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October 27, 2004

APD's Traffic Focus for October 25 - October 29

Following up from last time...

The new Austin Police Department traffice enforcement list is up and ready for disseminating:

Monday, October 25th
Morning 2400 to 2500 blocks of Red River Street
Morning West Anderson Lane from Lamar Boulevard to Burnet Road
Morning Rockwood Lane from Anderson Lane to Steck Avenue
Morning North Mopac from Town Lake to Far West Boulevard
Tuesday, October 26th
Morning 1500 block of Rio Grande Street
Morning Grady Lane from Lamar Boulevard to I-35
Morning Metric Boulevard from Rutland Drive to Kramer Lane
Morning FM 2222
Wednesday, October 27th
Morning 1900 to 2300 blocks of Red River Street
Morning Southwest Parkway
Morning North Lamar from Anderson Lane to Rundberg Lane
Morning 800 to 1200 blocks of North I-35
Thursday, October 28th
Morning 800 to 1000 blocks of West Cesar Chavez Street
Morning 1200 to 1800 blocks of Kramer Lane
Morning West Braker Lane from Parkfield Drive to I-35
Morning East Riverside Drive
Friday, October 29th
Morning 1500 to 1800 blocks of West 6th Street
Morning Manchaca Road
Morning West Anderson Lane from Lamar Boulevard to Burnet Road
Morning East Oltorf

Remember, they're doing this in order to scare and intimidate you into following the law:
The goal of traffic enforcement is to increase citizen's voluntary compliance with traffic laws. In furtherance of this goal, APD will now publish a weekly list of traffic enforcement locations. Although this list will not be comprehensive or specific as to exact location and time, it is being distributed to increase motorist's awareness of our enforcement activities. It is believed this increased awareness will lead to safer roadways through increased compliance with traffic laws. This week's traffic enforcement will include the following locations:

Translation: The goal of this increased police presence is to bully citizens into obedience with our rules. We will make it known that we intend on being particularly intimidating in a few select places around town in order to coerce you into behaving better. We believe that by doing this - cowing you into doing what we want - is in your best interests because safety is a one-size-fits-all collectivist glove with which we want to constrain you.

All must sacrifice in the name of public safety.

Raping Private Property in Seattle

Via John Lopez of No Treason, I hear of something that should surprise no one who understands that stakes of what is involved: King County Council OK's controversial limits on developing rural land

The King County Council approved rules last night that would restrict development on rural land, over objections that the changes are draconian and would entangle the county in lawsuits.

[...]

The most controversial of the changes would require rural residents to leave between one-third and one-half of their land in a natural state, depending on lot size.

[...]

"I'm getting calls to recommend attorneys every day," said Rodney McFarland, president of the Citizens' Alliance for Property Rights. "What kind of society would we be if we let this go through without a legal challenge?"


What kind of society do you think you live in now, Mr. McFarland? That bridge has long since been crossed. You disagree? Well...
But opponents yesterday said that argument -- and the scientific studies cited by King County -- were too weak to withstand a court challenge.

They contend the county hasn't shown that the public benefit from the sweeping regulations would outweigh the harm done to private property owners by requiring them to leave the majority of their land untouched.
1996-2004 Seattle Post-Intelligencer


BAM! You have granted their premises. You have said that this is fine as long as there is a "public benefit" that is larger than the aggregate individual harm done. Pfft. Your organization needs a new name, for it absolutely is not for property rights.
Because the county is bound by the state Growth Management Act to update regulations based on the latest scientific studies, doing nothing is legally and morally unacceptable, said Councilman Dow Constantine, D-Seattle.

"For generations to come, this legislation will help prevent flooding and erosion and protect our drinking water, streams and wetlands from being degraded by new development," said Constantine, who authored compromises on the legislation.


I'd like to see these commies squirm in teeth-baring confusion if it was demanded that their public-subsidied homeless shelters, libraries, community health clinics, and government buildings set aside 25% of their floor space to deteriorate back into the dirt they worship.

October 25, 2004

Mandatory Census Surveys?

[Updates below.]

Via Claire Wolfe's blog, I catch wind of another government-imposed compulsory program: American Community Survey

The American Community Survey is a nationwide survey designed to provide communities a fresh look at how they are changing. It will replace the decennial long form in future censuses and is a critical element in the Census Bureau's reengineered 2010 census.

The decennial census has two parts: 1) the short form, which counts the population; and 2) the long form, which obtains demographic, housing, social, and economic information from a 1-in-6 sample of households. Information from the long form is used for the administration of federal programs and the distribution of billions of federal dollars.

Since this is done only once every 10 years, long-form information becomes out of date. Planners and other data users are reluctant to rely on it for decisions that are expensive and affect the quality of life of thousands of people. The American Community Survey is a way to provide the data communities need every year instead of once in ten years.

The American Community Survey is conducted under the authority of Title 13, United States Code, Sections 141 and 193, and response is mandatory. According to Section 221, persons who do not respond shall be fined not more than $100. Title 18 U.S.C. Section 3571 and Section 3559, in effect amends Title 13 U.S.C. Section 221 by changing the fine for anyone over 18 years old who refuses or willfully neglects to complete the questionnaire or answer questions posed by census takers from a fine of not more than $100 to not more than $5,000.


I know of one government information packet that's getting torched once I find it in my mailbox.

UPDATED 9/1/2005 7:00pm
Why is the Census Bureau Taking GPS Coordinates of Americans' Front Doors?

UPDATED 3/29/2006 12:05am
Fuck the Census Bureau and Their 2006 Census Test

UPDATED 9/22/2006 10:02am
The Law Protects Your Privacy!

October 22, 2004

Pay Attention, Instapundit

[Updates below.]

This isn't an attitude that's likely to pave the way to political success.

-Glenn Reynolds


He's talking about the comments Robert Higgs made in the Reason Who's Getting Your Vote? article. What Mr. Higgs wrote was:
2004 vote: I never vote. I don't wish to soil my hands.

2000 vote: Had I been forced to cast a ballot for president in the 2000 election, I might have died of septicemic disgust.

Most embarrassing vote: I voted only once in a presidential election, in 1976, and I did so on that occasion only so that I could irritate my left-liberal colleagues at the University of Washington by telling them that I had voted for "that idiot" Gerald Ford.

Favorite president: Grover Cleveland, because he, more so than any of the others, acted in accordance with his oath to preserve and protect the Constitution, despite great pressures to act otherwise.


Given his answer to the question of his choice for President in 2004, I think it's obvious the man from the Independent Institute is a principled non-voter in a similar vein as Wendy McElroy (with whom I agree):
2004 vote: I'm voting for No One for at least three reasons: 1) As a Canadian, I am spared the insulting process of punching a ballot to express which power glutton should prevail; 2) as an anarchist, I refuse to legitimize the process that puts anyone in a position of unjust power over people's lives; and 3) as a practical matter of value returned for effort, the time is better spent enjoying family or working.

[...]

Most embarrassing vote: I have never voted in a political proceeding. But when I first became a libertarian while living in California, I did support the Libertarian Party candidate. This would be more embarrassing if I had not learned from my mistake. The lesson: It is not the particular man in power that I oppose but the power itself, which is unjust. As a matter of logic, if nothing else, I cannot oppose the office as illegitimate while waving a straw hat and yelling, "Elect my man to it!"


Glenn Reynolds apparently thinks everyone on the list wants a President exercising whatever authority he thinks he has over our lives. This is patently not the case if you spend some time to fucking think about it. When "political success" actually means "imposing yet another asshole amongst our free exchanges," those of us who favor free exchange don't want political success. We want the absence of that interference and coercion.

I don't want someone else picking that asshole to rule over me. I don't want to do that for others. And I certainly don't want to lend my name and my honor to a system I cast no favor towards. Mr. Higgs put it well: we don't want to soil our hands with the act of casting an endorsement that actually translates into using force against others, even if in a insignificant and fractionally minimal manner. A "protest vote" is pointless because the act of voting strips information from your preference, leaving a single digit in one candidate's column that is utterly ignored unless it happens to be the deciding vote.

