Posts tagged ‘protest’

Bundy Ranch the Wrong Hill for Libertarians to be Dying On

Here is something I find deeply ironic:  On the exact same day that Conservatives were flocking to the desert to protest Cliven Bundy's eviction from BLM land, San Francisco progressives were gathering in the streets to protest tenant evictions by a Google executive.   To my eye, both protests were exactly the same, but my guess is that neither group would agree with the other's protest.  I think both protests are misguided.

In the case of Cliven Bundy, I agree with John Hinderaker, right up to his big "But...."

First, it must be admitted that legally, Bundy doesn’t have a leg to stand on. The Bureau of Land Management has been charging him grazing fees since the early 1990s, which he has refused to pay. Further, BLM has issued orders limiting the area on which Bundy’s cows can graze and the number that can graze, and Bundy has ignored those directives. As a result, BLM has sued Bundy twice in federal court, and won both cases. In the second, more recent action, Bundy’s defense is that the federal government doesn’t own the land in question and therefore has no authority to regulate grazing. That simply isn’t right; the land, like most of Nevada, is federally owned. Bundy is representing himself, of necessity: no lawyer could make that argument.

It is the rest of the post after this paragraph with which I disagree.  He goes on to explain why he is sympathetic to Bundy, which if I may summarize is basically because a) the Feds own too much land and b) they manage this land in a haphazard and politically corrupt manner and c) the Feds let him use this land 100 years ago but now have changed their mind about how they want to use the land.

Fine.  But Bundy is still wrong.  He is trying to exercise property rights over land that is not his.   The owner gave him free use for years and then changed its policy and raised his rent, and eventually tried to evict him.  Conservatives and libertarians don't accept the argument that long-time tenancy on private land gives one quasi-ownership rights (though states like California and cities like New York seem to be pushing law in this direction), so they should not accept it in this case.   You can't defend property rights by trashing property rights.   Had this been a case of the government using its fiat power to override a past written contractual obligation, I would have been sympathetic perhaps, but it is not.

I would love to see a concerted effort to push for government to divest itself of much of its western land.  Ten years ago I would have said I would love to see an effort to manage it better, but I feel like that is impossible in this corporate state of ours.  So the best solution is just to divest.  But I cannot see where the Bundy Ranch is a particularly good case.  Seriously, I would love to see more oil and gas exploration permitted on Federal land, but you won't see me out patting Exxon on the back if they suddenly start drilling on Federal land without permission or without paying the proper royalties. At least the protesters in San Francisco likely don't believe in property rights at all.  Conservatives, what is your excuse?

I suppose we can argue about whether the time for civil disobedience has come, but even if this is the case, we have to be able to find a better example than the Bundy Ranch to plant our flag.

I'm Feeling Pretty Good About These Remarks on Inauguration Day 2009

I caught a lot of grief on inauguration day 2009 for questioning the general feeling that some new era was beginning.  Most of you may have repressed the memory at this point of what that day was like, but even normally intelligent, well-grounded people were going a bit goo goo that day.  

I am feeling pretty good about the remarks I made that day.  Here is part of what I wrote.

I am not enough of a historian to speak for much more than the last thirty years, but the popularity of non-incumbent political candidates has typically been proportional to 1) their personal charisma and 2) our lack of knowlege of their exact proposals....Folks are excited about Obama because, in essence, they don't know what he stands for, and thus can read into him anything they want.  Not since the breathless coverage of Geraldo Rivera opening Al Capone's vault has there been so much attention to something where we had no idea of what was inside.  My bet is that the result with Obama will be the same as with the vault.

There is some sort of weird mass self-hypnosis going on, made even odder by the fact that a lot of people seem to know they are hypnotized, at least at some level.  I keep getting shushed as I make fun of friends' cult behavior watching the proceedings today, as if by jiggling someone's elbow too hard I might break the spell.  Never have I seen, in my lifetime, so much emotion invested in a politician we know nothing about.   I guess I am just missing some gene that makes the rest of humanity receptive to this kind of stuff, but just for a minute snap your fingers in front of your face and say "do I really expect a fundamentally different approach from a politician who won his spurs in .... Chicago?  Do I really think the ultimate political outsider is going to be the guy who bested everyone at their own game in the Chicago political machine?"

Well, the spell will probably take a while to break in the press, if it ever does -- Time Magazine is currently considering whether it would be possible to put Obama on the cover of all 52 issues this year -- but thoughtful people already on day 1 should have evidence that things are the same as they ever were, just with better PR.

And I wrote this about the candidate I actually preferred over the Republican alternative McCain. Which explains why it has been ages since I have voted for anything but the Libertarian candidate for President.  The last election was actually a pleasant surprise, as I was able to cast a vote for Gary Johnson, who I was able to vote for not just as a protest vote but as someone I actually would love to see as President.

Wherein I Tell The Census Bureau to Take a Leap

Every year I am required by law to fill out what is called the "Accommodation Report" by the Census Bureau.  As a lodging company (we run campgrounds) I must reveal my revenues and some of my expenses.  They ask for numbers aggregated differently from how we collect them for GAAP, so it is not a simple exercise.  But I do it under protest, even though several of my competitors do not seem to be similarly punished with this requirement.

Well, I don't actually fully comply.  We run over 150 small locations, and technically I am supposed to fill out an 8-page accommodation survey for every one of them.  This would take a week of my time.  So I pretend I have only one campground and report my summary revenue numbers for all our campgrounds as if they were for one location.   Also, a year ago the Census folks began demanding the data quarterly, and I told them to pound sand, that I was on the verge of not doing the annual report and so I definitely was not going to do all that work quarterly.

Well, this year it got worse.  For some reason, the survey this year had 3 extra pages asking me to break down my expenses in detail, in many categories that do not match those that I use in my bookkeeping.  Here is an example page:

 

First, not only do I not have time to figure this out (who tracks software purchases as its own item in the accounting system?), but it is not the government's business, particularly given that I am a private company.  Even the IRS is not this intrusive.

Further, at best the data I report will be used for nothing.  More likely, it will be used to justify new taxes on me, new regulations on me, or new subsidies for my competitors.  I have no desire to aid any of these activities.

