Archive for June 2008

Blog Status

Well, I seemed to have chosen the exact moment Typepad started encountering general problems to try to make some changes to my blog.  Now I don't know if I screwed things up or Typepad.  I am going to let things settle down for a bit.  You may see an all-text home page for a while or even a reversion to an early layout.  If I can get through this mess, the goal is to get the RSS feed fixed once and for all, among a few other issues.

Testing

I am again messing with the feeds to try to get my feed problem fixed.  This is just a test

Here is Your Chance, Trolls

John Scalzi is running a contest --he wants your best hate mail, aimed at him.

Here is Your Chance, Trolls

John Scalzi is running a contest --he wants your best hate mail, aimed at him.

I'm Still Not Down with Vista

I have now tried out Windows Vista with its first service pack and I am still not clear what Vista adds over XP, except upgrade costs, an interface system that requires retraining employees and a lot of extra computer overhead, and compatibility problems.  XP is stable and great for us. 

As you may know, most XP OEM sales come to an end on June 30.  Dell has already announced they will still sell XP units under the downgrade options in the Vista license.  Good for them.  In fact, it looks like Dell expects that customers will be willing to pay additional money ($20-$50) for the older operating system.  LOL.

Anyway, this month I bought an additional 5 Windows XP OEM licenses from NewEgg.com to put on the shelf to cover future computer builds out past June 30 (I build many of the computers for myself and the company).

By the way, if you want a gauge on how Vista is doing, check out the right bar pn this page at Amazon.com.  On the top 10 bestsellers (on June 18, 2008), XP occupies slots 2,4,6,7,9 while Vista is in slots 3,8 & 10.  Note that is over 18 months after Vista was introduced to replace XP.

Government Schools

I thought this was a very illuminating bit from Obama on education:

TAPPER: But"¦proponents of school choice say that the best way to
change the status quo is to give parents, inner-city parents a choice.
Why not?

OBAMA: Well, the problem is, is that, you know, although it might
benefit some kids at the top, what you're going to do is leave a lot of
kids at the bottom. We don't have enough slots for every child to go
into a parochial school or a private school. And what you would see is
a huge drain of resources out of the public schools.

So what I've said is let's foster competition within the public
school system. Let's make sure that charter schools are up and running.
Let's make sure that kids who are in failing schools, in local school
districts, have an option to go to schools that are doing well.

But what I don't want to do is to see a diminished commitment to the
public schools to the point where all we have are the hardest-to-teach
kids with the least involved parents with the most disabilities in the
public schools. That's going to make things worse, and we're going to
lose the commitment to public schools that I think have been so
important to building this country.

Some responses:

  • I love it when my opponents make my argument for me.  One strong argument for school choice is that public schools put a governor on 80% of the kids' educations, forcing them to learn at the pace of the slowest students.  But Obama basically says this.  He acknowledges in paragraph three that most of the kids would take the private option (and the only reason they would do so is that they perceive it to be better) leaving only the "hardest-to-teach
    kids with the least involved parents with the most disabilities in the
    public schools."  I'm sorry Mrs. Smith, I know you want more for your kids, but we've decided that they should not have a better education than that demanded by the least involved parents.
  • If his fear in  paragraph #3 comes true, isn't that consistent with a leftish market failure model?  And if so, why wouldn't it be entirely appropriate for the government to focus only on this small segment not served by private schools?  Isn't that what the government does in, say, housing or transportation, providing services only to a small percentage of the market?
  • Obama parrots the "there are not enough private schools" objection.  Duh.  Of course there is not currently 20 million student-slots of excess private school capacity just waiting for school choice.  But capacity will increase over time if school choice is in place.  Or, if the capacity does not appear, then what's the problem for Obama?  Everyone will just stay in government schools.
  • The class warfare here is both tiresome and misplaced.  Most school voucher plans have explicitly focused on the poorest families and worst schools as a starting point
  • The statement that kids leaving public schools with vouchers would be costly is just wrong, at least from a monetary point of view.  I don't know of any voucher program where students are offered a voucher as large as the average per-pupil spending of that school district.  So, in fact, each student leaving public schools is a new financial gain, subtracting a $6,000 voucher but removing at the same time an $8,000 cost.
  • Finally, note the political mastery here.  Take the question of how many kids would leave government schools for private schools under a full school competition system.  Obama wants to be on both sides of this assumption, sometimes assuming the number is small (when discussing benefits) and then assuming the number is large (when discussing costs).  Obama is a master because he makes this switch back and forth from sentence to sentence.  First, the  number leaving public schools is low, since choice would just benefit "some kids" (Bad old rich ones at that) and leave our "a lot of kids."  He again in the next sentence implies the number switching must be low, because there are not many private school spots.  One sentence later, though, the number switching is high, since it would be a "huge drain of resources."  And then, in the third paragraph, the number switching is very high, since all that are left in public schools are a small core of the "hardest-to-teach kids."

