(These ideas are explicated in this sloppy manifesto)

Saturday, November 22, 2008
Dave's still not here, but I'd be grateful for bug reports...

I just moved everything for this domain from one file server to another. Everything looks good, but that doesn't mean everything is clean down to the bone. If you get a 404 or a missing image or a bad link or email address or whatever, I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know by email.

Thursday, August 10, 2006
Dave's not here...

I'm writing a lot, but not here, obviously. If you're interested, you can find me at BloodhoundBlog, our real estate weblog. Still the same Splendor, I think. This is from an epistemological debunking of
An [Automated Valuation Model] such as I describe can prepare a real estate professional with an excellent understanding of the possible value of the home -- on paper. But the map is never the territory. No amount of carefully calculated paper will lend value to a house that has burned down, unbeknownst to the software.

Sunday, July 16, 2006
SpellCheck 2.0: Bringing the benefits of Web 2.0 back to the desktop...

I was writing today, and I realized that spell checking, for all its added efficiencies, isn't terribly smarter than it was on the dedicated text-processing systems of the 1980s. It made the jump to desktop machines, of course, a trusty sidekick of word-processing, the first true "killer app" of micro-computing. But both were quickly eclipsed by spreadsheet software, and text management tools have been a red-headed step-child on desktop systems ever since. Everyone needs them, and everyone hates them when they don't work properly, but no one lays awake at night wondering what new computing paradigms might be expressed in future versions of their favorite word processor.

And spell checking has had it even worse. It's the sidekick to the step-child, after all. If it had a more tangible form, it might be stuffed into a junk drawer, handy to have around but usually just in the way. Spell checking has missed virtually all of the internet revolution, of course. Many web development tools incorporate spell checking, as do some on-line web sites. But there was no formal presence for spell checking in the Web 1.0 paradigm. No spelling look-up servers. No advertiser-supported spelling portals. No spelling IPOs. In fact, not one single wide-eyed investor pissed away his retirement savings on a Web 1.0 spelling start-up.

Worse yet, it seems almost certain that spell checking will be passed by in the forth-coming Web 2.0 revolution. This would be unfortunate, since spell checking is in fact the perfect Web 2.0 application--er, platform. Note these criteria from Tim O'Reilly's seminal paper on the characteristics of a Web 2.0 platform:
  • The Long Tail
  • Data is the Next Intel Inside
  • Users Add Value
  • Network Effects by Default
  • Some Rights Reserved
  • The Perpetual Beta
  • Cooperate, Don't Control
  • Software Above the Level of a Single Device
If we envision a product--er, application--er, platform called SpellCheck 2.0, we can incorporate all that stuff and then some.

It may occur to you to ask, "Why?" That's really a pre-Web 1.0 question. Web 2.0 is not about getting things done, it's about getting people together. It's not about what we as a club-composed-of-people-who-have-never-met have accomplished, it's about how we feel about it. A Web 2.0 platform is a phenomenon first. It is only secondarily phenomenological.

So to start with, SpellCheck 2.0 should be heuristic--if for no other reason than that you can't even write about heuristics without a really good spell checker. But even at the isolated, atomistic, disconnected, non Web 2.0 level, SpellCheck 2.0 should do more than just run a data-base look-up of potentially-acceptable substitutes for suspected spelling errors. It should learn from your writing which words you habitually misspell, which typos you persistently make. By iterative analysis of the error/suggestion/selection/replacement process, SpellCheck 2.0 should learn, over time, how to suggest the most likely corrections for you as a unique user.

Now let's scale that up to the internet. If, like every good Web 2.0 platform, SpellCheck 2.0 is in constant contact with a centralized file server, it can heuristically analyze and learn from the errors of millions of users. The platform becomes inherently and intrinsically social: Users Add Value; Network Effects by Default; Data is the Next Intel Inside. We even find room for The Long Tail: The least frequently used words are apt to be the hardest to spell correctly. An heuristic Web 2.0 spell checker can turn the dross of collective ignorance into the gold of collective intelligence.

Obviously, this is Software Above the Level of a Single Device. It requires the interaction of millions of distinct micro-computers.

And, of course, this is a Cooperate, Don't Control epistemological model: If a misspelled word goes persistently uncorrected by the majority of users, it can no longer be considered to be misspelled. Vox populi, vox dei. The ensuing work product might be considered to be Some Rights Reserved, but any rights to anything would be difficult to enforce.

And obviously SpellCheck 2.0 is a Perpetual Beta, since the product is essentially always in a state of self-generation--self-improvement if you will.

Judging by these standards, SpellCheck 2.0 may be the perfect Web 2.0 platform. After all, it exhibits every one of O'Reilly's eight criteria. But we're not done yet. We haven't even considered the true Web 2.0 benefits of SpellCheck 2.0.

Consider a user interface that permits you to rate particular spelling errors. Or particularly bad spellers. Imagine a screen that lets you see the most-misspelled, least-misspelled or most-uncommon misspellings. Picture a community of nationally-known spelling webloggers, haughty and self-satisfied, justifiably so, all linked together though SpellCheck 2.0. Stretch your mind and envision a mash-up of SpellCheck 2.0 with Google Maps that permits you to identify geographical misspelling hot zones. The social networking possibilities of SpellCheck 2.0 are limitless.

All that, plus it will even check your spelling!

I'd love to hear from interested venture capitalists, preferably with their pockets bulging with cash, but I wouldn't absolutely hate it is some Seattle billionaire just bought me out, lock, stock and barrel. I've heard that it's possible to be so rich that you don't have to give a damn that your text is misspelled...

Monday, July 10, 2006
Sen. John McCain: I Don't Have a Temper

"And I'll kill the filthy son-of-a-bitch who says I do!"

Saturday, July 08, 2006
BetterVegas: Good question...

Why can't Congress simply keep its mitts off the Internet and let Americans choose whether and how to risk their money in games of chance?

Monday, June 05, 2006
Acknowledging the obvious becomes a rare virtue...

From the Arizona Republic:
American presidents for three decades have kicked the can of global terror down the road for some other poor sucker to deal with. George W. Bush did not. And that's why, even when it's utterly unfashionable to say so, I still greatly admire his leadership and courage. Thank you, President Bush.
That took guts, given the current climate. And in my own hometown newspaper, no less.

Saturday, April 29, 2006
Cain's World: John Galt Day

Francisco looked silently out at the darkness. The fire of the mills was dying down. There was only a faint tinge of red left on the edge of the earth, just enough to outline the scraps of clouds ripped by the tortured battle of the storm in the sky. Dim shapes kept sweeping through space and vanishing, shapes which were branches, but looked as if they were the fury of the wind made visible.

"It's a terrible night for any animal caught unprotected on that plain," said Francisco D'Anconia. "This is when one should appreciate the meaning of being a man."

--Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
The photo above is the Sonoran Desert, a vast unpopulated wasteland in the midst of which is Metropolitan Phoenix, home to three million children of Cain.

Contrary to popular opinion, the desert was not designed by Walt Disney, and it will kill you with a blithe indifference if you make even one small mistake. If you have never been to the desert, you do not have a referent for solitude. Far more than the serenity that comes from a fundamental awareness of your own aloneness, true solitude must carry with it at least a tinge of fear. When you experience a silence so total that you can hear the footfalls of a tiny lizard fifty yards away, you also come to realize that no one, no one, no one will hear you if you shout for help. Twist an ankle and you die. Lose the path and you die. Misjudge the weather and you die. Set you hand where you should not--and you die.

And yet I can go to the desert on a lark, armed as a child of Cain with nothing but two bottles of water, a tank full of three dollar gas and my cell phone.

This is the same sort of desert Los Indocumentados cross to escape a hell even more barren: Socialist Mexico. Those two proud citizens in the middle-foreground are high-tension pylons, moving power to Phoenix from the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Station.