For example, Professor Reynolds says this in his slot in the article:

2004 vote: Most likely George Bush, and for one reason: the war. I'm having trouble trusting Kerry on that.

Does this mean President Bush, if reelected, will take that into consideration? How can he know Professor Reynolds disagrees with him on other issues? Why would the President and his advisors not just take that vote and lump it with the millions of others picking Bush, thinking those who vote for Bush want him reelected bad enough to push aside their objections to what he's done in favor of some other issues? In my opinion, there is no rational reason (aside from exit polls) why a candidate should not assume a vote for him or her is a vote for his or her entire agenda? See: A Libertarian for Bush?

Regarding what his e-mailer, Gabe Posey, said:

I think the primary reason for mainstream American not grasping hold of Libertarianism isn't that the party doesn't have great ideals or spokespeople, but primarily that the same upper crust elitism seen so profoundly in the Democratic party is rampant in the academically pious Libertarians. The party that demonstrates they are the party of the people is usually the party that wins.

Instapundit comments:
As the folks at The Guardian have learned, letting people know you think they're idiots isn't an especially effective way of winning their votes.

I don't know what exactly Mr. Posey means by "academically pious" but it sounds like another attack against people who live by principles. If this is the case and Prof. Reynolds is insinuating that such people "think [others are] idiots" by holding fast to those principles, then I am deeply dismayed to have these people near me on the political spectrum. If initiating force against an individual (murder, assault, theft) is always wrong, then it is also wrong when a collective does it. Where's the consistency? If you are going to decry robbery, then you should also decry taxation. If you are going to denounce the murder of an innocent, then you should also denounce "collateral damage." If you are going to rail against state-planned economies, you should also rail against state-owned roads, airwaves, and security. It's all related.

A case in point are the comments the professor posted from a reader named Edward Clark:

I would like you to explain a little more on your impressions of libertarianism. I consider myself a libertarian, and not just because of my name. But listening to the libertarian party today leaves me with one reaction. Huh?

Their isolationist stance on security and foreign policy just doesn't make any sense in today's world. It is like surrending for the sake of liberty, which means liberty would end. On most other issues I pretty much agree with them.


A good response to this is in a Chicago Boyz post containing these words from David Theroux, also from the Independent Institute:
Also for clarification, the proper term to describe the proposal we have been making for U.S. foreign policy reform is "non-interventionism", not "isolationism." "Isolationism" was a smear term originally coined by Wilsonians ("liberal-progressive" interventionists) to denigrate their opponents (constitutional and otherwise). The Wilsonian tradition is one of government interventionism both domestically and internationally, a position that Robert Higgs and other scholars have shown is inseparably linked by foreign interventionism (warfarism) being the central public-choice engine that drives domestic statism (http://www.independent.org/tii/catalog/cat_crisis.html).

In contrast to "non-interventionism," "isolationism" properly defined requires a "Closed Door" (or autarchic) policy severely restricting the free flow of people and trade internationally.


This is ironic because Insty does his trademark marginally noncommittal link to a post by Jonathan Gewirtz of Chicago Boyz that points out that previous post. Mr. Gewirtz has this to say about those who choose not to vote (among others):
So, with some notable exceptions, these extremely bright people, many of whom spend a lot of time giving the rest of us advice on how to make decisions about public affairs, are a bunch of idiots in their personal voting behavior. Yeah, I know: most individuals' votes are not decisive, voters are rationally ignorant, the major parties are effectively a cartel, etc. These objections are narrowly true but miss the big picture. Voting should be treated as a civic sacrament, because on the margin our system can live or die depending on how carefully the voters vote, and they are more likely to take voting seriously if intellectuals don't denigrate it as an activity. This is especially true now, when the main issue of the day is of overwhelming importance and the major-party candidates have profoundly different approaches to that issue.

He further hits those he disagrees with "frivolous, apathetic, foolish or all of the above," finally culminating with
If ordinary people in places like Afghanistan appreciate how important elections are, both symbolically and practically, even when none of the candidates is perfect, why do so many smart people here miss the point?

The ideas this country was founded upon are fucked both in the long term and the short because of people like this. They reject those ideas (individualism, tax hatred, personal responsibility, etc.) by way of ignoring their larger implications. This "sacrament" amounts to a blessing of a system that's based on the notion that society should be elevated above the individual, that your wealth must be confiscated to provide for others; that your freedom must be sacrificed in order to lessen the risks others face. I find all of that thoroughly disgusting and voting for someone - even someone as good as Badnarik is on some issues - who doesn't intend on quickly and entirely ending that system isn't voting for freedom. It is a vote for the continuation of the government yoke on our backs. At the very least, we can choose to stop encouraging the bastards to think they have the right to hitch it to us.

Have a wonderful weekend. I have a kitten to play with and pumpkins to carve.

ADDED AT 5:29pm
Oh, and the irony of an Objectivist calling for Bush's election on the basis of his stance on terrorism:

The issue is America's moral right to take independent action in defending American lives.

...is hilarious. "America" is an abstraction, Harry Binswanger. It is a collective, a concept that we hold in our minds. It cannot act. Only individuals can. So don't demand I be taxed to pay for a war on terrorism I don't want any part of. If I see some jihadi planting a bomb somewhere, I'll do what I can to prevent it's purpose from being realized.

Mr. Binswanger also says The main negative, is of course, Bush's religiosity. Well, shit. While I am no fan of religion or its mixture in politics (See: Bush & Religion, Have YOU Been Prayed?, Top 10 Reasons Why Beer Is Better Than Religion, and A Workplace Dialogue on Religion & Government for starters), the religion issue is not nearly as important as Bush's embrace of protectionism, his prosecution of the wars on drugs and freedom of speech, his support for government handouts and welfare, etc.

This is the abandonment of principle and any serious Objectivist should be ashamed of it.

UPDATE 1/20/2005 12:25pm
Glenn Reynolds is NOT a Libertarian

UPDATED 9/26/2005 2:47pm
He hasn't been paying attention to An Intellectually and Morally Serious Antiwar Movement.

October 21, 2004

Costly to Govern

[Updates below.]

Jay Jardine points out an example of turning the jackasses in government against themselves. In Fight Every Ticket, he proposes "Costly to Govern" as a fitting epitaph for his gravestone, thus providing the title of this post.

The biggest problem with resolutely standing your ground, middle fingers pointed skyward and aimed at The Law and Its Enforcers, are the liabilities the state has assumed you owe it once you break its rules:

  1. Permanent criminal records that most employers might check, thereby possibly making you less attractive as a future hire
  2. Court fines, legal fees (assuming you don't represent yourself), and the uncountable opportunity costs of spending your time resisting the state
  3. Revocation of any or all the "privileges" the state grants you; for example, in the case of Texas that means prohibitions against driving on anything other than private roads
  4. Warrants issued against your name allowing the police to arrest you at will
  5. Incarceration and/or property seizure, if convicted.

At the moment, neither my vehicle registration or vehicle inspection stickers have been updated. Consider the following scenario that happens at least once a week:

I'm driving home from a friend's house after having three Lone Star beers and a few bong hits over a period of two hours. I'm driving home at my usual velocity, which is to say 10 to 15 miles over the speed limit. I'm spotted by a cop and pulled over. Imagine what I face now:

  1. A misdemeanor (< $200) for not getting my car re-inspected
  2. A misdemeanor (< $200) for not getting my car re-registered
  3. The cost of the speeding ticket which varies depending on the mood of the officer and whether or not I've taken the safety course in a year:
    • Driver Safety Course: $95.00
    • Speeding - up to 25 MPH over speed limit: $236.00
    • Speeding - up to 10 MPH over speed limit: $146.00
    • Failure to respond on or before court date: $191.00
      1. Arrest warrant fee charged for the above: $50.00
      2. Denial of driver's license renewal DPS fee for the above: $30.00

  4. If the cop smells beer on me and asks me to take a breathalyzer test, I am "subject to an automatic 180-day driver's license suspension" if I refuse to comply
  5. If the cop decides to bust me for "intoxication" due to detecting marijuana on me, I face the following possible penalties for a first DWI offense:
    • up to a $2,000 fine
    • 72 hours to 180 days in jail
    • driver's license suspension: 90 days to 1 year

A pretty damn impressive list of shit to deal with, all for doing something I've done hundreds of times without inflicting pain or causing damage. "Tough on crime," indeed!

