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February 28, 2005

Adventures in Modern Economics

At the extreme, imagine a group of individuals who have similar tastes and who live together in a local community, each one of whom places a zero benefit on tennis courts. In such a community, under decentralized, local collective decision making, an election to consider government provision of such a good would receive no votes. In fact, it would be unlikely that any resident would even propose that such an issue be put up for a vote, because a locally provided tennis court would benefit no one in town. If, however, the number of tennis courts per town were decided in a national election, with given tax shares under majority rule, the outcome would be the national median most-preferred number of tennis courts per town.

If the preferred number of tennis courts per town in other communities is greater that zero, the resultant equilibrium is likely to be some positive number of tennis courts. This means that residents in the town where no one wants tennis courts, even at zero price, would be forced to submit to construction of tennis courts in their town and to pay taxes to finance those tennis courts. Such an outcome is not efficient...


That is David N. Hyman in the seventh edition of his Public Finance: A Contemporary Application of Theory to Policy, page 652. The context of this passage is a discussion of fiscal federalism, decentralized government verses centralized government, and the supply of local public goods. As such, I fully recognize that the hairy subject of "ethics" is almost entirely avoided in textbooks such as this.

However, despite that, I still find it remarkable that Professor Hyman's objection to government forcing people to pay for tennis courts they don't want is based on shaky and necessarily incomplete calculations of "social benefit" and "social cost" resulting in "efficient" outcomes. This is the textbook I'm using in my Public Finance class at St. Edward's University and I'll have more quotes from it in the future.

February 24, 2005

Fight the Austin Smoking Ban

[Updates below.]

A new website to keep an eye out for: Keep Austin Free

Does Austin Need A New Smoking Ban?

OUR CURRENT SMOKING ORDINANCE MANDATES:

  • Of 46,000 businesses in Austin, over 99% are smoke free.
  • No smoking is allowed anywhere children under 18 are present.
  • Over 2000 restaurants are smoke free. Only 6 allow smoking.
  • Over 400 bars are smoke free. Only 200 allow smoking.
  • Only 211 businesses and their employees have chosen to allow smoking in Austin.

Shouldn’t people be allowed to choose?

Some people don’t trust your freedom to choose.

[...]

If you feel that Austin's current ordinance is adequate and are against this sort of encroachment on your rights and values, please opt in and join our resistance.


Their banner says "Protect Property Rights" and yet they feel the current ordinance is fine? It isn't, folks. It ought to be abolished along with all the other infringments on property rights...which of course means getting rid of the city government as well.

Still, the website does represent opposition to something that should be opposed. News8Austin has a piece on the health Nazis: Anti-smoking group submits petition to strengthen ordinance

A group called Onward Austin is asking the city to tighten its anti-smoking ordinance.

They submitted a petition Tuesday with 4,000 signatures, in addition to 36,000 they turned in earlier.

[...]

Onward Austin needs support from 10 percent - or about 37,000 - of the city's registered voters to get the issue on the ballot for May.

The American Cancer Society backs the petition effort.

Copyright ©2005TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


Gawddamn ACS and fuck you, Onward Austin.

This is a clear-cut example of the danger democracies pose. You do not own other people!

UPDATED 4/6/2005 11:45pm
Got this from a message board post on MySpace:

Why Beerland is not smoke free.

Repost from Beerland (hence the first person wording).

Last time this issue came up, we took a poll and found that, whoa, 87% of our clientele smokes at least occasionally. Over 90% of our bands include smokers. That's why we allow smoking now, because obviously that's what the bulk of our customers want. The other customers don't mind apparently. And the people that do mind have over 400 other fully stocked nonsmoking bars in town to go to . Or if you hate smoke but want to go see bands, why not open a smokefree club of your very own where you get to make the decisions? No one is stopping you.

Additionally, folks tell us of this huge group of nonsmokers that are waiting anxiously for us to go smokefree so they can enjoy the rock and roll lifestyle (really?). Well, where were you when we held all these smokefree shows required of us by law? We held smokefree shows when we opened and no one came. We held more when the current smoking ordinance required us to and we try to hold weekly ones as required by the current ordinance (they're a pain to book, btw.) If ever these nonsmoking shows had been successful, we would be doing more. And more. And eventually, Beerland would have already gone completely smokefree. So, then the reason Beerland is not currently smokefree is the nonsmokers' fault.

Message to nonsmokers who wish we would stop allowing smoking: It's your fault we're not smokefree already. You sit on your ass and don't go to shows that are designed for you. Wake up! You failed to prove that you could support a punk rock club that gave you a chance first by choice and then as required by law. You failed to approach us with events full of popular bands that tons of nonsmokers would come see. It's your fault if we close after a smoking ban passes. Don't like smoke with your live music--how about no live music at all? It's your fault things aren't currently your way. It's your fault you haven't opened your own club to cater to the 75% of Americans who don't smoke and apparently don't support live music en masse either.

Donya and Randall do not smoke. They are not attached to smoking. They are attached to their customers, musicians, and friends. And when the core customers, musicians, and friends of Beerland want us to have more nonsmoking shows or even go completely nonsmoking, we will.

Until then, please remember to vote against the smoking ban in Austin bars and live music venues. It would make it impossible for businesses to cater to the desires of their actual customers, musicians, and friends.

In Tempe, AZ after a similar smoking ban was passed, 40 out of 200+ bars closed within the first year. You don't get to pick who closes, it's usually simply the smaller places, locally owned places, and places with little or no fund reserves: that's Beerland. Please stand up and be counted. The other side is banking on the fact that our "demographic" doesn't vote.

Early voting runs April 20-May 3. You just go to the grocery store with your drivers license or i.d. Election day is May 7.

UPDATED 5/4/2005 1:22pm
Austin Smoking Ban Hits the News

UPDATED 5/9/2005 9:03am
The Additional Tyranny - The New Austin Smoking Ban Passes

UPDATED 8/30/2005 1:47pm
Deadline for the Austin Smoking Ordinance

The Center for Science in the Public Interest Needs Slaves

Reuters: Salt Should Be Regulated Food Additive, Group Says

A consumer group sued the federal government Thursday, saying that salt is killing tens of thousands of Americans and that regulators have done too little to control salt in food.

Despite advisories to take it easy on sodium, Americans are now consuming about 4,000 milligrams a day -- nearly double the recommended limit to keep blood pressure under control, the Center for Science in the Public Interest said.


So the solution is to use force and coercion to get Americans to jump to your tune? Fucking health Nazi wankers.
So the CSPI renewed a lawsuit first filed in 1983 to ask federal courts to force the Food and Drug Administration to declare sodium a food additive instead of categorizing it as "generally recognized as safe." This would give the agency the authority to set limits for salt in foods.

"There is no way the FDA can look at the science and say with a straight face that salt is 'generally recognized as safe,"' CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson said in a statement.

"In fact, salt is generally recognized as unsafe, because it is a major cause of heart attacks and stroke. The federal government should require food manufacturers to gradually lower their sodium levels."

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.


Hey Jacobson - how about I take your shoes and beat you over the fucking head with them? Would that qualify as "generally recognized as unsafe"? Oh, is this not the same thing as the salt issue? I don't see why. In both instances, you have an individual choosing to use a product in a way that is bad for someone's health.

But, as it is painfully obvious, since you don't seem to give a shit about personal responsibility, there is no point in arguing this with you.

Unfortunately, this is also the case with Reuters. Out of the entire news article, not a single advocate of individual freedom, business interests, or contrary opinion is published.

The world is slowly going to shit and now "they" want to keep me from salting it down to at least make it palatable.

Radley Balko has been watching and commenting on CSPI's freedom-killing activities for some time.

Travis Country Libertarians vs. Capital Metro!

Here's what last weekend's Travis County Libertarian Party newsletter had to say:

From a taxpayer's point of view, Capital Metro runs the worst large bus system in the United States.

Since its creation in 1985, Capital Metro has levied a sales tax in Austin and parts of the surrounding area, and used the money to pay for various transit services, mostly fixed-route bus service. Taxpayers have often worried that Capital Metro wastes a lot of the money on little-used bus routes. Recent data show that their worries are still well-founded.

In Transitese, every bus route has a "fare recovery ratio" (FRR). The FRR measures how much of the bus route's cost is paid by riders rather than taxpayers. If the FRR is 25%, it means that rider fares pay 25% of the cost, and taxpayers pay the other 75%. The national average FRR for fixed bus routes is 28%. Capital Metro's is less than 5%.

The 2003 National Transit Database lists 459 transit agencies with bus operations. Capital Metro ranks 436th with respect to FRR. Of the 87 agencies whose annual operating expenses are over $25 million, Capital Metro ranks dead last.

According to 2003 data from Capital Metro and the National Transit Database:

  • Capital Metro's best-performing route has an FRR of only 13.7% . One of its worst, the Saturday Airport Limited, has an FRR of 0.87% and an astonishing subsidy of $32.70 per passenger.
  • Capital Metro runs 50 bus routes on weekdays. Of those, 31 have FRRs less than 5%, and 15 require subsidies of more than $5.00 per passenger.
  • On Saturdays, Capital Metro runs 31 routes. 19 have FRRs less than 5%, and 8 require subsidies of more than $5.00 per passenger.
  • On Sundays, Capital Metro runs 28 routes. 22 have FRRs less than 5%, and 10 require subsidies of more than $5.00 per passenger.

In this fiscal year, Capital Metro expects sales tax revenue of $120,643,672 in a service area of 737,000 residents. That is $164 per capita. The taxpayers have every right to demand efficient performance. Through fare increases and service reductions, Capital Metro should reconfigure all its bus routes to achieve the national average FRR of 28%. There is no reason for taxpayers to subsidize bus riders to the tune of $32.70 each.

Thus prompting an article from News8Austin: Cap Metro's ridership, funding questioned
[Arthur] DiBianca is a member of the Travis County Libertarian Party. The local political party has created its own transportation committee. As a member of the committee, diBianca did some number crunching to calculate Capital Metro's "fare recovery ratio," the cost of a bus route as its covered by taxpayers versus rider's fare.

DiBianca found Capital Metro's fare recovery ratio at 95 percent for taxpayers, 5 percent for rider's fare.

"Unacceptable. This is unacceptable. The national average is 28 percent. We don't understand why Capital Metro can't reach the national average," diBianca said.


Might this be because Austin is not an average national city? Kind of a dumb objection, Mr. diBianca.

Obviously, CapMetro disagrees with all this. From the news article:

Cap Metro's math rolls a different direction. It figures riders cover 9.5 percent of the fare recovery ratio. The mass transit agency claims the number is so low because it reflects affordable bus fares.

"Rest assured that we review this on an ongoing basis, and we're aware of it. Our goal is to provide affordable fares to the community," Capital Metro Chief Financial Officer Cindie Hernandez said.


In its 2005 budget document (PDF), it is stated that the "current fare structure and fare revenue levels are expected to generate ... in FY 2005 ... an overall recovery ration of 9.2%."

Here, reproduced from the same budget document, is the primary problem...and Mr. diBianca knows it:

Service'Dillos (Downtown Trolley)Express, Park & Ride, NW Dial-A-RideMetro, Flyer, UT Shuttle, LimitedSpecial Transit Services
AdultsFree$1.00$0.50$0.60
StudentsFree$0.50$0.25$0.60
Senior AdultsFreeFreeFree$0.60
Medicare Card HoldersFreeFreeFree$0.60
Mobility ImpairedFreeFreeFree$0.60
Attendant for Mobility ImpairedFreeFreeFreeFree
UT StudentsFreeFreeFree$0.60
Children Under 6FreeFreeFreeFree
Capital Metro/StarTran EmployeeFreeFreeFreeFree

Now, after absorbing this cheap schedule of fares, have a good hard look at this. The document explains the service area of CapMetro is "500 square miles including 773,000 residents." It describes the 216,609 square feet of building facility space it operates. It also lists the 13 "Transportation and Transfer Centers," 14 "Park and Ride Facilities," 134 bus routes running 55,000 miles a day carrying more than 82,000 passengers on average, and a fleet of over 500 transportation buses, trolleys, and paratransit sedans (I believe these are the white and blue Ford Crown Victorias I see all over town) and vans. They expect total ridership in FY2005 to exceed 34 million, up from FY 2004 ridership of 25 million.

How possible do you think it would be to support this - total operating budget of $124 million - with a fare structure like that? Obviously, that would be impossible and it is only possible now because the "authority" imposes a sales tax of 1% (helping to max the local sales tax out at 8.25%) that'll generate that $120 million in 2005. Passenger fares are estimated to bring in over $4 million. Operating expenses for the 2005 fiscal year are estimated to be over $124 million.

The vast, vast bulk of the revenue this entity uses is from sales taxes.

Makes me want to buy more things online and out of state.

Continuing from the News8Austin article:

Bus fares for Capital Metro are 50 cents. That's the lowest in the country, tied with Corpus Christi. A luxury for passengers, diBianca admits, but not one for taxpayers.

"Fare needs to be increased for passengers," diBianca said.

He'd also like to see Capital Metro completely done away with and replaced by a private bus company. But, his No. 1 priority is to get Cap Metro to take his math seriously.


Good luck with that. In this town, cheap and free services to the mentally, financially, and domestically weak is kind of a local pastime. Raising fares will result in unearthly howling over punishing the lower classes with the Big Mean Stick of Greed. Never mind the explicit greed they have for taxpayer wealth!

CapMetro shouldn't raise rates because CapMetro should be shut down post haste and that sales tax should be abolished even sooner.

Cap Metro says they want to keep its fares cheap and make it services more accessible to the elderly and the mobility impaired. They'd rather be seen as a community service than a tax burden.

Copyright ©2005TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


Gawddamn superficial morons want appearances to have a higher importance than reality. Who gives a damn how you'd rather be seen? Why dodge the primary reality of what you are?

