September 30, 2005

The Nanny-State Strikes Again

As of October 1st Connecticut joins the ranks of those states who have banned the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Apparently you get the first offense waved if you show up in court with a receipt for the purchase of a hands-free device. The second offense will cost you $100.

Thank goodness the state is there to protect us from ourselves. Actually, they are probably doing me a favor. If I'm not holding onto the phone I won't have to put my coffee down to change songs on my iPod. This should allow me to safely add another 5 to 10 mph to my average speed too.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 12:43 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment


September 29, 2005

The Banned Book Meme

Picked up from behind a Llama.
Bold what you've read completely.
Italilc for partial reads.
Continue to ignore the rest.

I'm surprised by how few of these I have ignored. One might think I had a passion for reading banned books, but if I had to mark the ones I knew were banned it would be a short list. more...

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:15 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


The Anti-Climax Of The Week

I'm sure the moments before the 51st vote was cast to confirm John Roberts as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court there was a tingle of tension and excitement for Roberts and the Bush White House.

Other than that, it was about as exciting and tension filled as waiting to see if it was Thursday when I woke up.

Congratulations to the new Chief Justice. Now go and do something right.

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September 26, 2005

I Thought The Debate Mattered

Over at WizBang Mary Katherine Ham posted to highlight that the nomination of John Roberts to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has already garnered the votes of 12 Senate Democrats.

Bill Nelson of Florida, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Max Baucus of Montana, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin and Ken Salazar of Colorado.
This as all great for Roberts, and President Bush, but it raises an interesting question.

Not too long ago when the Democrats were busily filibustering circuit court nominees the Republicans threatened, and threatened, and threatened to invoke the “nuclear option.” The “nuclear option” referred to using a procedural maneuver through which the President of the Senate, Vice President Dick Cheney, could rule filibusters of judicial nominees are unconstitutional and that votes on nominees would proceed without the need for a supermajority cloture vote.

The Democrats were not very happy about this possibility. Many of them, including some on the list as announcing their support for Roberts, spoke at senatorial length and with great passion about the need to preserve the Senate tradition of unlimited debate. Yet what they have done with their announcements is to render any debate meaningless. Assuming Republican unanimity, the 12 committed Democrats gives the Roberts nomination a clear victory before any debate has occurred.

Granted there has been little doubt about the outcome of the Roberts nomination for some time, but no matter how many times I have been disappointed, I can't seem to let go of the expectation that a politician will just once act on their stated principals.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:47 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


Logic Quiz

Contrary to the post below, sometimes in real life logic does apply. So I am going to give you a quick quiz. Given fact A and Fact B, determine fact C.

Fact A: You make your living as a graphic designer producing advertising and sales material.

Fact B: Your spouse volunteers to make 8 posters for your child's kindergarten class.

Fact C: (leave your answer in the comments)

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:01 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment


September 25, 2005

In Utter Defiance Of Logic

Today it finally sank in why no government has ever been able to formulate a sound reasonable and logical Middle Eastern Policy, particularly in regard to Israel and the PLO. Logic and reason do not apply.

Here's the broad strokes of what lead me to this conclusion.

First Israel pulled out of Gaza. In fact the Israeli military forcibly removed Israeli settlers from Gaza.

Then Hamas, after blowing themselves and a bunch of their supporters to Allah with a truck load of explosives in a parade, fired about 40 of their homemade rockets into Israel. (Maybe they just wanted to use them before they killed themselves with them.)

Israel was justifiably pissed off. This was not the PLO launching attacks in disputed territory. This was the PLO launching an attack on Israel. So they did what any sovereign nation does when they are attacked. They fought back.

The response from the PLO was to say that the Israeli attack could jeopardize the cease fire between Israel and the PLO.

Here's where the logic breaks down. I just don't seem to grasp what the PLO means by the terms “cease” and “fire.” Maybe in the PLO dictionary cease means only do it on odd numbered days? Maybe fire means shooting and actually hitting something?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 06:34 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 23, 2005

Lesson Learned

It seems that Houston has smarter scum than New Orleans. Or at least the scum in Houston is smart enough to learn a lesson from Katirna.

Loot BEFORE the hurricane.