The children of Abel, in white socks and Birkenstocks, will insist that the meaning of that desert is the desert, that an ambulating organism is nothing more than tumbleweed, a fleeting ephemera racing through an eternal permanence. I think the meaning of the desert is me--or you--or Cain. I think the meaning is perfectly expressed by those pylons, so man-like in their form. The desert is nothing without humanity, but humanity is everything. This--this blistering deathtrap--"This is when one should appreciate the meaning of being a man."
"There is only one kind of men who have never been on strike in human history. Every other kind and class have stopped, when they wished, and have presented demands to the world, claiming to be indispensable--except the men who have carried the world on their shoulders, have kept it alive, have endured torture as sole payment, but have never walked out on the human race. Well, their turn has come. Let the world discover who they are, what they do and what happens when they refuse to function. This is the strike of the men of the mind, Miss Taggart. This is the mind on strike."

--Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
Los Indocumentados are about to stage a little strike of their own, and I expect they will be the parties most dismayed by it. I have tremendous respect for the people who cross the Sonoran Desert--many of them on foot!--in pursuit of a better life. Anyone who wants a job that badly is all-American in my book. But it remains that our undocumented friends represent the weakest tenth of the economy, at best. We say, "They do the jobs Americans won't do," but it would probably be more accurate to say that they do jobs that otherwise would not be done at all. No cheap landscapers? Hello, xeriscaping. No hotel maids? Oh, well, we're only staying for three days. No cheap restaurants? That's why Cain put a microwave oven in the break room. The planned strike by Los Indocumentados is likely to be underwhelming to most--where it doesn't go entirely unnoticed.

But the news of this strike put me in mind of Ayn Rand and the strike of the men of the mind in Atlas Shrugged. I have thought for years that I should take June 1st off as John Galt Day. This is the day in the book that John Galt, Francisco D'Anconia and Ragnar Danneskjold set aside every year to celebrate the world they hope someday to be able to live in. I don't even take days off, but when I read the book for the first time 25 years ago, I thought that I should make it a practice to take that one day off.

Los Indocumentados hope to make a point by hurting people. I don't think anyone is going to be hurt much, but that's really beside the point. If I make a holiday of John Galt Day, my goal is not to hurt anyone. But I do want to withhold my values, if only for that one day, from my despoilers. I love to work so much that I don't often think about--and care quite a bit less--how much of my effort is going to people I despise--and who despise my work ethic. But if I create any wealth on John Galt Day, I will craft it only for myself and for those few others I know who share my values. I will not share myself with people who would claim my mind, my time or my effort as a matter of right.
"I came here to say that I do not recognize anyone's right to one minute of my life. Nor to any part of my energy. Nor to any achievement of mine. No matter who makes the claim, how large their number, or how great their need. I wished to come here and say that I am a man who does not exist for others."

--Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead
I am not campaigning. I have never been able to live comfortably in what Richard Mitchell called "The World of We"--and I don't ever want to be comfortable in that world. But if you feel as I do, you might consider making a holiday of John Galt Day as well.

No looters, no moochers, no parasites, no crybabies--for one day, at least. My life, my way--and I never really feel any other way. But for that one day, my life all my way. No one will dare oppose me, of course, but, if someone should, I know just what to say:
"Get the hell out of my way!"

--Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Friday, April 21, 2006
Speak truth to power?

We hear that expression all the time from the Birkenstockers. Here is what actually happens when you speak actual truth to actual power:
A heckler from the Falun Gong spiritual movement who disrupted a White House appearance by Chinese President Hu Jintao was charged in federal court on Friday with harassing, intimidating or threatening a foreign official.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington said the misdemeanor charge carries a penalty of up to six months in jail.

Monday, March 06, 2006
The dying shrug of a once-fecund West?

A fascinating argument about incentives to childlessness and what they portend for our future:
The existence of the free-rider problem in child rearing should be a flashing warning signal to everyone that a potential problem does loom. We have a situation here were the production of the single most important resource of all, (indeed arguably the only true resource) human minds, is being increasingly economically penalized. If we found a similar free-rider effect in any other economic arena we would definitely be extremely concerned.
I always thought the intransigent childlessness of libertarians was insane. As our Islamic brothers and sisters are happy to show us, busy breeding is how you take over the world. Now I see that not having children is an act of rebellion, the shrug for all eternity, as it were. Unfortunately, as our Islamic brothers and sisters are happy to show us, busy breeding is how you take over the world.

Thursday, March 02, 2006
RIP, Harry...

Harry Browne has died. I traded mail with him for years. He was always around on the nets, watching what people came up with. Certainly the most approachable presidential candidate in history. And a genuinely decent man, no doubt also a first. Bushmills, three fingers, the glass held high: To the freedom still to be found...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006
BetterVegas: Well... Duh!

I've been busy and I've been neglecting this weblog, but I thought I'd pass this along, insofar as it's the first time I've ever actually seen this obvious truth reported. From today's Las Vegas Review-Journal:
To the editor:

The problem with the Las Vegas Monorail is getting to the monorail from the Strip.

My wife and I spent four days in Las Vegas in October, and we each got a one-day pass. We never did so much walking -- just to get to the monorail. With bad legs, we walked from New York-New York through the MGM Grand to get to the monorail. We had to get off at Harrah's and walk through its casino to get to the Strip and go to the gondolas at The Venetian.

Had the monorail been located on the Strip, there would be lines to get on. But with all the walking and wasted time to where it is now, we will never use it again.
You heard it here first.
Whatever its merits and profit potential, the route of this monorail is boneheaded! To get from my room at Circus Circus to the deluxe sandy-beached wave pool at Mandalay Bay, from the northern to the southern extremes of the Mandalay Resort Group, this is what I would have to do: 1. Take the Circus Circus tram from the back to the front of the property. 2. Walk north to Sahara Avenue. 3. Cross Las Vegas Boulevard to the Sahara. 4. Walk though the Sahara to the monorail station at the back of the property. 5. Take the monorail to the MGM Grand. 6. Walk from the back to the front of the MGM Grand. 7. Take the walkway across Las Vegas Boulevard to New York-New York. 8. Walk through New York-New York. 9. Take the walkway across Tropicana Avenue to Excalibur. 10. Take the Excalibur slidewalk to the Mandalay tram. 11. Take the Mandalay tram to Mandalay Bay. It would probably be faster just to walk directly from Circus Circus. It might even require less total walking.
Fares are up, too, stupidly enough. For a party of four to make this retarded journey by Monorail one time, it would cost $20. The same trip by cab sneaking down Sinatra Drive--on-demand, point-to-point, faster, cheaper and more comfortable--would cost much less. The letter writer is correct: Any solution effected on The Strip--even just closing it to automobile traffic and un-outlawing the pedicabs--would be better than the Nowhere Train.

Saturday, February 11, 2006
Nowhere Train: Next stop, Nowheresville...

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
The Las Vegas Monorail had its worst ridership month ever in January, sinking the troubled $650 million rapid transit line's bond rating further into "junk" status Friday.

Ridership slid to just 18,187 daily riders last month -- roughly half of what it was in July -- while Fitch Rating, a credit rating firm, dropped the monorail's rating to "BB," two notches into "junk" territory.

That poor showing imperils plans to extend the monorail to McCarran International Airport, which would rely on a multimillion-dollar bond sale to cover the cost.

Without a new bond sale, monorail officials say there's no other realistic way to pay for an extension. And with a "junk" rating, new bonds would be a tough sell.

"The short answer is, we have to have access to the bond market to finance our system. To access that market, we need to improve those ratings," Ingrid Reisman, a spokeswoman for the Las Vegas Monorail Co., said Friday.

"We need to continue to do what we're doing and continue to implement the plan we've put in place," Reisman said.

Previously, the monorail's worst ridership month was January 2005, when 22,313 people used the 4.4-mile system each day. The monorail's bond rating has been deemed "junk" since last March. In its report, Fitch Rating noted that revenues of the existing system -- which are used to pay off bonds that helped cover the original segment's construction cost -- are half what was promised when those bonds were first sold. Operating costs are 20 percent higher.

