Archive for October 2010

Awesomest Defender of Private Property I Had Never Heard Of

From Scouting New York

001

Set into the sidewalk is a small triangle (see my sneaker for size comparison), with the mysterious message: "Property of the Hess Estate Which Has Never Been Dedicated For Public Purposes."

002

In 1910, the area around Christopher Street and Seventh Avenue was being widened by the city. Over 300 buildings were condemned and razed under Eminent Domain laws, including a 5-story apartment building called The Voorhis belonging to David Hess.

Hess fought the city fiercely to save his building but lost, and by 1914, this small triangle was all that was left of his property. Thinking he'd been suitably beaten down, the city asked Hess to voluntarily donate the minuscule triangle for use as part of the public sidewalk "“ but Hess refused, and had this mosaic installed on July 27, 1922. Though it inevitably became part of the sidewalk anyway, anyone who walked over the triangle couldn't help but be reminded of Hess' battle.

I would like to buy it from the Hess family and erect a triangular pedestal with a suitable statue on top, perhaps Atlas with the globe bouncing away, giving a one finger salute to the city.

Awesome. Happy Halloween

Hat tip: South Bend Seven

And I will repeat my best ever Halloween Pumpkin:

Pumpkin1 Pumpkin2

(click on pictures for larger view)

Can You Prove You Are Not An Illegal Canadian Immigrant?

This is pretty funny -- a comedian challenges folks in downtown Phoenix and demand they prove they are not illegal Canadian immigrants.

Radley Balko is Freaking Brilliant

His response to a commenter should not be missed.  An excerpt:

Let's move on. I'm going to get a bit more critical now, so prepare yourself. Let's start with this:

What a sniveling little shit of a post from a sniveling little shit of a man.

This really feels lazy to me. You can do better. "Sniveling little shit" is already overused to the point of cliche. It is evocative, so I probably could still have lived with it had you only used it once. But to use it twice, and in the same sentence, really left me wishing you had come up with something more creative. Perhaps you were using repetition as a rhetorical device, but it really reads as if you just got tired of coming up with colorful ways to express your contempt for me. Which is disappointing, because those first couple lines really had me wanting to believe that you hated me. If I could offer a suggestion: This might be a good time to return to the puss-oozing lesion metaphor. I think it serves you well in a couple ways: It vividly and luridly conveys your disgust for me, and it links me in the minds of your readers to something quite unpleasant"”a festering wound. And a call-back is always a good way to keep your audience on its toes. You might even add some extra ickiness the second time around. For example, you might set the sore on someone's genitals, or perhaps on an anus. That's the beauty of writing! You are in control!

Pay to Play

From the WSJ:

The wide-ranging pay-to-play probe concerns whether investment firms like Mr. Rattner's former firm, Quadrangle Group LLC, were held up for fees and favors to secure access to lucrative business from New York's $125 billion public-pension fund.

So government officials, who have all the power, demand bribes from businesses in order for those businesses to participate in a certain market, and when discovered it is the private businesses that are being investigated?

This is just so typical of government, where pay-to-play rules are in fact legislated for businesses from bars to taxicabs.  I can't do anything new in Ventura County without bringing a whole series of checks to the County planning offices -- nearly every single department must be paid off before I can do something as simple as remodel a bathroom or revamp a store.  None of this is under the table, mind you, it is entirely up front and nominally legal.

Coyote on Reason.TV: Private Management of Public Parks

Check out this most recent Reason.TV video, if for no other reason that it features you humble correspondent in much of the video.    It is unbelievable that they pulled something this coherent out of my nervous babbling.

There are few things that I find more painful than watching myself on TV, but this came out well and I enjoyed the experience. Paul Feine is the sort of hip, pony-tailed SoCal libertarian all us old boring dudes want to be like.

What Both the Coke and The Pepsi Parties Have In Common

Legislators in both parties share one common belief -- that after millions of dollars and years of effort getting elected to their position, they don't want to hear anyone tell them their power is somehow limited.

