Saturday, June 30, 2007
Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too? So declared the Houston City Council two years ago when they contracted with Dr Pepper Bottling Co. to provide exclusive vending machine services in 150 city buildings. The reason seems pretty clear to me:
City officials who crafted the deal, which already has brought $700,000 in revenue, say it helps the city because Dr Pepper has agreed to return 45 percent of the proceeds — much more than Coca-Cola and Pepsi — in exchange for exclusivity.
“It’s a tripling of revenue,” said Tina Paez, a deputy director in the city’s Finance and Administration Department
Of course, there’s one small problem: now that the change is about to be implemented in City Hall, some employees are upset because they don’t actually prefer Dr Pepper. So, in true legislative form, they’re voting to amend the contract two years after the fact. Good grief — if they can’t decide whether or not the drink preferences of City Hall employees are worth $700,000, and stick to their decision for two whole years, how are we ever going to trust them with, say, a 200,000 student public school system?
Oh, and by the way, if they’d just installed machines to dispense the sugary goodness that is Dublin Dr Pepper, I’m confident that whether or not employees could find something tolerable to drink wouldn’t even be an issue :)
[Hat tip: Jacob]
Friday, June 29, 2007
Stateline.org has a pretty good roundup of new state laws that will go into effect July 1, the beginning of most states’ fiscal years. Some of these are absolutely crazy, though I’m certain some of you will disagree with me on which ones those are.
My personal pet peeve is the new Tennessee carding law, which I find absurd both for its inefficiency and for how obviously the special interests managed to exclude everybody except the grocery stores. But the new Arizona law requiring that classrooms display an American-made American flag is right up there in terms of wildness.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Gotta love this quote from New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer: “We will use the capacity of the executive branch to govern the state, whether or not the legislature joins us in this pursuit.”
Spitzer has been on my least-favorite politicians list for quite some time, beginning when as state Attorney General he pretty much used poll results rather than facts to decide who to prosecute, and he’s not scoring any points with me here.
Monday, June 25, 2007
In case you didn’t know, I’ve been in Boston on business for the past 10 days. Keep in mind that summer travel for me consists of being virtually out of commission from 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. every day because of the intensity of our seminars. (You may recall that last summer I blogged so infrequently that I had to re-launch my site to bring traffic back up.)
I’m now back in DC for two weeks and owe a lot of people emails and phone calls, not to mention I actually need to conduct business in the office from time to time. Expect to see me here, well, about as infrequently as you already do.
Monday, June 18, 2007
I read two very interesting articles today that I probably only clicked on because of the headline, yet turned out to be quite different than I expected.
First, Half of Britons ‘Email Addicts’ seems a bit sensationalistic if you actually read the article. Is it so surprising that roughly half the working population feels they can’t live without email, given that it’s now the primary form of interacting with friends for pretty much everyone who’s not in school? And does that mean they are addicts? Am I a transportation “addict” or a going-to-work “addict” or a clothing “addict” because I happen to use these things frequently in order to live a normal life?
Second, the article Happiness Is Paying Your Taxes [hat tip: Jane] takes a phenomenon that I find completely plausible and skews it terribly. One could have just as easily used the headline “Altruism, Whether Forced or Voluntary, Creates Happiness” and completely changed the perception of the reader. (To be fair, I think the researchers created an unnecessary bias in their press release which was then copied by the press, which the scientists specifically acknowledge by conceding that the nature of the tax matters.)
Just thought I’d quickly make the point.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Tony Parker won his 4th NBA championship last night, was named Series MVP, and is marrying Eva Longoria next month. How’s your life?
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Glen Whitman beat the Volokhs with a Bacon Number of 2. Some might say that we still hold the standard to be appearing on television together, in which case my score is most definitely greater than 2. If, however, having a personal relationship with someone counts as a degree of separation, then my Bacon Number could be 3 by virtue of knowing Glen. Actually, if the standard of personal interaction trumps the standard of personal relationship, my Bacon Number is 2 because I’ve hung out with Ben Stein before (at a small lecture after-party).
But, if we’re requiring that people be stars of the stage and screen to count, I’m still a couple of degrees away. And that’s probably the right way to go about the game. It seems to me that there are a whole lot of people who know someone who knows someone, but far fewer people who’ve shared screen time together. Of course, I think that would make my Bacon Number not even a real number or something, since I don’t think I’ve ever been on TV.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Read a pretty interesting article this weekend on the politics of personality destruction.
