fireplaces are a significant CO2 contributor.  This sort of thing is just to send a message and make themselves feel good, at the expense of everyone’s fun.  It won’t even work, because people will just move their bonfires elsewhere, or hold them illegally.

Also, shouldn’t this sort of thing be done by an elected body, if it’s done at all?

Lobbyists for Obama

June 5, 2008

Obama likes to claim that he doesn’t take money from lobbyists, which isn’t remotely true, except in the narrowest possible sense.  Mark Hemingway lists the many ways in which Obama is happy to accept money and other assistance from lobbyists.

Canada does not have freedom of speech

June 5, 2008

After Mark Hemingway’s column on the dismal state of free speech in Canada, I feel comfortable making the bald statement above.  Of course, part of the reason I feel comfortable saying that is I don’t live in Canada.

In 1990, when the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that criminalization of certain speech did not violate the freedom of expression in the Canadian Charter of Rights, it was anti-Semites at issue.  Today, the Canadian “Human Rights” Commission handles complaints regarding all manner of non-PC speech.  And, throughout its 31 years of existence, it has never once found a defendant innocent.

Obama expects GOP to attack his patriotism

June 5, 2008

MSNBC reports.  Translation: Obama will cry that his patriotism is being attacked whenever Republicans attack his demonstrably poor judgement on national security.

Mugabe’s thugs attack, detain US and British diplomats

June 5, 2008

Fox News reports.

Russian communists immune to irony

June 5, 2008

Russian Communists are upset that Putin’s regime is censoring them.  (Via Instapundit.)  Well boo hoo!  Speaking seriously, this is bad, of course, but I can’t help enjoying the irony.

DC takes yet another step toward becoming a police state

June 5, 2008

When Glenn Reynolds linked this story, I assumed it was a Scrappleface parody. But no, it’s serious:

D.C. police will seal off entire neighborhoods, set up checkpoints and kick out strangers under a new program that D.C. officials hope will help them rescue the city from its out-of-control violence.

Under an executive order expected to be announced today, police Chief Cathy L. Lanier will have the authority to designate “Neighborhood Safety Zones.” At least six officers will man cordons around those zones and demand identification from people coming in and out of them. Anyone who doesn’t live there, work there or have “legitimate reason” to be there will be sent away or face arrest, documents obtained by The Examiner show.

Not long ago, we were told that the drop in violence in Iraq somehow didn’t count, because we limiting access to neighborhoods to keep out terrorists. If DC is so out of control that it can’t be managed without measures appropriate to a war zone, DC home rule as failed, and it’s high time we put an end to it.

(Previous post.)

UPDATE: More here.

Researchers covertly tracked 100 thousand people

June 5, 2008

Here’s a disturbing story:

Researchers secretly tracked the locations of 100,000 people outside the United States through their cell-phone use and concluded that most people rarely stray more than a few miles from home.

The first-of-its-kind study by Northeastern University raises privacy and ethical questions for its monitoring methods, which would be illegal in the United States.

It also yielded somewhat surprising results that reveal how little people move around in their daily lives.  Nearly three-quarters of those studied mainly stayed within a 20-mile-wide circle for half a year.

The scientists would not say where the study was done, only describing the location as an industrialized nation.

Ethical questions?  I’d say so.  Set aside the likely illegality of the study, the privacy issues, and the issues of human subject research.  By refusing to reveal where the study was done, they make it impossible to reproduce their results, thereby making the study useless.  (Of course, it would probably be hard to reproduce it anyway, due to the other ethical problems.)  I imagine that they’re holding that information back because of concern for legal consequences.

Say it ain’t so!

June 5, 2008

Very few people will be surprised by this: Palestinian Textbooks Portray Jews in Bad Light.

More Jefferson indictments

June 5, 2008

Rep. William Jefferson (D-Louisiana) was indicted on 16 corruption charges last June. Bizarrely, he remains in the House of Representatives, and was only stripped of his committee chairmanship by a vote of 99-58.

Yesterday, the U.S. Attorney announced indictments of his sister Betty, his brother Mose, and his niece Angela. Betty Jefferson is an elected tax assessor in New Orleans. Mose Jefferson was already under indictment for bribery.

BONUS: Name that party! If you know what party any of these people belong to, you didn’t learn it from the Times-Picayune story I linked. (Okay, I’ll tell you: Betty Jefferson is a Democrat too.)

(Via Instapundit.)