After all that DVD player and flat screen TV probably aren't much good after you've dragged them home through a flood.

Of course if the City of New Orleans had done a better job evacuating before the hurricane, their scum might have been able to loot before the storm too.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:12 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


It's an honor to be mentioned

I got an honorable mention in the special mid-week edition of the WizBang Caption Contest. Perhaps not as prestigious as win, place or show, but still above the fold.

Maybe next time around I'll put some real effort into winning the coveted Laurence Simon Sick, Twisted, And Evil Bastard Award.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:34 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


September 19, 2005

Eminent Domain Rolls On

Despite large scale public outrage over the Supreme Court Decision in Kelo v New London, eminent domain remains widely used. Neal Boortz is highlighting this story out of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

This little scenario is playing out in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs.  A group of Jewish parents worked for years to acquire a site for a new private Jewish high school.  Two years ago they paid $20 million for a site for the new Weber School.  Over the weekend they had a groundbreaking celebration.  But wait!  Something's wrong!  Just a few weeks ago a letter was received from the Fulton County school system.  Forget your construction plans, we want the site for an elementary school.  If you don't agree to sell it to us by today, we'll just simply take it through eminent domain.  Let's go ahead and state the obvious.  Which facility would better serve the community?  A Jewish high school with it's dedication to excellence, or yet another government school with the inevitability of mediocrity.
Neal opposes this eminent domain action based on the relative value of a private school education versus a public school education. While he may be right in that evaluation, it does form a reasonable basis to oppose an eminent domain action.

In fact under the amendment proposed by the Open Source Amendment Project this action by Sandy Springs GA, is allowed.

Public use shall be understood to be property the government owns or retains the paramount interest in, and the public has a legal right to use. Public use shall be understood to include property the government owns and maintains as a secure facility. Public use shall not be construed to include economic development or increased tax revenue. Public use of such property shall be maintained for a period of not less than 25 years.
In fact this action would be justifiable under a reasonable interpretation of the eminent domain clause of the Fifth Amendment.

However, under the proposed Open Source Amendment this action might well not be taken and Boortz would have his preferred private school. Under the third clause of the proposed amendment the cost to Sandy Springs of acquiring the Weber School site would likely have forced them to look elsewhere.

Just compensation shall be the higher of twice the average of the price paid for similar property in the preceding six months, or twice the average of the previous 10 recorded similar property transactions. Compensation paid shall be exempt from taxation in any form by any government within these United States.
In the end, though the action in this case would represent a legitimate use of eminent domain, unless there is absolutely no other suitable property for the city to acquire at market price, the property would not be taken. And if the town did proceed with eminent domain, the Weber school would recover its original investment plus a significant windfall that should make it easier to secure and alternate site.

It is time to reign in the government's power to seize our property and to re-assert the primacy of property rights. Sign the Open Source Amendment Project Petition today.

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Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:38 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 18, 2005

Pork Fat Rules

“Pork Fat Rules.” One of my favorite, in fact my only favorite quote, from celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. He uses it in reference to cooking, it applies equally well to politics.

The call has gone out to trim the fat from the federal budget to cover the cost of Katrina rebuilding. I'd be tempted to name it something like the Tom Delay Cluelessness Challenge but over at NZ Bear its called “Pork Busters.” Identify pork spending in your state and call then out on it. make Tom Delay eat his words.

A good place to start is the transportation bill. For a state by state rundown of set-asides in the bill go here.

Here's a plattger of Connecticut pork. I didn't pass judgement on a large number of road projects because I don't know enough about them. I just went for the real obvious crap.

$1.7 million; North Canaan; Rebuild and conversion of Union Station.
They want to rebuild it and convert it into a transportation museum.
$380,000; Improve Groton Bicycle and Pedestrian Trails.
Let Groton improve their own damn bike path. If the people of Groton want it approved, they should foot the bill.
$1 million; Wallingford; Construct Quinnipiace Linear Trail.
I have no idea what this, but it sure smells like pork to me.
$1 million: Shelton; Build bike and pedestrian path.
Bike path or Katrina rebuilding? Not reallyk a tough question.
$1.5 million; West Haven; Street and streetscape improvements along Campbell Ave.
Streetscape improvements? let New Haven pay for its own trees on the sidewalk.