The monorail has been falling as much as $70,000 a day short of matching the roughly $159,000 needed daily to cover operating costs and debt service, while averaging fewer than 30,000 daily riders last year.

The system is believed to have lost around $20 million last year, which was covered by cash reserves.

Fitch said its downgrade "reflect(s) an increasingly constrained financial environment where significantly lower than anticipated fare revenue is not expected to be sufficient to pay debt service, even with the recent aggressive fare increase, requiring regular draws on internal liquidity to meet obligations."

The monorail increased its base one-way fare last month to $5, from $3.
Ironically, the Nowhere Train actually does much better financially than the Trolleys being built all through the land. It only loses about two dollars per dollar of fare income, where Trolley systems lose as much as twenty dollars on the dollar. The difference is, by being quasi-private, the Las Vegas Monorail has to provide an honest accounting of its results. It will be interersting to see if Sin City can learn from this experience as it ponders its own proposed Trolley line.

Thursday, January 12, 2006
My secret vice...

Here's what I love in art: Joy, delight, elation, exaltation, ecstasy, Splendor. I have hugely high standards for art. In consequence I hate almost everything. I want for any art, not just my kind of art, to enflame and inspire and edify and improve. I want for art to be vastly important, and I am almost always disgusted when it isn't.

So I am almost chagrined to reveal that I am a Tom Waits fanatic. I've listened to Tom since I was a kid, since he was practically a kid, and I've gone along with him through every one of his ever-more-weird self-reinventions. At his Bone Machine worst he was hard to take, but even then I could find things to like in his work.

I find my affection for his work hard to explain in my own terms. He certainly never walks my side of the street, or almost never. His work can be important even when dour, but most often it's not. He can be a very revealing observer, but there is much in Tom Waits that is just very cleverly rythmic scat.

He has an encyclopedic knowledge of pop musical styles, and just about everything he does is a wry take on a sound that is almost familiar to you. He's a better poet than any of the vaunted Rock poets, but that may just be because he refuses to take himself seriously as a vaunted Rock poet.

What I'm left with is an art I can't escape. I said, "Art is the stuff that sticks with you, art is the thing that won't turn you loose." Tom Waits has made a lot of awful art, but he's also made an awful lot of art that won't turn loose of me. He'll be with me until I die.

Amazon has a nice catalog. Appended below are lyrics to songs I love a lot, although you may have to puzzle out what makes them loveable.
The Part You Throw Away

You dance real slow
You wreck it down
You walk away, then you
Turn around
What did that old blonde
Gal say?
That is the part...
You throw away

I want that beggars eyes
A winning horse
A tidy Mexican divorce
St. Mary's prayers
Houdini's Hands
And a Barman who always

Will you loose the flowers
Hold on to the vase
Will you wipe all those teardrops
Away from your fase
I can't help thinking
As I close the door
I have done all of this
Many times before

The bone must go
The wish can stay
The kiss don't know
What the lips will say
Forget I've hurt you
Put stones in your bed
And remember to never
Mind instead

Well all of your letters
Burned up in the fire
Time is just memory
Mixed in with Desire
That's not the road it is
Only the map...I say
Gone just like matches
From a closed down cabaret

In a Portuguese Saloon
A fly is a circling around
The room
You'll soon forget the
Tune that you play
For that is the part
You throw away

Ah, that is the part
You throw away

Invitation To The Blues

Well she's up against the register with an apron and a spatula,
Yesterday's deliveries, tickets for the bachelors
She's a moving violation from her conk down to her shoes,
Well, it's just an invitation to the blues

And you feel just like Cagney, she looks like Rita Hayworth
At the counter of the Schwab's drugstore
You wonder if she might be single, she's a loner and likes to mingle
Got to be patient, try and pick up a clue

She said "How you gonna like 'em, over medium or scrambled?",
You say "Anyway's the only way", be careful not to gamble
On a guy with a suitcase and a ticket getting out of here
It's a tired bus station and an old pair of shoes
This ain't nothing but an invitation to the blues

But you can't take your eyes off her, get another cup of java,
It's just the way she pours it for you, joking with the customers
Mercy mercy, Mr. Percy, there ain't nothing back in Jersey
But a broken-down jalopy of a man I left behind
And the dream that I was chasing, and a battle with booze
And an open invitation to the blues

But she used to have a sugar daddy and a candy-apple Caddy,
And a bank account and everything, accustomed to the finer things
He probably left her for a socialite, and he didn't 'cept at night,
And then he's drunk and never even told her that her cared
So they took the registration, and the car-keys and her shoes
And left her with an invitation to the blues

'Cause there's a Continental Trailways leaving local bus tonight, good evening
You can have my seat, I'm sticking round here for a while
Get me a room at the Squire, the filling station's hiring,
And I can eat here every night, what the hell have I got to lose?
Got a crazy sensation, go or stay? now I gotta choose,
And I'll accept your invitation to the blues


Well he came home from the war
with a party in his head
and modified Brougham DeVille
and a pair of legs that opened up
like butterfly wings
and a mad dog that wouldn't
sit still
he went and took up with a Salvation Army
Band girl
who played dirty water
on a swordfishtrombone
he went to sleep at the bottom of
Tenkiller lake
and he said "gee, but it's
great to be home."

Well he came home from the war
with a party in his head
and an idea for a fireworks display
and he knew that he'd be ready with
a stainless steel machete
and a half a pint of Ballentine's
each day
and he holed up in room above a hardware store
cryin' nothing there but Hollywood tears
and he put a spell on some
poor little Crutchfield girl
and stayed like that for 27 years

Well he packed up all his
expectations he lit out for California
with a flyswatter banjo on his knee
with a lucky tiger in his angel hair
and benzedrine for getting there
they found him in a eucalyptus tree
lieutenant got him a canary bird
and shaked her head with every word
and Chesterfielded moonbeams in a song
and he got 20 years for lovin' her
from some Oklahoma governor
said everything this Doughboy
does is wrong

Now some say he's doing
the obituary mambo
and some say he's hanging on the wall
perhaps this yarn's the only thing
that holds this man together
some say he was never here at all

Some say they saw him down in
Birmingham, sleeping in a
boxcar going by
and if you think that you can tell a bigger tale
I swear to God you'd have to tell a lie...

Walking Spanish

He's got himself a homemade special
You know his glass is full of sand
And it feels just like a jaybird
The way it fits into his hand
He rolled a blade up in his trick towel
They slap their hands against the wall
You never trip, you never stumble
He's walking spanish down the hall

Slim him a picture of our Jesus
Or give him a spoon to dig a hole
What all he done ain't no one's business
But he'll need blankets for the cold
They dim the lights over on Broadway
Even the king has bowed his head
Every face looks right up at Mason
He's walking spanish down the hall

Latella's screeching for a blind pig
Punk Sander's carved it out of wood
He never sang when he got hoodwinked
They tried it all but he never would
Tomorrow morning there'll be laundry
But he'll be somewhere else to hear the call
Don't say goodbye he's just leaving early
He's walking spanish down the hall

All St. Barthelemew said was whispered
Into the ear of Blind Jack Dawes
All Baker told the machine
Was that he never broke the law
Go on and tip your hat up to the Pilate
Take off your watch, your rings and all
Even Jesus wanted just a little more time
He's walking spanish down the hall

On the Nickel

sticks and stones will break my bones,
but i always will be true, and when
your mama is dead and gone,
i'll sing this lullabye just for you,
and what becomes of all the little boys,
who never comb their hair,
well they're lined up all around the block,
on the nickel over there.

so you better bring a bucket,
there is a hole in the pail,
and if you don't get my letter,
then you'll know that i'm in jail,
and what becomes of all the little boys,
who never say their prayers,
well they're sleepin' like a baby,
on the nickel over there.

and if you chew tobacco, and wish upon a star,
well you'll find out where the scarecrows sit,
just like punchlines between the cars,
and i know a place where a royal flush,
can never beat a pair, and even thomas jefferson,
is on the nickel over there.

so ring around the rosie, you're sleepin' in the rain,
and you're always late for supper,
and man you let me down again,
i thought i heard a mockingbird, roosevelt knows where,
you can skip the light, with grady tuck,
on the nickel over there.

so what becomes of all the little boys,
who run away from home,
well the world just keeps gettin' bigger,
once you get out on your own,
so here's to all the little boys,
the sandman takes you where,
you'll be sleepin' with a pillowman,
on the nickel over there.

so let's climb up through that button hole,
and we'll fall right up the stairs,
and i'll show you where the short dogs grow,
on the nickel over there.


