Posts tagged ‘HT’

Loved This

This will only really be compelling to Princeton grads out there, but I loved this video (HT Maggies Farm).

Almost certainly the only rap video ever that uses video from the P-rade.

Sent to Me from Virginia

HT to my sister

 

 

Reservoir of Meyers

I thought this map in the National Geographic was cool- it shows the most popular surname in different areas of the country.  I am not sure what geographic divisions they use (why does Texas have so little granularity?).  But it does turn out there are a couple of "Meyer" labels on the chart, which kind of surprised me  -- though they did spell it the right damn way - no "s" on the end, no Mayer, no Myer or other such nonsense ;=)

The "Meyer" in the middle of Iowa is pretty much where my dad's family settled when they came over from Northern Germany.  Though I am confused as to why they show it color-coded as English origin -- I am pretty sure this area is German  (the Meyer over around northern Nebraska and in Wisconsin is coded German).

HT:  Flowing Data

I'm OK

For those of you worried, the coyote that was shot by the Boston environmental police (!) was no relation.  Though I would not be surprised if RFK Jr. had them ordered after me, given his statements about global warming skeptics.  HT TJIC

Stock Market Returns

This chart in the NY Times is pretty interesting, though I could quibble about the color coding.  You have to stare at it a minute to get it - each cell represents a combination of stock purchase and sales dates, with the color representing the average market inflation-adjusted return for that buy and hold period (click to enlarge, or click through to the source link where it is explained in more depth).

Whenever one uses red and green for coloring a chart, the reader is going to assume red is bad and green is good.  In this case, the light red represents returns from 0 to 3% above inflation.  Is that bad?  Maybe.  I would say inflation plus 3% is probably lower than people's expectation of stock market returns, but I think a lot of folks would equate red with capital erosion, which is not the case if returns are out-pacing inflation.

This is sort of a good-news-bad-news story.  The good news is that there is no 25-year period where returns fall below inflation.  The bad news is that the median return of inflation plus 4% is probably less than most folks are planning for -- including a lot of state pension funds that are still counting on returns like 8% for their entire portfolio (something like inflation + 5-6%), which is a blend of stocks and bonds, implying they are hoping for an equity return north of that.

HT:  Flowing Data

Police and Accountability

I have written before that the inexpensive handheld video camera is perhaps the most important innovation in police accountability in my lifetime.  So of course, the police want them banned.

In response to a flood of Facebook and YouTube videos that depict police abuse, a new trend in law enforcement is gaining popularity. In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer.Even if the encounter involves you and may be necessary to your defense, and even if the recording is on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists....

In short, recordings that are flattering to the police - an officer kissing a baby or rescuing a dog - will almost certainly not result in prosecution even if they are done without all-party consent. The only people who seem prone to prosecution are those who embarrass or confront the police, or who somehow challenge the law. If true, then the prosecutions are a form of social control to discourage criticism of the police or simple dissent.

Folks who read Radley Balko or Carlos Miller will not find a lot new hear, but it is a very good overview of an issue that is hot among blogs but rarely if ever makes the major media.

After an encounter with the public goes wrong, the police have historically been able to make up any story they want and make it stick, in many cases shifting the blame to innocent civilians.  It is scary to see how many times this happens, with the officer's story shown to be a lie by cameras on site (and even then it can be hard to get the police to investigate).  Only the combination of cameras and YouTube (to publicize the video so it can't be ignored) have begun to bring some justice to these encounters.

HT Alex Tabarrok

Apple and AT&T Slime iPad Buyers

A large part of Apple's iPad 3G sales pitch was the ability to buy a $30 a month unlimited data plan from AT&T.   In an announcement that clearly has been in the works long before Apple introduced the iPad, and which was only released after the first wave of iPad 3G sales, AT&T said "just kidding" to its unlimited data plan customers.  I understand where AT&T is going with this but if Apple is going to have an exclusive relationship with a cellular provider, it has some responsibility to its customers to keep them in line.

For years I have resisted the urge to switch to AT&T to get an iPhone, sticking with whatever imperfect phones I could find to access the Verizon network.  This just reinforces that choice.

Local telephone providers pretty much failed in their ability to offer reasonable high-speed data services to customers, for years losing out to cable and other suppliers.  It will be interesting to see if any cellular providers will be up to this challenge.  HT Megan McArdle.

