Saturday, March 11, 2006

People with a lot of time on their hands
N.J. Tour Showcases 'Sopranos' Sites

KEARNY, N.J. (AP) -- As the tour bus curves out of the Lincoln Tunnel into New Jersey, Marc Baron prepares his guests for what they're about to see: what Tony Soprano sees during the opening credits of "The Sopranos."

"Get your cameras ready," he tells the group of 51 people as they pass the glorious Manhattan skyline. "Welcome to New Jersey."

One of the biggest stars in "The Sopranos" - which returns to HBO this Sunday after a nearly two-year hiatus - is New Jersey itself.

The state will be in the spotlight when the first of 12 new episodes airs this weekend.

A New York company has capitalized on the show's popularity, offering a four-hour "Sopranos"-themed tour of northern New Jersey. For $40 a head, fans visit the real home of the Bada Bing (a strip club called Satin Dolls) on Route 17 in Lodi and the fake storefront of Satriale's, where Tony and his crew often talk shop, in Kearny…

The company called On Location Tours, which also runs bus tours of "Sex and the City" sites in Manhattan, has taken about 20,000 fans around Jersey since the trips to the Garden State began about five years ago, said company owner Georgette Blau...

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Illegal aliens protest in Chicago

CHICAGO (AP) -- Hoisting American flags into the air, tens of thousands of immigrants from the Chicago area marched downtown in a display of support for immigrant rights as a bill to stiffen border enforcement awaits action in the U.S. Senate.

Many took up enthusiastic chants like "Si, se puede (Yes, it can be done)" and "La raza unida nunca sera vencida (A people united will never be defeated)."

The mostly Latino marchers Friday descended upon the plaza across from the federal courthouse, where they listened to speeches backing pro-immigrant legislation.

"Raise those American flags!" shouted U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat. "This is our country, and this is where we will stay."

Police estimated that more than 100,000 marchers came from all over the Chicago area, many carrying - or wearing - Mexican and American flags. The protest was spirited, but peaceful, and there were no reported arrests or incidents.

Illinois’ clueless governor (see here and here) chimed in:
Gov. Rod Blagojevich addressed the crowd in Spanish, telling them he is the son of immigrant parents and understands their issues.

The Democrat's proclamation that "ustedes no son criminales. Ustedes son trabajadores" ("You are not criminals. You are workers") brought loud cheers.

Blagojevich will probably be out of office before his “workers” overwhelm Illinois jails, stagger its education and health care systems, and spread tuberculosis and other communicable diseases.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Career? I don’t want no stinking career. I want a job for life
French Students, Cops Clash Over Jobs Law

PARIS (AP) -- Students and police clashed at Paris' famed Sorbonne university on Friday, part of rising anger over a new job measure that is posing a major test for the government.

Some 600 protesters occupied the prestigious school Friday evening, breaking through police lines and clambering in through windows, said university administrators, who left open the possibility that police might be called in to evict them.

Students and the country's powerful unions are trying to force the government to withdraw a measure that will make it easier for companies to fire workers younger than 26.

Senators voted for the bill Thursday, and the government says it could go into effect in April.

The government hopes the flexibility will spur employers to hire young people, safe in the knowledge that they will be able to get rid of them if necessary.

Critics say the measure offers younger workers less job security than older colleagues and will undermine France's generous labor protections…

Reading the French students’ reaction to a law that would allow employers to demand actual work from their employees, put me in mind of Maynard G. Krebs who would reflexively “shudder and recoil and let out an anxiety-ridden wail of ‘WORK!?!!’” whenever anyone mentioned the subject.

With each meal the crocodile* grows larger

In an earlier post - Neville Chamberlain’s mindset yet lingers in the UK - I linked to The day is coming when British Muslims form a state within a state, an article in the UK’s Telegraph. That article has subsequently been removed and replaced with this message: This story has been removed for legal reasons (Filed: 19/02/2006)

However, most, if not all, of the article's content can still be found in ENGLAND: The day is coming when British Muslims form a state within a state.

