Archive for August 24th, 2012

Unintended Consequences

August 24, 2012

 

There is a reason why good intentions are not sufficient. Often, things done with the very best of intentions nevertheless end up causing a great deal of pain for everybody with little, if any, actual benefits. One case that comes to mind is the attempt to persuade, and then conjole customers into using reusable shopping bags. As I read at Via Meadia.

One green pet cause du jour is the banning or taxing of disposable plastic bags at supermarkets and other grocery stores. These measures, which are designed to encourage shoppers to use their own reusable tote bags, have been spreading widely in recent years, and have already gone into effect in cities like San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

This may make the world marginally safer for plants and animals, but a new study by the Property and Environment Research Center (h/t Sullivan) shows there may be a significant downside for human health. Researchers examined these reusable totes and found significant amounts of dangerous bacteria, including, among others, E-coli. And there seems to be a correlation between plastic bag bans and increased illness, as bacteria-related deaths spiked immediately after San Francisco’s bag measure began. The International Association for Food Protectionreports:

Reusable bags were collected at random from consumers as they entered grocery stores in California and Arizona. In interviews, it was found that reusable bags are seldom if ever washed and often used for multiple purposes. Large numbers of bacteria were found in almost all bags and coliform bacteria in half. Escherichia coli were identified in 8% of the bags, as well as a wide range of enteric bacteria, including several opportunistic pathogens. When meat juices were added to bags and stored in the trunks of cars for two hours, the number of bacteria increased 10-fold, indicating the potential for bacterial growth in the bags.

This green unicorn looks considerably less enchanting upon closer examination.

Oh well. The truth is that there are few things that are unreservedly good or bad and few choices we make that are clearly a matter of good versus evil. Often we must weigh the consequences and make a choice between the lesser of two evils or the greater of two goods. The problem with a lot of Greens is that they just don’t see things that way. If some environmental regulations are good, than even more must be better, without stopping to consider the economic cost of increased regulation compared with the actual good to the environment. Something rather similar might be said about the Global Warming scare. Scientific uncertainty aside, even if all of the more overwrought predictions were true, the solutions they propose,

 

Anders Breivik Sentenced

August 24, 2012

 

Speaking of truly evil men, the trial of Anders Breivik is over. He was ruled to be sane and sentenced to a maximum of 21 years for his crimes. Here is the report from CNN.

Anders Behring Breivik, the man who killed 77 people in a bomb attack and gun rampage just over a year ago, was judged to be sane by a Norwegian court Friday, as he was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

Breivik was charged with voluntary homicide and committing acts of terror in the attacks in Oslo and on Utoya Island on July 22, 2011.

The issue of Breivik’s sanity, on which mental health experts have given conflicting opinions, was central to the court’s ruling.

Breivik, who boasts of being an ultranationalist who killed his victims to fight multiculturalism in Norway, wanted to be ruled sane so that his actions wouldn’t be dismissed as those of a lunatic.

He says he acted out of “necessity” to prevent the “Islamization” of his country.

 

He was sentenced to the maximum possible term of 21 years and was ordered to serve a minimum of 10 years in prison.

The sentence could be extended, potentially indefinitely, in the future if he is considered still to pose a threat to society. Norway does not have the death penalty.

S0mehow, I am not impressed with the justice of the Norwegian criminal justice system if the maximum the murderer of 77 people can receive is 21 years, with the possibility that he could be released in ten. I know they can detain him indefinitely if he is felt to be a threat to society, but even that is troublesome since there is a certain arbitrary quality to deciding whether or not anyone is a threat. It would be better if he were sentenced, under the law, to either life in prison or death. It doesn’t seem as though prison life will be that bad for Breivik.

Over the past year, Breivik has had three cells for his use, one for physical exercise and another for reading and writing, as well as a separate outdoor exercise space, he said. Breivik cannot mix with prisoners from other wings, but does have contact with prison staff.

“As of now, we think there is a need to subject Mr. Behring Breivik to a particularly high security regime,” Bjarkeid said.

The high security regime “puts a heavy strain on an inmate, especially if it lasts for a longer period,” he added, so Breivik’s continued detention under these conditions will be kept under constant review.

Well, we wouldn’t want him to be under any strain, would we?