Update: The old plans are still up at the Apple site selling iPads.  Note the new AT&T plan even cost increases the low volume plan, increasing it from $15 for 250mb to $15 for 200mb.  Crazy that Apple allowed their partner to do this within a month of the iPad 3G launch.

Awsome Idea, Even if it is Yale

Time to short those shares of the Teaching Company.  Yale is offering free videos of many of its introductory courses. HT:  Carpe Diem

More on the Health Care Bills

The NY Post has a very good editorial on the health care bills (HT:  Q&O).  Too much good stuff to excerpt, it includes even more crazy provisions in the House and Senate bills I had not seen yet (its like a scavenger hunt as people go through the 1000 pages, or maybe more like searching for landmines).

But since the bill doesn't even start taking effect until 2013 (except for the higher taxes, which come earlier, of course), we have to really really rush and make sure its approved before the August recess (and before critics are able to actually read the thing - no chance those in Congress will read it, ever).  Also, its such a burning problem, it just must be solved now, as evidenced by...

The most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll (June 21) finds that 83 percent of Americans are very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the quality of their health care, and 81 percent are similarly satisfied with their health insurance.

They have good reason to be. If you're diagnosed with cancer, you have a better chance of surviving it in the United States than anywhere else, according to the Concord Five Continent Study. And the World Health Organization ranked the United States No. 1 out of 191 countries for being responsive to patients' needs, including providing timely treatments and a choice of doctors.

I have written a number of times, the fact that we spend more on health care is not a bug, its a feature.  We are the wealthiest nation on earth, and there is only so much we can spend on food, clothing, shelter, plasma TV's and other necessities.  We choose to spend a lot of that extra money on our health and longevity.  Why is that a bad decision?

The Bailout is Back

So what does it take to overcome the opposition of Congressmen who said they opposed the bailout bill as too expensive, too big of a giveaway, and too much of a moral hazard?  Why, more moral hazard (in the form of higher FDIC insured balances), increased spending, and, incredibly, money for alternative energy.  Are these guys a joke or what?  (HT Hit and Run)

By the way, I had a conversation yesterday with a very anti-Bush, anti-Iraq-War Democrat -- the sort that can't get through a five minute conversation without making a Dick Cheney crack.  She was lamenting the failure of the bailout package in the House and excoriating Republicans for being so ignorant and narrow-minded.  My response was:

I find it surprising that you take this administration on faith in its declaration of emergency in the financial sector.   You've lamented for years about the "rush to war" and GWB's scare tactics that pushed, you felt, the nation into a war it should not be fighting, all over threats of WMD's that we could never find.  You lamented Democrats like Hillary Clinton "falling for this" in Congress

But now the mantra is the same - rush, rush, hurry, hurry, fear, fear, emergency, emergency. Another GWB declared crisis in which the country needs to give the administration unlimited power without accountability and, of course, stacks of taxpayer dollars to spend.  A decision that has to be made fast, without time for deliberation.  Another $700 billion commitment.     And here the Democrats go again.  Jeez, these guys may have the majority in Congress but it is sure easy for GWB to push their buttons when he wants to.  Heck, Pelosi is acting practically as the Republican Whip to get GWB's party in line.

This is Iraq without the body bags, and without the personal honor of brave soldiers in the trenches to give the crisis some kind of dignity.

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

Cui Bono?

Here is something I didn't know:  Way back in the 1990's, Enron was lobbying hard for cap and trade legislation to create a lucrative new trading profit center for the company (HT Tom Nelson)

In the early 1990s Enron had helped establish the market for, and
became the major trader in, EPA's $20 billion-per-year sulphur dioxide
cap-and-trade program, the forerunner of today's proposed carbon credit
trade. This commodity exchange of emission allowances caused Enron's
stock to rapidly rise.

Then came the inevitable question, what
next? How about a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program? The problem was
that CO2 is not a pollutant, and therefore the EPA had no authority to
cap its emission. Al Gore took office in 1993 and almost immediately
became infatuated with the idea of an international environmental
regulatory regime. He led a U.S. initiative to review new projects
around the world and issue "˜credits' of so many tons of annual CO2
emission reduction. Under law a tradeable system was required, which
was exactly what Enron also wanted because they were already trading
pollutant credits.