Also note what was strategically left out of his answer:

  • "Even if school choice worked, I could never support it because my party depends too much on the teachers unions in this election."
  • "Just when I have a good chance to be the leader of this government, do you really think I want to abandon the government monopoly on the indoctrination of children and the power that brings to the government?"

What's Wrong with Economists

Justin Wolfers asks:

You probably recall Hillary Clinton turning anti-economist in the dying days of her campaign:

"Well I'll tell you what, I'm not going to put my lot in with economists."

And more recently John McCain has jumped aboard:

"I trust the people and not the so-called economists to give the American people a little relief."

Honestly, I don't get it.

There is a very simple answer here.  Economists are people who say that you can't have your cake and eat it too.  As this is the core of the politician's populist message, they don't want anyone calling their bluff.

More on not wanting to hear the science here.

Update: One other thought, vis a vis climate and economics.  Obama, I suppose, would be one to argue that the science of catastrophic global warming is "settled."  But does he really think it is more settled than, say, the science that free trade leads to general increases in prosperity?  The left is all for the sanctity of science, except in economics.

The Problem with New Wide-Gamut LCD Panels

Warning:  I am a video snob.  I often lambaste electronics store managers for doing such a terrible job adjusting their display TV's.  TV store managers have decided that the way to sell a TV is to jack up its color temperature as far into the blue range that they can, jam the contrast setting all the way to the top, irrespective of any blooming effects they get, and over-saturate the colors.

Anyway, the newest LCD panels have a property that theoretically makes them better:  They can display a much wider color gamut.  That means that there are more colors that they can display.   They do this by creating panels where the base colors are truer to their theoretical values, and by pushing each color value deeper into its possible range.  This means that the bluest blues are even bluer, if that makes sense. 

But these extreme colors are ones one seldom sees, because they are over saturated.  If you were to see the most saturated red or blue in any large field on your TV or monitor, it would make your teeth ache.  These colors look like neon lights, for lack of a better comparison.

But a wider color palette is good in theory.  My guess is that adobe photoshop running on a well-calibrated monitor could take advantage of this feature to improve the resemblance between on-screen and printed material, a key concern of graphics designers. 

The problem is that most software and color choices on the internet and in movies are based on what, say, a level 256 blue used to be.  A level 256 blue is now more saturated in the current monitors, but most software (and monitor drivers) are not smart enough to take this into account.  That means that if you buy a new LCD monitor, you will likely be looking at colors that are more saturated and therefore that glow more than your eyes can really stand, and most graphics cards and monitors do not have a control for saturation (as I found today, having to take an LG 26" monitor back to the store because everything just glowed too much  (I replaced it with a Samsung 2693M, which is much better).

You will know that this may be a problem if the literature or sales person describes the monitor as having "more vibrant" colors.  This is a euphemism for saturation, and would be all fine and good if monitor colors have previously been under-saturated, but if anything they have been the opposite.  Sales people like this feature, though, because the colors look more dramatic in their fluorescent-lighted showrooms and tend to make the monitor look "better" when next to less saturated choices.  My advice is be very wary -- Videophiles tend to run away screaming when told that a TV has some gadget that makes the colors more vibrant.