"That somehow or other these are unconstitutional because they're not enumerated within the powers of the constitution, that somehow or other we should just be eliminating these, I think that is out of the mainstream," Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said on MSNBC.

No campaign rules or financing "reform", or even a wholesale change in Congressional makeup from the Pepsi to the Coke party, is going to change anything unless the fundamental problem of the expansion of government power is addressed.

Awesome

Why Can't Chuck Get His Business Off the Ground?  Go watch, from the IJ  (the IJ is what the ACLU should have been if they were not founded by Stalinists).

Biden on Government

From the New York Daily News, quoting VP Biden: (via Maggies Farm)

Every single great idea that has marked the 21st century, the 20th century and the 19th century has required government vision and government incentive

Wow, its hard to believe that even a hard core statist believes this in the face of historical evidence, but there it is.  The example  (and remember even a single correct example does not support the word "every") is an interesting one:

"In the middle of the Civil War you had a guy named Lincoln paying people $16,000 for every 40 miles of track they laid across the continental United States. "¦ No private enterprise would have done that for another 35 years."

I am actually stunned that he is historically literate enough to get the second part of this right, that there was in fact a single transcontinental railroad, James J Hill's Great Northern, that completed its line without government subsidies or land grants.  He even gets the date about right.  A few thoughts:

  • Not mentioned by Biden is the emergence of the entire rest of the US railroad industry, which by 1860 had about 30,000 miles of track, mostly via private initiative.
  • I think the original transcontinental railroad has interesting parallels to the Apollo program -- certainly government action got us into space and a transcontinental railroad faster than private action, but it could be argued that both delayed private initiative in these areas longer than would have occurred without the action.
  • For Lincoln in the Civil War, the transcontinental had as much to do with cementing Union control of California as it did promoting commerce or any other values

Here is my favorite fact -- Every single transcontinental railroad went bankrupt at least once before 1925, except one.  Can you guess which one did not?  Yes, it was the Great Northern, the only one built entirely with private capital.

Perhaps No Longer the World's Geekiest Hobby

I make no appologies for how my geeky model railroading hobby.  But here is Rod Stewart, fellow model railroader, standing up for the hobby:

So now TJIC will have to go scrambling through his back issues of Anvil Weekly to see if maybe Katy Perry made the cover.

Who Knew The Great Zombie Invasion Was This Easy to Thwart?

Via the Washington Post and Hit and Run

The National Park Service says it has no permit filed for zombie activity at the Lincoln Memorial Tuesday morning by AMC, a posse of zombies, or anyone else.

Wow, that was easy to stop.  And here I thought government permitting and licensing requirements were counter-productive.  Chalk one up for the statists.

Congratulations Phoenix-Area Police

Via TJIC, Copblock releases links to police officers accused of committing crimes.  The list for just one week is ridiculously long, and surely would be longer if not for the law of Omerta among police that cause only a small percentage of their crimes to see the light of day.  Congratulations to Phoenix area police (including Mesa and Maricopa County) for making the list seven times.

- Phoenix AZ cop who was charged with murder, planted drugs on mentally challenged homeless lady

- Phoenix AZ cop given 2nd degree murder charge after shooting unarmed man to death

- Mesa AZ cop grabs 2 women by the neck and slams their heads together

- Maricopa County AZ sheriff sued for intentionally locking disabled woman in jail cell w/several men for 6 hours

- 6 Mesa AZ cops sued for tasing, kicking and beating man

- Maricopa County AZ sheriff ordered to fix unconstitutional conditions at jails in ACLU suit by 9th circuit court

- Phoenix AZ cop arrested on DV-related aggravated assault after witness called cops

Solid work for one week.

