Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: March 2, 2010

When Girl Scouts Attack

Some of you would no doubt love to be accosted by a bunch of girl scouts plying their wares (you know who you are), but you won’t be subject to such a harrowing experience in Seattle:

Tim Burgess’s move to outlaw “aggressive panhandling” may be an unconstitutional, attention-seeking bully tactic, but at least the Councilmember appears willing to apply the law equally to anyone asking for money on the streets. Even if they just want to sell you a box of thin mints.

The issue, such as it is, arose from a (possibly facetious) email exchange between a Seattle Councilmember and an alleged citizen complaining about what can only described as a channeling of a Mike Myers mock-horror scene:

Councilmember Burgess:

I was strongly opposed to your panhandling proposal until my experience on the streets of downtown West Seattle yesterday. Now I totally understand where you’re coming from.

Here’s what happened: on the way to the West Seattle Farmer’s Market, I encountered a band of Girl Scouts aggressively promoting cookie sales within spitting distance of a KeyBank ATM where I was withdrawing money. The situation was so extreme that I could actually hear their aggressive, repeated, high-pitched solicitations at the very moment I was entering my PIN. Then as my cash was dispensed and I nervously removed my receipt — trying to stay calm despite this invasion of my constitutional right to not be confronted by my relative class status — I saw two adult women. They were the ringleaders, I assume. They didn’t seem to be doing anything but watching over the whole scene and talking discreetly to each other about god knows what. All in all, a nerve-racking experience.

So there they were, asking for money, repeatedly, despite my lack of interest in what was on offer, all happening well within 15 feet of an ATM. Would this be banned by the your ordinance? I certainly hope so, because there’s a long history of applying laws like this inequitably, almost as an excuse to push poor people out of desirable areas instead of addressing the actual problem.

Thanks for any information you can offer.

My best guess is that this email comes from a rather disgruntled, yet somewhat clever, panhandler. The Councilmember’s response is both appropriate and obviously skeptical, but it does raise an interesting question: if the state is going to exercise it’s police powers judiciously, doesn’t that ensure that we miss out on opportunities that are neither a threat nor an offer of something we don’t really want? After all, what sort of hair-shirted aesthete do you have to be to not want girl scout cookies?

When it comes to local rules and regulations, I’m not one to quibble too much unless such restrictions impinge on fundamental rights. Setting up shop in a public way certainly deserves some treatment of police power since the sidewalks belong to the public. At the same time, if you are just standing around hawking your legal goods, I really don’t understand what it is we need to be protected from. Can it be annoying to walk through a gauntlet of capitalism? Sure. Maybe worse for some than others. But we don’t have any right to be free from annoyance, do we?

I mean, if that were the case, then why should I be bothered by ACORN morons marching up and down the street where I work? Nothing has ever been done about that. Once, I nearly came to blows with some idiot preaching about how we needed a new New Deal while I was trying to enjoy a leisurely stroll in downtown Alexandria, VA. Do I have the right to be free from that annoyance? Not bloody likely.

And the fact of the matter is that I shouldn’t be “free” from those annoyances, anymore than I should expect to be “free” from girl scouts selling cookies on a street corner, or a hippie selling dew rags in a city square. If one of them genuinely threatens my peace, then the appropriate authorities should be able to step in, but how often is that truly the case? That some panhandler was able to point out this hypocrisy in the enforcement of Seattle’s anti-public-space-economy laws (to coin a terrible phrase) only underscores how ridiculous the application of police power (local or otherwise) has become.

The bottom line is that, whether one is selling girl scout cookies or dew rags, why do I need the state’s protection? Keep the public ways clear for the public sure, but let’s not forget that commerce is what truly makes the world go ’round. Without it, that police protection doesn’t get paid for.

[HT: Tom Scott]

AGW Climate-gate review: Why the “science” is suspect

My friend Ed Morrisey over at Hot Air, goes on a righteous rant about the failure of the American media, unlike the British and Australian media, to investigate the allegations of fraud and malfeasance leveled against those who have advanced the AGW theories. Why they’ve not done so remains a mystery (well, sort of). But while doing so, Ed offers a very good list of what has happened to date:

I suspect this will end up being a partial list as more and more comes out. And, to add to his last point, this week another very respected scientific institution voiced it’s concerns:

Scientists at the heart of the Climategate row were yesterday accused by a leading academic body of undermining science’s credibility.

The Institute of Physics said ‘worrying implications’ had been raised after it was revealed the University of East Anglia had manipulated data on global warming.

Of course Dr. Phil Jones of East Anglia’s CRU, testifying before the Science and Technology Committee in the UK, admits to writing some “pretty awful emails” but denies the manipulation of data charge. The Institute of Physics is having none of that however:

Giving evidence to a Science and Technology Committee inquiry, the Institute of Physics said: ‘Unless the disclosed emails are proved to be forgeries or adaptations, worrying implications arise for the integrity of scientific research and for the credibility of the scientific method.

‘The principle that scientists should be willing to expose their results to independent testing and replication by others, which requires the open exchange of data, procedures and materials, is vital.’

In fact, it is known as the Scientific Method. Jones, apparently, doesn’t agree:

[Jones] claimed it was not ‘standard practice’ to release data and computer models so other scientists could check and challenge research.

In the world of science – real science – that should automatically mean that it should be “standard practice” for other scientists to disregard anything theorized by someone who refuses to release data and models for peer review. And that appears to be exactly what is beginning to happen among the more reputable scientists.