Guess what? YOU ARE A FUCKING TAX BURDEN and you will continue to be a tax burden until the moment that tax is repealed. I don't use public transportation and if given a choice I never will. I used the UT shuttles once or twice back in '98-'99 and that's it. I challenge anyone to prove why businesses in Austin ought to be forced to collect a sales tax on behalf of someone (in actuality, thousands) who won't use the system the taxes will finance. This is a forced transfer of wealth from the entire community to benefit a subset.

This used to be called tyranny. Now it's called compassion.

February 22, 2005

A Free Market in Candy at Austin High School

Austin-American Statesman: Kid candy sellers have the right idea

I'd like to applaud the young marketing geniuses at Austin High School who students claim sold candy bars in the halls to their sugar-deprived fellow students for $1.50 apiece.

As would I.
A Democrat looks at this sort of activity and thinks, "That's deplorable. Don't these youngsters realize Snickers are bad for your teeth?" A Republican looks at a kid selling banned candy to fellow students and thinks, "Way to go. Now that's the corporate spirit that made this country great."

I look at it as a case of supply and demand. The kids saw a demand, and they went out and bought the supplies.


As long as all transactions are voluntary, go for it.
The marketing opportunity for some enterprising young business types at Austin High presented itself after school administrators removed candy from vending machines. The purpose was to cut down on fat kids.

Next thing you knew, some smart kids were roaming the halls selling candy out of their gym bags at a healthy profit. I can buy a candy bar out of a machine at work for 70 cents. At $1.50 a shot in the hall at Austin High, that's a pretty hefty markup.

But why shouldn't it be? Somebody's got to pay for the risk these kids are taking. If they get caught, they've got to go talk to the principal.


Straight ecomincs, man. If you ban something (artificially restrict the supply) that has a sufficiently inelastic demand curve in a location where that something is desired, it is not hard to predict how the market will react. Sellers will appear in a "black market" to satisfy at least part of the demand. Prices go up to reflect one, that demand hasn't dropped to compensate for the supply and two, the increased risk the seller incurs in supplying the good. Given a long enough timeframe and enough interest, auxiliary markets will spring up to further the growth of the first, such as marketing and distribution.
"I've got to salute the undaunted entrepreneurship of Austin High students," said Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who graduated from Austin High in 1957. "My blood runs maroon and white."

Strayhorn said the youngsters selling candy wouldn't have to pay sales tax on the candy if they already paid the tax by buying the candy from another vendor, such as a convenience store. She added that the sales tax on the price markup would be "negligible."

Copyright 2001-2005 Cox Texas Newspapers, L.P. All rights reserved.


Mrs. Strayhorn is attempting to be all neighborly and nice here, but make no mistake about the reality. She, her organization, and the state of Texas have no fundamental objection to or opposition against taxing such sales. Since it's all cutesy kids stuff that luckily falls out of the realm of retail and since it doesn't constitute a significant source of revenue, they aren't after it. The benevolence of the government is all that stands in the way of such taxes. Do you trust in the benevolence of the state?

Alex Tabarrok also got ahold of the story last week in its original form.

When Bosses Attack

[Updates Below.]

Last night's episode of 24 for the hours of 4:00pm and 5:00pm went about as well as the others on average. I expected those other five reactors to go critical and meltdown during this hour, but I suppose that's for another cliffhanger ending later.

I was curious to see what would happen with Sarah Gavin (Lana Parrilla) now that it had been established at CTU that it was Marianne Taylor (Aisha Tyler) who was the spy. I didn't expect any grand oratory on the justification of torturing someone suspected of knowing useful information and we didn't get any. The standard crutch of "the greater good" continues to support the horror.

I wasn't particularly surprised to see Gavin accept Erin Driscoll's (Alberta Watson) offer to go back to work for CTU due to the intense need for experienced and qualified help. When Gavin demanded her arrest record expunged and raise of two pay grades and Driscoll promptly accepted, I wondered to myself if that would be enough for me.

Going beyond the immediate question of whether I'd work for such an organization in the first place, I imagine I'd be wholly unable to work with anyone who supervised the repeated stun-gunning of my neck. There'd be no trust in that relationship from my release onward. It is apparent Gavin suffered no immediate serious injury. We can't quantify the extra income the pay raise results in and I can't remember what crime she committed that she wants expunged, but would that be enough to cover the rights violation?

Since Gavin proposed it, in her case she's been satisfied. I hesitate to call this an example of private law enforcement and dispute arbitration because there are a number of fundamental differences with this scenario and the ones proposed in the former. However, I can't fault her for wanting immediate compensation.

Previous entries on FOX's 24: The Jack Bauer Power Hour, Fox's 24: A Libertarian Nightmare and 24 and Torture.

UPDATED 3/28/2005
Inner Outrage; The Enslavement of Behrooz Araz

UPDATED 4/18/2005 11:04pm
The Total Erosion of the Fourth Wall and The 24 Embrace of Contemporary Politics

UPDATED 5/2/2005 10:58pm
Humanity Revealed in FOX's 24

UPDATED 5/17/2005 2:07pm
Quickie '24' Blog Items with an Emphasis on Richard Heller

UPDATED 3/13/2006 9:47am
My Take on FOX's '24' Ethics

February 21, 2005

I Doubt He'll Be Resting, Wherever He Is

[Updates below.]

There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.

You better take care of me Lord, if you don't you're gonna have me on your hands.
NY Times: Hunter S. Thompson, 65, Author, Commits Suicide

BBC: Obituary: Hunter S Thompson

Denver Post: Hunter S. Thompson shoots self in head

Dr. Thompson's ESPN archive

While I cannot say I was a fan of his politics (I thought he was in decline two years ago), I can say his style never failed to entertain and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas remains one of my favorite movies.

UPDATE 2/22/2005 4:20pm
Last night, we sat down to watch Where the Buffalo Roam. Started off shaky (it was impossible to not compare this to FALILV), but it really cemented the Thompson persona. Bill Murray did a great job. We were definitely surprised to see Peter Boyle as Thompson's attorney. I wish I'd seen the movie earlier.

I'm reading The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved right now and loving it.

Adventures in Spam

[Updates below.]

I always skim over the contents of my "Bulk E-mail" folder before deleting them. Though Yahoo has gotten much better at picking the crap from the input, occasionally a relevant message is snared and lands in that folder. I don't want to delete a late payment notice or something.

So even though I don't read the body of the messages, I do read their titles. And every so often, one jumps out at me.

Go shopping with someone else's money

What, is this an ad for Congress or something?

*rimshot*

Previous adventures in spam: SPAM...Cooked the Wrong Way, Nice Try "Lolita", FYI..., A Bad Choice of Title, SPAM Patrol, Um...Ouch, Comment Spammers Must Die!, and Shock Spam Advertising.

UPDATED 7/23/2008 10:40am
More spammy-ness here.

But Does He Mean It?

The AP via the San Fransisco Chronicle: Thousands in Lebanon Protest Government

"It is my civic duty as a Lebanese to take part in this uprising," said Youssef Mukhtar, a 47-year-old engineer. "Enough bloodshed and disasters. It is the 21st century, and people should be able to govern themselves. The situation has become unbearable and we have to regain our country."

The portion I've emphasized, if taken seriously, leads to an ultimate conclusion: the advocacy of market anarchy or anarcho-capitalism. Proponents of self-government, in my opinion, exclude the concept of the state right from the beginning.

Unfortunately, Mr. Mukhatr goes from a welcome idea straight back into collectivism with the "our country" bit, revealing a contradiction that plagues most people to this day.

February 18, 2005

Test Politicians for Lead Poisoning!

Why?

Reuters via ABCNews: Lead in Environment Causing Violent Crime - Study

"When environmental lead finds its way into the developing brain, it disturbs neural mechanisms responsible for regulation of impulse. That can lead to antisocial and criminal behavior," said Dr. Herbert Needleman, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Needleman's team, using a technique called X-ray fluorescence, found very low levels of lead in the bones of children.

Needleman cited several studies that associate crime with high levels of lead either in the bodies of those accused or in the environments they came from, including one that showed the average bone lead levels of 190 juvenile delinquents were higher than those of adolescents not charged with crimes.


Whatever the level of lead in one's body needs to be in order to affect this dangerous social degeneration, I demand all politicians be tested for it to expose the real reason they perpetuate the crimes they do!

On a more serious note:

He said the U.S. government needs to do more to lower lead levels in the environment...

"Exposure to lead, at doses below those which bring children to medical attention, is associated with increased aggression, disturbed attention and delinquency. A meaningful strategy to reduce crime is to eliminate lead from the environment of children."

Copyright 2005 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved.


I don't know if the Reuters article author (who is unnamed) was being intentionally wry or cynical, but the news piece ends with this: But lead is still found in paint, some types of fuel for older vehicles, older water pipes and in the soil.

I'd like to see some chimp in the EPA attempt to run a cost-benefit analysis on replacing all the soil in the US with astroturf.

Fingerprinting Children with the Government

News8Austin: APD distributes child ID kits

Austin Police Department officers are going all out this weekend to help keep children safe.

The warning klaxons are already going off in my mind.
Officers from the Southwest Area Command will provide parents with fingerprinting kits and documents for recording their child’s vital information.

[...]

Police say the information will be invaluable to parents if the worst happens and their child is kidnapped.

Copyright ©2005TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


Certainly having a high-quality record of child identification on file is very useful in cases of kidnappings. I recall my parents taking me to a library (probably either in Fort Sam Houston or Fort Lewis) one night when I was young. There must have been thirty or forty other families there with children and all the youngsters were fingerprinted by the military police. I didn't care much then; the colorful kids books set up to keep us entertained were what held my attention.

It is not as if had my parents skipped out on the child fingerprinting I would have no inked digits on file somewhere. I've never been arrested so I haven't been fingerprinted for that...but Texas does require it for concealed handgun licenses, one of which I have, as well as a thumbprint for a driver's license, one of which I also have. My arches, loops and whorls are tucked away in at least one government database, somewhere.

Had someone pulled me aside and explained from an anti-state, individualist point of view what I was doing, would I have cared or objected? Probably not. At that age I had the barest grasp of concepts like privacy and freedom. I might have known some practical applications ("Stay out of my room when I'm dressing!" and "But I want to stay up to play Nintendo!"), I think attempting to drill the subject down to the essentials would have been a waste of time. If my parents had tried it and intentionally made them a part of my values when growing up (or if school taught it...), then maybe I would have objected. But I didn't and the MPs cheerfully stamped me into the filing cabinet.

I wonder if these parents will think that far ahead or even care about these issues. Their concern for a swift and safe end to a crime such as kidnapping is nothing I intend to argue against, but this is one of those grey areas where the emerging intelligence of a young human ought, in my opinion, to be considered. Actually, this opened up an interesting line of thought: Does the emergence of a person's fingerprints roughly coincide with the emergence of a person's rational faculty? That, unfortunately, was quashed when I read that a fetus develops recognizable and permanent fingerprints around the 17-24 week time period. Just a bit early for a conceptual mind to be operating, methinks...

Not wanting to register a child's fingerprints with the government on the grounds of wanting to limit your child's contact with the state is admirable, but there is so much state contact a typical baby goes through that you'd have to live a non-typical life to escape most of it. Birth certificates, immunizations, tax forms, hospital records, public education, and so forth all operate - in one form or another - to gather information on the child and have it ready for state consumption. To desire as minimal contact as possible, I fear you'd need to be quite vigilant and economically agile.

In any event, I hope no parent suffers through a kidnapping and the ones that do obtain speedy and safe satisfaction. If that is through the use of state-filed fingerprinting services, I might complain about taxes being used to pay for it and I might complain about the idea of wanting to be on government records, but I won't complain about a child returned to his or her parents alive and well.

Fuck Yeah

Via QandO, I hear of something that warms my heart this cold and dreary Friday afternoon.

The Times Online: Kyoto protest beaten back by inflamed petrol traders

When 35 Greenpeace protesters stormed the International Petroleum Exchange (IPE) yesterday they had planned the operation in great detail.

What they were not prepared for was the post-prandial aggression of oil traders who kicked and punched them back on to the pavement.

"We bit off more than we could chew. They were just Cockney barrow boy spivs. Total thugs," one protester said, rubbing his bruised skull. "I've never seen anyone less amenable to listening to our point of view."

Another said: "I took on a Texan Swat team at Esso last year and they were angels compared with this lot." Behind him, on the balcony of the pub opposite the IPE, a bleary-eyed trader, pint in hand, yelled: "Sod off, Swampy."


Oh, sweet rush of justice. Assuming you did in fact invade private property against the will of the owner, you bastards got every little bit of what you deserve. In fact, considering your history, you probably didn't get enough.
Greenpeace had hoped to paralyse oil trading at the exchange in the City near Tower Bridge on the day that the Kyoto Protocol came into force. "The Kyoto Protocol has modest aims to improve the climate and we need huge aims," a spokesman said.

You may have ideas about improving the climate and some of them may even be positive, but what you attempted to do is the equivalent of a teenager wrecking a neighbor's car because the neighbor won't let him use a tree in his backyard for a tree house. Worse, you apparently don't have any concern for the potential damage caused by "paralyzing oil trading." You're obviously very aware of the widespread use of petroleum around the world; it's used for a reason, boys.

This episode demonstrates clearly that there are elements within Greenpeace who quite strenuously oppose free, voluntary trade. Though by no means is every oil and gas company innocent of rights violations...

"They grabbed us and started kicking and punching. Then when we were on the floor they tried to push huge filing cabinets on top of us to crush us." When a trader left the building shortly before 2pm, using a security swipe card, a protester dropped some coins on the floor and, as he bent down to pick them up, put his boot in the door to keep it open.

Two minutes later, three Greenpeace vans pulled up and another 30 protesters leapt out and were let in by the others.