Way Past Time to Open Up to Cuba

I thought we should have opened up years ago to Cuba, even when they were at their most totalitarian.  After all, 60 years is probably enough time to prove sanctions are not enough to bring Cuban leadership to their knees, and in the intervening time we have seen any number of examples of the power of trade and open interaction helping to topple bad regimes.

Unfortunately, I think we have been prevented in doing so by pure ego (we don't want to admit a failed policy we put so much bipartisan effort into) as well as Florida electoral politics  (anti-Castro votes considered swing votes in a swing state).  I don't know what to do about the latter -- we have ethanol subsidies for the same reason (ie Iowa's prominence in the presidential selection process).   However, with Cuba currently mitigating some of its worst socialist impulses, it strikes me that now is the time we can overcome the ego problem and simply declare victory.  Unfortunately, we now have a President that may want to continue punishing Cuba, this time for lowering taxes and reducing the size of government.

I Hope They Got That Edith Keeler Thing Sorted Out

This guy thinks he has found evidence of time travel, in the form of a person talking on a cell-phone-like device caught on film in 1928. But wouldn't having a cell phone in 1928 be like having the first fax machine?

Example of Why Climate Science is Becoming a Laughingstock

From the Thin Green Line, a reliable source for any absurd science that supports environmental alarmism:

Sending and receiving email makes up a full percent of a relatively green person's annual carbon emissions, the equivalent of driving 200 miles.
Dealing with spam, however, accounts for more than a fifth of the average account holder's electricity use. Spam makes up a shocking 80 percent of all emails sent, but most people get rid of them as fast as you can say "delete."
So how does email stack up to snail mail? The per-message carbon cost of email is just 1/60th of the old-fashioned letter's. But think about it "” you probably send at least 60 times as many emails a year than you ever did letters.

One way to go greener then is to avoid sending a bunch of short emails and instead build a longer message before you send it.

This is simply hilarious, and reminds me of the things the engineers would fool the pointy-haired boss with in Dilbert.  Here was my response:

This is exactly the kind of garbage analysis that is making the environmental movement a laughing stock.

In computing the carbon footprint of email, the vast majority of the energy in the study was taking the amount of energy used by a PC during email use (ie checking, deleting, sending, organizing) and dividing it by the number of emails sent or processed. The number of emails is virtually irrelevant -- it is the time spent on the computer that matters. So futzing around trying to craft one longer email from many shorter emails does nothing, and probably consumers more energy if it takes longer to write than the five short emails.

This is exactly the kind of peril that results from a) reacting to the press release of a study without understanding its methodology (or the underlying science) and b) focusing improvement efforts on the wrong metrics.

The way to save power is to use your computer less, and to shut it down when not in use rather than leaving it on standby.

If one wants to argue that the energy is from actually firing the bits over the web, this is absurd. Even if this had a measurable energy impact, given the very few bytes in an email, reducing your web surfing by one page a day would keep more bytes from moving than completely giving up email.

By the way, the suggestion for an email charge in the linked article is one I have made for years, though the amount is too high. A charge of even 1/100 cent per email would cost each of us about a penny per day but would cost a 10 million mail spammer $1000, probably higher than his or her expected yield from the spam.

How Can A Prius Possibly Compete With This?

via How to Be a Retronaut

"American company Fiberglass Freaks is producing officially licensed, road-legal 1966 Batmobiles. And yes, the flamethrower works.Each car costs $149,999 (£95,000), takes six months to build and features an array of working gadgets, including a red flashing beacon, a radar screen called "˜Detect-a-scope', a retractable, gold-coloured "˜Batbeam' and a dashboard DVD player.

More pictures at the source.

Sacrificing to Support James Cameron's Lifestyle

Everyone, you need to give up you CO2 emissions so that James Camperon can maintain his lifestyle:

But e.g. James Cameron apparently assumes that people won't be able to notice that he is using

3 houses in Malibu (24,000 sq ft in total - 10 times the average U.S. home), a 100-acre ranch in Santa Barbara, a JetRanger helicopter, three Harleys, a Corvette, a Ducati, a Ford GT, a collection of dirt bikes, a yacht, a Humvee firetruck, a fleet of submarines...