Thence Enron vigorously lobbied Clinton and
Congress, seeking EPA regulatory authority over CO2. From 1994 to 1996,
the Enron Foundation contributed nearly $1 million dollars - $990,000 -
to the Nature Conservancy, whose Climate Change Project promotes global
warming theories. Enron philanthropists lavished almost $1.5 million on
environmental groups that support international energy controls to
"reduce" global warming. Executives at Enron worked closely with the
Clinton administration to help create a scaremongering climate science
environment because the company believed the treaty could provide it
with a monstrous financial windfall. The plan was that once the problem
was in place the solution would be trotted out.

With Enron out of the picture, the way is clear for new players to dominate this multi-billion dollar new business.  And look who is ready to take over from Enron:

The investment
vehicle headed by Al Gore has closed a new $683m fund to invest in
early-stage environmental companies and has mounted a robust defence of
green investing.

The Climate Solutions Fund will be one of the biggest in the growing market for investment funds with an environmental slant.

The fund
will be focused on equity investments in small companies in four
sectors: renewable energy; energy efficiency technologies; energy from
biofuels and biomass; and the carbon trading markets.

This is
the second fund from Generation Investment Management, chaired by the
former vice-president of the US and managed by David Blood, former head
of Goldman Sachs Asset Management.

The first, the Global Equity
Strategy Fund, has $2.2bn invested in large companies the company
judges have "sustainable" businesses, from an environmental, social and
economic viewpoint. Mr Blood said he expected that fund to be worth
$5bn within two years, based on commitments from interested investors.

Going green indeed.

Demagoguery

Hillary has jumped on the gas tax holiday along with John McCain.   Kevin Drum calls it pure demagoguery (he probably wouldn't have been so blunt about Hillary, but since he already derided McCain for the idea, he has the good grace to apply the same criticisms to Hillary:

I'd say there's approximately a zero percent chance that Hillary
Clinton or John McCain actually believe this is good policy. It would
increase oil company profits, it would make hardly a dent in the price
of gasoline, it would encourage more summertime driving, and it would
deprive states of money for transit projects. Their staff economists
know this perfectly well, and so do they.

But they don't care. It's a way to engage in some good, healthy
demagoguery, and if there's anything that the past couple of months
have reinforced, it's the notion that demagoguery sells. Boy does it
sell.

I tend to agree with Drum.  The gas tax, at least when applied to its original purpose of funding highways and roads, is one of the better taxes out there, doing a pretty good job of matching the costs of roads to the users of the roads.  However, I did make this point in Drum's comment section:

I am glad you see that an 18.4 cent gas price reduction is small compared to the total price and proposing such a reduction by government fiat is pure demagoguery. 

I would like to point out that most oil companies have a profit on a wholesale gallon of gas that is also about 18-20 cents.  The reason they make so much money is that they sell a lot of gallons of gas (plus many other petroleum products).  So is it similarly pure demagoguery to blame oil company profits for the price of gas, or to suggest government schemes (e.g. windfall profits tax) to reduce these profits?

By the way, Hillary is particularly hypocritical on this, because she has adopted the 80 by 50 CO2 target (80% reduction by 2050).  To meet this target, which I think would be an economic disaster, is not going to require an 18.4 cent gas tax, but something like a $10 a gallon gas tax, or more.  Since she has adopted her 80 by 50 target, her correct answer on gas taxes should not be to propose a holiday, but to say "suck it up, because taxes are going to go a hell of a lot higher."  McCain, who has also adopted a CO2 target, though a less stringent one, is in the same boat.

Update:  OK, the $10 per gallon tax is probably gross under-estimated.  The number is likely to have to be much higher than that, given that Europeans are already paying nearly $10 a gallon and are not even in the ballpark of these CO2 targets.

Cost of gasoline
(U.S. Dollars per Gallon)
Date___     Belgium  France  Germany  Italy  Netherlands  UK  _ US
4/20/98     3.43___  3.44__  3.25___  3.48_  3.56_______ 4.04  1.21
4/21/08     8.62___  8.34__  8.58___  8.32_  9.51_______ 8.17  3.73

HT:  Hall of Record

Cap and Rent-Seek

Just the other day, I made the point that just because regulated corporations support a regulation does not mean that said regulation is sensible or good for the economy.  Often, incumbents are beneficiaries of industry regulation, which tends to give them certain advantages over new entrants.  I showed an example with General Electric and the new energy bill regulating light bulbs:

we see that GE has a product sitting on the shelf ready for release
that fits perfectly with the new mandate.  Assuming competitors don't
have such a technology yet, the energy bill is then NOT a regulation of
GE's product that they reluctantly bow to, but a mandate that allows GE
to keep doing business but trashes their competition.  It is a market
share acquisition law for GE.

