Monday, 26 November 2007


Ken Berwitz

San Francisco is considering a ban on the use of fireplaces.  And stop laughing, I'm not kidding.

I said STOP LAUGHING.  This is real. 

Oh, you still don't believe me?  Well read this.  The insanity is San Francisco's.  The bold print is mine:

Smog board wants to ban wood fires on bad-air nights in winter

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Over the next three weeks, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District will hold workshops to gauge public opinion on the proposal, which would follow similar bans in Sacramento County, the San Joaquin Valley, and such Bay Area cities as Mill Valley, where people who disobey the city's wood-burning law are already subject to stiff fines.

Spurred by growing evidence that shows smoke from wood-burning is as bad or worse than smoke from cigarettes, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is trying to reduce the amount of harmful particulate matter that people breathe. Children, the elderly and those with respiratory illnesses are particularly susceptible to smoke particles that emanate from wood-burning fireplaces.

The minute particles, which enter nasal passages and lungs, can cause asthma, bronchitis, lung disease and heart disease, according to health experts.

The workshops, which start Wednesday in Oakland, are designed to solicit comments and explain the proposed regulation, which would cover wood-burning stoves as well as indoor and outdoor fireplaces. On days in the Bay Area when particulate matter is at its worst, wood-burning is the greatest contributing factor, accounting for 33 percent of the pollution, according to the air district. The problem is especially acute in winter, when fire-place use is high.

"It's the single biggest source of air pollution that individuals have the greatest power to control," said Karen Schkolnick, an air district spokeswoman.

The district estimates that 20 days a year would require bans on fireplace use if the rule is approved.

As of now, during nights when levels of particulate matter are high, the district asks residents to refrain from lighting fires. Seventy-seven percent of Bay Area residents support bans on days when air quality is poor, according to the district. The proposed fireplace requirement is supported by the American Lung Association.

"People think wood burning is fine and healthy because it's a natural substance," said Jenny Bard, assistant director of communications and advocacy for the American Lung Association of California. "We associate the smells of wood smoke with good things, like camping and cooking over the fire. Unfortunately, we've learned that breathing these particles is the same thing as breathing tobacco smoke."

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency strengthened its particulate standards, reducing by almost half the amount of such particles that can be released into the air. In the past 10 years, a growing number of Bay Area cities - including Oakland, Union City, Fremont and Los Gatos - have limited wood-burning devices. In Mill Valley, first-time violators are warned before facing a $150 fine.

Schkolnick said the Bay Area district's wood-burning law would mirror the regulations used in Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley. During the 2006-07 winter, the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District - which covers San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties as well as part of Kern County - issued 192 tickets to residents. The first fine is $50. Repeated violations can lead to fines of between $100 and $1,000, district spokeswoman Jaime Holt said.

In lieu of paying a fine, first-time violators can attend a two-hour "residential wood-burning compliance school," where they learn about the pollution hazards of wood-burning, Holt said.

Most violators in the San Joaquin Valley are initially reported by concerned neighbors, Holt said.

Sacramento's law, adopted last month, takes effect Dec. 1 and will be enforced until Feb. 29. Because Sacramento residents haven't been adequately informed about the new regulation, no fines will be issued until next year, said Christina Ragsdale, spokeswoman for the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District Board.

Besides limiting fireplace use on bad-air days, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District's proposed regulation would ban burning garbage and limits the type of fireplaces allowed in new buildings, as well as the type of wood that can be sold.  .

Well, there you have it.  Fireplaces join tobacco and gas as despoilers of the environment.  Hey, that's reasonable.  Anything that changes pure air quality MUST be polluting it, right?