* - "To sit back hoping that someday, someway, someone will make things right is to go on feeding the crocodile, hoping he will eat you last--but eat you he will."
Ronald Reagan

(Hat tip : LGF)

Passing stupid and going directly to idiocy
Chicago Requires Driver's Ed for the Blind

CHICAGO (AP) -- Most high school students eagerly await the day they pass driver's education class. But 16-year-old Mayra Ramirez is indifferent about it.

Ramirez is blind, yet she and dozens of other visually impaired sophomores in Chicago schools are required to pass a written rules-of-the-road exam in order to graduate - a rule they say takes time away from subjects they might actually use. [Ed. – Is the test written in Braille?]

"In other classes, you don't really feel different because you can do the work other people do," Ramirez said. "But in driver's ed, it does give us the feeling we're different. In a way, it brought me down, because it reminds me of something I can't do."

Hundreds of school districts in Illinois require students to pass driver's ed, although the state only requires that districts offer the courses. A state education official says districts that require it should exempt disabled students.

"It defies logic to require blind students to take this course," Meta Minton, spokeswoman for the state Board of Education, told the Chicago Tribune in a Friday story…

Let me guess: the brainless principals and staffs at these schools stopped putting the blind students behind the wheel of a driver’s ed car because the inevitable accidents were driving up the school district’s insurance rates.

Skating without benefit of skates or ice

This is a follow on to a previous post.
Barry sentenced to three years of probation

Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was sentenced yesterday to three years of probation and ordered to pay almost $250,000 in delinquent taxes and interest for failing to file federal and city returns in 2000.

"I take full responsibility," said Mr. Barry, 70. "There's no excuse and no reasons that anybody could give why anyone would not pay."[Ed. - And yet, he didn't]

Under a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Mr. Barry also acknowledged failing to file returns in 1999 and from 2001 to 2004. [Ed. - That is, knowing and purposeful chronic tax evasion]

Mr. Barry was unsure about how much he earned during that time but did not challenge federal prosecutors' claim he made more than $534,000.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson declined to impose jail time or additional fines on Mr. Barry, saying that repaying such a sum is burdensome enough. [Ed. – Interesting judicial concept: abiding by the tax laws is a burden for someone who passes tax laws and draws a salary from the levied taxes]

The hearing yesterday was originally scheduled for last month but was postponed because Mr. Barry waited until the day before to file his returns. He further confounded prosecutors by waiting until early this week to contact the IRS about repaying his taxes, a condition of his probation.

"While this was technically within the terms of the agreement ... we had understood that this would be done much earlier," said James Cooper, an assistant U.S. attorney. "Frankly, given the lack of vigor Mr. Barry has demonstrated ... we're not confident that Mr. Barry will make a good-faith effort." [Ed. – Ya, think?!!]

Thursday, March 09, 2006

A modest proposal

[t]he U.N. Staff Union overwhelmingly voted no confidence in Secretary-General Kofi Annan Thursday over his proposal to radically overhaul U.N. operations.
Why the revolt? Well, Annan says
[s]ince the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s the United Nations has been transformed from an organization that primarily held conferences and meetings to a global body engaged in peacekeeping, humanitarian relief efforts, electoral assistance and human rights monitoring.
Therefore, he plans to
[a]llow a one-time staff buyout costing about $100,000 per [p]erson, modernize the U.N.'s information technology systems, and consider relocating, outsourcing and telecommuting a range of U.N. services including translation, editing, printing, publishing, payroll, medical and staff benefits, and information technology support.
[t]he Staff Union said it was "gravely dismayed" at [his] vision, calling the U.N. "the unique forum where all peoples of the world will continue to come together to discuss global issues, verbally and in writing, in all six official languages of the United Nations."