They made their way to the trading floor, blowing whistles and sounding fog horns, encountering little resistance from security guards. Rape alarms were tied to helium balloons to float to the ceiling and create noise out of reach. The IPE conducts "open outcry" trading where deals are shouted across the pit. By making so much noise, the protesters hoped to paralyse trading.


I've got to admit some respect for the level of planning. However, both the means and the ends were repugnant. I'm certain if Big Oil were to mount a tactical strike against Greenpeace HQ, they'd be beyond furious. And the public outcry would be intense.
But they were set upon by traders, most of whom were under the age of 25. "They were kicking and punching men and women indiscriminately," a photographer said. "It was really ugly, but Greenpeace did not fight back."

Mr Beresford said: "They followed the guys into the lobby and kept kicking and punching them there. They literally kicked them on to the pavement."

Last night Greenpeace said two protesters were in hospital, one with a suspected broken jaw, the other with concussion.

Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd.


Unfortunately, since these guys have such thick heads, they won't likely realize what happened to them is what they want happened to free economic actors all over the planet if those actors don't comply with the demands they get the state to impose.

As Chez in the comments section at QandO says, "They call themsevles protestors and "storm" a private building... then wonder why people aren't "ameanable to listening to their point of view". But they're from Greenpeace and their intentions are good! How could anyone not want to hear their point of view?"

I'm grinning all over.

February 17, 2005

Drugs

Austin-American Statesman: Bills would let Texans buy prescriptions from Canada

Two Houston Democrats on Wednesday touted legislation that they say would lower the cost of prescription drugs by allowing Texans to purchase their medicine from Canada.

The idea drew criticism from the pharmaceutical industry.


Two things. One, any American ought to have the freedom to buy the drugs he or she wants from any source he or she chooses. Just as with most economic choices, the more thought and preparation invested in the decision, the more likely the outcome will fulfill their desires. This means taking the advice of knowledgeable physicians and considering the quality, reliability, and expenses of both the drug and the provider.

Two, of course Big Pharma doesn't like the idea. The more restrictions they can get imposed on the drug market in favor of domestic companies, the better off they think they are.

Under the proposal, the Texas State Board of Pharmacy would license Canadian pharmacies to sell and ship prescription drugs directly to Texans. Those pharmacies would be required to meet the same safety standards as pharmacies that operate in Texas and would be subject to random inspections.

*sigh*

It's a marginal reduction in one form of protectionism and a significant increase in another.

"The rising cost of prescription drugs is a major fiscal crisis that could lead to a major health-care crisis in the state of Texas," said Sen. Rodney Ellis.

"Texans that can't keep up with skyrocketing prices are either going without much-needed medications or taking the more risky route of buying who-knows-what from who-knows-where over the Internet."


Senator Ellis, how is buying pharmaceuticals online from a source never met any different from buying used goods from a stranger on Ebay? There is no difference.

Why do you assume Texans are idiots who can't sniff out scams, bad deals, and shoddy products? And what the hell is wrong with risk?

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the drug industry's trade organization, is critical of the Texas proposal, saying that skirting U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules can create risks.

Copyright 2001-2005 Cox Texas Newspapers, L.P. All rights reserved.


These jerks have been feeding off a domestically walled-off market for so long that they'll resort to stupid arguments the moment their market dominance is threatened.

In other news: Medical marijuana defense proposed

Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, has filed a bill to create a defense for people treated by a licensed physician who use marijuana to ease the pain of a bona fide medical condition.

Here's one of those areas where I'm somewhat conflicted. On one hand, any cracks in the state's war against marijuana consumption and possession are very welcome. On the other, I think going the medical marijuana route is a bad way to do it.
"There is ample evidence that marijuana is beneficial to people suffering from the chronic and debilitating pain associated with cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis," Naishtat said.

House Bill 658 does not legalize marijuana but would allow a defendant to prove in court that all stipulated conditions for medical use had been met. A jury would hear the evidence and determine whether the person had a valid medical defense against prosecution for the use of marijuana.


This argument skirts the property rights issue and attempts to argue, in essence, by standing on one leg on a flimsy stool. It starts from the wrong premises and ends up wrecking the coherence of the person advocating it. Should "ample evidence" be published later on showing pot to be a net harm rather than a net benefit, it allows the politicians to come in and change the policy. Empiricism in government is as corrosive to freedom as someone who thinks a plurality of a population means he has the right to govern everyone in that population.

Only the full legalization and decriminalization of marijuana on the grounds of individual freedom makes the most sense. But since so many have been scared away from individual responsibility by government propaganda, it's hard to change minds who aren't already susceptible to the pull of liberty.

In May, the Texas Medical Association adopted a policy supporting the right of physicians to discuss all treatment options, including medical marijuana, with their patients without fear of regulatory, disciplinary or criminal sanctions. The bill also would offer protections for doctors who discuss marijuana as a treatment option.

Copyright 2001-2005 Cox Texas Newspapers, L.P. All rights reserved.


That particular part of the bill would be a definite positive. Doctors should never be sanctioned for merely discussing uncommon or non-traditional treatments for a patient's problems.

Heh, and while I'm on pot, it seems not even the local cops can get past the economics of the situation.

Economic Ignorance

[Updates below.]

One other thing American society as a whole could do that would really help -- and this will never happen -- is to agree collectively and simultaneously to stop working so goddamn hard.

-The Termite, at Daily Kos

This was written in the context of a social democratic discussion on how to help families. I'll let the reader figure out the glaring problem with this kind of "solution" to the difficulties some families face today.

UPDATED 4/19/2005 10:19am
The Democratic Party: The Party of Personal Liberty?, Daily Kos Wants It All, Fiscal Responsibility?, Meteor Blades Needs Economics, The Hypocrisy of Daily Kos, Kos Continues to Amaze, For the Privatization of Freedom, Sacred Cows and Kossack Hypocrisy, and Kos Strikes Again

February 16, 2005

Upcoming Events in Austin

Lots of things I'm interested in experiencing.

I'll start with South by Southwest (SXSW) music: Aesop Rock, Mike Doughty, Drums & Tuba (who'll also be at La Zona Rosa Saturday the 19th), The Flametrick Subs with Satan's Cheerleaders, Grand Buffet, Hobble, Nashville Pussy, The Pillows, Robert Plant, Shonen Knife, and Saul Williams. Out of a massive list subject to change! I don't think I'll be plopping down $545 for a SXSW music badge though.

The SXSW Film Festival, as much as I want to check the films out, is out of my reach.

At the UT Performing Arts Center:


Ticket price information is not out on the web yet.

Alamo Drafthouse:

Contradictions on a Social Security Poll

In relation to the previous post, we have something via Kausfiles that upsets my apple cart.

USA Today: Poll: Tap wealthy on Social Security

Two-thirds of those surveyed by USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup last weekend say it would be a "good idea" to limit retirement benefits for the wealthy and to subject all wages to payroll taxes. Now, annual earnings above $90,000 aren't taxed. (Related: Poll results)

[...]

Six in 10 oppose raising Social Security taxes for everybody, a step Bush has ruled out.


Two-thirds equals 66%. Six in ten equals 60%. The actual numbers are 67% for "requiring higher income workers to pay Social Security taxes on ALL of their wages" and 60% against "increasing Social Security taxes for all workers." These two percentages of people are large enough to ensure many people held two contradictory opinions at the same time:
  1. I support raising the payroll tax on workers earning an income over $90,000 from 0% to 15.3% (12.4% for Social Security and 2.9% for Medicare).
  2. I do not support increasing the payroll tax for workers.

What to make sense of this? The Bush Administration certainly isn't helping any.
[President Bush] hasn't made it clear whether that also includes boosting the cap on wages that are taxed. "We don't want to raise taxes as a solution," White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Tuesday when asked about that issue.

Mr. Duffy, what would you say to someone who makes $100,000 a year if you imposed the payroll tax on all of his income, raising his payroll tax liability from $13,770 to $15,300? Does that qualify as a "tax increase"? Certainly fits my definition of it.

Answering Stephen Bainbridge on Social Security

Greenspan on Social Security: Plus Questions for my Fellow Conservatives

  1. Would we achieve significant actuarial improvements in the health of the Social Security system by (a) changing the method by which the benefits is calculated from being based on wages to one based on prices (see Tyler Cowen's post for details) and (b) increasing the retirement age? Social security was designed for an era in which most folks would live to receive benefits for months rather than years. Why not deal with that problem directly? (Glenn Reynolds has a solution that goes somewhat in the other direction.)
  2. If we can achieve significant savings and ensure the health of the system with the changes mentioned in # 1, is there a non-ideological reason for introducing private accounts? Even proponents of private accounts concede that the transition costs will require trillions of dollars of government borrowing. Do we conservatives really want revenge on FDR and the New Deal at that price? Personally, speaking as a small government fiscal conservative kind of guy, I'd give up personal accounts if any money thereby saved was spent on deficit reduction or, better yet, an income tax rate cut.
  3. Why aren't conservatives talking about other entitlement programs, such as Medicare, which reportedly is scheduled to go broke long before Social Security does?

I'm not a conservative, but I'll offer my opinion anyway.
  1. Of course, rationing the benefit through means-testing, raising the retirement age, etc. will slow the outlays of the program. But that doesn't address the real problem: the existence of the program in the first place.
  2. Can there ever be a non-ideological reason for any political position? Even utilitarians proceed to their conclusions through a philosophy, one that which is fundamentally predisposed against doing something that might ultimately have a net negative effect on a population's happiness. In other words, an ideological reason. Those trillions of dollars of borrowing wouldn't have to happen if the program was drawn down and abolished over time, what I think is a better way of ending the problem. Professor Bainbridge may prefer to give up personal accounts in favor of other things, but neither he nor anyone else ought to have any say over what's done with my money. *I* prefer to own it entirely and dispose of it as I wish. Part of that would include long-term savings and investment for the future.
  3. Perhaps they want to tackle one problem at a time. They may think reforming Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid is something too politically risky at this time. Conservatives may not give a damn about that portion of the budget. Or perhaps they aren't quite so "cold-hearted" as to "kick granny out in the street to die of hunger and disease." Who knows? All three programs are egregious breaches of individual rights and the functioning of free markets, two things in which at one time conservatives invested more than a few percentage points of lip service.

I find the entire mainstream debate around Social(ist) (in)Security to be a waste. If it were up to me, I'd "fix it" by getting rid of it completely and at once, returning in the most just fashion possible what's in the system to those who paid into it recently.

Your retirement is your responsibility and no matter how much you may need it, you don't have a legitimate claim on a portion of my income.

Zilker Park's Boots of Folly

Austin-American Statesman: Empty boots stand in for soldiers in exhibit

Boots lined in rows representing military personnel killed in Iraq transformed Zilker Park's Peace Grove into a sight resembling Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday, and visitors paid their respects.

The American Friends Service Committee brought "Eyes Wide Open," an exhibit about the human cost of the Iraq war, to Austin after a tour of more than 40 U.S. cities. When the exhibit opened in January 2004 in Chicago, it had 504 pairs of boots. On Tuesday, there were 1,462.

Copyright 2001-2005 Cox Texas Newspapers, L.P. All rights reserved.


I'm going to have to stop by and see this.

American Robo-Soldiers and the Costs of War

The New York Times: A New Model Army Soldier Rolls Closer to the Battlefield

The American military is working on a new generation of soldiers, far different from the army it has.

"They don't get hungry," said Gordon Johnson of the Joint Forces Command at the Pentagon. "They're not afraid. They don't forget their orders. They don't care if the guy next to them has just been shot. Will they do a better job than humans? Yes."

The robot soldier is coming.


What happens when you upgrade your tools, when they are better and easier to use? You tend to use them more because you get more out of them. It makes sense if the usage results in more efficient and pleasurable outcomes for the user.

So what is the greatest drawback of a flesh and bone military?

American military deaths. The very first thing most people worry about in wartime are the casualties: men and women killed in action, wounded in action, and taken prisoner.

It is already the case now that unmanned aerial drones are quite active in Iraq and Afghanistan, doing the jobs that riskier manned missions would otherwise have to do. I'm willing to bet good money that some missions wouldn't have been attempted if unmanned drones were not available...in no small part because no American military commander - from the captain on the ground to the Secretary of Defense - wants to have casualties and POWs hung around his or her neck.

If the political cost of going to war or engaging in warlike activities drops, I predict the willingness of those who make those military decisions will increase. If you can face the press and Congress and say, "The frontline forces we expect to use will mostly consist of robots and therefore we predict casualties to be minimal at worst," the greatest restriction on warfare is eased.

Granted, those political restrictions are not limited to just cases of KIA, WIA, MIA, and POW. There are also considerations of the war's cost.

Robots are a crucial part of the Army's effort to rebuild itself as a 21st-century fighting force, and a $127 billion project called Future Combat Systems is the biggest military contract in American history.

The military plans to invest tens of billions of dollars in automated armed forces. The costs of that transformation will help drive the Defense Department's budget up almost 20 percent, from a requested $419.3 billion for next year to $502.3 billion in 2010, excluding the costs of war. The annual costs of buying new weapons is scheduled to rise 52 percent, from $78 billion to $118.6 billion.


Technology ain't cheap, even when it's financed with stolen cash. At some point, the Department of Defense's growth will chafe so many domestic statists' asses that they'll rein in it and allocate it elsewhere. I'd expect other programs to get pushed aside within DoD to make room for these projects.

As the article's author, Tim Weiner, makes clear, even with all this spending, the US won't be in a position to deploy robo-soldiers for decades.

The robot soldier has been a dream at the Pentagon for 30 years. And some involved in the work say it may take at least 30 more years to realize in full. Well before then, they say, the military will have to answer tough questions if it intends to trust robots with the responsibility of distinguishing friend from foe, combatant from bystander.