Well, the smart money's on Harlow
And the moon is in the street
The shadow boys are breaking all the laws
And you're east of East St. Louis
And the wind is making speeches
And the rain sounds like a round of applause
Napoleon is weeping in the Carnival saloon
His invisible fiance is in the mirror
The band is going home
It's raining hammers, it's raining nails
Yes, it's true, there's nothing left for him down here

And it's Time Time Time
And it's Time Time Time
And it's Time Time Time
That you love
And it's Time Time Time

And they all pretend they're Orphans
And their memory's like a train
You can see it getting smaller as it pulls away
And the things you can't remember
Tell the things you can't forget that
History puts a saint in every dream
Well she said she'd stick around
Until the bandages came off
But these mamas boys just don't know when to quit
And Matida asks the sailors are those dreams
Or are those prayers
So just close your eyes, son
And this won't hurt a bit

And it's Time Time Time
And it's Time Time Time
And it's Time Time Time
That you love
And it's Time Time Time

Well, things are pretty lousy for a calendar girl
The boys just dive right off the cars
And splash into the street
And when they're on a roll she pulls a razor
From her boot and a thousand
Pigeons fall around her feet
So put a candle in the window
And a kiss upon his lips
As the dish outside the window fills with rain
Just like a stranger with the weeds in your heart
And play the fiddler off till I come back again

And it's Time Time Time
And it's Time Time Time
And it's Time Time Time
That you love
And it's Time Time Time

Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Wintel - Win = Winner!

As of today, there is finally a decent computer running on Intel hardware. We'll find out in the coming weeks how well the new Macs run Windoze natively, but, in the long run, it really doesn't matter.

Sunday, January 08, 2006
BetterVegas: At last, a no-fan-of-the-Nowhere-Train

Here's the real problem of inner-city boondoggles: Newspaper reporters, the only people who could fink out these insane wastes of tax-dollars are almost always too busy fawning over them. It's a crisis in Phoenix, where our media never met a Marxist idea they didn't love, but, if anything, the problem is even worse in Las Vegas. Sin City is one of the few cities in America still served by a real newspaper. Reporters actually check up on the things they are told. They do simple calculator math and discover - O, horrors! - they are being lied to. They follow up, astoundingly enough.

Except when it comes to inner-city boondoggles, alas. Presented with an ornately-detailed elevation drawing and an elaborate set of completely transparent lies, even normally cynical reporters in Las Vegas will trip over themselves racing to repeat - or even embellish - the lies, without one second spent in fact-checking.

Here, at last, years late, is the first discouraging word published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal about the idiotic Nowhere Train, which only loses $50,000 a day:
If the private endeavor doesn't improve ridership, boost its junk bond status and pay off its construction debt - even with its tax-exempt status - it's more than likely the public sector will be asked to bail it out.
Who'da thunk it...?

No, the better question is, who could have not foreseen this easily foreseen outcome?

No, the best question is, when reporters seem to be gulled again and again by these idiotic so-called 'investments' - are they dupes - or accomplices?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006
BetterVegas: Stardust to ashes

The other shoe has finally dropped. From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Boyd Gaming Corp. plans to develop a $4 billion mixed-use resort on the 63-acre site now occupied by the Stardust, company officials said Tuesday.

The resort, to be called Echelon Place, will include 5,300 hotel rooms, 1 million square feet of meeting and convention space, 350,000 square feet of retail stores and a 140,000-square-foot casino.

It is scheduled to open in early 2010.

At $4 billion, Echelon Place is thought to be the second-most expensive single hospitality industry development ever undertaken after MGM Mirage's $6 billion Project CityCenter.
Yet another club-footed name, but we can expect both to change. I was hoping Boyd's plans for the Stardust parcel would be more ambitious, but I expect that much of that incredible piece of land will still be available for expansion. One feature I think is very smart: There will be four separate hotels on the property, each aimed at a different market segment.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Eight years yesterday. I love her better than anyone.
Something In The Way She Moves

by James Taylor

There's something in the way she moves
Or looks my way, or calls my name
That seems to leave this troubled world behind.
And if I'm feeling down and blue
Or troubled by some foolish game
She always seems to make me change my mind.

And I feel fine anytime she's around me now
She's around me now
Almost all the time
And if I'm well you can tell that she's been with me now
She's been with me now, quite a long, long time
And I feel fine.

Every now and then the things I lean on lose their meaning
And I find myself careening
Into places where I should not let me go.
She has the power to go where no one else can find me
Yes, and to silently remind me
Of the happiness and good times that I know, know
Well I said I just got to know that--

It isn't what she's got to say
Or how she thinks or where she's been
To me, the words are nice, the way they sound
I like to hear them best that way
It doesn't much matter what they mean
Well she says them mostly just to calm me down

And I feel fine anytime she's around me now
She's around me now
Almost all the time
And if I'm well you can tell that she's been with me now
She's been with me now quite a long, long time
Yes, and I feel fine.

Friday, December 30, 2005
The best refuge...

I wrote the article shown below for my real estate weblog. The story was tipped to me by a bigfoot executive at an Arizona free-market think tank. We've been talking back and forth about a host of state and municipal boon-doggles, the two of most immediate concern being an "affordable housing" scam and a City of Phoenix bond issue to infest Downtown Phoenix with nearly a billion dollars of tax-funded "investments." I wrote this back to him:
Thanks for that. Probably pissing in the wind, alas. I had thought about writing at length against the bond issue, but there is no outlet for that, no matter how much it is needed. Instead, I'm going to tend to my own garden. The ugly consequences of these dumb stunts fall hardest on the poor. My one sure refuge is to not be among them...
Here's the article from the weblog:
Housing is is more affordable despite contrary opinions

From the New York Times (registration required:
Despite a widespread sense that real estate has never been more expensive, families in the vast majority of the country can still buy a house for a smaller share of their income than they could have a generation ago.

A sharp fall in mortgage rates since the early 1980's, a decline in mortgage fees and a rise in incomes have more than made up for rising house prices in almost every place outside of New York, Washington, Miami and along the coast in California. These often-overlooked changes are a major reason that most economists do not expect a broad drop in prices in 2006, even though many once-booming markets on the coasts have started weakening.

The long-term decline in housing costs also helps explain why the homeownership rate remains near a record of almost 69 percent, up from 65 percent a decade ago.
Actually, it would be interesting to compare square-footage-per-occupant with the percentage of income needed to pay for a home. Homes are a lot larger than they used to be, with fewer full time residents. Anyone who pays attention to reality and not the news media knows that virtually everything is better and cheaper--expressed in work-effort-expended-to-obtain--than it was twenty years ago, and there is no reason I can think of that housing should be any different.

But-but-but!--the "affordable housing" campaigners will exclaim--home-ownership in the Phoenix-area is below the national average! This is true. The national average is 69%, where the Valley of the Sun trundles along at a lowly--wait for it--68%. If you subtract our incompletely-documented residents, we are well above the national average.

But-but-but! People in Phoenix pay more than the national average for housing, expressed as a percentage of their income! This is also a case where subtracting the hard-working folks who live under the radar yields radically different results.

