The latest C-Poll is closed. You can read all about it here!

May 31, 2005

Consumer spending up in May; C-Pol blogmeister takes credit

May 31, Associated Press (excerpt):
The consumer confidence index is now at the highest level since it reached 103 in March.

"Consumer confidence improved in May, gaining back nearly all of the ground it lost in April," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's Consumer Research Center, in a statement.
Not to brag or anything, but my family may be responsible for this. We bought a minivan a couple of weeks ago, and we bought snacks when we went to see Star Wars.

May 25, 2005

BoBos are driving the traditional family to extinction in San Francisco

BoBo mecca San Francisco is running out of children:
Child Population Dwindles in San Francisco

Anne Bakstad and Ed Cohen are starting to feel as if their family of four is an endangered species in San Francisco.

Since the couple bought a house five years ago, more than a dozen families in their social circle have left the city for cheaper housing, better schools or both.

The goodbyes are so frequent that Carina, age 4 1/2, wants to know when she is going to move, too. Eric, 2 1/2, misses Gus, his playmate from across the street.

"When we get to know people through our kids, we think to ourselves, `Are they renters or owners? Where do they work?' You have to figure out how much time to invest in people," Bakstad said. "It makes you feel like, `Where is everyone going? Stay with us!'"

A similar lament is being heard in San Francisco's half-empty classrooms, in parks where parents are losing ground to dog owners, and in the corridors of City Hall.

San Francisco has the smallest share of small-fry of any major U.S. city. Just 14.5 percent of the city's population is 18 and under.
The self-absorbed lifestyle of the BoBos makes this phenomenon inevitable, IMO.

May 24, 2005

WaPo tries hard to say something good about the centrist extremists

Two quotes from the same Washington Post editorial praising the deal by fourteen senators postponing the showdown over judicial nominee filibusters:
(1) "The 14 senators nonetheless managed to put principle above self-protection."

(2) "The deal is admittedly messy. Some nominees get votes, some still don't; the principle isn't terribly clear."

The senators put principle over self-protection, but not even the venerable WaPo can figure out what the principle happens to be.

The whole editorial makes for an amusing read. After acknowledging the significant flaws of the deal, all they can say is that it's "far better than the alternative" (which, for the record, refers to the way the Senate conducted the business of confirming judicial nominees for over two centuries).

(Credit: Best of the Web)

McCain mutiny postpones filibuster battle

More fake-but-accurate satire from Scott Ott (excerpt):
Deal Preserves Constitutional Superduper Majority

(2005-05-24) -- A bipartisan group of 14 moderate Senators last night struck a deal to preserve the Constitutional requirement of a 'superduper majority' for confirmation of judicial appointees by ensuring that any future nominee must meet the approval of 87 percent of the Senate.

As part of the deal, three of President Bush's nominees will receive prompt votes on confirmation and two others will be "cast into the yawning mouth of an active volcano."

"We're delighted to return to the intent of the framers of the Constitution," said Sen. John McCain, M-AZ, who led the compromise coalition. "The purpose of the Senate is to ensure the right of the minority to prevent any decision. This deal eliminates the unfair advantage of so-called 'majority rule'."

Seven Republicans and seven Democrats bucked their party leadership to forge the compromise, which Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-TN, called "disappointing" and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, called "a significant victory for our country."
The difference between the reactions of Frist and Reid tells you all you need to know about who got the better part of the deal in this "compromise". Thanks a lot, John McCain.

May 23, 2005

This man may have a future in Brussels

A man with a plan worthy of EU's micromanaging bureaucrats. Sure, he's just a councilor in Vienna right now, but you have to start somewhere.
DNA Testing For Doggie Doo?

May 23, 2005 1:06 p.m. EST

Vienna, Austria (AHN) – Vienna district councilor Manfred Juraczka is proposing to test the droppings of dogs that leave their waste on sidewalks and streets.

He says requiring DNA testing for all dogs will help the city trace and punish irresponsible owners who allow their pets to litter public areas.

Juraczka says, "This method offers a multitude of unbeatable advantages."

Previous attempts to get dog owners to comply with Vienna’s dog law have been unsuccessful in cleaning up walkways littered with droppings from the city’s 50,000 registered dogs.

Right now, police can only ticket violators who are caught in the act, Juraczka believes his idea will solve that problem.