Even the strongest advocates of automatons say war will always be a human endeavor, with death and disaster. And supporters like Robert Finkelstein, president of Robotic Technology in Potomac, Md., are telling the Pentagon it could take until 2035 to develop a robot that looks, thinks and fights like a soldier. The Pentagon's "goal is there," he said, "but the path is not totally clear."


That isn't any consolation to me, however.
The Pentagon intends for robots to haul munitions, gather intelligence, search buildings or blow them up.

All these are in the works, but not yet in battle. Already, however, several hundred robots are digging up roadside bombs in Iraq, scouring caves in Afghanistan and serving as armed sentries at weapons depots.

By April, an armed version of the bomb-disposal robot will be in Baghdad, capable of firing 1,000 rounds a minute. Though controlled by a soldier with a laptop, the robot will be the first thinking machine of its kind to take up a front-line infantry position, ready to kill enemies.

"The real world is not Hollywood," said Rodney A. Brooks, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at M.I.T. and a co-founder of the iRobot Corporation. "Right now we have the first few robots that are actually useful to the military."

Despite the obstacles, Congress ordered in 2000 that a third of the ground vehicles and a third of deep-strike aircraft in the military must become robotic within a decade.


I was not aware of this. Predator drones firing missiles and soon ground machines armed with automatic weapons.

Like I said, it's being driven by a cost-benefit analysis.

Pentagon officials and military contractors say the ultimate ideal of unmanned warfare is combat without casualties. Failing that, their goal is to give as many difficult, dull or dangerous missions as possible to the robots, conserving American minds and protecting American bodies in battle.

"Anyone who's a decision maker doesn't want American lives at risk," Mr. Brooks said.


Bingo. Politicians routinely cite military deaths as their greatest concern. No American can survive politically these days without a near-daily paean to "support the troops" and wish regularly for their safety. Take that away and the next concern becomes wealth. Mr. Brooks continues:
"It's the same question as, Should soldiers be given body armor? It's a moral issue. And cost comes in."

Money, in fact, may matter more than morals. The Pentagon today owes its soldiers $653 billion in future retirement benefits that it cannot presently pay. Robots, unlike old soldiers, do not fade away. The median lifetime cost of a soldier is about $4 million today and growing, according to a Pentagon study. Robot soldiers could cost a tenth of that or less.


Just like GM or American Airlines, the "tail" of the entity is becoming a threat to the rest of it. Despite the federal government's ability and desire to suck wealth from individuals, it cannot just do so at greater and greater levels indefinitely. Efficiency must be introduced at some points.
"It's more than just a dream now," Mr. Johnson said. "Today we have an infantry soldier" as the prototype of a military robot, he added. "We give him a set of instructions: if you find the enemy, this is what you do. We give the infantry soldier enough information to recognize the enemy when he's fired upon. He is autonomous, but he has to operate under certain controls. It's supervised autonomy. By 2015, we think we can do many infantry missions.

"The American military will have these kinds of robots. It's not a question of if, it's a question of when."

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company


As an individualist anarchist, I am sympathetic to efforts intended to reduce the costs of government and expand our spheres of freedom. However, this should not be done in order to expand the government's sphere of action, for that would run against the purpose of the latter.

War should never be cheap.

February 15, 2005

A Local Austin Dodgeball League Comes Together

[Updates below.]

Dodgeball. While I cannot vouch for everyone adjacent to and part of my age bracket, I remember this sport being one of the few saving graces of the required gym classes during my elementary, junior high, and high school years. Why? It was simple to learn and challenging to play. I am not and have never been a fan of hard-contact sports, but I make an exception for dodgeball. Nostalgia is a powerful force and being relatively good at something in the past always motivates me to attempt it later on.

One of my best friends and my current roommate discovered some folks on MySpace who were trying to get more people to join their dodgeball games. Cameron went to a match at the end of last year and felt more of his friends should show up. So I went to one in December and got hooked. Things have now progressed to a semi-organized point: we've started a MySpace Austin Dodgeball group and an Austin Dodgeball Meetup group. Lionel and Ryan have been central figures in the recent organizing activity and deserve praise for keeping the quasi-league alive.

Even if we don't have regular teams and attendance at each match varies from enough to field two teams of five to four teams of six. :)

Hopefully, this will change over time. I'm making this post as an open public invitation to Austinites who want to play old-school dodgeball. No whining, few rules, and a plenty of fun. We've been meeting at West Enfield Park (2000 Enfield Road) at the northwest intersection of MOPAC/Loop 1 and Enfield Road at the tennis courts:


We've been meeting every other Saturday at 2:00pm and the last match was last weekend, on the 12th. Exiting from southbound MOPAC, you can park along the side of the access road in front of the park. If you turn right onto Enfield Rd and drive past the tennis courts (which will be on your right), take the very next right turn to enter the residential neighborhood. Take the next right and you'll be able to park along the street next to the park's entrance.

Want to join or discuss? Leave a comment below or sign up at either of the two groups above. I'll update this post as information comes down the line.

Hope to see you play!

UPDATE 3/6/2005 11:25pm
Saturday DODGEBALL 03/12/05

WHAT: Dodgeball

Why: why not?

WHERE: Westenfield Park ( * Tennis courts* ) (THE PARK RIGHT OFF OF MOPAC AND ENFIELD, ON THE WEST SIDE OF MOPAC)

TIME: 2:00 PM to ?

***Make sure you bring something to drink I don't believe the water fountains worked. Bring dodgeballs if you have any, it's always better to have too many then not enough ***

February 14, 2005

Quote of the Day

One of the sources of the inhuman 'strength' of the Left is its refusal to acknowledge the existence of anything smaller than a mass noun. Rhetorical service to the people, masses, workers, peasants; the poor and the downtrodden are objects worthy of the Left; but love, pity and sorrow for individuals is sentiment beneath contempt.

-wretchard

February 11, 2005

Michael Knight and Hans-Hermann Hoppe

I've no horse in this race, but I'd like to point out something I discovered.

Before they retracted the (in my opinion, inappropriate) blog entry by Stephan Kinsella, the Mises blog had links up to Mr. Knight's personal Livejournal. From it, he linked to this article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Get this:

Michael Knight, the student who filed the complaint against Hoppe, said Thursday that he hoped the university's actions would deter the professor from making similar statements again.

Knight said that as a graduating senior seeking a degree in economics, he had needed to take the course and had to pay to hear such unsubstantiated opinions.

"He was stereotyping homosexuals -- we don't have any family values; we don't know how to manage our money; we basically just blow all our money immediately -- that was my take on it," said Knight, who is gay. "When the door closes and the lecture began, he needs to make sure he is remaining as politically correct as possible."

Hoppe said he clarified to the class a week later that he was making generalizations and did not mean to offend anyone. That led Knight to believe Hoppe did not take the matter seriously.


My emphasis.

Michael Knight, you are a thin-skinned little thug. Did you honestly expect your intellectual development in college to consist of absorbing objective fact from the mouths of disinterested and scholarly professors who are unable and unwilling to let slip their opinion? What a joke. You don't own Professor Hoppe, his lecture, the room he's lecturing in, or anything else of substance in this dispute, other than your easily-offended mind.

If this is your threshold of outrage, you're fucked in real life, pal.

Lew Rockwell is Wrong on Juan Cole

[Updates below.]

From the LewRockwell blog:

Historian Juan Cole of the University of Michigan has an indispensable blog on Iraq and related issues. A genuine scholar and therefore no shill for the state, he is frequently attacked by bloodthirsty conservatives. See his terrific response today to Jonah Goldberg.

My emphasis.

Is this a joke? Is Mr. Rockwell serious? He says that because someone is a "genuine scholar" that person therefore is not a "shill for the state." Put aside the logic of that for a moment.

The bulk of Professor Cole's output for the last month or so has consisted of observations on the problems of Iraqi democracy and elections - not because democracy itself causes problems, but problems with merely the legitimacy and validity of the elections! No criticism at the concept, theory, or actual outcomes of democractic nations. How does that square with Mr. Rockwell's opinion on democracy?

My Early Vote Against Everyone

The bottom line is that there is no good system for managing a government that is out of control and no system of government that successfully restrains the state.

Democracy? Whether the idea was always a mistake, it takes a really stupid leap of faith to believe that it is anything but a failure right now. The worst part of democracy is that it grants the state the luxury of believing that we approve of the system as it is.


Take Not Insults From Campaigns
We already know political campaigns amount to serial fibathons. We know that there is no way to hold these guys to their promises. We know that once they get in charge of our lives and money, we will have less freedom after they are finished with us than before. We are trapped. We also know that democracy offers no way out of this trap...

Power and Vulnerability
Some people rule out the possibility of abusive power in a democracy, which means rule by the people. But Bertrand de Jouvenel describes the reality: "The history of the democratic doctrine furnishes a striking example of an intellectual system blown about by the social wind. Conceived as the foundation of liberty, it paves the way for tyranny. Born for the purpose of standing as a bulwark against power, it ends by providing Power with the finest soil it has ever had in which to spread itself over the social field."

Lew Rockwell ought to be casting negative words in Professor Cole's direction over Iraqi democracy, not praising him.

Perhaps Mr. Rockwell meant something else, as he talks about in Shills, Paid and Unpaid:

What's interesting here is not these precise cases [of Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher taking federal money to promote Bush policies]. Governments have always known that they don't have to budget too generously when it comes to buying intellectuals. Most can be had rather cheaply.

[...]

Which raises a question more profound than why Gallagher and Williams did what they did: what excuse do the rest of the Republican intellectuals have for their behavior? Day after day, they crank out the most absurd articles and treatises in defense of the indefensible so long as it is being pushed by the Bush administration. They wallow in their hatred of what they consider leftism even as they work to build a state with the size and power that hardly any leftist in the country would call for or even welcome.

[...]

The cult of personality was fully revealed after Bush's inaugural address, which the conservatives are struggling to immortalize, as if history is made by the largest possible number of craven fulminations on blogs and websites.


But the motivations for being a statist shill are not relevant in Mr. Rockwell's logic above. As we'll see later, when I have the time to write it up, Professor Cole is no hands-off classical liberal who views the state and its activities with suspicion, regardless of who's in power. A taste:

  1. The Speech Bush Should have Given
    I'm going to make it so there won't be a lot of new jobs created, and I'm going to use the excuse of the Federal red ink to cut way back on government services that you depend on. For the super-rich, or as I call them, "my base," this Iraq war thing is truly inspired. We use it to put up the deficit to the point where the Democrats and the more bleeding heart Republicans in Congress can't dare create any new programs to help the middle classes. We all know that the super-rich--about 3 million people in our country of 295 million-- would have to pay for those programs, since they own 45 percent of the privately held wealth. I'm damn sure going to make sure they aren't inconvenienced that way for a good long time to come.
    [...from a post he made that expresses what he thought Bush should have said in 2002 about going to war in Iraq. Plenty of evidence in there for supporting welfare statism and taxation.]

UPDATED 2/15/2005 1:02pm
First, I must note that it isn't as if Professor Cole is incapable of criticizing the United States government. He is quote capable

Bush has sworn an oath to uphold the US Constitution. He won't. But Congress can. It should insist that the sunset provisions of the so-called "Patriot Act" (which should be called the "Abrogation of the Constitution Act") be allowed to expire in 2005 and that the extremely dangerous "Patriot Act II" be completely rolled back. Republicans who care about the Constitution should join Democrats who care about the Constitution in putting a stake through the heart of this abomination. A noble 200-year-old experiment in civil liberties and democracy, for which US troops are giving their lives, must not be ended by a single act of terrorism and a clique of authoritarians in Washington.

I just want to make it clear that had Lew Rockwell taken a little more time in considering his comments, he'd realize how dumb they sound from the standpoint of someone who values individual rights and the free market and dislikes nearly every form of state intrusion in our lives (as he posits himself). I will grant, however, that the vast bulk of Professor Cole's blogging the last few months has restricted itself to the situation in Iraq and foreign policy commentary directed against the Bush Administration, leaving less to mine regarding his stance on domestic politics. From the extended reading I've done, he seems to be far more reasonable in his discussion of events than his more vehement critics suggest.

Statements from Juan Cole that, while they may not qualify as "shilling" for the USG, are still in support of government activities that I'd expect Mr. Rockwell to recoil at and condemn:


I restricted myself to posts Professor Cole made prior to February 4th. I only went back to November 1st, so I assume he wrote more on the national election. I just don't have the time to go back and pick out a small fraction of his comments to illustrate his support of the State, which should be obvious at this point.

February 10, 2005

A Nuclear North Korea

Not really new news...

The AP via ABCNews: N. Korea Announces It Has Nuclear Weapons

North Korea's "nuclear weapons will remain (a) nuclear deterrent for self-defense under any circumstances," the [North Korean Foreign Ministry] said. It said Washington's alleged attempt to topple the North's regime "compels us to take a measure to bolster its nuclear weapons arsenal in order to protect the ideology, system, freedom and democracy chosen by its people."

[...]

For months, North Korea has lashed out at what it calls U.S. attempts to demolish the regime of leader Kim Jong Il and meddle in the human rights situation in the North.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


I wonder what it's like to work at that place. Fundamentally, it's no different from working at any other government agency in the world, but the degree of deception is so much greater. Though it is entirely possible the person who actually wrote/typed that down believes in grossly warped concepts of "freedom," "chosen," and "human rights," I can't simply assume he or she is willfully ignorant of the reality on the ground, where those three have largely been left to the whim of the commies in power.

I shall toast the day the government of North Korea falls and the individuals within it are reintroduced to humanity. I expect that day to come in my lifetime, the second falling of a "Berlin Wall." The survivors will walk into the daylight, blinking and wondrous. The autobiographies, personal anecdotes, and insider's histories will pour out years later, adding further weight to the heavy record of empirical failure generated by communism, socialism, central planning, and government-forced social engineering.