Postscript:  And you know what I have zero patience with? -- otherwise free market academic economists who support this kind of data gathering because it is critical.  Yes, I am sure they much prefer to get free statistics for their work gathered via government coercion  rather than have to pay for it, as one would have to do if we relied on private companies to gather this data rather than the government.  There is absolutely no difference between an economist supporting government statistics gathering and any other company or individual asking that the government subsidize their inputs.  But, but, we are critical to the country!  Yeah, the sugar industry says the same thing.

Fourth Amendment No Longer a "Real" Right?

Several of the amendments in the Bill of Rights, notably the second and the tenth, are no longer treated by many folks as "real."  Just old TJ kidding around.

Over the last several years, I have worried that the Fourth Amendment is rapidly heading in the same direction.  This week has been a bad week.

First up, today's decision that if cops have some reason to think valuable evidence is being destroyed, they can bust down your door without a warrant.  Toilet flush?  Must be getting rid of drugs.  Can be seen in the window at the computer?  Must be deleting child porn.  Silence?  Must be destroying evidence really quietly.

Think I am exaggerating?  Here are the facts of the case:

It began when police in Lexington, Ky., were following a suspect who allegedly had sold crack cocaine to an informer and then walked into an apartment building. They did not see which apartment he entered, but when they smelled marijuana smoke come from one of the apartments, they wrongly assumed he had gone into that one. They pounded on the door and called "Police. Police. Police," and heard the sounds of people moving.

At this, the officers announced they were coming in, and they broke down the door. They found Hollis King smoking marijuana, and put him under arrest. They also found powder cocaine. King was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Sounds of people moving in apartment = break the door down, no warrant needed.  This is just a joke, though I must also say the drug war has already gutted any number of Constitutional protections, so its not surprising to see yet another blow to liberty in the name of rounding up anyone who might be smoking a joint.  (more here)

The other case is perhaps even more egregious, and comes from Indiana, where the state Supreme Court decided that citizens must defer to agents of the state, even when those agents are violating the law.   In particular, if a cop wants to enter your house for no reason at all without a warrant, you can't resist.

"We believe … a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence," David said. "We also find that allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest."

David said a person arrested following an unlawful entry by police still can be released on bail and has plenty of opportunities to protest the illegal entry through the court system.

Escalation of violence is a two-way street.  Why is the homeowner, the innocent party, the one who is made legally responsible for such escalation?  Why isn't it the agent of the state who is responsible for any such escalation?  And while a homeowner may have plenty of opportunities to protest illegal entry after the fact (though this is debatable in real life) I would argue that the police officer had plenty of opportunities before the fact to get a freaking warrant.

The Health Care Trojan Horse

This is what happens under state-run medicine, when your doctor becomes an agent of the government.

Currently pregnant women are asked if they smoke by midwives and GPs but the National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) wants this to go further.

The organisation has recommended that all pregnant women should have their breath measured for carbon monoxide levels when they book in with a midwife.

This would establish which women smoke and provide an added incentive for them to quit, the guidance said.

I am sure all the women's organizations whose principled stand against abortion restrictions were based on protecting the privacy of one's body from the heavy hand of government will now rise up in protest.  Not.

As it turns out, and as I have written before, most women's groups seem to favor total intrusion of government into every facet of individual health care decision-making EXCEPT abortion.  The privacy and libertarian-sounding abortion arguments were really just slights of hand, rolled out to prevent government bans on one particular procedure, and then tucked away when the government proposes to control every other procedure.

Eating Animals to Save Them

Via Stossel

A restaurant in Mesa, Arizona is selling lion meat burgers. Enter the animal rights activists:

Dr. Grey Stafford with the World Wildlife Zoo says that serving a threatened species sends the wrong message. "Of all the plentiful things to eat in this country, for someone to request that or to offer that... I was rather stunned," says Stafford.

... Animal rights advocates are expected to protest outside[the restaurant].

But why?  Lions are listed as "threatened." The best way to save threatened and endangered species is to"¦eat them.

First, I just have to go there.  If they would serve lion meat burritos, I could probably get TJIC to come down and visit.

Second, here are the awesome Mitchell and Webb making the same point, towards the end of this sketch-- animals we think are tasty never seem to go extinct.

Please Discuss

Today, here on Cape Cod, where every car has an Obama sticker, I was struck by two cars which had Obama stickers as well as this same slogan, a paraphrase of a Ben Franklin bon mot:

Those who give up their liberty for more security neither deserve liberty nor security.

I have absolutely no problem with this bumper sticker in its original context, which I presume was to protest things like the Patriot Act, indefinite detentions, and wiretapping during the Bush Administration (and all retained, so far, by this Administration).

But my question back to them would be -- do you still support this statement in the context of pending health care legislation, which is yet another example of trading individual liberty for security, albeit security of a slightly different type?

It's Official, We're Living in France Now

From Cafe Hayek:

President Obama's modest proposal to slice $17 billion from 121 government programs quickly ran into a buzz saw of opposition on Capitol Hill yesterday, as an array of Democratic lawmakers vowed to fight White House efforts to deprive their favorite initiatives of federal funds.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she is "committed" to keeping a $400 million program that reimburses states for jailing illegal immigrants, a task she called "a total federal responsibility."

Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) said he would oppose "any cuts" in agriculture subsidies because "farmers and farm families depend on this federal assistance."

And Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (D-N.Y.) vowed to force the White House to accept delivery of a new presidential helicopter Obama says he doesn't need and doesn't want. The helicopter program, which cost $835 million this year, supports 800 jobs in Hinchey's district. "I do think there's a good chance we can save it," he said.

The news releases began flying as Obama unveiled the long-awaited details of his $3.4 trillion spending plan, including a list of programs he wants to trim or eliminate. Though the proposed reductions represent just one-half of 1 percent of next year's budget, the swift protest was a precursor of the battle Obama will face within his own party to control spending and rein in a budget deficit projected to exceed $1.2 trillion next year.

Why People Are Angry

deficit-poster2

I am just flabbergasted that so many commentators have so much trouble understanding this.