"Affordable housing" is a scam. There is no one with a decent income, good credit and well-managed debt who cannot purchase a home in the Valley. We prove this thousands of times a month. Creating a vast new government program to give the illusion of ownership to people who do not qualify for home-ownership will do no good, but it will do a lot of harm:
  • People who do have good financial habits will be penalized; some or all of the homes they might otherwise have purchased will be expropriated
  • People who have bad financial habits will receive unearned rewards in the form of housing they do not deserve and very probably will not respect or maintain; the experience of HUD housing subsidies makes this very plain
  • The "owners" of so-called "affordable housing" will not be able to sell their homes at market value, realizing the appreciation, since, if this were permitted, the inventory of "affordable housing" would vanish in short order
  • Since they will not have the right of unfettered disposal, the "owners" of so-called "affordable housing" will be, essentially, tenants-at-sufferance, further contributing to their indifference to their "property"
The booster-doggling do-gooders will get the warm fuzzies for having done something, but what they will have done will be far worse than having done nothing. We have 150 years' experience with these silly welfare schemes, and we know beyond all doubt that their end consequence is to make people with character poorer while making their supposed beneficiaries poorer in character.

Home-ownership is the badge of the Middle Class, the backbone of America. But it is not a Cargo Cult. Behaving wisely leads to home-ownership, but "owning" a government-subsidized "affordable" home will not cause people to behave wisely. A thoughtful people could reasonably expect the contrary--informed by past experience if not by cold reason.

Monday, December 26, 2005
BetterVegas: The next big slogan?

Here's something you can use to astound your friends: The actual City Motto of Las Vegas is: City of Churches. For now, at least, Sin City is better known for its "What Happens Here Stays Here" slogan. The Las Vegas Review-Journal is thinking ahead, looking for new slogans to replace that one, when it wears out. Here are some alternatives, suggested by the paper's readers:
  • Las Vegas: Seven deadly sins, one convenient location.
  • Las Vegas. Come with luggage, leave with baggage.
  • Las Vegas: Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you'll lie.
  • Vegas. Go ahead, we won't tell.
  • Las Vegas: Where inhibitions are not tolerated.
  • Where memories are made that may be difficult to remember.
  • You can't take it with you ... so spend it here.
  • If we catch you counting dollars, hours or calories, we call Security.

Sunday, December 11, 2005
An insanely great idea whose time has come at last...

These are the people on line to pay by cash or check at the Apple Store at the Chandler Fashion Square Mall in Chandler, AZ, on Friday night. If you were paying by credit card, you stood in one of several other lines. It is estimated that the conversion rate for iPods is 20%--that of every five iPod owners, one becomes a Macintosh owner within a year.

The volume of business in the store was simply incredible. If you've never been to an Apple Store, treat yourself this Christmas. Beautifully-designed, beautifully-executed hardware and software in an environment that rewards you for being open to the idea of something better.

OS X will be running on Intel microprocessors by April, and the last excuse of the rigidly MicroFlaccid will be gone: Every bit of kludgy Windoze software will run natively on beautifully-designed Apple hardware. Who knows how long it will take developers to port their products to run on OS X, but who really cares? Everything normal people need is already available in beautifully-executed Macintosh software.

This techno-skirmish at the dawn of the millennium is between Gates and Jobs, between walls and opportunities, chains and liberty, a niggardly hoarding and an iridescent abundance. Who could be surprised that the good guys are winning?

Saturday, December 10, 2005
When did reporters become the gullible stenographers of frauds?

Holy smokes!
The Phoenix region has landed on a list of "extremely" overvalued housing markets
But, but but! Of course there's a "but":
but it's unlikely that the situation will lead to meaningful drops in home prices, several local housing analysts said.
Whew! That was a close one!

Well, not really. The cited text comes from the Arizona Republic, reporting alarmist predictions that are based on no actual, on-the-ground experience that I can detect. The 'researchers,' "Global Insight and National City Corp., a Cleveland-based mortgage lender," couch everything they dare to say in the most mealy-mouthed possible language, for that simple reason that any long-range prediction about a particular real estate market is inherently suspect. Our Cleveland mortgage lenders only dare to make mealy-mouth predictions for--wait for it--"299 metro areas."

When did reporters forget how to make the Bronx Cheer? Isn't that what Hildy Johnson used to do, in The Front Page, when fed a line of bull?

Here's a better question. Assuming the absolute mealy-mouthed worst for the Phoenix market, how bad will things get?
"[W]hen you look back at markets that have declined 10 percent or more over two years, those markets were overvalued by that much or more[.]"
That's choice. What it almost says is that the Valley might be at risk of losing 10% of the current market value of homes over the next two years. That is to say, the house that was worth $145,000 in December of 2003, which is now worth $265,000, may only be worth $238,500 in December of 2007. I'll take bets against that outcome at $100 a head, down to my last dollar. But, even conceding the (unmade) point, the four-year appreciation on the home would be 64%, $93,500 in unearned increment--wealth accrued without having to be produced.

But what the quotation actually says is this: If it turns out that homes have lost 10% of their value over two years, it's because they had been overvalued by 10% or more. Translated into English, it's just stupid. It sounds tautological, but it isn't, actually, because it introduces a false idea of causation.

The value of a thing is what that thing will bring. If people in Phoenix value beer more in Summer than in Winter (they do, by a lot), this doesn't mean the beer was somehow over- or under-valued, in means the value of the beer changes in the subjective evaluation of the buyer depending on the weather. If people in some future time offer less for comparable homes than they had in the past, this doesn't mean they had been over-valued in the past. It simply means they are less highly prized in the subjective evaluation of the buyer at that future time. The only commodity that can be said to be "over-valued" is the one that didn't sell.

There is actually nothing in the article that says Valley home values are going to drop, nor any indication of why they should, could or even might. To his credit, the reporter goes to R. L. Brown and Elliott Pollack for arguments why prices probably will not go down.

He doesn't mention the monthly results reported this week for Las Vegas, a useful leading indicator for Phoenix real estate results. Las Vegas is very similar to Phoenix, a high-growth city which has also undergone a sustained appreciation boom. Like Phoenix, Las Vegas suffered a very small decline in median values in October. For November, Las Vegas home prices were up slightly. We haven't yet seen November's overall median results for the Phoenix market, but the Market-Basket of Homes shows a small increase in values among the subset of Valley homes it tracks.

When did reporters stop vetting the claims made by the sources of their stories? Maybe they never did. Maybe that's just a romantic illusion we got from the movies. Maybe they've always been the doe-eyed stenographers of charlatans and mountebanks, dutifully transcribing the absurd.

In any case, my favorite version of the make-a-scary-prediction-get-a-headline scam comes from KPHO Phoenix Channel 5 News in August:
Schiller predicts housing prices could fall as much as forty percent over the next generation, triggering a recession.
"Generation" is a nebulous term. At a minimum, it indicates the span of time necessary for infants to become parents, call it 20 years. A recession--a nationwide failure of the central banking system--runs 18 months peak to valley and 36 months peak to peak. So prices are going to decline by as much as 40% (a quantification that includes 0% and +200%) over the next 20 years, which could trigger a recession, although we may have to root around to find it somewhere in that 20-year span of time.

How can anyone hear such a blast of flatulence and not say, "Hold on a second there, Perfesser. Are you saying that the population of Phoenix or the United States or the Earth is going to decline? Or are you saying that people are going to start living outdoors? Or is your claim simply that the supply of housing is somehow going to massively and permanently increase by around 40%, abating demand by the same amount? Is there any basis in factual reality whatever for making such an absurd and seemingly undefended claim?"

You can see me asking the same sort of questions of Dr. Jay Butler, who in fact may not be pulling his best headline-grabbing claims out of thin air. But he has not yet responded to my questions--nor, to my knowledge, has anyone else pressed him for the underlying data behind his wilder statements.

While I wait--cum taces, clamas--I have one last question about the state of affairs in Valley real estate journalism:

Where, oh where, is Hildy Johnson when we need him?

BetterVegas: The biggest mass transit sucker of all?

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the sales tax holiday will continue for the Nowhere Train, the Monorail boondoggle the runs behind the parking structures of some of the finest resort/casino/hotels in the world.