Nevertheless, he demands that people live with less - the same people who made him rich by watching his movies....

There simply doesn't exist any justification of the need to lower the world population that would make the life of James Cameron sustainable. It's just amazing to think about the societal atmosphere that makes it natural for him to defend these inhuman concepts.

Update:

Worst Anti-Death Penalty Argument Ever

Long time readers will know that after years of being a death penalty hawk in my younger years, have turned against the death penalty because I do not think that our government run legal system is capable of handing out death sentences fairly.  In particular, we see too many case overturned 20-30 years after the fact by DNA and other evidence, as well as changing social pressures (e.g. increased sympathy for blacks in the deep south) that I don't like the death penalty because it cuts off the ability to appeal.  Sure, folks on death row get a zillion appeals, but after 6-8 years these run out and the person is killed.  How is that going to help the black man convicted in 1962, when changing societal dynamics might only offer him a fair hearing in 1985, or DNA evidence in 1995, or help from the Innocence Project in 2005?

Never-the-less, I have to say this may be the worst appeal I have ever seen against the death penalty, with one man trying to hold up the process because the lethal drugs were obtained from a non-US supplier.  LOL, I don't think he is really worried about the drugs somehow being ineffective.  I sympathize with him, I would be doing everything I could too, particularly in a state like Arizona where law-of-the-west politicians compete to see who can send prisoners to the grave fastest.

Calling Young Climate Skeptics in the DC Area

If you are young (I suppose 20's or younger) and have been actively involved in some way as a climate skeptic in the Washington DC area, reporter Andrew Restuccia of the Washington Independent would like to talk to you.   He is writing an article on young climate skeptics, I think.  Drop him a note, he seems to be developing a hypothesis that skeptics are all crusty old dudes and showing him some fresh faces would help:  arestuccia --at-- washingtonindependent.com

Hope and Change, Sopranos Style

California state treasurer Bill Lockyer is urging public employee pension fund to divest itself of stocks of companies because of their support for a particular state ballot initiative.   Check that again - a sitting state official using his position in power to punish folks during an election campaign for their stand in that election.

"¦ state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, a former attorney general, urged the state's largest public employee investment funds to divest themselves of Valero and Tesoro stock.

Lockyer sent a letter to the public pension funds, known as CalPERS and CalSTRS, asking them to rid themselves of any stock connected to the refiners Valero and Tesoro. Lockyer charged the companies with attempting to constrain gasoline supplies in California to ensure profits for years to come "” and opposing the state's climate change law as a means to ensure that constraint.

"CalPERS and CalSTRS should not be investing in Texas oil companies that hurt the California economy, no more than they should invest in companies that spend millions of shareholder dollars to undermine California's environmental laws and the state's green energy industries and green tech jobs," Lockyer wrote.

Lockyer, a board member at CalPERS, is expected to ask the board tomorrow to divest Valero and Tesoro holdings during a meeting."

The Green Hell blog added:

It was also reported to this blog that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who views the global warming law as his signature accomplishment, kept Chevron out of the Proposition 23 battle by threatening the company with adverse tax measures.

Government, Third-Party Payers, and Inflation

If I was an economics grad student, here is a study I would love to do.  Identify products or industries for which third-party payers, and particularly the government, contribute a substantial amount of the purchase volume, either from outright payments or loan guarantees.  Here are three biggies I can think of:

  • Health care
  • Houses
  • College

Then look at the differing inflation rates over the last 20 years for these vs. a basket of other goods purchased the traditional way (ie with your own damn money).  I think you can see just from visual inspection where the answer is going to go.

Our Boys in Blue

I had this sent to me by several readers.

