Egad. Smoking Ban Signed Into Law
Smoking Ban, Breathing Regulations Signed Into Law

DECEMBER 30TH, 2002

Bills to ban smoking and unnecessary breathing at New York City bars and restaurants were both signed into law Monday.

“This law does not legislate morality,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who pushed for the legislation as a worker health issue, said as he signed the bill at City Hall. “This law does not take away anyone's rights. Anyone important, anyway. This law allows important working people to earn a living in a safe workplace so they can provide for their families. Their children. The ban on unnecessary breathing in bars is important to keep oxygen in the air, which is necessary for all life. If we didn't do this, the terrorists would have won. And did I mention it's for the working children?”

The ban will take effect March 30, barring people from lighting up or panting heavily at virtually every bar, club and restaurant in the five boroughs. Violators will face fines from $200 to $400, or even life in prison, the foul swine.

“We hope and believe that this bill will not have a negative effect on businesses and will not be used as a tool to punish nightlife or bars or restaurants or anyone else who is doing legitimate business and making sure that their employees are safe," said City Council Speaker Gifford Miller. "I don't see why anyone would think this would affect any law-abiding business negatively. Nobody likes vile smokers and heavy breathers. But punishing people is so punitive. We hate to do it unless we must."

Exemptions to the ban include the city's seven existing cigar bars, sidewalk cafes with special outdoor smoking areas and bars willing to build separate smoking rooms with their own ventilation systems. In addition, establishments with no employees other than the owners or private clubs where only members work may still allow smoking. Heavy breathing will be allowing in gyms, sporting establishments, and other businesses that build special oxygen-enhanced rooms. Also people will be allowed to breath freely in their own homes, for now.

“I am confident that New York City will establish a new reputation as the smoke-free, easy-breathing capital of commerce, fine dining, nightlife, entertainment and tourism,” said Donald Distasio, the CEO of the American Cancer Society. “For as long as I can remember, this moment has been a dream of ours.”

"I, too, am confident that New York City will boom, now that we have bravely tackled the breathing problem," said Gloria Busybee, spokesperson for the American Oxygen For Children campaign. "From now on, the city sends a clear message: nobody has the right to breathe unless we say so!”
Well, not exactly.
Worth reading fully: Of Legal Fictions and Pro-Lincoln Libertarians by Stephan Kinsella.
Some interesting thoughts on Power and Vulnerability by Lew Rockwell:
The small, unintrusive government faces few threats to its limited power. Until Lincoln’s day, for example, it was possible to walk around Washington unencumbered. One could knock on the White House door and be greeted by the president’s butler. No office was closed to citizens. It was like any other town. There was no great fear emanating from the presidential quarters or any other public office. Why? Because power in the modern sense was so small. No one in government had good reason to feel threatened by anyone.

But as the power of DC has grown, so has its fortress mentality.
And these days every Federal building is a fortress.

According to this meme, we can determine the amount of power an group wields by how secure it feels, as shown by the inverse of its security apparatus. Powerful organizations buy lots of "security", because they feel little.

It's worth examining America's rush to trade a little bit of liberty for security, in the wake of 9/11, in that light.
Cheap press, indeed. A
Homeless Guy has a blog.
I saw The Two Towers over the weekend. It's an impressive film, especially technologically. In that, it is superior to the first film. But unlike the first film, serious liberties are taken with the plot, in ways that mostly weaken and hurt it. Peter Jackson, who does seem to get Tolkien at least somewhat, has succumbed to the screenwriter's temptation: to "improve" something that does not need it.

Let me first praise a sequence that Jackson adapted very well: the fight between Gandalf and the Balrog. This brilliantly opened the movie. No "last time on..." for TTT, a good decision. The sequence itself depicts accurately what Tolkien wrote on it. And the special effects - the Balrog - are stunning. I want to see it again.

Gollum is a marvel. I noticed one time when he looked a little bit out of context. But other than that, I accepted all of his interactions with the background and his dialog with the hobbits. The dialog is especially important; the character must seem to "be there" else the other actors will appear to be having a dialog with someone just over his shoulder. But in TTT this was not a problem. And that allows the Frodo and Sam (and Gollum) some excellent opportunities to act.

When I reread LotR, I often skip the Frodo and Sam arc. But in the movie, I found myself wanting more.

