Archive for June, 2005

Axis Of Weasels Enemies

June 24, 2005

Well, now. Isn’t this interesting:

Who’s funding the insurgents in Iraq? The list of suspects is long: ex-Baathists, foreign jihadists, and angry Sunnis, to name a few. Now add to that roster hard-core Euroleftists.

Turns out that far-left groups in western Europe are carrying on a campaign dubbed Ten Euros for the Resistance, offering aid and comfort to the car bombers, kidnappers, and snipers trying to destabilize the fledgling Iraq government. In the words of one Italian website, Iraq Libero (Free Iraq), the funds are meant for those fighting the occupanti imperialisti. The groups are an odd collection, made up largely of Marxists and Maoists, sprinkled with an array of Arab emigres and aging, old-school fascists, according to Lorenzo Vidino, an analyst on European terrorism based at The Investigative Project in Washington, D.C. “It’s the old anticapitalist, anti-U.S., anti-Israel crowd,” says Vidino, who has been to their gatherings, where he saw activists from Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Italy. “The glue that binds them together is anti-Americanism.” The groups are working on an October conference to further support “the Iraqi Resistance.” A key goal is to expand backing for the insurgents from the fringe left to the broader antiwar and antiglobalization movements.

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Heads-Up

June 23, 2005

Eugene Volokh and the Blogfaddah are on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show right now. They’re talking about the SCOTUS eminent domain decision, natch.

UPDATE: Over now.

Bad News

June 23, 2005

A horrible, horrible Supreme Court ruling today on eminent domain powers. By a 5-4 vote, SCOTUS allowed localities to take private property away for no better reason than added tax collections:

A divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that local governments may seize people’s homes and businesses against their will for private development in a decision anxiously awaited in communities where economic growth often is at war with individual property rights.

The 5-4 ruling represented a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who has been a key swing vote on many cases before the court, issued a stinging dissent. She argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers.

This is a dreadful decision. If politicians have the right to take your private property and give it to somebody else just because the other guy claims that he can generate more taxes from it, then property rights have ceased to exist in the US.

The localities are still required to pay “a just price” when one of these takings occurs, but the price even a willing seller would be able to get from his property just took a huge hit. All a developer has to do now is make a lowball offer and threaten to involve a bought-and-paid-for politician to take the property away if the owner doesn’t acquiesce.

Disgraceful.

UPDATE: Imagine this. What if you were in an unrelated fight with your local city council over something. Maybe you had a problem with your kids’ school, or a tax dispute, or you were complaining about a dumb law, or you just spilled a drink on some councilman at the local bar. This ruling would literally give them the power to throw you out of your house and put up a strip mall in its place. And that doesn’t even touch on the prospects of developers making campaign donations–or outright kickbacks–to local politicians.

This ruling is a license for corruption and abuse.

Needed: Hobbits With Hyperdrive

June 23, 2005

Forget about Darth Vader–here’s a real Dark Lord. The Hubble space telescope has located Sauron.

Here’s a larger picture.

Backing Down

June 21, 2005

Dickie Durbin just shuffled down to the Senate floor and made a pretty abject apology for the mindless blather he belched out last week. I doubt Durbin is any more sincere today than he was thoughful before. The political heat simply got too high, so he backed down.

The forced apology doesn’t mean much. The damage is done, and al-Jazeera isn’t likely to tout Dickie’s retraction with much vigor. But I can guarantee you that Dickie’s energetic defenders in the MSM and leftie blogosphere are awfully unhappy unhappy right now. He just cut them off at the knees.

At least now they have some idea of how the troops felt a week ago.

Stupid Hollywood Tricks

June 21, 2005

The “Broadcast Flag,” which would have allowed Hollywood to decide how, when, and whether you could record television shows, was thrown out by the DC Court of Appeals last month. According to the Electronic Freedom Foundation, MPAA lobbyists have convinced some as-yet unidentified senator or senators into sneaking new Broadcast Flag-enabling legislation into a giant appropriations bill. Somebody needs to remind Bill Frist that these guys are not on his side.