I predict that even after this occurs, the vast majority of the world won't absorb the most crucial lesson from the event. They'll cluck their teeth about "tyranny" and "dictatorships" and condemn the obvious examples of human rights abuse while the only slightly less obvious examples lay strewn about them. They'll say they're against any government treating the citizens within it's borders like cattle, like tools to be used to some end...and then go right ahead and advocate that very same ideology be used in their own society.

Previous posts on North Korea, not all of which I'm in agreement with: North Korea Whips It Out, North Korea, Cut Off The Aid!, North Korea Formally Welcomed to the Political Realm, and When the Levy Breaks...

February 09, 2005

Boo-Hoo to Will Wynn; Talking to the Reps

News8Austin: President's budget could hurt Austin

Mayor Will Wynn said President Bush's budget cuts could have a devastating affect on Austin.

The mayor said the city could lose $4 million in Community Development Block Grant funds.

The money goes towards creating transitional neighborhoods and affordable housing.


Mayor Wynn wasn't quoted directly in this article, but the Austin Business Journal has more: Wynn denounces proposed community development cuts
"I've been in the position of making difficult budget cuts, and I understand the need to establish a balance, but this is the wrong place to cut," Wynn says. "As a community, we're only as successful as the least fortunate among us."

Mayor Will Wynn has just spit in the face of every single Austinite who has a legitimate job, has a home or apartment, and produces something of value. His distaste for individual accomplishment and desire to see everyone reduced to lowest-common-denominator status is disgraceful, especially since I have no doubt he'd rush to "clarify his statement" should it be challenged to his face in order to weasel his way out of standing hard for something that goes so totally against what America used to symbolize. Does he think I'm - shit - he's no more successful than the bums begging for change every weekend on 6th Street or the homeless sucking up government funds at the ARCH shelter?
Austin's CDBG program is distributing more than $9.5 million this year. Recipients of CDBG funds offer services such as child care, affordable housing and services for the elderly. City officials say that if Bush's proposal is approved by lawmakers, the amount of money given to local CDBG recipients could be cut in half.

© 2005 American City Business Journals Inc.


KXAN: Mayors Questioning New Budget
Under the president's plan, Austin stands to lose half of its community block development grant money - $4 million.

"If we lose a tremendous amount of money in this community, how in the world are we going to make up $4 million that's lost? That's so difficult," Meals on Wheels Executive Director Dan Pruett said.

Austin's elderly population is expected to take the biggest hit.

The Austin Area Urban League helps 600 households a year with emergency home repairs. Many of them are elderly, on social security and disabled.

"They need that money to help with just basic services. Sometimes we see individuals that are in crisis when you have plumbing backing up you don't want that in your home," Austin Area Urban League Interim President Grova Jones said.

The proposed cuts also impact those who don't have a home to call their own.

Austin's Lifeworks program that reaches out to homeless teens is also facing a loss of funding.

"We see hundreds of kids every year make that transition from street life to self sufficiency, but most of them can't do it by themselves. They need a place to live. The $4 million that's spent here in the community through CDBG funds is enormous prevention work for this community," Lifeworks Executive Director Susan McDowell said.


Why would anyone want their lifeline tied to the state? Don't they understand that the foul and shifting winds of politics can change and leave them stranded, dependent on services and funds they never had a right to? It seems like such a dangerous and risky enterprise...until you realize the opposition to cutting those programs can be so fierce as to cower the cutters towards another direction.
In the meantime, those concerned about proposed cuts should contact their U.S. Senator and Representative.

© Copyright 2000 - 2005 WorldNow and KXAN. All Rights Reserved.


*opens e-mail program*

Dear Senator John Cornyn, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Representative Lloyd Doggett:
  1. President Bush submitted his budget for the new year and I'm concerned. I'm concerned that despite all the hype the Bush Administration has nurtured, promoted, and distributed, the budget doesn't cut enough. The $2.5 trillion-plus in spending he proposes (not including military expenses in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other things) is too high all-around and the cuts too paltry and too few. In fact, to approach a level of even modest improvement, you'd have to grind a chainsaw into the two-thirds of the budget that truly deserve hasty and complete deaths: Social Security and Medicare.

    I am "concerned."

    Show me your wicked representative skills and dance to my tune as I command you to do my bidding! You represent me! Take my desires into account, you bastards! Wade deeply into the federal budget and kill the growth as it passes by your view! Prevent any more metastization! Once the cancer's advance has stopped, engage offensively! Righteously lay waste to That Which Is UnConstitutional! Begin by consulting the CATO Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and force the Collective through the limited government strainer!

    And then kill that, too!

With sincerity beyond the bounds of parody,
-Charles Hueter

Editorial Crap

Austin-American Statesman: It's not politics – it's health

When Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison recently pointed out that Texas forfeited $104.6 million in federal dollars designated for children's health insurance, she was criticized for politicizing the Children's Health Insurance Program.

I don't know who made those remarks, but I think it's a dumb way to criticize a politician...
It's true that Hutchison, a Republican, is seriously contemplating a run for governor against Rick Perry. But those who explain away Hutchison's candid remarks as political grandstanding miss the point: Texas, with the highest rate of uninsured children in the nation, can't afford to return health insurance dollars. That money is needed for children whose parents work, but can't afford to buy their kids private health insurance.

Oh please. The editorial says tax money ought to be coerced from citizens in order to pay for children's health insurance? That isn't "politics"? What the fuck else is it?
Congress established CHIP to assist families in those circumstances. These are working people with low to moderate incomes. Only their children are covered by CHIP, which is financed mostly with federal funds, with a few state dollars added.

What does it matter which level of government allocates the money? Ultimately, it's all taken from individuals. It's just slightly more odious that people utterly uninvolved in the happenings of Texas children have to pay for their health care.
Perry's office is correct that the blame for hundreds of millions of dollars Texas received - but failed to spend between 1998 and 2001 - lies elsewhere. President Bush, who was governor when Congress passed CHIP, decided not to call a special session, which lost valuable time in setting up CHIP. Since then, Texas has been playing catch up. The rules of the game allow states three years to spend their yearly allotment of federal dollars.

This isn't "politics" as well?
But the fault for the most recent loss of more than $100 million comes on Perry's watch. With his blessing, the Legislature in 2003 drastically cut the CHIP program — while sitting atop a $104 million surplus of federal money. The cuts eliminated all dental and vision benefits and made it tougher for children to qualify for CHIP and remain on the program.

Presumably, it was done to save money. The truth is that Texas leaders could have used every penny of their federal money and still balanced the budget without raising taxes.


I take this isn't "politics," either.
As a result of the cuts, Texas CHIP rolls have declined by about 175,200 children. The state enrolls about 332,000 children in CHIP, but there are tens of thousands more who are eligible but not enrolled.

The fewer people on the welfare rolls (direct handouts, subsidies, "free" clinics, etc.), the better. That includes children and the elderly. You and I are not responsible for the well-being of others unless we choose to bear that burden or unless we have wronged the others in question.
Our loss is another state's gain. When Texas doesn't spend its money, it goes to New Jersey, New Mexico and Mississippi, among others.

Pigs, fighting over stolen slop.
So, let's stop shooting the messenger and start spending our CHIP dollars on Texas kids.

Copyright 2001-2005 Cox Texas Newspapers, L.P. All rights reserved.


I'm guessing this also doesn't qualify as "politics." What nonsense. As if the concern for children somehow transcends the morality of what the thugs and looters want to do - and have done - with you and your property. This isn't some quest to take the high road, elevated above the gritty struggle of state politics.

This is state politics.

February 08, 2005

Kevin Drum is a Despicable Fucking Asshole

[Updates below.]

Radley Balko nails it:

Drum says this is a case of "pragmatism defeating libertarianism."

Y'know, I've been told that there was a time when liberals gave a damn about individual rights. I guess that time has passed.

There are all kinds of problems with the NY Times article, but let's assume for a moment that it's accurate. It's too bad that people like Drum will defend to the death what you're permitted to do behind your bedroom door (and rightly so), but they can't bring themselves to apply the same principles to permit a business owner to do what he pleases within the walls of his own establishment. Worse, they can't see the connection between the two.

It wasn't too long ago that Drum was bitching and moaning about an eminent domain case in which the state was snatching private property from some poor people to give to retail outlets in order to generate more tax revenue.

Well, here's a clue, Kevin: Either the state respects rights of property owners, or it doesn't.


Though it wouldn't take much on my part to dig up posts of Mr. Balko's in the past that cast unfavorable light on this support of rights-absolutism, he is on the right track here, especially near the end:
It's infuriating, really. An entrepeneur invests the resources, sweat, risk, and hours to start a business, then people like Drum come along -- people who didn't risk a damn thing -- and demand laws that force that entrepeneur serve them on their terms.

My take on smoking bans:
It's a gross violation of private property, self-ownership, and the freedom to associate. It says that within the city limits, you don't actually own your property because the Austin City Council can simply vote to say what can and cannot happen on your grounds. It says people cannot be trusted to make decisions on their own and the government must step in to fix things. It says all this and it gives a big Fuck You to the principle of personal responsibility.

UPDATED 5/9/2005 9:03am
The Additional Tyranny - The New Austin Smoking Ban Passes

UPDATED 8/30/2005 1:48pm
Deadline for the Austin Smoking Ordinance

Diary of a Wacko

Sydney Morning Herald: Capitalism takes a haircut

A market by definition involves choices. Soon there will be no choices, or few: one owner of razors, one owner of shaving foam, one newspaper publisher, one toilet tissue maker and one cable television operator.

The global monopoly is upon us, and the golden age of the competitive market is a fading memory. The anti-trust rules have been found wanting.

Karl Marx appears to have triumphed, but in a way rather different than the great buffoon expected. Instead of the state owning the means of production, the lone mega-corporation will. In tandem, the dictatorship of the proletariat will become a reality: everything we see and do will be governed by the ghastly tastes, whims and fetishes of the masses, before whose rapacious demands the mega-corp will duly roll over and deliver.

[...]

The rise of the monopoly spells the end of the daytrading profession. There wont be anything worth investing in any more - only vast deals between huge corporations available to a few hedge funds and unpleasantly rich individuals. All the IPOs will be stitched up, and then swallowed up.

With this grim thought in mind, I decided to take a break from investing. I went fishing. I didn't catch anything, but it took my mind off the coming days of global control by three giant, profoundly ugly corporations. Somewhat irrationally, I suddenly wished they would all be fragmented, smashed apart, into little pieces big enough for that guppie to eat.

[...]

How does one survive in a society in which everything one does is pre-ordained and pre-planned by a huge corporation?

[...]

Over a coffee at Starbucks, and a burger at McDonald's, I decided that one must choose: the mega-corp, or anarchy.

I veered towards anarchy. I yearned for the destruction of trade barriers, and western markets opened to the teeming producers of the Third World.

Only then would we day traders find some proper investment opportunities in the millions of little companies that produce things more cheaply and efficiently than the lumbering dinosaurs of the mature industrial countries. In Kenyan coffee and Ghanaian tomatoes. In Mozambique sugar and Filipino bananas.

Of course, I fully acknowledge that removing trade barriers worldwide would usher in a period of widespread anarchy, in which millions of western workers hitherto propped up by tax subsidies would lose their jobs.

[...]

We day traders must stick together and campaign for more choice! More competition! More free markets!

Copyright © 2005. The Sydney Morning Herald.


I'm not certain who wrote this (the area where there'd be a byline says "Non-workers of the world unite, behind James Bone."), but a clearer case of emotional contamination of one's thought processes I cannot dig up at the moment. Whoever it is is dead right on busting trade barriers and dead wrong on the inevitability of free market monopolization. When you have free entry into the market, not even the biggest and most dominant industry player will remain on top forever.

After 10 Years, No Handgun Bloodbath in Texas

El Paso Times: Concealed gun law turns 10

As the Texas Legislature gears up for the biennial legislative push, the issue of concealed weapons has become just another routine program in need of tweaking.

"When it passed, there was a big hue and cry about blood in the streets," concealed handgun permit holder Harold Shirley said of Texas' decade-old experience with letting residents carry hidden firearms. "Obviously, that hasn't happened."

Shirley is a retired sergeant major who settled in El Paso for the climate, recreational opportunities and low crime rate. And he is one of about 2,500 El Pasoans who have earned concealed handgun licenses since September 1995. Statewide, more than 225,000 Texans have concealed handgun licenses, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which issues the licenses.

That is more than 225,000 too many for Northeast El Pasoan Jessie Gonzalez.


PAUSE!

What do you think Jessie Gonzalez will base her objections upon?

  1. The collective ownership society ought to flex in regards to the defense of the individual?
  2. The impracticality of deontological notions towards self-ownership?
  3. The potential negative externalities of firearms in the hands of non-law enforcement actors?
  4. They make society more dangerous?

*drumroll*

Concealed handguns "are no good," she said. "You might be around children, and that's very dangerous."

She said that although concealed weapons aren't allowed in certain places and their carriers are licensed, she would still feel safer if they weren't around.

"People shouldn't be in a restaurant with a gun, period," she said. "I work in a hospital, and they don't let anybody in with a gun at all, so, yes, that's safer."

Copyright © 2005 El Paso Times, a Gannett Co., Inc. newspaper.


I have no idea whether Charles K. Wilson, the author of this article, deliberately distorted Miss Gonzalez's remarks of left them to stand on their own precarious legs. What is presented here is just awful. I wish I didn't have reason to view this as indicative of wider attitudes, even in Texas.