Surprise of the Week, Wherein I Give Kudos to Kevin Drum on a Tax Post

This post from Kevin Drum didn't start auspiciously, repeating the leftish meme that the tax day protests were all Astroturf events.  But I must admit I had a real double-take on his last paragraph, wherein he points out something about tax polls that most people seem to be missing:

With Tax Day coming up, and astroturf tea parties being organized around the country, a lot of people have been linking to polls showing that most Americans aren't, in fact, actually unhappy with the amount of income tax they have to pay.  Gallup, for example, reports that 61% of Americans think the amount they're paying this year is fair. Or there's this one, also from Gallup, that asks directly whether the amount you're paying is too high or not:

Not bad!  49% think their income taxes are just fine or even a bit low.  Except for one thing: this chart shows exactly the opposite of what it seems.  Consider this: about 40-50% of Americans pay no federal income tax at all1.  That's zero dollars.  I think we can safely assume that these are the people who think that their taxes are about right.  What this means, then, is that virtually every American who pays any income tax at all thinks they're paying too much. There are various reasons why this might be so (a sense of unfairness regardless of amount paid, a fuzzy sense of how much they're paying in the first place, simple bloody-mindedness, etc.) but overall it's not exactly a testament to our collective willingness to fund the machinery of state.

Outstanding.  Which only leads me to wonder why, if he realizes this, does he believe that people might not spontaneously organize protests, rather than it having to be a Rove-Fox News plot.  I think the answer to that is the Left just can't shake their own perception that protest marches belong to them in the same way the Right feels that AM Radio is their media to rule.  (What, by the way, does that leave for libertarians, other than Rush, Ayn Rand, and Firefly reruns?)

Blaming A Collective Bargaining Issue on the Oil Companies

Everyone wants to blame their industry's poor economics on banks or the oil companies: (via a reader)

Truckers angry about the high price of fuel staged a rolling protest on
Tuesday, using their big rigs to slow traffic to a crawl on the New
Jersey Turnpike.

The protest was part of a loosely organized
nationwide effort by independent truckers to draw attention to the high
prices they face....

"The gas prices are too high," said one of them, Lamont Newberne, a
34-year-old trucker from Wilmington, N.C. "We don't make enough money
to pay our bills and take care of our family."

Newberne said a
typical run carrying produce from Lakeland, Fla., to the Hunt's Point
Market in The Bronx, N.Y., had cost $600 to $700 a year ago. It now
runs him $1,000...

"The oil company is the boss, what are we going to be able to do about
it?" said Rotenbarger, who was at a truck stop at Baldwin, Fla., about
20 miles west of Jacksonville. "The whole world economy is going to be
controlled by the oil companies. There's nothing we can do about it."

Well, we talked the other day about how oil industry profits, even at this historic high, amount to twenty cents of current gas and diesel prices.  But lets take a more direct comparison.  I looked at Google finance for ExxonMobil and Knight Transportation (a large trucker based here in Phoenix).  If you sum up sales and net income for 2006 and 2007, ExxonMobil earned 10.2% of sales.  During the same period, the trucker earned 9.9% of sales.  This is a statistical dead heat.  So it is kind of hard to say that trucking companies are suffering at the hand of oil companies when they earn the same profit margins.

So what might be the problem?  The article gives a big fat hint that it might not actually be an oil company problem:

Jimmy Lowry, 51, of St. Petersburg, Fla., and others said it costs
about $1 a mile to drive one of the big rigs, although some companies
are offering as little as 87 cents a mile. Diesel cost $4.03 a gallon
at the Jacksonville-area truck stop.

I would certainly be willing to believe that trucking companies are paying independent drivers a price per mile that hasn't kept up with fuel costs.   In particular, it may be that the independent truckers have the same problem that Bear Stearns had, ie their revenues are tied into long term contracts while their costs float short term.  I'd certainly be bargaining for either higher mileage rates or a new rate structure with a fuel surcharge.

The Joys of Government Mandates

Today, I had to buy gas in Oregon.   Usually, I try to gas up just before I enter Oregon, in protest of their anachronistic laws making self-service gasoline illegal.  Unfortunately, I had not choice but to stop in a station in Portland.  Because of this government mandate, I had to sit in my car for 5 minutes waiting futilely for service.  Getting none, I finally got out and gassed up myself.  The state-mandated car-fueling employee, who couldn't manage to get to me to fill up my car, was at my car in 5 seconds once he saw that I was impinging on his territory by gassing up my own vehicle.  I told him full service was not service at all if I had to wait five minutes, and he could have me arrested if he wanted.  For the rest of the time I gassed my car, I was subjected to an ignorant left-coast lecture on how the mandate created jobs.  All this lecture took place, of course, while other customers waited for service.  I wonder what it would feel like to know with absolute certainty that your job was completely useless and existed only because of a trick of legislation.  People who owe their jobs to the government are always a lot more vigilent about protecting their turf than they are about providing service.

American Middle Class Snobbery

I could probably fill this blog with absurd examples of American middle class snobbery, but I thought this one from TJIC was particularly good:

"¦Eleven tonnes of papayas were dumped outside the Agriculture and
Cooperatives Ministry yesterday by Greenpeace in protest at "¦
open-field trials of genetically-modified crops.

"¦people flocked to load up on the free papayas, ignoring the environmental organisation's campaign against "¦ GM fruit"¦

Many passers-by, who mostly knew nothing about transgenic fruit, said they did not care about any health risks.

They were just thinking about how hungry they were"¦

A while back I wrote about this same phenomenon:

Progressives do not like American factories appearing in third world
countries, paying locals wages progressives feel are too low, and
disrupting agrarian economies with which progressives were more
comfortable.  But these changes are all the sum of actions by
individuals, so it is illustrative to think about what is going on in
these countries at the individual level. 

One morning, a rice farmer in southeast Asia might faces a choice.
He can continue a life of brutal, back-breaking labor from dawn to dusk
for what is essentially subsistence earnings.  He can continue to see a
large number of his children die young from malnutrition and disease.
He can continue a lifestyle so static, so devoid of opportunity for
advancement, that it is nearly identical to the life led by his
ancestors in the same spot a thousand years ago.