That's about $5.6 million without even trying.

I also have strong doubts about this:

$10 million: Bridgeport; Build new arterial road from Boston Ave. to proposed Lake Success Business Park.
So if they spend $10 million to build this road and the proposed project doesn't happen, Bridgeport has a $10 million road to nowhere that could have helped rebuilding the Gulf Coast. Smells like pork to me.

So that brings us to $15.6 million. A drop in the bucket I know but remember I came up with that without working very hard.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:12 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment


Replacing O'Conner

Since this blog more often than not deals with political issues I feel obligated to offer my suggestion for who should be nominated to replace Sandra Day O'Conner on the Supreme Court. I mean isn't offering such unwanted uneducated advice one of the reasons to have a blog in the first place?

I will admit that I know nothing about this judge except for her ruling on one case, but based on her opinion in that one case, I've decided to put her name forward.

Loretta A. Preska of the U. S. District Court, Southern District of New York. Nominated to the court George H.W. Bush in 1992

The case I know about (hat tip to Greenie Watch) involves a suit filed by 8 states to cap output from coal fired power plants.

The plaintiffs - including Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and New York - sought a court order requiring the nation's top five power producers to cut carbon dioxide emissions every year for at least a decade, by an amount to be determined later by the court.
Judge Preska dismissed the case.
U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska in Manhattan ruled that the case brought by state Attorney General Bill Lockyer and prosecutors for seven other states and New York City raised sweeping questions of public policy best resolved by Congress and the president, not the courts.
Just that alone makes her qualified in my book.
In her ruling, Preska said the plaintiffs sought “to impose by judicial fiat” limits on carbon dioxide emissions that Congress and President Bush explicitly refused to mandate.
“These actions present non-justiciable political questions that are consigned to the political branches, not the judiciary,” Preska concluded.
Lockyer said the opposite is true.
“When Congress has not taken action on a pressing environmental issue, states have the right to take legal action to protect themselves,” Lockyer said in a press release responding to the dismissal.
Which of course in translation means, when we are unable to enact our agenda in congress because we are the minority we will attempt to assert our will via the courts.

I did a little Google search on Judge Preska and most of what I saw I liked. Of course, I have no idea what I am talking about, so take it for what its worth.

I did find this interesting write up on Preska at the blog Underneath Their Robes:

And now, a brief aside on Judge Preska. One of A3G's favorite correspondents writes:
I am a huge fan of Judge Preska, before whom I have tried two cases to completion, one with a jury, one without. A finer judge would be hard to imagine. Judge Preska is highly intelligent, professional, courteous and correct, patient, fundamentally pleasant and good-humored, fair, judicious and open-minded, and yet appropriately firm. Although she seldom displays even asperity, let alone anger, she does not suffer fools gladly. Her outstanding temperament and considerable intellect combine to make her a model district judge. (Just today, as it happens, I took over a pending case originally assigned to Preska and cursed a mighty oath upon seeing that my predecessor had unwisely stipulated to have the case tried by the magistrate judge). She is also, as your correspondent noted, possessed of striking, patrician good looks, faultlessly elegant, beautifully dressed, accessorized and coiffed, and in general, a treat for all the senses. She would be a great interview subject for you.

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Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:37 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


September 17, 2005

The New Phone Sex

The pattern has been repeated throughout the history of modern communications. If there is a way to put content in front of viewers, there will be pornography.

The cellphone, which already plays music, sends and receives e-mail and takes pictures, is adding a steamier offering: pornography.

With the advent of advanced cellular networks that deliver full-motion video from the Internet - and the latest wave of phones featuring larger screens with bright color - the pornography industry is eyeing the cellphone, like the videocassette recorder before it, as a lucrative new vehicle for distribution.
In recent months, that prospect has produced a cadre of entrepreneurs in the United States hoping to follow the lead of counterparts in Europe, where consumers already spend tens of millions of dollars a year on phone-based pornography
Phone sex has finally evolved beyond breathily asking “what are you wearing?”

