The Jury Talks Back


City Pays $1.5 Million Per Acre in Watts

Filed under: California Politics — Kevin M @ 1:04 pm

And it’s for 21 vacant acres in the worst part of Watts — right next to the Grape Street Crips headquarters Jordan Downs housing project.  There are places in West LA worth less, these days.

According to the LA Times, this is part of a $1 billion Watts gentrification project that will attempt to lure the middle class back to Watts.

Los Angeles officials are embarking on a $1-billion plan to tear down the notorious Jordan Downs housing project and turn it into a “new urban village” — an effort aimed at transforming the Watts neighborhood that would be one of the city’s largest public works projects.

The city wants to replace the project’s 700 dilapidated units, which were built more than half a century ago, with taller “mixed-use” buildings that would house not just low-income residents but also those paying market rates. The new development could include as many as 2,100 units.

One imagines they were saying the same things about “transforming the Watts neighborhood” when they built Jordan Downs.

Already, L.A. officials have spent $31 million to purchase a 21-acre piece of land adjacent to the existing project on which they plan to expand. They have earmarked millions more for planning. The financing for the project would combine federal redevelopment money, state tax credits and private investments from retailers and developers of market-rate housing. Officials hope to get some money from President Obama’s stimulus package and from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Good luck with that private investment in these risk-adverse times.  Or, like, ever.  But I guess one money pit is as good as another when it comes to government funding.

Your stimulus package at work.


NY Times Tells God’s Honest Truth

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin M @ 12:13 am

The NY Times analyzes Obama’s budget and comes up with the inescapable conclusion:

The budget that President Obama proposed on Thursday is nothing less than an attempt to end a three-decade era of economic policy dominated by the ideas of Ronald Reagan and his supporters.

No doubt they think this a good thing.

The TImes continues on, asserting that taxes will only be raised on “the rich”, but ignoring (as Reagan did not) that high marginal income tax rates also cripple upward mobility, making it very hard for the unrich to get rich.   But maybe that’s the point — hard to stimulate class warfare when people still hope to move up.


My last day here

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Jacobs @ 10:35 am

No, not HERE here.  Granted I’m not posting much anymore, but I’m still around, damnit.

What I mean is that today is my last day employed by the company that has paid me money for showing up since late August of 2005.

Well, those people employed me until Sept of ’08, and then the people that bought the company continued to pay me till now, but you get the idea.

See, the new employers actually enforce their “no family” policy (the company always had one, but it was ignored due to the owner’s son drawing a salary and never, ever working here – doesn’t even live here, ffs), and sicne dad is just slightly more important than I am, this was my last month.  Since I have classes Monday, Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday and Friday, this is my last time sitting at my desk and pretending to work.  Never again will I get hand-cramps from sanding ABS plastic parts that have come out of our rapid prototyper, and then getting midly stoned from the fumes of a laquer-based primer and paint (seriously, there was a month a couple years ago when I painted almost all day, every day, and there is not way to avoid such an effect even with the paint booth’s vent and filter).

So this is it.  I have the bit of paper with my start date (both old and new owners) and all that, and at around 3:30 (central) I’ll be boxing up all the crap that I’ve accumulated while I’ve been here.

I’m not sad, really, but that may change.


Thank God Atheists Take Religion Seriously

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fritz @ 12:13 pm

Maurice O’Sullivan at the Wall Street Journal writes:

Why should believers welcome this emergence of unbelief? Why not? We should be glad that there are people, even the devil’s disciples, who take religion seriously enough to attack it, especially in these days when God seems to appear only in quarrels over holiday displays, during political campaigns or on the self-help shelves of Barnes & Noble. Should the primary goal of religion really be to fund municipal crèches, allow politicians to end every speech with the tag “And God bless America,” or inspire works like “Tea With God: A Divinely Inspired Self-Help Book” and “The Christian Entrepreneur: How to Profit From Your God-Given Idea”?

In attacking the cloistered monks and nuns of my Roman Catholic Church, the brilliant, if occasionally logorrheic, John Milton wrote in his defense of free speech, “Areopagitica,” that “I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed.” And what will possibly make us exercise and breathe more fully than challenges by intelligent, thoughtful opponents?

h/t: Your Moral Leader


More Posters Needed?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 2:11 am

I had this whole plan of having guest bloggers at this site every week, and I forgot about it. In any event, I’m thinking of throwing open the floodgates to many more people. I thought with 12-13 people posting it would be pretty hopping here, but it’s actually quieter than at the main blog.