Or, he can go to the local Nike factory, work long hours (but
certainly no longer than he worked in the field) for low pay (but
certainly more than he was making subsistence farming) and take a shot
at changing his life.  And you know what, many men (and women) in his
position choose the Nike factory.

Much of the opposition to factory wages in Asia can be boiled down to members of the American middle class saying "I would never accept that job at that rate, so they should not either."

OK, Maybe I Was Serious

A while back I suggested, part tongue-in-cheek:

Once trees hit their maturity, their growth slows and therefore the
rate they sequester CO2 slows.  At this point, we need to be cutting
more down, not less, and burying them in the ground, either as logs or
paper or whatever.  Just growing forests is not enough, because old
trees fall over and rot and give up their carbon as CO2.  We have to
bury them.   Right?

Now, Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore writes:

There is a misconception that cutting down an old tree will result
in a net release of carbon. Yet wooden furniture made in the
Elizabethan era still holds the carbon fixed hundreds of years ago.

Berman,
a veteran of the forestry protest movement, should by now have learned
that young forests outperform old growth in carbon sequestration.

Although
old trees contain huge amounts of carbon, their rate of sequestration
has slowed to a near halt. A young tree, although it contains little
fixed carbon, pulls CO2 from the atmosphere at a much faster rate.

When a tree rots or burns, the carbon contained in the wood is released back to the atmosphere....

To address climate change, we must use more wood, not less. Using wood
sends a signal to the marketplace to grow more trees and to produce
more wood. That means we can then use less concrete, steel and plastic
-- heavy carbon emitters through their production. Trees are the only
abundant, biodegradable and renewable global resource.

Due Process, Even for Accountants

I know that no one seems to really give a crap about due process for accountants nowadays, perhaps an over-swing of the pendulum from the days when no one really cared much about prosecuting white collar crime, but some of the Justice Departments prosecutorial abuses are finally coming back to haunt them.

The Justice Department's case against 16 former KPMG partners for tax
evasion continues to unravel, with prosecutors themselves conceding
late last week that federal Judge Lewis Kaplan has little choice but to
dismiss the charges against most of the defendants.

Judge Kaplan ruled
last year that Justice had violated the defendants' Constitutional
rights by pressuring KPMG not to pay their legal fees. He is now
considering a defense motion to dismiss. Prosecutors continue to
protest the judge's ruling but on Friday they admitted in a court
filing that dismissal is the only remedy for the rights violations. The
more honorable route would have been for prosecutors to acknowledge
their mistakes and dismiss the charges themselves.

The truth is that
this tax shelter case should never have been brought. Both KPMG and its
partners believed the shelters they marketed were legal, and no tax
court had ruled against the shelters before Justice brought its
criminal charges. Then prosecutors used the threat of criminal
indictment against all of KPMG to extort an admission of guilt from the
firm and force it to stop paying the legal bills of individual partners.

The State of Academia

The reaction of the Duke faculty to the alleged "rape" by the LAX team has been eye-opening.  The reaction to the student's non-guilt is terrifying.  Far be it for academics to let facts get in the way of a really good chance to sow some race hysteria.  (HT Maggie's Farm).  One bit:

Karla Holloway has resigned
her position as race subgroup chair of the Campus Culture Initiative,
to protest President Brodhead's decision to lift the suspensions of
Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty. "The
decision by the university to readmit the students, especially just
before a critical judicial decision on the case, is a clear use of
corporate power, and a breach, I think, of ethical citizenship," said
she. "I could no longer work in good faith with this breach of common
trust.

I am not sure what "critical judicial decision" she is referring to, except perhaps Nifong's disbarment

Don't Be Afraid to Let Your Enemy Speak

In this post, when I said that I thought the university had a duty to
intervene with protests only when the protests had the effect of
silencing or preventing invited speakers from speaking, this is the
type of thing I was talking about

Students stormed the stage
at Columbia University's Roone auditorium yesterday, knocking over
chairs and tables and attacking Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the
Minutemen, a group that patrols the border between America and Mexico. 

Mr. Gilchrist and Marvin Stewart, another member of his group, were
in the process of giving a speech at the invitation of the Columbia
College Republicans. They were escorted off the stage unharmed and
exited the auditorium by a back door. 

Having wreaked havoc onstage, the students unrolled a banner that
read, in both Arabic and English, "No one is ever illegal." As security
guards closed the curtains and began escorting people from the
auditorium, the students jumped from the stage, pumping their fists,
chanting victoriously, "Si se pudo, si se pudo," Spanish for "Yes we could!"

I don' t think such thuggery is protected by the first ammendment, and
certainly a private institution should be able to make sure their
invited speakers actually get to speak.  Columbia really needs to rethink its free speech policies, if it allows this behavior to occur but shuts down the hockey team for this.

By the way, I am a strong detractor of the Minutemen, their goals, and
the activities.  It's good for the soul - everyone should take the time
to defend the free speech of someone they disagree with.  Mr. Gilchrist should have been allowed to speak.  This is unfortunately yet
another example of where I am horrified by the actions of people who
agree with me.  I mean, from a PR standpoint alone, the Minutemen could not have scripted a protest that would have done more than this one to enrage and energize its supporters.  STUPID!  For my fellow travellers in the pro-immigration
movement, I would suggest you read this:  Why its good to let your enemies speak.

Update:  I was correct -- immigration foes are using this stupidity as a rallying cry.  While I often disagree quite strongly with LGF on this issue, they have a good quote from the perpetrators of this protest that highlights exactly the "free speech for me but not for thee" logic that I hate.  First they say, as all free speech opponents say:

We celebrate free speech.

Uh, OK.  Then they continue:

for that reason we allowed the Minutemen to
speak

Mr. Gilchrist was an invited guest of a private institution.  Your permission is not required or relevant.  The implication is that you somehow have a veto over everyone's speech, and they speak at your sufferance.  And finally this:

The
Minutemen are not a legitimate voice in the debate on immigration.

