Archive for 2006

Increasing Animal Cruelty

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

Last year the City of Chicago, Illinois prohibited the serving of foie gras at restaurants. The idea behind the prohibition on the sale of foie gras in restaurants was to limit animal cruelty. Foie gras is produced by force feeding either a duck or a goose.

Regulations like the one imposed by the City of Chicago can be gauged for effectiveness by measuring the amount of animal cruelty that has been prevented. An article in the French newspaper Le Figaro points out that Chicago’s restaurant ban on foie gras has had little to no effect on the consumption of foie gras in Chicago.

The article reports that sales of foie gras may have actually been helped by this regulation. The article quotes a distributor of foie gras to Chicago who reports that sales have quadrupled over a year ago. Consumers have become curious now that the product has been banned providing another example of how prohibition increases the attractiveness of a product.

Restaurants have continued to serve the dish as a matter of principle. Some restaurants that were not previously serving the dish have now added it to the menu.

In total, a regulation designed to prevent animal cruelty may have actually have had the reverse effect of increasing animal cruelty. Plus there is the whole issue as brought up by the Chicago Restaurant owners of allowing people to make decisions for themselves.

It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

Tyler Cowen has a post on how prostitutes may be safer with pimps. The data sample he uses for evidence is small though.

10 Most Corrupt Politicians

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

Judicial Watch has a list of the 10 most corrupt politicians in Washington:

Judicial Watch Announces List of Washington’s “Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians” for 2006

List Also Includes 6 “Dishonorable Mentions”

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, today released its 2006 list of Washington’s “Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians.” The list, in alphabetical order, includes:

1. Jack Abramoff, Former Lobbyist – Abramoff is at the center of a massive public corruption investigation by the Department of Justice that, in the end, could involve as many as a dozen members of Congress. Abramoff pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and a host of other charges on January 3, 2006, and was sent to prison in November to serve a five-year, 10-month sentence for defrauding banks of $23 million in Florida in 2000.

2. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) – In January 2006, Hillary Clinton’s fundraising operation was fined $35,000 by the Federal Election Commission for failing to accurately report more than $700,000 in contributions to Clinton’s Senate 2000 campaign. New information also surfaced in 2006 raising more questions about Hillary and her brother Anthony Rodham’s connection to the Clinton Pardongate scandal, where presidential pardons were allegedly traded in exchange for cash and other favors.

3. Former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA) – In November 2005, Cunningham pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud, and tax evasion. He was sentenced to 8 years, four months in prison and ordered to pay $1.8 million in restitution in March 2006.

4. Former Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX) – Tom DeLay, who was forced to step down from his position as House Majority Leader and then resign from Congress, decided in 2006 not to run for re-election. Congressman DeLay has been embroiled in a series of scandals from bribery to influence peddling, and was indicted twice by grand juries in Texas.

5. Former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) – Foley left the House in disgrace after news broke that he had been sending predatory homosexual emails to a House page. A recent House Ethics Committee report indicated that Republican leaders knew about Foley’s dangerous behavior, but failed to take action. Democrats, meanwhile, shopped the story to the press to influence the elections. Outrageously, the Committee recommended no punishment for those involved.

6. Rep. Denny Hastert (R-IL) – In addition to mishandling the Foley scandal, outgoing House Speaker Dennis Hastert allowed House ethics process to ground to a halt on his watch. Gary Condit, Cynthia McKinney, William Jefferson, John Conyers, Tom Delay, Duke Cunningham, Jim McDermott, Patrick Kennedy are examples of alleged wrongdoers who faced little-to-no ethics enforcement in the House.

7. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) – Hastings is one of only six federal judges to be removed from office through impeachment and has accumulated staggering liabilities ranging from $2,130,006 to $7,350,000. Hastings was “next in line” for Chairmanship of the House Select Committee on Intelligence until a wave of protest forced Nancy Pelosi to select another candidate. Nonetheless, Hastings is expected to continue to serve on the Intelligence Committee.

8. Rep. William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson (D-LA) – Jefferson is alleged to have accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to help broker high-tech business deals in Nigeria. According to press reports, he was also caught on tape discussing the deals, while an FBI search of his home uncovered $90,000 in cash stuffed in his freezer.