Would it be worth fighting these charges in the parallel hopes of getting them either dismissed or reduced and imposing extra costs on a government grown used to having its way with us? That's up for each of you to decide. Personally, an episode like the one above would be disastrous for me if I were convicted of everything and handed even the minimum punishments. I don't have the financial leeway to dabble in legal proceedings and no lawyer would want to take up my real argument against the whole affair; I'd have to settle with a lawyer who fights the case on technical grounds or appeals to my status as a good citizen.

*choke*

But the costs imposed on the State of Texas would far outweigh the costs imposed on me. The grinding machine of justice would have to accommodate my presence in the system. State employees would have to allocate resources to prosecute me, judge me, punish me, detain me, and file me. I guarantee their real, absolute costs would far exceed mine. Would it make a difference?

Probably not. I'd be a speck of a percentage in the general budgets of the City of Austin, Travis County, and the State of Texas. The coerced taxpayer foots the bill for these services, so it isn't like they respond to costs like a normal entity would. Nothing would be repealed unless I found a continuous line of astoundingly sympathetic judges and juries willing to overturn long-established laws and practices on principles that would threaten the government's ability to manage our lives.

In the end, I'd be out at least hundreds of dollars I don't have and hundreds of hours better I'd rather spend on...drinking beer, getting stoned, and hanging out with friends. For all that inconvenience, the governments involved would barely burp. Would the satisfaction of knowing I decisively won the battle of absolute costs while utterly losing the battle of relative costs be enough to justify the resistence? Not for me.

It doesn't seem fair because it isn't.

UPDATE 10/28/2004 10:22am
Related thoughts from Billy Beck.

UPDATE 1/28/2005 11:51am
Hypocrisy or Consistency?

UPDATED 6/8/2005 2:51am
An Austin Parking Ticket

UPDATED 7/24/2007 4:36pm
Jury Duty

October 20, 2004

A Solicitation to Those Who Say I Shouldn't Complain If I Don't Vote

Apparently, many people believe I don't have the right to complain about the state of the country and its political direction if I don't vote. Well, I don't intend on voting for any candidates this election, so on November 3rd, will I have the right to complain? Two questions:

  1. If I were to assume that the act of complaining takes the form of voicing, writing, or otherwise communicating my complaint, does that mean I should be silenced? If not, then how would losing that right translate into me being allowed to complain after an election?
  2. If my complaints were based on my refusal to endorse the political process because any serious candidate for office explicitly endorses and advocates the existence of government and its associated functions against the will of countless individuals and therefore since no candidate will ever fulfill what I want, what am I supposed to do? Voting for Bush, Kerry, Badnarik, Peroutka, or anyone else means violating a fundamental oath and prinicple of mine to never impose my will on others by force, and that is the purpose of voting.

I really detest those bumper stickers telling me I can't complain if I don't vote.

October 18, 2004

APD's Traffic Focus for October 18 - October 22

Following up from last time...

More places in Austin to avoid due to higher traffic cop presence:

Monday, October 18th
Morning 2400 to 2500 blocks of Red River Street
Afternoon Congress Avenue Bridge
Morning FM 2222
Morning 1800 block of MLK, Jr., Boulevard

Tuesday, October 19th
Morning 1700 block of West Cesar Chavez Street
Morning 4400 block of East Riverside Drive
Morning Davis Lane
Morning North Mopac from Town Lake to Far West Boulevard

Wednesday, October 20th
Morning 1900 to 2300 blocks of Red River Street
Morning 2500 to 3000 blocks of Parker Lane
Morning 8200 to 8800 blocks of Georgian Drive
Morning FM 2222

Thursday, October 21st
Morning 400 block of West Cesar Chavez Street
Morning 7300 block of East Ben White Boulevard
Morning Barton Springs Road
Morning North Mopac from Town Lake to Far West Boulevard

Friday, October 22nd
Morning 1800 block of West 5th Street
Morning 900 block of East Oltorf Street
Morning Braker Lane between Lamar Boulevard and I-35
Morning North Loop 360 from Lake Austin to Spicewood Springs Road


Remember, they're doing this in order to scare and intimidate you into following the law:
Although this list will not be comprehensive or specific as to exact location and time, it is being distributed to increase motorist's awareness of our enforcement activities. It is believed this increased awareness will lead to safer roadways through increased compliance with traffic laws.

Translation: The goal of this increased police presence is to bully citizens into obedience with our rules. We will make it known that we intend on being particularly intimidating in a few select places around town in order to coerce you into behaving better. We believe that by doing this - cowing you into doing what we want - is in your best interests because safety is a one-size-fits-all collectivist glove with which we want to constrain you.

All must sacrifice in the name of public safety.

Choosing to Hurt the Economy to Make a Point

News8Austin: Don't shop 'til you drop during Buycott

Joan Sclar gives new credence to the term "shop 'til you drop." But this Tuesday, she's giving the credit cards a break in order to help prove a point - that in more ways than one, women are a critical part of the economy.

No shit. Don't you comprise something like - hmm, let me think - half the damn population?
Sclar is joining other women in support of "Buycott," a day in which creator Janet Hanson hopes women nationwide won't buy anything. Hansen belongs to 85 Broads, a network of female professionals who work for Wall Street banking giant Goldman Sachs.

"We're hoping that on October 19 women will chose that day not to buy any essential goods so they can reflect on their enormous purchasing power, which so far has not translated into economic power in the workplace," Hansen said.


Does anyone want to know the two reasons why men and women do not have the same power in the workplace?
  1. There is no shortage of sexists who will treat men better than women.
  2. Men and women are NOT equal in all respects.

The former will never be fully eradicated, though I bet the membership of that group shrinks steadily every year in the US. The latter can only be overcome through genetic engineering. Since that isn't likely to happen, women will be treated differently because they are different. Not all discrimination is bad discrimination.
Statistics show more than 80 percent of all purchases are either made or influenced by women. But less than 15 percent of top executives in Fortune 500 companies are female.

The number of reasons that can explain this lopsided statistic extend beyond the simple implied message of sexism.
Buycott's critics worry that some of the businesses that could be hurt by the demonstration are owned by women. It could hurt women's businesses.

[...]

Hanson said Buycott is not about being economically hostile. It's about companies finding ways of thanking women who buy, by promoting more women who work for them.

Copyright 2004TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


If asking for women nationwide to refrain from all economic activity is not being "economically hostile," then we've slid further down the slope of irrationality than I had thought.

Is There a "Moron Flu Vaccine"?

If there is, then I think it should be administered to a few people.

USA Today: Desperately seeking flu vaccine? Get in line

"It's becoming the conventional wisdom that our (vaccine) infrastructure is quite flawed," says Martin Blaser, chair of medicine at New York University and president-elect of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. "Manufacturers have left the field because of various problems. We don't have a national policy to encourage development of vaccines."

Some experts say the shortage suggests that reliance on a free-market system to ensure basic public health safety may no longer be effective, and government may need to take on a greater role, as it has with regard to smallpox and other bioterrorism threats.

"This has taught us that the consequence of leaving it to market forces leaves the country as a whole without any rational distribution plan," says former New York City health commissioner Pascal Imperato, chief of preventive medicine and community health at State University of New York-Downstate in Brooklyn.


