29 June 2005

Oh. So that's what Lincoln's for.

Peggy Noonan takes a look Obama, Frist, Clinton, and the Supreme Court, and asks "What is wrong with them?"
What is in the air there in Washington, what is in the water? What is wrong with them? This is not a rhetorical question. I think it is unspoken question No. 1 as Americans look at so many of the individuals in our government. What is wrong with them?
Read the whole thing.

28 June 2005

God Almighty Let This Not Be a Prank

A private developer contacted the local government in Supreme Court Justice David Souter's hometown in New Hampshire yesterday asking that the property of the judge – who voted in favor of a controversial decision allowing a city to take residents' homes for private development – be seized to make room for a new hotel.

(Logan) Clements: "Although this property is owned by an individual, David H. Souter, a recent Supreme Court decision, Kelo v. City of New London, clears the way for this land to be taken by the government of Weare through eminent domain and given to my LLC for the purposes of building a hotel. The justification for such an eminent domain action is that our hotel will better serve the public interest as it will bring in economic development and higher tax revenue to Weare."

The Kelo v. City of New London decision, handed down Thursday, allows the New London, Conn., government to seize the homes and businesses of residents to facilitate the building of an office complex that would provide economic benefits to the area and more tax revenue to the city. Though the practice of eminent domain is provided for in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, this case is significant because the seizure is for private development and not for "public use," such as a highway or bridge. The decision has been roundly criticized by property-rights activists and limited-government commentators.

Among the Creepiest Things Ever Printed

I've been trying to find an angle on the travesty that is Supreme Court's Kelo v. City of New London ruling. I keep waiting to discover some facet of this that convinces me that it's not what it looks like. Right now, it doesn't look like the United States of America.

The collectivist elites at the StarTribune ran an incredibly pompous and very telling public pacifier by Jim Miller, who is in the business of cities. I say 'the business' because Miller is but one of countless folk who believe government entities must perpetually expand, and cheer for the increased pervasiveness of influence and control:

Imagine that you live in a city -- roughly the size of Austin, Owatonna or Shakopee -- that recently experienced the closure of a major business and the loss of 1,500 jobs. Imagine that the city is in economic distress, with double-digit unemployment. Now, imagine the opportunity to remedy that distress.

Harmless enough - government only wants to do good, right . . .

The community leaders of New London, Conn., saw such an opportunity and, thanks to a Supreme Court affirmation of a long-standing legal precedent that permits cities to exercise eminent domain, those leaders will have a chance to revitalize the economy, steer their community in a positive direction and improve the quality of life for all New London residents.

Way to gloss it over. Let's get it right, Jim, this is not an affirmation. This is a new turn in the road. This is a big tilt of authority to government's side in eminent domain situations.

Eminent domain involves a city acquiring property with just compensation and relocation expenses paid to the property owner. As early as 1837, the Supreme Court recognized that eminent domain could be used to promote "the public interest." Before eminent domain is exercised, a formal process must be completed, including public meetings and a formal court action.

No, you liar. The Fifth Ammendment says "public use." You do not get to expand this to something so vague as "public interest."

Though media accounts of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo vs. City of New London have cast a negative light on cities' use of eminent domain, the court was simply reaffirming, not expanding, powers that local governments in Minnesota and throughout the nation have had, and exercised, for decades -- the power to acquire property for development if that development fulfills a public purpose.

You have lied again. The majority (Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer & Kennedy) ruled that local government can seize an individual's home for private economic development projects. Were not talking freeway or water treatment plant. This is a hotel or Home Depot instead of your house.

While petitioners in the case argued that economic development is not a "public use" under the Fifth Amendment, in writing the majority opinion Justice John Paul Stevens clarified the definition, finding that economic revitalization is a long-accepted governmental function and furthers a valid "public purpose." The principle of eminent domain is designed to achieve the greater community good. Without eminent domain, an individual homeowner or business owner could stand in the way of, or demand unreasonable compensation to permit, a project that could lift a neighborhood or an entire city out of economic distress. This is particularly important for those cities needing to increase jobs or strengthen property tax bases, where a single project -- a factory, a retail and housing center, a business complex -- could make the difference between economic recovery or austerity.

Stop with the happy talk. The court has given government broad authority to take property in the name of loosely-defined economic development benefits. It has said that the governments 'need' for tax income supersedes private property rights. This is new, This is bad. Stop with the 'good old days' crap.

Eminent domain is a tool rarely used to achieve a city's redevelopment. Duluth, for example, was able to revitalize its downtown waterfront area without needing to exert eminent domain. However, it isn't hard to imagine a scenario where, but for the ability to use this tool, two or three homeowners could have hindered the building of the beautiful and popular Canal Park District. What repercussions would that have had for the economy of Duluth? How many then-existing jobs would have been lost and new jobs unrealized -- not only among retail and hospitality businesses, but in the construction industry?