Juraczka's proposal would fine pet owners US$284 (euro225), plus the cost of the DNA test.

It costs the city US$3.80 (euro3) to US$6.30 (euro5) to pick up each animal’s droppings, but Vienna dog taxes only amount to about 15-cents/day (euro0.12). Juraczka calls it an "intolerable situation."

Oppoonents [sic] say the plan would create a “police state”. A similar idea was floated in Dresden, but no decision has been made on whether to adopt the proposal.

If Councilor Juraczka's proposal is adopted, it will be time for an update to this book:

May 18, 2005

Zero tolerance for common sense

Dekalb County, Georgia:
Two seniors at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. High School will miss their baccalaureate -- but make their graduation -- after a stink that started over a cake knife.

Because of the school's zero tolerance policy on weapons, Ashley Pickens and Candace Grier, both honor students, were suspended from school for 10 days and told they would not be allowed to attend their baccalaureate ceremonies. The DeKalb school superintendent upheld that punishment but decided to allow the girls to walk with their classmates during graduation.

The trouble started when the girls brought a cake to school and looked for a knife to cut it. They say they found a butter-type knife in the school's band room and tried to return it, but the door had since been locked.

One of the girls put the knife in her book bag. Then a teacher saw it.

"He said it really didn't matter [that it was used for a cake]," Pickens said. "[He said] it's a knife on school grounds, and you have to be written up for it -- you ought to be glad we didn't have you arrested."
The article goes on, but you get the gist.

May 12, 2005

A four-letter word I'd like to hear from the president

The poster child for outrageous pork-barrel spending is the annual "highway bill", so called because its alleged purpose is to dole out highway funds to the states. As the National Review Editors argue, there is no legitimate reason for the feds to act as a clearinghouse for highway funds — the states could easily collect the gas taxes themselves and spend the proceeds within their borders. Instead, a $400 million/year bureaucracy redistributes the money according to the political whims of Congress — which, of course, is one of the main reasons Congress hasn't relinquished this power. Another reason is that Congress uses the threat of withholding highway funding to states which refuse to bow to the legislature's wishes in some way.

But that's only the beginning of the problems with the highway bill, say the NR editors:
It's been decades since highway bills were limited to meeting vital transportation needs. According to the Heritage Foundation's Ronald D. Utt, the bill under consideration would direct as much as 40 percent of federal fuel-tax revenues toward projects that have little or nothing to do with highway improvements and additions.
Current versions of the bill run as high $295 billion, meaning that nearly $120 billion is earmarked for unrelated pet projects of Representatives and Senators.

After four and a half years in office, President Bush has yet to veto a single bill that has come out of Congress. Is it any wonder that Congress is spending money like a bunch of drunken sailors? Last year he threatened to veto the highway bill, but did not follow through (possibly because pols on both sides of the aisle would have taken up arms against him). This year he threatened again to veto the bill if Congress doesn't keep the total under $284 billion. This is not a principled stand against out-of-control spending of our money (after all, Congress admits through the bill's line items that only $175 billion is needed for highway projects), but still it will be interesting to see if the legislature can restrain itself even this much.

The president has an admirable record of facing down tyrants and other ne'er-do-wells across the globe. I wish he would at least try to do the same here. But that's all it is — a wish. I suspect that any presidential aspirant willing to demand that a spending bill stay within the boundaries of its stated purpose* would never get the nomination of either major party.

* Or, for that matter, demand that Congress fund only those activities in which the federal government is constitutionally permitted to engage — but now I'm really dreaming!

May 9, 2005

The MSM, as usual, misreports the North Carolina 'excommunication' story

The political world is all atwitter over the North Carolina Baptist pastor who allegedly forced the excommunication of Democratic members of his congregation. As it turns out, the incriminating sermon was not about party affiliation, it was about living what you profess to believe. As a very pointed example, the pastor asked how anybody who professed to oppose abortion could vote for John Kerry (as well as for certain Republican politicians — bet you hadn't heard that).

There was nothing controversial or unreasonable about the pastor's remarks, understood in context, apart from the fact that (as the essayist linked above notes) it was poor form for him to name names.

May 5, 2005

Did you hug a chicken yesterday?