Meanwhile, with total disregard for the story or the facts our media and politicians continue to push for implementation of the policy recommendations that have been derived from this rapidly disintegrating attempt to scam us through “science.” Given the scam they’re running about health care reform, that should come as absolutely no surprise.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Zombie Cap-and-Trade coming to a utility bill near you soon

Senator’s Lindsey Graham, John Kerry and Joe Lieberman have bought the premise that “carbon = bad”.  But being politicians, looking at the economy and understanding the discontent of the voters with both health care reform and cap-and-trade, they’ve decided on a more incremental approach to implementing the latter.

First, they announce that “cap-and-trade as we know it is dead“. Of course cap-and-trade is, at base, a tax on carbon which is now considered a “pollutant” by the anointed. Apparently they believe you’ll believe that since it isn’t a comprehensive, across the board imposition of carbon taxation via the method of cap-and-trade, you’ll buy into the basic lie that this is wholly different.

Then they proffer their plan, which, of course, they claim is nothing like cap-and-trade. Really. It’s not:

Rather than include all major industrial sources of greenhouse gases in one broad economywide cap-and-trade system, the Senate trio will propose different types of limits for different sectors of the economy, beginning with electric utilities and then turning later to manufacturers such as chemical plants and pulp and paper mills.

Said another way, they prefer to tax carbon incrementally and not all at once. And that is the only real difference between Graham/Kerry/Lieberman and cap-and-trade.

The result? Read this finely wrought paragraph carefully to glean the effect:

“The bottom line with utilities is they’ll assume a compliance obligation from day one of the program,” the Senate staffer said, adding that no decisions have been made on how to allocate valuable emission allowances to the power companies except to incorporate an industry recommendation to shuttle revenue toward consumers to help pay for higher energy bills.

You have to love the “nuance” – the intent is to agree with the industry (allow them to raise their rates commensurate with the increase in cost to them) and “shuttle revenue toward consumers to help pay for higher energy bills”. In other words, subsidize consumers to pay for industry’s upgrades to cut carbon dioxide output.

The bottom line is your utility bills are going up from day one of the passage of this bill and the taxpayer – you – will be on the hook to subsidize yourself to pay for the increased cost.

Another in a long line of schemes we simply can’t afford and a convoluted and costly method of implementation.

And eventually, of course, the cost of other products (chemical companies? paper mills?) to include transportation and certainly at some point, gasoline and home heating oil will all be taxed as well.

Transportation fuels can expect a carbon tax that rises based on the compliance costs faced by the other major emitters. Several major oil companies, including Shell Oil Co., ConocoPhillips and BP America, floated the original idea on Capitol Hill, and the Senate trio has evolved their plan by funneling revenue toward transportation projects, reducing fuel consumption and lowering domestic reliance on foreign oil. The Highway Trust Fund is also a potential recipient of the carbon tax revenue, Senate aides said.

A carbon tax, by any other name, is still a carbon tax, isn’t it? And the timing of such legislation is just perfect. If passed anytime soon, the increased costs to industry should hit just about the time they’re beginning to climb out of recession.

As they make their case for the legislation, the three senators plan to tout their effort to incorporate energy and climate proposals into one overall package. And they will highlight the shift on carbon pricing away from cap and trade.

“It will be different from anything that’s been put on the table in the House or Senate to date,” Kerry said last week. “It’ll be comprehensive. And I hope it’ll change the debate.”

But it’s not “different” in the most important aspect – it taxes carbon. The premise is that carbon dioxide is a pollutant. For those who don’t accept the premise as accurate or scientifically valid, this is no different than cap-and-trade. It aims at the same result (taxing carbon) only approaching it in a slightly different and incremental manner.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Nate Silver, FDR and Obama

Nate Silver, a guy I respect and enjoy reading, dances around the point of a Weekly Standard comparison of FDR and Obama.

The WS points out:

If Franklin Delano Roosevelt were president today […] liberal health care reform would have been enacted already. […]

Silver, a man of numbers (he was tweeting Olympic goalie shot blocking stats during the US/Canada gold medal hockey game for heaven sake), goes to them and wonders why FDR’s (and LBJ as a comparison) congressional majorities weren’t mentioned by the Standard.

Silver goes on to talk about the huge size of the majorities FDR enjoyed, the implication being that they made a significant difference.

But that wasn’t the Standard’s point as seen in these paragraphs that Silver also quotes:

The reason is tied to what is probably the greatest difference between FDR and Obama. Roosevelt took command of Washington. Obama hasn’t. “FDR became the father of the modern presidency by moving the Chief Executive to the center of the American political universe,” John Yoo writes in his new book on presidential power, Crisis and Command. “Roosevelt’s revolution radically shifted the balance of power among the three branches of government.” […]

FDR seized legislative authority. The bills that Congress passed in his first 100 days and beyond were produced by the Roosevelt administration and ratified reflexively by Congress.

Those three highlighted quotes are the reason for Obama’s problem – quite simply a lack of leadership. Where FDR was proactive, wrote the legislation and then twisted arms to get it passed in a majority Democratic congress, Obama has done none of that.  He outsourced it. He instead left it up to Congress to write the legislation (with predictable results) and squandered a majority by passing nothing of his big ticket agenda. He’s now reduced to parliamentary tricks to try to pass health care reform legislation.

Whether or not Obama’s majorities are as big as those of FDR or LBJ enjoyed isn’t the point – the point is he had majorities and he squandered them by sitting back, leaving it all to Congress and letting party infighting slow and then stall his agenda. Had he, as the Standard notes about FDR, taken “command of Washington” and the legislative process the outcome might have been very different.  Had he introduced legislation written by the administration, he had a very good chance of having health care done by last year.

He didn’t. So the point isn’t about the size of majorities. It isn’t clear Obama would have been in any better shape had he had FDR’s majorities. The point is Obama is no FDR because he lacks the leadership qualities, skills and abilities of FDR, not because he had a smaller majority in Congress.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!