9. Former Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) – Ohio Republican Congressman Bob Ney resigned in early November 2006, three weeks after pleading guilty for accepting bribes from an Indian casino in exchange for legislative favors. Ney was the first congressman to be convicted of a crime in the web of scandals involving former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and is expected to serve a jail sentence.

10. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) – Senator Reid came under fire in 2006 for failing to properly report to Congress a $700,000 land deal. Reid also accepted more than $30,000 of Abramoff-tainted money allegedly in return for his ”cooperation” in matters related Nevada Indian gaming.

Dishonorable Mentions include:

1. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) – According to complaints released by the House Ethics Committee recently, aides to Representative John Conyers (D-MI) alleged their former boss repeatedly violated House ethics rules, forcing them to serve as his personal servants, valets, and as campaign staff while on the government payroll.

2. Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) – In May 2006, Kennedy crashed his car into a Capitol Hill barricade at nearly 3 a.m. in the morning. Kennedy blamed the incident on a reaction to prescription pills, but officers at the scene said he smelled of alcohol. Nonetheless, they escorted him home rather than arresting him.

3. Former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) – McKinney assaulted a Capitol Hill police officer in April after refusing to go through a metal detector. While McKinney was never forced to answer in a court of law for her behavior, she lost her bid for re-election in 2006.

4. Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) – Iraq war critic John Murtha was incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s first choice for House Majority Leader despite the ethical skeletons in his closet. Murtha is an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1980 “Abscam” scandal, which included the arrest and convictions of a senator and six congressmen. Murtha, whose current ethics continue to be questioned, lost his bid for Majority Leader to Maryland Democrat Steny Hoyer.

5. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) – News reports surfaced in 2006 that Illinois Senator Barak Obama entered into an unusual land deal with a now-indicted political fundraiser, Tony Rezko. The complicated real estate transaction occurred when it was widely known that Rezko was under federal investigation in a political corruption scandal.

6. David Safavian, Former Bush Administration Official – Safavian, the former White House Chief of Procurement and former Chief of Staff for the General Services Administration, was indicted on September 19, 2006 on five counts of lying about his dealings with former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and obstructing a Senate investigation of his dealings. Safavian resigned from his White House position three days prior to his arrest.

“This list shows public corruption is endemic to our nation’s capital and that the anti-corruption work of Judicial Watch is needed more than ever,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The list could be much longer, as there are far too many politicians who abuse the public trust and place themselves above the law.”

The More You Know al-Qaeda, The More You Hate al-Qaeda

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

Spencer Ackerman recently had a post on his blog arguing that the results of U.S. withdrawl from Iraq will probably be bad for al-Qaeda. Quote:

And that leads to an important point: withdrawal from Iraq will most likely lead to the deaths of large numbers of Iraqis — which is already happening in the civil war. This is not to be minimized or wished or explained away. But it is to be distinguished from deaths of Americans at the hands of al-Qaeda. Remember as well that al-Qaeda fighters are not the greatest: Ghaith Abdul Ahad documented both the disillusionment by Fallujans with the foreigners and their relatively poor military skills. In short, the Sunnis have reason to ally with al-Qaeda in a civil war or against an occupation; but when al-Qaeda starts to do something they don’t like, the Sunnis will defeat them themselves — unless they continue to face an external threat from Shiites or from Americans. In short, without us in Iraq, al-Qaeda holds a losing hand

More evidence to Ackerman’s thesis can be seen by tribal leaders in Sunni anbar leading the local fight against al-Qaeda. The American military may not be popular.

The desired goal of a stable, free, democratic, pro-American Iraq may not be possible at this point.

American policy, if we want to take the War on Terror seriously, should be to aim the policy towards stopping people from trying to kill Americans.

Richardson Endorses Limitation on Condemnation of Private Property

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has endorsed a proposal to limit local municipalities to condemn private property for economic development. The proposal of condemnation would be removed from the 1979 Metropolitan Redevelopment Act. The state and local government would still be able to use the power of eminent domain for such things as public buildings and roads.

Richardson’s actions are in line with the actions of many states to limit condemnation and eminent domain in light of the public’s respons to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo decision.

Along with many using eminent domain many localities have abused the power of condemnation by declaring properties blighted.

Bill Richardson is not perfect on the property rights issue as he has vetoed eminent domain legislation this year.