But I do have a few questions:

-The first is, why do people use fireplaces?  To show off their ashes at the end?  Or to keep warm?  If it is to show off their ashes then ban every fireplace in the Bay Area.  If it is to keep warm - sometimes to conserve energy (we're still concerned about that, aren't we?), sometimes to avoid using oil heat ((we're still concerned about that too, aren't we) and sometimes because the residence has no other heating capability, that just might be a different situation;

-The second is, what causes the bad air quality that would trigger a ban on fireplace use during a given day?  Is it just possible that the reasons air quality is bad - like, for example, cars, might be more contributory to bad air quality than a fireplace?  If you are over the pollution limit (and who sets that limit?) you can ban fireplace use.  Or you can ban some forms of car use.  Which do YOU think will have more environmental impact? 

But, then again, more voters drive than use fireplaces, don't they? 

-One last question:  If fireplaces are atmospheric death traps, why aren't we all dead already?  Hey, at one time there was no electricity and fireplaces were just about the only way to warm up in the winter. 

Have you ever heard about mass deaths due to sitting by the fireplace?  What's the cancer rate of toasted marshmallows?  Is popcorn really popcorn or unpopped kernels that have grown tumors when held over the flames?

Hey, y'know what?  I apologize for demanding that you stop laughing.  I admit it, I'm laughing too.


Ken Berwitz

There is a terrific article in this week's Weekly Standard about Rudy Giuliani.  It is titled "Rudy Giuliani - Disciplinarian" and you can read the entire article at  I highly recommend that you do so.

But because a) you might not and b) the article is too long to post in this blog, I thought I would extract a key section of it to post here.  It contains several quotes which, I think, go a long way toward defining the man, his fundamental outlook and the basis for that outlook.

It will also give you a good idea of why I would be so pleased with a Giuliani presidency..

Giuliani sees the law as the tool by which evil is disciplined and the city made safe for law-abiding citizens. And the law means what it says. When Giuliani says he is a strict constructionist, he is saying he has a restrictive view of the rights enumerated in the Constitution and a technical, legalistic approach to statutory interpretation. What he is not saying is that the Supreme Court incorrectly decided Roe v. Wade. "Strict constructionism is much broader than just one case," he says. "I thought a number of the decisions of the Warren Court, with regard to accused criminals, had gone way overboard in almost only seeing the rights of accused criminals and not seeing the implications that that had for the rights of victims, and for the right of the rest of society to be safe. It was almost like a process without limit, if you could invent a new right for a criminal, it was almost considered a decent society if you gave the criminal this additional right, and nobody was asking the question, 'Well, doesn't there come a point where you give so many rights to criminals that you're making society much more dangerous?'"

It probably was the exclusionary rule, the legal principle by which evidence collected unconstitutionally is inadmissible in U.S. courts, that made Giuliani a strict constructionist. "The exclusionary rule is a rule that I've always thought had no basis in logic," he says. "I always agreed with the dissent that said if the constable blunders, the criminal should not be set free. And the court has done a good job limiting the exclusionary rule by creating exceptions to it. But the core of the rule, to me, does not emerge from the Constitution. The more logical remedy for violation of, let's say, the right of privacy in your home, would be to punish the offending officer, rather than let the evidence be suppressed, and let the drug dealer go free, or the murderer go free or . . ."

He pauses.

"I remember once I had a case in court, wasn't mine, it was one of my colleagues', I'm pretty sure that's right. I remember it right, and a judge ruled that the seizure of the evidence and the guns was illegal. And the assistant U.S. attorney, who thought the ruling was wrong, got up and said to the judge, 'Do I have to give it back to him? Since it's his property, does it mean he leaves the courthouse not only a free man, but do I, should I, judge, should I give him the drugs and guns back?' And the judge got very angry. I think he was disciplined, the assistant U.S. attorney was disciplined, and I thought he was making a real point that the judge shouldn't have gotten angry about, because in essence--well, we didn't have to give the drugs and the guns back--but I'm pretty sure that a drug dealer, and a potential murderer, got out of the courthouse that day, and he got some more drugs, some more guns. Why should innocent people in society pay the price of mistakes that law enforcement officers make? And finally, when they're just mistakes, which happen in an intricate business like law enforcement, why, why the hell--why the heck--are you making society more dangerous as a result of it?" Giuliani's strict constructionism extends to the separation of powers. In his view, the judiciary--not the legislature or the executive or all three coequal branches--is the final arbiter of a law's constitutionality. In a July interview in Iowa, Giuliani explained to me the role each branch ought to play in the functioning of government. "It's real simple," he said. "The legislature makes laws, the executive carries out those laws, and the judiciary interprets them. And if any one of the three oversteps their bounds, it seems to me, we've actually deprived the American people of the liberty and the freedom and the democracy they have. If Congress fails to make writing with a Sharpie a crime . . ."