Vatican furious over ridicule of Jesus and Mary

Filed under: Uncategorized — aunursa @ 7:59 pm

An Israeli late-night comedian has caused an uproar by mocking Jesus and Mary in a show last week.  In one sketch Jesus was portrayed as unable to walk on water because he was too fat from having eaten too much sacramental bread.  In another sketch Mary became pregnant at age 15 by a classmate and distributed pornographic materials.  (According to the Israeli TV station and the comedian, the skits were done in response to the Vatican’s readmitting of a bishop who denies the Holocaust.)

The Vatican responded by calling for the death of the comedian and other employees at the TV station.  Thousands of Christians worldwide attacked synagogues and Israeli embassies, and terrorized innocent Jewish neighborhoods.

Whoops!  Scratch the last paragraph.  I got my religions confused.

The Vatican responded by lodging a protest with the Israeli government.  The Vatican representative said that Mary and Jesus were “ridiculed with blasphemous words and images” that amounted to “a vulgar and offensive act of intolerance toward the religious sentiments of the believers in Christ.”  Meanwhile dozens of Christians protested peacefully in Israel.


Edward Feser and Tradition

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fritz @ 3:16 pm

Feser writes,

What is true is that conservatives tend to hold that the fact that a practice or belief is traditional should lead us to regard it as innocent until proven guilty, and to put the burden of proof on the innovator rather than on the upholder of tradition. To be sure, in some cases that burden can be easily met, and the guilt established quickly. Still, the fact that a practice or belief has survived for some time at least says something for it, and should make us at least cautious of discarding it glibly. This is not dogmatism but simply common sense

In the body of the post he investigates how an evalution of a traditional set of beliefs might be approached.

America’s Private Behavior Paradox

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fritz @ 2:37 pm

I don’t know if this will come as a surprise to you or not, but smoking is not good for your health. Many years of scientific investigation have added the corollary that your smoking around other people isn’t good for them either. I think that any sensible civil libertarian would agree that part of the mandate of government is to reduce, eliminate, or punish harm done by one person to another. Thus, public smoking bans. Fair enough.

There still remains the point that people, in so far as they are not harming others, still retain the liberty to puff away to their heart’s content.

Also remember that it’s a generally accepted principle that if government pays for something, they get to make the rules. Does the state of Louisiana want federal funds to repair its highway system? They better make sure that their drinking age is 21 then.

If the federal government starts paying for health care you should see a lot more of this. Since health care is about our bodies and the way we live, expect deeper encroachments into individual behavior.

Madison, writing as Publius inThe Federalist Papers #10, points out that there are two ways of dealing with problems that naturally arise from liberty: we can control the causes or we can control the effects.

Ronald Brownstein, in a recent editorial in the National Journal, clearly wants to control the causes. He writes, rightly assuming that eventually we’re going to have a national health care system whether we like it or not, that

Any universal coverage plan will grow unsustainably expensive unless healthcare inflation slows. Preventing, rather than treating, disease is one key to controlling healthcare costs. And few diseases present a more obvious target for prevention than the heart and lung ailments and cancers linked to smoking.

It’s worth noting that Browstein notices to following interesting relationship between political ideology and government regulation of private behavior:

The high-prevalence [of smoking] states may fail to act for fear of antagonizing their many smokers, or they may have so many smokers because they have failed to act. It also matters that the heaviest-smoking states are nearly all Republican-leaning red states generally dubious of regulation. Almost all of the lowest-smoking states are Democratic-leaning and more open to regulation.

That’s why the federal government needs to get involved. The states can’t be trusted, especially if they refuse to regulate out of some misplaced deference to their voters. From a progressive point of view this is the failure of liberal democracy.

How about that.

