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Archive for March, 2010

Rainy Day Links

Lots of interesting writing this weekend, which I didn’t get to notice until today.

John Stossel takes on populist economic myths, and name-drops Don Bourdreaux on Free Trade.

On a similar note, Ezra Klein nails another fallacy, although I disagree with his pessimism.

Most lobbying is pro-business, in the sense that it promotes the interests of existing businesses; not pro-market, in the sense of fostering free and open competition.

Great interview with former Dead Kennedys front-man and professional crazy person Jello Biafra. He’s very anti-Obama-supporters, and calls for a more insurrectionist/populist leftist movement. His newest album is titled “The Audacity of Hype”, a slam on the Obama-as-messiah hysteria that gripped the left during the election cycle. I agree with many of the problems he cites, but disagree with his ‘solutions’. Fascinating, in a ‘scientists discovering a new life form’ kind of way. Money quote:

Well, let’s connect [the title] up with the last song on the album, “I Won’t Give Up,” which is dealing with the aftermath of people realizing, you know, when they get that feeling like what Johnny Rotten said at the last Sex Pistols show, “Did you ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” Keep in mind the Obama campaign won all kinds of advertising awards for marketing hope and change and for that “O” logo. It’s the most brilliant piece of propaganda art I’ve seen since the swastika.

Will Wilkinson destroys both the “Earth Hour” and “Human Achievement Hour” conceits. Nifty animated graph correlating CO2 emissions (a proxy for economic growth) and life expectancy is excellent, especially when you consider new evidence that air quality in the U.S. is improving. Typically, the EPA and the media are over-emphasizing the influence of government and under-selling ‘voluntary actions’ that led to this result, but still, results are results.

It rained on my nightmares.

We Love DC has great shots from the beautiful spring weekend in DC, including the coolest kite I’ve ever seen.

Via Reason Magazine, thanks to a leak, you can download a draft of the secret Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

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Because Keith Olbermann and I agree on something.

I know, I’m scared too.

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It’s been awhile since we had a links column. Here’s some of the random internet detritus that’s come across my transom.

Reason Saves Cleveland! Or, how to regulate a great city into a hell-hole.

– As if anyone couldn’t see this coming, there are going to be tons of additional health-care fixes. The problem with “pass it to find out what’s in it”.

Vivid Corvid Photography – awesome photos. Love it.

– All things coffee: drink darker coffee to avoid stomach aches. I don’t like dark roasts. I’ll deal with the stomach issues.

– I’ve always been fascinated by the inherent racism and cultural imperialism of progressivism. Couple that with special interest legislation and it’s a perfect storm of bad ideas.

Five creepy unsolved crimes. Last night I spent two solid hours reading about the Taman Shud case. Gotta find a copy of the Rubaiyat.

Dan Rothschild is willing to make some policy bets.

– If you’re not watching Archer on FX, you can go to hell. You’re in the … uh … DANGERZONE!

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A question for pro-lifers

This is a question addressed to pro-lifers.  I believe that I first heard some version of it several years ago when Ira Flatow hosted Chris Mooney on Science Friday to discuss his book, The Republican War on Science.

Consider the following two scenarios.

  1. Imagine that you find yourself at a building that is burning down.  You know that some people are trapped in this burning building, behind some locked doors, all of whom are strangers.  You find that you have time to get to one of two doors to unlock.  You can get to either Door A, where you can free 20 people who are trapped, or you can get to Door B, where you can free one person who is trapped.  You do not have time to get to both doors.  Where do you choose to go, Door A or Door B?  Keep your answer in mind while you consider the second scenario.
  2. Imagine that you find yourself at a stem cell clinic that is burning down.  You have the option of either safely grabbing 20 embryonic stem cells from the lab behind Door A, or freeing one 13-year-old girl trapped behind Door B.  This girl is a stranger. You do not know her personally, and you do not know anything about the origin of the stem cells.  You do not have time to both get the stem cells and free the girl.  Which do you choose?

The questions is whether or not you choose the same door across the two scenarios. If you don’t choose the same door, I think it’s clear, if you’re really a pro-lifer, that your morality has a serious flaw.

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Quick thoughts on a Monday. Springtime is the best season. By far. The first day of sundress season should be a national holiday.

Ahhhhh Sweet Spring

Anyone care to argue any of these claims?

1. The American health system has been broken for a long time.

2. This bill won’t improve quality of service.

3. It won’t decrease prices to patients.

4. It won’t decrease costs to doctors and hospitals.

5. It won’t reduce the deficit. It will follow ignominious history.

6. It isn’t constitutional.

7. The six-month enactment period will give lawyers for all conceivable parties AMPLE time to scout for plaintiffs, jurisdiction shop, and draft briefs and motions. This will lead to a period of litigation, lasting anywhere from three years to a decade.