Bad Hollywood. Bad senators. Everybody involved should be forced to watch 72 hours of uninterrupted ’70’s TV show remake movies, “Clockwork Orange” style.

UPDATE: Either the EFF got some bad information, or they scared the senatecritters off. Either way, broadcast flag language apparently did not make it into the Senate appropriations bill.

A Window On The Moonbat Soul

June 17, 2005

A confession: I’m having a hard time getting worked up over Dick Durbin.

Yes, what he said was indefensible and stupid, but Durbin’s never been anything but a party machine hack, and few senators on either side of the aisle are often described as “intelligent.” Yes, the statement itself is destructive nonsense destined to be endlessly recycled in propaganda from the al-Jazeeras and New York Timeses of the world, and one would hope that a high-ranking US senator would know better, but then again, this is Dickie Durbin we’re talking about. It’s not really that surprising when you consider the source.

Durbin’s Nazi-Soviet-Khmer-Rouge ramble was probably only tossed out as a bit of red meat (or perhaps deep-fried Vegan tofu) for the MooreOn donations crowd. I’ve no doubt that he and the DSCC have been raking in leftie money over the last couple of days. They’ll need it–since what Durbin’s dumb rant really accomplished was demonstrating to everybody else just how unserious the Democratic Party is when it comes to dealing with terrorism.

Equating anything and everything thus far reported from Guantanamo with “torture” is nonsense on stilts. Air conditioning changes, intimidation, sleep deprivation and having your personal space invaded by a woman? Hell, I put up with worse stuff that that at summer camp. What will they threaten these thugs with next, the comfy chair?

To borrow a few lines from Lileks,

I don’t want them to beat the hell out of these people until they spit names and teeth, in no particular order. But I don’t care if they make them stay awake most of the day for a month or two. I really don’t. I’m sorry. We’re talking about people who will not be satisfied until Israel is gone and the United States crippled. I’d like to know what they know, and if they wet themselves in the process, I do not regard this is as the equivalent of uprooting several million people to Alaska to build a canal dressed only in long johns.

Quite so. I suspect that’s pretty close to the general opinion of everybody outside of the raving moonbat left and the MSM (my apologies for being redundant).

Durbin and company aren’t worked up over “torture,” or even terrorism. They’re just worked up over hating George Bush. So let them rant. All they’re doing so far is revealing their own uselessness. They’ll be rewarded for it again and again, every other November.

UPDATE: Writing in the comments, Mike Rentner reminds us (and Dickie) that there’s a lot more at stake here besides domestic politics:

You may think it’s all just political posturing, but I’m over here in Al Anbar Province, Iraq and every stupid statement like this from such a high level of our government is a direct threat to my life. Statements like this are used to recruit people to kill me. I take it very personally.

And rightly so.

Required Reading

June 15, 2005

Great WaPo column today from Robert Samuelson. Some highlights:

With high unemployment benefits, almost half of Western Europe’s jobless have been out of work a year or more; the U.S. figure is about 12 percent. Or take early retirement. In 2003 about 60 percent of Americans ages 55 to 64 had jobs. The comparable figures for France, Italy and Germany were 37 percent, 30 percent and 39 percent. The truth is that Europeans like early retirement, high jobless benefits and long vacations.

The trouble is that so much benevolence requires a strong economy, while the sources of all this benevolence — high taxes, stiff regulations — weaken the economy. With aging populations, the contradictions will only thicken.

A weak European economy is one reason that the world economy is shaky and so dependent on American growth. Preoccupied with divisions at home, Europe is history’s has-been. It isn’t a strong American ally, not simply because it disagrees with some U.S. policies but also because it doesn’t want to make the commitments required of a strong ally. Unwilling to address their genuine problems, Europeans become more reflexively critical of America. This gives the impression that they’re active on the world stage, even as they’re quietly acquiescing in their own decline.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Wow. Even better Anne Applebaum piece on the expensive idiocy known as the Transportation Security Administration:

If you happen to be reading this while standing in one of those disturbingly slow, zigzag lines at airport security — looking repeatedly at your watch, wondering if this time you really will miss the plane — here’s something to make you feel worse: Almost none of the agony you are experiencing is making you safer, at least not to any statistically significant or economically rational degree. Certainly any logical analysis of the money that has been spent on the airport security system since Sept. 11, 2001, and the security that the system has created, must lead to that conclusion.