Marlo Lewis makes a similar point, this time in relation to cap and trade systems:

I can't count how many times I've heard that line of
chatter"”and from people who usually assume anything corporations are
for must be bad!
 
There are many reasons some corporations
support cap-and-trade, or at least say nice things about it in public.
Some companies seek the PR value from looking green....
 
But in the case of energy companies, many who support
cap-and-trade do so in the expectation that they'll get a boatload of
carbon permits from the government"”for free!
 
Permits represent an artificial, government-created
scarcity in the right to produce energy. The right to produce energy is
very valuable, especially where government restricts it. The tighter
the cap, the more valuable each permit traded under the cap.
And this is a major problem with cap and trade that no one talks about:  It is a huge government subsidy and protection of existing competitors against new entrants.  Because in most systems, current competitors receive a starting allotment of credits for free, but new entrants who want to start up and compete against existing companies must purchase their credits.  This is tolerated in Europe, because that is how the European quasi-corporate-state works, with politicians and large corporations in bed together to protect each others' incumbency.  But it creates a stagnating economic mess, ironically locking in place the very companies and business models environmentalists would like to see overtaken by new ideas and entrants.

Frequent readers know that I am not convinced the costs of man-made global warming exceed the costs of abating such warming.  However, if we are going to do so, a carbon tax makes so much more sense, in that it avoids the implicit subsidies of incumbents and reduces the opportunities for rent-seeking and political shenanigans.  Politicians, however, live for these rent-seeking opportunities, because they generate so many campaign contributions.  They also favor hidden taxes, as cap-and-trade would be, over direct taxes, such as the carbon tax, because they are, well, gutless.

More here on cap-and-trade vs. carbon tax.

HT:  Tom Nelson

Post-Scarcity World

I am going to post a bit more on this topic later today, but here is one of a number of great old computer ads shown here.  Don't miss Elvira shilling for her favorite CASE tools.  (HT Maggies Farm)

A155_a1g

I just bought 2 TB in four 500 MB drives for less than $430 including shipping  (that's an improvement from $150 per MB in 1979 to about $0.22 per MB**).   With the great tools now available on most motherboards, I arrayed these in a fast and redundant Raid 0+1 setup with 1TB of storage.  (Yes, to the total geeks out there, I would have preferred Raid 1+0 but alas the Nvidia chipset on my board did not support it.)

** By the way, this 700x improvement over 30 years actually has little or nothing to do with Moore's law.  While some of the materials sciences are related, this improvement has little to do with silicon and nothing to do with transistor density.  This is the result of incredible human creativity in the face of brutal competition, both from other hard drive manufacturers as well as from substitutes like static RAM.

Vista Update: Still Floundering

Frequent readers will know that I have reversed all the new Vista machines in our household back to XP and I have banned Vista from any computers purchased in the company (Dell is quite happy to sell XP rather than Vista).  Here is a how-to on how to downgrade to XP.

Now, PC World has voted Vista as the technology failure of the year  (I would also vote the box as the packaging failure of the decade, and the new user interface in MS Office as the hose-your-installed-base gaffe of the year).

I thought this was an interesting fact, from PC World several months ago:

Certainly sales of Vista aren't blowing away XP in stores. Chris
Swenson, director of software industry analysis for the NPD Group, says
that, from January through July of this year, XP sales accounted for a
healthy 42.3 percent of online and brick-and-mortar retail OS sales. By
contrast, from January through July of 2002, after XP's launch in
October the year prior, Windows 98 accounted for just 23.1 percent of
retail sales.

I made a similar observation using Amazon sales rankings of XP vs. Vista here. Finally, just for the heck of it, I checked the OS's of users coming to Coyote Blog.  In the past, our users have demonstrated themselves to be ahead of the technology curve (Firefox eclipsed Explorer as the #1 Coyote Blog brower long ago).  As you can see, Vista barely has 4% share, in a near tie with Windows 2000 and Windows NT and barely edging Linux:
Servers2

HT:  What's Up With That

Let Us Not Forget This

It is good to know that Al Gore is proud of supporting, even "saving," corn-based ethanol (from a pro-ethanol site):

Vice-President Al Gore
Third Annual Farm Journal Conference, December 1, 1998
http://clinton3.nara.gov/WH/EOP/OVP/speeches/farmj.html

"I
was also proud to stand up for the ethanol tax exemption when it was
under attack in the Congress -- at one point, supplying a tie-breaking
vote in the Senate to save it. The more we can make this home-grown
fuel a successful, widely-used product, the better-off our farmers and
our environment will be."