8. If the Republicans do win control of either the House or the Senate, a bill will be introduced to repeal this law within the first two months of the new Congress.

9. Reihan Salam will be right: “Coming soon: the Democratic Dolchstoss strategy: “Of course it didn’t work. It was a moderate Republican bill! What we really need is …”

On Intrade, the prop bet that Republicans control the House after November has gained about 43% in just over a year. Given that, it’s bizarre that liberals are still haunted by the specter of libertarianism.

I watched the Maryland – Michigan State game in Baltimore in a bar full of Maryland fans, and it was heartbreaking. On State’s last possession, the clock didn’t start for about a half second. The buzzer beater went up with .4 on the clock. Brutal.

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Regarding my previous thoughts on gun control, a reader writes,

Wow, do you ever miss the point. Put simply, drunk people do stupid things – and have bad aim! Picture the escalation of your average bar fight with guns instead of glasses and bar stools. They’re redesigning bar glasses to be less likely to shatter. How do you redesign the gun to be less lethal? And who would pay for that?!

Also, as one of many people who has worked in a restaurant with areas designated “smoking” and “non-smoking” – not everyone has a reasonable choice to make to avoid the smoke. Despite the significant decrease in tips, I chose to avoid working in the smoking section (not all places would even allow an employee to make that choice). I also, however, didn’t have a rent to pay at the time. Smoke travels easily inside a building. There were days I felt nauseated by the smoke. If the alternative is unemployment, it isn’t a reasonable option.

The objection is that I have missed the point because the reasoning for such a ban is that people have a higher propensity to do stupid things while drunk. Such an objection indicates to me that the reader entirely missed my original point.

Different people have different preferences, different tolerances for risk. There do exist bar owners and clienteles who prefer that patrons are able to carry a concealed weapon, or at least, do not mind it enough to to forgo patronizing the establishment. A blanket ban needlessly constrains those individuals.

Why constrain patrons in a uniform way? There are people who can be responsible with a firearm in a place that serves alcohol. Maybe they don’t drink, maybe they have one or two drinks, or maybe they get very drunk but are still responsible with a firearm. The point is that classically liberal philosophy explicitly condemns probabilistic models of policing to preemptively constrain people, as if they are irresponsible. Should we use racial profiling? Does the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” mean nothing? Thanks to the Second Amendment, by default a person can have a firearm on a public sidewalk. It is borderline arbitrary to remove that liberty when that person walks five feet into a bar or restaurant, provided the owner of the establishment allows it.

The state does not possess the knowledge to determine who is responsible with a firearm around alcohol, and who is not. The state does not have the knowledge to determine who prefers private environments where people are allowed to carry a concealed weapons. One aspect of the jurisprudence for the Second Amendment is to decentralize power. The state complements such decentralization of power with an additional mechanism, property rights.

Redesigning bar glasses to be less likely to shatter is an extreme absurdity. We already have penalties for assault and battery in the law. Why take measures to increase the cost to bar owners and patrons? Why punish, by making them pay more, the majority of drinkers who avoid violence? It’s hard to conceive of an individual owner who believes that suffering the cost of replacing types of glasses is profit-maximizing behavior. So this is a new regulation? If it is, it’s an absurd bureaucratic grab for power.

What is a “reasonable choice to make to avoid the smoke?” Who decides? Some people value the work highly enough to endure the secondhand smoke; some people wouldn’t. Appealing to “reasonable choices” for employees when advocating for a smoking band is a fallacious abuse of language. A smoking ban only reduces choices. The reader has fallaciously conflated incentive and coercion. Brandon Berg explains the difference well. The poor aren’t having their options limited by a restaurant offering a position in a smoke-filled environment; their options are limited by being poor. The option to work in a smokey restaurant expands their choices.

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David Brooks writes about the rise of “vehement libertarianism”. I’ll wear that badge with pride. It would also be a good blog name. As always, he’s grossly incoherent and totally divorced from facts. There’s so much idiocy crammed into so few words. Time to break out the machete of reason and cut this down. (Brooks in bold.)

The United States is becoming a broken society. The public has contempt for the political class.

Two sentences and he’s already wrong; could be a new record. The implication is that respect for the political class is required for a working society. The only time that’s ever been true has been when arbitrary authority could kill you. Then you’d better show some friggin’ respect or go to jail, or worse.

(more…)

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