October 2007

You are browsing the site archives for October 2007.

A few random shots:

Even before he started running for president, there were three things I didn’t like about Rudy Giuliani when he was mayor of New York:

  • He said things like this.
  • He tried to shut down legal businesses he disliked, such as strip clubs and adult bookstores.
  • He aggressively defended New York police officers against accusations of misconduct before investigating.
  • After police chief Bratton brought down New York’s crime rate, Giuliani forced him out and took credit.
  • At the end of his last term, Giuliani floated the idea of postponing the mayoral election so he could stay in office a little longer.

(Hmm. That’s actually five things.  I really don’t like Rudy.)

Now Rachel Morris looks back at Giuliani’s mayoral period in this terrific anti-Rudy piece in Washington Monthly. He apparently behaved less like an elected official and more like a king consolidating his power.

I’m beginning to think Giuliani wouldn’t just be a bad president, he’d be a terrifying president.

(Hat tip: Hit & Run)


I thought the kerfuffle over Obama not wearing a flag pin was pretty dumb. I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody on Obama’s campaign staff orchestrated the whole mess to make his opponents look petty.

Now John Ruberry just pointed out another flag flap for Obama. This time it’s a picture of him and several other people standing for the national anthem. He’s the only one who doesn’t have his hand on his heart.

Somehow, this one bothers me.

I know I don’t always remember to put my hand on my heart. I don’t go to many live sporting events, so I rarely hear the anthem played, and I sometimes forget that I’m supposed to be doing something until I notice everyone else doing it. But I’m pretty sure a Senator and presidential candidate hears it a lot more.

Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe he’s been hearing it five times a day, every day, for the last year, and this time he forgot to salute. Maybe he was doing something else when they started playing—carrying a brief case, shaking hands with people in the crowd—and he just didn’t go into “national anthem mode.” Maybe if you watch every candidate all day every day, they all do stuff like this.

(It’s not just a lucky shot by the photographer. There’s also a video of the event which shows him with his arms down for a while. I should point out, however, that if you listen to the singing on the video, you can’t entirely dismiss the possibility that he didn’t realize that was supposed to be the national anthem.)

I can understand why he wouldn’t wear a flag pin. Most people don’t wear them, so by wearing one he would be making a greater show of patriotism than most Americans, and some people are repelled by that. I know I tend to suspect that anyone who puts on an extravagent show of patriotism is faking it because they are trying to sell me something.

But there’s nothing extravagent about putting your hand on your chest. This is probably nothing…but I’d still like to hear his explanation.

The evil lawmaking just keeps on coming.

Automobiles with aftermarket exhaust systems may be seized if they pass through Rossville, Illinois and a police officer thinks the vehicle is making too much noise. The village will also authorize police to grab a vehicle if an unruly passenger “resists” an officer’s commands.

This is, of course, another form of profitable punishment that allows towns and cities to make money off of punishing their citizens, but it’s also something much worse.

The jurisdictions have also come up with a number of clever ways to accuse motorists of crimes meriting confiscation. Rockford and Peoria will seize cars with loud stereos. Oak Forest will seize the car of anyone accused of crimes like shoplifting that have nothing whatsoever to do with driving. In all jurisdictions, the seizure takes place upon a mere accusation by police — not after any finding of guilt in a court of law. Kane County will even keep a confiscated car belonging to a motorist later found innocent.

Confiscation without trial is confiscation without law. If any cop can take your car just because he wants to, then you pretty much have to do what the cop says. You no longer have to obey the law, you have to obey the man with the gun.

This is lawlessness.

By passing laws like this, Rockford and Peoria and Kane County and all the other places have have turned their police forces into predatory street gangs, into auto theft rings with badges.