In that 2005 incident, Chrisman and his partner arrested a homeless woman on an outstanding warrant. According to the internal affairs investigation, Chrisman and his partner planted drug paraphernalia on the woman -- because they wanted to play a joke on the woman, who is mentally challenged.

Take a look at the video -- Chrisman puts a brilo pad and pipe in his partner's left hand. His female partner then pretends to pull the pipe out of the woman's dress.

Chrisman said he knew the suspect, and just wanted to get a rise out of her. He was suspended for one day and put on the Brady List -- his partner was also suspended for one day and put on the Brady List.

The woman wasn't charged with anything related to the planted evidence.

Video at the link.

It is hard to find the humor in planting evidence on a mentally-challenged homeless woman, though my guess is this became a joke only after the video appeared.

No matter what the officer's explanation, the disturbing fact is that Phoenix police officers seem to carry on their person, as part of their equipment, throw-down drug paraphernalia.   Why is no one asking why Chrisman had the crack pipe in the first place, or how his team was so well trained that they could wordlessly set up the plant.  This whole episode smacks of something well-practiced.

Recent Photography

I am a terrible photographer and seem to struggle getting any good pictures.  But with a little patience and some study, my yield has gone up, though it still is well under 20%.  Just for self-motivation, rather than any sense anyone out there is interested, here are a few of my recent photos that I thought came out pretty well.  A couple are experiments with HDR photography.  As usual click for enlargement:

Cinque Terre.   The HDR process in the first one really brings out the details, but like a sharpness filter turned up too high, the image falls apart when zoomed too much.

The next one could have been awesome if I had waited, say, 12 hours for the sun to be in the right place

This is the town of Portovenere

And at night, which was beautiful but I tried a zillion exposures and could never get quite what I wanted

I loved all the little winding staircases.  I struggled to capture the romantic element that attracted me to them.  This one came out the best, but still failed to get what I wanted

A couple of views from the roof of the Milan Duomo.  I really loved walking among the flying buttresses and thought these made interesting subjects.  These are probably my favorite shots from the whole batch. They are both HDR shots.

And here are the spires on the same roof:

The Grand Canyon and Sedona

Haze seems to be my never-ending enemy of good landscape photos.  I have tried filters of various sorts.  In the shot below, I tried HDR which really cut the haze but left the tree in the foreground as a blur (due to its movement between the photos that were combined to make the picture).

Cargo Cult Light Rail

Several people sent me this Reason video on light rail in Detroit

I was really struck by the cargo cult reasoning here and the confusion of cause and effect.  Because we see rail in highly developed urban areas (e.g. Manhattan) then if we build rail in a blighted area, it will soon look like Manhattan.

Note the mentions of serving sports stadiums.  As I have observed earlier, light rail systems almost always service professional sports stadiums.  Is there no limit to the public subsidies that politicians are willing to throw at sports franchise owners?

Then ending is a classic

Update: From Wikipedia, for those not familiar with cargo cults:

Cargo cult activity in the Pacific region increased significantly during and immediately after World War II, when the residents of these regions observed the Japanese and American combatants bringing in large amounts of material. When the war ended, the military bases closed and the flow of goods and materials ceased. In an attempt to attract further deliveries of goods, followers of the cults engaged in ritualistic practices such as building crude imitation landing strips, aircraft and radio equipment, and mimicking the behaviour that they had observed of the military personnel operating them.

Sure sounds a lot like Detroit, trying to bring back the prosperity.  This is actually pretty endemic in modern-day policy making, as so few people really understand the origins of wealth.  Obama's stimulus programs can be seen in the same light, as cargo cult economics.

OK, Its Time to Fix Internet Patents (or Maybe Just Put Them Down)

A patent troll company thinks it owns exclusive rights to rollover messages on web sites, among many other common features as outlined in the brazenly, ridiculously general patent entitled "Accessing, assembling, and using bodies of information."    I am just waiting for the patent on breathing or metabolizing food.  Story here, via Overlawyered.