Great Moments in the Traditional Media

A decent sized newspaper is doing a story on one of our campgrounds for their paper, which is great news.  However, they want some photos.  I directed them to our web site with links to Flickr, where they could view the photos and actually download full resolution versions of the images.  However, after some back and forth, it seems that no one at the paper is able to accomplish this.  So I am now downloading the images they want off the Flickr page they are looking at and sending the images to them via CD / snail mail.  Sigh.

Great Moments in the Traditional Media

A decent sized newspaper is doing a story on one of our campgrounds for their paper, which is great news.  However, they want some photos.  I directed them to our web site with links to Flickr, where they could view the photos and actually download full resolution versions of the images.  However, after some back and forth, it seems that no one at the paper is able to accomplish this.  So I am now downloading the images they want off the Flickr page they are looking at and sending the images to them via CD / snail mail.  Sigh.

My Marriage Seems to be OK

Gay marriage has been legal in California for over 12 hours now, and, despite fears from opponents that it would weaken the institution of marriage, every indication is that my own marriage is as strong as ever.   I don't see any reason to make life difficult for those whose preferences are not my own.  All the best, newlyweds.

Postscript: I thought John Scalzi had a funny line.  A commenter on the Daily Kos had asked if Scalzi was on their side, politically, presumably because they could not allow themselves to enjoy his writing if he had not met their political litmus tests.  Anyway, he offered a line a libertarian would love:

Well, I don't want my political proclivities to be in doubt, so let me be absolutely crystal clear where I stand:

I support the right of same-sex married couples to carry concealed weapons.

I hope this explains everything.

 

On Corporations and Public Service

I had occasion to think about the term "public service" at about 6AM this Sunday morning.  As I was driving my son to a way-too-early baseball game, I flipped around the FM dial trying to find some music.  There was none.  All I could find were a number of really dull programs on arcane topics presumably on the air to fulfill the radio broadcaster's "public service" requirements of the FCC regulatory regime.  Since almost no one gets excited about this programming except for the leftish public policy types that inhabit regulatory positions, the radio stations broadcast all this garbage on Sunday mornings when no one is listening anyway.  Ironically, in the name of "public service," stations must broadcast material no one in the public actually wants to listen to.

Which leads me to coyote's definition of corporate public service:  Make a product or service for which people, without use of force or fraud, are willing to pay the listed price.

Any freaking moron can (or at least should be able to) offer a product or service that people will be willing to use for free.  Is this a public service?  Well, maybe.  If you are out there helping to feed homeless people, power to you.  But is it really a public service that the Miami transit system offers free rides that it can only pay for with deficit spending?  Or $1.50 bus rides that cost taxpayers $30 each to provide?  And this is not to mention the free services, like public service radio broadcasts, that many people would be willing to pay not to receive. 

That's why I say that any moron can give stuff away.   But find me the person who can create enough value that people are willing to pay enough for his product to cover all the material, labor, and capital inputs it took to create it, with surplus left over for both buyer and seller, and that is the person performing a real public service.

And let me listen to some freaking classic rock on Sunday mornings.

Follow-up on Habeas Corpus and Gitmo

I got a lot of email this weekend telling me why I was short-sighted in supporting the Supreme Court's decision on habeas corpus rights for detainees.   First, I will observe that I have great readers, because all of the email was respectful.  Second, I will say that I am open to being convinced that I am wrong here, but I have not been so convinced yet. 

I got a lot of email about past precedents and settled law on this.  What I don't seem to be communicating well is that I understand and agree with past precedent in the context of other conflicts, but that the concept of "combatant" as currently used by the GWB administration is so different than in the past as to defy precedent.  The folks sitting in Gitmo are not uniformed Wermacht officers captured in the Falais Gap.  They are combatants generally not because they were caught firing on our troops but because the Administration says they are combatants.  New situations often require new law, and as I said before, when in doubt, I will always side for protection of individual rights against the government.

