Saturday, March 24, 2007

La ville des bicyclettes

Now this is cool. The interesting thing about living in Paris (especially for an American from somewhere other than New York City or maybe Boston) is just how small the city is. It's a long walk to go from my old haunts down in the Marais out to my apartment in the hinterlands of the dix-septième arrondissement, but it was walkable and I did it occasionally. Of course, generally I would take the Metro and at night I would take a taxi, costing about 60 to 70 FF (around $10).

But that's because the streets were insane and especially at night it would have been quite dangerous to ride a bicycle around the city. Thinking back on it, I can't remember seeing a bicycle on the streets of the city outside of the final circuit race stage of the Tour de France. But that's because there is no space allocated for bikes on the streets. Reducing the population of cars and giving over space to bikes (not to mention raising the visibility of bikes and making the enforcement of motor safety laws aimed at protecting bicycle traffic) would do a lot to eliminate that problem.

I think that this is a really interesting statement: "A recent study analyzed different trips in the city 'with a car, bike, taxi and walking, and the bikes were always the fastest.'" It makes sense: in a dense urban environment, the ability of a bicycle to react to changing conditions and integrate more easily with the city, as well as the lower density of vehicles on the road, should lead to a much greater efficiency in traffic flow.

I think that this will be a really great addition to the city, a transforming addition. Assuming that it takes (and I think it will: it will let the French both be cheap and have something else to lord over fat lazy Americans, so what's not to like?), then 10 years from today, the city will be pretty profoundly transformed: much less traffic congestion, much less pollution, especially in the hot summer months when the Seine valley can become quite still and impacted, and quieter. It should be lovely. A very good move.

Now to convince my wife that we need to move back to Paris.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

lol roflwtfbbqPWND

Pat Leahy gets in touch with his inner bad ass:
"[Karl Rove] can appear voluntarily if he wants," [Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont,] said... "If he doesn't, I will subpoena him."

Leahy added, "The attorney general said, 'Well, there are some staff people or lower level people -- I am not sure whether I want to allow them to testify or not.' I said, 'Frankly, Mr. attorney general, it's not your decision, it's mine and the committee's.' We will have some subpoenas."
As the kids say: lolz3rs, in ur constitution invoking ur separation of powers.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Which is it, young feller?

So Gonzales just said in his press conference that he didn't know about the USA firings and that there were issues with communications. But his chief of staff sure did know and seemed to communicate just fine. So that brings up a question that seems to surface a lot with regards to this administration...

Are you incompetent or lying? That's really the only choices. You are either total crap at your job with no control over what should be your most trusted direct report or you are lying through your teeth.

So which is it? I know what I think, but in the end it doesn't really matter, does it? In either case, you are unqualified for your position and should resign.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Questions on the conservative petition against Ann Coulter

On one level, at least I can applaud these guys for taking a stand against Ann Coulter's invective. But I also have to take issue with a couple of points in their petition:
Coulter... [referred] to John Edwards... as a “faggot.” Such offensive language... may be tolerated on liberal websites but not at the nation’s premier conservative gathering...

Within a day of Coulter’s remark John Edwards sent out a fundraising email that used Coulter’s words to raise money for his faltering campaign.
First, where do they get the idea that calling someone a "faggot" is tolerated on liberal web sites? Isn't the standard conservative stereotype of liberals that of trembling P.C. thought police, afraid to apply almost any unqualified terminology for fear of offending people? I'm guessing that the reference is to "liberal hate speech" and our supposed tendency to insult people who don't agree with us, but, even if that were the case and it's not, Coulter's latest broadside is nothing more than schoolyard taunting. I don't recall anyone calling another person "faggot" since high school and even then it was dwindling from the frequency in junior high.

Also, is the Edwards campaign really faltering? Not by any measure that I've seen. He may not be the front-runner, but it's also early yet. Would they refer to the faltering McCain campaign? I dunno, maybe so, but I think it's an inaccurate characterization of Edwards's campaign. Of course he exploited the visibility and anger generated by Coulter's comments (or his fundraisers did). But you'd have to be an idiot to not try to take advantage of that. That doesn't in and of itself indicate that his campaign is struggling.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

This is scary

I don't really know what this means.

