Saturday, July 26, 2014

Trains and Their Alternatives

By far, my favorite species of libertarian writing is the article which attacks a government spending project by articulating all the other spending projects -- also opposed by libertarians -- that could instead receive the money. This Reason article making fun of a new light rail project in downtown Detroit is a great example of the genre.

I don't know enough about the particulars of Detroit to know if the project makes sense or not. I do note that reviving urban cores via densification around light rail hubs has a very strong record of success and plays into the increasingly car-less preferences of the millennial generation. Given that this is pretty much the trend in urban revitalization, you'd think the article might mention it somewhere, but alas. Indeed, the article seems peculiarly attached to the thesis that "downtown" is a doomed concept which fell apart in 1967 and will never rise again -- a theory that seems to my ears to be, what, a decade out of date? At least? The trend in the United States has been towards restoring the central nature of "downtown" areas, as young professionals like being able to walk (or take a quick hop on public transportation) to their jobs, their favorite restaurants, or their after-work hangouts. So the idea that Detroit would benefit from following this path is hardly some sort of absurdist boondoggle.

The real joy though, comes in all the caveats that are snuck in throughout the article, much as a parent might hide vegetables under the mashed potatoes. "Detroit's light rail line could be written off as a typical government pork fest, if only a large share of the construction funds weren't coming from private sources." Uh-oh -- sometimes private benefactors make choices with their money that don't perfectly align with Reason's read on Rational Choice Theory? Say it ain't so! What about convenience? Well, obviously, the best way to think about that is their absurd hypothetical where a local business magnate uses his god-given right as a Free Market Maker issues some sort of decree to "mandate that his employees utilize the new light rail line in their daily commutes after it opens in 2016." The idea behind these light rail projects typically is that people move close to the train stations and don't drive anywhere, but that really basic concept is again nowhere to be seen.

And what about the "26 percent of Detroit households that don’t own cars"? Here, Reason suggests that further investment in the city's bus lines would be a better use of the money. And maybe so -- there are a lot of reasons to favor rapid-bus transit over train lines, greater flexibility being among the most prominent! But of course, if that was on the table it would be another government spending atrocity Reason would oppose on principled libertarian grounds. And even if Reason was remotely likely to offer its full-throated support to massive government subsidies to local bus lines -- which I don't think we'll see in any form except as a hypothetical counterplan to actual proposed projects -- the fact is one of these projects is on the table (thanks to private money, no less), and one isn't.

So yes, color me skeptical that their problem with the rail project stems either from Reason's deep understanding of contemporary urban redevelopment policy or their heartfelt commitment to bus service.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Religious Mantras

The former editor-in-chief of Newton, Iowa (pop. 15,254) was fired after he wrote comments describing his fight against the "Gaystapo". Now he's claiming religious discrimination and filing suit. Here's his statement:
On April 28, 2014, I penned a theologically based article stating my sincerely held religious beliefs about efforts by some to criticize and remold my faith through what I believe is false teaching. In my article, I quoted at length from a variety of sources, most prominently, from the Holy Bible.

That blog post described my sincerely held religious beliefs regarding Holy Scripture and the definition of marriage. My comments on my blog were personal in nature and reflective of my sincerely held religious beliefs. Furthermore, I felt compelled by my sincerely held religious beliefs to share my Biblical view with the few folks who read my blog.
I'm probably reading too much into this, but the way he's repeating "sincerely held religious beliefs" after Hobby Lobby reminds me a lot of shooters after Trayvon Martin who kept saying "I'm standing my ground" right before blowing some "threatening" kid away. It's interesting to watch legal doctrine percolate down into the public consciousness and how they are understood (and misunderstood) by average people. I am quite skeptical that a religious discrimination claim will go anywhere based on these facts; "sincerely-held" beliefs notwithstanding.

Bonus fun fact: The man is being represented by the Liberty Institute -- formerly known as the "Free Market Foundation". Because when I think "conservative ideals about the free market", I think "judicial intervention to stop private businesses from voluntarily deciding who they employ as their Editors".

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I Will Never Yield in My Commitment to Compromise My Principles

A new poll asks what sort of people Americans wish had a greater presence in Congress. There's some interesting findings, but the one that immediately struck me was this:
Gallup finds that by a margin of 63% to 30%, Americans believe the country would be better (as opposed to worse) governed if in political office there were more “people who think it is more important to compromise to get things done than to hold firm to their principles.” Okay. But by a margin of 56% to 38%, they believe life would be better if there were in political office more “people who think it is more important to hold firm to their principles than to compromise to get things done.” These would appear to be diametrically opposed and exclusive propositions, unless “Americans” are saying they want more highly conflicted people in office, or just want more of everything.
I really, really, really wish I could get into the head of the people who prefer both the pro- and anti-compromise positions.