I'm not going to get into an anecdotal battle over the nature of individual Gitmo detainees.  I can easily start rattling off folks who were detained for extended periods for no good reason, and I am sure one can rattle off names of hard core bad guys who none of us would be happy to have walking the streets.  The place where reasonable people disagree is what to do with this mixed bag.  Gitmo supporters argue that it is better to lock up a few good guys to make sure the really bad guys are off the street.  I would argue in turn that this is exactly NOT how our legal system works.  For good reasons, our system has always been tilted such that the greater harm is locking up the innocent rather than releasing the guilty.

It may be a faulty analogy, but I considered the other day what would have happened had the US government taken the same position with active communist part members in the 1950's.  Would it really have been that hard to have applied the same logic that has a number of Gitmo detainees locked away for years to "communist sympathizers?"

I think this Administration, time and time again, has exhibited a strong streak of laziness when it comes to following process.  It doesn't like bothering to go through channels to get warrants, even when those warrants are usually forthcoming.  And it doesn't want to bother facing a judge over why detainees are in captivity, something that every local DA and police officer have to deal with every day.

Update: More, from Cato and George Will, here.  There are certain people who I find it to be a sort of intellectual confirmation or confidence builder to find them on the other side of an issue from me.  John McCain is quickly falling into to this camp for me, at least vis a vis individual rights questions.

Interesting Story on Housing and Crime

A reader sent me a link to what was a pretty interesting story on housing programs and crime in the most recent issue of the Atlantic.  In short, federal housing policy over the last 20-30 years has been to blow up central housing projects (fans of the Wire on HBO will have a good idea of this type of place) that tended to concentrate poverty in a few neighborhoods in favor of voucher programs that would spread the very poor around.  The idea was to get the poor into middle class neighborhoods, with the hope that middle class schools, support networks, and values might be infused in the poor.

Some now seem to be worried that exactly the opposite is happening.  As the article relates, city centers are being revitalized by sending the poor and associated criminal elements outwards.  But in turn, certain here-to-fore quiet suburbs are seeing crime spikes, and these crime waves seem to line up well with where the housing vouchers are being used.

A couple of thoughts:

  • [insert libertarian rant on government playing god with poor people's lives, drug prohibition, government schools, etc.]
  • The people of Houston would not be at all surprised by this, and might call it the Katrina effect.  It may well be that the dispersion of poor families will eventually result in reductions in total crime (say in the next generation or two), but hardened criminals of today don't stop being criminals just because they move to new neighborhoods -- certainly Houston has found this having inherited many criminals from New Orleans.
  • I still think that if we are going to give out subsidized housing, that this in the long-run is a better approach.  The authors of the article seem to fear that the poor, having been dispersed, lost their support networks.  But it strikes me that it was this same network that reinforced all the worst cultural aspects of the old projects, and long-term I think fewer new criminals and poorly motivated kids will exist in the next generation if we can break some of this critical mass up. 
  • The article is an interesting example of how new attitudes about race can get in the way of discussion as much as the old ones.  Stories about increasing crime in the suburbs after an influx of black poor is just too similar to the old integration fears held by whites in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Homes are Becoming More Affordable; Minorities, Poor Hardest Hit

It is interesting that with home prices and gasoline prices going in opposite directions, the media can declare both trends to be disasters for Americans.  Via Scrappleface:

The U.S. housing crisis reached fever pitch this month, with potential foreclosures up 48 percent compared with May 2007.

The devastation of receiving foreclosure notices has now swept
through a full 2/10ths of one percent of American homes. About 1/10th
of one percent of owners may lose their homes. For some of those
people, it's actually their primary residence in jeopardy, rather than
a second home, rental property or vacation condo.

 

To add insult to misery, mortgage rates skyrocketed this month to
6.32 percent, a shocking figure a full third of what it was during the
Carter administration.

As a result of the flood of homes on the market, real estate agent
commissions have dipped precariously, and home buyers increasingly
wrestle with the guilt of paying bargain prices for excellent
properties.

Market analysts say home prices could plummet as much as another 10
percent by the end of 2009, leaving first-time home buyers to face the
specter of owning a more spacious residence. The additional square
footage inequitably boosts the burden of cleaning, heating and air
conditioning.