The ballyhoo behind the Nowhere Train was "private and profit-making," but more telling than this sales tax holiday are the taxpayer backed bonds that were used to build the Monorail. It burns more cash than it collects, so there is no chance it will repay its own bonds. In due course, Clark County is going to discover a desperate need to buy the Monorail. At the same time, the Regional Transportation Commission is considering a commuter rail system to run on extant heavy rail tracks from Boulder City through Henderson to the I-15 side of the Strip and thence to Downtown. And there's a proposal for a light rail system. Las Vegas could be the biggest mass transit sucker of all: Three useless, incompatible rail systems, each one bleeding the tax-payers white...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Jon Talton is the Arizona's Republic's house Socialist. He hates just about everything associated with free enterprise, but he makes up for it by waxing rhapsodic over any stray government boondoggle. He is convinced that Phoenix will continue to go down the toilet by growing and prospering until it dares to mimic all the idiotic urban policies people move here to escape. The Republic runs his column on the business page for the same reason they run articles by effete anti-athletic esthetes on the sports pages. Oh, wait--they don't do that...

In any event, Talton suffers from a rabid moondacity, a desperate need to tell mooney, transparent lies in support of unsupportable stupidities. From the Latin moondax, moondacis, moondacity denotes an incurable condition in which the sufferer's brain has turned into green cheese. It is epidemic in certain circles of Phoenix, particularly in the city government, where the afflicted affect to believe--and attempt to persuade others to believe--that Downtown will be revitalized by the erection of skyscrapers made exclusively from huge stacks of tax-dollars.

Here is a sampling of Moondacity, Talton style:
Maroney's is closing at Central Avenue and Camelback Road, taking away a landmark that has stood since the 1940s. There's a back story, of course: the dry cleaner sits atop contaminated groundwater.
"Closing"--what a failed business does--and "taking away a landmark"--what a tornado does--are not the same thing. This kind of corrupt conflation is constant among the moondacious, so learn to watch out for it. But this is the bigger lie: "the dry cleaner sits atop contaminated groundwater." In fact, Maroney's sits atop groundwater that it contaminated by dumping dry-cleaning chemicals into the ground-table for decades. Even so, the "contaminated groundwater" didn't cause the business to fail. Want to know what did? You can figure it out by inverting the next bout of moondacity:
Viacom, which owns the property and its lucrative billboards, is working with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to clean up the site. So this is hardly a business closing that can be blamed on the coming of light rail.
Did you catch it? When Talton says, "this is hardly a business closing that can be blamed on the coming of light rail," he's telling us with all the veracity the moondacious can muster that the cause of Maroney's failing is the coming of light rail. Talton came right out and told you the lie, so you know it's true.

Is this so hard to foresee? Camelback and Central is fairly densely populated by Phoenix standards, but not by any standard that would apply Back East. All of Maroney's business is drive-up. Not walk-up. Not take-the-bus-to-and-fro. You drive up. You park. You drop off or pick up your clothes. You drive away. Drive-up traffic at that intersection will be substantially more difficult after the trolley is finished. As it happens, it's virtually impossible right now, as the trolley is being built. From Camelback to Campbell, Central Avenue is almost impassable. What killed Maroney's? Light rail.

Talton has the gall to wonder if Phoenix might fail to benefit from transit-oriented development--which forbids the establishment of any new drive-up businesses in the swath of the trolley. In the minds of the moondacious, it's completely plausible that people will take the trolley to the dry-cleaners, then hop on another trolley to go on to work. That may not seem reasonable to you, but you forget that, once the light-rail is completed, summer high temperatures will never hit the high seventies and all the bums will be coiffed and perfumed. Oh, wait--that's just in the ValleyMetro brochures...

But not even ValleyMetro can top Talton for bald-faced moondacity. Contaminated groundwater has nothing to do with anything. It's been there for decades, and nobody's drinking that water in any case. The trolley is killing long-established businesses up and down its route, and the green-cheese-heads who inflicted it on us, along with all the other doomed Downtown 'investments,' don't dare admit this and dozens of other obvious truths. They use Soviet-style propaganda to afflict us with Soviet-style 'improvements.'

The next step in the game will be to plead with you to go out of your way to 'support' the businesses that are nope-no-way-uh-uh-never not being hurt by trolley construction. And that is propaganda perfection, Soviet-style, to tell two self-contradicting lies in one moondacious exhortation, challenging you--on pain of being declared a counter-revolutionary wrecker--to question anything you are told.

Phoenix can survive Jon Talton, as odious as he is. And we will overcome the stupid mistakes of the moondacious green-cheese-heads Downtown. But I'm not sure that any good thing can thrive in a place where public discourse consists of nothing but lies, and where anyone who dares to whisper the truth is shouted down and, in then end, self-censored.

Friday, December 02, 2005
Here come the condo conversions...

The West Valley sections of the Arizona Republic ran this story on the expected surge in apartment-to-condominium conversions on the same day they ran my column predicting just that outcome.

They said:
Condominium conversions are happening all over the Valley, with new projects in Glendale, Phoenix, Chandler and Scottsdale.

Real-estate brokerage firm CB Richard Ellis predicts about 6,000 apartments in the Phoenix metro area will be converted to condos by the end of the year.

What makes them appealing to potential homeowners is that they are relatively cheaper than single-family homes and a better investment than renting an apartment, experts say.

October figures for home sales in the Glendale and West Valley areas list the median condo sales price at $159,900, compared with $299,900 for a single-family home, according to the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service.

"It will offer an affordable alternative to someone who can't qualify for a new home," said Greg Burger of RL Brown Housing Reports. "It's a much better alternative than renting."
I said:
If there are suddenly a great number of qualified home buyers with no homes to buy, it's not difficult to figure out what will happen over the coming months. Here's the prognosis:

We will see more apartment-to-condominium conversions, especially at the low end of the price scale. There are qualified buyers with zero available inventory at the same time that older apartment communities suffer huge vacancies. This is an entrepreneurial opportunity.
My columns are written well in advance, so the two articles running on the same day is purely serendipity. But I think the conclusion I draw stands as a stout rejoinder to all the Chicken Little rhetoric we hear from allegedly-informed sources:
Finally, expect the unforeseen. Where there is increased unmet demand, there will be increasingly creative solutions to meeting that demand.

This is the dynamism of the free market, and this is why the sky so rarely falls, despite persistent predictions to the contrary.
For every ten people wailing, "What will we dooooo?!?", there is one entrepreneur wondering, "How can I make this work to my advantage?" Chicken Little grabs the headlines, but it is the entrepreneurs who have given us all the wealth we have, and all the wealth we will have.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Exposing the 'affordable housing' scam

This is why the Las Vegas Review-Journal is my favorite newspaper:
"People should not have to choose between paying for food and medicine and paying their rent and utilities," the report's authors assert.

But you know what? They do. People do have to make choices. Young twenty-somethings just starting out may not be able to afford that nice $300,000 house in the suburbs. They may have to work hard and make choices, getting married if they want kids and eating macaroni and living in an apartment while they save up their nest eggs. Is this something government should be trying to "fix," perverting these incentives for wise economic behavior by imposing hidden taxes on those who did work and save to get ahead, to subsidize those who don't want to bother?

Thursday, November 24, 2005
Digging for the news on interest rates

Note this from the Arizona Republic:
Mortgage rates around the country, which have been trending upward, dropped this week, offering a dose of good news for prospective home buyers.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported Wednesday in its weekly survey that rates on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.28 percent. That's down sharply from last week's rate of 6.37 percent, which was the highest in more than two years.
Newspapers are all about bad news reported on the shortest possible range of vision, so I suppose we should rejoice that the paper actually took note of some good short-term news. But the news of interest rates--and of real estate in general--is always about the long-term. The news of securities issues might matter day-to-day, but nobody buys a house one day and sells it the next.

So: What's the real news on interest rates?

Take a look at this graph:

All of these charts come from What we're looking at is the average rates for a 30-year fixed rate amortizing mortgage from Arizona lenders over the last 30 days. We hover between 5.70% and 5.96%, and the recent trend is decidedly downward. Good news, huh? Maybe not:

That's the three-month trend for a 30-tear fixed. The real trend is fairly steadily upward, right? But wait. There's more:

The same loan product over the last year. Down. Then up. Then back down. Then up a little. Then down a little. Then way up. Could it be that the sky really is falling?