Do you know what came before and followed after this excerpt? All subsequent bolding is mine.
Nearly two weeks ago, vaccine maker Chiron said it could not supply up to 48 million doses of vaccine as promised from its plant in Liverpool, England, because British regulators had suspended its license. The Food and Drug Administration completed its own inquiry Friday and concluded none of the vaccine made there could be used.

So, right off the bat at the beginning of this article we get two examples of government intrusion into the economy, intervention that is in direct opposition to a free market.
"It's important to know why the FDA seems to have dropped the ball," says U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., a member of the House Committee on Government Reform, which expects to receive FDA documents this week in an effort to unravel the timeline of events. "The British regulators conducted a full inspection of Chiron. The FDA took Chiron's word for it that everything was OK. I think the agency has become too close to the drug industry."

Acting FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford has strongly defended his agency's actions, saying it handled the Chiron situation by the book.


You've got the federal whip-crackers up in arms about how the system is run. Implicit acknowledgement that this is no "free market."
Under the current system, HMOs, hospitals, doctors, health departments and companies that run flu vaccine clinics place orders with distributors or directly with vaccine makers, usually by February or March. Because flu vaccine takes about six months to produce, relying on decades-old technology in which vaccine is grown in millions of chicken eggs, vaccine makers need that much lead time to know how much to produce. They generally make more than ordered as a cushion but never enough to supply the 185 million for whom annual flu shots are recommended — mainly the elderly, the infirm, health care workers and, as of this year, babies 6 months to 23 months old.

There has never been a need for that much vaccine. The most ever sold is just over 83 million doses last year.

[...]

Reports from the Institute of Medicine and GAO since the late 1990s have pointed out problems concerning vaccines: They're difficult and time-consuming to make; they require expensive technology to meet rigorous quality standards; they're subject to litigation from consumers who have bad reactions or who blame vaccines for problems such as autism; and they have relatively low margins of profit.

Flu vaccine, in particular, costs doctors less than $10 a dose. Whatever is unsold at the end of the flu season has to be dumped because the vaccine changes every year, as different flu viruses circulate around the world.

Not surprisingly, drug companies have gotten out of the vaccine business, seeking the greener pastures of blockbuster drugs to treat erectile dysfunction, diabetes or high cholesterol. Ten years ago, there were four companies making flu shots; today, there are two.

There is no telling how bad the coming flu season will be. Flu can be dangerous for the old and infirm - about 90% of the 36,000 who die of flu each year are elderly. But for most healthy people, it's "little more than a nuisance," Imperato says. Because of that, Americans tend to underestimate the disease's impact, and, until this year, shrug off advice to get a flu shot. In turn, manufacturers limit production, fearing they'll be left with millions of unused doses. In 2002, companies had to toss out roughly 12 million doses.


Two points:
  1. Another statist intrusion endemic to all businesses, let alone the health care and medical industry, are government-imposed quality standards for all manner of goods and services. Thus the costs of doing business are increased above what players in a true free market would likely experience.
  2. Anyone - and I mean anyone - who asserts that the state can come in and provide the "rationality" missing in this system is either ignorant of how people trade economically or is willfully blind.

Consider this. No one is more knowledgeable about my life and how I act than I am. And yet I would never attempt to detail what the next day in my life at any given time will be like. I might know the major goals I'll have for the day, what I plan on eating, and who I plan on meeting, but I'd be foolish to assert I know the intimate details of those three items and their associated chronology. Life simply has too many variables.

Extrapolate this difficulty to a business providing a service. You have to not only figure out what may happen to you but also to your customers, employees, stakeholders, and competitors. Additionally, in unfree markets, you also have to take into consideration the laws, regulations, and public statements of governments. This is a whole different realm of the unpredictable that has a significant on business operations.

Now take all this and add a few twists:

  1. The driving force behind demand for a product of yours are the predictions of other people;
  2. the target audience for your product is constantly changing and will prefer to be prioritized since this is a health issue;
  3. and you have to rely on estimates of how a virus will spread throughout a deeply interconnected and travel-loving population

You are quite literally talking about a system that has input and output from nearly every American in the country and each of those inputs and outputs feeds back into the system, reinforcing some tendencies and undermining others. This is a forecasting job not even a weatherman would accept. No one human and no collective of humans is up to the task of effectively predicting what to do with what and when.

Which is one very important reason to keep these choices as decentralized and private as possible.

More examples of outright statism in the flu vaccine business:

Across the country, health departments are struggling to decide how to allocate limited supplies of vaccine. Most are complying with federal recommendations to vaccinate only those at highest risk of serious illness from flu, but there is not enough for everyone in the high-risk groups, and they're having to make difficult choices. Who should get vaccine first, an 85-year-old or a teenager with asthma? How can a doctor choose between a transplant recipient or a nurse who cares for AIDS patients?

Those questions haven't been answered. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is scrambling to figure out who has vaccine and where it's needed most, advising people to be patient as Aventis Pasteur, the sole surviving maker of flu shots for the USA, gets vaccine made and shipped out as fast as it can, at the rate of more than 2 million doses a week.

[...]

Several state health departments have declared an emergency so they can limit distribution to those in greatest need, and take action against distributors who are reportedly charging 10 times the usual price for vaccine.

Copyright 2004 USA TODAY


That last one is especially important to note. It is the natural and necessary free market response to a situation of low supply and high demand. Anyone placing blame at the feet of unrestricted capitalism for the flu shortage isn't thinking.

And from the FDA's own chronology of the problem:

On August 25, 2004, as a result of performing routine testing required by FDA, Chiron identified bacterial contamination in a limited number of lots (approximately 4.5 million doses) of its influenza vaccine and notified FDA of the company's initial findings. At that time, Chiron quarantined all of its flu vaccine for this flu season (approximately 46 million doses) and was conducting an investigation into the cause of the contamination.

[...]

On October 15, FDA completed its investigation and presented its list of inspectional observations to Chiron's management as part of the close -out meeting that is held at the end of every FDA inspection. During that meeting, FDA investigators explained and discussed the observations that were documented during the inspection. FDA's inspection found significant deficiencies in quality control and concerns regarding the test results. Although Chiron's retesting of the unaffected lots of vaccine has been negative for contamination, FDA has determined that it cannot adequately assure the sterility of these lots to our safety standards.


What I assume this to mean is the ugly truth faced by this decidedly unfree market: there are more than 40 million doses of Chiron's vaccine that have tested negative for contamination but the FDA won't allow them to import these doses into the country for distribution. Therefore, all those people wasting their lives in lines for the vaccine should be pissed at the Food and Drug Administration for making the decision for them, without asking to do so.

I suppose that it's too much to ask mainstream reporters to accurately compare and contrast the statements they take from those they interview with reality. Anita Manning, the article's author, certainly did not.

October 15, 2004

Feline Apologies

I'll be indisposed for a few days to attend to the new arrival:

October 13, 2004

Laurence M. Vance is Wrong

Should a Christian Join the Military?

The larger question of whether a Christian (or anyone opposed to the federal leviathan) should work for the state is not at issue. Someone employed by the state as a teacher, a mailman, a security guard, or a park ranger is providing a lawful, moral, non-aggressive, non-intrusive service that is in the same manner also provided by the free market. Thus, it might be argued that working for the BATF, the CIA, the FBI, or as a regulation-enforcing federal bureaucrat is off limits, whereas these other occupations are not.

My emphasis.

Mr. Vance, you are entirely incorrect.

Teachers, mailmen, security guards, and park rangers (the kind we'd see in private facilities, NOT these guys) employed in a free market are indeed providing a non-coercive, non-aggressive, moral service. Why?

  • Because their employment is based on voluntary agreement with their employer;
  • because they choose to accept the wages and benefits offered by the employer in exchange for their labor and time;
  • and, more importantly, because their employers operate in the context of a free market themselves.

