Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Everyday Boycotts of San Francisco

On the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial page, a witty rejoinder:
...This city is losing revenue every day as a result of inaction from City Hall. They might not use the term "boycott," but the businesspeople and tourists who don't return because of their disgust with the condition of the streets or concerns about their safety represent lost dollars. So do the entrepreneurs or developers who go elsewhere because of the regulatory thicket here...

Read the whole thing.

If boycotts are to be how we settle internal differences in this country, then San Francisco is deserving. The health-care bill for which they share a good deal of responsibility--who sent Pelosi to the House?--affects us far more than SB 1070 affects them, and what it does to people, assuming that "Probable Cause" means in SB 1070 what it has always meant, is more morally repugnant.

But that aside, yes, there's good reason to "go elsewhere". San Francisco is a great place to eat, and the architecture is cute, but it's frustrating in ways even this ex-New Orleanean can't take. Very recently I attended a scientific conference in San Francisco at the Moscone Center, their convention center. I don't recommend Moscone at all. It isn't that there was anything wrong with the facility, but the staff were overwhelmingly rude at times it counted the most. Among other things, a very rule-oriented, European mentality was displayed. For example: After having been jerked around the night before by staff and getting there early, nobody could put up posters at 7:55. Not until 8 AM sharp. A handful (or two) of incidents such as this made it such that I and many others recommended not going there in the future.

In Phoenix the staffers may have voted for Sheriff Joe, but at least they're polite and have American attitudes.

The partition of Arizona

"Baja Arizona" has been tossed about for a while to describe Southern AZ. I'd like to think it the more sober portion of Arizona, the one that put solidly Goldwater Republican Jim Kolbe in the house for eleven terms.

A friend just coined a new complement to this: Phoenix and environs as "Loco Arizona". Not a bad label for the portion of the state populated by geriatric immigrants from places like Ohio, Indiana, and the Chicago suburbs who come here, grow green lawns, and get upset over rattlesnakes, "dry heat", and Mexicans of any citizenship.

Should there be an Arizonan divorce? The problem with Baja Arizona is that it isn't just Kolbe territory. (I'd bring up Giffords, but she caved on the community rating mandate/high deductible ban bill). It also sends far-leftist union stooge Grijalva to the House cycle after cycle. And it's home to the U of A, the "Salt of the Earth Labor College", and the geriatric folks from back east whose political opinions come straight out of 1935, market abolitionism and all. Baja Arizona is Soviet Snowbirdistan.

SB 1070 probably isn't the big deal the Soviet Snowbirdistan types are making of it--that'll depend on whether or not police departments elect to violate Constitutional standards in its enforcement. (That isn't a given.) And recall that the tension between Arizona's lunatics makes AZ the eighth most liberal state in the Union. Without Phoenix, we'd be Massachusetts. And perhaps without Tucson, we'd be everything the San Franciscans and media whores are currently imagining we are.

But I do like "Loco Arizona". That should stick.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I can has boycott?

A few remarks on the "Boycott Arizona" idea:

  1. SB 1070 doesn't go into effect until 90 days after the end of the legislative session.
  2. ICE decides which police forces can and cannot enforce immigration law, and can render this moot.
  3. Governor Brewer has noted that AZ law enforcement will be expected to comply with Constitutional standards of reasonable suspicion and probable cause. To remark--before the law goes into effect--that SB 1070 will bring about violations of basic rights is premature. It will do so if the various police forces and Sheriff's departments screw up.
  4. In light of the above, if Brewer is right, this is a policy that at worst willhurt AZ policing by tying up police time (and wasting taxpayer money) on doing ICE's job and enforcing bad Federal policy.
  5. The people pushing for a boycott, mostly Democrats, are hypocrites until they call for an open-border immigration policy. By "protecting" union labor against competition, they created this problem--this problem exists because there is not an open immigration policy--and leftists are largely responsible for the popular misconception that open immigration hurts Americans. That this was picked up by populist reactionaries on the Right doesn't change history.
  6. This is really a bad road to go down.

    Shall we boycott Vermont because they sent someone who identifies as "socialist" to the Senate? (If socialism isn't as morally repugnant to you as racial profiling, you need to think harder about socialism. It's government interference in almost everything in life that matters.)