I did not want, nor approve of, the liberty taken with Faramir. At least I think I understand the motive - to show the dangerous power of the ring. But yes, I get that. I got that last film, actually. Meanwhile, taking the Ring to Osgiliath is all wrong. Stumbling into a battle in progress there, wrong. Battles in LotR, and medieval fighting in general, is not WWII. The Rider seemed to know the Ring was there; that's wrong. If Sauron had had any clue who had it, he would have concentrated all force necessary to take it. Concealment, not revelation, is Tolkien's theme wrt the progress of the Ring. When Jackson departs from the book, he makes ugly mistakes. These were relatively small, but annoying.

More annoying is the partial stripping out of an important Tolkien theme: the necessity for men (and others) to think, judge, and act in the face of uncertainty. This is most clearly seen in the meeting of Aragorn with the Rohirrim. In the book, there is a hard decision that Eomer must make. He must judge the honor, truthfulness, etc of the Fellowship as against an impersonal law that no stranger may walk abroad in the Mark. He thinks, questions, and finally makes the decision. He says what he decides, and does it. In the movie, there is not. particularly much at stake, since Eomer is an outlaw. The decision seems to not mean much, if anything: some outlaws give up two extra horses to some other guys.

There are many other decisions that characters, major and minor, must make in the book. In the movie, everything happens as if foreordained.

In the book, the decision of Hama, the doorwarder of Theoden, is a real one: let in Gandalf with staff, or not? In the movie, this is played as a clever joke. Funny, yes, but then seemingly decided with no difficulty. Show me. Tell me. You can have the joke and a real decision.

In the book, the testing of Wormtongue is a real test. Theoden honestly wants him to show by deeds that he is true. You get the feeling, reading, that perhaps Grima might redeem himself in battle. The decision is real, and he chooses to leave. In the movie, he has no choice, and runs off.

In the book, Entmoot is a big deal. Ents meet. Hobbits testify. Ents testify and talk. Finally, decision is reached to attack, even though it is unentish. And attack they do. In the movie, the Ents decide to do nothing in entmoot. Treebeard has to be tricked into seeing some dead trees (and then all of the Ents just appear, as if they were going along for some odd reason). Lame. So what exactly did they talk about at Entmoot? The weather? Did no Ent think to look at the eastern edge of the forest to see how it fared near Isengard?

In the movie much is made in Helm's Deep of the "decision", such as it is, between despair and fighting on. In the book, the fight there is certainly real and interesting, but it is not about despair. Nobody, as I recall it, is showing signs of giving up hope.

So in summary, the movie's plot has been streamlined quite a bit from the book. Real, hard decisions are rarely made, at least, not onscreen. Instead we move from one happening to the next automatically. Decisions are made by Saruman.
On Poverty: Isn't poverty just as bad now as it ever was in these United States? No, not hardly. But in the lala land of official government stats, it is. (And so it also is in the lala land of the activist left.)

What is wrong with government statistics on poverty? Well, a lot of things. I will point out a few in a second, but in case you are thinking I am biased, here is a critique from a person in government; introductory remarks to a Conference: Improving the Poverty Measure After 30 Years by Constance F. Citro from the Committee on National Statistics, National Academy of Sciences. I particularly liked this quote:
Although we do not fully understand the reasons, it seems that the "official" standing of the U.S. measure and the fact that it is used to determine eligibility for a number of government assistance programs have made it almost impervious to change.
"Poverty" was defined in the 60s. A survey in 1955 showed lower income people spending roughly one-third of their income on food. Food prices in 1955 for a minimal diet were used to calculate a minimal food budget. Then 3 times that was assumed, and a minimal necessary income computed. (3.7 was used for singles, and various other arbitrary-but-not-unreasonable multipliers for other domestic situations.)

"Poverty" then was assumed to increase proportionate to increases in food prices (as officially measured) for a few years. In the early 70s, the definition was changed to increase with the full CPI (which increases faster than food prices do). Food prices have generally continued to drop relative to the CPI price level.

So what are some problems with "poverty"? The largest problem is that it defined people as poor based only on their cash income. However, there are many very large income sources for poor people that are non-cash; for instance food stamps, subsidized rents, the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Another very important problem is the definition itself. Food prices have been dropping in spite of the fact they increasingly reflect processing and packaging; wholesale commodity prices have collapsed quite a bit since the 60s. Modern Americans spend only a small fraction of their income on food; nothing near 1/3. Using the CPI as a whole to adjust the poverty level is misleading because poor people do not buy the same mix of things that richer people do.