That last point is crucial. A business cannot survive without customers and it cannot attract customers unless it has products and services that those customers want to purchase. The customers of a business voluntarily choose to spend their money on that business over its competition. The entire system is characterized by this: individual liberty. A free market business does not engage in force to gain revenue.

Someone employed by the state as a teacher, a mailman, a security guard, or a park ranger is providing a lawful, moral, non-aggressive, non-intrusive service that is in the same manner also provided by the free market.
How do state-employed teachers, mailmen, security guards, and park rangers compare to those working in a free market? While they and their employers still retain most of the freedom described above to choose and leave jobs and hire and fire employees, there is one crucial difference. They are paid by the state and the state pays them with tax money. The state engages in force to gain revenue.

Taxes are theft, wealth taken from citizens through the threat of violence against them and their property. The state does not and cannot respond to market demand for the services it offers (or forces on us) the same way a private entity can and does. Funding levels for the park service are based at least as much on political expediency as the reality of the service's needs. Anyone paying attention to the public school financing debacle in Texas knows how teachers are funded is utterly divorced from their value. Assuming Mr. Vance is euphemistically referring to the state's law enforcement officers as "security guards," I have to point out that the very important service they are supposed to provide (securing us from crime) is all-too often engaged in of violating the very basic crimes of aggression, coercion, theft, and fraud. I've yet to meet any state-employed mailmen because the United States Postal Service is a federal agency. Regardless, I'd be just as opposed to a Texas Department of Postal Service as I am to the USPS. By what right do these entities operate at the expense of everyone else?

Which brings me to the final point.

The larger question of whether a Christian (or anyone opposed to the federal leviathan) should work for the state is not at issue.

Why? What is the difference between the federal leviathan and the individual state leviathan? Does one entity respect the people living under it better than the other? Is there something about Texas, New Hampshire, Oregon, Florida, or North Dakota that make those states more moral than the United States Government?

Of course not. They are all governments and they are all actively engaged in forcing us around, taking away our time and wealth, and attempting to substitute their judgment for ours on an ever-expanding set of issues. I don't bestow upon the governments of New Mexico, Wisconsin, or Ohio any more legitimacy or benevolence than the USG. Why should I? They all operate on the same principle: the individual should be subordinated to the collective for altruistic, utilitarian, and pragmatic reasons. Sure, Americans have the choice of living in one of 50 states and a number of sub-units throughout this country. That doesn't mean there is a free market of government in action. It just means you get to pick which bureaucracy gets to tamper with you and the things you value.

This is the first time I've encountered Mr. Vance's writing so I'm unfamiliar with his political philosophy. But if what he has revealed here is any indication, I think I'll have some problems with it in the future.

"The Quality of Mersey" Needs Closer Examination

The recent much-admired Mark Steyn article contains something worth pointing out that cuts straight to the heart of the Iraq Affair: The Quality of Mersey

If the FCO wants to issue advice in this area, that's the way to go: If you're kidnapped, accept you're unlikely to survive, say "I'll show you how an Englishman dies", and wreck the video. If they want you to confess you're a spy, make a little mischief: there are jihadi from Britain, Italy, France, Canada and other western nations all over Iraq - so say yes, you're an MI6 agent, and so are those Muslims from Tipton and Luton who recently joined the al-Qaeda cells in Samarra and Ramadi. As Churchill recommended in a less timorous Britain: You can always take one with you. If Mr Blair and other government officials were to make that plain, it would be, to use Mr Bigley's word, "enough". A war cannot be subordinate to the fate of any individual caught up in it.

My emphasis. Mr. Steyn is writing in the context of the brutal murder of British hostage Kenneth Bigley at the hands of Islamofascists in Iraq, addressing the complaints that a citizen's government should negotiate with terrorists in order to secure the release of a kidnapping victim.

I found the article in a number of blogs, but decided to comment on the Samizdata thread featuring it. Here's what I said:

A war cannot be subordinate to the fate of any individual caught up in it.

Now there's some ugly collectivist sentiment. Consider its implications, people.


That earned me a response by "snide":
Now there's some ugly collectivist sentiment. Consider its implications, people.
The implications? Sure, in a war, some innocent people will get killed and whilst that is regrettable, it is also inevitable. That is the reality of war. Get over it.

Also, like so many of the brain-dead variety of libertarians, you probably think you have a right to leave your lights on at night during an air raid... but you do not because what would be a right under normal conditions is trumpted by the right to life of others when there is a war on.


I replied:
snide,

You think it "brain-dead" to point out statements that implicitly advocate the government (that entity which wages war) being more important than the individual (the government subjects caught up in it)? I'm unsure of your political leanings, but I find support of suppressing my freedom at ANY time contemptible. Rights don't just go away when you want them to.

I'll leave my lights on when I damn well please to and if a neighbor wants to try and strop me, he'd better at least have the balls to force me in person to turn them off rather than have the state to it by proxy. My rights come into clear view at that moment when the aggressor in the situation becomes apparent.


Rightist war supporters use the very same logic as leftist economic interventionists when they say some event demands the setting aside of our rights in order to help/save/protect/defend/enrich a collective of people. When they say "9/11 changed everything," they echo the words of commies who say "this community's poverty demands your sacrifice."

They must be called on it.

Stop the Cuban Embargo

Reason's Hit & Run: OFAC You

Smoke a cigar containing Cuban tobacco in Mexico, go to American jail.

That's the new rule handed down by the odiously-but-accurately named Office of Foreign Assets Control, the freedom-abroad-limiting wing of the Treasury Department. The clarification [PDF], issued Sept. 30, explains that the previous $100 limit on Americans' importation of Cuban merchandise (I should say, licensed Americans' importation, since buying a Cuban tortilla is illegal without Treasury Dept. permission), has now been reduced to $0. And don't think you're free from Uncle Sam if a buddy gives you a Cohiba in Cancun, or even if you're not an American citizen.

This prohibition extends to such products acquired in Cuba, irrespective of whether a traveler is licensed by OFAC to engage in Cuba travel related transactions, and to such products acquired in third countries by any U.S. traveler, including purchases at duty free shops. Importation of these Cuban goods is prohibited whether the goods are purchased directly by the importer or given to the importer as a gift. [...]

The question is often asked whether United States citizens or permanent resident aliens of the United States may legally purchase Cuban origin goods, including tobacco and alcohol products, in a third country for personal use outside the United States. The answer is no. [...] [T]he prohibition extends to cigars manufactured in Cuba and sold in a third country and to cigars manufactured in a third country from tobacco grown in Cuba.


And what, you ask, are the penalties of not doing what the government wants?

Criminal penalties go as high as $1,000,000 in fines for corporations. Individuals can get slapped with up to $250,000 and up to 10 years in prison. They can also impose civil penalties of up to $65,000 per violation.

Castro is a socialist tyrant and I want the Cuban government to fall. But not through an economic embargo that punishes peaceful people who enage in trade.

The Bush Administration continues to show it's ignorance of economics and a disdain for individual rights.

October 12, 2004

Sudden Web Traffic Growth

Since the end of September, this blog has experienced a significant growth in traffic.

Looking through the referrals, I'm unable to find a direct pattern driving the growth. I haven't been added to any blogrolls recently and the ones I am on haven't generated larger than normal hit quantities. I haven't been linked to by any major bloggers or websites. I doubt my friends are secretly pimping my site behind my back because the only pattern I can discern is one that roughly matches what has happened in the past: the vast quantity of my hits come from search engines and most of those searches are spread across the US.

Could it be the upcoming Presidential election and the interest sparked by the debates? My search engine hits don't support that. My post on Austin toll roads gets more hits than the couple I've done on the debates or the issues raised within them. The two big posts I've done on drug-resistant staph infections (MSRA Staph Infection in Pasadena, TX and MRSA Staph Infection Update) still get more hits and comments than anything else I've done. After writing two posts partially titled with "The Pros and Cons" (The Pros and Cons of Education Privatization and The Pros and Cons of a Minimum Wage) a nontrivial number of hits have come from searches for both those issues and others with "pros and cons."