More on Bakken

June 5, 2008

An optimistic take on the Bakken oil deposit, despite the USGS estimate.  (Via Instapundit.)

Burmese relief stymied

June 4, 2008

The US Navy has given up on aiding cyclone survivors after 15 failed attempts to get permission to help from the Burmese junta.

FLDS kids go home, more legal action awaits

June 4, 2008

Now that the children of the FLDS cult are going home, we can expect the story to recede from the front page for a while.  It will be back, however, when the state begins individual prosecutions for sexual abuse.  When it does, there will be those who claim that those cases retroactively justify the state’s stunning removal of all the children.  We should point out now that they will not.

According to the Texas Court of Appeals, no more than five children have been shown to be at risk.  Those children should be protected and their abusers prosecuted, but that endeavor is wholly separate from what they did: remove 430 children (and some adults) from distinct families and dump them all in foster care.  Moreover, he state’s precipitous action may end up tainting its case when it does bring individual prosecutions, thereby further harming those children.

It’s legal in London to call Scientology a cult

June 4, 2008

Old news, but I’m just now noticing it: British prosecutors have decided to drop the charges against a 15-year-old boy who called Scientology a cult. Alas, not for reasons of free speech.

Tsvangirai detained

June 4, 2008

AP reports.  I’m only surprised it took this long.

The best actuaries money can buy

June 4, 2008

New York City is reeling from a $500 million underestimate of the cost of its pension system. How did it happen? It turns out that the actuary used by the New York Legislature was paid by the unions:

An actuary paid by public employee unions and yet relied upon by the State Legislature to determine the cost of proposals affecting New York City’s pension system underestimated their ultimate cost by at least $500 million, city documents and other records show.

In the hundreds of bills for which he has provided estimates to lawmakers since 2000, the actuary, Jonathan Schwartz, said legislation adjusting the pensions of public employees would have no cost, or limited cost, to the city.  But just 11 of the more than 50 bills vetted by Mr. Schwartz that have become law since 2000 will result in the $500 million in eventual costs, or more than $60 million annually. . .

Mr. North and other city employees made the calculations on the 11 bills when they were before the Legislature, but for the other bills, no alternative to Mr. Schwartz’s projections could be found. The New York Times reported last month that in an arrangement that had not been publicly disclosed, Mr. Schwartz was being paid by labor unions. He acknowledged in an interview that he skewed his work to favor the public employees, calling his job “a step above voodoo.”

This is classic rent-seeking behavior by the unions, which is to say, theft.  And for $500 million, whatever they paid Schwartz is a bargain.  There’s no mention that anyone will be prosecuted, in case you were wondering.

(Via Asymmetrical Information, via Instapundit.)

Obama’s faith

June 3, 2008

Mark Hemingway points out a 2004 interview of Barack Obama by Cathleen Falsani, on the topic of his faith. Obama calls himself a Christian, and Falsani asks several questions to probe what that means to him. She leaves some important questions out, though.

Obama’s answers reveal him as a practitioner of the non-judgemental, “people are basically good” brand of pseudo-Christianity that is popular in America today. Certainly he is not an orthodox Christian.

Read the rest of this entry »

Here there be kangaroos

June 3, 2008

Fans of free speech and Canada might not want to read Andrew Coyne’s blog. Coyne has been blogging the BC Human Rights Tribunal’s proceedings in the Maclean’s case.

A while ago, Maclean’s, a Canadian news magazine, printed excerpts from a Mark Steyn book, America Alone, that suggests that the world might have something to worry about in radical Islam. Some Muslims got very mad, and demanded the right to write a rebuttal (with full editorial control) to be printed in Maclean’s. Unsurprisingly, Maclean’s said no.

End of story, you think? Ha! Not at all, because this is Canada. In Canada they have Human Rights Tribunals with the power to police content in speech and the press. The angry Muslims shopped around for a venue and settled on British Columbia, where they filed a complaint for “incitement of hatred.”

The particularly sad and yet strangely funny aspect of the proceeding is that the Human Rights Tribunal is not a real court. Unlike a real court, its members are not judges and there are no rules of evidence. Therefore, they can and do “admit” all manner of irresponsible “evidence,” such as expert testimony from non-experts, blog posts by third parties (even non-Canadian third parties), and even comments on YouTube videos. Everything short of bathroom graffiti, as Coyne puts it.

Unfortunately, this kangaroo court can assess real penalties. Indeed, it has already done so, simply by taking the case and forcing Maclean’s to stand “trial.” Too bad freedom of speech is just an “American concept.”

