The Great Urban Chicken Debate at the Supreme Court…

…of Nova Scotia.

My past and future colleague Trevor Smedley just lost his appeal to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia of his criminal conviction for having pet chickens.  As the Supreme Court noted in Trevor J. Smedley and Her Majesty the Queen:

They are not just any chickens – they are special chickens. They are heritage chickens that are brought to this province from Quebec.

Indeed, the court agreed with Mr. Smedley that there was nothing wrong with the chickens:

The trial judge found that they are in every way inoffensive. There is no excessive or even noticeable noise, no odour. The way in which they are kept is not unsightly. The chickens remain on their property seemingly doing no harm to either the aesthetic qualities or the quiet enjoyment of the property of the immediate neighbours. So finds the trial judge.

As I haven’t seen much news about this case in the mainstream media, I’m posting a copy of the complete opinion here to shed public light on the matter. I know very little about Canadian chicken law, so I’m not sure whether further appeals are possible, but I hope Mr. Smedley can keep up the fight.

Czar Thought

When did it become so fashionable for the United States to have czars for everything? Apparently, the first “drug czar” was appointed at the height of the cold war. Do we have nostalgia for the good old days in pre-communist Russia?

[Tags]Working Families Czar, Joe Biden, Czar, Language, Politics[/Tags]

It’s still falling…

Still Falling

Still Falling

[Tags]Snow, Blizzard, Boston[/Tags]

Climate Hope

Via Steve (new domain name, otherwise as usual), this inspiring little PowerPoint-ish presentation from Dr. Steven Chu, Obama’s choice for Secretary of Energy:


This video features about as many charts per minute as did An Inconvenient Truth, but left me far more hopeful about our long-term prospects on Earth. It is reassuring to see so many powerful positions being filled by people with domain expertise, rather than partisan hacks. If this administration doesn’t get us back on course, we might as well stop having children.

[Tags]Steven Chu, Obama, Climate Change, Energy, Environment[/Tags]

Roslindale Scoop: Himalayan Bistro Coming to the Neighborhood

Update 3/16/09: I recently heard (from the restaurant) that the Roslindale location for Himalayan Bistro was in doubt. I suppose in this economy there are no sure bets.

I have it on very good authority* that our favorite Indian/Nepali restaurant, Himalayan Bistro, is coming to Roslindale (from West Roxbury), into the oft-turned-over location last assigned to NuVo, and Gusto before that. Perhaps the third “-o” restaurant will be a charm. Assuming they serve up the same superlative food and atmosphere as the West Roxbury location, I’m sure this one will be a keeper. (My only concern is that having the two restaurants so close to each other may result in self-competition.)

*Authority = Himalayan Bistro delivery guy. You don’t get much more authoritative than that.

In other Roslindale Restaurant news, we heard via RVMS recently that Robyn’s Bar and Grill has changed hands to the owners of the Halfway Cafe in Dedham, which could be a change for the better. Roslindale did not need another pizza/sports-bar, and still does not need one, although maybe that’s all the Robyn’s location will ever be. Even more recently, however, we heard an unconfirmed rumor from a neighbor that the sale fell through and Robyn’s is not changing owners.

In other potentially disappointing news, the Roslindale Emac and Bolio’s has changed owners again, this time to a co-owner of the Blue Star Restaurant. I want to like Blue Star, but they can’t seem to get the most basic short-order cooking tasks right. A diner must, first and foremost, deliver greasy food fast, hot, and at the same time for the entire group. At worst, serve the kids first. It also helps for the food to be consistent. Blue Star in our experience (many visits) only occasionally satisfies the basic diner requirements, much less delivers any sort of creative urban-chic reinterpretation of the classic retro diner. (By contrast, Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown is our current Greater Boston favorite — it’s always a good sign when a greasy spoon also actively caters to vegans.)

Which brings me to Emac and Bolio’s, which apparently will be renamed “Select Café.” First, why give up the goodwill associated with the Emac’s trademark? Second, the initial signs of the change-over are not promising. A handwritten sign posted in the window announces that the cafe is under new management, and (1) no credit or debit cards will be accepted and (2) no Emac and Bolio’s gift certificates will be honored. I’d love to be proved wrong about this, but I’m pessimistic that this is going to be the Change We Need in Roslindale — namely, a top rate artisanale snobby espresso shop. We can only hope that Simon’s, Flatblack, Cafe Nation, Diesel, or another of their ilk will come occupy one of the vacant storefronts on the courtyard. That we have any vacancies at all in the square, much less several, is a crime against humanity.

[Tags]Roslindale, Restaurants[/Tags]

Proof of Fall 2008

Past seasons…

[Tags]Leaves, Autumn, Fall, Kids[/Tags]

Wassup Redux

Via Steve: I had never seen this ad, but apparently it was a classic:


The remake:


Same actors?

[Tags]Wassup, Budweiser, Obama, Election[/Tags]

Republic National Committee Helps Obama Fundraising

The only plausible result from this RNC mailing, I think, is increased fundraising for Obama over the next few days:

Terrorists Dont Care Who They Hurt

"Terrorists Don't Care Who They Hurt"

For the nearsighted, the front of the mailing says “Terrorists Don’t Care Who They Hurt” and inside: “Why Should We Care What They Have to Say? … Barack Obama. Not Who You Think He Is.”

I would be surprised if the Obama campaign doesn’t get a measurable bump in donations for every mailing like this.