[T]his mass ceremonial sacrifice of toenail clippers on the altar of security comes at an extraordinarily high price. The annual budget of the federal Transportation Security Administration hovers around $5.5 billion — just about the same price as the entire FBI — a figure that doesn’t include the cost of wasted time. De Rugy reckons that if 624 million passengers each spend two hours every year waiting in line, the annual loss to the economy comes to $32 billion. There has also been a price to pay in waste, since when that much money is rubbed into a problem with that kind of speed — remember, the TSA had only 13 employees in January 2002 — a lot of it gets misspent. In the case of the TSA, that waste includes $350,000 for a gym, $500,000 for artwork and silk plants at the agency’s new operations center, and $461,000 for its first-birthday party. More to the point, the agency has spent millions, even billions, on technology that is inappropriate or outdated.

In fact, better security didn’t have to cost that much. Probably the most significant measure taken in the past four years was one funded not by the government but by the airline industry, which put bulletproof doors on its cockpits at the relatively low price of $300 million to $500 million over 10 years. In extremely blunt terms, that means that while it may still be possible to blow up a plane (and murder 150 people), it is now virtually impossible to drive a plane into an office building (and murder thousands). By even the crudest cost-benefit risk analysis, bulletproof cockpit doors, which nobody notices, have the potential to save far more lives, at a far lower cost per life, than the screeners who open your child’s backpack and your grandmother’s purse while you stand around in your socks waiting for them to finish.

But, then, this isn’t a country that has ever been good at risk analysis. If it were, we would never have invented the TSA at all. Instead, we would have taken that $5.5 billion, doubled the FBI’s budget, and set up a questioning system that identifies potentially suspicious passengers, as the Israelis do. Even now, it’s not too late to abolish the TSA, create a federal training program for airport screeners, and then let private companies worry about how many people to hire, which technology to buy and how long the tables in front of the X-ray machines should be (that last issue being featured in a recent government report). But every time that suggestion is made in Congress, someone denounces the plan as a “privatization” of our security and a sellout.

As I’ve said many times before, even if there were no security checks at airports, there will never be another successful hijacking of an airliner with Americans aboard. The 2001 attacks were successful only because the hijackers took advantage of three decades of government-encouraged social conditioning: “Don’t resist. Do as you’re told. Wait it out, let the professionals negotiate, and chances are you’ll be all right.”

Nobody is going to follow that advice, ever again. While I’m not in favor of eliminating airport security checks entirely, we’ve clearly gone way over the line of reason (to say nothing of cost benefit, as Applebaum cogently points out) in today’s mindless bureaucratic airport “security” mania.

It’s a shame there aren’t any politicians of either party with the nerve to say the very obvious things that Applebaum so aptly summarizes here. Read it all.

Music Midtown Cellphone Photo Update

June 12, 2005

From Saturday night, John Fogerty, who can still hit every single note in the old Creedence songs:

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… and Tom Petty, who unfortunately played a half hour less than the set was billed at. Still, great performance from TP and the Heartbreakers, even though it rained pretty much the whole time:

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Tonight it’s a bunch of acts that fall under “I’d wouldn’t mind seeing them, but I’d never buy a ticket for any of them by themselves,” so we’re waiting the weather out a bit before deciding whether to go or not.

Bad Wevva! Take covva!

June 10, 2005

The Blogfaddah says he’s headed for the beach. For his sake, I sure hope he didn’t mean Destin or Panama City.

In other news, the wife and I have tickets for Music Midtown in Atlanta this weekend. I’m packing the scuba gear just as soon as this gets posted…

UPDATE: From last night, Francine Reed…
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… and Lou Reed (no relation):
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Look, it’s a cell phone. It’s really not that much of a camera…