Municipalities can now argue that transferring property from one private person to another, (not the municipality) is justified because it increases tax revenue to that municipality, thereby serving a public purpose. Practically any residential home would generate more tax dollars as a Wal-Mart and Blockbuster. That auto mechanic or family grocery provides less jobs than an industrial park. That church on the hill pays no taxes and has hardly any jobs.

Displacing residents from their homes is serious business and is exercised only as a last resort.

Let me correct you right there: Displacing residents fro their homes by force of law is serious business, and no longer has to be exercised as last resort with the new authority granted cities by this ruling.

When eminent domain is used, the law requires cities to provide fair compensation for acquired property and relocation assistance. "Fair" compensation is determined by an independent commission or a jury. Additionally, through the Kelo decision, the court has reaffirmed that cities must have a well-conceived plan for exercise of eminent domain -- it cannot be administered in an unjust or haphazard fashion.

Yea, the libraries are filled with stories of people who have been fairly compensated and had their relocation expenses cover.

Locally, the League of Minnesota Cities has worked with state lawmakers to draft legislation that would make procedural changes to further improve the acquisition and eminent domain process for all involved. The legislation would retain a city's obligation to construct a sound plan through a process of citizen involvement. Those who assert that public officials will be newly emboldened to indiscriminately "seize" property for the economic gain of private interests have a fundamental misunderstanding of local government, and of the intent of local elected officials.

For all involved? Now you're a bad liar. Are you going to expect me to believe the League of Minnesota Cities is working toward anything but a fast track to eminent domain acquisition?

Responsible cities historically have, and will continue to judiciously balance the rights of private property owners with the economic interests of the entire community.

Pardon me if I do not trust the good nature of professional public administrators and other do-gooders, be they elected or not. We have a Constitution and Bill of Rights that puts reigns on government authority; to ensure that it is finite in its scope and authority. The Fifth Amendment is not a vehicle for increasing government revenues at the expense of individual property rights.

As the National League of Cities notes in its brief on the Kelo vs. City of New London case, "Local governments do not exist to enrich a few, but to solve problems and provide services that all citizens need and demand." To deny local governments the tool of eminent domain is to deny cities the opportunities to survive and flourish, to deny jobs for citizens of economically depressed cities and towns, and to deny quality of life to our nation's city-dwellers.

Nor do local governments exist to enrich themselves. A municipality has no special right or charter to seize private property by force of law from one and hand it over to another. No matter the intention, no matter the insatiable appetite for revenue, no matter what. As Justice O'Connor noted in the dissenting opinion, "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random." Beneficiaries from the ruling would likely be "large corporations and development firms," she added.

The opportunity for corruption of public officials and the screwing of private property owners least able to fight it is a door that just got blown wide open. Let's go out with the Tenth Ammendment, which should remind us all that the people are in charge, and that government's ONLY powers are those granted to it by the people:

Amendment X - The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Keep you head in the game, America.

26 June 2005

Sunday in Saint Paul.


I was going to try to incorporate Bob Cooley, Jose Cuervo, and Andrew Craig in to the title of today's post, but I'm feeling lazy.

I finished Cooley's book on the deck of Chateau Octane this afternoon. I knew the basic outcome, but was happy I stuck with it until the end. I needed to get the same sense of closure that the author took, and wanted the epilogue on Marcy, Roti, Maloney, and Aleman. The book was recommended by a friend and business associate who's lived in Chicago from the time of Capone to today. He knows a good book on the Outfit when he sees it. Thanks, JW.

It's a classic summer day here: Hot, muggy and windy. Quiet too; lots of people out of the city, likely "Up North." There's also the occasional 88-inch V-twin rumbling by. It is a perfect day for a tequila sunrise. I had my first one at the Imperial Palace a few years ago. I was there with friends, and we killed most of an afternoon poolside, sweating the previous 24 hours out of our skin. The bar was shamefully out of whiskey and lacking in legitimate beer offerings. Always trying to trust the locals, I asked the pale, Belarusian waitress what the bartender was good at making. She said tequila sunrise, assuring me that "it be having some more oranges juices in it" or something like that. Thanks hon, keep 'em coming.