What I really wonder is how intelligent Republican party members tolerate this sort of thing. Aside from Colin Powell, are other high-IQ Republicans voting against their party because of these tactics? Or do they just believe any means justify the ends?

My pet theory as to why these attacks are useless (at best) to the GOP is that they don’t resonate with anything the voters are seeing. The GOP implies Obama is a muslim terrorist who is inexperienced and risky and also an extreme liberal/socialist left-winger (I haven’t heard “communist” yet from the mainstream), while what the electorate sees in the debates, ads, and campaign appearances is an uncannily steady, balanced, articulate individual who comes across as a moderate on most issues (note Obama’s theme of returning to Reagan-era taxation levels!)  At least with the “flip-flopper” attacks (and maybe even the Swift-Boat attacks) on John Kerry, there was something people could see that somewhat corresponded with the attacks, even if the underlying facts didn’t actually pan out. Here, the chasm between the nature of the attacks and the visible target is so great, they could only help energize those who are already hard-core partisans. The lesson here is that if you want to launch misleading, baseless attacks against your opponent, at least find some kernel of truth to base them on.

On a similar note, I agree with Aaron Swartz that ACORN deserves our financial support.

Finally, I predict a bunch of astroturf comments to this blog entry. I won’t bother to respond if the comments fail to say anything intelligible.

[Tags]Politics, Election, Obama, McCain, Terrorism, ACORN[/Tags]

Joe the Plumber… isn’t a plumber?

I haven’t been blogging this election at all recently — there are enough folks out there saying just about everything that should be said (and lots that shouldn’t), but I couldn’t let this little tidbit slip by without mention.Via the TaxProf blog:

Also, the Trademark Blog notes the flurry of related domain name registrations.

[Tags]Joe the Plumber, Obama, McCain, Politics, Election[/Tags]

An Annotated Guide to the Financial Meltdown (Podcast Edition)

I don’t have the expertise to intelligently explain the entire global financial meltdown myself, but here are a few resources that merit wide dissemination, especially if you are a podcast-listener:

Thinking the bailout through

What is this bailout supposed to do? Will it actually serve the purpose? What should we be doing instead? Let’s talk.

First, a capsule analysis of the crisis.

1. It all starts with the bursting of the housing bubble. This has led to sharply increased rates of default and foreclosure, which has led to large losses on mortgage-backed securities.

2. The losses in MBS, in turn, have left the financial system undercapitalized — doubly so, because levels of leverage that were previously considered acceptable are no longer OK.

3. The financial system, in its efforts to deleverage, is contracting credit, placing everyone who depends on credit under strain.

4. There’s also, to some extent, a vicious circle of deleveraging: as financial firms try to contract their balance sheets, they drive down the prices of assets, further reducing capital and forcing more deleveraging.

So where in this process does the Temporary Asset Relief Plan offer any, well, relief? The answer is that it possibly offers some respite in stage 4: the Treasury steps in to buy assets that the financial system is trying to sell, thereby hopefully mitigating the downward spiral of asset prices.

But the more I think about this, the more skeptical I get about the extent to which it’s a solution. Problems:

(a) Although the problem starts with mortgage-backed securities, the range of assets whose prices are being driven down by deleveraging is much broader than MBS. So this only cuts off, at most, part of the vicious circle.

(b) Anyway, the vicious circle aspect is only part of the larger problem, and arguably not the most important part. Even without panic asset selling, the financial system would be seriously undercapitalized, causing a credit crunch — and this plan does nothing to address that.

Or I should say, the plan does nothing to address the lack of capital unless the Treasury overpays for assets. And if that’s the real plan, Congress has every right to balk.

So what should be done? Well, let’s think about how, until Paulson hit the panic button, the private sector was supposed to work this out: financial firms were supposed to recapitalize, bringing in outside investors to bulk up their capital base. That is, the private sector was supposed to cut off the problem at stage 2.

It now appears that isn’t happening, and public intervention is needed. But in that case, shouldn’t the public intervention also be at stage 2 — that is, shouldn’t it take the form of public injections of capital, in return for a stake in the upside?

Let’s not be railroaded into accepting an enormously expensive plan that doesn’t seem to address the real problem.

If our regular discourse looked like this, I’m pretty sure we would have never ended up with this mess.
Finally, the On the Media podcast shows how the media is now actually doing a fairly decent job covering current financial events (having thankfully dropped the pig-makeup stories!), although it was apparently mostly asleep at the wheel in the events leading up to the crash.  E.g.:

Actually, a couple of very interesting examples of false balance. Back in the day – and no one remembers – but back in 2003, New York had an [LAUGHS] attorney general named Eliot Spitzer. And he was going to war with the comptroller of the currency, and the war was over whether or not New York State anti-predatory lending laws could apply to nationally chartered banks.

What happened was that almost all the states’ attorneys-general picked up on this issue – and this is 2003, 2004 [LAUGHS], 2005 – and they’re seeking to rein in nationally chartered banks and their lending practices in the subprime category.

The press, predictably, and kind of shamefully, I think, treated this as some sort of ping-pong match between Eliot Spitzer and the Bush Administration. I’m telling you, beneath the fight between officials there were a lot of signs that something was sort of rotten going on between lenders and borrowers. That’s a pretty good, you know, sort of smoke signal to the press to go out and explore the issue more deeply, and they really didn’t.

[Tags]Financial Meltdown, Planet Money, Paul Krugman, On the Media, Economics, Media, Podcasts[/Tags]