There are also a few effects that would increase "poverty" that are not measured in it: income and wage taxation. The social security tax, for instance, eats 18% of all working poor people's incomes. When it is hiked, more poor people result.
An old page, but quite funny. Why I Will Never, Ever, Get Laid Again. Found surfing to No Treason from Objectionable Content. Isn't the web fun?
Apparently Canada is getting close to quasi-legalization of marijuana. Zoiks! Go team! What's weird is there seems to be nothing in the Washington Post or the NYT about this. Yet this is much bigger news than just about anything short of the evil war.

If only the Canadian west can get busy on separatism, liberty would have a new leading nation.
Lott and Federalism: James Ostrowski on lewrockwell.com:
What do we do about abuses of federal power? Create a world government? I hear silence. So let’s sum up. Liberals say that when state governments abuse their power, we transfer that authority to the federal government. However, when the federal government abuses its powers, they refuse to follow the same logic and strip their beloved federal government of its powers.
Of course, some people would be happy with a world government. But the same problem applies: what happens when the world government gets something wrong? What if it decides, for instance, to adopt the War on Drugs as a global policy? What if it decides to dispossess everyone who is "rich", which would include all Americans? What if it it decides that women should not work outside the home?
On Politics and States Rights: by now anyone reading this probably knows what stupid old Trett Lott did. The Republicans, if they are at all smart, should remove him forthwith from the Majority Leader post. They should not, politically, wait until he resigns - they should force him out ASAP, with as much venom as possible. This will offer the most assurance possible to the public, especially minorities, that the party has its collective "heart in the right place".

(Not that I think any political party has a heart. The above is merely what I regard as good tactical advice, not any sort of moral statement. The purpose of political parties is to redistribute money from those that create and/or earn it, to others who do not. Lott's gaffe imperils the mission of corporate welfare.)

It's a shame that the people who Lott was appealing to - crude old time racists - have captured the term "state's rights". For it was a useful idea, that we desperately need still. But the fight over racism and discrimination in America shows an important truth about politics: people often do the wrong thing for good reasons; and people with bad ideas often ruin perfectly good ideas by mere association.

For instance, "capitalism" these days is thought of as meaning something close to "plutocracy; corporate aristocracy". In fact capitalism has nothing to do with corporations per se, and opposes plutocracy, aristocracy or any form of rule at all. Capitalism is inseparable from anarchy; any deviation from one is necessary a deviation from the other. But in the modern world the State, and the huge problems and crimes that go with it, have been associated with capitalism in part because of the people who defended the word "capitalism" - the corporate aristocrats. Their idea of "capitalism", that is, corporate welfare of various kinds, prevailed. It's not fair, but the that's politics.

Similarly, in the case in point, "state's rights" has been indelibly associated with racists, haters and murderers: the state apparachiks and lynch mobs of the South that legally and extralegally enforced Jim Crow. But "state's rights" does not mean Jim Crow; it means, in essence, "federalism" - the idea that most powers of government should not be delegated to the center. This is in fact a good idea.

Ironically, it was with the permission of the center - the Supreme Court - that Jim Crow was created.
The Plessy case erected a major obstacle to equal rights for blacks, culminating a long series of Court decisions that undermined civil rights for African Americans beginning in the 1870s, most notably the Slaughterhouse Cases, United States v. Reese, United States v. Cruikshank, and the Civil Rights Cases of 1883...

With the Supreme Court's approval, southern states quickly passed laws that restricted the equal access of blacks to all kinds of public areas, accommodations, and conveyances. Local officials began posting "Whites Only" and "Colored" signs at water fountains, restrooms, waiting rooms, and the entrances and exits at courthouses, libraries, theaters, and public buildings. Towns and cities established curfews for blacks, and some state laws even restricted blacks from working in the same rooms in factories and other places of employment.
The Jim Crow laws violated the right of free association. Nobody may morally tell you who to associate with, nor who to not associate with. It's your right as a human being to determine your friends, your acquaintances, and your trading partners.

True free association would have undone Jim Crow. The market, if left unregulated, punishes private discrimination and will inevitably (though slowly) destroy it. In order to stop this process from happening, the southern states made laws to enforce segregation - thereby violating the right of free association of businesses and citizens. The price of discrimination was socialized, and so it could be sustained indefinitely.