It is good to know that when the economic and environmental toll from our disastrous subsidization of corn ethanol is finally tallied, we will know where to send the bill.

HT: Tom Nelson

Update: More Here on Ethanol Craziness

Wow, Media Sees Dumb Lawsuit for What it Is

In the earlier days of this blog, I used to post links to a lot of insane lawsuits.  The lawsuits just keep coming, but I have lost the energy to keep posting such stupidity.  And besides, Overlawyered does such a good job and seems to have infinite patience. 

But it was worth noting a silly shareholder suit that the media actually seems to have sniffed out for what it is:  Pure garbage.  For those who are not aware, there are a group of law firms who immediately file suit against any company whose stock drops by more than a few percent.  Bill Lerach, soon to be taking up residence in jail, used to keep a whole bullpen of folks on a sort of retainer to hold shares in numerous companies, so he instantly had someone close at hand who could file suit when any stock drops.  And since stocks go up and down, often in ways that the company itself has no control over, this leads to a lot of lawsuits.

Recently, the maker of Crocs sandles apparently had an IPO, had its stock price shoot up, and then had its stock price fall back when the company could not sustain its previous torrid growth pace.  Al Lewis of the Denver Post takes it from there:  (HT Overlawyered, of course)

Anybody who purchased stock in
Niwot-based Crocs Inc. between July 27 and Oct. 31 should not join the
class-action shareholders lawsuit that was recently filed against the
company and its stock-dumping executives.

Instead, they should look themselves in the mirror and admit two things:

      

I look ridiculous in these plastic shoes.

      

Anybody
who would pay an average of more than $60 a share for a company that
makes ugly plastic shoes deserves to take a hit in the stock market.

He continues:

Crocs and its officers also allegedly
misrepresented or failed to disclose their distribution problems in
Europe and their rising inventory levels, the lawsuit alleges. They
also failed to disclose that sales of their hole-riddled plastic clogs
were suddenly becoming more of a seasonal item. Imagine that! Sandals
seasonal? Who knew?

By the way, if you really want your head to explode, take a minute a think about shareholder lawsuits.  A group of shareholders are suing the company for a fall in the stock price.  Who do you think pays?  Why, current shareholders!  Though I do not accept the "logic" of these suits, if one were to accept their logic, then the most guilty party is the stockholder who sold the plaintiffs their stock just before the drop.  But these folks are exactly who will NOT owe any money on the suit.  They are no longer owners.  The people who will pay will be the owners of the stock at whatever time the suit settles, likely many people who bought in after the plaintiffs did.  The only real winner when the shareholders pay themselves such a verdict are the lawyers, who rake off 30%.  More on this bizarre situation here.

Update:  I will have to think about this more, but it kind of reminds me of a prisoners dilemma game in which the prosecutor gets a monetary bonus that increases with longer prison terms.

My Wish Fulfilled

I remember a while back there was a TV show where people told the producers what kind of cool demonstrations they would like to see and the TV show delivered.  The one I remember was the guy that wanted to see a whole case of fluorescent light tubes dropped off a five-story roof onto a parking lot.

If I were asked, my fantasy would be to see 20,000 pounds of metallic sodium dropped in a lake.  Wish Fulfilled!  HT Maggies Farm.

Environmental Preservation of a Man-Made Lake

Environmentalists are working to preserve another priceless natural treasure, one that has been on this earth supporting its habitat for, uh, decades.  From the Save the Salton Sea web site:

The
proposed transfer of water from the Imperial Valley to San Diego as
part of the reduction of California's Colorado River use, the possible
reclamation of New River water by Mexico, and the increased evaporation
from the Sea's restoration all threaten to reduce lake levels.  The
proposed transfer of the 300,000 acre feet alone, if inflows are not
replaced, is estimated to drop lake levels by over 16 feet, exposing
almost 70 square miles of sediments.  The result could be potential air
quality problems caused by blowing dust, seaside homes stranded far
from the Sea, and greatly accelerated concentrations of salts and
nutrients.