Along with becoming resolute about finishing books I start, the other thing that drove me outside and away from the tube was the appalling efforts of Big Media to provide me with motorsports coverage of which they could be proud. SpeedTV (aka the "Painfully NASCAR" channel) had a SCCA Trans Am race that was 7 days old, then went to some 250-cc motorcycle race from Assen. What's wrong guys; couldn't find that tape of NASCAR drivers playing Texas Hold 'Em? CBS was even more futile: They tried to show the CART race from Burke Lakefront Airport, but their feed went out, and the nationwide audience was left with the Champ Car logo on the screen, along with Rick Benjamin and Derek Daly via a telephone line. Yea. I stuck with that for 6 seconds.

With television, the cover of the book by which the insides may be judged is the commercials. Want to know who's really watching Desperate Housewives, MTV, or the CBS Evening News? Just watch the commercials. Before the Champ Car race went dark, I was a bit startled to see a spot selling a 2-CD set of old 60's country music. When I got into CART, it was run by Andrew Craig, a Brit who saw a chance to make CART a North-American F1 alternative. His whole thing was to move CART upmarket, away from the canned beer and jacked up Camaro crowd, and toward the Chablis and Brie gang, who drive an XJS to work. Something about there being more money in that gang, I guess. Well I don't know what to think of the honky tonk music offer during today's telelcast, but it sure seems like somebody is heaping much Earth on Andrew Craig's legacy, and making some odd generalizations about open-wheel motorsports fans. Of course, love 60's country music, but I'm weird.

22 June 2005

Yes Dick, We're All Very, Very Sorry.

The Dallas Morning News speaks for me on the national embarrassment that is Dick Durbin, and his cowardly non-apology.
We're sorry that anything else Mr. Durbin might say about allegations of torture at Guantanamo Bay simply cannot be believed, thanks to his way-over-the-top screed. We're sorry that in his haste to score political points against the Bush administration, he chose to squander his credibility by linking U.S. troops to despots who killed millions of innocent people.

We're sorry that Mr. Durbin woke up this morning still the Senate's assistant minority leader - the second-ranked Democrat - and that it apparently hasn't occurred to fellow Democrats that he should step down from the leadership.
Go away Dick. You're not worthy.

20 June 2005

Hooray for Hollywood

At one time, they employed quality writers. These are the questions posed by Peter Marshall, host of "The Hollywood Squares," and the scripted celebrity responses:

Q. Do female frogs croak?
A. Paul Lynde: If you hold their little heads under water long enough.

Q. If you're going to make a parachute jump, at least how high should you be?
A. Charley Weaver: Three days of steady drinking should do it.

Q. True or False, a pea can last as long as 5,000 years.
A. George Gobel: Boy, it sure seems that way sometimes.

Q. You've been having trouble going to sleep. Are you probably a man or a woman?
A. Don Knotts: That's what's been keeping me awake.

Q. According to Cosmo, if you meet a stranger at a party and you think that he is attractive, is it okay to come out and ask him if he's married?
A. Rose Marie: No, wait until morning.

Q. Which of your five senses tends to diminish, as you get older?
A. Charley Weaver: My sense of decency.

Q. In Hawaiian, does it take more than three words to say "I Love You"?
A. Vincent Price: No, you can say it with a pineapple and a twenty.

Q. What are "Do It," "I Can Help," and "I Can't Get Enough"?
A. George Gobel: I don't know, but it's coming from the next apartment.

Q. As you grow older, do you tend to gesture more or less with your hands while talking?
A. Rose Marie: You ask me one more growing old question Peter, and I'll give you a gesture you'll never forget.

Q. Paul, why do Hell's Angels wear leather?
A. Because chiffon wrinkles too easily.

Q. Charley, you've just decided to grow strawberries. Are you going to get any during the first year?
A. Charley Weaver: Of course not, I'm too busy growing strawberries.

Q. In bowling, what's a perfect score?
A. Rose Marie: Ralph, the pin boy.

Q. It is considered in bad taste to discuss two subjects at nudist camps. One is politics, what is the other?
A. Paul Lynde: Tape measures.

Q. During a tornado, are you safer in the bedroom or in the closet?
A. Rose Marie: Unfortunately Peter, I'm always safe in the bedroom.

Q. Can boys join the Camp Fire Girls?
A. Marty Allen: Only after lights out.

Q. When you pat a dog on its head he will wag his tail. What will a goose do?
A. Paul Lynde: Make him bark?

Q. If you were pregnant for two years, what would you give birth to?
A. Paul Lynde: Whatever it is, it would never be afraid of the dark.

Q. According to Ann Landers, is there anything wrong with getting into the habit of kissing a lot of people?
A. Charley Weaver: It got me out of the army.

Q. While visiting China , your tour guide starts shouting "Poo! Poo! Poo!" What does this mean?A. George Gobel: Cattle crossing.

Q. It is the most abused and neglected part of your body, what is it?
A. Paul Lynde: Mine may be abused but it certainly isn't neglected.