Here’s my proposal:
  1. Annan should move forward with his outsourcing plan, foregoing the buyout component.
  2. All the staff displaced by the outsourcing would be moved into a newly formed Bureau of Endless Meetings where they would “come together to discuss global issues, verbally and in writing, in all six official languages of the United Nations," endlessly (or not, see 5. below)
  3. The United States withdraws all of its UN funding and New York State and New York City end all tax breaks for UN employees.
  4. The United States stops providing troops and/or logistical support for UN peacekeeping missions.
  5. If the rest of the world steps up to fill the gap the UN sails on, else the UN implodes and the Turtle Bay headquarters complex is razed to make way for residential and commercial real estate development.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Hollywood, then and now

Then? Go read this post at Little Green Footballs.

Now? George Clooney, accepting his Oscar, saying, “I would say that.. you know.. we are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood…” whereupon he proceeds to prove it by rendering a fractured fairy tale version of the history of the American film industry and the civil rights movement.

And, "The Best Original Song goes to…” It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp which ends, delightfully, with:
Wait I got a snow bunny, and a black girl too
You pay the right price and they'll both do you
That's the way the game goes, gotta keep it strictly pimpin
Gotta have my hustle tight, makin change off these women, yeah
“Behind the phony tinsel of Hollywood lies the real tinsel.”
Oscar Levant

Sharon, watch out for guys with beards clutching scimitars
Stone Offers Kisses for Mideast Peace

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) -- Sharon Stone is ready to do her part for Mideast peace: The "Basic Instinct" actress said Wednesday she "would kiss just about anybody" to end the Israel-Arab conflict…

"I would kiss just about anybody for peace in the Middle East," she said, drawing laughter from a throng of Israeli reporters. Stone playfully turned down calls to give Peres a peck on the cheek…

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Bellies against the war

Apparently, Mother Sheehan has now embraced the shouting-and-kicking form of protest. One of her manipulators should get her a jumpsuit to spare us the sight of her flabby midsection. Check out the photo in the Peace Activist Sheehan Arrested in NY Protest.

Monday, March 06, 2006

'Acting out' cost Brokeback Mountain Best Propaganda... er… Picture
'Brokeback' dreams crash and burn as the academy's voters play it safe

“SOMETIMES you win by losing, and nothing has proved what a powerful, taboo-breaking, necessary film "Brokeback Mountain" was more than its loss Sunday night to "Crash" in the Oscar best picture category.

Despite all the magazine covers it graced, despite all the red-state theaters it made good money in, despite (or maybe because of) all the jokes late-night talk show hosts made about it, you could not take the pulse of the industry without realizing that this film made a number of people distinctly uncomfortable.

In the privacy of the voting booth, as many political candidates who've led in polls only to lose elections have found out, people are free to act out the unspoken fears and unconscious prejudices that they would never breathe to another soul, or, likely, acknowledge to themselves. And at least this year, that acting out doomed "Brokeback Mountain."…”
said the LA Times’ Kenneth Turan, breathlessly.

So Hollywood is awash in closet homophobes? Please.

Maybe he was filming a documentary
Accused Peeping Tom Wanted At Oakland Mall

A man accused of spying on women in dressing rooms at Oakland Mall is wanted by authorities.

Michael Moore is accused of spying on women at the Marshall Field's store at the mall in Troy, according to police. Security camera video showed a man, believed to be Moore, lurking near women's dressing rooms and edging close to take a peek, Local 4 reported…

SCOTUS to law schools: What part of free in ‘free speech’ do you not understand?
Justices uphold military recruiting on campuses

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court ruled Monday that universities that accept federal money must allow military recruiters on campus, even if they oppose the Pentagon's policy barring people who are openly homosexual from serving.

Justices strongly rejected law schools' challenge that they should have First Amendment protection in a dispute over the government's controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gay personnel.

Writing his first major opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said the campus visits were a vital recruiting tool.

"Accommodating the military's message does not affect the law schools' speech, because the schools are not speaking when they host interviews and recruiting receptions," Roberts wrote.