NOTE: The link above is to Coyne’s front page, where he liveblogged the proceedings. Here are permalinks to parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. (Last updated 6/7.)

POSTSCRIPT: It’s only Tuesday and it’s already been a bad week for free speech abroad, with Canada, Britain, and France censoring people for offending Muslims. Ironically, this sort of thing only supports Steyn’s thesis in America Alone.

UPDATE (6/4): Coyne reports that the “plaintiff” has actually made explicit in writing that censorship is their goal: “We anticipate that success in this case will provide the impetus for prohibiting discriminatory publications in the other provinces.” Not that there’s been any doubt, but it’s striking to see it admitted in writing.

UPDATE (6/7): As the proceedings neared a close, a court official informed Coyne that liveblogging is prohibited.  In a proceeding that centered around repression of the press, it seems appropriate.

Brigitte Bardot convicted

June 3, 2008

In France, it’s a crime to write a letter in which you criticize Muslims.  (Via Instapundit.)

(Previous post.)

CMU professor: Double the price of gas

June 3, 2008

Think the price of gasoline is too high right now?  Lester Lave, an Economics professor at my university, doesn’t think so.  He says the government should impose a $3.50 per gallon tax on gasoline, which would roughly double the (already high) price.  The government would spend the money to give roughly $1240 to each wage earner, by lifting the social security tax on the first $20k of income.

Lave says this would boost the economy.  (It’s hard to type that without laughing.  Fortunately I don’t have to.)

Mow or jail

June 3, 2008

Canton, Ohio has passed a law making failure to mow your lawn a misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in jail.

Strangest story of the day

June 2, 2008

This made me check my calendar to see if it’s April 1st:

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will issue an urgent plea to world leaders at a food summit in Rome on Tuesday to immediately suspend trade restrictions, agricultural taxes and other price controls that have helped fuel the highest food prices in 30 years, according to U.N. officials.

(Via the Corner.)

The UN is calling for free markets and lower taxes?  Now I’ve seen everything.

Good news from Afghanistan?

June 2, 2008

As the situation has improved in Iraq, there have been worries that the situation in Afghanistan is worsening. It’s even harder to know what’s going on in Afghanistan than Iraq, since Afghanistan faces the same neglect from the media, but doesn’t have the interest from independents that Iraq has. We’re mostly left with official reports from the military. So, for what it’s worth, it’s nice to hear that the commander of British forces in Afghanistan says the Taliban insurgency is at the “brink of defeat.” (Via the Corner.)

I don’t envy David Axelrod

June 2, 2008

Axelrod has the job of covering for Barack Obama on the surge:

He never disputed the fact that if you throw a surge of American soldiers in an area that you can make a difference.

Unfortunately for Axelrod, we have the Internet now. Here’s Obama, disputing precisely that fact:

We cannot impose a military solution on what has effectively become a civil war. And until we acknowledge that reality, we can send 15 thousand more troops, 20 thousand more troops, 30 thousand more troops; I don’t know any expert on the region, or any military officer that I’ve spoken to (privately), that believes that that is going to make a substantial difference on the situation on the ground.

(Transcript mine.) Here’s the video. (Via Power Line.)

For the record, the surge involved about 28 thousand troops (including support troops), and obviously they’ve made a tremendous difference. Alexrod can’t patch up the fact that Obama was simply wrong, indeed, could hardly have been more wrong. Obama displayed his poor military judgement here, and that of his unnamed military advisers as well. In contrast, John McCain long advocated the surge, even before it was adopted by the President.

Some people just can’t let go

June 2, 2008

In the AP:

McClellan was ordered to say that White House aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby were not involved in leaking Plame’s identity. Later, a criminal investigation revealed that they were.

Unless the writer is using the word “involved” very expansively, the investigation revealed no such thing. We’ve known for over nine months that Richard Armitage was the one who leaked Plame’s identity, and he did it without any involvement from the White House.

(Via Instapundit.)

New Michael Totten report

June 2, 2008

Michael Totten is taking a break from his Iraq reporting.  In his latest report he visits the former Yugoslavia.

How to commission a hatchet job

June 2, 2008

American Thinker has the story of how Scott McClellan’s book came to pass. (Via LGF.) Here’s the short version: McClellan writes a book proposal. No one wants it. George Soros’s publishing house doesn’t even read the proposal, but asks around and finds that McClellan is disgruntled. They talk to him about what the book should be, and only then buy the book. They “help” him write the book and edit it. The resulting book bears no resemblance to the earlier proposal.