If You Can't Do the Time, Don't, uh, Put off Mowing?

Here in the west, one can be rewarded as an environmentalist for keeping one's home landscaping natural, rather than trying to create a golf-course-like lawn.  In Canton, Ohio, you may be going to jail (via a reader):

CANTON City Council has unanimously approved
toughening the city's high-grass and weeds law, making it possible for
repeat violators to get jail time.

Council passed the legislation Monday night by a vote of 12-0. The amended law will take effect in 30 days.
...

The revised law makes a second high-grass violation a
fourth-degree misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $250 and up to
30 days in jail. Existing law makes the first violation a minor
misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $150 but no jail time. Violators
initially are mailed a notice and given five days to mow the grass.
...

City officials say they are targeting the most egregious
violators of the high-grass law, which applies to grass and weeds
higher than 8 inches.

Humans Have Rights, Not Just Americans

I am a bit late to this, having just gotten back in town, but this is extraordinarily good news:

In a stunning blow to the Bush Administration in its
war-on-terrorism policies, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that
foreign nationals held at Guantanamo Bay have a right to pursue habeas
challenges to their detention. The Court, dividing 5-4, ruled that
Congress had not validly taken away habeas rights.  If Congress wishes
to suspend habeas, it must do so only as the Constitution allows "” when
the country faces rebellion or invasion.

The Court stressed that it was not ruling that the detainees are
entitled to be released "” that is, entitled to have writs issued to end
their confinement. That issue, it said, is left to the District Court
judges who will be hearing the challenges. The Court also said that "we
do not address whether the President has authority to detain"
individuals during the war on terrorism, and hold them at the U.S.
Naval base in Cuba; that, too, it said, is to be considered first by
the District judges.

The Court also declared that detainees do not have to go through the
special civilian court review process that Congress created in 2005,
since that is not an adequate substitute for habeas rights.

During the17th and 18th century, as various western countries began to reign in autarchs, habeas corpus rights were high on their list of protections they demanded.  There is just too much potential for abuse to allow the Executive Branch to hold people (of any nationality) indefinitely without any kind of judicial due process.  I refuse to discuss the detentions in the context of their effectiveness in fighting terrorism just as I refuse to discuss immigration in terms of who will pick the lettuce.  If there are valid and legal reasons for these guys to be in detention, then the President must allow the judicial branch to confirm them or the legislative branch to amend them.

Update:  Powerline writes:

Justice Scalia characterizes the decision this way:

Today, for the first time in our Nation's history, the
Court confers a constitutional right to habeas corpus on alien enemies
detained abroad by our military forces in the course of an ongoing war.

It strikes me as odd to confer such a right, but then I haven't read Justice Kennedy's opinion yet.

I don't have enough law background to know if this is truly unprecedented in this way, but what it if is?  One could easily argue that the nature of the "enemy" here, being that they don't have the courtesy to wear uniforms that indicate their combatant status and which side they are on, is fairly unprecedented as well.  As is the President's claim that he has unilateral power to declare that there is a war at all, who this war is against, and who is or is not a combatant.  I know from past posts on this topic that many of my readers disagree with me, but I think it is perfectly fine for the Supreme Court, encountering this new situation, sides with the individual over the government.

Update #2, via the Onion 9/11 issue:

Bush is acting with the full support of Congress, which on Sept. 14
authorized him to use any necessary force against the undetermined
attackers. According to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), the
congressional move enables the president to declare war, "to the extent
that war can realistically be declared on, like, maybe three or four
Egyptian guys, an Algerian, and this other guy who kind of looks
Lebanese but could be Syrian. Or whoever else it might have been.
Because it might not have been them."...

U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), one of Congress' decorated war
veterans, tried to steel the nation for the possibility of a long and
confusing conflict.

"America faces a long road ahead," McCain said. "We do not yet know
the nature of 21st-century warfare. We do not yet know how to fight
this sort of fight. And I'll be damned if one of us has an inkling who
we will be fighting against. With any luck, they've got uniforms of
some sort."...