Of course its freaking drying up.  In a sense, this lake represents the United States' largest industrial spill, as early in the 20th century a couple of Colorado River aqueducts broke and poured water into the Salton basin, creating a brand new sea.  By usual environmentalist arguments, this lake is supposed to dry up, having been an artificial creation of man.  (By the way, as an extra credit task, I challenge you to find anywhere in the web site linked above where they mention that the lake is a man-made accident that is barely 100 years old).

HT:  Maggies Farm

Above the Law

As many of my readers know, we run over 200 recreation facilities across the country, from Washington to Florida.  This experience of serving nearly a million customers a year has yielded some odd insights.  One of the ones I published before is that the far-and-away worst litterers in the country are Southern Californians and LA residents in particular, California-eco-speak notwithstanding. 

Another observation we have made is that many times our most difficult customers turn out to be law enforcement officers.  I'm not talking about all of them - the vast majority of law enforcement officers are friendly, peaceful campers.  But when we have an incident of a customer refusing to follow the rules and wanting privileges no one else gets, like-as-not the customer is a law enforcement officer of some sort.  For example, we have had an off duty law-enforcement officer pay for one campsite, and then spread his stuff out over three, and refuse to limit himself to one site or pay for the other two he was using.   We have had off-duty law enforcement officers who had their car towed because it was parked for four hours in a tow-away zone, and then had their on-duty friends show up (well out of their jurisdiction) and interrogate our managers and otherwise harass them in retribution.  Heck, we have biker gangs come through that are more respectful of authority than certain off-duty law enforcement officers.

This irritating little site (HT: Hit and Run) possibly explains some things for me.  The site is apparently run by cops and is aimed at criticizing cops who do not extend other officers "professional courtesy"  which apparently is a euphemism for "allow them to break the rules with impunity."  Police officers who actually have the temerity to enforce the rules on other police officers are singled out as "dicks."  Maybe I understand why some of our police officer customers are not accustomed to having to follow the same rules as everyone else.

Drug Prohibition Doing Nothing To Affect Teen Use

One of the arguments for banning adult legal access to drugs like marijuana (and even allergy medications) is that it helps to prevent abuse of these drugs by underage kids.  This would be nice to test in a true control group setting, but we really don't have the opportunity under current laws to do so.  But we can work by proxy.  We can compare drugs that are illicit for everyone, like marijuana, to drugs that are legal for adults but not for minors, like tobacco. 

If drug warriors are correct, teenage tobacco use should be much higher than use of other illicit drugs.  This is particularly true because the proxy is an imperfect one, since the tobacco is a far less intimidating drug to try than, say, heroin.  However, it turns out not to be the case.  The new figures our out from our friendly US Government drug warriors, and it turns out that tobacco use is barely higher among teens than illicit drug use.

For example, the study shows that past month tobacco use among kids 12-17 was 12.9% in 2006, while past month illicit drug use in the same group was 9.8% (tables G.16 and G.7).  That's lower, but certainly not decisively so.  Both of these use numbers have fallen since 2002 at about the same rate.

Even more interesting are the figures for the number of kids 12-17 who had initiated use of certain substances in the past year (table G.26).  In that year, 2.45 million had initiated cigarette use, but 2.79 million had initiated illicit drug use.  Further, when asked if certain substances carried "great risk" in trying to purchase them, 68.7% of underage cigarette smokers said yes (table G.25).   This response was 10 or more points higher than that of teenage occasional users marijuana, cocaine, or even heroin.  In short, teenagers are saying it is more difficult and/or riskier to support cigarette use than it is to support a weekly marijuana, cocaine, or heroin habit -- exactly the opposite of the drug warriors' argument for prohibition  (but consistent with the libertarian argument that bringing these drug sales above ground will make underage purchase more visible and easier to combat).

HT: Hit and Run for the link

Vote For Me Because I Care

How many politicians have you heard say that they care deeply.  I hate politicians who care.  You know why?  Because the way they demonstrate that they care is by using my money against my will to help someone else.  It is a freaking slap in the face every time I hear this.

Now, government employees in Massachusetts are getting a new way to demonstrate they care at taxpayer expense:

A much-hyped program that
gives state workers up to a dozen paid days off per year to "volunteer"
in a wide variety of community activities gives another perk to
employees who already have one of the most generous benefit packages in
the country....