Interesting stuff around the web this morning:

  • Reason‘s David Weigel watched last night’s Republican debate so you didn’t have to.
  • Maryland Transportation Secretary John D Porcari wants to hit drivers with a $2000 fine for speeding in a highway work zone. I’m sure this is strictly out of concern for workers—even though the most common cause of injuries to construction zone workers is construction accidents—and that the revenue angle is only incidental.
  • Kip talks about Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s absurd attempt to get a list of everyone who reads the Phoenix New Times.
  • In the UK, which is already doing its best to bring 1984 to life through millions of security cameras, they now want to use RFID tags to track school children.
  • Federal prosecutors apparently have nothing better to do than prosecute a retailer for selling porno videos through the mail. As is always the case, nobody is forced to watch pornography if they don’t want to…except the jurors on pornography cases.

I actually started to write a whole post about Sheriff Arpaio, so I’ll end this with an edited excerpt:

Arpaio is an asshole. To give you an idea of how big an asshole he is, he bills himself as the “toughest sheriff in America.” If you don’t already know his story, try to imagine what he must have done to claim that. Did he break up a bank robbery single-handed? Infiltrate a drug gang? Clean out corruption in his own department? Bust an organize crime syndicate?

No, nothing like that.

He’s tough on the prisoners in his jail. They don’t get goodies like coffee or cigarettes or porno mags, they have very limited television viewing, and they spend a lot of time in chain gangs. Also, he makes them all wear pink underwear.

Picking on people who are disarmed, locked up, and dependent on him for basic survival requirements doesn’t make Arpaio tough. It makes him a sadistic bully.

Most of the tough-on-prisoners crap does not rise to Abu Graib levels of mistreatment, but there have been accusations along those lines as well: Arpaio is one of the few Americans ever to be investigated by Amnesty International.

The Phoenix New Times has a lot more about Arpaio.

I’m busy on my day job lately, and I don’t have time to write much, but here are a few stories that caught my eye:

People running stop signs! Illegal truck parking! Somebody thinks her neighbor might be selling drugs to his friends!

Sigh. That’s the problem with living in a very safe neighborhood. Not much police news.

My second Chi-Town Daily News story is up.

I did manage to work in a bit about lesbians. Well…implied lesbians.

The Turn Into Chinatown
Larger ImageThe Turn Into Chinatown

I wasn’t planning to take any pictures of the Chicago Marathon this year because I knew I’d be too busy to process and upload all the photos. However, when I woke up unusually early on Sunday morning I decided I could at least drive back to Chinatown and take some pictures, even if I didn’t post them.

(I like the Chinatown location because I can drive in and out on the expressway without crossing the race course or encountering heavy traffic.)

The First Wheelers
Larger ImageThe First Wheelers

I got there in time to catch the beginning of the race and I took photos for an hour and a half as the lead runners passed by. I would have liked to stay to get the back of the pack—which is a lot more interesting—but I already had 800 photos and I knew I wouldn’t have time to upload any more.

Larger ImageFrontrunners

If you ran in the race and you reached the giant pagoda thing you see in all the pictures of Chinatown before 11am, I might have taken your picture. You can lookup race results at the unofficial Chicago Marathon results page. I was located near 34.5km, so the timestamp at the 35km point should help you out. Just work from when you started and calculate your arrival time in my photo zone.

(I’ve mapped the location on Google Maps or (if you have it) Google Earth.)

The photos are divided into two groups for convenience:

All the photos should be in order (or nearly so). The middle part of the photo name is the time (e.g. CM_102351_0321 means 10:23:51), so if you calculate when you passed this location you can look for your picture.

All photos are 10MP JPEGs. You can order prints right off that page if you want, or you can also download the original full-resolution image by clicking the “save photo” link. Even if you appear small in the frame, at this resolution you should be able to get a nice picture by cropping in on yourself using any photo editing software.

Let me know if I got you.

These photographs may be used freely for non-commercial purposes (blog ads are okay) provided credit is given to Mark Draughn at http://www.windypundit.com. For other uses, please contact me.

Check out this awesome video of Ann Coulter explaining how things would be better in this country if everyone was Christian.

I’m especially impressed with how she explains the advantages of being a Christian to her Jewish host:

Well, it’s a lot easier, it’s kind of a fast track. You have to obey…You have to obey, we have the fast track program…ours is more like Federal Express.

Yeah, that’s the take home lesson of Christianity: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not not have to obey all those tiresome rules like the Jews.