Bush Wants to Increase Total Number of Troops

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

President Bush want to increase the size of the troops.

President Bush told the Washington Post that he wants an increase in the size of the military of 70,000 troops between the Army and the Marines.

Bush has finally come to realize that the military needs to rest.

Increasing the size of the military is costsly. Bush wants to add 70,000 troops. The army speculates that every additional 10,000 troops would cost $1.2 billion a year. Bush’s proposal then to increase the size of the military would cost $11.9 billion a year or $59.5 billion over 5 years. To pay for these budget increases either spending will need to be cut, taxes will need to be raised, or more money will neet to be borrowed by the federal government.

And a Washington Post article points out the war in Iraq will have cost more than the war in Vietnam adjusted for inflation.

Resist the Urge to Surge

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

The military battle plan coming from the White House is to add 15,000 to 30,000 troops to combat in Iraq for six to eight months. There is a belief among some retired milaty leaders and the White House is that if the U.S. military gives one large last push in Iraq, it might make the difference. It probably won’t work.

Colin Powell thinks a military surge won’t work. Powell believes there is no clear mission and that the commanders on the ground are not asking for an increase in troop strength.

The Washington Post reports that the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. military are against the idea of a surge. The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe the White House does not have a clear mission and are just considering a surge because they are running out of viable military options. The Joint Chiefs of Staff also point out the U.S. military might be worse off in a surge operation:

At regular interagency meetings and in briefing President Bush last week, the Pentagon has warned that any short-term mission may only set up the United States for bigger problems when it ends. The service chiefs have warned that a short-term mission could give an enormous edge to virtually all the armed factions in Iraq — including al-Qaeda’s foreign fighters, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias — without giving an enduring boost to the U.S military mission or to the Iraqi army, the officials said.

The Pentagon has cautioned that a modest surge could lead to more attacks by al-Qaeda, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents and fuel the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to flock to Iraq to attack U.S. troops, the officials said.

The informal but well-armed Shiite militias, the Joint Chiefs have also warned, may simply melt back into society during a U.S. surge and wait until the troops are withdrawn — then reemerge and retake the streets of Baghdad and other cities.

Even the announcement of a time frame and mission — such as for six months to try to secure volatile Baghdad — could play to armed factions by allowing them to game out the new U.S. strategy, the chiefs have warned the White House.

End the Subsidy of Luxury Development in NYC

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

Michael Kendell, writes in City Limits about New York City’s subsidizing of luxury developments. Quote:

n the 1970s New York City’s 421-a property tax exemption program was created to encourage developers to build new housing in a city that had fallen on hard times. In the 1980s, it was adjusted to help encourage affordable housing. But to this day, developers in some parts of the city still receive a 10 to 15 year “as of right” tax break for any new, market-rate, multifamily development. As a result, exclusively high-end buildings in every corner of the city are receiving large tax exemptions.

This year, the city is giving $400 million in tax breaks through the 421-a program, with most of that going to subsidize luxury development. This fall, a task force appointed by Mayor Bloomberg proposed to adjust the program to require affordable housing in a broader swath of the city in exchange for tax breaks. Speaker Quinn pushed these reforms further, limiting the benefits that buildings outside the expanded exclusion zone can receive to $65,000 of “assessed value” or approximately $107,000 per unit in lifetime tax benefits. These reforms are a step in the right direction.

In every borough, however, in neighborhoods from Riverdale to Flushing and Brighton Beach to East Harlem, the “reformed” 421-a program will continue to subsidize the development of luxury condos. Under the reforms proposed by Bloomberg and Quinn, New York City will continue to take tax dollars from working families in neighborhoods across the city and use that money to subsidize the construction of million-dollar luxury condominiums right across the street. Essentially the plan asks people from rapidly gentrifying low- and middle-income communities to pay to price themselves out of their own community.

New York City has greatly improved in economic conditions since the 1970′s. I see no reason why New York City needs to give tax breaks to developers to provide housing for the wealthy.

50 Cent admit it your interested in making money

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

50 Cent recently has attacked Oprah Winfrey for “turning white” but mostly because Oprah won’t interview enough rappers on her show. 50 Cent’s complaints include the fact that Oprah is appealing to much to white middle-aged women.