He added, "Nothing about recruiting suggest the law schools agree with any speech by recruiters, and nothing in (federal law) restricts what the law schools may say about the military's policies."…

"Students and faculty are free to associate to voice their approval of the military's message," Roberts wrote. "The Solomon Amendment therefore does not violate a law school's First Amendment rights. A military recruiter's mere presence on campus does not violate a law school's right to associate, regardless of how repugnant the law school considers the recruiter's message."...

The pieces come together

In an earlier post I commented on the redeployment of Spooky. I speculated that that weapons system would be used along Iraq’s borders with Syria and Iran. Today there’s a report (see below) saying US intelligence has identified the Iranian government as the source of newly fabricated armor-piercing bombs specifically designed to attack US troops in Iraq. My belief, now, is that Spooky and the Predator UAVs likely being used to support the mission of the C-130Us won’t be heading east (Syria) anytime soon. Also, and this again is speculation on my part, they probably won’t be stopping at the Iraq-Iran border in their hunt to engage the ‘insurgent’ fighters and supplies being staged in Iran.
Iraq weapons – made in Iran

March 6, 2006 — U.S. military and intelligence officials tell ABC News that they have caught shipments of deadly new bombs at the Iran-Iraq border.

They are a very nasty piece of business, capable of penetrating U.S. troops' strongest armor.

What the United States says links them to Iran are tell-tale manufacturing signatures — certain types of machine-shop welds and material indicating they are built by the same bomb factory.

"The signature is the same because they are exactly the same in production," says explosives expert Kevin Barry. "So it's the same make and model."

U.S. officials say roadside bomb attacks against American forces in Iraq have become much more deadly as more and more of the Iran-designed and Iran-produced bombs have been smuggled in from the country since last October.

"I think the evidence is strong that the Iranian government is making these IEDs, and the Iranian government is sending them across the border and they are killing U.S. troops once they get there," says Richard Clarke, former White House counterterrorism chief and an ABC News consultant. "I think it's very hard to escape the conclusion that, in all probability, the Iranian government is knowingly killing U.S. troops."

Members of the stop-hurting-animals-or-we’ll-kill-your-children sect loose
Jury Convicts Animal Welfare Activists

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - An animal-rights group and six members were convicted Thursday of using their Web site to incite threats, harassment and vandalism against a company that tests drugs and household products on animals.

The group, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, maintained its actions were protected under the First Amendment.

The government charged that SHAC waged a five-year campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences, posting on its Web site information about the lab's employees and those who do business with Huntingdon, including their home phone numbers, addresses and where their children attended school.

Many of those people saw their homes vandalized, and they and their families received threatening e-mails, faxes and phone calls. Many were also besieged by protesters parading with photos of mutilated animals and screaming ``Puppy killer!'' through megaphones at all hours outside their homes.

One woman said she received an e-mail threatening to cut her 7-year-old son open and stuff him with poison. A man said he was showered with glass as people smashed all the windows of his home and overturned his wife's car…

One wonders if these 'activists' will cuddle the animals they encounter in prison.

I have a better plan…

Revoke the UN’s charter and disband it.

Can you imagine the systemic fraud and corruption if the current UN management “relocat[ed] certain administrative functions to lower-cost countries?”
Annan Wants U.N. to Consider Outsourcing

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan will ask U.N. member states to consider outsourcing some U.N. operations as part of an overhaul of the world body's management, according to an outline of his proposed reforms obtained by The Associated Press.

Annan's reform report, which is expected to be released Tuesday, calls for creating "a truly mobile international civil service" for the United Nations, whose management came under heavy criticism during the recent oil-for-food scandal and revelations of widespread sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers…

The report does not contain concrete proposals for outsourcing, according to the outline of key points obtained over the weekend. But Annan wants the General Assembly "to free up" existing limitations so outsourcing can be considered.

"We are particularly interested in exploring the benefits of possibly relocating certain administrative functions to lower-cost countries, but we will need to undertake a detailed cost/benefit analysis in each case," the document said, without giving specifics…

The United States has been pushing for a major management overhaul that would give the secretary-general more power and flexibility. But the 191-member General Assembly, dominated by developing countries, controls the U.N.'s purse strings and is not expected to give up any power easily.

