November 2006

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I emailed Leo Plotkin about this coming Saturday’s rally to save International Plaza. He answered a few of my questions:

Who else is involved in organizing the rally?

All of the owners of the small businesses located at International Plaza will be attending the rally.

What businesses do they run at the Plaza?

The types of businesses in International Plaza consist of food restaurants (Japanese, Italian, etc.), beauty salons, workout gym, clothing store, resale shop, video rental (Blockbuster), currency exchange, gift shop, dentist, accupuncturist, tai chi business, cleaners, pro golf shop, Korean market, consumer electronics repair business, etc. There is a great variety of businesses in International Plaza and this list signifies the different types.

Why have the rally now? Did something happen to provoke a response from you?

There is a pending lawsuit between XSport Gym and the Village of Arlington Heights. If XSport Gym was to lose the lawsuit, International Plaza will be condemned as Eminent Domain.

What do you hope to accomplish with a rally? Press attention?

Yes, we would love to provoke media attention and to place pressure on the board to change their mind in regards to Eminent Domain.

From Christina Walsh at the IJ:

This Saturday, December 2, a new organization called Save International Plaza is holding a rally at 10am in Arlington Heights. The Village is considering seizing all of the businesses in International Plaza through eminent domain to replace them with a SuperTarget. These folks need your support, and we encourage you to attend and bring your family and friends!

RALLY to Save International Plaza
Saturday, December 2
214 E. Golf Road (International Plaza)
Arlington Heights, IL 60005

Free coffee and donuts will be provided. If you have any questions, contact Leo Plotkin at [email protected] We hope you can make it!

I plan to be there taking pictures.

The contact person, Leo Plotkin, runs Unigma Camera which I photographed a year ago when I first wrote abote International Plaza. I didn’t use the pictue because it wasn’t very good, but here it is:

Unigma Camera
Larger ImageUnigma Camera

People who know I’m into photography sometimes ask me for advice about buying a camera, so I’ve been planning to put together a holiday buying guide.

Amazon, however, showed me a better way. They have a feature called aStore that allowed me to build my own online store—called WindyShopping of course—through which I can sell products from Amazon’s Camera and Photo department. There’s a link to WindyShopping at the top of the left-hand sidebar.

I don’t own every item I sell in the store, but I have researched all of them and I believe they are good cameras at good prices. I’ve included commentary on every item explaining what I like about it.

I suggest you also click one of the Adorama Camera links on this page and lookup the same items there to compare prices.

Of course, if you buy through the Amazon store or through Adorama, I get a piece of the action. Even if you don’t buy what I recommend, just by following a link from my site to get to Amazon or Adorama when you make your purchase, I’ll get a piece of the action.

If you like what I’m doing here, I’d sure appreciate it if you helped me pay for the products and services I use to create this blog by doing some of your Christmas shopping through the links on this page.


This is about what I was expecting:

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak “Standard English straight out of the dictionary” but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like “Are you from Wisconsin?” or “Are you from Chicago?” Chances are you call carbonated drinks “pop.”

The Northeast
The Midland
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Update: I think I speak “Standard English straight out of the dictionary” because I do. On what planet do “stock” and “stalk” sound the same? Northern cities vowel shift my ass!

While most of us were enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with our families, Chicago police were dealing with a hostage situation that did not end well.

The standoff began early Thanksgiving morning after an armed man took what was then believed to be two young women hostage inside their apartment building. The gunman opened fire on authorities who responded to the scene.
—Andrew Wang, Chicago Tribune, November 24, 2006:

Chicago police held off launching a SWAT raid and chose to negotiate instead. Nearly 24 hours later, however, the hostage taker forced their hand:

The impasse ended when police heard a shot and sent a SWAT team into the apartment. They threw a concussion granade, known as a “flash-bang,” in an attempt to distract the gunman as they rushed in.

“When we hear one gunshot, then at that moment we make entry,” said Starks. “As we went in, we used a flash-bang. There was a lot of noise going off,” which might have masked the gunman’s second shot.

The hostage and the gunman were both dead.

There was some criticism of the police for not taking action sooner, but I can’t see how they could have known a raid would be necessary. From what I’ve read so far, it sounds like the Chicago police did everything exactly right given what they knew at the time.

You wouldn’t think so from watching movies and television, but for a hostage negotiation to end in the death of a hostage is incredibly unusual. Hostage takers may kill people before the police hostage team gets there, but it’s very rare for a hostage to die once the negotiations have begun. This is probably the first time it’s happened in Chicago in many years. Hostage negotiation almost always works.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the hostage taker had serious mental problems. Most hostage takers calm down as time passes, and they slowly conclude that their best choice is to surrender. An emotionally disturbed person, however, is more likely to become agitated as time goes by, especially if the hostage situation disrupts their medication schedule.