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:43 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


Open Source Amendment Project - Update

I have not written in this space about the open Source Amendment Project for some time. This does not mean that I have promoting petition. I continue, with no success, to send press releases to news agencies, particularly those in which I have found recent coverage of eminent domain issues, and any blog that I find dealing with the issue, I make sure to leave a link in the comments.

If you are new to this site or not familiar with this project, it was started in response the Supreme Court decision in the case of Kelo v. New London. In that decision, the Court ruled that a governmental agency seizing the property of a private individual to transfer ownership to another private entity that will generate more tax revenue constitutes a “public use' under the Fifth Amendment. The project began with a draught of Constitutional Amendment to clearly define and restrict the term ”public use.“ Through the input of many bloggers, commenters and emailers, the text was refined and the petition launched.

In the Declaration of Independence the founders of this great nation wrote, ”That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.“ They also built into the structure of our government a process by which we the people can seek to change the nature and function of our government without abolishing it and beginning again.
We the undersigned agree with our founders that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed and feel that our government has exceeded the bounds of that consent. We believe that the recent decision of the Supreme Court regarding the exercise of eminent domain was reached with complete disregard for the plain language of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.
We the people therefore ask that the Constitution of the United States be amended to include the following language:
The right to ownership of property being the cornerstone of liberty, no government, or agency thereof, within these United States shall have the authority to take property from any person, corporation, or organization through exercise of eminent domain for other than a public use without just compensation.
Public use shall be understood to be property the government owns or retains the paramount interest in, and the public has a legal right to use. Public use shall be understood to include property the government owns and maintains as a secure facility. Public use shall not be construed to include economic development or increased tax revenue. Public use of such property shall be maintained for a period of not less than 25 years.
Just compensation shall be the higher of twice the average of the price paid for similar property in the preceding six months, or twice the average of the previous 10 recorded similar property transactions. Compensation paid shall be exempt from taxation in any form by any government within these United States.
To say that the petition has gotten off to a slow start would be one of the great understatements of the year. In the almost two months since the petition went on line it has collected a total of 184 signatures. This is disappointing.

From the outset of this project I had no illusions (or delusions) about the possibility of actually amending the Constitution. I had hoped that the Open Source Amendment would attract enough attention and support to be a part of the public discourse about the abuse of eminent domain. I had hoped it would gain enough support that it would help to send a message that the American public was not at all happy with the state of property rights under the Kelo decision.

I have not given up those hopes. I will continue to promote the amendment and the petition at every opportunity. At some point, if it sits with little activity long enough, the host will take it down to make room on their server for other causes.I would like to delay that moment as long as possible.

Sign the petition . Tell your friends.

The Open Source Process

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Draught

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Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:55 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


September 16, 2005

Sorry, Charlie

Had this really great piece of tuna cooked on the grill with a light lemon ginger marinade for dinner last night. It was about an hour or so later that I learned it was not really all that great. A fact I have relearned repeatedly since.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:09 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


September 14, 2005

Federal Judge Rules Pledge Unconstitutional

The God-Fearing Atheists have struck again. They have convinced U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton to rule the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional.

As if the mention of God in the pledge is somehow a threat to their lack of belief, they seek to have it banned from public schools.

As an atheist, I would like to say to Newdow and the rest of his God-Fearing Atheist friends - Not in my name.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:08 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


September 12, 2005

Doing the math

As a follow up to the post bellow about the Flight 93 Memorial I recommend reading this from Wretchard at The Belmont Club.

He does some detailed calculations about the orientation of the crescent with startling results, but comes to essentially the same conclusion.

The contours run right through the opening of the crescent. Unless you wanted the park visitors to climb up and down contour lines the opening was exactly where it had to be. So the simplest explanation it seems to me, is that the orientation of the Crescent of Embrace is coincidental.
But what a coincidence! Memorials are symbols above all and it may be inappropriate to commemorate Flight 93 with a Red Crescent facing Mecca.
Simply put none of the Islamic symbolism was likely intentional, but its coincidental occurrence does not minimize its impact.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:43 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 11, 2005

Remember

Wtc-4Small1

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September 10, 2005

A Hint Of Silver Lining

I had a strange night last night. I fell asleep fairly early then woke up at about midnight and could not get back to sleep sometime around 2:00 a sort of news/Holywood gossip/entertainment features program came on. I don't remember what it was called or the name of the blonde anchoring the show. I was trying not to watch. Trying futilely to get back to sleep.