He held up a black Sharpie marker for emphasis.

". . . the president can't decide all of a sudden that it's a crime and put people in jail for that. The president can't make laws.

"But if Congress does make the law that it's a crime, then the president's got to carry it out until the court says it's an improper use of congressional power," he continued. "Because otherwise the other branches are probably going to encroach. When I see presidents fighting for presidential prerogative, and they get criticized for it, well, who's going to fight for it if the president doesn't? If the president doesn't fight for presidential prerogative, Congress will usurp that prerogative. And if Congress doesn't fight for its prerogatives, the president may usurp it, and then we've got the Court, to be the referee and decide: Has the president gone too far? Or has Congress gone too far?" What do you do if you disagree with a law Congress has passed, I asked.

"Then you go to court," he said. "Every once in a while, the city council would pass a law while I was the mayor that I didn't agree with. If I wasn't going to follow it, I'd take it to court. And the court said, they don't have authority to pass this. And sometimes Congress does pass laws they don't have the authority to pass. Congress loves to encroach on the president, as much as the president encroaches on Congress."

As mayor of New York City, Giuliani put these ideas into practice and, if you listen to him long enough, you begin to understand that if he becomes president he will attempt to apply them on a global scale. In Las Vegas, sitting in a dimly lit suite on the twenty-eighth floor of the Venetian tower, he outlines how excessive license had made New York ungovernable. "We are not allowed to do anything we want to do," he says. "That's chaos. Liberty is ceding a certain amount of your ability to do what you want so that everybody else can live in peace and freedom and respecting the rights of other people. Squeegee operators and graffiti people used to kind of preach that to me, with the oldest graffiti all over the city. People would say, 'Well, that's free speech.' Well, wait a second. If it's not your property, and if it's my property, and you just painted something on my property that I didn't want, then that's vandalism. It's not free speech; it's defacing and destroying my property. And, to live in a society of many people, we have to all respect the rights of other people. And we can't just do everything we want to do."

When I ask Giuliani if there were parallels between his fight against criminality and the war on Islamic terrorists, he says: "This is why I say I'm the best qualified to deal with terrorism.

"Someone once said to me that what they don't get about the Democrats, and even some Republicans that do this, is they're more concerned about rights for terrorists than the terrorists' wrongs," Giuliani went on. "I mean, this granting of rights to criminals and terrorists, even when they're necessary, come with a price, a price at the other end of it. Even for the ones that are necessary, like, let's say, the Miranda ruling, it's one you agree with--there's a price for that. Maybe it's one worth paying. The exclusionary rule, there's a big price for that: Criminals go free. They walk out of court. If you say, you know, no aggressive questioning, then we're not going to find out about situations. If you say no wiretapping, well, there'll be conversations going on, planning to bomb New York, or Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and you're not going to find out. And, when we draw these lines, at least let's be honest with people about the consequences of them. Let's not fool them into thinking that there are no consequences to this. People will say that aggressive questioning doesn't work. I, you know, I . . . Honest answer to that is, it doesn't work all the time. Sometimes it does."