Update: Police are saying the hostage taker had a history of medical illness and hadn’t talken his medication.

Just to let you all know, I’m planning to do some drinking and driving this holiday weekend. Not drunk driving, mind you—that would be illegal—just some drinking and then some driving.

I’m very nearly a teetotaller by inclination. I think I’ve had four, maybe even five drinks so far this year. No reason for it, I just rarely ever get that “I’d like to have a drink now” feeling.

However, the moral stormtroopers at MADD have launched a new Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving.

This Campaign goes beyond slogans and taglines. It is precisely what it says it is. We want to completely eliminate drunk driving. With your help, we plan on making drunk driving the public health equivalent of polio.

First of all, polio is a public health problem and therefore polio is the public health equivalent of polio. Drunk driving, on the other hand, is not a public health problem—not in the same way as polio or malnutrition or poor waste disposal—no matter how much the folks at MADD try to pretend it is.

Second, they keep talking about ignition interlocks for cars and advance technology for alcohol detection:

First 5 years:

We’ll focus on widespread installation of existing and emerging technologies on convicted drunk drivers.

Second 5 years:

We hope to see implementation of improved technology on large fleets thanks to cooperation from the auto industry.

Ten years and beyond:

We could possibly see voluntary application to general population with insurance premium incentives..

In other words, they want to put alcohol detection gear and ignition interlocks in every car in America. They say this would be voluntary, but when has anything MADD wanted ever been voluntary? MADD has a list of 40 laws that they want passed in every state. Almost everything on their Take Action page involves getting laws passed. I don’t believe for a second that the petty tyrants at MADD won’t be forcing this technology down our throats in a few years.

In protest of this policy, sometime this weekend, possibly today, I’m going to have a drink and then I’m going to operate a motor vehicle on the streets and roads of metropolitan Chicago. Just because I know it would piss them off.

What can I say? I’m a rebel.

I was driving home from dinner with the parents when suddenly it hit me: I don’t know how many planets there are!

The IAU met to decide on it a few months ago, but the rule they settled on was not the rule everybody thought they’d settle on. I can’t remember what they decided, so I have no clue how many planets there are.

I think that means I get to make up my own rules. I’m going to go with eleven: The eight non-controversial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune). I’ll add Pluto (you haters can kiss my ass), plus the slightly bigger new one that its discoverer calls Xena (the IAU wants to call it something else, but I say if they want to name a planet they should get off their asses and find one of their own), plus Ceres because it’s big and round too. I’m not counting Charon no matter what they say. It’s still just Pluto’s moon.

I can’t remember the first time I picked up Reason magazine. It was probably in the mid 1990’s. I was going through a phase where I was looking for magazines about the important issues of the day. I was reading Time or Newsweek regularly—I can’t remember which. Somebody had told me that that the two best magazines for learning about the big issues were Atlantic and Harper’s, so I read those. I can also remember reading American Enterprise, National Review, The Economist, Mother Jones, and Ms. There were lots of others that I can’t remember off the top of my head.

Most of them were a disappointment in one way or another. The conservative magazines were big advocates of personal responsibility but still wanted to punish people for behavior that hurt only themselves. And too often they seemed to equate “free market” with big business and “small government” with low taxes, ignoring the much larger implications of both these admirable ideals. Also, a lot of them seemed to think their religious beliefs should be the law of the land.

Strangely, the liberal magazines also seemed to equate “free market” with big business, but they used the excesses of bad businesses as the basis for an attack on the free market. They wanted big government to be compassionate toward the victims of the world and toward the otherwise less-fortunate, but they always seemed to forget that they were spending other people’s money, and that those people deserved compassion too. And while they were in favor of some personal freedoms, they became moral scolds every bit as bad as the religious right when it came to saying or showing things that might demean other people.

(This last situation made for some strange bedfellows. The religious right opposed pornography because they thought it was immoral, and the feminist left opposed pornography because they thought it demeaned women. Thus you had televangelists and radical lesbians teaming up to outlaw porn.)

Reason magazine was different. Reason magazine saw a lot of things the same way I did. They advocated personal freedom in all things. One of the earliest example I read of this was Virgina Postrel’s 1996 editorial about breast implants. Conservatives thought the issue was frivolous and a sign of our culture’s unhealthy obsession with sex. Liberals thought it was part of the how our culture objectified women. Lots of people felt the risks didn’t justify the benefits.

Virginia Postrel, however, framed the issue in a way that made sense to me. The issue was not what was good for us and why. The issue was who gets to make the decisions. Should it be politicians and public health doctors? Or should it be the person who has the most to gain or lose by the decision?

The debate over breast implants is only incidentally about the venality of lawyers or the benefits of a C cup. It is about who we are and who we may become. It is about the future of what it means to be human.