This is the key, absolutely dangerous assumption that all-too-many people hold in this country.  That somehow speech can be parsed into "legitimate" and "illegitimate", with the clear implication that illegitimate speech has no first amendment protection.  But who decides what is legitimate?  Of course, implicit to anyone who says this, is the assumption that "why, me and my guys would decide."  It is for this reason I have opposed "hate speech" laws in the past.

 

Anti-Trust is Anti-Consumer

Yes, for those who are counting, this is something like post number 157 on the mismatch between anti-trust myth and reality.  The myth is that it is about protecting the consumer.  The reality is that anti-trust is an opportunity for companies to get the government to sit on their competitors:

In their new version of Windows dubbed "Vista," Microsoft has included a number of useful features that has several companies rattling the anti-trust sabers once again.

For instance, Adobe Inc., creators of the widely used PDF
document standard, object to Microsoft's built-in functionality that
gives users the ability to create PDF files without having to use
Adobe's own software.

Real Networks, per usual, is protesting that Microsoft is integrating media playback capabilities in the form of Windows Media Player 11, which competes directly with Real Player.

And now Symantec, developers of anti-virus software, is complaining that Microsoft will include their own firewall, which could lower sales of Symantec's own solutions.

And as mentioned above, all three of these firms are appealing to regulators to "solve" what they see as anti-competitive business practices to prevent their sales from eroding.

Surely then, it is only a matter of time before software firms that
make calculators or solitaire protest the inclusion of such services
into Windows. Is not the native support of the English language (and
dozens of others) a clear and present danger to third-parties eeking
out a living?

Soon thereafter, perhaps boutique's specializing in steering-wheels
and headlights may begin to sue automobile companies for integrating a
steering-wheel and headlights into cars. And no one should forget about
those built-in cassette and CD players.

It's hard to see how consumers are hurt by getting more free functionality in their operating system.  Of course, the companies above will work very hard to get the government to require that you pay extra for these components. 

Uh, Oops

Via the Consumerist:

When Greenpeace mobilized to protest nuclear energy at a recent appearance by
President Bush to promote his nuclear energy policy, they forgot to fill in all
the boiler-plate.

From the Greenpeace anti-nuclear-armageddon flier. Capitals and brackets are
theirs:

    In the twenty years since the Chernobyl tragedy, the world's worst nuclear
    accident, there have been nearly [FILL IN ALARMIST AND ARMAGEDDONIST FACTOID
    HERE]."

LOL.  By the way, I am not sure why those paranoid about global warming would refuse to reconsider nuclear power.   In that article, i pointed out that a different regulatory regimed would greatly reduce costs and actually enhance safety:

If aircraft construction was regulated like nuclear power plants,
there would be no aviation industry.  In the aircraft industry,
aircraft makers go through an extensive approval and testing process to
get a basic design (e.g. the 737-300) approved by the government as
safe.  Then, as long as they keep producing to this design, they can
keep making copies with minimal additional design scrutiny.  Instead,
the manufacturing process is carefully checked to make sure that it is
reliably producing aircraft to the design already deemed safe.  If
aircraft makers want to make a change to the aircraft, that change must
be approved with a fairly in-depth process.

Beyond the reduction in design cost for the 2nd airplane of a series
(and 3rd, etc.), this approach also yields strong regulatory benefits.
For example, if the actuation screw for the horizontal stabilizer is deemed to be of poor or unsafe design
in a particular aircraft, then the government can issue a bulletin to
require a new approved design be retrofitted in all other aircraft of
this series.  This happens all the time in commercial aviation.

One can see how this might make nuclear power plant construction
viable again.  Urging major construction companies to come up with a
design that could be reused would greatly reduce the cost of design and
construction of plants.  There might still be several designs, since
competing companies would likely have their own designs, but this same
is true in aerospace with Boeing, Airbus and smaller jet manufacturers
Embraer and Bombardier.

And a while back I linked to a story on how the ultimate fallout from Chernobyl was not nearly as bad as was feared.  That article said in part:

Over the next four years, a massive cleanup operation
involving 240,000 workers ensued, and there were fears that many of
these workers, called "liquidators," would suffer in subsequent years.
But most emergency workers and people living in contaminated areas
"received relatively low whole radiation doses, comparable to natural
background levels," a report summary noted. "No evidence or likelihood
of decreased fertility among the affected population has been found,
nor has there been any evidence of congenital malformations."

In
fact, the report said, apart from radiation-induced deaths, the
"largest public health problem created by the accident" was its effect
on the mental health of residents who were traumatized by their rapid
relocation and the fear, still lingering, that they would almost
certainly contract terminal cancer. The report said that lifestyle
diseases, such as alcoholism, among affected residents posed a much
greater threat than radiation exposure.

Coyote Blog NCAA Bracket Challenge

Note: This post sticky through 3/16.  Look below for newest posts.

As promised, we are proud to announce the first annual Coyote Blog NCAA Bracket Challenge.  Yes, I know that many of you are bracketed out, but for those of you who are self-employed and don't have an office pool to join or who just can't get enough of turning in brackets, this pool is offered as my public service.  In particular, I invite bloggers who are experiencing post-Weblog-Award depression to reignite the spirit of online competition.  I mean, why should NZ Bear have the monopoly on ranking bloggers? 

I don't know if we will get 1 or 100 entries, but all are welcome, so send the link to friends as well.  There is no charge to join in and I have chosen a service with the absolutely least intrusive log-in (name, email, password only) and no spam.  The only thing I ask is that, since my kids are participating, try to keep the team names and board chat fairly clean.

To join, go to http://www.pickhoops.com/Coyote and sign up, then enter your bracket.

Scoring is as follows:

Round 1 correct picks:  2 points
Round 2:  4
Round 3:  6
Round 4:  8
Round 5:  10
Round 6:  20

In honor of the Blogfaddah, we have added the special "Army of Davids" bonus scoring:  If you correctly pick the underdog in any round (ie, the team with the higher number seed) to win, then you receive bonus points for that correct pick equal to the difference in the two team's seeds.  So don't be afraid to go for the long-shots!