    Or, getting to more practical concerns: Shall we boycott every state that has a Democratic senator? The ban on major-medical insurance (and the killing of HSAs that will result), the tighter coupling of health care to health insurance and health insurance to employment, the mandate of community rating, all of this harms people at least as much as the racial profiling that will supposedly result from SB 1070. And given the opportunity to pass sensible reform, decoupling insurance from employment, moving the US off of the insurance-as-insulation model, the Democrat health care bill was a disgrace. Shame and harm. Where's the boycott of California? Arizonans have as much reason to boycott San Francisco--San Franciscans put Nancy Pelosi in the House--as San Francisco would have to boycott AZ were the hyperbolic claims about SB 1070 actually true. And why didn't we boycott Massachusetts when they enacted a Europe-style health care system, one that has been a failure yet served as a model for the Democrat bill?

    Why aren't we boycotting Chicago (responsible for IL's backwardness) over firearms policy?

    Oppressive firearms policy and health care policy is, again, at least as bad as the cynical fantasy versions of SB 1070. If boycotts will be the response, we might as well dissolve the Union.
  7. Talk of "revealed preference" is usually bluster--it fails to take into account irrationality--but it applies directly to boycotts. Talk is cheap. That ordinary people--not publicity whore celebrities--will cancel trips to the Grand Canyon or conventions in Phoenix is doubtful.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Supai Indians get upset over nothing, ASU pays them $700,000

In the New York Times:
Members of the tiny, isolated tribe had given DNA samples to university researchers starting in 1990, in the hope that they might provide genetic clues to the tribe’s devastating rate of diabetes. But they learned that their blood samples had been used to study many other things, including mental illness and theories of the tribe’s geographical origins that contradict their traditional stories.

I'm going to sound like Martel for just a moment: The Havasupai Indians should have been told that they could take their "traditional stories" and stick them [insert your choice of location]. They have no special right to revoke permission to use genetic materials collected from blood samples, and none to be secure in their fairytales.

That the Board of Regents paid them a $700,000 settlement is a violation of their fiducial duty to the taxpayers and to ASU's donors, and also a violation of their responsibility to ensure academic freedom for graduate students and faculty. A consent form is a consent form. End of story. As reported in Nature, no misconduct was found by an independent investigation.

What was at question in the Indians' lawsuit was whether or not someone who handed over samples could retroactively revoke consent and extort money from the taxpayer. Instead of settling the suit, ASU should have fought it to victory, enabling further such claims to be summarily dismissed.

The expression "Indian giver" has just taken on new life, and new meaning.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lift a leg. (The obligatory Earth Day post.)

I'm a few hours late on this one, but will back-date it because I can. It was also going to include numbers, including the cost of Tucson-area water treatment. Instead, I'll give but two ranges and one number:

3-10 gallons per minute. 1.5 - 5 gallons per flush. 20 gallons.

Water is scarce in most of Arizona, and as readers of this 'blog probably understand, water rights out here don't make much sense. "Prior claim to all of the water" is incompatible with both the Nozickian "as much and as good for others" and sustainable use of aquifiers. Lowered water tables destroy streams and change vegetation patterns. If you're still one of those right-wing nutjob holdouts who think concern for such things has nothing to do with human welfare, read up on Ecological services and think more subtly.

We're already diverting a major continental river to do absurd things like grow cotton in the desert or wisteria trees and green lawns in Phoenix. (Water is something that everyone needs therefore its price shouldn't reflect scarcity, right?--that's the common logic, and what's good for health care is good for...) Waste water is filtered, centrifuged, and treated with chlorine or ozone to make it suitable to dump on food crops, and water treatment plants have to be upgraded just to meet those standards. Recycling water from tap-to-tap remains a costly far-off possibility.

The craziest waste--aside from the cotton and old men "watering the rocks" in their landscaping--is the use of good, clean drinking water to wash away refuse. Leaving the spigot on while shaving uses 20 gallons of potable water. Showering uses 3 gallons per minute with a low-flow showerhead and ten gallons per minute with the old-fashioned kind. Modern toilets use 1.5 gallons per flush, and older ones use 5. Up to five gallons of drinking water is contaminated with waste and has to be processed every time you flush the toilet.

My recommendations: If possible, install greywater systems, low-flow showerheads, modern toilets, and (in public buildings) flush-free urinals. Turn the tap off while shaving; swirl the razor in a glass. Shower with someone you love or at least someone with whom you're comfortable being nude. And, at least if you're male, for goodness's sake, stop wasting a gallon or more of water every time you have to take a leak. Find a suitable shrub (not a cholla), check for rattlesnakes, and piss outside every once in a while.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

SB 1070, not as bad as it could have been

SB 1070, which could be called the Russell Pearce Omnibus, was sent to the Governor's office this Monday.