It must be remembered 50 Cent rose to fame not only by being shot at, but by picking on pop rap acts like Ja Rule. 50 Cent putting out a diss on Oprah is just another example of Fity going after easy pop targets.

GrandMaster Melle Mel points out, on his MySpace blog, that 50 Cent’s goal is profit
, i.e. Oprah Money:

…Hip-Hop.

Once again, we the true Hip-Hop nation have lost another round in the battle of “True Hip-Hop” vs. “The Modern Day Hip-Hop Image”. Let me first say this, I, like most inner city niggaz, can not and have not related to Oprah in many years. This makes me the last person to say that I am a fan of her show. So, with that thought in mind, I have nothing to lose or gain by watching or not watching Oprah. But, the truth is that Oprah has done more for the positive image of black people (black women in particular) than anyone we know. For twenty plus fucking years she’s been out there doing her thing and never once had, or asked for, the support of any artist, Hip-Hop or otherwise. Like her or hate her, she’s just as black as me, you, Kunta Kinte or any other nigga who came out of Africa. Now, all of the sudden these rap niggaz, who already sell more records than Jesus (to 90% white people) want to use The Oprah Winfrey Show to promote that bullshit that they pass off as Hip-Hop.

Let’s keep it real. 50 Cent sells a lot of records. He also writes some of the greatest hooks I’ve ever heard. For a few years he’s been as hot as shit on the street and otherwise. But the reality is, 50 Cent sells dope. His image and everything he stands for says he’s a dope dealing thug, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. Plain and simple. So for him, Ludacris, Ice Cube or any other mother-fucker in the business who thinks that putting Oprah on blast, and questioning her STREET CREDIBILITY, clearly shows that we as a people have lost our fucking minds. What do you think a person that has over one billion dollars should do? Hang out with Shaquita and them and baby-sit her four kids in the projects? Or better yet, put a couple of million out on the street and double her money on the re-up? Or better yet, I got it, her and Martha Stewart can get together and rob a liquor store at gun point? Would you mother-fuckers rather see her do some stupid shit like that?

The bottom line is, when you have Oprah money, you do what you want to do. When I am in the streets of New York City, and I see the Vitamin Water adds on the buses, with pictures of 50 reading the newspaper and holding a poodle, not a pit-bull, but a fucking poodle, do I think 50 sold out? Noooooooo. I think he’s trying to sell Vitamin Water. To who? Anybody that would buy it. So he can do what? Hang out in the projects with Ray Ray drinking beer and holding his balls? Noooooooo. He’s trying to get Oprah money, so he can do anything he wants to do, just like Oprah. Let’s not get the game twisted. He’s trying to force Oprah’s hand to make Oprah help him promote some shit that she, and for that matter I, don’t give a fuck about. 50 Cent and Oprah live in two separate worlds. It should stay that way. They think two separate ways. And, it should stay that way. So for the media and grimey niggaz to portray Oprah as a person who doesn’t like Hip-Hop because she doesn’t like negative nigga shit, has to be a low point in Niggadom.

Oprah represents, call it sell out or not, a person who has evolved and elevated herself to the highest point of society’s elite. And, 50 Cent, call it what you want to call it, hell of an artist, great business man, but bottom line, it might hurt to hear it, is a dope dealing nigga, who if he wore Oprah’s shoes, would do the same thing Oprah does. And, so would me or you. So, in parting, if Oprah’s selling out, let her. ‘Cause Oprah, one day, could run for President, and 50 Cent, could run from the cops.

Or to paraphrase Melle Mel profit is good. People should not be ashamed of making money and the freedom of opportunity it provides.

Kucinich Runs In Obama’s Shadow

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich is planning to run for President.

Kucinich previously ran for President campaigning on the Iraq war among other issues.

Kucinich’s plan is to run solely on the Iraq war. In a recent interview with TruthDig’s Joshua Scheer, Kucinich would only mention the war. When Scheer asked Kucinich’s opinion on other issues, Kucinich would only give more reasons against the war.

In 2004, Kucinich may have bean the anti-war candidate but the 2008 Democratic field includes the highly popular anti Iraq war candidacy of Obak Obama. Obama is a highly respected candidate with strong convictions against the Iraq war. Kucinich will just be nothing more than one of those annoying little dogs barking. Kucinich may bring up the issue of Congress cutting off funding though.