Phew! The three-year trend looks like a Drunkard's Walk, a random stochastic hovering right around 5.40%. Interestingly, the trend seems to be flattening. But: If you read anything into that, you're making an error. Mortgage rates aren't caused by trends, trends are a coincidental artifact of changes in rates.

But here's the real news:

That's the five-year history of 30-year fixed rate mortgages in Arizona. Does that look like bad news to you? Does it look like bad news is lurking just around the corner, poised to strike?

Things can change. Disasters can befall us. Governments can inflict grievous errors on the national or international economy. But for now, at least, there is an awful lot of mortgage money out there looking for borrowers. This is why rates have been so low for so long. In the short-run, interest rates may be up a little or down a little. Over the long-term, assuming our economy stays on an even keel, the news is not just good, it's great.

Saturday, November 19, 2005
My property is mine...

Yet again from comments at No Treason:
Joshua Holmes: >>> Not every entry onto property requires easements or prior agreements. This has never been the law of property, nor should it be.

Greg Swann: >> You'll have to clarify that one. Under what circumstances are you willing to welcome forceful trespass onto your property by armed thugs? Do you claim that this willingness--here hypotesized and almost certainly specious, as it would be an attribute only of a very strange sexual fetish--is univeral to humankind, that no one, ever, should own his property by absolute right, with an absolute right to repel all intruders? Is this what you think Anarchism is?

>> Is that what others here hope for, an idealized condition where cops can break into your home ar any time, without notice, coercing your person and confiscating your things? If so, stand down. You're already there.

Stefan: > I think Holmes is referring to those cases where assessing the boundaries of property and the intent of the owner are difficult. For example, if I have a tool shed 50 feet from the nearest wall of my house, is it trespassing to stand midway between them at 25 feet? Or consider the act of walking up to someone's door to knock on it - some people would approve of it, but some wouldn't. Typically however there are no signs that tell you that; you just have to guess what their intent is.

If this is what Holmes meant, then, first, it doesn't matter, and second, it has nothing to do with what we're talking about. Innocent trespass has nothing to do with cops breaking into your house, either to arrest you or to quarantine you. Even so, it is absurd to think that we are going to undergo a radical, revolutionary change to become an Anarcho-Capitalist utopia and yet people are going to be just as stupid about their property as they are right now. These discussions--and Friedmnania as a mental condition--always work from the demented premise that everything will be completely different by being exactly the same. This is untrue.

How will an interloper get to your shed without your permission? Only by crossing hundreds of other properties without permission. He will get to your shed only if that is where you do embalmings or cremations.

I was unfair to Holmes in one respect: He speaks of what has "never been the law of property"--and this doesn't matter at all. Practically speaking, there has never yet been a law of property. Property has always been owned subject to the whims of the local mafia of superior firepower. Whether or not there will ever be a just law of property is yet to be determined. But, if there is, such a law would never countenance a righteous entry onto another person's property without "easements or prior agreements." This doesn't mean that a trespass would be necessarily actionable--which in my court would mean materially injurious. But neither does it mean it would ever be just.

My property is mine. You use it only by my permission. Does anyone here wish to take the contrary position?

If not, then getting back to the actual point, neither ordinary cops nor Friedmanical Rent-A-Cops can justly undertake the sine qua non function of their jobs, criminal trespass to arrest, confiscate--or quarantine.

I would welcome a short note of concession of this painfully obvious point from Kennedy, Holmes and the other contributors to NT.

You will not rid the world of cannibals by eating them...

This is me from Usenet on May 7 2001:

As we are seeing, discussions of non-coercive dispute-resolution tend to be polluted by what I identify as persistent thoughtlessness and ugly bravado, but it remains that the argument for coercive "justice" is undefended and indefensible. Even stripping away the centuries of ignorance and manly posturing, while advocates of coercive "justice" may be seeking good as their end, in the end good cannot be achieved by evil means.

That's the first point: Coercive "justice" is necessarily destructive of the egos of the people who attempt to effect it, and it is therefore evil in se. There is a distinction that must be made between response to violence as it is happening and retaliation after the fact. This is a distinction advocates of coercive "justice" consistently occlude. Nevertheless, I disagree with Jim Klein somewhat; I don't think a violent reaction to violence is amoral. It is an ego-destructive and therefore immoral action. It can be less immoral than failing to act, but the choice between less ego-destruction and more ego-destruction is a calculus of loss. That the one loss is preferred does not make it something other than a loss.

For a second thing, no human being can ever have the capacity to control the purposive behavior of another, and so the objectives sought by coercive "justice", as with all objectives sought by coercion, cannot be attained. This is an aspect of the identity of volitional beings as things, an inviolable law of nature.

Third, and more easily grasped, you simply cannot argue that you have the righteous political authority to do the things you wish to do.

You do not have the right to hurt people.

You do not have the right to effect retribution.

You do not have the right to exact revenge.

You do not have the right to demand recompense for injuries that might have occurred but didn't.

You do not have the right to make an example of Joe so that Jerry will be deterred.

You do not have the right to teach anyone a lesson.

Other people's lives are not yours to dispose of. Not ever.

Two wrongs do not make a right. Not ever.

The political philosophy undergirding coercive "justice" is undefended. There is simply no rational basis for saying that Jill is free in her person except when my ox is gored, but I am free in my person even when Jill's ox is gored. This is simply Rotarian Socialism, and there is nothing new or "radical" about it. See me at Meet the Third Thing.

Fourth, and obviously--and I weep for my fellowmen that this is so obvious and so little understood: You will not rid the world of cannibals by eating them. Your political philosophy is not only inane and undefended, is is hideously impractical for achieving the objectives you (claim to) seek. You will not rid the world of violence violently.

I advocate a particular model of non-coercive justice because it appeals to me, but it is not the only possible model. I've presented a number of others here, and one that makes a particular kind of sense is to react after the fact solely by correcting the newly-identified defects in your passive defenses; iteratively, you will achieve a safety far safer than anything ever known in human history. (Incidentally, this is exactly what you would do about an "evil" such as lightning or an insect infestation; it is worth your while to consider how much your love of retribution is rooted in religious ideas of vengeance.)

Janioism is more active than this, using the credit-reporting mechanism to post and collect judgments of restitution for injuries. The surmise is that people in groups will want that kind of lubrication when there are conflicts, but the modus vivendi is that we will never act upon another human being coercively after the fact. If someone defaults on a judgment, he will lack all access to the marketplace, to the trading medium, to all rights of way, to all commerce. His options then will be to make good on the judgment, run away, or starve. But there will be no involuntary social contact, no coercion, no institutionalized or ritualized crime.

You have the right and the power--the capacity--to do everything you have the right and power and capacity to do. Your rights and powers are not changed by other people's behavior--nor are theirs.

It's absurd that I have to point this out...

In the long run, we are all... alive...

More from the thread cited below at No Treason:
> I suppose I don't need to tell you of all people what happens in the long run.

In the long run, human beings will live forever, except as they behave foolishly. Stupid people--and some innocent victims--will perish. The rest of us will be very, very civilized.

Caesar said to be civilized is to be effeminized, but the proper expression of the idea is to be risk-averse. Hotheads die. May they rest in peace, since they never learned to live that way. The rest of us stand a fair chance to live so long that we will die only by choice.

This is not part of my political philosophy, by the way, just an acknowledgement of the realities of the biological sciences.

So, to answer you: Keynes was wrong. In the long run, we are all alive. In addition to learning how to think as Anarchists, we need to learn how to take the long view on everything.

Thursday, November 17, 2005
Stop the plague--of government...