Saturday, June 9, 2007
Pretty funny stuff.
Seriously though, the activity surrounding the now-withdrawn immigration bill is a pretty comprehensive representation of everything I dislike about politics. I haven’t read the bill itself — I understand it’s very long and wasn’t available to the public until just recently — but based on third party reports I’ve read the one thing all sides can agree on is it’s horrendous. However, it was supported by party leaders (and the major newspapers) as a necessary evil despite widespread opposition, on the grounds that [insert pet policy here] won’t get passed without ignoring the idiocy of the rest of the bill.
Some people claim to like gridlock government (separate parties controlling Congress and the president) because it slows the pace of new legislation and helps curb tyranny of the majority. While this may be true, I think gridlock creates a problem that may be worse than either of these things: really really terrible compromises. The best ideas on one side tend to be the ones most forcefully opposed by the other side, because they want to prevent the opposition from scoring an ideological or political victory. As a result, compromise legislation tends to be about buying off small voting coalitions with a bunch of policies that by themselves would only be supported by superminorities.
And, in case you were wondering, here’s my position on immigration. I’m sympathetic to concerns about security given the current state of foreign affairs, so I do think we should be screening entries into the U.S. using some sensible process. However, I am fully in support of raising our immigration quotas to allow entry for pretty much any immigrant who legally clears security. Illegal immigration occurs because, despite risk of deportation, foreign workers believe they can outcompete competitors for a job. If they’re right, we now have workers whose growth and education were paid for by some other country, receive the benefit of their tax revenues and the money they spend in our economy, and only cost public schooling for their children (assuming the children weren’t born in America and therefore entitled to it) and emergency medical care. If they’re wrong, word will eventually get out and demand for entry will subside. Moreover, immigrants are no less likely to assimilate into “American” culture than at any point in our history.
This is an ultra-condensed form of my argument, but I believe the evidence clearly shows that non-violent immigrants represent a net benefit to society, and I encourage those who believe otherwise to present their arguments for consideration.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
A truly tragic end to the best season in history. I’m looking forward to next year.
Monday, June 4, 2007
You won’t see much of me on here this week, as I’m currently attending a work seminar at beautiful, if isolated, Wake Forest University.
I’ve developed a few brief impressions about Wake Forest thus far. Beautiful symmetrical campus design = plus. Water drainage is so bad that during yesterday’s downpour I was forced through ankle-deep puddles = minus. Campus location is free of urban noise, crime, and pollution = plus. Almost killed during my jog this morning because surrounding roads have no sidewalks = minus. Forest on campus with pretty walking paths = plus. No bars within even conceivable walking distance of campus = minus. State-of-the-art facilities and decent dorms = plus. Designated outdoor smoking areas are even more harmful to my health than letting people smoke in their rooms = minus.
And speaking of smoking… cigarette vending machines on campus = actually pretty funny, and all buildings named for members of the R.J. Reynolds family = if you try and mount a campaign to get the building names changed on these grounds you are a freaking dead weight loss to society.
(By the way, that last bit isn’t entirely true: I think one of the buildings is named after Arnold Palmer.)
Friday, June 1, 2007
Since I promised several weeks ago, it’s high time I wrote about my stance in opposition to congressional representation for Washington, DC. My argument lies below the break.
Friday, June 1, 2007
First, some economic humor. Well, the tragic kind anyway.
There are about a zillion reasons why the minimum wage is a bad idea. And in case you were wondering, at the top of the list is that doesn’t actually help the people that proponents claim it helps — and in fact, it typically hurts them! Economics is so completely clear on this issue, that the only argument I’ve heard not completely disproven by basic economic reasoning is “I don’t believe in economics on this issue.” (The qualifier is important: few people who have read a book don’t believe in economics, but some choose to apply economics selectively beause they don’t want to be perceived as inhumane when what we want for society conflicts with pesky logic.)
My rant was inspired by this post. I don’t see a real need right now to further elaborate on the economic implications of the minimum wage beyond this link, but I’m happy to debate in the comments if somebody wants to disagree.
[Update 6/1/07: I should have added that I’ve already written on the minimum wage, the most recent example being commentary on living wages which are a particularly radical perversion of the minimum wage wrapped in slightly better packaging.]