Via Disaster Center (data from 1994-2000) and Texas Crime Reports (2001-2003), here are some relevant statistics on Texas crime rates since the concealed handgun law went into effect:

YearPopulationViolentPropertyMurderForcible RapeRobberyAggravated Assault
199318,031,000137,4191,023,6122,1479,92240,46984,881
199418,378,000129,838949,3872,0229,10237,64381,071
199518,724,000124,303940,0331,6938,56333,66780,380
199619,128,000123,270968,7321,4778,37632,80480,613
199719,439,000117,126948,2311,3278,01130,52277,266
199819,760,000111,566898,4961,3467,91328,67773,630
199920,044,000112,306896,2611,2177,61429,40574,070
200020,852,000113,653919,6581,2387,85630,25774,302

As can be clearly seen, crime dropped after the adoptation of the law. This is not to say the law caused the drop in crime. It just emphasizes that relatively educated humans who at least have rudimentary concepts of personal responsibility and respect for individual rights won't go on killing sprees at the drop of a whim if they are allowed (with several nontrivial restrictions, mind you) to carry handguns in public.

I do have a a concealed carry license but I don't use it much because I don't go out in public with my Browning Hi-Power very often at all. TASB, my employer, prohibits individuals from bringing firearms into it's buildings, so for the bulk of my time away from home, I voluntarily disarm. I don't make too many shopping trips, but when I do, they aren't usually in high-risk areas. I never carry when I go out with friends to bars.

I don't think I ought to have to register my handgun ownership with the state in order to carry in public, but I did this before my recent political conversion. My father offering to pay for the instructional course and fees as a gift, so that helped, too.

The Jack Bauer Power Hour

Updates below.]

Last night, 24 completed the 2:00pm-3:00pm timeframe. I enjoyed the episode, especially the reintroduction of Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard). However, of all the basic plot holes and questions I have with this hour (a comprehensive goofs and nitpicks guide is online), there is something I'd like to note that immediately bothered me.

I cannot remember exactly, but the show said there were something like 100-105 nuclear reactors in the United States. The Department of Energy has this to say:

As of August 3, 2004, there are 104 commercial nuclear generating units that are fully licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to operate in the United States. Of these 104 reactors, 69 are categorized as pressurized water reactors (PWRs) totaling 65,100 net megawatts (electric) and 35 units are boiling water reactors (BWR) totaling 32,300 net megawatts (electric).

That comes to 97,400 megawatts. DOE also says nuclear plants contributed 19.9 percent of year-to-date total net generation of from January 2004 through October 2004.

Now, during the last episode, Secretary of Defense James Heller (William Devane), informed the President that all but six of the nuclear reactors in America were no longer under the threat of terrorist control by the override device. How was this done? Edgar Stiles (Louis Lombardi) was able to hack into the reactor's control systems and shut them down. So, in a matter of minutes, CTU cut off nearly 20% of the nation's energy supply, right in the middle of the workday.

Not a single character as far as I can remember spoke up to mention this or to warn of the vast consequences of such a massive disruption in the power grid. To illustrate the impact in individual states:

  • Alabama relies on 2 nuclear plants (5 reactors) for 23-24% of it's power
  • Arizona relies on 1 nuclear plant (3 reactors) for 31-34% of it's power
  • Arkansas relies on 1 nuke plant (2 reactors) for 31% of it's power
  • California relies on 2 nuclear plants (4 reactors) for 19% of it's power
  • Connecticut relies on 1 nuclear plant (2 reactors) for 53-48% of it's power
  • Florida relies on 3 nuclear plants (5 reactors) for 15-17% of it's power
  • Georgia relies on 2 nuclear plants (4 reactors) for 27-25% of it's power
  • Illinois relies on 6 nuclear plants (11 reactors) for 49-48% of it's power ("if Illinois suddenly became an independent country, its nuclear capacity would rank 8th in the World")
  • Iowa relies on 1 nuclear plant (1 reactor) for 10-11% of it's power
  • Kansas relies on 1 nuclear plant (1 reactor) for 19% of it's power
  • Louisiana relies on 2 nuclear plants (2 reactors) for 18-20% of it's power
  • Maryland relies on 1 nuclear plant (2 reactors) for 26% of it's power
  • Massachusetts relies on 1 nuclear plant (1 reactor) for 10-14% of it's power
  • Michigan relies on 3 nuclear plants (4 reactors) for 25-26% of it's power
  • Minnesota relies on 2 nuclear plants (3 reactors) for 24-26% of it's power
  • Mississippi relies on 1 nuclear plant (1 reactor) for 24-19% of it's power
  • Missouri relies on 1 nuclear plant (1 reactor) for 11-10% of it's power
  • Nebraska relies on 2 nuclear plants (2 reactors) for26-32% of it's power
  • New Hampshire relies on 1 nuclear plant (1 reactor) for 53-58% of it's power
  • New Jersey relies on 3 nuclear plants (4 reactors) for 53-50% of it's power
  • New York relies on 4 nuclear plants (6 reactors) for 30-28% of it's power (" In the electricity blackout of August 14, 2003, all 6 of New York’s reactors were shut down.")
  • North Carolina relies on 3 nuclear plants (5 reactors) for 32-31% of it's power
  • Ohio relies on 2 nuclear plants (2 reactors) for 6-7% of it's power
  • Pennsylvania relies on 5 nuclear plants (9 reactors) for 36-37% of it's power
  • South Carolina relies on 4 nuclear plants (7 reactors) for 53-55% of it's power
  • Tennessee relies on 2 nuclear plants (3 reactors) for 26-29% of it's power
  • Texas relies on 2 nuclear plants (4 reactors) for 9% of it's power
  • Vermont relies on 1 nuclear plant (1 reactor) for 73-74% of it's power
  • Virginia relies on 2 nuclear plants (2 reactors) for 33-37% of it's power
  • Washington State relies on 1 nuclear plant (1 reactor) for 8-9% of it's power
  • Wisconsin relies on 2 nuclear plants (3 reactors) for 20-21% of it's power

Assuming the producers of 24 want to make the show acceptably realistic, they want us to believe out of that list, only 6 are still operational. I cannot remember how they were distributed around the US, but the spread looked to be fairly wide and random all over the country.

We're talking massive disruptions here, folks. Hopefully, the show won't gloss over this in future episodes. Of course, according to the hints dropped at the end of 3pm, it looks like at least one reactor melts down, so I don't know how that'll compete with the news that almost a fifth of the nation's energy capacity (and in some cases far more for individual states) has been removed from the grid.

Just a note from a reality-obsessed viewer. :)

Previous posts on 24: 24 and Torture and Fox's 24: A Libertarian Nightmare

UPDATE 2/22/2005 11:25am
When Bosses Attack

UPDATED 3/28/2005 10:42pm
Inner Outrage; The Enslavement of Behrooz Araz

UPDATED 4/18/2005 11:01pm
The Total Erosion of the Fourth Wall and The 24 Embrace of Contemporary Politics

UPDATED 5/2/2005 10:58pm
Humanity Revealed in FOX's 24

UPDATED 5/17/2005 2:07pm
Quickie '24' Blog Items with an Emphasis on Richard Heller

UPDATED 3/13/2006 9:47am
My Take on FOX's '24' Ethics

February 04, 2005

Ruth McClendon Wants Municipal Drug-Free Zones

Representative Ruth McClendon has filed HB 65:

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:

SECTION 1. Subchapter D, Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code, is amended by adding Section 481.142 to read as follows:

Sec. 481.142. MUNICIPAL DRUG-FREE ZONES.

  1. (a) This section applies only to a municipality that has a population of more than 1.1 million and is wholly or partially located in a county with a population of less than 1.4 million.
  2. (b) The governing body of a municipality by ordinance may designate one or more geographic areas within the municipality as a drug-free zone and authorize the issuance of an order that temporarily excludes a person from the drug-free zone for:
    1. (1) 90 days if the person has been arrested by a peace officer of the municipality for an offense under this subchapter committed in the drug-free zone; and
    2. (2) one year if the person has been subsequently convicted of that offense.

The rest is academic. The "Subchapter D" referred to is the section on "Offenses and Penalties" under the Texas Controlled Substances Act. This encompasses everything from § 481.101 to § 481.141:
SECTION 481.101. CRIMINAL CLASSIFICATION
SECTION 481.102. PENALTY GROUP 1
SECTION 481.1021. PENALTY GROUP 1-A
SECTION 481.103. PENALTY GROUP 2
SECTION 481.104. PENALTY GROUP 3
SECTION 481.105. PENALTY GROUP 4
SECTION 481.106. CLASSIFICATION OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE ANALOGUE
SECTION 481.108. PREPARATORY OFFENSES
SECTION 481.111. EXEMPTIONS
SECTION 481.112. OFFENSE: MANUFACTURE OR DELIVERY OF SUBSTANCE IN PENALTY GROUP 1
SECTION 481.1121. OFFENSE: MANUFACTURE OR DELIVERY OF SUBSTANCE IN PENALTY GROUP 1-A
SECTION 481.113. OFFENSE: MANUFACTURE OR DELIVERY OF SUBSTANCE IN PENALTY GROUP 2
SECTION 481.114. OFFENSE: MANUFACTURE OR DELIVERY OF SUBSTANCE IN PENALTY GROUP 3 OR 4
SECTION 481.115. OFFENSE: POSSESSION OF SUBSTANCE IN PENALTY GROUP 1
SECTION 481.1151. OFFENSE: POSSESSION OF SUBSTANCE IN PENALTY GROUP 1-A
SECTION 481.116. OFFENSE: POSSESSION OF SUBSTANCE IN PENALTY GROUP 2
SECTION 481.117. OFFENSE: POSSESSION OF SUBSTANCE IN PENALTY GROUP 3
SECTION 481.118. OFFENSE: POSSESSION OF SUBSTANCE IN PENALTY GROUP 4
SECTION 481.119. OFFENSE: MANUFACTURE, DELIVERY, OR POSSESSION OF MISCELLANEOUS SUBSTANCES
SECTION 481.120. OFFENSE: DELIVERY OF MARIHUANA
SECTION 481.121. OFFENSE: POSSESSION OF MARIHUANA
SECTION 481.122. OFFENSE: DELIVERY OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE OR MARIHUANA TO CHILD
SECTION 481.123. DEFENSE TO PROSECUTION FOR OFFENSE INVOLVING CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE ANALOGUE
SECTION 481.124. OFFENSE: POSSESSION OR TRANSPORT OF CERTAIN CHEMICALS WITH INTENT TO MANUFACTURE CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE
SECTION 481.125. OFFENSE: POSSESSION OR DELIVERY OF DRUG PARAPHERNALIA
SECTION 481.126. OFFENSE: ILLEGAL BARTER, EXPENDITURE, OR INVESTMENT
SECTION 481.127. OFFENSE: UNAUTHORIZED DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION
SECTION 481.128. OFFENSE AND CIVIL PENALTY: COMMERCIAL MATTERS
SECTION 481.129. OFFENSE: FRAUD
SECTION 481.130. PENALTIES UNDER OTHER LAW
SECTION 481.131. OFFENSE: DIVERSION OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE PROPERTY OR PLANT
SECTION 481.132. MULTIPLE PROSECUTIONS
SECTION 481.133. OFFENSE: FALSIFICATION OF DRUG TEST RESULTS
SECTION 481.134. DRUG-FREE ZONES
SECTION 481.135. MAPS AS EVIDENCE OF LOCATION OR AREA
SECTION 481.136. OFFENSE: UNLAWFUL TRANSFER OR RECEIPT OF CHEMICAL PRECURSOR
SECTION 481.137. OFFENSE: TRANSFER OF PRECURSOR SUBSTANCE FOR UNLAWFUL MANUFACTURE
SECTION 481.138. OFFENSE: UNLAWFUL TRANSFER OR RECEIPT OF CHEMICAL LABORATORY APPARATUS
SECTION 481.139. OFFENSE: TRANSFER OF CHEMICAL LABORATORY APPARATUS FOR UNLAWFUL MANUFACTURE
SECTION 481.140. USE OF CHILD IN COMMISSION OF OFFENSE
SECTION 481.141. MANUFACTURE OR DELIVERY OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE CAUSING DEATH OR SERIOUS BODILY INJURY

I was about to title this post "Ruth McClendon Needs Slaves" but I realized she already has them in the form of the people she wishes to exclude from the zones described in the bill. Otherwise, why would she think she had the right to delegate to certain municipal governments the right to ban people from those "clearly defined geographic areas" who use, possess, sell, produce, and distribute drugs (among many, many other things)? Quite obviously to me, she thinks either she owns them or the government owns them. Regardless, they are to be treated by the state as slaves.

Taylor's Liquor Problem

News8Austin: Liquor by the glass ballot

Right now, you can buy liquor in Taylor, but you have to go to a liquor store to get it.

[...]

On Saturday, voters will decide whether the liquor stays in a store or branches out to restaurants. And a consultant believes Taylor needs alcohol sales in order to grow.

"The recommendation of that report was that it would be difficult to attract some of the larger chain restaurants, if we didn't have liquor by the drink," Assistant City Manager Charles Cunningham said.


Oh for fuck's sake. If the establishment-based prohibition was on selling something ubiquitous like salt, the immediate (and proper) counter-argument wouldn't be that letting people sell salt as they see fit would help grow the local economy.

It would be, You know what, you gawddamn city tyrants? You can plant your mouth to my ass because you don't own me! I would pay dearly to see even a plurality of the City of Taylor deliver that chorus to their "leaders." I cannot stand how this stuff is left to a vote, as if right and wrong and fact and fiction are up to a majority to decide.

Of course, even the people who ought to know better cannot remove their hands from others' wallets:

"One of the main things we're after is to keep Taylor's dining out dollars and sales tax dollars in Taylor. So, many of our citizens will go to Round Rock or Austin to eat out," Joe Naizer with Taylor Citizens for Better Restaurants said.

Copyright ©2005TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


The only grain of validity in this is the acknowledgement of the obvious: people will generally avoid taxes, regulation, and bans in order to satisfy their needs. Everything else is tainted by protectionism and redistributionism. You want "better restaurants" Mr. Naizer? Demand the government stop interfering with their operations, thereby artificially raising their business costs. You want to "keep Taylor's dining out dollars" local? Remind the food industry in Taylor that it is up to them to attract and retain business once the state has left them alone.