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the war against terrorism will be different from any previous model of modern warfare.

"We were lucky enough at Pearl Harbor to be the victim of a craven
sneak attack from an aggressor with the decency to attack military
targets, use their own damn planes, and clearly mark those planes with
their national insignia so that we knew who they were," Rumsfeld said.
"Since the 21st-century breed of coward is not affording us any such
luxury, we are forced to fritter away time searching hither and yon for
him in the manner of a global easter-egg hunt."

Wherein Coyote is Thrilled to be Out of Step with Europe

After digging a First Amendment hole for itself in the Plame affair, the New York Times seems to still be hell-bent on narrowing the very First Amendment protections that probably kept its employees out of jail in the early 70's.  Specifically, the Times frets that the US is out of step with Europe in having a much broader view of freedom of speech:

Six years later, a state court judge in New York dismissed
a libel case brought by several Puerto Rican groups against a business
executive who had called food stamps "basically a Puerto Rican
program." The First Amendment, Justice Eve M. Preminger wrote, does not
allow even false statements about racial or ethnic groups to be
suppressed or punished just because they may increase "the general
level of prejudice."

Some prominent legal scholars say the United States should reconsider its position on hate speech.

"It
is not clear to me that the Europeans are mistaken," Jeremy Waldron, a
legal philosopher, wrote in The New York Review of Books last month,
"when they say that a liberal democracy must take affirmative
responsibility for protecting the atmosphere of mutual respect against
certain forms of vicious attack."

In the 1970's, members of my family worked in the oil industry, and we received numerous death threats of varying believability, and several of our friends received letter bombs or had family members kidnapped.  Many of these attacks and threats were directly traceable to certain media shows that featured editorial attacks on the oil industry.  So is the Times suggesting that the media should hold off on its criticism of the oil industry because this criticism created an atmosphere of hate in which these attacks were conducted?

No freaking way, because these calls to limit criticism and "hate speech" always have an ideological filter.  There is never a suggestion that the speech bans be even-handed.  Criticism of African Americans is outlawed, but exactly parallel language about white folks is A-OK.  Criticising Islam is out, but Christianity is a fine target.  Death threats against Haitian activists must be avoided at all costs, but death threats against corporate executives are no reflection on free speech or the media.  The article is quite explicit that by their definition, hate speech only applies to "minorities," which you can translate to mean "groups the political class has decided to protect."  You may be assured that members of the political class will find a way to get themselves included in this definition, so they can be free of criticism,

Kudos to Harvey Silvergate, who even makes the exact same point I have made about Hitler a number of times:

"Free speech matters because it works," Mr. Silverglate continued.
Scrutiny and debate are more effective ways of combating hate speech
than censorship, he said, and all the more so in the post-Sept. 11 era.

"The world didn't suffer because too many people read "˜Mein Kampf,' " Mr. Silverglate said. "Sending Hitler on a speaking tour of the United States would have been quite a good idea."

I will add that I am also happy to be out of step with Europe in terms of any number of other policies, including American libel law, or laws that make it ever so much easier to start a business, and European tolerance for a cozy business-political elite that, whatever their party, focuses on keeping their elite wealthy and powerful.

Wherein Coyote is Thrilled to be Out of Step with Europe

After digging a First Amendment hole for itself in the Plame affair, the New York Times seems to still be hell-bent on narrowing the very First Amendment protections that probably kept its employees out of jail in the early 70's.  Specifically, the Times frets that the US is out of step with Europe in having a much broader view of freedom of speech:

Six years later, a state court judge in New York dismissed
a libel case brought by several Puerto Rican groups against a business
executive who had called food stamps "basically a Puerto Rican
program." The First Amendment, Justice Eve M. Preminger wrote, does not
allow even false statements about racial or ethnic groups to be
suppressed or punished just because they may increase "the general
level of prejudice."

Some prominent legal scholars say the United States should reconsider its position on hate speech.

"It
is not clear to me that the Europeans are mistaken," Jeremy Waldron, a
legal philosopher, wrote in The New York Review of Books last month,
"when they say that a liberal democracy must take affirmative
responsibility for protecting the atmosphere of mutual respect against
certain forms of vicious attack."