OK, so what about the prizes?  Well, fame and recognition on this weblog should be enough, but, for those who enjoy recreation, my company will give the winner a choice of 3 nights free camping at one of the public campgrounds we run, or a half-day jet ski rental at Lake Havasu, or a half-day boat rental at Burney Falls State Park in California, Blue Mesa Reservoir in Colorado, or Patagonia Lake in Arizona.

Disclaimer: I sincerely hope that there is something about this purely recreational activity that violates the ridiculous gambling laws we have in this country, because I feel the need to protest them at every turn.  For example, can any politician explain to me why gambling in many Midwestern states is moral on a boat but immoral and therefore illegal on dry land next to the boat?

Update:  We already had a number of entries in the first hour this was up, so it looks like it is going to be a lot of fun.  Go ahead, sign up, it just takes a few minutes.  You don't have to know that much about basketball -- last year our family's tournament was won by an 11-year-old girl.

Fake but Accurate, Early 20th Century Style

Were Sacco and Venzetti really guilty?  I you are like me, you hear those names and say - boy, those names sound familiar.  I am sure they came up some time in my US history class in high school...

Sacco and Vanzetti were early 19th century anarchists executed in Massachusetts for robbery and murder.  Fellow communist, anarchist and author Upton Sinclair helped to generate a lot of sympathy for the two, raising a storm of protest that the two were innocent of the crime and were being tried and executed for their political beliefs.  They have been heroes of the left and the progressive movement ever since.

Asymmetrical Information points to this article, which describes new papers that apparently belonged to Upton Sinclair that make it clear that Sinclair actually discovered that Sacco and Venzetti were indeed guilty:

Soon Sinclair would learn something that filled him with doubt. During his
research for "Boston," Sinclair met with Fred Moore, the men's attorney, in a
Denver motel room. Moore "sent me into a panic," Sinclair wrote in the typed
letter that Hegness found at the auction a decade ago.

"Alone in a hotel
room with Fred, I begged him to tell me the full truth," Sinclair wrote. " "¦ He
then told me that the men were guilty, and he told me in every detail how he had
framed a set of alibis for them."

Sinclair decided that, for the benefit of the "movement", as well as his sales, not to reveal the truth

"My wife is absolutely certain that if I tell what I believe, I will be called a
traitor to the movement and may not live to finish the book," Sinclair wrote
Robert Minor, a confidant at the Socialist Daily Worker in New York, in
1927.

"Of course," he added, "the next big case may be a frame-up, and my
telling the truth about the Sacco-Vanzetti case will make things harder for the
victims."

He also worried that revealing what he had been told would cost
him readers. "It is much better copy as a naïve defense of Sacco and Vanzetti
because this is what all my foreign readers expect, and they are 90% of my
public," he wrote to Minor.

This all resonated with me because I recently had an email exchange with a reader who reminded me of this quote:

We
have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements,
and make little mention of any doubts we have. Each of us has to decide
what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.

- National Center for Atmospheric Research (NOAA) researcher and global warming action promoter, Steven Schneider

No one knows better than a blogger that everyone picks and chooses the news they want to notice and the facts they promote and don't promote.  But at some point on the slippery slope you hit a transition to outright dishonesty.  It seems that this temptation to support your cause with a fake story was not invented by Mary Mapes.

Statism Not So Fun When You Aren't In Control

Every once in a while I post something off the cuff and find retroactively that I have tapped into a rich source of blogging material.  Such is the case with my post a couple of days ago about technocrats on the left regretting loss of control of the statist institutions they created.  In that article I cited examples of the left freaking out over a conservative-controlled FDA halting over-the-counter approval of the Plan B morning after pill and the injection of certain conservative dogmas (e.g. intelligent design) into public schools.  The moral was that the left is lamenting the loss of control, when they should be reevaluating the construction of the regulatory state in the first place.

David Bernstein at Volokh brings us another example with the Solomon Amendment, the legislation that requires universities that accept public funds to allow military recruiters on campus.  Folks on the left hate this act, many because they oppose the military at all junctures while others more narrowly oppose recruiting as a protest against the Clinton-era "don't ask, don't tell" policy law brainchild.  Eskridge and Polsby debate the pros and cons at the ACS Blog.  I tend to be sympathetic to the private universities, who rightly don't feel like acceptance of federal money or research grants should negate their control of their institution.

But my point is not the merits of the Solomon Amendment, but to point out the irony, very parallel with the FDA and public schools examples previously:  The Solomon Amendment is built sturdily on the precedent of Federal Title IX legislation, legislation that is a part of the bedrock of leftish politics in America.  Title IX first established the principal that the Federal government could legally override the policy-making and decision-making at private universities if they accepted any federal cash.  It was the left that fought for and celebrated this principal.  The left ruthlessly defended the state's right to meddle in private universities in substantial ways, and passed legislation to shore Title IX up when the Supreme Court weakened state control (from the Bernstein post):

The Court's attempt to preserve some institutional autonomy for universities
from anti-discrimination laws caused uproar among liberal anti-discrimination
activists. They persuaded Congress to pass the "Civil Rights Restoration Act."
This law ensured that if a university receives any federal funds at all,
including tuition payments from students who receive federal aid, as in Grove
City's case, all educational programs at that university are subject to Title
IX.

The Solomon Amendment is modeled after the Civil Rights Restoration Act's
interpretation of Title IX.

In fact, in the linked articles, Solomon is being attacked by the left precisely because it does not allow universities the freedom to set their own anti-discrimination policy (in this case, banning recruiters judged discriminatory to gays), when the whole issue of Title IX was precisely to override a university's chosen anti-discrimination policy (or lack thereof).  So again we have the case of the left building an government mechanism to control private decision-making, and then crying foul when their political enemies take control of the machinery.

In my naive youth, I would have assumed that this contradiction would quickly be recognized.  However, the left (and the right too, but that is for another post) has been able for years to maintain the cognitive dissonance necessary to support the FDA's meddling in every single decision about what medical procedures and compounds a person can have access to while at the same time arguing that abortion is untouchable by government and that a woman should make decisions for her own body.  In this case, it will be interesting to see if the left is able to simultaneously decry state control of discrimination policies at private universities in Solomon while continuing to support state control of private university discrimination policies as essential in Title IX.