Horror Quote of the Day

Under the current system, without any changes to it, you aren't paying for anyone else's retirement. The U.S. Treasury is cutting the checks. And no— the treasury isn't drawing the checks from your personal checking account.

You might like to think the money collected under the payroll tax is somehow "yours" but it isn't, and it never was.

-some asshole named "s9" on Wizbang


To justify this stinker, he agrees that the claim "it's my property" does not constitute a sound argument against taxation, claims based on natural property rights don't work against taxation, and the claim "I deserve my property" doesn't work either.

One who strains to break the bounds of reality as ardently as this fool ought not to be graced with a reply, but I'll point out one thing that should have, at the very least, given the moron pause before posting the comment: If you are going to assert the income I earn from any employment is not mine, if you claim that my productive work does not belong to me, then what right do I have to use what I earn without the consent of the state?

February 02, 2005

Happy 100th Birthday, Ayn Rand

[Updates below.]

The Web is alive with Ayn Rand tributes.

I own The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (I read them in that order, still haven't finished OPAR), and have just ordered Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal and Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology from Amazon.com (the prices were too good to pass up). Though I am far from a thorough understanding of Objectivism and the concepts and axioms it works from, I hope to expand upon what I do understand over the next year.

I consider her contributions to the philosophies of freedom and reason to be critically important and worthy of serious study. Her writing offered to me, for the first time, a moral and objective defense of free-market capitalism, the system I had found myself gravitating towards but found unable to uphold in anything but consequentialist and utilitarian terms. Those terms are useful in debate, but I felt the distinct lack of an ethical dimension to my defenses.

Her work led me to the other nether regions of libertarianism and thus to the Austrian School and anarcho-capitalism. I still find the arguments in Roy Child's The Epistemological Basis of Anarchism: An Open Letter to Objectivists and Libertarians and Objectivism and the State: An Open Letter to Ayn Rand to be very strong objections to the state from a background of Objectivist ethics. I am by no means a "Randian" or a Leonard Peikoff-blessed ARIan or any of the other perjoratives tossed around about some of the Objectivists out there and I do agree that there are at least some areas in her philosophy that either I'm not ready yet to accept or are at the very least confusing or contradictory, but I think that on the whole, she's more right than wrong.

I'll end with a great quote Objectivism Online posted:

In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours.

You were a remarkable human.

UPDATED 11:02pm
Here are a few more I came across:

  • The Rand Centennial, Posted by Jonathan Wilde at Catallarchy
  • Publius at Gods of the Copybook Headings and the Reason Hit & Run blog (links via Jay Jardine)
  • Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey
  • The Ting Blog has personal observations
  • Disaffiliates has a color photo I've never seen of Miss Rand before
  • Girls on the Gridiron: "I pick [Atlas Shrugged] up every time I forget why I work."
  • Amardeep Singh is not a fan and seems to take a very typical "mainstream" approach to the state
  • Jason Kuznicki : "Incredibly, egoism taught me how to make friends. Egoism."
  • Bud Parr can't understand why The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged still sell more than 100,000 copies per year
  • The Urban Grind says AS was the one book that "had the most profound effect" on her life
  • ObjectivismOnline has Happy 100th to America's Greatest Moral Philosopher, by David Veksler
  • ...the trailing edge: "...Objectivism as a whole never seemed to have much to do with real life."
  • Richard Bluestein has more photos
  • Byron Henderson: "I gave Ayn Rand the best years of my life. I grew up and away from her, but I will never forget the time we spent together."
  • Stephen Bainbridge: "As for Objectivism and Objectivists, they have always struck me as being the worst of the many brands of libertarian kooks."
  • Bureaucrash comments
  • News from Anarchistan:
    Rand lit the lamp of freedom amidst a modern dark-age of totalitarianism, facist and communist dictatorships, and the prevailing belief in collectivism. The one who lit a lamp rather than just curse the darkness.

  • Fontana Labs at Unfogged: "I find her interesting only because I find the cultlike adoration utterly baffling."
  • The Musings of Justine: "I wonder what the atheistic Ayn thought when she met God face-to-face..."
  • RadicalWacko: "Tonight I drink a toast to a remarkable woman with a remarkable mind who can truly hold claim to being part of the “motor of the world"."
  • A = A (+/- c8h10n4o2): "Ayn Rand gave us an ideal for which to strive."
  • Josh Poulson relates his story
  • David Innes:
    To that extent (only) I can appreciate her as an early pioneer of the 60's era "If it feels good do it" mentality. If my only two choices today were assembly-line-age conformity or Randian egoism I'd go with Rand every time. But that's like saying if I had a choice between the Guy Lombardo's Orchestra and the New Christie Minsterals I'd buy a tambourine. Rand isn't the only choice anymore and almost every other choice is objectively better in the sense that they offer more ways to interact without fundamentally compromising one's integrity.

  • New Anarchist Man: "Overall, the contribution of Rand to the libertarian movement was not very much."
  • George Mason at the Sixth Column:
    Superficial people condemn almost every real and imagined aspect of this woman and her work, whether they have read anything she wrote or not. Some very fortunate persons have read, absorbed, studied, digested, and applied the principles she presented so clearly, and their lives have changed greatly, for the better. Some have tried to take on the principles she wrote about by short-cutting the learning process, and they crashed, sourly joining her detractors.

  • Division of Labour:
    I spent my senior year in college completely enthralled with Rand, and then like so many others I mostly got over it. Still, I reread her books every few years which is more than I can say for any other writer. Because of Rand, I refuse to cede the moral highground to leftists who peddle an ideology of self-sacrificial service to others.

  • TIQTOQ:
    By the time I got to "Atlas Shrugged", I was tired of reading about her army of tall, cold, brilliant and miserably driven capitalists. Hell, even Rand was addicted to "Charlie's Angels"! But, props must be given.

  • The Idyllist:
    "...I'd like to take a moment to doff my cap at the old girl, who would have been 100 today, for showing me that it was possible to write page-turning fiction, which also tackled big--Big--themes."

  • Gil Milbauer:
    So, my paper was basically a description of a Jeffersonian minimal state, with laissez-faire capitalism. I don't even remember very much of what I wrote (but I'm sure it was good). What I do remember is the professor's comment. When I got my paper back, I could see that he had written in large, angry, red letters:

    YOU'VE OBVIOUSLY READ A LOT OF AYN RAND!!

    I also remember my immediate thought: Who is He???

Vanishing Concepts

Austin-American Statesman: Austin suddenly ununique

David Bolduc, the owner of Boulder Book Store in Colorado, which has distributed about 10,000 "Keep Boulder Weird" bumper stickers, said, "It's about democracy and the concentration of power in large corporations. Most people who buy a T-shirt aren't willing to take it that deep."

Copyright 2001-2005 Cox Texas Newspapers, L.P. All rights reserved.


Ha! And that is all that needs to be said!

News8Austin: Sam's Boat to surrender liquor license

The owners of Sam's Boat have agreed to surrender their liquor license. The popular North Austin bar has 20 days to turn it over.

The bar lost its license over charges it sold liquor to an intoxicated man.

Copyright ©2005TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


Despite the part about Umar Abdurr Rahim later killing someone while driving drunk, I still view this as high-order stupidity that ought to have earned the scorn of reasonable people everywhere.

Sellin' booze to someone already drunk? There ottabea law!!!

Brent Bozell Needs Slaves

[Updates below.]

The AP via the Austin-American Statesman: Study: MTV Delivers a Diet of 'Sleaze'

His group favors requiring cable and satellite companies to offer "a la carte" programming, giving customers a chance to pick and choose which networks to buy. MTV is generally included in basic cable packages that most customers get whether they want it or not.

"The incessant sleaze on MTV presents the most compelling case yet for consumer cable choice," [Parents Television Council president Brent Bozell] said.


Apparently, service provider choice is not that important for Mr. Bozell.

Two sides of the same coin, you prick.

UPDATE 3/2/2005 5:15pm
Glenn Reynolds also needs slaves.

Timothy Noah, The Tragedy of the Commons, and Awareness Bracelets

Slate: The Wristband Gap, Part 2

Perhaps you're familiar with "the tragedy of the commons," a social dilemma outlined by the late biologist Garrett Hardin in a famous 1968 essay of the same name. The dilemma is that when individuals pursue personal gain, the net result for society as a whole may be impoverishment. (Pollution is the most familiar example.) Such thinking has fallen out of fashion amid President Bush's talk of an "ownership society," but its logic is unassailable:
Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. … As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks, "What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?" This utility has one negative and one positive component.

1) The positive component is a function of the increment of one animal. Since the herdsman receives all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly +1.

2) The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision-making herdsman is only a fraction of -1.

Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another; and another …


At that point, Timothy Noah proceeds to complain that "awareness bracelets" have choked the market with too many causes and colors.

But re-read the first part again: The dilemma is that when individuals pursue personal gain, the net result for society as a whole may be impoverishment. This is manifestly incorrect, as formulated.

It ought to say: The dilemma is that when individuals pursue personal gain in a system where some property is owned collectively, the net result for society as a whole may be impoverishment. Some quotations will illustrate what I mean.

Tibor R. Machan:

Back in 1968, drawing on materials from ancient and modern thinking about the topic, Hardin observed that commonly owned and freely accessible resources tend to become depleted when or if the population exploiting the resources is large enough.

For example, a common grazing area is made available for use to numerous ranchers will be overgrazed and its replenishment neglected. A tragedy occurs because people pursue their goals with the means available to them but the results are disastrous for all concerned. Communal resources are available to everyone, so everyone has an economic incentive to use them; but no one has an equal incentive to husband the resources. And that is just what goes on at the beaches that are of such deep concern to environmentally concerned citizens, including news reporters and bureaucrats.

One would think, however, that this concern would impel them all to pay closer attention to what exactly is going wrong here. They would discover that the main problem is the lack of private ownership. Plainly put, if the beaches were owned privately, they would be clean or at least cleaner than they are.


Robert J. Smith
Why was the American buffalo nearly exterminated but not the Hereford, the Angus, or the Jersey cow? Why are salmon and trout habitually overfished in the nation's lakes, rivers, and streams, often to the point of endangering the species, while the same species thrive in fish farms and privately owned lakes and ponds? Why do cattle and sheep ranchers overgraze the public lands but maintain lush pastures on their own property? Why are rare birds and mammals taken from the wild in a manner that often harms them and depletes the population, but carefully raised and nurtured in aviaries, game ranches, and hunting preserves? Which would be picked at the optimum ripeness, blackberries along a roadside or blackberries in a farmer's garden? In all of these cases, it is clear that the problem of overexploitation or overharvesting is a result of the resource's being under public rather than private ownership. The difference in their management is a direct result of two totally different forms of property rights and ownership: public, communal, or common property vs. private property. Wherever we have public ownership we find overuse, waste, and extinction; but private ownership results in sustained-yield use and preservation.

Mr. Smith goes on to say:
The overuse of common property resources and the preservation of private property resources are both examples of rational behavior by resource users. It is not a case of irrational vs. rational behavior. In both cases we are witnessing rational behavior, for resource users are acting in the only manner available to them to obtain any economic or psychological value from the resource.

In essence, the economic costs of using the resource are either fully or almost entirely borne by the rightful property owner and therefore the rational owner - the very same one in Hardin's example - seeking to improve his or her economic situation, will not mindlessly deplete what he or she owns because it goes against the long-term interest of allowing or helping that resource to replenish itself.

Unfortunately, Mr. Noah has effectively cemented in the minds of more people the regular error made when talking about these things. They assume the overall economic pie is static and one person's growth is another person's diminishment. This is only the case when the resources in question do not have delineated property rights regulating them, when the resources are "owned by the public" or some such nonsense.

As Mr. Hardin says in the rest of the quote that Mr. Noah didn't copy:

Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit-in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.

Mr. Smith summarizes: Nowhere does Hardin state that the tragedy of the commons is the result of free enterprise, the profit system, or the existence of private property.

The solution, then, is to abolish the commons and establish private property rights in them.

Of course, how does this apply to the problem in Mr. Noah's article? The "commons" in question is literally everywhere: outside buildings, inside buildings, on streets...wait a minute. This is a question of the property ownership extended over one's line of sight, what he refers to as the "visible spectrum."

It would be, in my opinion, silly but perfectly reasonable for the owner of a building, street, sidewalk, parking lot, or household to have posted the meanings of each color and style of bracelet in accordance with the "cause" associated. I assume most people using such structures who have already purchased "awareness" would take issue with someone attempting to change the meaning of their bracelet. Again, I think declaring that red bracelets worn within the confines of specific property lines mean toenail fungus when the majority of red bracelets sold are for (or against, I guess) heart disease is a foolish waste of time but one that wouldn't be at fundamental odds with a private property system.

Notice I said "style of bracelet." Visually differentiating one bracelet from another doesn't have to be limited to solid colors. Stripes, checkerboards, and polka-dots are all possible patterns that greatly (exponentially? geometrically?) increase the available visual differences. Hell, if the manufacturer wanted to, it could change the width of some bands and make some glossy rather than matte, metal rather than plastic, wood rather than glass. The possibilities are not as limited as Mr. Noah suggests.

However, there is a practical limit to what human eyes can distinguish at distances greater than a few feet...or are even willing to distinguish. In that regard, Mr. Noah is correct:

At this late hour, it's impossible to look at somebody's awareness bracelet and learn precisely what that person is trying to raise awareness about, because there are simply too many possibilities. Purple, for instance, now signifies support for Alzheimer patients, abused animals, battered women, epileptics, children in foster care, or people with irritable bowel syndrome, among other things. Teal invokes the fight against ovarian cancer, except when it invokes the fight against myasthenia gravis, drug addiction, or sexual assault. Gray can raise awareness about brain cancer, diabetes, disabled children, emphysema, lung cancer, multiple sclerosis, mental illness, or a couple of diseases I've never heard of; or it can raise awareness about asthma or allergies. ("Please join me in the fight to cure hay fever.")