Just as Giuliani disciplined an anarchic city, so too would he try to discipline a disordered world. "Civilization must stand up and combat the current collapse of governance, the rise of violence, and the spread of chaos and fear in many parts of the world," he wrote in a much derided, and little-studied, recent essay in Foreign Affairs:

I know from personal experience that when security is reliably established in a troubled part of a city, normal life rapidly reestablishes itself: shops open, people move back in, children start playing ball on the sidewalks again, and soon a decent and law-abiding community returns to life. The same is true in world affairs. Disorder in the world's bad neighborhoods tends to spread. Tolerating bad behavior breeds more bad behavior. But concerted action to uphold international standards will help people, economies, and states to thrive. Civil society can triumph over chaos if it is backed by determined action.

"Civilization must stand up and combat the current collapse of governance, the rise of violence, and the spread of chaos and fear in many parts of the world"

"I know from personal experience that when security is reliably established in a troubled part of a city, normal life rapidly reestablishes itself: shops open, people move back in, children start playing ball on the sidewalks again, and soon a decent and law-abiding community returns to life. The same is true in world affairs. Disorder in the world's bad neighborhoods tends to spread. Tolerating bad behavior breeds more bad behavior. But concerted action to uphold international standards will help people, economies, and states to thrive. Civil society can triumph over chaos if it is backed by determined action."

"We are not allowed to do anything we want to do.  That's chaos. Liberty is ceding a certain amount of your ability to do what you want so that everybody else can live in peace and freedom and respecting the rights of other people. Squeegee operators and graffiti people used to kind of preach that to me, with the oldest graffiti all over the city. People would say, 'Well, that's free speech.' Well, wait a second. If it's not your property, and if it's my property, and you just painted something on my property that I didn't want, then that's vandalism. It's not free speech; it's defacing and destroying my property. And, to live in a society of many people, we have to all respect the rights of other people. And we can't just do everything we want to do." .

It will be a cold day in hell before you ever get this kind of honest introspection from most other major candidates. 

Can you possibly, in your wildest dreams, picture a media creation like Hillary Clinton speaking this candidly about anything?  Can you possibly conceive of her opinions evolving based on this kind of thinking - or based on anything at all other than focus groups and strategy sessions?

Ditto for Barack Obama, and John Edwards and Mitt Romney.

Do I think Giuliani has a chance to be nominated?  Elected?  Both are tough hurdles.  His politics are to the left of a great many Republicans, and the hardline base tends to vote disproportionately in primaries.  Assuming he does get the nomination, he is likely to be running against Queen Hillary, the media's anointed one.

On the other hand, no one ever said Mr. Giuliani isn't a fighter. He won the Mayoralty of New York as a Republican (I know Bloomberg did too, but he had a billion dollars to do it with, Rudy didn't). 

And Giuliani governed with amazing effectiveness. He was a Republican and the city counci had a 46 - 5 Democratic majority.  That's how difficult.

Go get 'em Rudy.


Ken  Berwitz

Here is the latest installment of the 'taste of the future' series, which provides insight into how we will live if radical Islam makes good on its intention to end western civilization and put us all under their rules.

This story comes from the London Daily Telegraph:.

Briton faces lashes in Sudan over teddy named Mohammed

By Caroline Gammell and Aislinn Simpson

Last Updated: 5:46pm GMT 26/11/2007


A British primary school teacher in Sudan is facing 40 lashes and up to six months in prison after allowing her pupils to name a teddy bear after the prophet Mohammed.

Colleagues of Gillian Gibbons, 54, claim she made an "innocent mistake" by allowing the class of seven year-olds to choose the name. But she has been accused of insulting Islams holiest prophet, arrested and imprisoned.

If charged and found guilty of blasphemy she faces punishment under Sharia law.

Her actions have sparked protests in Sudan and have forced the school to close until January for fear of reprisals.

The divorced mother-of-two from Liverpool is being held at a police station in the Sudanese capital city of Khartoum, and there were reports that an angry mob had gathered.

As the Foreign Office tried to resolve the situation, Miss Gibbons was visited by consular staff who described her as well, despite her ordeal.

Miss Gibbons had been working at Unity High School - popular with wealthy Sudanese and expatriates - since August, after leaving her position as deputy headteacher at Dovecot Primary School in Liverpool this summer.