The bill:
  • Requires, without regard for limited resources, that police spend time determining--or attempting to determine--the immigration status of anyone arrested.
  • Makes employ of illegal aliens by private business, or even hiring an illegal immigrant to mow one's lawn, a State issue.
  • Criminalizes hiring of day laborers if picking one up momentarily disrupts the traffic flow.
  • Criminalizes transporting an illegal immigrant in one's vehicle with no exception. Driving a bleeding illegal immigrant to the hospital would be an offense. Extreme cases aside, this is mandatory social ostracism.

Moreover, whether or not the bill requires police to prioritize immigration enforcement is ambiguous. It does allow Arizonans to bring action against any governmental subdivision which restricts immigration enforcement below the "full extent permitted by Federal law". That could be taken to mean that any police force authorized to enforce immigration laws (the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department lost that power!) would have to spend all of its time doing so.

It could have been worse: early versions of the bill changed trespass statutes to make those without the Federal visas guilty of a state offense of "trespassing".

Another Senate candidate.

Word from a credible source has David Nolan, a co-founder of the Libertarian Party, running for the U.S. Senate as that organization's candidate.

Nolan is underwhelming in person, to put it politely, and generally opposed to the sort of libertarianism that admits ideas and solutions instead of reflexive "principles". He's also been a destructive force within the Libertarian Party. At the 2008 convention at what was supposed to be an "elder statesman" dinner he called for the Reform Caucus, the single best hope for reviving that moribund 3rd party, to "go reform the GOP", and supported the restoration of a dippy, ideological platform that does the opposite of showing off the best of modern libertarianism. For as long as he's been around, he's said to have been a supporter of the Sarah Palinization of the Libertarian Party, and Brian Doherty's book has him as a driver of the "Never again Clark!" movement that destroyed the LP's shot at UK Liberal Party or German Free Democrats-style credibility. It's worse: later in 2008, he backstabbed the Bob Barr campaign when it was at its fundraising and earned-media peak. I have the e-mails if anyone is interested.

Given that he has never held public office or served in government, the public would be right in having zero confidence in his ability to represent Arizona. Perhaps he's capable of understanding the issues, but I don't know the man to take advice from anyone. That having been said, he's almost as "qualified" as Rodney Glassman. Nobody is ever ready for the Senate.

Back in 2006, Nolan called global warming a "hoax", as though hundreds of scientific papers--of which I have read dozens--were simply made-up by their authors. That was a reckless and idiotic position, of the sort that totally undermined my confidence in the man's ability to have an honest opinion of anything, and a slander of many good people. There isn't a chance in hell he'll receive either my vote or my personal endorsement, unless he vocally comes clean on environmental issues and shows some respect for science. That is to say, unless I see a different Nolan, I'm not voting for Nolan. Jeff Flake, a good modern classical liberal around whom there was a Senatorial "buzz" before it became clear that McCain wouldn't retire, supports a revenue-neutral carbon tax, but in the Libertarian Party, it's exceedingly rare that the grown folks are in charge. I'd love for Nolan to show the seriousness and command of the issues of Flake, but I've learned not to expect to be impressed by 3rd Party candidates.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Glassman aims for the Senate.

Back when Rodney Glassman was first seeking public office, I remarked that he was an overgrown fratboy, a trustafarian dandy with a sense of entitlement big enough to get him kicked out of Carol West's office, and doubted his capability to be an effective City Councilman. (Follow the keyword link at the bottom of the page for some colorful information, or just search for "Glassman" and "get out of town".) To my surprise--and pleasantly, as I don't like seeing people screw up--he grew in to the position quickly. Those who pay attention to the City Council know that he's actually been the voice of good sense more often than not.

By now, his resignation from office in order to run for the U.S. Senate is old news. Do I think he's ready? Is anybody ready for the Senate? Is this an endorsement? No, but it's an update. And for the record, I think Lori Oien would make a great Councilwoman, the same as I did when she first ran for the seat.