Then she started a story on Katrina. It began with the standard line about how large numbers of Americans are angered by the poor response of the federal government, not bothering to mention the large number of people who are equally angry over the failures of New Orleans and Louisiana governments. Then there was an interesting twist. The story was focusing on how people's response to the federal government's failure was to begin to think that since they can't count on the government to save them, perhaps they should take some responsibility for themselves.

This is some sort of revelation?

Regardless of the fact people should have taken responsibility for their own safety long before Katrina was a developing low pressure system in the Atlantic i.e, they should have been doing it all along, the fact that some people are finally figuring this out is probably going to be one of the most important “lessons learned” from this disaster.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:14 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


Crescent of Discrace

You have no doubt already seen the design for the Flight 93 Memorial dubbed by its creators the “Crescent of Embrace. A significant number of bloggers have already written about their outrage over the decision to use a design evocative of the Islamic crescent to memorialize those who died saving the lives of others from the plans of Islamic Terrorists. See: Powerline, Michelle Malkin, Real Clear PolilticsLittle Green Footballs and follow their links for more.

I share that outrage.

20050908Wp Flight93Memorial-1 230-1


Starcrescent

It might be a little less offensive if it hadn't been designed so that the actual crash impact site didn't basically occupy the position of the star in the traditional Islamic Star and Crescent.

There has been a good deal of speculation about the motivation of the designers and of the people who chose the design. They insist that the shape evolved out of the contours of the land and that it has no religious significance. The crescent, they say, is symbolic of of an embrace and any resemblance to any other symbolism is merely coincidence.

I am inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. To a point. I am willing to accept that the design evolved out of the shape of the land and that the crescent was designed to symbolize the comfort of an embrace.

However.

At some point in the design or the review process, someone should have looked at this and said ”no way.“ Where was the person with the common sense who should have said ”we need to take another look this.“

I am always one of the first to rant against the hypersensitivity that dominates our culture, and there is almost nothing more repugnant than political correctness run amuck, but none of that should be taken to mean that oblivious inconsideration is preferential. Squashing this design on the drawing board would have required an act of simple decency. Even if the designer's perception of the crescent was clouded by his intentions and interpretations, and as a designer I can assure you this can happen, someone along the way should have stepped in.

I wish that I could say that I was surprised that the chosen for this memorial is evocative of Islam. Given the battles that we have been forced to fight over the Ground Zero Memorial and the attempts to turn that into a tribute to anti-Americanism, this just seems par for the course.

Intentional or not, it is an insult and a disgrace and it needs to be stopped.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 12:56 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 06, 2005

What's Race Got To Do With It?

Terry Neal writing the Washington Post's (aptly named) Talking Points column converts the standard blame Bush talking points in to series of questions aksing “Why, Oh Why?”

One of his talking point questions demonstrates that above all else race matters.

Why was Condoleezza Rice, the administration's highest ranking black official, grinning and guffawing at the Broadway show “Spamalot” and shopping for expensive shoes at Salvatore Ferragamo on Fifth Avenue days after the hurricane ravaged the Gulf Coast and left tens of thousands of poor black folks hungry, desperate and dying?
The secretary of state is responsible for foreign policy, not domestic disaster recovery. I don't recall seeing a lot of pictures of Madeline Albright aiding white senior citizens struck by hurricanes in Florida while she served as Secretary of State. I don't recall her being taken to task for that absence either. The only role for the Secretary of State in a disaster such as this is to work with foreign countries who are offering assistance.

The only purpose for Dr. Rice to go to New Orleans, and this Mr. Neal gets right, is to show hurricane victims a black face as part of the official relief effort.

In all seriousness, if you have just been through a disaster such as what Hurricane Katrina inflicted on New Orleans, if you lost everything you owned on the flooding, if you had had neither food nor water for several days, would the skin color of the person coming to help really matter? Would you let yourself, your family, your children continue to suffer perhaps even die because of the skin color of the people running the rescue effort?

HT: Hugh Hewitt

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:06 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


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