Q. Back in the old days, when Great Grandpa put horseradish on his head, what was he trying to do?
A. George Gobel: Get it in his mouth.

Q. Who stays pregnant for a longer period of time, your wife or your elephant?
A. Paul Lynde: Who told you about my elephant?

Q. When a couple has a baby, who is responsible for its sex?
A. Charley Weaver: I'll lend him the car; the rest is up to him.

Q. Jackie Gleason recently revealed that he firmly believes in them and has actually seen them on at least two occasions. What are they?
A. Charley Weaver: His feet

Q. According to Ann Landers, what are two things you should never do in bed?
A. Paul Lynde: Point and Laugh!

19 June 2005

Back off Man, I'm a Scientist.


Best in Show (if you ask me) - 1957 Olds Super 88 Convertible.

Over 10,000 cars, how do you choose just one? Or 81 for that matter, as that's how many 1600 x 1200 24-bit pictures I can hold on all my compact flash cards combined.

It's the 3rd or 4th day of impossibly perfect summer weather here on the Tundra, and there could be no better way to spend it than by throwing $10 at the MSRA to walk the fairgrounds and ogle other peoples vehicular treasures, so long as they were screwed together by 1964. It's quite the buffet of iron. It's my understanding that this is the second largest (by car count) street rod/classic car show in the world; second only to Pomona.

It's literally impossible to see everything. The cars park where they can, they're always coming and going, and you need a double major in math and logic to walk every street with minimum redundancy, which is key for such a large area. Ultimately, it's OK to not glance upon every single one, because after a while, you realize you got your fix, and it's time to retreat.

The annual car show is two-fold for me: There is the semi-systematic traipsing of the grounds with camera and plenty of water, and there is the cruise. On the Saturday night of the event, I'll mount up the trusty steed, and become part of the problem, which is borderline gridlock on University and Snelling Avenues. As far as crowd control, the St. Paul Police teetered between letting boys be boys, and clamping down a la Chinese governmental hardliners. About 11:30, they actually blocked off University both ways between Snelling and Prior, and most everyone went scattering. That's too bad, because your average 50-plus guy in his 1960 Desoto Adventurer is not causing any trouble. It's the dipshit in the Something-To-Prove Neon who's ruining it for all us adults. Ultimately, you had to disperse the traffic here and there. I'd sure hate to be in the proverbial ambulance trying to get to the ER in that mess.

Believe it or not, I have judged legitimate car shows, and I know a thing or two about the medically measurable excitement the right car can inflict on the right person. I know what I'm doing in flinging out my choice, and today, it came down to 4 cars: A black and white '55 Chevy warmed up with a Corvette LS1, a 2-tone '62 Coupe Deville Convertible with genuine art under the hood, a bone-stock red and white '55 Mercury Montclair Coupe, and the Olds 88 pictured above. For no other reasons than the Wow Factor, and the fact I could not stop looking at it, the cinnamon ragtop wins my dubious award for 2005. See ya next summer, boys.

13 June 2005

Earth, Wind and Fire.

Ye Olde Atmosphere blowed up real good over Saint Paul at the end of rush hour. Rare for it to move south to north around these parts, but it was the real deal for a while. Black sky, white rain, and VW-threatening hail the size of pinto beans. I got the chariot in the barn, and my rear into the house to find everything as I expected: Calm wife, nervous Golden Retriever, and snoring Labrador. All was fine until I realized I had to make my annual trip out on the roof to clear those God-forsaken Sugar Maple helicopters from the gutter, which was not working as the manual might describe. Went down to Club Fatbody for the usual punishment, and was treated tot he extra punishment of wall-to-wall freakshow post-mortem on nearly every network. When I came out, I pulled out of the ramp and onto Ford Parkway, and that's when it all converged.

One thing I love about my job is that it allows me the occasional opportunity to pair aural to visual, and wallow in pleasure of the rightness I've made. Just as a gourmet will ooze with satisfaction upon pairing right wine with dinner, I have this thing about seeing and hearing the right things at the right times. Examples of this for me are the recutting of the car chase from Bullitt to The Fireballs' "Fireball," and making Filter's "Hey Man, Nice Shot" a soundtrack to Erwin Rommell's fisking at the hands of George S. Patton. I even work in short-form: You should see how well "O Mio Babbino Caro" (Renee Fleming, in this case) makes Neil Mellor's extra-time game winner vs. Arsenal back in November all the more magical.

Well, tonight it was the rain, the wet streets, the lights, the lightning all over the sky, and how easy it was to snake through the Highland Park neighborhood to "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" on the Monsoon system . Of course, all art is subjective, and your mileage may vary, but there's just something about the tempo of Jimi's live version. It's measured. It's got swagger. It's just right for coming home in no real hurry, and it's undeterred by a little weather.