   A Herald analysis
shows that if the 80 employees in the governor's office took full
advantage of the program, the one-year cost would be $217,000. The
taxpayer cost just for Patrick, who makes $140,000, to take all 12 paid
volunteer days would be about $6,400. There are 50,000 state workers
eligible to participate in the program.

    "Beyond
the loss of productivity for days off, consider the cost of tasking
other state employees with making sure their co-workers aren't just
extending their weekends," said state GOP spokesman Brian Dodge. "With
bright ideas like this one, the stream of wasted money directly
attributed to Deval Patrick is quickly becoming a raging river."

Its not "volunteering" if you get paid to do it, any more than its "charity" when you give away other people's money.  (HT:  Maggie's Farm)

The Health Care Difference

While it may have been unintentional, a quote in New York magazine helps make the point I have been trying to make about universal health care (HT: John Scalzi)

"With universal [health care], you'd get the same kind of
mediocre shittiness that you'd get in all other kinds of standardized
approaches. But for millions of people, that would be a big upgrade."

Americans are unbelievably charitable people, to the extent that they will put up with a lot of taxation and even losses of freedoms through government coercion to help people out.

However, in nearly every other case of government-coerced charity, the main effect is "just" an increase in taxes.  Lyndon Johnson wants to embark on a futile attempt to try to provide public housing to the poor?  Our taxes go up, a lot of really bad housing is built, but at least my housing did not get any worse.  Ditto food programs -- the poor might get some moldy cheese from a warehouse, but my food did not get worse.  Ditto welfare.  Ditto social security, unemployment insurance,and work programs. 

But health care is different.  The author above is probably correct that some crappy level of terribly run state health care will probably be an improvement for some of the poor.  But what is different about many of the health care proposals on the table is that everyone, not just the poor will get this same crappy level of treatment.  It would be like a public housing program where everyone's house is torn down and every single person must move into public housing.  That is universal state-run health care.  Ten percent of America gets pulled up, 90% of America gets pulled down, possibly way down. 

I don't think most Americans really know what they are signing up for.  Which is why it is so important for health care socialists to have people like Michael Moore running around trying to convince the middle class they will be getting better health care.  Because there is almost no possibility of this being true, and health care proposals will never pass if people realize it.

More here.

Holy Security State, Batman!

Hollywood may like to criticize GWB for his over-eager and intrusive anti-terrorism precautions, but they sure seem ready to take a page out of the homeland security book when it comes to protecting their CD sales:

In Florida, the new legislation requires all stores buying second-hand
merchandise for resale to apply for a permit and file security in the
form of a $10,000 bond with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer
Services. In addition, stores would be required to thumb-print
customers selling used CDs, and acquire a copy of state-issued identity
documents such as a driver's license. Furthermore, stores could issue
only store credit -- not cash -- in exchange for traded CDs, and would
be required to hold discs for 30 days before reselling them.  (HT Overlawyered)

Requiring thumbprints from customers just to sell used CD's?  Are they nuts?  Can you imagine if they tried to apply this to anything else?  You'd have to have a retina scanner to use eBay.  Freaking totally insane.  I can buy a gun, an aircraft, and a shopping cart full of rat poison without a thumbprint but I need to go through the jailhouse booking routine to sell a CD?

By the way, note how insane the requirements on resellers are.  For example, having to hold a disc 30 days before selling.  Why?  I am sure for a lot of hot music products the value goes down about 50% a month.

Of course, we all know the reason why.  This is about politically powerful incumbents protecting their business from competition.  In this case, music companies don't want to have to compete with their own CDs showing up on the aftermarket.  Well you know what -- suck it up.  Car companies have had to deal with this problem for years.  I am sure they would love laws that make it difficult for anyone to buy a used car (or maybe they wouldn't - a healthy secondary market gives consumers the ability to trade up to new models frequently, something music sellers should consider).

Think about the recycling angle, by the way.  The best recycling plan is to reuse an item for its original use.  We all remember Hollywood giving Al Gore a big wet kiss at the Oscars, and congratulating themselves for being more green than the rest of us schmucks  Except, of course, when it hits the bottom line.  "Hey you little guys out there, don't resell those CD's, we want to make sure you throw them out and buy new.  After all, we can't keep our private jets flying without selling lots more CDs."