My unsolicited advice for Glassman:
  1. Lose the smirk. Learn to smile like a man.
  2. Don't do it. Resignation is irrevocable, but it gives you the chance to go do something with your life. "(1) Trustafarian Grijalva flunky and (2) City Councilman" is a shoddy resumé. Add a science or engineering degree to that list of credentials and actually make or build something. Or go into business for yourself in something nontechnical and find out how the private sector works for those who create and don't merely inherit wealth. Before his stint on the Phoenix City Council, Barry Goldwater had experience as a military officer and with the day-to-day direction of a private firm. One that he inherited a stake in, yes, but that did not prevent him from learning how wealth is created, how free-market capitalism benefits the little guy, and how to sympathize meaningfully with those who are trying to get a leg up in this world. If the Democratic Party has a serious cultural shortcoming beyond its willful ignorance of free-market solutions to modern problems such as what is (not was, still is) wrong with health care and health insurance, it is this lack of appreciation for the entrepreneur. One cannot divide the U.S.A. almost literally into classes, into "haves" and "have nots", into "the rich" and "the poor", each with de facto different legal status, one as the permanent recipient of transfers and the end in himself and the other as the permanent source of transfers and a means to an end, and at the same time respect the entrepreneur. Come out and scramble like the rest of us, and it'll make you better than the average Democrat.
  3. Krugman's popular work, especially for the New York Times, is shameful trash. Krugman the scholar is worthwhile reading. Dive in. And read some Hayek while you're at it for background. I'm serious.
  4. Attend a few Tea Party rallies. Just hold your nose and do it. Get outside your comfort zone and learn something about Americans' values.
  5. Let yourself be photographed with a shouldered AR-15. It'll save you a lot of trouble.

zOMG I need a bulletproof vest now !!!!!!!!11111!!11!1ONE (Or, can we be sober about SB 1108?)

It's now twenty years after firearms liberalization began in earnest. We have twenty years of successes in forty-eight states to inform our perspective. Why, then, the lack of sobriety in response to passage of SB 1108, the not-quite-"Constitutional Carry" bill signed into law by Gov. Brewer today, from commentators and a considerable minority of Arizonans.

Take, for example, the words of (state representative, nonanalytic thinker, and "public artist" responsible for replacing cheap, flexible buses with better-looking, inflexible, expensive streetcars) Steve Farley, as cut-and-pasted on Blog for Arizona:
Last week the Legislature sent to the Governor's desk (for her likely signature) another Russell Pearce bill, SB1108, that will allow any Arizonan over 18 years old to carry a concealed weapon anywhere that is not controlled by federal law. No background checks or training will be required. People with mental illness or a criminal history can no longer be kept from carrying a concealed weapon.

Nope. The prohibited possessor law is still in effect. All SB 1108 does is allow concealed carry anywhere one could previously open carry, under the same regulations as open carry. I wonder even more how Safier (for whom I have much respect despite our political disagreement) puts up with his anonymous coward co-'blogger, who didn't spot Farley's gaffe. Perhaps the co-'blogger is Farley?

Or try "Tucson Independent Examiner" Hugh Holub:
Some training in the "shoot no shoot" decision is better than nothing. I really don't think people ought to be running around carrying concealed without some training about what situations you really can blow someone's ass to Hell.

Except that people could already carry openly without that training, and without it causing much trouble. Strict liability is a curious thing, that has gun owners buying Al Korwin's books to keep themselves out of trouble.

Why do the hoplophobes and Holub-like milquetoasts always speak of "running around", anyway? I didn't know that carrying added that kind of spring to one's step. Is that slang for "acting irresponsibly". Yes, I don't think people should act irresponsibly.

Holub goes on:
My main concern is for the cop or Sheriff's deputy or DPS officer that walks up to a car in a routine traffic stop. This is one of the most dangerous moments in police work because you really don't know what you are walking up to, especially at 3 AM out in the middle of nowhere.

Under the new law, if you have a weapon in your car, you will need to acknowledge this and surrender it.
Imagine you are the cop walking up…and the driver yells "I've got a gun and I'm handing it out the window…"

Are you going to be pointing your service weapon at the driver?

Most officer involved shootings start with a driver or passenger making a furtive gesture in a stop which looks like they are reaching for a gun. Boom. Dead. Good shoot usually.

Police in Arizona are better trained than that, knowing how they should conduct themselves in an encounter with someone who is carrying legally. And Arizonans who carry openly already know--or should know, as it is their responsibility--their obligations in an encounter with the police. Shooting someone carrying legally and acting as he ought would be manslaughter, at least. Bad shoot, usually. Note that it rarely happens. Instead of drawing on 20 or more years experience, Holub, like many, is content to simply Make Things Up. To opponents of firearms law liberalization, imagination trumps reality.

The punchline is at the end:
And consider for a moment all the problems we've had with gangs and drug cartel they can legally hide their guns and can't be busted for that.