(Hat tip: Kip)

The recent meltdown of the Chicago Marathon serves as an interesting example for discussing issues of responsibility and risk taking.

Over at Marathon Pundit, John Ruberry is taking issue with a Chicago Tribune opinion piece by Mike Downey, who has offered his take on who is responsible for the meltdown of the Chicago Marathon. He says it’s the runners’ fault. I think he’s confusing several issues, and it’s better to separate them and deal with them one at a time.

Hey, don’t blame the city of Chicago if you were too tired and too hot Sunday while running a marathon.

Downey’s right that you can’t blame the city of Chicago for the weather. You can’t blame LaSalle Bank for it either. The weather is always a risk at an outdoor event.

Some people have claimed that the race date could have been changed when the weather turned bad, but that seems unrealistic. Between the runners, the support staff, the city workers, the volunteers, and the media, perhaps 50,000 people would have to change their plans on a few days notice. You’d have a lot more things go wrong than a water distribution problem if you tried something like that.

And don’t blame sponsor LaSalle Bank if you were weak from thirst and couldn’t get enough to drink.

Here Downey is right and wrong in the same sentence. He’s right that you can’t “blame sponsor LaSalle Bank if you were weak from thirst.” Nobody was forcing the runners to keep on running. They did that themselves.

On the other hand, runners certainly can blame LaSalle Bank if they couldn’t get enough to drink. When LaSalle took the runners’ $110 entrance fee, they accepted responsibility for organizing the race, arranging for the course to be available at the scheduled data and time, and providing things the runners would need along the way, such as water.

As reports come in, it’s starting to look like the marathon organizers didn’t keep their part of the bargain when it came to the water supply. They didn’t force anyone to keep running, but neither did they provide the runners with their full $110 worth of services. I’m guessing that LaSalle’s agreement with the runners disclaims all liability for their failure, but that just means they won’t have to refund the money. It doesn’t mean they didn’t screw up.

“They didn’t plan for it,” one runner harped about Chicago’s race authorities.

“They clearly weren’t prepared,” another said on TV.


Totally wrong.

“They,” the marathon organizers, cautioned runners all week long that the temperature for Sunday was going to be hot. Not “unseasonably warm”—hot.

Warning people that it’s going to be hot is not the same as preparing for the heat. Marathon officials had a self-imposed duty to provide sufficient water. They failed.

If you are foolhardy enough to run a marathon when the temperature outdoors is up to 88 degrees, then it is your fault, no one else’s.

There’s nothing terribly foolhardy about running in a marathon, not even in really hot weather. Humans are efficient bipeds with no fur and a lot of sweat glands. Our ancient ancestors spent much of their time chasing game animals hour after hour in the sweltering heat of the African wilderness. We’re natural runners, and all healthy people are physiologically capable of training to run a marathon.

What about all the people who collapsed in Sunday’s marathon? Well, of the 35,000 people who entered the race, only about 300 people collapsed. That’s less than 1 percent. Most of those who collapsed recovered just fine within hours. (Some runners even recovered before the ambulances arrived. The treatment for heat exhaustion consists of resting, cooling off, and drinking water. Simply collapsing in a heap on the ground accomplishes the first two parts of the treatment. When it comes to distance running, we humans really are built for it.)

A handful of people had more serious health problems, and one man with a heart condition died. Those people probably shouldn’t have been running, especially if they knew of prior health problems. But except for that one third of one tenth of one percent, almost everybody came out of it okay.

There’s another way to look at it: Of course there are some health risks when 35,000 people run 26 miles under the sun. That’s what a marathon is.

Injuries and deaths are not uncommon in sports like motor racing, power boating, scuba diving, river rafting, surfing, and downhill skiing. Actor Christopher Reeves was paralyzed from a horseriding accident. One person in twenty who tries to climb Mount Everest never makes it back. For K2, it’s one in ten.

A couple of million people are treated every year for injuries arising from ordinary sports like basketball, football, soccer, baseball, softball, rollers skating, volleyball, and swimming. A friend of mine hurt himself pretty bad playing tennis.