Still, the traffic is up more than 25% and those search hits can't account for it. The only remaining explanation that is simple and makes sense is that more people are online and searching for information. Of course, this would necessarily mean most other active bloggers should be getting more hits as well. I'll check out the hit counter statistics from other blogs and see if they are experiencing any new growth. I'll use the first 25 blogs on both Instapundit's and Atrios's blogrolls in order to keep the investigation somewhat balanced. Those blogrolls will be the basis for this survey and only the blogs using Sitemeter will be included for simplicity and laziness reasons. All comparisons are done with blogs active during the last 30 days and by eyeballing the 30-day monthly graph, so this ain't scientific by any means. It's just an experiment.

First batch from Instapundit:

  1. Across the Atlantic: no upward trend
  2. Calblog: no upward trend
  3. AfricaPundit: no upward trend
  4. Ann Althouse: upward trend, but this is most likely due to the several Instalanches the site has gotten lately
  5. EconoPundit: no upward trend
  6. A Small Victory: no upward trend
  7. Sine Qua Non: no upward trend
  8. Professor Bainbridge: no upward trend
  9. baldilocks: no upward trend
  10. Balkinization: slight upward trend
  11. Voice from the Commonwealth: no upward trend
  12. The Baseball Crank: slight upward trend
  13. How Appealing: potential upward trend
  14. The Truth Laid Bear: upward trend probably due to an Instalanche
  15. Tightly Wound: no upward trend
  16. Silflay Hraka: no upward trend
  17. Blackfive: slight upward trend
  18. Blasters Blog: solid upward trend, possibly due to a major blog's linking
  19. blogoSFERICS: potential upward trend
  20. Blogs of War: potential upward trend, possibly due to major linkings
  21. Zonitics: no upward trend
  22. The Buck Stops Here: no upward trend
  23. ChicagoBoyz: no upward trend
  24. Citizen SMASH - The Indepundit: no upward trend
  25. Ed Cone: no upward trend

The Atrios blogs will come after lunch.

AFTER LUNCH

Here we go:

  1. Pandagon: showing an upward trend
  2. Daily Kos: huge upward trend
  3. First Draft: potential upward trend
  4. Corrente: no upward trend
  5. TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime: potential upward trend
  6. Roger Ailes: no upward trend
  7. Sadly, No!: no upward trend
  8. Orcinus: no upward trend
  9. Brad DeLongs Semi-Daily Journal: showing an upward trend
  10. Cooped Up: potential upward trend
  11. MyDD: showing an upward trend
  12. The Liquid List: strong upward trend
  13. The Left Coaster: potential upward trend
  14. This Modern World: showing an upward trend
  15. SullyWatch: no upward trend
  16. Sideshow: showing an upward trend
  17. War Liberal: no upward trend
  18. No More Mister Nice Blog: no upward trend
  19. Throwing Things: no upward trend
  20. Progressive Gold: potential upward trend
  21. Angry Bear: potential upward trend
  22. Pen-Elayne on the Web: potential upward trend
  23. Suburban Guerrilla: showing an upward trend
  24. Tristero: no upward trend
  25. August J. Pollak - xoverboard: no upward trend
I realized halfway through this second list that the comparison isn't very equal. Atrios doesn't sort his list alphabetically like Instapundit does, and given that some big names of the lefty blogosphere are represented at the top while Instapundit's listing has a random smattering, I don't think anyone should draw any conclusions regarding a right-left divergence in popularity. On the other hand, I can't deny the trends I did discover.

So, is there an overall increase in (mosty) American blog traffic? Hell if I know.

October 11, 2004

Screwing in the Alamo

Associated Press via News 8 Austin: Couple arrested for having sex at the Alamo

Tourists at the Alamo saw something besides historical exhibits at the shrine of Texas independence in downtown San Antonio.

A man and woman landed in jail after witnesses told police they were seen having sex inside the mission Sunday.

An Alamo security officer told police he caught 18-year-old Kristine Nissel and 19-year-old Matthew Hotard having sex near a public viewing area late yesterday afternoon.


Never pass up an opportunity to have historic sex!
They've been charged with public lewdness and bond for each is set at $800.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press, All rights reserved.


That I don't agree with at all.

APD's Traffic Focus for October 11 - October 15

Following up from last time...

More places in Austin to avoid due to higher traffic cop presence:

Monday, October 11
Morning North MoPac at Town Lake to Far West Boulevard
Morning 4200 block of South I-35
Morning West Anderson Lane between Lamar Boulevard and Burnet Road
Afternoon Congress Avenue Bridge

Tuesday, October 12
Morning FM 2222
Morning 7100 to 7000 block of East Ben White Boulevard
Morning Davis Lane
Morning Grady Lane between Lamar Boulevard and I-35

Wednesday, October 13
Morning North MoPac at Town Lake to Far West Boulevard
Morning 3200 block of South Highway 183
Morning 8200 to 8800 block of Georgian Drive
Morning Southwest Parkway

Thursday, October 14
Morning North I-35 at Airport Boulevard to Rundberg Lane
Morning 100 to 600 block of Slaughter Lane
Morning 1200 to 1800 block of Kramer Lane
Afternoon Barton Springs

Friday, October 15
Morning Koenig Lane
Morning 8000 block of South Congress Avenue
Morning Braker Lane between Lamar Boulevard and I-35
Morning Manchaca Road


Remember, they're doing this in order to scare and intimidate you into following the law:
Although this list will not be comprehensive or specific as to exact location and time, it is being distributed to increase motorist’s awareness of our enforcement activities. It is believed this increased awareness will lead to safer roadways through increased compliance with traffic laws.

Translation: The goal of this increased police presence is to bully citizens into obedience with our rules. We will make it known that we intend on being particularly intimidating in a few select places around town in order to coerce you into behaving better. We believe that by doing this - cowing you into doing what we want - is in your best interests because safety is a one-size-fits-all collectivist glove with which we want to constrain you.

All must sacrifice in the name of public safety.

Supporting What They Oppose

It's self-interest that's bringing us together.

-Executive director of the League of Conservation Voters Deborah Callahan

It almost seems grudgingly admitted that base self-interest is what brings the LCV to join with other organizations, that only the most dire of situations could convince these people to organize as they have. This reluctance shouldn't be surprising. Self-interest is generally reviled by those who endorse the government and its actions and especially hated by the left and the movement's issue-specific authoritarians. Self-interest is probably the most important driving force within capitalism and is the primary foundation for most economic law.

It is self-interest that drives and sustains economic growth. All actors within a system will tend to seek outcomes that improve their standing, based on their own subjective values and standards. Self-interest means Wal-Mart expands operations, environmentalists seek to clean the air, and large numbers of high school graduates quickly enroll in college. My desire to improve my life leads me to engage in economic exchanges every day.

And note to self: the next time you hear someone claim the League of Conservation Voters is "non-partisan," call bullshit right there and mention this.

October 10, 2004

Damn it, President Bush

I wouldn't pick a judge who said that the Pledge of Allegiance couldn't be said in a school because it had the words "under God" in it. I think that's an example of a judge allowing personal opinion to enter into the decision-making process as opposed to a strict interpretation of the Constitution.

Another example would be the Dred Scott case, which is where judges, years ago, said that the Constitution allowed slavery because of personal property rights.

-President George W. Bush, in the second debate

My emphasis.

You know, it's hard enough being a libertarian, a small government conservative, or a minarchist these days just waiting to hear the phrase "private property rights" in the media by major political figures. The term has slowly been abandoned by the mainstream and I often feel its principle utilizers are people who write letters to the editor of their newspaper and a few right-leaning political pundits. It's such an important foundation to everything we believe in and it gets ignored regularly and rejected consistently.