By controlling the causes, Madison meant the tendency towards extinguishing liberty. Madison points out that, “It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease.” If we have to dance to the tune of the one who pays, what is the limiting factor when it comes to controlling behavior? Don’t get me wrong, smoking is surely the worst. It’s harms are the most likely (you can get cancer for a lot of stuff but nothing does the job like smoking) and the most expensive to treat. Brownstein, in laying out his plan of action, assures the reader, rather sadly one might suspect, that the FDA cannot ban smoking “but it could require further health-risk disclosure, reduce nicotine levels, and more tightly regulate marketing, especially to minors.”

Brownstein also recommends a national war on tobacco, including “mandating that states and private insurers fund cessation programs to exploring, either through legislation or occupational-safety regulations, a national ban on smoking in public places and workplaces.” Brownstein calls the cost of continuing to allow private citizens to use tobacco products “intolerable”.

I wouldn’t shed a single tear in my whiskey and soda or on my double cheeseburger if smoking vanished off the face of the earth tomorrow. But I’ve got to ask, when the principle is the cost to the federal government, where does the limit to federal power lie?



The Unliberal Nature of Man

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fritz @ 11:12 am

From Notes on Schmitt’s Essay by Leo Strauss in Carl Schmitt’s The Concept of the Political:

Hobbes differs from developed liberalism only, but certainly, by his knowing and seeing against what the liberal ideal of civilization has to be persistently fought for: not merely against rotten institutions, against the evil will of a ruling class, but against the natural evil of man; in an unliberal world Hobbes forges ahead to lay the foundation of liberalism against the—sit venia verbo—unliberal nature of man, whereas later men, ignorant of their premises and goals, trust in the original goodness (based on God’s creation and providence) of human nature or, on the basis of natural-scientific neutrality, nurse hopes for an improvement of nature, hopes unjustified by man’s experience of himself. Hobbes, in view of the state of nature, attempts to overcome the state of nature within the limits in which it allows being overcome, whereas later men either dream up a state of nature or, on the basis of a supposed deeper insight into history and therewith into the essence of man, forget the state of nature (Schmitt, 1996, 92).

Free Speech Isn’t Fair

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amphipolis @ 6:44 am

Especially on the Internet.

the chairman has made it clear that oversight of the Internet is one of his top priorities


Thanks to the stimulus package, we’ve established that broadband networks — the Internet — are critical, national infrastructure. We think that gives us an opening to look at what runs over that critical infrastructure.


SFSU College Republicans threatened for anti-Hamas protest

Filed under: Uncategorized — aunursa @ 8:30 pm

During a 2006 anti-terrorism rally, members of the San Francisco State College Republicans stepped on papers representing the flags of Hamas and Hezbollah. The flags of the terrorist groups contain the word “Allah.”  Following the rally the Associated Students unanimously passed a resolution condemning the CR’s for “hateful religious intolerance” and for deliberately stomping on the flags “knowing it would offend some people and possibly incite violence.”  After a student complained that the CR’s had attempted “to incite violence and create a hostile environment,” the university conducted an investigation.  The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a non-partisan group that fights for free speech on university campuses, became involved in defense of the CR’s, and eventually the university backed down.

Still, the CR’s filed a lawsuit against the university for infriging on their civil rights.  Ultimately a judge barred SFSU from enforcing portions of the student conduct code that required students to act consistent with the university’s goals, principles, and policies.  The injunction also barred the entire California State University system from enforcing a policy requiring students to “be civil to one another.”

The ever-vigilant Philadelphia-based FIRE reports that the same scenario is playing out again.  Last Wednesday at an anti-Hamas rally, members of the College Republicans threw shoes at a Hamas flag and stepped on the flag.  According to this article in the student newspaper, violence erupted as a counter-protestor overturned a table that the students were using.  Two counter-protestors were arrested and charged with battery, resisting arrest, and petty theft (for stealing the flag that the CR’s had made.)  [Video here]

Now the CR’s report that they have received inside information that the General Union of Palestinian Students and the Muslim Student Association plan to make the following demands of the school:

  • drop all charges against the counter-protesters
  • punish or sanction the CR’s for throwing shoes at the Hamas flag
  • organize a forum to “educate” students about what forms of speech are considered “unacceptable” forms of “hate speech”

Bear in mind that SFSU is considered by many to be one of the most hostile campuses for Jewish and pro-Israel students, with a shameful history that rivals perhaps only UC Irvine.  Stay tuned as we see whether the administration has learned its lesson and now realizes that the College Republicans are protected by the First Amendment.