A particularly revealing factoid is that literally tens of thousands of people are injured every year playing golf. It’s a really low-stress sport, but the players are often old or in poor health and therefore easily injured.

That’s the key insight: What so many sports enthusiasts have in common—whether they’re 70-year old golfers walking in the grass, incredibly physically fit young people who climb mountains, or the hodge-podge of people who ran in Sunday’s marathon—is that they are pushing the performance of the human body up against its limits. Often several limits at once. And sometimes the body breaks. That’s what limits are.

That’s what sports are.


The story of yesterday’s marathon meltdown is taking shape. Runners continue to report water shortages along the way, but marathon officials insist there was plenty of water to be had. Friend-of-the-blog John Ruberry ran in the race (and finished it), and he reported no problems getting water. On the other hand, I was in Chinatown briefly in a largely unsuccessful attempt to take pictures, and a spectator told me that she didn’t see as much water available along the course as in previous races.

I suspect the truth, when it emerges, will encompass both views of the race. It will probably turn out that there was plenty of water along the way, but somehow the runners weren’t able to find it when they needed it—too few distribution points, or too many small ones that ran out quickly, or water not being moved to the front lines fast enough—something like that.

Meanwhile, Second City Cop has an analysis of the city emergency response, and he’s calling it a screw-up:

…[W]e certainly hope the comment we read earlier wasn’t true, that CFD pulled every ambulance off the street leaving the neighborhoods uncovered. That would point out a glaring weakness in any sort of terror response. But the fact that numerous outside agencies had to send ambulances to Chicago to help out with a sporting event disaster does not bode well for an Olympic bid…

…Squad cars were being told to pick up stragglers needing medical attention and transport them to the medical tents in Grant Park, making a bad traffic situation still worse and reducing police presence along the race route…

…No alternate frequency made available. Too few dispatchers overwhelmed, bad system in place…

…The chirping of radios with dying batteries was supposed to be unbelievable. The inability to coordinate a response to get runners safely back to Grant Park clogged the streets badly…

This doesn’t sound too good. I’m curious what City Hall has to say about this, but I don’t think we’ll hear from them unless the major media starts asking questions.

Update: In response to Marathon Pundit’s remarks in the comments, I should add that evaluation of the city’s emergency response depends a lot on how much of it was planned. For example, were all the suburban ambulance/EMT units a last-ditch effort to avoid a problem? Or did the city bring in suburban units ahead of time so that outlying city units could remain on call in the neighborhoods they were familiar with?

Also, it’s not clear that anything bad happened due to the city’s response. It’s not clear that a faster emergency response could have saved the runner who died or kept anyone out of the hospital.



It’s all been building up to this.

When it comes to Evil Lawmaking, DUI has it all. Every evil lawmaking practice I’ve mentioned so far, and then some.

That alone makes it an example of the evil lawmaking practice of Piling On. The DUI laws are are twisted maze created by decades of legislators trying to prove they’re tough on crime. I’m not very good at reading statutes, but I think the DUI section here in Illinois is 625 ILCS 5/11-501 which runs to over 30,000 words. And that doesn’t include all the administrative rules or, of course, all the case law created by decades of DUI battles in the courtrooms.

I can remember when a conviction for drunk driving was not a big deal. It was worse than a speeding ticket or running a red light, but it wasn’t quite seen as a real crime. That was unfortunate, because drunk drivers were killing a lot of people.

That led to the founding of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to educate people about the dangers of drunk driving and to lobby for tougher laws against it. MADD was successful at both those missions within a few years. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop them from continuing to lobby for an endless series of ever-increasing legal punishments for drinking and driving.

Nowadays, thanks to MADD and the resulting 30,000-word laws, DUI is its own legal specialty. Visit Findlaw and check out the legal categories. In a list that includes both Criminal Law and Traffic Violations you still see a separate category for DUI. There are lawyers who do only DUI defense. In fact, there are entire law firms dedicated only to DUI defense. DUI defense lawyers have even managed to create an ABA-accredited certification program for a specialty in DUI defense.