Be careful out there. The new state motto is "an armed society is a polite society".

The "you can spot the bad guys because they're the ones who carry and/or conceal weapons" meme, again. An intellectual nonstarter in 2010, but so are most anti-liberalization arguments.

If they could legally carry at all--if they were not prohibited possessors--they could previously legally carry concealed, by taking the course! There's no part of the concealed carry course where one must answer "are you a gangbanger (Y/N)?" let alone do so truthfully!

"Hide their guns" is the interesting bit. In the Old West, one could carry openly but never concealed; concealing a weapon was a sign that one was up to no good, something for liars and scoundrels who had to hide something. The culture has changed; open carry makes some (crazy) people uneasy to an irrational extent. Moreover, open carry changes the dynamic of an encounter with an assailant; concealed carry is safer.

As much as I give Al Korwin grief about his right-wing reflexes, I have to say he's great with words (it is he who coined the term "hoplophobe") and spot-on about this one. "Concealed carry" is "discreet carry". Nothing more, nothing less. Not hiding something, but rather being discreet, for one's own safety and perhaps the comfort of left-wing hoplophobic weenies who call the police to report "there's a MAN with a GUN!" Such discretion is what is demanded of many of us in the modern culture, especially professionals and even more especially academics! SB 1108 brings Arizona's Old West gun laws into accord with modern culture.

Hysterics like Farley's (and my colleagues) and goofiness like Holub's distracts from the few truly bad seemingly pro-gun bills. Rather than repeating long-discredited arguments about "blood in the streets" and "the police will/should summarily execute legal carriers during an active shooter situation" when we were trying to extend the right to carry to University faculty and students, the worriers should have concerned themselves with the unseemly amount of attention given by the legislature to the Murder of Grant Kuenzli by the Coward Harold Fish and the resulting reckless change in standards of evidence. As reported in the Phoenix New Times, this may lead to yet another murderer being let loose. So much for deterrence. "Harold Fish and Roger Garfield got away with it...and look, there are no witnesses. I'll just claim self-defense!"

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

ASU ahead of U of A this year: PIRG vote to happen.

Via the Desert Lamp, news that ASU students will vote on a PIRG fee today and tomorrow.

Reasons attendance at the university should not be bundled with a fee to pay for political activism are obvious, and the ways in which Naderite PIRG is both wasteful and insidious are well-documented.

As is the non-legality of deciding student fees by plebiscite. See FIRE's whitepaper on student fees for an overview. The relevant precedents are Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System v. Southworth, 529 U.S. 217 (2000) and Amidon v. Student Ass’n of the State Univ. of N.Y. 05-6623-cv. Also worthwhile reading is Gregory Sanford's law review article, "Your opinion really does not matter: how the use of referenda in funding public university student groups violates constitutional free speech principles", from the Notre Dame Law Review (83 Notre Dame L. Rev. 845 (2007-2008)).

ASU's student newspaper has come out with a clear argument against the PIRG fee, one that thoughtful students of all political beliefs should appreciate. Often, student newspaper editorials are more an indicator of campus opinion than opinion-maker; nevertheless, if the PIRG fee passes, ASU students should probably get on the phone with ACLU-AZ and FIRE to pursue an airtight 1st Amendment claim.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Maricopa County now serving photo radar citations in Pima

An alert for readers who wait for photo radar citations to be properly served before responding to them:

Maricopa County is now serving photo radar citations to residents of Pima County. This means that not only do you have to put up with tiny-brained folk slowing down to the speed limit and slamming on the brakes near the cameras, there's also a chance you might actually have to pay a fine if driving more than ten miles over the sometimes absurdly low (55 on I-17?) Phoenix speed limits.

Of course, this doesn't apply if the Easter Bunny strikes again.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

What is or is not a Goldwater conservative?

Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan are two figures from American history that many will point to as examples of admirable politicians. Many people these days believe Barry Goldwater to have been a libertarian Republican. In the upcoming 2010 elections voters in Arizona will have an opportunity to consider a candidate for Arizona's third congressional district who proudly claims to be a Goldwater conservative. Paulina Morris is campaigning against eight other Republicans for this office.

It is probably time for me to review Barry Goldwater's book The Conscience of a Conservative. With a new sense of inspiration that all things are possible (with enough hard work) now that Republican Scott Brown has been elected to be US Senator from Massachusetts perhaps a modern day equivalent of Barry Goldwater will find his way to office.