In the 1970's, members of my family worked in the oil industry, and we received numerous death threats of varying believability, and several of our friends received letter bombs or had family members kidnapped.  Many of these attacks and threats were directly traceable to certain media shows that featured editorial attacks on the oil industry.  So is the Times suggesting that the media should hold off on its criticism of the oil industry because this criticism created an atmosphere of hate in which these attacks were conducted?

No freaking way, because these calls to limit criticism and "hate speech" always have an ideological filter.  There is never a suggestion that the speech bans be even-handed.  Criticism of African Americans is outlawed, but exactly parallel language about white folks is A-OK.  Criticising Islam is out, but Christianity is a fine target.  Death threats against Haitian activists must be avoided at all costs, but death threats against corporate executives are no reflection on free speech or the media.  The article is quite explicit that by their definition, hate speech only applies to "minorities," which you can translate to mean "groups the political class has decided to protect."  You may be assured that members of the political class will find a way to get themselves included in this definition, so they can be free of criticism,

Kudos to Harvey Silvergate, who even makes the exact same point I have made about Hitler a number of times:

"Free speech matters because it works," Mr. Silverglate continued.
Scrutiny and debate are more effective ways of combating hate speech
than censorship, he said, and all the more so in the post-Sept. 11 era.

"The world didn't suffer because too many people read "˜Mein Kampf,' " Mr. Silverglate said. "Sending Hitler on a speaking tour of the United States would have been quite a good idea."

I will add that I am also happy to be out of step with Europe in terms of any number of other policies, including American libel law, or laws that make it ever so much easier to start a business, and European tolerance for a cozy business-political elite that, whatever their party, focuses on keeping their elite wealthy and powerful.

Incentives Everywhere

After this post on incentives, where I observed that perhaps 99% of all government policy failed on incentives issues, I thought about going a whole week and discussing every story in the context of failed or mismatched incentives.  Then I thought about all the time I had spent building up my readership only to chase everyone away in just one week, so I will defer that idea.

BUT, can anyone tell me what incentives these people have to go work and support themselves?

What are people who receive FEMA assistance doing to help
themselves? That's the question NBC 15's Andrea Ramey asked those who
have been staying for free in hotel rooms after they moved out of FEMA
supplied travel trailers. What she found out is there are some who are
doing very little.

The scorching heat puts many at the Quality Inn poolside, but for
Gwenester Malone, she chooses to beat the heat by setting her
thermostat to sixty degrees. Malone's room for the past three months,
along with three meals daily, have all been paid for by taxpayers.

"Do you work?" asked NBC 15's Andrea Ramey.

"No. I'm not working right now," said Malone.

Malone says she can't drive and it's too hot outside to find work
within walking distance. "Since the storm, I haven't had any energy or
pep to go get a job, but when push comes to shove, I will," said Malone.

Just a few blocks away, Kelley Christian also stays at a hotel for
free. She says she's not taking advantage of her situation, but admits
it's easy to do. "It's too easy. You know, once you're there, you don't
have to pay rent," said Christian. "I kept putting it off and putting
it off and now, I'm tired of putting it off."

Canada on Free Speech Death Spiral

The list of topics banned from criticism is increasing in Canada.  First it was Islam, and then it was homosexuality.  Now, it is making activist professors at public universities immune from criticism.  By order of the Canadian government:

That Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. shall
cease publishing in newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public
speeches, or on the internet, in future, disparaging remarks about gays
and homosexuals. Further, they shall not and are prohibited from making
disparaging remarks in the future about Dr. Lund or Dr. Lund's
witnesses relating to their involvement in this complaint. Further, all
disparaging remarks versus homosexuals are directed to be removed from
current web sites and publications of Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned
Christian Coalition Inc.