Naturally, a DUI is a reason for evil lawmaking practice of suspending your driver’s license. That actually makes sense: If you drive drunk, you’ve demonstrated poor handling of the responsibility of driving. However, they do it with a statutory suspension under administrative law, a thoroughly evil practice that saves the state the dreary task of proving your guilt in a courtroom.

Here in Illinois, the Secretary of State’s office has an estimate of the average cost of a DUI conviction and it’s $14,600. That figure is so large in part because it includes $4,000 in lost income and $4,500 for three years of high-risk insurance (whatever that is), along with $2000 in legal fees. The state also hits you with a fine of up to $2500.

Then, in the best profitable punishment tradition, they nickel-and-dime you for hundreds of dollars more, including court costs of $500, reimbursements to law enforcement, towing, and storage of $250, a payment of $100 to the trauma center fund, a $50 substance abuse class, $200 for counseling, a $500 license reinstatement fee, $50 more for the reinstatement hearing, and $10 for a new copy of your driver’s license.

A lot of that money goes to the state government, but note that some private parties are also getting a piece of it. This is a kind of Profitable Punishment I haven’t discussed before.

DUI defense is a big business. Every time the laws get more complicated, every time the penalties get harsher, DUI defense lawyers get to charge a little bit more for their services. That may not be entirely due to good career choices. I think some DUI defense lawyers are very active supporters of tougher DUI laws (although probably very few go as far as David Albo, who is in the Virginia General Assembly and actually votes for laws he later earns money defending against).

I have no idea what mandatory high-risk insurance is all about, or why the state gets involved, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that insurance companies were in favor of it. And I’ll bet the folks teaching substance abuse classes and providing substance abuse counseling have done a bit of lobbying as well.

Before you think I’m being too easy on drunk drivers, keep in mind that you can get hit with all these penalties even if you haven’t actually hurt anyone or damaged any property. If you have a child under the age of 16 in the car with you, in Illinois you could get a mandatory 6-month jail sentence. I’m not saying drunk drivers should get off easy because they got lucky and didn’t kill anyone, but these punishments seem way out of proportion to the crime.

It may surprise you to discover that you don’t even have to be drunk to get convicted of drunk driving, at least not the way you think. If you give a breath sample and the test comes out below 0.08 BAC, you’re not necessarily free and clear. In Illinois, if the state can offer additional additional evidence of impairment, they can get you for DUI all the way down to 0.05 BAC. That’s only two quick drinks. In other states, the limit is even lower. If you’re under 21, the limit is zero. Again, that’s without actually hurting anyone.

And no matter how much we think drunk drivers should be punished, it’s not that complicated of a crime.  There’s no reason for the laws to be this twisted.


Did you ever wonder if your city was really prepared to handle a major terrorist attack? Here in Chicago, which is in the running for the 2016 Olympics, we may have just found out the answer.

No, we didn’t have a terrorist attack. We had the 2007 Chicago Marathon on the hottest day ever in race history.

According to reports, about 35,000 people started the marathon this morning, 10,000 fewer than had signed up, presumably because of the temperature prediction. Another 10,000 would drop out along the way. At 11:30am, as the temperature hit 88 degrees, officials cancelled the race. 4000 runners had already crossed the finish line, and another 20,000 would finish it at a walk.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people neither finished nor quit. One man died, and 312 people had to be taken off the course for medical treatment.

This was, technically speaking, a disaster. Within a space of a few hours, the city’s emergency services system was hit with 300 casualties. That’s roughly equivalent to a building collapse or a large terrorist attack.

How’d we do?

It’s too soon to tell, but according to the police blogs, it was chaos. There wasn’t enough water for all the runners, the city-wide radio channels were overloaded, and some downed runners had to wait because the city ran out of available ambulances.

That could all be sour grapes, but if not…

If this is how the city handles a totally predictable problem, then I think we’re all screwed in a terrorist attack.

Evidence that the effects of fertility are detectable by men:

A study shortly to be published in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour found that lap dancers in their most fertile phase of the menstrual cycle earned much more than dancers in the least fertile phase.

Read the whole story.