Correction: You learn something every day.  I called don't-ask-don't-tell a "policy, as I had assumed that it was merely an internal military policy.  Apparently it is a law.

Is There a Minimum Income Necesary to be Responsible?

There is an interesting discussion about liability going on at Overlawyered and Prawfsblawg.  The original subject was Eddy Curry, the basketball player who may or may not have a genetic heart condition.  The Chicago Bulls refused to play him until he had submitted to a series of tests that would let them determine for themselves if it was safe for him to play (Curry had already said that he wanted to play).

The Bulls have been derided in a number of venues for requiring privacy-invading tests which Curry reasonably refused to submit to.  However, in today's legal world, the Bulls are being entirely rational and in fact entirely consistent with the law, at least as it is practiced in courts today.  Many courts, including those in particular in legal hellhole Illinois, have pretty much thrown out most liability wavers.  Effectively, courts have said that Curry has no right to make risk-reward trade-offs for his own body and self, and if he gets hurt playing for the Bulls, it is the Bulls fault and they can be sued.  So, reasonably, the Bulls want the necessary information to make that safety decision, since the fact that Curry has already decided for himself holds no weight in courts today.

I have long lamented this statist tendency to treat us all like incompetent children, effectively revoking our ability to make decisions for ourselves and our own lives.  Where the discussion gets interesting, though, is when a lawyer suggests that Curry's liability waiver should hold more water than the average person's, since he is wealthy and has access to a full range of professionals to advise him.  Which suggests that there is some point, either in terms of wealth or education, where Americans may actually regain the right to make decisions for themselves and be held responsible for them.  I remember when I was working on an acquisition of a company, and was concerned whether a non-compete agreement I had the other party sign was enforceable.  After all, I had in the past had non-competes signed by my employees routinely thrown out by judges.  My attorney told me that it is assumed that the average ordinary employee does not know what they are doing when they sign an agreement, but that wealthy business people in a transaction are treated like big boys and it is assumed they actually understand and really mean what they sign their name to.

Overlawyered concludes:

A fascinating epitomization of the litigation culture: "ordinary"
people can't make intelligent and free decisions, but elites"”presumably
including lawyers and judges"”can properly advise them how to do so.

Paul's proposed rule of emancipation upon reaching a certain wealth
level has interesting ramifications. It would be fascinating to see
what democratic political consensus would develop for where to set the
Gowder Line above which people are permitted to make free decisions.
Many doctors and attorneys would be sufficiently wealthy to qualify,
but would public interest and government attorneys protest that,
through no fault of their own, they don't have the same rights as
BigLaw partners and their children? Would college professors lobby for
the same emancipation rights as wealthy millionaires because they're
already sufficiently sophisticated? And once that happens, would the
NEA dare to suggest that teachers aren't entitled to the same status?
Before you know it, every Sneech will have a star on his belly.

I made myself clear about this long ago:  We have got to move to a point where adults can be trusted to make decisions for themselves and take responsibility for those consequences.  However, the temptation is just too great, it seems, to act like you know more about someone's best interest than they do.

Update: By the way, we discuss this all in terms of capability and competence and knowledge.  One important factor not discussed above is that every person has a different set of values.  Mr. Curry may rank the value of playing basketball, or making lots of money, higher than the risk of losing his full four-score and ten year lifespan.  Or he might feel just the opposite.  I have heard athletes who have said they would have played pro sports even if they knew for sure they would only as a result live until 50, and I have heard athletes call those others insane.  We all have different values, and even beyond relative confidence and information in making decisions, it is IMPOSSIBLE for other people to make quality decisions about your life, because they are not going to share the details of what you value and how much.  But of course they do all the time.  And if we assign others liability when we make the wrong choice in our life, then we are just asking for other people to take over our decision-making. 

In a free society, I suppose you can delegate the decision-making for your life to others, if you lack confidence in your abilities, but don't give away mine!

Update #2:  Here is another decision adversely affected by lawsuits:

We've reported before (Mar. 18, 2004)
on how, after court decisions in Arizona eroded the state's
longstanding immunity from being sued over the actions of wild animals,
lawyers began obtaining large verdicts from public managers over
humans' harmful encounters with wildlife -- with the result that
managers began moving to a "when in doubt, take it [out]" policy of
slaughtering wild creatures that might pose even a remote threat to
people. The continuing results of the policy came in for some public
discussion last month after a bear wandered into a residential area
near Rumsey Park in Payson, Ariz. and was euthanized by Arizona Game
and Fish personnel:

[Ranger Cathe] Descheemaker said
that the two Game and Fish officials were no doubt following procedure,
and that bears are routinely destroyed ever since the agency was sued
when a bear mauled a 16-year-old girl in 1996 on Mt. Lemmon near
Tucson.

"Since Game and Fish lost that lawsuit, they do not relocate any
bears," she said. "The fact that bear was in town was its death
warrant."

Agenda for UN Internet Conference

COYOTE BLOG EXCLUSIVE!!  We have obtained the preliminary agenda for the upcoming UN Internet Conference in Tunisia.

AGENDA

Day 1

Dinner
Benon Sevan has generously offered to supply dinner from a selection of
the food provided to the Iraqi people under the UN Oil-for-food program.
Unfortunately, it was found at the last minute that no one in the
oil-for-food department has any contacts with companies that actually sell food.
The French delegation has generously stepped in the last minute with
chicken and Vichy water for everyone.

After-Dinner Keynote Address:  Fighting Hate Speech
Wen Jaibao
Premier, China

All of us are concerned with the growth of hate speech on the web.  Spread by foreign anarchists and CIA operatives called "bloggers", these lies present a constant danger to all of our governments..  Premier Wen, whose country under Chairman Mao broke Germany's and Russia's records for the most people sent to government-sponsored sensitivity training, outlines some of the technologies China is using to protect Chinese citizens from foreign deception.  He also will discuss how he got US companies like Cisco and Microsoft to abandon their public principles in exchange for promises of large contracts

Day 2

Pricing for Domain Names
Kojo Annan

Kojo will discuss a number of technical issues associated with domain name pricing.  Among the topics discussed will be "how large a kickback should be demanded of large US companies renewing their domain name registrations", "how should kickback money be distributed between general assembly members", "how can sub-contracts be funneled to key family members", and "how Paypal can be used to facilitate 'courtesy' payments".  Kojo will also discuss the mechanics of Swiss banking as it applies to government Internet supervision.