That fact that I vociferously disagree with Mr. Boissoin (I am in fact thrilled, for example, that gays will be able to marry soon in California), I whole-heartedly support his right to publicly voice his opinions, even if it makes some people feel bad.  Dr. Lund, as I understand it, as a professor at a state university, is a government employee, and a vociferous one at that.  All limitations on speech are bad, but this decision has crossed that critical line of protecting government employees from criticism, what we would think as the absolute solid heart of the First Amendment (while simultaneously restricting religious beliefs, just for extra credit).

Don't Get Uppity

I have always wondered how people could describe European countries as more egalitarian than the US.  Yeah, I know the income distribution tends to be flatter, but that is almost entirely because the rich are richer in the US rather than the poor being poorer.  But pure income distribution has always seemed like a terrible way to make comparisons.  My perception has always been that class lines in Europe are much harder than they are in the US.  The elites in Europe have made a sort of arrangement in which they pay off the masses with an income floor and low work expectations in turn for making sure that none of the masses can in turn challenge their elite status or join their ranks.  The government protects large corporations form competition, foreign or domestic.  The government protects existing laborers against new entrants into the labor market.  The government makes it virtually impossible for the average guy to start a business.  The result is a lower and middle class who won't or can't aspire to breaking out of their class.  Elites are protected, and no one seems to care very much when political elites enrich themselves through public office and then entrench themselves and their families in the power system.  This, presumably, is why the American political class thinks so much of the European model.

Bryan Caplan writes via Marginal Revolution:

In the U.S., we have low gas taxes, low car taxes, few tolls, strict zoning that leads developers to provide lots of free parking, low speed limits, lots of traffic enforcement, and lots of congestion.

In Europe (France and Germany specifically), they have high gas
taxes, high car taxes, lots of tolls, almost no free parking, high
speed limits (often none at all), little traffic enforcement, and very
little congestion. (The only real traffic jam I endured in Europe was
trying to get into Paris during rush hour. I was delayed about 30
minutes total).

If you had to pick one of these two systems, which would you prefer?
Or to make the question a little cleaner, if there were two otherwise
identical countries, but one had the U.S. system and the other had the
Euro system, where would you decide to live?

Much as it pains me to admit, I would choose to live in the country
with the Euro system. If you're at least upper-middle class, the
convenience is worth the price. Yes, this is another secret way that
Europe is better for the rich, and the U.S. for everyone else.

But We Can Run Healthcare

By now, this story has been linked all over, but it is still hilarious.  The folks who want to run the US healthcare system and the US energy industry have found that they are not competent enough to manage even the Senate cafeteria:

Year after year, decade upon decade, the U.S. Senate's network of
restaurants has lost staggering amounts of money -- more than $18
million since 1993, according to one report, and an estimated $2
million this year alone, according to another.

The financial condition of the world's most exclusive dining hall and its affiliated Capitol Hill
restaurants, cafeterias and coffee shops has become so dire that,
without a $250,000 subsidy from taxpayers, the Senate won't make
payroll next month....

In a masterful bit of understatement, Feinstein blamed "noticeably
subpar" food and service. Foot traffic bears that out. Come lunchtime,
many Senate staffers trudge across the Capitol and down into the
basement cafeteria on the House side [where food service is provided privately]. On Wednesdays, the lines can be
30 or 40 people long.

This is not a new issue - it has been a festering sore that the Senate has been unable to manage for decades.  And we're talking about a single freaking cafeteria here.  More from Alex Tabarrok

News You Can Use

I have noticed that my readership is skewing a little old, so to capture that critical males 18-24 demographic, I will, as a public service, provide this critical information that colleges seldom provide in trying to choose a major.  HT TJIC

Because China is Sheriff Joe's Role Modle

Frequent readers will know that I have little love for our self-aggrandizing, civil rights violating Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  A recent Arizona Republic article wrote:

A veteran Republican lawmaker wants to know why a high-level chief for
the Maricopa County Sheriff has made recent trips to China.

Because China is Sheriff Joe's role model!  It's telling that our sheriff sends his deputies on fact-finding missions to Latin American countries and China to learn new policing techniques.  Also, the article gets into some of the increasingly weird dealings in the Sheriff Joe's infatuation with facial recognition software.