 

 

 

 

The New Civility

August 24, 2012

 

 

It seems hardly different from the old incivility. I doubt that this election cycle will get as nasty as the election of 1800, or of the election of 1824, but it still looks as if even the minimal level of courtesy between the parties has completely broken down. Consider this story I read in The Hill.

Bucking protocol, President Obama and the Democrats are planning a full-scale assault on Republicans next week during their convention.

Presidential candidates have traditionally kept a low profile during their opponent’s nominating celebration, but Democrats are throwing those rules out the window in an attempt to spoil Mitt Romney’s coronation as the GOP nominee.

President Obama, Vice President Biden and leading congressional Democrats have all scheduled high-profile events next week to counter-program the Republican gathering in Tampa, Fla.

Even first lady Michelle Obama is in on the act, scheduling an appearance on the “David Letterman Show” smack in the middle of Romney’s nominating bash.

Political historians say the high stakes of this year’s elections — combined with the rise of today’s 24/7 media culture — have forced leaders on both sides of the aisle to get more aggressive.

“Traditionally, there was a kind of courtesy extended to the party having the convention — the [other] party would basically stay out of the public eye,” said Ross Baker, political scientist at Rutgers University.

But that “gentlemen’s agreement,” Baker said, has been largely abandoned as “a consequence of the polarization of American politics.” He characterized the old tradition as a “quaint code of etiquette” destined to become a “remnant of the 20th century.”

Or, it could be the result of a win-at-all-costs mentality that has pervaded American politics in recent decades. I don’t really know what the Democrats are thinking with this. To start with, I would have thought that they would be doing everything they could to keep Joe Biden out of the public eye. Also, have they not considered that this makes them look a little desperate and uncertain of their chances this November? This is one of those little signs I have been noticing that makes me think that Barack Obama will not be reelected.

Then there are the protestors. Political conventions naturally attract protestors in much the same way that rotting meat attracts flies. Mostly they are harmless, except for the anarchists and nihilists of all types. According to FoxNews, the anarchists and Occupy losers are planning on making a big show.

Federal authorities are urging law enforcement agencies across the country to watch out for signs that extremists might be planning to wreak havoc at the upcoming political conventions — by blocking roads, shutting down transit systems and even employing what were described as acid-filled eggs.

The warning came in a joint FBI-Department of Homeland Security bulletin issued Wednesday.

The bulletin specifically warned about a group of anarchists from New York City who could be planning to travel to the convention sites to disrupt the events by blockading bridges.

Anarchists “see both parties as the problem,” so both conventions are prime targets for them, a federal law enforcement official told Fox News.

The Republican National Convention is set to open Monday in Tampa, Fla., and the Democratic National Convention gets underway a week later in Charlotte, N.C.

The joint bulletin, titled “Potential For Violent or Criminal Action By Anarchist Extremists During The 2012 National Political Conventions,” says anarchist extremists likely don’t have the capability to overcome heightened security measures set up by the conventions themselves. In addition, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said Tuesday that fences have been established around “some of the more attractive government targets.”

Instead, extremists could target nearby infrastructure, including businesses and transit systems, according to Wednesday’s bulletin.

The bulletin mentions possible violent tactics anarchist extremists could employ, including the use of molotov cocktails or acid-filled eggs.

I think that no convention is complete without molotov cocktails. Seriously, what exactly are these people trying to accomplish? They are not going to overthrow the government. No one looking at the news coverage is likely to be impressed with their acts of street violence. All they are going to do is hurt people and end up in jail. Maybe that is the point.

One of the major differences between the Tea Party and the OWS crowd, aside from political ideology and economic principles is that the Tea Party people have been able to move beyond the protest stage with the people in colonial costume and waving those don’t tread on me flags and have, by entering local politics have actually been able to have an effect. The OWS group never did move beyond the campouts and I suppose these protestors are the frustrated die hards.

And, just to be even handed, I read about this sign which was put up in Elkhart Indiana.

 

I feel I have to say it over and over. Barack Obama is not Hitler. He is not Osama bin Laden. You may disagree with his policies and you may think that is he a terrible president, but comparing him to truly evil men is outrageous and more than a little silly.

 


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