So it's really fucking annoying when the President mentions it during a live televised debate in a very negative context, thus instantly undoing the hard work of limited government and libertarian activists nationwide in the minds of a certain number of viewers and people who read up on the debate later. A mental association between slavery and private property rights has now replaced some or all latent positive connections with private property rights and a number of issues.

Thanks, Mr. President. Thanks a lot.

October 08, 2004

Seven Minutes of Hell

What would you have done?

-Billy Beck

I venture to guess nearly every person would feel shocked, horrified, furious, appalled, scared, angry, or some combination thereof upon Andrew Card's message that the World Trade Center had been twice attacked by unknown forces. But his question isn't what I or anyone else would have felt. It is what would I have done.

Mr. Beck continues:

Try to understand: no sort of blithering generality is going to work, here. I want to know explicitly and specifically -- step by step -- what you would have done in those seven minutes.

The reactionary in me says Pfft, this is easy. I would have immediately cancelled the school event and departed to a safer and more communications-friendly location. I would have demanded to know everything credible. I would have demanded to know the condition of critical infrastructure concerning the reins of power in D.C., the military, etc. I would have demanded FEMA send every available resource to New York City to help in any way possible. I would have left a brief statement with the press and I would have been in the air and on the phone in under two minutes.

I assume no trivial number of Americans would want their President to respond in such a direct, no bullshit way.

And yet.

Knowing myself, how I react to unexpected emergencies, and having not the faintest flickering of an idea what it is like to "[marshal] the enormous authority" in a sitting President's grasp, I say the following in all available honesty.

I probably would have compulsively vomited fifteen seconds after hearing the news and spent the next 6.75 minutes in a fuming sea of such confusing emotion that I'd be pathetically useless for anything beyond a simple command to "get me out of here, get help to those who need it, and get the motherfuckers behind this."

Note to Nick Gillespie and Mike Snell: Tax Cuts Do Not "put money" in Our Pockets

Reason: You May Already Be A Winner

These calculations suggest that, contrary to John Kerry and other critics, the Bush income tax cuts have in fact put real money in the pockets of typical American families.

No.

The Bush income tax cuts have in fact left more money in the pockets of typical American families. Cutting taxes means the government takes less of our wealth. Furthermore, the government cannot put money into our pockets without stealing or coercing it from someone else. That's one reason I feel queasy about accepting my income tax return check.

But both Mr. Gillespie and Mr. Snell still right regarding the intent of the article. Because the wealthy pay an exorbitantly large percentage of federal taxation, when taxes are cut for all income brackets, they will save an exorbitantly large amount that would have otherwise been taxed. See: How US Taxes Work.

Travis County's Dumping Problem

News8Austin: New agency to monitor illegal dumping sites

In Travis County alone there are more than 60 known chronic illegal dumping sites and possibly hundreds more that have yet to be found.

The first thing that occurs to me is who owns the land where the dumping happens.
In an effort to address the problem, Travis County Commissioners are spending more than $350,000 on new and expanded criminal and civil environmental enforcement services.

A new staff of five will run the service: three in the county attorney's office and two others with the county's Natural Resources Program.

[...]

"The limitation here has been that there has been no one to investigate. Law enforcement is spread very thin in Travis County and so this will help look at the environmental issues," Director of Enforcement Kevin Morse with the Travis County Attorney's Office said.

The five new enforcement officers will watch for illegal dumping, as well as for air and water pollution. They will also issue permits.

Morse said those caught violating the law will have to pay, starting at $200 for a Class C misdemeanor.


When in doubt, expand the government! It's the only rational thing to do.
Joyce Thoresen with the Walnut Place Neighborhood Association said her neighborhood could benefit from the county's efforts.

"It's our environment. It's our neighborhood. It's just real discouraging to see this kind of thing go unpunished," Thoresen said.


Joyce Thorenen, if it is your property then why are you applauding this? How is it the shared responsibility of other taxpayers in Travis County? You want it cleaned up? Then clean it up.

Don't make others pay for it. Don't make others responsible for maintaining it. Because, as you asserted, it is YOUR property.

"We're talking about the most serious of misdemeanors in the state of Texas. You're talking $100,000 fines for misdemeanors in water pollution crimes. So, we're talking a broad range of very stringent punishment," Morse said.

Travis County officials and affected residents hope the enforcement effort will discourage people and companies from committing crimes against the environment.

Copyright 2004TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


You can't commit a crime against "the environment." You can only commit crimes against people and their property. This is as empty-headed as saying you've committed a crime against decency or literature.

October 06, 2004

Cheney vs. Edwards

Who "won?" Entropy, my fellow Americans. The Democrats offer no challenge to the fundamentals of Republican foreign policy. Republicans no longer present any philosophical objection to Democratic economic policy.

-Jim Henley

Well said, even though this has been the case since as long as I can remember. It's just up front and obvious these days.

Dick Cheney: Remember, the state should exist and should be wielded against the individual, at home and abroad. Just not like that moron wants. John Edwards: Remember, the state should exist and should be wielded against the individual, at home and abroad. Just not like that lunatic wants.

Here's what I heard and saw for most of the debate:

We need this much government!No, we need this much government!

This goes back to what I wrote in The Democratic Party - The Party of Personal Liberty?:

Economic liberty (ostensibly proposed by the GOP) and social liberty (ostensibly proposed by the Democrats) are merely offshoots of the same concept: individual liberty. Neither party supports individual liberty without contradiction. Conservatives wish to preserve tradition and a kind of social morality, often at the expense of liberty. Liberals wish to improve socio-economic conditions for the lower rungs of society and for the overlooked/disadvantaged/etc., regularly at the expense of personal liberty.

We've got one set of candidates (the Right) that want to weaken the government's influence somewhat and only in a few areas and otherwise keep the status quo or expand the state elsewhere. The other set (the Left) wants to increse the government's influence in just about every area and weaken the government's influence overseas, but only in some forms of military action. Neither side speaks to core philosophies that are resolutely adhered to and never deviated from.

Which isn't and shouldn't be surprising. It's a direct result of attempting to be the most popular representative in your district and when so many districts comprise a diverse ocean of people the only way to survive is to abandon principle and jump on pragmatism.

At least the Veep debate was entertaining. The first Bush-Kerry matchup wasn't.

October 05, 2004

Marriage for an Atheist Libertarian

Via AnarCapLib, I hear that Glen Whitman has pondered marriage options for unbelievers:

When it comes to marriage, what's an atheist libertarian to do? What kind of ceremony is appropriate, and who ought to officiate? For an atheist, the obvious choice might appear to be a judge or justice-of-the-peace. But for a libertarian atheist, state idolatry is as objectionable as spiritual idolatry. Sure, libertarians recognize the existence of the state (while atheists do not recognize the existence of a god), but why go inviting the state into what is ultimately a personal commitment?

Emphasis in the original.

I turned 24 this year and I do not have a girlfriend. There is someone in my life at the moment who is "more than a friend" (I announced that briefly here), but I'm nowhere within sight of the notion of marriage. A number of my male friends have essentially sworn off marriage, saying they aren't interested in getting tied down. I have no problem with the concept of marrying someone; it's just finding that someone that is troublesome.

So, if I were to meet a woman and we were to reach a point in the relationship where being formally and permanently monogamous, prepared to have children, and settling down were the next steps, I'd have to decide what kind of ceremony I would want to participate in. It wouldn't be entirely up to me; I'd want my future wife's input. Similarly, it wouldn't want it be entirely up to her either. I wouldn't rule out marrying someone religious, though I'd prefer an atheist. But I'd have a problem with a strictly religious and strictly government-sanctioned ceremony.

Ideally, right now, I'd like more than anything a gathering of every person important to me and a gathering of every person important to her. I'd want it to be formal in the sense that there is something solemn happening and it should be respected. I'd want it to be joyous in the sense that she and I are doing this because we love each other so much that the only other way we can express our feelings is to join socially. I imagine if we wanted to, we'd change our last names to something else, depending what we felt like.

