Friday, September 30, 2005

Bill Bennett is a racist

BENNETT: Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know. But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.

It's not political correctness to point out that a hypothetical suggestion that we could reduce crime by aborting all black babies shows a blatantly racist belief that there is connection between blackness and crime.

Moreover, there is literally no context in which one could place such a remark to remove its racist overtones. Economic arguments aside, the fact remains that Bennett singled out African-Americans, which implies a belief that crime is somehow inherent to that group.

Vilifying someone who would make such a ridiculous statement is therefore neither context-dependent nor based on political correctness.

The White House has the right idea.

UPDATE: Added the full quotation.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Weird Dreams and Weirder Reactions

At 5:18 this morning I woke up from a dream. In the dream, I had gone with a friend to some sort of construction site, where, unbeknownst to me, my friend was casing the joint to steal an enormous pile of gold bricks. On the way out, there were some folding tables set up in the lobby, which looked a lot like the lobby at my high school, with little boxes of candy on them. Divining that the candy was for sale for charity, I took a box of Sour Patch Kids without paying. Reprehensible.

Driving away from the scene, I accidentally turned into a service drive used by Madison Metro, the bus company. I was stopped by a diminutive older lady in a Metro jumper, who was flanked by two enormous bald men, one white and one black. They began to interrogate me about my presence in the service drive, but I knew with the dreamer's certainty that they were trying to find out about my illicit candy theft.

That's weird. What's weirder is that I spent a good 20 minutes, at 5:18 a.m., devising my various defenses to being charged with illegally entering the service drive and taking the Sour Patch Kids, wondering whether pretense stops by bus drivers violate my 4th amendment rights. If so, the stop's illegal. If not, shouldn't I have been Mirandized before they commenced their interrogation?

By the way, the verdict was unanimous: "Nerdy."

Friday, September 16, 2005

Well, Crap.

At what point do we admit that we lack the political will to either stop spending or start raising revenue? I'm no economist, but I know what my bank would do if I refused to work but continued writing successively larger checks.

The enduring emblem of this administration will be the exposure of the political canard that Democrats are the fiscally irresponsible party. If the Dems are tax-and-spend, these guys are don't-tax-but-still-spend, the worst of both worlds.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Immigration Law and the Big Lebowski

For my immigration law class, we are exploring the source of federal power to regulate who comes into the country. Most of the legal wrangling over this started long before Mexico had a sufficient population to worry us with immigration. The seminal cases on the subject were in the 1848 and on, when we had just finished building the transcontinental railroad.

Comments now written in the margin of my immigration law book:

Walter, these are the guys who built the railroads.

The Chinaman is the issue here, dude.

And, after a passage where Justice Gray says "[i]f no evidence is offered by the Chinaman, the judge makes the order of deportation, as upon a default," I wrote, "and also, Chinaman is not the approved nomenclature, Justice Gray. Asian American."

Saturday, September 10, 2005


I have, among my several classes this semester, a seminar on regulatory reform. It meets for the first time this coming Monday, so I figured to myself, "I'll do the reading on Saturday with my other homework."

Uh, yeah. It's 5 full law review articles. Probably should have started that earlier in the week.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

What the hell?

John Tierney, pontificating from his posterior:

They're stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic while the righteous fly past them in the far left lanes. Those freeway lanes used to be reserved for car pools, but they've just been opened to a new group: those of us virtuous enough to drive the right hybrids.


But even if these new privileges put more fuel-efficient cars on the road, I'm afraid the net effect will be dirtier air and more gasoline consumption. The promoters of hybrids are committing the sin identified by the ecologist Garrett Hardin in "The Tragedy of the Commons," the 1968 essay providing one of the foundations of environmentalism.


As traffic slows down, there will be more idling cars burning more gas and emitting more pollution, but politicians will be reluctant to offend hybrid owners by revoking their privilege. So it will be harder than ever to make the one change proven to speed up traffic and help the environment: convert the car pool lanes into what engineers call high-occupancy toll lanes.

There are X cars on the road, including Y carpools and Z hybrids. Increasing Z reduces overall gas usage because hybrids are considerably more fuel efficient than non-hybrids. Increasing Y reduces overall gas usage because there are fewer cars on the road total when people carpool.

Tierney's thesis? By increasing these highly-fuel efficient groups, we may increase gas usage since they slow down more often. Umm, John? An individual car pool or hybrid may burn more gas if the preferred lanes slow down, but overall gas usage will still decrease if there are fewer and more efficient cars.

Conflating individual gas usage and overall gas usage allows you to make neat public policy arguments for a fast commuter lane under the cover of reducing gas usage, but it bears mentioning that it's a fallacious argument.

Opening car pool lanes to hybrids is about encouraging people to buy hybrids. A policy that closes those car pool lanes or requires them to pay a (reduced) toll will remove or diminish that incentive. If you want a fast lane, fine. If you are hostile to the superior attitudes taken by some hybrid owners, fine.

But none of those things have to do with saving gasoline.