To be clear, these facts are admitted by the publisher, according to the AP:

Osnos [the publisher] said he didn’t even read the proposal, but instead sought out people who knew McClellan and said they regarded him as an honest man unhappy in his job. According to Osnos, and the book’s editor, Lisa Kaufman, “What Happened” evolved as McClellan wrote it.

“The original proposal was somewhat general, so before making an offer on the book we talked to Scott at some length,” Kaufman said.

And in the publisher’s own words:

In nearly 25 years of editing books by public figures intended to provide historical perspective, I have learned that the full story only really emerges in the final editing. Even people who have lived through an experience in, say, The White House, The Pentagon or the Kremlin, can’t completely fathom what they’ve been through. They need help in explaining “what happened” — which is why that is McClellan’s title. There is much more to Scott’s book than the Plame story. He is very hard at work on the manuscript. We’ll then help him be as clear as he can possibly be about what he has concluded.

(Via Power Line.)

It’s not hard to read between the lines.

POSTSCRIPT: Trent Duffy gives McClellan both barrels. Ouch.

UPDATE: Expanded and reworded.

ANOTHER UPDATE: McClellan’s book proposal, before Soros got his hands on it.

Too good to check

June 2, 2008

The New York Times, better late than never:

An article on May 4 about black liberation theology and the debate surrounding the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr, Senator Barack Obama’s former minister, erroneously confirmed a statement by Mr. Wright that the United States has used biological weapons against other countries. There is no evidence that the United States ever did so.

(Via the Corner.)

How does such an outlandish claim get past their vaunted army of editors and fact-checkers?

Another blow to civil rights in Britain

June 1, 2008

The Telegraph reports:

A police community support officer ordered two Christian preachers to stop handing out gospel leaflets in a predominantly Muslim area of Birmingham. The evangelists say they were threatened with arrest for committing a “hate crime” and were told they risked being beaten up if they returned. The incident will fuel fears that “no-go areas” for Christians are emerging in British towns and cities, as the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, claimed in The Sunday Telegraph this year. . .

West Midlands Police, who refused to apologise, said the incident had been “fully investigated” and the officer would be given training in understanding hate crime and communication.

(Via Instapundit.)

The police threaten people with arrest and violence for exercising their freedoms of speech and religion, and then they won’t even apologize. Good thing Mark Steyn is alarmist. If one didn’t know that, one might worry that Britain is dying.

On the standards at the New York Times

June 1, 2008

On Memorial Day, the New York Times ran a risible story about the state of reporting on the war in Iraq. I noted their amazing claim that we the public, not the media, are responsible for the poor coverage of the war. Meanwhile, other bloggers were upset about this paragraph:

But the tactical success of the surge should not be misconstrued as making Iraq a safer place for American soldiers. Last year was the bloodiest in the five-year history of the conflict, with more than 900 dead, and last month, 52 perished, making it the bloodiest month of the year so far. So far in May, 18 have died.

This is entirely misleading, for several reasons:

  • Last year was the bloodiest because it included the surge, which took the battle to the enemy. The surge succeeded within months, and the latter months of 2007 saw a dramatic drop in violence. (James Taranto gives the raw numbers.) Thus, the surge did make Iraq a safer place for American troops. (One might argue that the surge cost lives in doing so, but that’s not relevant to the actual claim, which regards the surge’s outcome, not its process.)
  • As a minor point, the surge significantly increased the number of troops in Iraq. Thus, on average, Iraq is a less dangerous place than the absolute numbers might suggest.
  • The month of April was the bloodiest month of 2008 so far. Of course, there are only three months that precede April. In the first four months of 2008, April was slightly worse than average and February was slightly better. All four numbers are within the range of random variation.
  • May is another story altogether. May saw a precipitous drop in violence that rivals the drop in mid- to late 2007. The story quotes the figure from May as if it supported its thesis, when in fact it refutes it.

That paragraph is a great example of how to lie with half-truths. Each of the claims that can be fact-checked are literally true. Not one of them, however, supports the paragraph’s overall thesis.

Jason Van Steenwyk (a veteran of Iraq) complained to the New York Times. The story’s author, David Carr, replied:


all do respect, I see nothing to correct. last year was the bloodiest of the war. last month was the bloodiest so far this year. it is still a dangerous place to be a soldier.

Now we see the standards at the New York Times. It’s okay to deceive your readers, so long as the facts you cite are literally true.