That sort of thinking is one of Reason‘s greatest strengths. Its writers are consistently good at looking at how small and intimate personal decisions—from health to finance to culture—relate to the grand issues of the day. And they explain why everyone is better off when people have the freedom to make their own choices.

Reason‘s motto is “Free Markets and Free Minds.” And they really, really mean it, with all its details and implications.

If you’ve read this far, you may be interested in reading Reason yourself. Check out their web site, and if you like what you see, you can subscribe here.

In fact, it being the yule season and all, I’ll give a free subscription to the first four people who ask me for one [Hurry! Only three left!]. Just send your name and address to me at [email protected] and I’ll sign you up. (Free stuff. Now I’ll really get to see if anyone reads my blog.)

(The deadline for requests is this coming Sunday at midnight in Chicago. I reserve the right to reject frivolous requests, incomplete requests, or any other requests for any reason or no reason. All judgements about request arrival times and who gets a subscription are mine, and all my decisions are final. I may modify or cancel this offer at any time.)

In a bizarre story, the folks at the Volokh Conspiracy ask: If a prosecutor walks around naked in his office late at night and there’s nobody there to see him, is it still indecent exposure?

(Full disclosure: Not to put any ugly pictures in people’s heads, but I’m often naked while writing this blog. Just thought I should come clean.)

But not before she wounded three of them:

Three Atlanta police officers were shot and wounded and an elderly woman killed at a house in northwest Atlanta Tuesday night.

The woman, identified by relatives as 92-year old Kathryn Johnson, opened fire on the officers from the narcotics division at a house at 933 Neal Street, according to officials. Authorities say they received a tip of drug activity taking place at the home and officers were headed to the house with a search warrant.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that Mrs. Johnson probably wasn’t dealing any drugs. Certainly the Atlanta police haven’t claimed to have found any drugs.

In a report from Fox News in Atlanta the reporter says this:

Atlanta Police…insist the warrant was legal and the use of force necessary.

Yes, but was the raid necessary?

These raids are a crazy situation. The police, by virtue of their warrant, have a legal right to break into somebody’s house. The occupant, by virtue her natural right of self defense, has the right to use lethal force to prevent a home invasion. The police, by virtue of their natural right of self defense, have the right to use lethal force to defend themselves if attacked.

It’s not hard to see how that can go wrong. If the occupant fails to realize that the invaders are police—either because she is mistaken or because they don’t identify themselves properly—you’ve got the makings of a perfect tragedy, a life-or-death gunfight between people who are both firing in self defense.

The police say the officers knocked and announced themselves, but that’s not the same as identifying themselves. In fact, according to reports, the officers were in plain clothes, and therefore indistiguishable from common criminals, who also sometimes yell “Police!” when breaking down doors. I have the feeling that a lot of these shootings could be avoided if the cops would take the time to put on uniforms and make themselves look like police.

Then again, a lot of these situations could be avoided by simply not conducting these stupid raids.

Update: Police are now saying there was a controlled drug buy at the location and that they found what might be drugs at the scene.

Update: Here, via Instapundit, is a bird’s eye view of the house. It may have nothing to do with anything that happened yesterday, but it makes me angry just to see it: The house has a wheelchair ramp.

Update: Pete Guither points out that the next day the fucktards at the Drug Czar’s office are bragging about financing anti-drug police efforts in Atlanta.

Good job! Just a few million more dollars and I’m sure they’ll have wiped out the scourge of drug-dealing grandmothers.

In response to a previous post, I got this comment:

I’ve discovered that the issue which transcends all political boundaries better than any other issue is the comprehension that the War on Drugs is a failure. Consider this organization: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. It’s comprised of cops, judges, prosecutors and others in the criminal justice system, as well as concerned citizens, who are all opposed to the War on Drugs. We believe that the govt should control the manufacture and distribution of all drugs—not the cartels, criminals and international terrorists. These folks explain this issue nearly every day on talk radio, to civic grps, in front of church congregations and even to military officers and enlisted people…and the result is overwhelmingly positive.

Quite a provocative view for cops to take…but who better to explain the issue than the very people tasked with promulgating the policy?


Mike Smithson

Speakers Bureau Coordinator

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition [email protected]

So, if the failure of the War on Drugs “transcends all political boundaries better than any other issue” why isn’t it an issue? What politician running for office promised to decriminalize drugs—any drugs? What politician even promised to reign in the abuses of the war on drugs? What politician accused his opponent of passing drug laws that allow masked police to conduct midnight raids into people’s homes?

Nobody with real power is on our side.

Some nationally visible politicians have spoken out against the War on Drugs in the last few decades—Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke in the ’80’s and New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson in the ’90’s—but they’ve been few and far between.

