Archive for April, 2009
Maybe it’s just me, but the FEMA coloring book on natural disasters, including a nice paint-by-numbers depiction of 9/11 — creeps me out.
How funny was Bea Arthur? So funny that she could make a teenage boy (me) watch a show about a bunch of old ladies in Miami.
Radley Balko lets fly at Obama’s worst appointment idea — heading NHTSA with the head of MADD.
Longtime automotive writer Eric Peters wrote recently in the Detroit Free Press that motorists have much to fear from a Hurley-led NHTSA, including a possible return to federally-mandated speed limits, a national blood alcohol count as low as .04, federally-mandated speed and red light cameras, and even the installation of GPS responders on vehicles for the possible implementation of future “pay as you go” driving taxes (Britain already keeps tabs on the whereabouts of every driver in the country).
But Hurley’s record is most troubling when it comes to overly aggressive measures allegedly aimed at preventing drunken driving. MADD’s top priority during Hurley’s stint as CEO was to get state legislatures to pass laws mandating ignition interlock devices in the cars of all first-time DWI offenders. The device requires you to blow into a tube before starting your car, then blow again at set intervals as you’re driving (which, come to think of it, doesn’t really seem all that safe). Under Hurley’s watch, MADD gave a “qualified endorsement” for bills in the New York and New Mexico legislatures that would have required the devices in all cars sold in those states. Fortunately, neither bill became law.
Hurley and MADD were also at the heart of the effort to force the states to adopt the .08 minimum blood alcohol standard back in the late 1990s, under penalty of losing federal highway funds for noncompliance. Studies show that both significant impairment and most DWI fatalities occur at much higher blood-alcohol concentrations.
Hurley has also aggressively pushed for the use of constitutionally-dubious roadblock sobriety checkpoints to enforce the new standard, even though there’s convincing evidence these invasive tactics have actually made the roads more dangerous. DWI deaths began inching upward again as the roadblocks were implemented in the early 2000s. It isn’t difficult to see why. Roadblocks are designed to catch motorists who aren’t driving erratically enough to be caught with conventional law enforcement methods. The officers who staff them would otherwise be out on the streets, looking for actual drunks who pose an actual threat to highway safety.
By far, MADD’s worst policy is that they endorse imprisoning parents who have supervised parties for their kids. MADD would apparently prefer that kids get drunk like kids in my generation did — in the middle of nowhere right before getting in a car.
The other blog has been chock-a-block with torture posts, so I’d thought I’d post up a few links here. There’s other stuff to talk about, too. I flayed Obama’s national service initiative yesterday.
I used to be superstitious as all hell. Seriously, a bad hand of cards would seem like an omen to me. Fortunately, I’ve (mostly) outgrown that. So Cracked’s look at dumb superstitions is a great read. Here’s there explanation of why cats are bad luck:
It didn’t help that a number of pre-Christian peoples such as the Norse, Celts and Egyptians had cat gods, or at least considered the animal sacred. Once Christianity became the sexy new religion in town, old beliefs were branded witchcraft and cats found themselves guilty by association. Often simply owning a cat was considered proof of witchery. There was even widespread extermination of cats during medieval times, which kind of backfired when they were no longer around to kill plague-infested rats, which in turn wiped out half of Europe. Whoops. But hey, at least they were safe from those goddamn witches.
We had nothing but black cats when I was growing up. Of course, maybe they were the reason I couldn’t get lucky in high school.
I was cooking up a post on Arne Duncan’s destruction of the DC voucher program. But George Will’s hits the high points:
The president has set an example for his Cabinet. He has ladled a trillion or so dollars (“or so” is today’s shorthand for “give or take a few hundreds of billions”) hither and yon, but while ladling he has, or thinks he has, saved about $15 million by killing, or trying to kill, a tiny program that this year is enabling about 1,715 D.C. children (90 percent black, 9 percent Hispanic) to escape from the District’s failing public schools and enroll in private schools.
The District’s mayor and school superintendent support the program. But the president has vowed to kill programs that “don’t work.” He has looked high and low and — lo and behold — has found one. By uncanny coincidence, it is detested by the teachers unions that gave approximately four times $15 million to Democratic candidates and liberal causes last year.
Not content with seeing the program set to die after the 2009-10 school year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan (former head of Chicago’s school system, which never enrolled an Obama child) gratuitously dashed even the limited hopes of another 200 children and their parents. Duncan, who has sensibly chosen to live with his wife and two children in Virginia rather than in the District, rescinded the scholarships already awarded to those children for the final year of the program, beginning in September. He was, you understand, thinking only of the children and their parents: He would spare them the turmoil of being forced by, well, Duncan and other Democrats to return to terrible public schools after a tantalizing one-year taste of something better. Call that compassionate liberalism.
After Congress debated the program, the Education Department released — on a Friday afternoon, a news cemetery — a congressionally mandated study showing that, measured by student improvement and parental satisfaction, the District’s program works. The department could not suppress the Heritage Foundation’s report that 38 percent of members of Congress sent or are sending their children to private schools.
The failure of the Obama Administration to support the program was a punch in the gut. And it’s telling that, in true government-worshiping fashion, their idea one education is more input. Longer school days and a longer school year.
Which I’m sure delights their campaign contributors no end.
The Daily Dish is basically a clearing house for the truth about the Bush torture regime. His coverage has been great. Typical quote:
The Western anathema on torture began as a way to ensure the survival of truth.
And that is the root of the West’s entire legal and constitutional system. Remove a secure way to discover the truth – or create a system that can manufacture it or render it indistinguishable from lies – and the entire system unravels. That’s why in the West suspects are innocent before being found guilty; and that’s why in the West even those captured in wartime have long been accorded protection from forced confessions. Because it creates a world where truth is always the last priority and power is always the first.
This is not a policy difference. It is a foundational element of Western civilization. The way Cheney constructed it, it was not even a mere war-power as we have usually understood it – because the war was defined in ways we haven’t usually understood it. Since the war had no geographical boundaries, since an “enemy combatant” could be an American citizen or resident, since the enemy could never surrender, and since the war could never end, the dictatorial powers, allied with the power to torture, undermined the balance of the American constitution. Until this is fully accounted for and the law-breakers brought to justice, that constitution remains with a massive breach below its waterline. It may not sink immediately; but its fate is sealed unless this precedent is not just moved on from, but erased.
Only two today. I’m busy blogging about torture at the other place.
I find this story, if true (check the date stamp), to be utterly fascinating. According to them, a stroke made a woman think she had a third arm.
So much of what we think happens in our eyes, our ears and our limbs actually happens in our brain.
I’ve linked to this sort of thing before, but it’s worth linking again to list of disaster myths. I’ve come to hate that movie cliche of, when disaster hits, people running back and forth in front of the camera while screaming.