(Via Gateway Pundit.)

ASIDE: As most anyone familiar with the military could tell Mr. Carr, the Marine Corps provides much of the US force in Iraq, and Marines are not referred to as “soldiers.”

Washington Post notices we’re winning

June 1, 2008

In an editorial today, they write:

The Iraqi Upturn
Don’t look now, but the U.S.-backed government and army may be winning the war.

There’s been a relative lull in news coverage and debate about Iraq in recent weeks — which is odd, because May could turn out to have been one of the most important months of the war. While Washington’s attention has been fixed elsewhere, military analysts have watched with astonishment as the Iraqi government and army have gained control for the first time of the port city of Basra and the sprawling Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, routing the Shiite militias that have ruled them for years and sending key militants scurrying to Iran. At the same time, Iraqi and U.S. forces have pushed forward with a long-promised offensive in Mosul, the last urban refuge of al-Qaeda. So many of its leaders have now been captured or killed that U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, renowned for his cautious assessments, said that the terrorists have “never been closer to defeat than they are now.” . . .

It is — of course — too early to celebrate; though now in disarray, the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr could still regroup, and Iran will almost certainly seek to stir up new violence before the U.S. and Iraqi elections this fall. Still, the rapidly improving conditions should allow U.S. commanders to make some welcome adjustments — and it ought to mandate an already-overdue rethinking by the “this-war-is-lost” caucus in Washington, including Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). . .

If the positive trends continue, proponents of withdrawing most U.S. troops, such as Mr. Obama, might be able to responsibly carry out further pullouts next year. Still, the likely Democratic nominee needs a plan for Iraq based on sustaining an improving situation, rather than abandoning a failed enterprise. That will mean tying withdrawals to the evolution of the Iraqi army and government, rather than an arbitrary timetable; Iraq’s 2009 elections will be crucial. It also should mean providing enough troops and air power to continue backing up Iraqi army operations such as those in Basra and Sadr City. When Mr. Obama floated his strategy for Iraq last year, the United States appeared doomed to defeat. Now he needs a plan for success.

(Via Instapundit.)

The Washington Post is unquestionably liberal, but they often have much more of a clue than most of the other major media outlets, and they show it here. (ASIDE: I’m amused by the editorial’s reference to the “odd” lull in news coverage just when we’re clearly winning. I think they know why, but can’t quite bring themselves to say it.)

The Post is also running a very good photo essay on the return of life to Basra. This is old news, but the photos tell a nice story of their own. (Via Instapundit.)

Rasmussen: McCain trusted more than Obama on most issues

June 1, 2008

A new Rasmussen poll gives John McCain the edge over Barack Obama on most important issues. McCain leads 47-41 on the economy, 49-37 on Iraq, 53-31 on national security, and 44-38 on taxes. Obama has a slight 43-39 edge on ethics.  (Via Instapundit.)

It’s encouraging that McCain leads Obama on the issues despite the best efforts of the media. On the other hand, the election may well not come down to issues, since Obama’s campaign is primarily based on his personality, not the issues. Rasmussen didn’t poll on who would be better to heal our souls.

Obama leaves Trinity United

June 1, 2008

With the latest revelations of controversial messages from the pulpit at Obama’s church, Obama has calculated that it’s less damaging for him to leave the church than stay, and resigned. On this occasion, it’s worth remembering Charles Krauthammer’s column pointing out that Obama had vitiated his own famous “race” speech.

In that speech, incredibly, Obama argued that when whites are upset about the depraved language coming from his church’s pulpit, it is the whites who are being racist, not the man at the pulpit. If churches weren’t so segregated, he said, whites would be familiar with that language and understand it. Now that Obama has twice disavowed that language, where does this leave his argument? Is Obama also a racist, as his argument would seem to require? The alternative is that his speech was a bunch of baloney. Hmm.

Great day in democratic history

June 1, 2008

The DNC has come to a deal whereby Michigan and Florida would be represented at the Democratic convention. In keeping with the principles the Democrats have established throughout their primary, the allocation of delegates from Michigan has nothing whatsoever to do with any election. The DNC panel decided arbitrarily to give 69 delegates to Clinton and 59 to Obama. Also, all the Florida and Michigan delegates will be second-class, awarded one-half of a vote. (Amazingly, they thought that would be better than cutting the number of delegates in half.)

This is the party that calls itself “Democratic.”

UPDATE: “They could’ve at least given them 3/5 of a vote.”  Heh.