With so much to be aware of, awareness bracelets have reverted to signifying nothing more than color itself.

©2005 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC

Personally, I don't need to witness someone wearing a yellow bracelet to know people are suffering from cancer and a world-renowned cyclist is leading a fight against the disease. I don't need to see a green bracelet (or a camouflage magnetic ribbon attached to a car) to know the United States is fighting a war in other nations. My "awareness" of these issues is acute. Perhaps others' is not. I do find it trite to reduce the complexities of a cause down to an accessory for one's wrist, but I've never been much for fashion statements or cause-stumping anyway.

February 01, 2005

Fighting Over What Doesn't Belong to Them

Austin-American Statesman: Enterprise fund needs oversight, critics say

Though there's little question that the Texas Enterprise Fund will be replenished this spring with another $295 million or so, just as Gov. Rick Perry wants, lawmakers are jockeying to gain more control over who will divvy up what is being called Texas' biggest political plum.

And where it will be spent.

And how.

Copyright 2001-2005 Cox Texas Newspapers, L.P. All rights reserved.


It's just disgusting, a clear-cut example of corporate welfare statist capitalism that distorts markets, warps proper economic incentives, and begs for corruption.

Government Meddling in Texas Health Care

Austin-American Statesman: Bill would give rape victims emergency pill (link will rot)

Sexual assault victims would have access to emergency contraception and a minimum standard of medical care if the Texas Legislature passes two bills by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston.

Katie Humphrey wrote this article and she is either lying or ignorant. Right now - at this moment - victims of rape have access to emergency contraception and a minimum standard of medical care. The former exists because emergency contraception exists in a (highly regulated) market and if you value it enough, you'll pay for it. The latter exists because each person has a standard of how they wish to be treated in any given situation, meaning that if they want to have certain amenities during their hospital stay and they are denied those amenities, they can choose another care provider or another hospital and bring their business there. These economic preferences are not absent in this system.

They just aren't "free."

Thompson's first bill would require Texas hospitals -- public and private -- to provide information about emergency contraception to all patients who have been sexually assaulted. And if a patient requests the drug, known as the morning-after pill, the hospital would be required to provide a prescription.

This is one of those things that seems so eminently reasonable that anyone who opposes it ought to be ashamed of themselves because they obviously have no sympathy for rape victims and think they should just shut up and deal with their pain. I await a commenter to prove this point to me by example.

I, on the other hand, oppose HB 174 (or HB 677, depending on what works) not because I hate raped women and love unnecessary births due to ignorance of contraceptives, but because I don't want the individuals working in those businesses to be required to do anything against their will. The bill doesn't specify punishment if these rules are not followed, but I'd assume they would escalate from administrative finger-waggling to fines to health center license revocation to jail time.

I think it is generally a good idea that sexual assault victims get a room to themselves while waiting for and during the forensic and health examinations. I don't think it is necessary to write that into law.

The second bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Toby Goodman, R-Arlington, would establish a standard of care in all Texas emergency rooms. The bill asks for a private examination room for the patients to talk with law enforcement, hospital staff, family and friends.

All sexual assault patients would also receive information about sexually transmitted diseases, forensic and medical exams and referral to a rape crisis center.


I can't find the bill in question, either on the Sexual Assault subject page or the search by author page, so I don't have the details. Regardless, the same objection I had to the previous bill registers here as well.

The choice to provide such services should be left to the service provider and the request of such services should be left to the service consumer.

"We have concerns with the bill because it would force hospitals, including religious hospitals, into providing a drug that can in some instances act as an abortive agent," said Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life.

Dr. Diana Weihs, who practices obstetrics and gynecology, said people often confuse emergency contraception, which is a highly concentrated dose of hormones used to prevent conception, with mifepristone, also known as RU-486, which is used for medical abortions.


Very true. But that doesn't adequately cover the fact that some hospital administrations and cultures might not want to provide the information. They should not be forced to.
Stacey Emick, legislative director of the Texas Right to Life Committee, said being offered emergency contraception is one more traumatic thing for an already traumatized person to think about.

"If they're just throwing a pill at her and saying, 'Here's how you get rid of the problem,' that's not an informed decision," she said. "You are putting her in a more vulnerable position."

Copyright 2001-2005 Cox Texas Newspapers, L.P. All rights reserved.


While this may be technically true, it's a rather weak position of disagreement. It would be better to remind the reader that it may be deeply insulting to a victim of sexual assault to be offered this information after the assault.

Fantasy Poker in Texas Under the Gun

News8Austin: Fantasy poker tournaments draw AG's attention

Texas Hold 'em is the latest craze at many bars and restaurants.

The businesses pay a fee to host a free fantasy poker tournament which allows players to earn points and qualify for a state championship.

But the fantasy poker grand prize winner gets a trip worth $10,000 and some officials are questioning the game's legality.

"Since at the tail end of the process you get money, I think up front it's gambling," Williamson County Attorney's Office representative Dale Rye said.


You insipid little county-class dictator, of all the things you could focus your threat of force on, you pick a game most people voluntarily play in order to have fun. This is something that no normal society wouldn't pause for a moment upon.
The Texas Attorney General's Office is looking into these so-called legal poker games and is expected to issue legal clarification soon.

Copyright ©2005TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


I can't fucking wait.

Joan Vennochi Needs Slaves

Boston Globe: Gillette deal a distortion of 'success'

IT OUGHT to be a crime -- the people v. Procter & Gamble; the people v. Gillette.

Procter & Gamble, which is headquartered in Cincinnati, reached an agreement to acquire the Boston-based Gillette Company in a stock transaction valued at about $56 billion.


Ms. Vennochi thinks two companies she does not own ought to do what she wants them to do. If they don't, the people who actually run those companies should be thrown in jail.

Yes, she needs slaves.

After spending a moment to remind the reader of the large compensation packages the executives of the two companies are likely to receive, she goes on:

Even more outrageous than such eye-popping payouts is the overall resignation which greets deals like this. That's capitalism, everyone shrugs. Suggest that this is capitalism perverted and you are labeled a socialist -- a bigger sin than overt, conscienceless greed, which chief executives like Kilts get to define as "success."

How would this be "perverted capitalism"? The essence of capitalism is self-interested profit-taking behavior in a system of tradable private property. The merger of Procter & Gamble and Gillette is just the latest example of such a trade, albeit one far more complicated and valuable than me giving a convenience store clerk $25 for a tank of diesel.

And, well, shit: If you don't think people should engage in free trade, then you are a socialist. Perhaps not of the Marxist/Leninist variety and perhaps collectivist might be a better term, but certainly a beast of an all-too-common pedigree.

The companies are already mapping out their plan to "integrate," which really means consolidate and shrink the workforce, the definition of "success."

I disagree about the "definition of success" as it is too personal and subjective a matter to just assume. However, it certainly is a good thing a person has as little a right to a job than I have a right to Ms. Vennochi's car. Otherwise, these mergers might pose a problem.
This deal is not a success for Massachusetts, which is losing another major employer to an out-of-state corporation.

If you want more employers - major or minor - to conduct business in Massachusetts, how about removing the obstacles to free trade and property rights that stand in the way of their desire to do business there? How about not frightening them with talk of throwing them in jail for not following your orders?
It is not a success for employees, generally; 6,000 workers, or 4 percent of the workforce, will lose their jobs as a result of this deal. Arguably, in the long run, the deal isn't a success for the free market either, just for the inner circle that runs corporate America and willingly sells out every asset they control for their own financial gain.

"The only way to preserve a free market is to have a regulated free market," says Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin. Unfettered, he says, "the free market will ultimately devour itself. The question becomes, 'how fast can we sell out everything?' "


"We had to destroy the village in order to save it."
"We must inflict harm on someone if there is the chance that person might be able to prevent harm to others."

We ought to aggress against you in order to stop aggression.

Anyone else see the vacuous stupidity in that man's words?

Everyone is talking about Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the need to protect his Social Security legacy, says Galvin; what about the antitrust legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, who waged war against the corporate barons of the early 20th century?

Roosevelt promoted continuous regulation of giant corporations and, as president, he pushed such legislation through Congress. He wanted to balance the interests of workers and business people. When did Teddy Roosevelt-type balance become unAmerican? If Procter & Gamble and Gillette need to join forces to stand up to Wal-Mart pricecutting, isn't that proof it is time to rein in Wal-Mart?


Tyranny has always been un-American. The extent to which that has been respected has varied over the years. This columnist wants to increase it.
Today, regulators close their eyes to that reality, preferring to convince themselves that the combinations of big companies benefit consumers and shareholders and that is all that matters. Antitrust review currently boils down to a preordained economic analysis. Basically, all merger partners have to demonstrate now is that their marriage will reduce costs and produce efficiencies. That argument always wins and it is why everyone shrugs about the inevitable.

That's because the reality trumps the delusion.
Yet if no one puts on the brakes, you don't have to be a business school graduate to see how this ends up. When corporate America is done devouring itself, it will be forced to look beyond American borders for merger partners. Then, the job loss and loss of decision-making clout will shift not only out of one state, but out of the United States.

Clearly, not even business school graduates can beat Ms. Vennochi's economic ignorance.
It's time to start redefining "success" as it applies to a business deal. It's time to look beyond the shareholders and the executives who reward themselves to a larger universe of stakeholders -- all the people affected in some way by a company's actions. That universe includes vendors, employees and their families, and the community at large. There is a middle ground between extreme socialism and extreme capitalism, and it is not that difficult to find.

Well, fuck. If that is to be the standard, you've crossed the line from simplistic collectivist loon to dangerous socialist moron. Does she even consider the vast difficulty and incalculable costs of such a standard? Does she even care what it would do to our standard of living, a standard far more important than the one she dreams up?

Besides, we've been mired in the muck of the middle-ground for quite some time. I say we leave the mud for the bureaucrats to play in.

Suppose the Procter & Gamble acquisition of Gillette was described like this to an average holder of Gillette stock: as a result of this merger, your 401(k) will increase in value by $300; but your cousin will lose his job.

Think of it like that and it is a crime.

© Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company.


Another "full employment" jackass who thinks everyone has a right to their job, meaning employers should be held hostage to the desires of the state.

Oh yes, Joan Vennochi needs slaves.

Student Respect for the First Amendment is Dropping?

The nation continues its downward spiral into titanic stupidity.

The AP via MSNBC: First Amendment no big deal, students say

The way many high school students see it, government censorship of newspapers may not be a bad thing, and flag burning is hardly protected free speech.

It turns out the First Amendment is a second-rate issue to many of those nearing their own adult independence, according to a study of high school attitudes released Monday.

...when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes “too far” in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.

"These results are not only disturbing; they are dangerous," said Hodding Carter III, president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which sponsored the $1 million study. "Ignorance about the basics of this free society is a danger to our nation’s future."

The students are even more restrictive in their views than their elders, the study says.

When asked whether people should be allowed to express unpopular views, 97 percent of teachers and 99 percent of school principals said yes. Only 83 percent of students did.


THESE PEOPLE ARE ENCOURAGED AND EXPECTED TO FUCKING VOTE.
The results reflected indifference, with almost three in four students saying they took the First Amendment for granted or didn't know how they felt about it. It was also clear that many students do not understand what is protected by the bedrock of the Bill of Rights.

Three in four students said flag burning is illegal. It's not. About half the students said the government can restrict any indecent material on the Internet. It can't.


Actually, the federal government has shown little respect for the restrictions written in the Constitution for quite some time, so I hold little regard in what it "legally" can and cannot do. It makes and enforces the laws at the general behest of a majority of the voting population, so the real outcome is anything goes. And as a direct counterpoint to what the Associated Press reporter(s) say, the feds have censored the Net and they will continue to do so.
The survey, conducted by researchers at the University of Connecticut, is billed as the largest of its kind. More than 100,000 students, nearly 8,000 teachers and more than 500 administrators at 544 public and private high schools took part in early 2004.

The actual report (PDF) from the official website has this to say:
The majority (58 percent) of students surveyed have taken classes in high schools that dealt with the First Amendment. A slightly higher percentage of public school students (59 percent) than private school students (54 percent) have taken classes that dealt with the First Amendment.page 21

It doesn't say whether kids going to private schools valued the 1st Amendment higher than those in public, something I'd really be keen on knowing.
The study suggests that students embrace First Amendment freedoms if they are taught about them and given a chance to practice them, but schools don’t make the matter a priority.

Students who take part in school media activities, such as a student newspapers or TV production, are much more likely to support expression of unpopular views, for example.

About nine in 10 principals said it is important for all students to learn some journalism skills, but most administrators say a lack of money limits their media offerings.

More than one in five schools offer no student media opportunities; of the high schools that do not offer student newspapers, 40 percent have eliminated them in the last five years.


I call bullshit. You don't need to enroll in a class that teaches how to run or operate a newspaper, television station, or radio transmitter to understand the importance of the freedoms of speech, assembly, and religion. All you need is to gather all the kids in one grade together in the cafeteria or auditorium and let them hang out for 10 minutes.

Let them relax and chat with their friends. Then, send in police to block off the exits. Explain to the crowd that anyone caught saying any of such and such will be forcibly silenced by the police. Explain that anyone caught being friends with or helping those unlawful Freespeakers will be forcibly removed from their presence and seated elsewhere. Give the crowd a minute to think about this, and then begin the crackdown.

Simple exercises like that ought to drill into their obtuse and airy minds the vast importance of the freedoms in the First Amendment. Afterwards, once the outrage has died down, explain to them that the reason why what the school did was wrong was because you, the police, and the other school officials were participants in a gross violation of the children's right to self-ownership.

If they don't "get it" at that point, they're hopeless. And dangerous.

I said it once and I'll say it again: The 1st Amendment does not go too far!