Perhaps most importantly, I would want an exchange of vows between us, culminating in both a kiss and a signed contract expressing those vows. In effect, it becomes a "common law" marriage. Of course, not all states recognize those marriages. But why would I care about that?

I don't understand, on a moral level, why some people want the state to sign off on their union. There are certainly some economic benefits, assuming you fit the criteria for them, but I don't want them when all they mean is I have to seek the permission of the state to take less of our money when it shouldn't be taken away in the first place. Hopefully, my future wife will understand how I feel about this.

Representative Coercion

Wall Street Journal: Found in Translation

I remember one evening in Damascus this summer. Normally the streets would have been packed well past midnight with young couples and Gulf tourists taking advantage of the cool desert breezes. But that night the streets were deserted. Indeed, for two hours every summer Sunday and Monday night, countless Arab communities across the Middle East and North Africa sat huddled around their sets to take part in "Super Star," the Arab version of "American Idol."

The format of the Lebanon-based program is similar to its prototype: Aspiring pop stars compete their way through ever-winnowing rounds, this time singing a modern and classical Arab favorites, until a winner stands alone. To decide who moves on, audience members cast their votes through the Internet, an automated telephone service and cell-phone text-messaging.

[...]

If the Arab people cannot choose their political representatives free from coercion, at least now they can select a cultural representative to champion their musical tastes.


Question for Tyler MacKenzie:

What is the point of being able to uncoercively choose your representatives when those very representatives will be coercing you and your neighbors through their laws and regulations?

Link via Andrew Sullivan, who calls his post "Idolizing Democracy." Unintentional humor, I must assume.

October 04, 2004

Socialism and Capitalism in the NFL

CNNMoney: Socialism is on the run in the NFL

Capitalism is coming to the most successful socialist state the planet has ever known: the National Football League.

Chris Isidore's metaphor doesn't sit well with me. Obviously, any organization operates with characteristics that could be categorized as "socialist" or "capitalist."
The league has turned revenue sharing and parity on the field into the core tenets of its business religion. But in recent years, it has been quietly taking steps to give teams greater ability to go after sponsorship dollars on their own.

It does help to present your readers with some definition of your core terms. From this, I gather than the freedom to pursue one's self-interest (in this case, the football franchise's) is what Mr. Isidore sees as a critical element of the capitalist label. I cannot disagree with that. And given that it seems nearly all socialists heartily endorse some form of economic egalitarianism, I don't consider it out of bounds to describe the NFL's previous state to be "more socialist" than as it is now.
In March, the NFL made little-noticed moves, such as allowing teams to sign deals with local sponsors that allow use the team logos. Teams also can go after local beer and soft drink sponsorship deals that compete with NFL national sponsors Coors and Pepsi.

But those changes, while they seem minor, will mean tens of millions to the larger market teams. Those are dollars they won't have to share with the other owners, and money that will be out of reach for some other smaller market owners.

2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP. A Time Warner Company ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


The National Football League is a private organization that has the right to determine what happens to its property. As such, it is fundamentally capitalist. What I dislike about Mr. Isidore's metaphor is the implicit assumption that sharing and equality is synonymous with socialism.

Part of the problem is just what is meant by socialism. I view it as any social system that uses coercion and force in the form of the collective state to accomplish goals. That's a very broad, but accurate description. I view capitalism as the opposite: a social system that relies on voluntary mutual interactions for individuals to accomplish goals. Obviously, that is a explicitly anarchist society.

But let's assume that by socialism, Mr. Isidore means a common-knowledge sort of governmental entity, the kind that is immediately summoned in one's mind when it's mentioned. Say, somewhere between Cuba and Canada. The official goals of each state, of course, are benevolent and intended to help people who need it and correct what are perceived as social injustices. Cuba embodies the nastier side of socialism with it's harsher direct control over individual Cubans while Canada still allows a good deal of individual freedom for Canadians to employ.

Does that "middle-ground socialism" mean that the people under it are more equal than in more capitalist countries? That more sharing occurs? I'd like to see some evidence to support this. The talk must be backed by the walk, so to speak. Are wage disparities smaller in socialist countries? Is there a higher level of charitable work and donation? Are living conditions homogenous throughout the land? Do the rulers of these countries exist on the same economic level as their subjects?

The Herd's Handlers Are Getting Excited

News8Austin: Marathon voter registration rushes to beat deadline

Time is running out for non-registered voters wanting to vote in the Nov. 2 elections. Midnight Oct. 4 is the deadline to register.

I think I'm on a voter roll somewhere. I need to get that removed.
So volunteers with Democracy for Texas put together a marathon effort to register voters.

They will stay near the intersection of Rio Grande and Seventh in downtown Austin until midnight Monday.

Jeff Manson and other volunteers hope their efforts will pay off with more voters and with a more politically-engaged public.

"A lot of people aren't registered and I think if they registered and they voted, I think our government would represent us better," Manson said.

Copyright 2004TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


No, it wouldn't. Your vote is intended to represent you and not anyone else. An individual vote cannot represent a community because you can define a community any which way you wish to and the individuals within get aggregated out of existence. I cannot be represented because my representative would quit on Day One and take as much of the state with him or her as possible. Who'd want a job like that?

Can't want till November 2nd has passed. The number of "civic duty" stories is becoming sick.

Shock Spam Advertising

[Updates below.]

Along the same lines as A Bad Choice of Title...

Dear Hilary Aldrich:

I thought I had seen all the variations of spamvertising. Pleading with me to increase my penis size; insulting me to increase me penis size! Demanding I buy cheap software. Trumpeting great home mortgage deals tailored just for me! Teasing me with tales of amorous and lonely housewives and their cheerleader daughters!

*jerk off motion*

Yawn, right? What is a spamvertiser supposed to do once the market is saturated with the worst examples of businessmen and women (I use the terms loosely) holding out their hands for customers' money? With spam filters as they are these days, all I have to do is check one folder and give it a quick glance to make sure I'm not deleting a message that actually has worth to me. The understanding of this reality has got to pain you and your brethren worse than the first time your noble profession got slapped with the "spam" label.

So what is to be done?

How about just going straight for the shock value? And not just any shock value, but something that'll just JUMP RIGHT AT 'EM:

From: "Hilary Aldrich"
To: drizz@drizzten.com
Subject: hey nigger
Date: Sun, 03 Oct 2004 11:38:22 -0800
Whoa now! That's the spot; there's something that'll get my attention. Tickle my racism nerve. Yank on it so that I can't resist to see what slimy bastard things you have to say about blacks. I wonder: how did the e-mail of a blatant racist get in my spam box? Further: when did I become black? Hesitation evaporates!

*click*

We have a loan program available for almost every scenario.
you'll see that we take great pride in helping you buy or your home.
and we have the best quotes in the industry - guaranteed. Challenge us today!
access our short *FORM* here...

Alas, you want to sell loans. Another wanker.

*delete*

UPDATED 7/23/2008 10:38am
More spammy-ness here.

October 01, 2004

Trouble Shifting Gears in my Golf TDI

[Updates below.]

I've chronicled my expensive shifting problems at TDIClub.com for anyone who may be interested.

Thus, after 66,000 miles, I finally have arrived at a major repair for my car. Of course, the warranty expired 6,000 miles ago. What happened? See the pictures below of what happened to my clutch.


That's my clutch pressure plate. Note the one huge frickin' crack and multiple other indications of failure.


That's my clutch disc. Note the massive gouging damage spread around the circumference.

I had the repairs done at European Import Auto at the corner of Burnet Road and Braker Lane. I talked to Kenneth Prewitt, the service manager at Charles Maund VW, before European Import discovered the clutch damage and he was informative and helpful when I asked for his help diagnosing my shifting problems. I'm going back sometime soon to get his opinion on these busted parts.

UPDATED 1/11/2006 8:55am
The TDIClub.com link has moved. And I have a new set of problems to worry about.