Pornography on the Web
Hassan al Saud
Saudi Arabian Security Service

Director al Saud will discuss approaches for limiting pornography on the web, such as photos showing NFL Cheerleaders, hot protest babes, or any woman with tattoos, body piercings, or a bare midriff, including nearly the entire UC-Santa Barbara female population.  Al Saud will review his groundbreaking work filtering news service web pages for the names of women and women authors and replacing them with men's names.  Afterwards, al Saud will be signing copies of his bestseller "Gone with the Wind".

Lunch
Robert Mugabe has generously offered to supply lunch from the fine
farms of Zimbabwe.  Unfortunately, unforeseen...technical problems will
make that impossible.  We ask that all delegates go outside the meeting hall and fend for themselves for lunch.

Future of email scams
Dr. Hamzu Kalo
Lagos Nigeria

Many of us are concerned with the growth of email scams.  In this important discussion, Dr. Kalu will discuss topics including "How can other countries get a piece of Nigeria's lucrative email scam business", "how can UN imprimatur be used to increase email scam returns", and "how should government's tax email scam revenue".  Working papers from Dr. Kalo's last conference can be found here.

Shortsighted Nationalization
Hugo Chavez
President, Venezuela

Mr. Chavez will argue his controversial hypothesis that it is shortsighted to immediately nationalize US corporate assets when taking office.  His premise is that it is better to wait 6-12 months, after companies have become complacent, before seizing their operations.  Mr. Chavez will also address the difficult issue of how to attract new foreign investment when every successful foreign enterprise in the history of your country has been nationalized.

Snack Break
Sponsored by Cisco and Microsoft to introduce their joint Internet initiative with the United Nations entitled "We are for freedom and democracy, except when we're not."

Promise of the Internet for Managing elections
Jimmy Carter
ex-President, United States of America

Everyone should be familiar with President Carter's outstanding work courageously certifying the election in Venezuela while challenging corrupt elections in Florida and Ohio.  President Carter will address the topic of using Internet technology for elections.  He will show that paper ballot technology can still leave a potentially dangerous paper trail, while Internet voting allows for nearly total ability to manage elections to make sure that the will of the people is not thwarted by CIA-financed lying upstarts.

Farewell Dinner
Dinner was to be provided by the United States delegation, but US authorities could not provide documentation that no genetically modified foods were used to prepare the meal.  It has been decided that it is better for the meeting delegates to go hungry than risk eating any GM crops.

Transportation
No transportation has been arranged, but officials are encouraged to nationalize any assets they need to reach the conference.

Email
In the spirit of promoting the
Internet and Tunisia's leading role in it, all participants will be
allowed full access to email while in the conference.  All email will
be downloaded by our WIFI (Working-group Investigating Foreign-corruption via the Internet)
and printed out for our guests.  Conference participants should note
that emails with language directly threatening the state** will not be
passed on.

**Note that this includes any references derogatory to the Tunisian government, its officials, and its ruling party, as well as any comments defaming the governments of Libya, Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, or any ally of Tunisia or in fact any other country that is not the United States.  It also includes any references to women without clothes, women working, women driving a car, or women doing anything outside of the house or their male family members' control.  It also includes mentions of provocative terminology and hate speech, including the words freedom, free press, free speech, democracy, property, capitalism, non-Muslim religions, George Bush, the state of Texas, Shiner Bock Beer, or the Dallas Cowboys.  Making fun of the Arizona Cardinals, however, is always OK.

Update:  This column is obviously a failed parody, because to be ironic you have to exaggerate reality at least somewhat.  I may have actually fallen short of reality:

As Tunisia prepares to host the controversial
World Summit for the Information Society in November, Tunisian opposition activist Neila
Charchour Hachicha
informs Global Voices that the online freedom of speech protest site launched by
Tunisians on Monday, www.yezzi.org has
already been blocked by the Tunisian authorities.

The online protest, called "Freedom
of Expression in Mourning
," is organized by The Tunisian Association for the Promotion
and Defense of Cyberspace
(Association Tunisienne pour la Promotion et la
Défense du Cyberespace).

More on the UN Internet conference here as well.

 

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Maryland Doctors Strike (and the whiny reaction)

Maryland doctors are finally starting to shrug under the weight of the current tort system.  Apparently about 50 doctors have canceled elective procedures for a number of days to protest skyrocketing malpractice premiums.  (hat tip: Club for Growth)

What struck me is not necessarily the doctors' actions, which are representative of the state of mind of doctors across the country, but the whiny reaction:

"Actually what they`re doing is going against their doctor`s oath. The patient is more important than malpractice insurance and they have to realize that," said Washington County Hospital patient Brian Levasser.

Remember, these doctors have stopped doing elective surgeries.  So Mr. Levasser's penis enlargement or whatever will have to wait a few days.  He sounds just like Kip Chalmers on the train in Atlas Shrugged.

OK, here is something Mr. Levasser can try:  Go to work each day, work long hours, and do your absolute best in a critical profession.  Then, each day, just before you go home, roll three dice.  If the result is anything but 1-1-1, go home, have  a beer, and relax with your family.  However, on that unlucky day when you roll three ones, you lose everything - your job, your house, your savings, your reputation and your ability to work again in your chosen profession.  Note that you lose everything not because you did a bad job, but because something unlucky but inevitable happened (e.g. child born with a birth defect) and you were the one standing closest.  On the day after you rolled that 1-1-1 and lost everything, tell me malpractice insurance isn't important. 

Doctors used to be the people we looked up to and admired, the pillars of society; now, we treat them like galley slaves.  We keep you alive to serve this patient. So operate well and live.

(By the way, I am sympathetic to the first comment on the Club for Growth post.  Those of us in general business can sometimes get frustrated that doctors seem to be able to get attention on their frivolous suits where the rest of us cannot.  But I refuse the begrudge them that, and wish them well)