However, trouble flared after she let her class choose a name for the stuffed bear as part of a school project.

She was teaching her Year 2 class about animals and their habitats as part of the schools British-style national curriculum.

She asked one of the female pupils to bring in a teddy bear and asked the students to name it. "They came up with eight names including Abdullah, Hassan and Mohammed," said the schools director, Robert Boulos

Twenty of the 23 children opted for Mohammed and the toy was taken home by a different pupil each weekend to record a diary of the bears "activities".

Mr Boulos said the diary entries were written in a book which bore a picture of the bear and the words "My Name is Mohammed".

It is seen as an insult to Islam to attempt to make an image of the Prophet Mohammed, but Mr Boulos said nothing was written on the bear itself.

Several Muslim parents complained to the Ministry of Education and on Sunday, Sudanese police arrested her at her home on the school premises.

Mr Boulos insisted Miss Gibbons had not meant to offend anyone but said the school would remain closed until January for fear of reprisals.

"She has done nothing wrong but now we are very concerned that theres a risk to the school and the students from the men in the street," Mr Boulos said.

The police have confiscated the diary and plan to interview the little girl who owned the bear.

A source close to the school said one teacher was angered by the naming of the toy and complained to the headmistress, who is European. "According to what I was told, she belongs to one of the established conservative families in Khartoum."

But a Muslim teacher at Unity, who also has a child in Miss Gibbons class, said she had not found the project offensive: "I know Gillian and she would never have meant it as an insult."

The countrys state-controlled Sudanese Media Centre said Miss Gibbons was arrested "under article 125 of the criminal law", on suspicion of insulting faith and religion.

Unity, founded in 1902, is an independent school for Christian and Muslim children aged four to 18 and is governed by a board representing major Christian denominations in Sudan.

Miss Gibbons, who separated from her husband Peter in December 2006 after more than 20 years, is one of several Western teachers who work at the school.

The couple have two children Jessica, 27, - also a teacher - and John, 25, and used to live in the Aigburth area of Liverpool.

Former neighbour Peter Sorensen, 64, said: "Everyone is shocked to hear that Gillian has been arrested in Sudan. We can only think that its all a huge mistake, Im sure she would never have done anything deliberately to insult the Muslim faith.

"We are very worried about the kind of conditions she is subjected to. Being held in police cell in Khartoum must be an horrendous experience."

Mr Sorensen said Miss Gibbons had planned to be in Africa for two years but was hoping to come home for Christmas.

Headteacher of Dovecot Primary School Gillian Jones said: "We are all thinking of her at this difficult time and are absolutely certain that there is no way that she will have done anything to intentionally insult any religion." 


Read this carefully.  Remember that these are the people who will make the rules if we allow them to.  And it will be the way YOU live.

If we fight against radical islam we may win and we may lose.  If we do not, we will most assuredly lose because, either way, they will continue fighting.  And if they win, our culture and our civilization is over, to be replaced by what?  A society that will give a woman 40 lashes and put her in jail for six months because her 7 year old pupils  - not her - named a teddy bear?     

God help the people who want to live this way.  I know I'm not one of them.  Are you?

We play political games with this lunacy at our own peril..


Ken Berwitz

Some people are just plain racist, period.  Most of them are hopeless cases. 

And there are racists who don't realize they are.  This includes people whose ideas about fighting racism are racist in and of themselves.

What do I mean?  Read the column below, written by Terence Moore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and see.  I've put several of the racist highlights (lowlights?) in bold print:.

Baseball starts to see hue of issue

Terence Moore

One by one, a whos who of African-American baseball players filed into a room in New York City to partake in a conference call with the commissioner.

It was a secret meeting.

Well, until now.

Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Ken Griffey Jr., Derek Jeter. I mean, they were all there, and it was quite remarkable, said Bud Selig, over the phone from his Milwaukee office, confirming the unprecedented session earlier this month that recently was discovered by an AJC columnist. Were not going to stop until we get this thing done.