Illiberal policy - Jim Crow - was the core of the problem. Built on it was a superstructure of private discrimination. The correct solution would have been to strike down the illiberal laws, and let the market work. (Even better would have been for the Supreme Court to have correctly enforced right from the get-go.) The capitalist solution, while moral, would have been slow to demolish the offensive superstructure. And hence the powers that were went from forced discrimination to forced association, which is just as wrong for the same reasons. This was seen as acceptable in part under a theory of mass reparations for mass injury which is illiberal, but at least reasonable. But it was also accepted simply on the basis of who was arguing for it - the victims - and who was vehemently against it - Strom Thurmond and the other bad guys. People instinctively understand that lynch mobs are evil; and that anyone associated with them is probably wrong; and that anything such evil men say is probably bad too.

And thus the perfectly good concept of states rights was tainted. Leviathan rolls on.
Glenn Reynolds still appears to be confused by a few simple semantic issues related to the meaning of "pro". Here's a few thought experiments that might help clarify the thinking about that.

Let's say you can push a button, with the following effect known ahead of time and assured to happen: Saddam is deposed and a new enlightened government is installed in Iraq. Everyone in Iraq (other than Saddam) is better off; everyone else worldwide is no worse off than before.

Do you push the button?

If not, then I would agree with Reynolds that you are "objectively pro-Saddam". For while there are good reasons to press the button (making people better off), there is only one possible bad effect: the effect on Saddam. The only possible motivation for not pressing the button would be because you want to not hurt Saddam.

Most people, I think, would push the button. I would.

So now let's alter the experiment slightly. The same button, and the same effect if you push it. But as you make your decision, you only believe (with some degree N<100% of certainty), that the effect is as described. You also believe that there is some chance that pushing the button will have no effect on Saddam, while causing the death of 3000 innocent Iraqis.

Should you push the button?

I would say "no". Morally speaking, you should not. The reason is quite simple: you must always act on the basis of what you currently know. Since it is immoral to hurt (much less kill) innocents no matter what the end, you cannot morally endanger them by pushing the button.

By Reynolds' logic, however - only the effect on Saddam matters - I am still "objectively pro-Saddam". Presumably he would push the button. The Great Evil must be exterminated, and "the price is worth it".

So let's try a third experiment. Let's now dispense with the realistic (but complicated) lack of knowledge about the future in the previous experiment. Assume that somehow all effects of the magical button push are known in advance.

Let's assume that pushing the button does both effects previously described. That is, that Saddam is deposed and a new western liberal democracy appears in Iraq; everyone worldwide is no worse off except that 3000 innocent Iraqis are killed.

Presumably it is still "objectively pro-Saddam" to refuse to push the button; for this is, essentially, the war that Reynolds propounds on his blog. America will attack Iraq. Lots of innocent Iraqis will die under American bombs and whatnot. Saddam will be deposed. If the world is very, very lucky, "nation building" will work. (I'm not holding my breath, but assume so.) I would not push this button, but Reynolds clearly would.

Now I note that there is no difference, morally speaking, between killing innocent Iraqis and killing innocent Americans. Human rights spring from our mental abilities, and have no relationship at all to national borders. So, whatever conclusion one comes to in the previous experiment should remain the same if the 3000 innocents are Americans.

So it is "objectively pro-Saddam" to refuse to push a button which would depose Saddam at the cost of 3000 innocent Americans.

This leads to my final thought experiment. It's 9/10/2001, and someone offers you a button. If you press it, Saddam will be deposed and a new western liberal democracy will appear in Iraq; but two airplanes will hit the WTC and kill 3000 innocent Americans.

Do you press it?

If not, according to Reynolds' logic, you are "objectively pro-Saddam".

I really think Reynolds would not press the button. That makes him in retrospect "objectively pro-Saddam".

Join the crowd, Glenn.
An interesting article about copyleft in New Scientist. It mainly talks about the possible application of copyleft to information other than programs. Is it applicable? I think so.

Copyright is a good enough idea, though it has been slowly distorted over the years so that its advantages to the public are now much smaller than they used to be. (That sort of degeneration is inevitable for all State creations, not just copyright.) One of the great advantages of copyleft (and other forms of free information, including BSD-style licenses and even public domain), is that it serves as competition to copyrighted stuff. Such competition is increasingly necessary as copyright owning rent-seekers manipulate public policy in their self-interest.