News from Afghanistan

My primary opposition to the war in Iraq was not based on my certainty about the weakness (or downright fallaciousness) of the evidence against Iraq. I doubted it, but I didn't know and I saw where a rationale case could be made for war against Iraq. But even given the possibility that that war could be justified, I saw no reason it had to be done when it was done. The "smoking gun and mushroom cloud" scenario was obviously overwrought and there was no reason that, given the position of weapons inspectors in Iraq, we couldn't wait at least another year to invade, or two or three... (OK, no reason but the political and psychological reasons that in the end drove the decision for the administration in the first place).

Well, after Iraq, Afghanistan became the new Forgotten War. That's started to change again as Afghanistan has become scarier. So hearing something at least somewhat heartening is a good thing.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A personal question about Ann Coulter

This question has bugged me for a while. Let's think about Ann Coulter's position. She's the hero of the right-wing Christian conservative faction of the Republican Party. Now, I've never heard her talk about the role of Jesus and religion in her life, other than to declare that they do indeed play a part in her life. She claims that, "I'm a Christian first and a mean-spirited, bigoted conservative second, and don't you ever forget it."1

Well, I guess I'm guilty of forgetting that, but I blame her a little bit for not reminding me. Because she never writes about it. At all. Check out her archives. No mention of Jesus or God in any title (other than when she's positing that liberals are godless, mainly in service of promoting her book of the same name). In fact, her site brings up only a few relatively tangential hits talking about Jesus at all and certainly nothing describing Ann's devotion to her faith.

OK, but I would be the first to say that your religious or spiritual life is your business and is not a fair target for political discussion. For example, I have many issues with Mitt Romney as a candidate, but the fact that he's LDS is of little or no consequence to me. I would certainly feel the same about a public person's particular Protestant denomination or Catholicism or Judaism or Muslim...ism or whatever the hell the correct word would be in that grammatical context.

But I have a question that, again, I would never ask about almost anyone unless they made people's personal lives an issue. If Ann didn't condemn people for their sexual habits, then her personal and sexual life would be, outside of criminal conduct, absolutely inappropriate for public discussion. But Ann does. Let's leave aside her involvement in the Paula Jones and Bill Clinton brou-ha-ha. This can be explained away (rather disingenuously, I think, but never mind that) as being about the exploitation of power by Clinton and the subsequent perjury Clinton committed when trying to avoid accountability for his malfeasance. So let's just not deal with that.

But Ann doesn't like homosexuality. Against Christianity and against the Bible. And premarital sex is obviously right out the door. All programs run by the government that deal even tangentially with sex should focus, not just primarily, but exclusively on abstinence. This is Godly and any intimation otherwise just encourages promiscuity, homosexuality, and all the other "ity"s that irritate James Dobson and his compatriots.

So Ann's a virgin, right?

I mean, she's 45 years old and has never been married. Never been married, although she's had a few boyfriends. Her official bio is pretty much all professional stuff, which would be fair for people who don't make the point of their professional career spearheading a movement that demands a high level of intrusiveness into people's lives in order to pass judgment on the morality and acceptability of their personal practices.

So I have to know, Ann, are you a virgin? In the years since you have accepted Christ into your life, have you had sex (obviously out of wedlock, since you're not married)? If you are on solid enough moral ground to call a married man a faggot, it's only fair of us to demand of you: are you practicing what you preach? Which is it, Ann: virgin spinster or hypocritical Jezebel?

1. Not linked to actual source because it's subscription only.

Blogging Hiatus

Yes, I have been on one. Basically. I just haven't blogged. Busy busy. My audience of one and a half is crushed. I'm going to try to get back in the swing of it.

I've also been thinking about exactly what I'm trying to do with this Slapfest. Most of my posts are political rants, but I'd like to branch into some other types of writing. I'm not normally a particularly confessional sort of person, so discourses on my breakfast and how it made me feel are probably out. But there's lots of other topics I'd like to cover:
  • Sports, especially football and baseball
  • Music
  • Writing
  • Code
But I already have my next post in the queue and it's political, so let's see how this idea of changing (or at least enhancing) what I'm writing works out.

The other thing is that I'm not so good at "blogging" as such. Many of my posts, like many of my e-mails and phone calls and so on, tend to be long. I write dissertations as opposed to nice succinct little bits. I'm really going to also try to put up thoughts and observations in addition to dissertations on why John Yoo should be strung up by his goddamned toe-nails.

So... we'll see how that goes.