Don’t get me wrong. LEAP is a great organization. I’m a “Friend of LEAP“—a non-law-enforcement member— and I’ve linked to their stuff before. They’re fighting the good fight. But the positive responses to LEAP speakers—or to any other decriminalization effort—don’t seem to be translating into political power.

In the corner of the blogosphere I inhabit, a lot of people oppose the War on Drugs. But out in the real world, it’s a fringe issue. Crazy ideas like walling off Mexico get serious debate and coverage on all the talk shows. But ending a policy that costs billions of dollars, jails hundreds of thousands of Americans, and crushes our civil liberties? Not up for debate anywhere that matters.

Folks like Kos have been pushing a new concept of a Libertarian Democrat. It’s been getting a lot of attention in the blogosphere. According to Kos, here’s what a Libertarian Democrat believes:

A Libertarian Dem rejects government efforts to intrude in our bedrooms and churches. A Libertarian Dem rejects government “Big Brother” efforts, such as the NSA spying of tens of millions of Americans. A Libertarian Dem rejects efforts to strip away rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights — from the First Amendment to the 10th. And yes, that includes the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms.

A Libertarian Dem believes that true liberty requires freedom of movement — we need roads and public transportation to give people freedom to travel wherever they might want. A Libertarian Dem believes that we should have the freedom to enjoy the outdoor without getting poisoned; that corporate polluters infringe on our rights and should be checked. A Libertarian Dem believes that people should have the freedom to make a living without being unduly exploited by employers. A Libertarian Dem understands that no one enjoys true liberty if they constantly fear for their lives, so strong crime and poverty prevention programs can create a safe environment for the pursuit of happiness. A Libertarian Dem gets that no one is truly free if they fear for their health, so social net programs are important to allow individuals to continue to live happily into their old age. Same with health care. And so on.

Notice what’s missing?

The War on Drugs is a war on freedom that should appeal to any libertarian, and the War on Drugs has had devastating effects on minorites and the poor. Opposition to the War on Drugs should be the defining belief of anyone claiming to be a Libertarian Democrat.

But as usual, it gets no attention at all.

Republicans have long made a big deal of the fact that they’re the party of Lincoln, that they’re the party that ended slavery. It’s pure nonsense, of course, to try to rest on the moral superiority of what your party did almost 150 years ago. It’s not as if the Democrats are the pro-slavery party.

Or so I used to think befire I read this:

Americans would have to sign up for a new military draft after turning 18 if the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has his way.

You know, the Republicans deserved to lose this last election, for all kinds of reasons. But the problem with throwing out the Republicans is that they’re replaced by the Democrats. So we’re throwing out one set of crackpot ideas and replacing it with another.

Rep. Charles Rangel…, D-N.Y., said Sunday he sees his idea as a way to deter politicians from launching wars and to bolster U.S. troop levels insufficient to cover potential future action in Iran, North Korea and Iraq.

“There’s no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm’s way,” Rangel said.

The focus is entirely on what kind of people are joining the army. This is so typical of the Democrats: It’s all about identity politics. Those of us opposed to the War on Drugs have never been able to get the Democrats interested in decriminalization except for the sentencing disparity between powder cocaine and crack cocaine because crack’s harsher penalties hurt the black community.

The most reprehensible policies are acceptable to some Democrats as long as they are race-neutral. They think it’s better to force everyone equally to enter the military against their will than to allow people to decide freely, because minorities are more likely to decide to enlist.

If politicians like Rangel had been in charge in the 1800’s, instead of ending slavery we would have passed a law allowing whites to be enslaved too.

Update: Here’s video and a nice explanation of why this is all just theater.

(Also, I see that Representative Rangel is black. I might have had second thoughts about calling it slavery if I’d known. There are significant differences that make slavery as it was practiced in the United States much worse than conscription. But both of them are moral sinkholes.)

AdoramaI just checked my Adorama affiliate account and found out someone purchased something for $100 through this site. Thanks, whoever you are. My commission off of that will cover a few days worth of my hosting fees.

I buy most of my photographic equipment from Adorama Camera. Their site is well-organized and easy to search, and they have a good checkout process that provides detailed tracking information. They also have excellent customer service if you have questions about an order.

I’m an affiliate, which means that if you get to Adorama by clicking the Adorama link in the sidebar, I get a piece of the action off of anything you order.

They say the big purchase this season is a flat-panel television for your home entertainment center. If just a few dozen of you will buy a JVC GD-V502U 50″ Plasma Large Screen Display Monitor, Windypundit will be swimming in dough.

So, if you’re thinking of getting camera or video equipment for Christmas, check out Adorama and see if you can find what you want. Shop around. Compare prices. If you like what you see at Adorama—and you want to support my blog—just click through to them from my site and place your order.

I’d certainly appreciate it. Thanks.