The outline of the report stressed the dramatic expansion of U.N. operations in the past decade, including a fourfold increase in peacekeeping budgets and deployments since 1998.

Annan's report will call for $280 million annually to provide better pay and benefits for people in the field, where the U.N. Secretariat is having difficulty recruiting and training staff. The secretary-general will also request a doubling of funds for training and staff development "to address the significant under-investment over the years," the document said...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Could Wilt Chamberlain stuff a basketball?
Is the Pope Catholic?

John Hinderaker at Powerline asks, “Is Murtha nuts?”
…It's rather remarkable that a sitting United States Congressman would play so fast and loose with the facts, especially in the context of accusing the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of being a liar. Pretty much every "fact" that Murtha hysterically tossed out is wrong…

It's no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention that Murtha has joined the lunatic left. What's disappointing is that journalists continue to treat him as a serious person, rather than as the crank he is…
Read the whole thing (including its hyperlinks). As attorneys assert in court, “Asked and answered, Your Honor.”

NY Times editorial drops the mask
And This Year's Oscar Goes to ... a Movie That Takes a Stand

This year's best picture nominees include a gay cowboy movie, and one about racial conflict in contemporary Los Angeles. There's a movie about the cycle of violence in the Middle East; one about a writer whose homosexuality, if not his journalistic ethics, is treated sympathetically; and one about a crusading TV newsman who took on a right-wing demagogue.

These films have something in common besides small budgets and low box office: left-of-center approaches to some of the day's most controversial issues. Hollywood rallying to the liberal cause may sound like non-news. As a Democratic friend said with a shrug when the nominations were announced, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is "the only branch of government we control."…

Movies are not just entertainment; they also help to shape the public discourse. Oscar voters seem to be resisting today's increasingly impoverished political debate — one that badly distorts, or leaves out, issues like gay rights, race relations, the possibility of peace between Israelis and Palestinians and the media's role in safeguarding democracy. They may also be starting to move away from Hollywood's real ideology — not liberalism, but Groucho Marx's credo: "Those are my principles. If you don't like them, I've got others."

And moviegoer reaction to films that force-feed propaganda is best summed up by paraphrasing another of Groucho’s lines:
I didn't like the movie, but then I saw it under adverse conditions - the projector was working.

Related posts:
Humble prediction
Mountain of greenbacks?

The three stooges' Iranian tour
How we duped the West, by Iran's nuclear negotiator

The man who for two years led Iran's nuclear negotiations has laid out in unprecedented detail how the regime took advantage of talks with Britain, France and Germany to forge ahead with its secret atomic programme.

In a speech to a closed meeting of leading Islamic clerics and academics, Hassan Rowhani, who headed talks with the so-called EU3 until last year, revealed how Teheran played for time and tried to dupe the West after its secret nuclear programme was uncovered by the Iranian opposition in 2002.

He boasted that while talks were taking place in Teheran, Iran was able to complete the installation of equipment for conversion of yellowcake - a key stage in the nuclear fuel process - at its Isfahan plant but at the same time convince European diplomats that nothing was afoot.

"From the outset, the Americans kept telling the Europeans, 'The Iranians are lying and deceiving you and they have not told you everything.' The Europeans used to respond, 'We trust them'," he said…

He told his audience: "When we were negotiating with the Europeans in Teheran we were still installing some of the equipment at the Isfahan site. There was plenty of work to be done to complete the site and finish the work there. In reality, by creating a tame situation, we could finish Isfahan."

America and its European allies believe that Iran is clandestinely developing an atomic bomb but Teheran insists it is merely seeking nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Iran's negotiating team engaged in a last-ditch attempt last week to head off Security Council involvement. In January the regime removed IAEA seals on sensitive nuclear equipment and last month it resumed banned uranium enrichment...