Yes, it was raining becasuse I washed the car Sunday.

10 June 2005

Governor Dean Sometimes Gets a Little Excited at the Mouth.

Over at Just one Minute, there is a transcript from Harold Ford Jr.'s (D-TN) appearance on Imus June 9th.

For those just catching up with the funny, funny head of the Democratic National Committee, Ol' Howard has been trying to rally the oft-defeated troops by characterizing Republicans as "a white, Christian party," and then avowed to "hate the Republicans and everything they stand for."

Then, of course, there was this fisking in The Wall Street Journal:

Yes, you heard that right. Howard Dean is accusing Republicans of being white. We most assuredly are not jiving you: Howard Dean--scion of Park Avenue, former governor of Vermont, a state that is 96.8% people of pallor--is faulting Republicans for being white, even though he himself is whiter than an albino polar bear with dandruff. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!
Yes Howard, I know "we all look the same," but what ticks me off is that cloaked just beneath the surface of Dean's disdain for people unlike himself is the implicit glorification of all that is New England ploitical elitism and Northeast progressive Valhalla. Once Dean is done screaming about how refined his chosen people are, he may want to look at July 17th AND September 18 on the NASCAR schedule. Cracker on!

09 June 2005

From the Mind of the Pinball Machine.

Just because I'm going to topic-jump doesn't mean I invite comparisons to those lame columns Larry King used to write:

One of the hardest things I ever watched involves the character Rock Hudson plays in the 1966 film Seconds. It comes near the end, where he understands what his fate is to be.

As much as I like an understated, sophisticated, well-handling (usually German) automobile, the new Shelby GT 500 is really calling my name.

Now that marketing & entertaiment losers rule the world, we will never again have the likes of Jack Brickhouse, Ernie Harwell, Red Barber, or Herb Carneal to call the national pastime on radio. Hope you like Jim Nance and his ilk, because that lite rock is the standard going forward.

I wish we lived in an age in which when people spoke, the actaully said something.

Whatever lucky couple of fellas eventually land these two ladies, they are in for quite a ride:

"Do you know who I am?" security guard Steve Torres testified that Elizabeth Hatch demanded of him. "No, I don't," he said. "You don't know who I am -- my dad is the state's attorney of Minnesota."
For lyrics delivered from the heart, and that quintessential Brit-pop sound, how can you beat Jarvis Cocker?

Ann Althouse speaks for me about Russell Crowe.

When considering the greatest spacehsip ever, there's really only one choice.

Sometimes you just want to stare at people in Hawaii, even if the link takes a while to load.

Guess who's still printing The Truth? Still crazy after all these years.

08 June 2005

I Deeply Regret Having You on This Earth.

"I deeply regret the attention and distraction my personal situation has caused,'' the mayor said in a prepared statement.

Prepared indeed.

Back in December of 2004, Jean Eaton, the mayor of Albert Lea was busted for theft. She has a thing for clothes, so she would go to Marshall Field's stores (3 different ones) and buy stuff. Then when she got home, she'd put the price tags on old stuff, and return that old stuff to the stores. When the police came to her house, there was ample evidence to arrest her and refer the case to prosecutors.

From the beginning, she contested the evidence, the legality of the search of her home, and her lawyer began to lay the groundwork for the public relations game she would play:
"Mayor Eaton has dedicated her life to improving her community," (Faison) Sessoms said. "The allegations and rumors have tarnished her stellar reputation. She is innocent of these charges, and she looks forward to being vindicated in court."
When Eaton got to court herself, the indignation machine was already cranked up:
"I'm standing up because it's my right," Eaton said Monday after her first court appearance. "A good leader doesn't back down. I have a right to stand up for what my rights are. In that way, I'm acting as a role model. I'm not guilty. We just have to prove that out."
No, you're standing up because you are accused of felony theft, you hack. And while we're at it, it's a bit early to claim role model status. Back at city hall, Eaton had nothing to say about the whole thing, preferring to pretend it wasn't happening, and in no way abdicating the throne:
"I am extremely disgusted with the fact that you haven't talked to any of your councilors about this item," (Jeff) Fjelstad said. "We're fending off people asking about you and we're trying to defend you, and we don't know what's going on. It's very hard to defend you." When Eaton asked for public comments, resident James Brossard asked her if she was guilty. "If you are, you should step down," he said. Eaton did not respond to Brossard's remarks.

Well, the whip came down the other day. Eaton side-stepped the approaching storm, and ducked into what's called a diversionary program, which is primarily a counseling program, typically offered to first-time offenders. If she completes the program, the felony charges will be dismissed.