With all that's going on in the world, you may have missed the fact that Wednesday was "International Respect for Chickens Day". The following press release from United Poultry Concerns is not — repeat, not — satire:
MACHIPONGO, Va., April 27 /U.S. Newswire/ -- United Poultry Concerns is launching International Respect for Chickens Day on May 4th. We're urging everyone to do an ACTION of compassion for chickens on that day. This can range from writing a letter to the editor to tabling at a local mall to showing the movie Chicken Run to students, family and friends.

"International Respect for Chickens Day is a day to celebrate the dignity, beauty, and life of chickens and to protest against the bleakness of their lives in farming operations," says UPC president Karen Davis. "Chickens are lively birds who have been torn from the leafy world in which they evolved. We want chickens to be restored to their green world and not be eaten."

The idea for International Respect for Chickens Day traces to famed Le Show host and star of The Simpsons, Harry Shearer, who proclaimed Sunday, May 14, 2000 - Mother's Day - National Respect the Chicken Day because hens are justly praised as exemplars of devoted motherhood.

In March 2005, Walt Disney Studios contacted United Poultry Concerns about Disney's upcoming movie Chicken Little, starring a chicken as a hero, just as in real life chickens are heroic protectors of their families and flocks.

In Letters from an American Farmer, a study of American colonial society published in 1782, St. John de Crevecoeur wrote about chickens, "I never see an egg brought to my table but I feel penetrated with the wonderful change it would have undergone but for my gluttony; it might have been a gentle, useful hen leading her chickens with a care and vigilance which speaks shame to many women. A cock perhaps, arrayed with the most majestic plumes, tender to his mate, bold, courageous, endowed with an astonishing instinct, with thoughts, with memory, and every distinguishing characteristic of the reason of man."

Bird specialists agree that chickens are highly intelligent individuals with social skills that Professor John Webster calls "pretty close to culture - and an advanced one at that. Chickens are sentient creatures and have feelings of their own," he says. International Respect for Chickens Day urges people to honor chickens by performing a compassionate action for chickens on May 4th. United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.

May 4, 2005

Eco-fundamentalists spectacularly, willfully wrong on biotech foods (and just about everything else)

Excerpt from a review by Henry I. Miller on Dick Taverne's new book, The March of Unreason: Science, democracy and the new fundamentalism:
Mr. Taverne argues compellingly that the conflict over gene-spliced crops is the most important battle of all between the forces of reason and unreason, both because of the consequences should the forces of darkness prevail, and also because their arguments are so perverse and so consistently and completely wrong.

In fact, agricultural practices have been "unnatural" for 10,000 years, and with the exception of wild berries and wild mushrooms, virtually all the grains, fruits and vegetables in our diets are genetically modified. Many of our foods (including potatoes, tomatoes, oats, rice and corn) come from plants created by "wide cross" hybridizations that transcend "natural breeding boundaries." Gene-splicing is no more than an extension, or refinement, of less precise, less predictable, older techniques, and gene-spliced plants, now grown in at least 18 countries, have for a decade been cultivated worldwide on more than 100 million acres annually.

They are ubiquitous in North American diets: More than 80 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves -- soft drinks, preserves, mayonnaise, salad dressings -- contain ingredients from gene-spliced plants, and Americans have consumed more than a trillion servings of these foods. From the dirt to the dinner plate, not a single ecosystem has been disrupted, or a person injured, by any gene-spliced product -- a record that is superior to that of conventional foods.

As Mr. Taverne observes, the objection to gene-spliced foods is purely ideological, bordering on the religious. During a House of Lords Select Committee hearing in 1999, Lord Melchett, then director of Greenpeace, was asked "Your opposition to the release of [gene-spliced plants], that is an absolute and definite opposition? It is not one that is dependent on further scientific research?" He replied: "It is a permanent and definite and complete opposition."

May 3, 2005

A giant burrito CAN be a lethal weapon, but not in that way

Clovis, New Mexico, last week:
A 911 call about a possible weapon at a middle school prompted police to put armed officers on rooftops, close nearby streets and lockdown the school.

All over a giant burrito.

Someone called authorities Thursday after seeing a boy carrying something long and wrapped up into Marshall Junior High School.

The drama ended two hours later when the suspicious item was identified as a 30-inch burrito filled with steak, guacamole, lettuce, salsa and jalapenos. It was wrapped inside tin foil and a white T-shirt.

"I didn't know whether to laugh or cry," school Principal Diana Russell said.