Seligs reference was to the pitiful number of African-American players in the game despite Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier 60 seasons ago. Only eight percent of the players in the majors last season were African-American, compared with 27 percent in the mid-1970s. Worse, the Braves continued their silly trend of having no more than one African-American on their roster at a given time. Even worse, the Braves joined the Houston Astros as the only teams to begin last season without an African-American player.

The Braves eventually added Willie Harris, the same African-American outfielder from Cairo, Ga., who didnt make their original 25-man roster despite an impressive spring training.

Something is wrong from Atlanta to Houston to San Diego. Selig knows it, which is why the commissioner whose close friend is Hank Aaron, the African-American slugger of the 1950s through the mid-1970s, decided to call this meeting. Not only did Selig invite all of todays prominent African-American players to attend, but he requested the presence of Frank Robinson, the first African-American manager and Hall of Famer who is an adviser to the commissioners office. They huddled with Jimmie Lee Solomon, another African-American, who is Seligs executive vice president of baseball operations.

The mission was two-fold: First, to have Selig receive information from the group on what it considered as the reasons for the drop in African-American players. Second, to have the group return at a later date with possible solutions.

Is this posturing by the commissioner, or is he actually swinging for the fences and expecting a grand slam?

To answer your question, the commissioner is very concerned, and hes very serious about this, and what hes trying to do is figure out some way to find a solution to this, which is why hes reaching out to this group, said Robinson, from his home in Los Angeles. Theres just not a simple solution to the problem. But what we have a tendency to do is that when somebody says there is a problem and that it should be taken care of, we have a tendency to ignore it initially. Im not saying the commissioner ignored it, but that is what has happened to all of us in the game.

We saw things happening over the years, but we didnt really pay much attention. But now when you look around on the field, and you see the lack of African-Americans, its to the point where it is obvious that something has to be done.

Its so obvious that many still dont get it or just prefer to ignore it.

Take, for instance, that gathering for the games front-office types in Orlando earlier this month. They congratulated each other on their idea of diversity throughout baseball. They bragged about the growing dominance of Hispanic players. They cited Ichiro Suzuki, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Matsui as Japanese stars evolving into American stars.

Selig listened, while trying not to clench his teeth. They mentioned Taiwanese players and so and so forth, and I said, Look. Were more diverse than ever, but Im a great student of history of this sport in every way, and the legacy of Jackie Robinson, an African-American, is so rich. We should just because its the right thing to do make sure that legacy endures with as many players as possible.

With that in mind and I know I had a long talk with Hank Aaron about this you had that group of African-Americans come together in New York, and theyre going to come and see me with their recommendations. I want to build more baseball academies, but I also want to know what they want us to do, and what they are willing to do with us, too.

Sounds good. It always does. Now lets see if all of this will help the Braves and other franchises stop flirting with returning to the 19th century. .

Ok, I'll play stupid here - maybe I am, but I think I'm only playing - and ask a few questions:

-Is Moore or Robinson or anyone else saying that there is an effort to prevent quality Black ballplayers from being in the major leagues?  If so, name a few. 

-Is this supposed to mean that good hitters or relief pitchers or utility infielders are being passed over by major league teams because they are Black?  If so, name a few.

-Does anyone in his/her right mind think that major league teams in Houston (25% Black) or Atlanta (59% Black) are trying to exclude Black players? 

-Is it just possible that the number of Black ballplayers has dropped due to a combination of more opportunity for Blacks in other areas both in and out of sports, combined with a major influx of other minorities, such as Latinos and Asians?

-If Bud Selig is going to have a dialogue about racism, why would he invite only people of one race to it?  Isn't THAT racism?

-If this is a "problem" that requires a "solution", what is being suggested?  That Black ballplayers who have not made their respective major league teams be assigned roster spots to get the percentage of Blacks higher?

As I said at the beginning, sometimes people who think they are against racism say and do racist things.

Or, put another way, I wish Moore would do less.

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