From the beginning, it seems the prosecution has been fair, and Eaton's wiggling into the inevitable outcome-avoiding program is no reason to hate her further. She's playing within the system that's been established, and prison should be reserved for those who pose an actual physical threat to the public. The reason to really despise Eaton is for her self-preservation at all costs conduct at every step of this process. What she did was deliberate and calculated. There was a conscious and systematic method to her crimes, as opposed to simply forgetting to return a library book.

She griped about the search warrant, which was never leagally challenged. She called herself a role model, although that's not for her to decide. She complained about the trauma and stress of the ordeal, although she brought it on herself. She claimed innocence to the end, then opted for the diversion program which is a de facto guilty plea. After all, who enters this kind of program who is not seeking to get out of something? If she completes the program, she will be able to, in a stricly legal context, deny the crime ever existed.

As mayor, I wonder if Eaton gets to appoint a police chief. She's certainly the one who courts business and investment for her city. Eaton is also the public face of all the citizens of Albert Lea. How'd you like her representing you?

Eaton's use of blame-deflecting doublespeak and legal tap-dancing adds another link to a growing chain: No one accepts or understands the life-balancing benefits of shame. Eaton is a coward and a fraud who continues to hide from the public on this matter, yet still pretends she has the city's best interests in mind by refusing to resign. Not once has she expressed anything that even suggests she's personally sorry, ashamed, or humbled. For that reason alone she is wholly unfit to be mayor of Albert Lea or anyplace else. If she can serve as a mayor of a legitimate city, who can not?

I can't wait to see her campaign literature come 2006.

05 June 2005

Who's Driving This Car?

My how Amnesty International has gotten off track. It's not a good sign when you're being taken to the woodshed by The Washtington Post:

Guantanamo Bay is an ad hoc creation, designed to contain captured enemy combatants in wartime. Abuses there -- including new evidence of desecrating the Koran -- have been investigated and discussed by the FBI, the press and, to a still limited extent, the military. The Soviet gulag, by contrast, was a massive forced labor complex consisting of thousands of concentration camps and hundreds of exile villages through which more than 20 million people passed during Stalin's lifetime and whose existence was not acknowledged until after his death. Its modern equivalent is not Guantanamo Bay, but the prisons of Cuba, where Amnesty itself says a new generation of prisoners of conscience reside; or the labor camps of North Korea, which were set up on Stalinist lines; or China's laogai , the true size of which isn't even known; or, until recently, the prisons of Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
and The San Francisco Chronicle:
It's odd how the left bemoans "the desecration of the Koran." An investigation found that five U.S. personnel may have mishandled the holy book. There has been no substantiation of charges that any American flushed the Koran down a toilet. Still, Bush-haters are outraged. It wasn't too long ago that conservative Christians were enraged that the federal government funded an exhibition with a crucifix in urine. That was a matter of free speech, and woe to the taxpayer who dared to complain. So why complain if a U.S. soldier might have treated the Koran as poorly as a U.S.-funded artist treated the crucifix?
Memo to Amnesty International, Greenpeace, PETA and the national Democratic Party: Once you trade your institutional benevolence for rage, and let your hateful leadership blow rhetoric in place of reason, you drive away the very constituency that one sought you out.

Another Reason to Loathe Minneapolis.

Here's a test of your logic skills; answer this question: Are shopping carts abandoned around the neighborhood BECAUSE stores aren't paying a ransom to the city to get their carts returned? Of course not. Shopping carts are abandoned around the neighborhood by slothful louts who are too lazy to carry their own merchandise home. That is the simple truth, albeit legally unspeakable in Minneapolis, which is why it's so preposterous that the giant encounter group known as the Minneapolis City Council has cleared the way for the impounding abandoned carts.
Some 15 years ago, the city required stores to track their carts. Stores had to file a plan with the city that outlined how they would manage their carts, and the carts had to be branded with the stores' name. The stores also had to sweep the area for "rollaways" within a half-mile of their property every day. That ordinance remains on the books, (Gary) Schiff said, adding that an attempt at enforcing it recently proved costly. The city had to send a letter to the store and would issue a citation if it did not respond. If the store then contested the fine, the matter would go before an administrative law judge. "For $100 fines, we figured out we had spent over $500 worth of staff time," Schiff said.
Wow, that's pesky, Gary, that whole due-process thing. You wouldn't want to actually have to go through all the steps you frauds invented to address this issue in the first place, would you? And I 'd love to see the formula by which you arrived at the value of the labor of the civil service employees who pushed the paper to and fro.