Culture as a Defense

Filed under: Uncategorized — JRM @ 4:54 pm

I want you to know this: I am not making this up.

The California Bar Journal has a story about the use of culture as a defense on this month’s front page.

I haven’t read Professor Renteln’s book, but she wrote a short article on the subject.

From the introduction:

When individuals commit culturally motivated acts that clash with the law, they may ask courts to consider the cultural imperatives that inspired the actions in question. When they advance arguments of this sort, they usually wish to introduce expert testimony into court to underscore the validity of their claims. Unfortunately, judges are often disinclined to allow the presentation of such evidence and exclude it as “irrelevant.” Their refusal to permit cultural evidence is unfortunate because it can result in a miscarriage of justice. My view is that the cultural defense should be established as official public policy as long as safeguards are put in place to prevent its misuse.

And she cites anecdotes:

– A Mexican-American whose fellow poker player called his mother a bad name, so the guy shot him. Professor Renteln opines that this should have been manslaughter because a Mexican would be way more likely to shoot someone over it than a, you know, regular American.

– A Muslim Albanian man who was fondling his four-year-old daughter’s genitals in public. He was criminally acquitted because he brought in a culture defense (and that his intent was not to sexually stimulate himself or his daughter) but the family law people still took the daughter under the theory that fondling four-year-old’s genitals is bad. This was an injustice.

– A Thai man who participated in a robbery where two people were killed showed no emotion throughout and, while denying he “pulled the trigger” (per Renteln), refused to identify who did. He got executed for his crime, but his culture apparently frowns on showing emotion, so he shouldn’t have gotten the death penalty.

I’ll help Professor Renteln on that last: He definitely didn’t pull the trigger. That’s because one of the storekeepers was beaten and strangled, while the other was repeatedly stabbed in the head, neck, and hands, and left a blood trail throughout the store. There was pretty decent evidence that he was, indeed, the killer, even without any trigger-pulling (though they did not have to prove that to give him the death penalty.)

Renteln proposes a three-prong test:

1. Is the litigant the member of an ethnic group?

2. Does the group have such a tradition?

3. Was the litigant influenced by the tradition?

Now, I know what many of you are saying: Hooray! I now have cultural defenses for my behavior. Please pick from the below:

Western European Drunken Jackass Culture: While fraternity members are often hearty fellows well-met, some have grown up in a culture where they bear no responsibility for their actions, and now have more money than brains. Is it really rape if she’s drunk? Not in this culture! We should not judge so harshly, unless we have walked a mile in their $380 crocodile-skin shoes.

(Your ethnicity here) Cop-Hating Culture: If you’ve played a lot of Grand Theft Auto, it’s not that bad to slug cops. This sort of cultural defense is appropriate. You can certainly find some reason for your ethnicity to hate cops.

Eastern European Puppy-Stomping Culture: Are you going to judge a guy for stomping on puppies? Have you considered what his upbringing must be for him to have done that? Who are you to judge? Jerk.

Of course, in reality, I find that Mexican-Americans of my acquaintance don’t shoot their fellow poker players for insulting them, that Thai people don’t take off with stolen property off of the brutally murdered and then clam up about it, and that most people are aware of the no-molesting rules as they apply to four-year-olds. But maybe I’m culturally biased.

Don’t worry, though. There’s a caveat: The court should weigh the “human right of the custom against other important human rights, such as the rights of women and children.” Not that we should get all excited about preventing people from [Scott Jacobsesque phraseology beginning with “finger” redacted] four-year-old girls and should maybe review whether that’s good for them.

Nor should we go all nuts about whether female shopkeepers should be brutally murdered. But we should weigh their rights. Somehow. A little.

Here’s why we have laws: To cause people to conform their behavior to those laws. Don’t rape 12-year-olds. Don’t steal from old people. Don’t use PCP. Don’t drive without a driver’s license.

Some laws are to prevent evil. Some laws are to preserve an ordered society. Not everyone agrees with every law. But the law’s not based on who you are. Just because Uzbekhistan doesn’t have a driver’s test doesn’t mean you don’t have to pass it. Just because they let you rape children in the Sudan doesn’t mean we’re going to let you. We, in fact, are going to send you to prison forever. Which is as it damn well should be.

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