This is me at No Treason. The question was raised more or less like this: If government quarantine is an invalid response to a life-threatening communicable disease, what would be a valid anarchist response? I'm not nice to the boys at NT, but I thought they were particularly lame on this topic. Here's my take:
It's a perfectly valid question. If you were in the habit of thinking like anarchists, instead of pretendedly-privatized statists (that is, Friedmaniacs), you'd know the answer. In a true agora, every square inch of property is privately owned. It is not coercion to forbid access to my property, which may serve secondarily as access to the property of others. You enter and pass only by my permission. If someone contracts a potentially fatal communicable disease, every life-loving property owner would forbid entry to that person while he was contagious. Different people (and different easement agreements) can differ, but it is hard to imagine that owners of major routes of access would incur the liability of knowingly serving as disease vectors. Barring intervention by burly Friedmaniacs (bellowing "Liberte! Egalite! Utilite!"), the problem is self-correcting.
Market Anarchists, Anarcho-Capitalists, Agorists--you name us--spend an inordinate amount of time pondering crime. This is the origin of Friedmania, how to deal with crime without official cops--while looking and acting just exactly like official cops. But the underlying issue is almost identical, as is the solution. People who injure others and don't make good on the injury have would no access to other people's property--at least not people serious about good behavior. In addition, they have would no access to the trading medium, hence to the marketplace itself.

The would-be Anarchists crave an angry evil-smoting god, but they don't need one. If the majority of people are well-behaved, the few bad actors will either starve to death at home or run away. They may try to shoot their way out, but this will prove to be a diminishing return, as it were.

A coercive after-the-fact dispute resolution system is unjust, whether it is a true state or the fake Friedmaniacal kind. But it also is unnecessary. Everything the Friedmaniacs want to do would be done better, faster and cheaper by non-coercive means. But that's a Utilitarian argument, where the defense for Anarchism and Capitalism is moral: We do not use force except in real-time self-defense because other people's lives, time, bodies and property are not ours to dispose of.

Hey, Mister Tambourine Man, help me find the beat...

Bored and not listening to something else, I read this story to the end and stumbled onto the absolute best Bob Dylan joke:
"He reminds me of something I think about when I attend Bob Dylan concerts," Miller said. "He's definitely moving to the beat of the song, but it's not the song that's being played at that moment."

Friday, November 11, 2005
My plan to rescue the Nowhere Train

Empty trains continue to rumble from the back of MGM to the back of the Sahara, says the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
The number of people riding the Las Vegas Monorail remained virtually flat last month, and this month doesn't figure to be any better, monorail officials said Thursday.
But I have a plan to fix that. We'll be in Vegas for five days at the end of the month. We're staying at the Hilton, but we'll be spending all our free time at Flamingo and the Strip. Gimme them shareable ten-ride passes, I'm a fool for an empty train.

Even in a city as relatively sane as Las Vegas, there's no end to the insanity over mass transit. So while the Monorail is failing so magnificently, Clark County is going through the hearings process for two more public transportation boon-doggles, a passenger rail system using extant heavy rail tracks and--you guessed it!--a light rail system, the very latest 19th century technology. Wisdom might be rare, but fools abound.

The one intelligent argument I've heard for big-budget public transportation is that it enables the rider to get drunk with relative impugnity. This doesn't justify the costs, of course, but it will be our reason for riding the (mono)rails after Thanksgiving: Extremely potent free cocktails at the Barbary Coast with no risky drive back to the Hilton.

The inevitable push to push the monorail to the airport before the inevitable concession of failure provides yet another intelligent argument for Las Vegas locals to use the monorail, at least: Free airport parking. Here's how it works: Park you car in any one of the free casino lots along the monorail route. Catch the train to your plane, coming back the same way when you return. Cost to park your car: $0 per day. Hell, that might even fill the trains...

Thursday, November 10, 2005
(not)Railing at light rail...

The Arizona Republic blows warm, wet kisses at the light rail system currently (and essentially perpetually) under construction in Central Phoenix. It really doesn't do to gripe about this thing. It will happen, no matter how much it shouldn't. But the article itself is funny, presumably without intending to be. I am obliged by my agreement with the Republic not to make fun of it, so please understand that I am only drawing attention to the particular lines of text I quote below. Like this:
The spring weather is starting to heat up, and after a short bus ride to the station at Central Avenue and Camelback Road, you're cooling your heels under one of the shade structures on the station platform.
See, the thing is, the light rail is not actually intended for people who live in Phoenix--at least not for the tax-payers, nor for the current users of public transportation. The two largest concentrations of adult bus passengers are in Sunnyslope and South Phoenix, but the trolley goes nowhere near either place. The actual 'audience' for the light rail are tourists. They won't actually ride it, nor will the tax-payers, but the City wants to be able to shout, "Phoenix, too!," to the light rail-afflicted world. It seems likely that out-of-towners are the 'audience' for this article, too, since everyone who lives hear knows how unbearably hot it is outdoors, even in the shade.
You're ready to get on board. Looking around, you see people heading for work, Arizona State University students, airline travelers with suitcases, and a few transient types.
Of course, prosperous people love 'transient types.' That's why you see so many expensive suits on the bus. That's why hitch-hikers jump for joy when they see a $50,000 SUV--a free ride with lumbar support!
There are no advertisements inside or outside. Valley Metro put a moratorium on ads for the first year, then will decide whether to allow them.
Here's an important fact: Light rail is very expensive to run. Not just to build, mind you, although it's hugely expensive to build; the system in Phoenix will run to more than $1,000 an inch before we're done. But even after it's built, light rail costs a lot more to run than do bus systems. That might matter if people who vote were users of public transportation, which they aren't, or if users of public transportation voted, which they don't. In any case, you can bet that Valley Metro will start taking advertising just before they publish the first year's deficit figures. They probably won't start cutting bus routes--the ones used by the actual users of public transportation--until the embarrassment of the second year's deficits.
Rolling down Central, you check out the construction on the western side of the street and wonder once again why you didn't have the foresight to buy land. Oh well.
A lot of speculators did buy land, of course, but we probably won't read much about the current owners who have had many future uses of their land pruned by the Transit-Oriented Development zoning overlay.
At 44th Street, people get off with suitcases and duffel bags to catch a shuttle bus to Sky Harbor International Airport. Someday, an automated People Mover is supposed to whisk folks from here to the airport. But with an estimated billion-dollar cost, it won't come anytime soon.
A thoughtful person could think to ask, "Why not run the eight-billion-dollar trolley through the airport?" The routes are parallel, essentially one mile south of the current route, and the train would chug into Tempe on University Drive, which would also make better sense--which is not to say that any of this makes sense.
You stop at Mill Avenue and step off with a gaggle of ASU students.
It seems reasonable to me to conjecture that the actual purpose of building a new ASU campus downtown is to fill up this silly trolley--with people who are young and prosperous, rather than older and poor. The downtown campus will offer major-field-of-study classes, but the core curricula will still be taught in Tempe. At least one round-trip a day for the kids who get stuck downtown, but they'll be shiny, happy transit-patrons.

But: It doesn't pay to gripe about this. It's a done deal, as dumb as it is. It will set Phoenix back a lot in money and opportunity costs. It will not empty a single car, but it will make traffic and pollution worse. Valley Metro freely concedes these unhappy facts. But when other cities brag about their empty trollies running past their empty Convention Centers in their empty downtowns, Phoenix will be able to stand at the head of the line. It's hotter than blazes outdoors, so our civic boon-doggles will always be even emptier. No that's something to blow warm, wet kisses about!

Friday, October 28, 2005

I don't have time to write, except of course I'm always writing. These are some small things I've written lately for otherwheres than here.

Viraghoul -- ramming two words togther, just in time for Halloween, virago and ghoul. It denotes a blood-sucking harpy.

Annoysapointment -- same principle, something that is simultaneously an annoyance and a disappointment.

Those I can do all day, and living with me is a matter of learning to translate constructions like these on the fly. This is of a little more moment, quoted from correspondence:

"Talent comes to us by the scintilla -- if we're lucky. Most of a virtuoso performance consists simply of making no mistakes."

That's a SpendorQuote, I think.