Schiff recently introduced, and the City Council unanimously passed, an ordinance to gather the carts. Stores can buy back their carts for $150 apiece. Most are worth double that, Schiff said. If no one claims them, the city will sell the carts for scrap, said Susan Young, the city's director for solid waste and recycling.
Minneapolis will not miss any opportunity to hit you up for a fee. It costs so much to have government provide everything for everyone these days. Oh, and never mind that offering to sell stolen property is fencing, which, even in Minneapolis, is an actual crime.

Local grocers say they're unhappy with the plan. The fee to retrieve the carts is punitive, said Nancy Christensen, executive director of the Minnesota Grocers Association. And, she said, the ordinance targets the wrong people. After all, the stores didn't want the carts to leave their properties, she said.
There isn't a store in the city that has a policy that allows carts to leave parking lots, but Minneapolis has such a diseased political enviroment, they would never dream of charging arresting people and charging them with theft for removing carts from store property.

No one said you must own a car to shop at Target, Rainbow, Cub, or K-Mart. You may ride the bus, you may walk, you may call a cab, you could get a ride from a friend, or ask a neighbor to let you come along when they go shopping. You can even buy you own cart. The options are endless.

The people who take carts out of lots are stealing. When they abandon them in neighborhoods, they are lazy. Because of this, the city that never rests (from an ordinance-issuing perspective) is going to get into the cart-as-hostage business. What a backward way to operate.

Only in Minneapolis is the victim of crime in line for punishment.

04 June 2005

I Got Yer Vertical Integration Right Here.

You think it gets busy where you work? The following are excerpts from "River Rouge: Ford's Industrial Colossus" by Joe Cabadas:

In July 1948, a detailed statistical report of the Rouge Plant's operations was prepared prior to the lighting of the "William" blast furnace. Overall, this snapshot of the Rouge showed that it had 13.8 million square feet of floor space, 1 1/3 miles of docks. 26 miles of roadways, parking spaces for 20,000 cars, 132 miles of conveyors, and employed 70,000 workers, with another 5,100 in the Adminstration Building and Rotunda. The Rouge railroad had 14 diesel engines, and 4 steam locomotives that handled 50,000 freight cars a month, while 456 trucks also conveyed materials in the complex.

The 92 1/2-foot-tall "Henry" and "Benson" blast furnaces, which produced heat in the range of 2,700 degree Fahrenheit, had an average casting time of 5 hours and could produce 1,500 tons of iron per day. The Rouge steel plant made 73,000 tons per month, and used 1.9 million gallons of oil and 600 million gallons of cooling water. The 183 Kopper-Becker coke ovens consumed 4,500 tons of coal per day and made 45 million cubic feet of gas, 30,000 gallons of tar, 3,300 tons of coke, 11,000 gallons of crude light oil, and 95,000 tons of ammonium sulfate.

The Glass Plant had 60 grinding units and 100 polishing units that made 3 1/4 miles of glass per day, in sheets 53 feet wide and 3/16 inch thick. The 10,000 employees of the Production Foundry made 6,000 V-8 engine blocks per day, using 1,500 tons of new sand for the molds, and 65,000 gallons of oil per month. The Motor Building had 10,500 workers, 7,000 machines, and 15 miles of conveyors; 135 worker-minutes were requires to assemble one engine.

"B" Building, renamed the Dearborn Assembly Plant, built 500 cars every 8-hour shift, and the line speed was set at 22 feet per minute, giving workers about 1 minute to complete their tasks. The Rouge had a full-fledged hospital, with a total staff of 203, including 27 nurses and 20 first-aid stations scattered around the complex.
Coffee break's over; here comes the foreman . . .

Even Better That the Real Thing.

Via Netflix, I have disc 1 (3 hours alone) of Simon Schama's History of Britain series. One thing that struck me from the very first episode was how the Vikings, as a result of the shabby way they were conducting themselves across Brittania, actually caused the (until then) separate kingdoms to throw in together. Not even Saxony could turn back the Danes, and it wasn't until 878 a.d. when a unified Anglo army, led by Aelfred the Great, was able to shove back Guthrum and give him some of his own medicine. This unified effort laid the foundation for the notion of a sole monarchy, and Alfred's grandson would be king.

It's always interesting to learn from history how often the reality we have now comes from such improbable events (clumsy transition here), and on that topic, do you ever think about the Third World, Bono, and the World Bank? I do, because I'm loathe to perpetuate things that prove time and time again to be uneffective, like the cycle of loaning money to poor nations, only to forgive the debt after a while, and then doing it all over again. There's a intersting post, and very good discussion on that very thing over at Jane Galt:
The appalling poverty of Sri Lanka or Mozambique is not some bizarre aberration that can be tracked to a cause we can cure. We are the aberration; Sri Lanka and Mozambique are the normal state of human history. Trying to figure out how to reproduce those abnormal results in a couple hundred more countries is very, very hard.
Once you accept the fact that you'll never break rocks with your bare hands, your mind is free to invent tools. I'm fascinated by this 'shoe on the other foot' way of looking at previously unsolveable problems. I wonder what kinds of results are available if you allow current models of taxation, public education, crime and punishment, social security, the poor among us, etc. to be stood on their heads.