Monday, July 21, 2014

One-Liner

A Palestinian defendant -- facing deportation after being accused of covering up her convictions and subsequent prison sentences for two Jerusalem bombings -- wants her Jewish judge off the case because of his alleged ties to the "pro-Israel" community (the motion is here). While I don't doubt that the Judge is "pro-Israel" in some broad sense of the word, I say "alleged" because some of the supposed "ties" are really just connections to the Jewish community that, if we're charitable, are simply being misunderstood. The label "Builder of Israel", for example, given by the Judge's synagogue for his charitable donations to the community, is a reference to the Book of Ruth that does not necessarily reflect anything about Israel qua Israel.

In any event, we've seen arguments like this before -- a Catholic Judge asked to recuse himself due to his ties to Ave Maria College; the effort to get Judge Walker to recuse himself in the gay marriage cases. Were it up to me, I'd dispose of the motion in a single sentence:
The motion to recuse is denied. See Pennsylvania v. Local Union 542, Int'l Union of Operating Eng'rs, 388 F.Supp. 155 (E.D. Pa. 1974).
But I'm cheeky.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Things People Blame the Jews For, Volume XI: Shooting Down the Malaysian Airlines Jet

Here's a shocker -- of course the attack on the Malaysian Airlines jet that was shot down over Ukraine would be blamed on the Jews [http://theunhivedmind.com/UHM/new-venice-zionists-shoot-down-malaysian-airlines-mh17-to-ignite-confrontation-with-brics-head-russia/]:
NEW VENICE ZIONISTS SHOOT DOWN MALAYSIAN AIRLINES MH17 TO IGNITE CONFRONTATION WITH BRICS HEAD RUSSIA
[...]
Just this week the Ukrainian Army were given numerous BUK-M1 weaponry which were deployed right next to the Donetsk region and in Kharkiv by Wednesday all just one day prior to this event and all ready to take down any enemy combatants. So one outcome of this event may well be Israel soon getting commercial airline orders for all civilian aircraft to be fitted out with Multi-Spectral Infrared Countermeasure and Directional InfraRed CounterMeasure systems from Elbit. This today will also aid Israel by allowing their zionist media networks to cover-up the Gaza war crimes as interest all lies back on President Putin and Russia rather than on the ground invasion of the Gaza Strip happening on the very same day.
[...]
Expect a lot more plane events like this using Boeing aircraft but most aircraft run the same type of system today so they are all basically drones you should never use. So in truth the U.S could just fly this aircraft into the ground and claim on their media networks (MI6, MI5, CIA, Mossad) that the plane had been fired upon even if it had not and the herd would believe such lies thanks to Serco OOOI interventions. This MH17 flight was supposedly followed by two Ukrainian jets just prior to the downing of the aircraft. I could believe that these Zionists may even go to the length of painting up an aircraft as Ukrainian and firing on this airliner to wind up Pro-Russians but usually they will do this in the enemies colors but if they use Ukrainian colors then Putin might just step in and confront the Ukraine as he has threatened over the recent shelling from Ukraine into Russia killing an innocent Russian citizen.
And I think we have our mole -- "One Israeli Dies in Malaysia Airlines Shoot-Down Over Ukraine. Smoking gun! Let's learn all about this dastardly Mossad agent who no doubt orchestrated this heinous act:
Itamar Avnon, Convert to Christianity....
Whoops -- let me revise. Let's learn all about this dastardly Mossad agent who no doubt orchestrated this heinous act brave martyr murdered by the Elders of Zion for his heresy.

That's how you conspiracize, people. I know this is breaking news and all, but I shouldn't have to clean up afterwards like this.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fireable Offenses

In case you were wondering whether the ANC official who said Hitler was right would be terminated or even disciplined by the party, the answer is no. No, he will not.

Indeed, in an interview with theSouth African Jewish Report, ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe refused to even distance himself or his organization from the apparently now controversial subject of whether global Jewry should be slaughtered en masse.

But remember -- the real injustice is when Jews have sufficient political influence that policymakers feel they must be attention to their concerns.

Monday, July 14, 2014

I Smell Another Hate Speech Case

Remember that time that a top COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) official announced he wished to "convey a message to the Jews" of South Africa -- specifically, that he and his union would make their lives "hell" if they supported Israel? It led to a hate speech conviction by the South African Human Rights Commission -- a ruling COSATU was not exactly chagrined by. But less we feel too bad, it did not stop the BDS advocates in the British University and College Union from inviting him to give a talk.

Oh, those were the days. It was almost like that time a major South African government official said "Jewish money" controlled America.

But I digress. Today, an official with African National Congress (South Africa's ruling party) decided to join the "Hitler was right" brigade on Facebook:
The post by Rene Smit, who works at ANC Western Cape, displayed an image of Hitler with the title "Yes man, you were right..." followed by the line: "I could have killed all the Jews, but I left some of them to let you know why I was killing them." At the bottom of the image was the message, "Share this picture to tell the truth a whole world."
Something tells me that this could head right back to the SAHRC. And something tells me that, if and when he is found to have engaged in hate speech, the same "Palestinian solidarity activists" will come out of the woodwork to defend him.