03 June 2005

End of World Cancelled Due to Rain.

It's a tough business saving the world, raising awareness, and obfuscating reality. Such is the case of Lonnie Dupre and Eric Larson. Our intrepid heroes decided that the best way for you to buy into global warming, was for them to hump it across the polar ice cap way yonder north. See, if they didn't go way out of sight and do something expensive, the Earth would get that much warmer.

No dummies these guys, they went in the summer. You know the drill: Pack up the grill, the lawn darts, the can coozies, and show all the dum-dums who use cars that the top of the planet is a lot like McAllen, Texas, sans border issues. Problem is, Mother Nature didn't get the Greenpeace press release:
Amid a stretch of extraordinarily heavy snowfall, strong winds and broken and shifting ice, the two men from Grand Marais, Minn., who had hoped to become the first adventurers to cross the Arctic Ocean in summer, abandoned their expedition Thursday after advancing only 45 miles in 24 days. Conditions were so treacherous, in fact, that the men, who had hoped to make the crossing to call attention to global warming and the receding polar ice cap, couldn't be picked up and airlifted out by helicopter until Friday.
Not only are these guys trained in survival and climatology, they also know a lot about public relations and spin control:

(Dupre) said he believed the weather extremes in the Arctic "are directly related to global warming."

That's right; when they reach their destination, and it's warm enough for horseshoes and a pig roast, it's because of global warming. When professional arctic explorer-types get blown off the map and have to hunker down under adventure-cancelling snow because it's too risky to get a chopper in there, it's STILL because of global warming.

Did I mention it's a beautiful night here on the edge of the Tundra?

01 June 2005

Deep Throated.

So Mark Felt hops up (metaphorically) and says "I am Deep Throat." It must be a slow news day at the Contrived News Network, 'cause they're wallpapering with this thing. By slow news day at CNN, I mean there must not be a single cute, missing, Caucasian child in the lower 48 (can't get the news truck to AK or HI), or else nothing at all was going on in the trial of Everyone's Favorite Freakshow.

I'll not be researching this whole affair with the depth you'll get elsewhere, but it seems that some are very quick to drape the hero cape on this guy who, while in senior management at the FBI, spilled lots of info to a reporter from The Post. What, no agents would listen to your musings? Is due process a one-way street? What if J. Edgar Hoover had lived 6 more months, or 6 more years? Lotsa questions on this one.

Anyway, I'm jaded enough to proclaim that a lot of the momentum pushing this story forward has everything to do with the Mainstream Media trying to plug the dike. The conventional wisdom is that WoodStein double-handedly moved Richard Nixon out of the Oval Office. They and they alone dug up all the proof necessary by practicing good old hard-nosed journalism, and their screenplay became the greatest single achievement in the history of the American free press. Without people like them, why Nixon would STILL be there, by crom. Now, in the wake of Dan Rather, Eason Jordan, Jayson Blair, Jack Kelley, etc., and the emergence of alternative credible media, the huge corporate players are hammering the Bob & Carl Show as proof of the validity and virility of Big Press.

But how much was uncovered by the dynamic duo, and how much was actually discovered by the slow, dimwitted, federal government investigators? The guys at Powerline have a link to an excellent (and by no means new) essay on how a lot of the key information actually unfolded back in those weird years:
Perhaps the most perplexing mystery in Bernstein and Woodward's book is why they fail to understand the role of the institutions and investigators who were supplying them and other reporters with leaks. This blind spot, endemic to journalists, proceeds from an unwillingness to see the complexity of bureaucratic in-fighting and of politics within the government itself. If the government is considered monolithic, journalists can report its activities, in simply comprehended and coherent terms, as an adversary out of touch with popular sentiments. On the other hand, if governmental activity is viewed as the product of diverse and competing agencies, all with different bases of power and interests, journalism becomes a much more difficult affair.
Here's some more related grist for the mill:
Can anyone even remember now what Nixon did that was so terrible? He ended the war in Vietnam, brought home the POW's, ended the war in the Mideast, opened relations with China, started the first nuclear weapons reduction treaty, saved Eretz Israel's life, started the Environmental Protection Administration.
Dick was a flawed man, and had to go, but you gotta admire Ben's chutzpah for going contrarian on such a news day.