The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Canada: Free Speech Free

This is amazing:

The case is Warman v Fromm. Warman is Richard Warman, an attorney who worked for the Canadian Human Rights Commission who routinely brought "hate speech" cases against individuals and organizations under Canada's already existing speech laws. Fromm is Paul Fromm, the head of the Canadian Association for Free Expression and an opponent of those hate speech laws. Fromm is a staunch critic of Warman, calling him an "enemy of free speech." And just to prove him right, Warman sued Fromm for defamation over such speech and the Ontario court ruled in Warman's favor. Seriously.

Read the whole, pathetic thing. This is a good example of "government granted rights" v. "natural rights." Natural rights are those unalienable Rights that Jefferson talks about in the Declaration of Independence. These are the same rights that the Framers of the US Constitution sought to protect from government usurpation when they ratified the Constitution. They specified some of these rights in the Bill of Rights portion of the Constitution. First among these Rights is Freedom of Speech.

In America, we do not have Freedom of Speech because the government says that we do. We have Freedom of Speech because the government is forbidden from taking this Right away. There is no such history or tradition in Canada, where your ability to express yourself rides on the collective whim of a government bureaucracy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Quote of the Day

From Bryan Caplan's "The Myth of the Rational Voter:"

For an individual to prosper, he only needs to have a job. But society can only prosper if individuals do a job, if they create goods and services that someone wants.

Economists have been at war with make-work bias for centuries. Bastiat ridicules the equation of prosperity with jobs as "Sisyphism," after the mythological fully-employed Greek who was eternally condemned to roll a boulder up a hill.

Here is Tim Worstall, on a similar note.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Death By Booze Calculator

Ah, the age-old question. How much of this will it take to kill me? Well...

It would take 26 bottles of Miller High Life to kill me

You can calculate it for any drink. Check it out:

It would take 28 Apple Tinis to kill me

Huh. It would take more Apple Tinis to kill me than it would Miller High Lifes? Who knew?

Here's the link. Tip o' the cap to Ryan.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Charlie Sykes: Paragon Of Free Speech

Charlie Sykes is a conservative radio talker in Milwaukee. He got in a huff over a bunch of lefties complaining about these bumper stickers. I find the Tom McMahon "parody" sticker to be unoriginal and dull, but a bunch of people are in a uproar about it for various reasons.

Some group of religious people complained and asked him to take down the McMahon sticker. Sykes gave this somewhat snotty response. It includes lines like:

As for your being offended: I am also frequently offended by things I read and hear. (I’m offended, for instance, by the offensive ignorance of your letter. I am also offended by the fact that with the all of this community’s problems you could not find anything more important to write about.) But I know that is the price I pay to live in a country where we have a vigorous exchange of ideas. My being offended does not give me license to demand that voices I find “offensive” be silenced, or images be removed.

I find this response odd, for a few reasons. The first is that Mr. Sykes moderates comments on his blog, which is not really in the spirit of encouraging robust discourse.

The second reason is that, for all of Charlie's talk about understanding parody and sticking up for free speech, it is worth noting that he recently criticized, and contributed to, a boycott of Miller Brewing Company for their participation in the Folsom Street Festival in San Francisco, and for having their logo on a poster that mocked Da Vinci's Last Supper. Here are a few more examples. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Sykes was obsessed with the story for several weeks.

Charlie, don't you understand parody? I thought you didn't want to silence anyone.



Fuck You, Teamsters Local 731.

I usually rip on the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) here, but today I have extra-special hatred for the bus driver of the second half of my commute to the northwestern part of the Chicagoland area (which consists of Minnesota, North Dakota, most of Wisconsin, and the Northwest Territories of Canada). Once you get out to the suburbs of Chicago, you are no longer dealing with the CTA. Public transit out there is run by PACE, and this morning, without any notice, PACE workers walked off of the job:

Wilmot said the union rejected the suburban bus agency's contract offer earlier this month, effectively authorizing a strike. But the union had indicated it was willing to participate in further bargaining sessions before walking off the job, he said.
"In our eyes this is an illegal strike," Wilmot said. "Our belief was that the union was going to come to the table and negotiate."

Union representatives were not immediately available for comment.

Wilmot said Pace was "in the process" of working out dates for mediation with the union and was not notified of the strike in advance. There is no plan to continue service with replacement workers, he said.

Now I don't much care for unions, but this strike strikes me as particularly egregious. First of all, this is clearly just providing the union members with an extra-long weekend. I don't find strikes particularly noble, but the timing certainly takes away from whatever moral highground they may have had.

Secondly, not announcing this in advance is just plain mean. I'm sure that a lot of people did not find out about it until they were standing at a bus stop. I only found out about it because a co-worker went in early today to get a head start on traffic later.

I did manage to get a ride with someone, but had I gotten out to the PACE bus stop without finding out about the strike, I would have been facing a $48 cab ride (plus tip).

So fuck off Teamsters. You've succeeded in screwing up the beginning of the holiday weekend for 22,000 people.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Hilarious Creation Museum

Here you can take a tour of $27 Million Creation Museum. It's fantastic. My favorite slide is #17, in which Adam is shown in the Garden of Eden hanging out with a Penguin and a Toucan.


To everyone who attended my 30th Birthday Party on Saturday at Uberstein. I had a great time, and I really appreciate everyone coming out. Plus I didn't throw up for the second straight year. Here's a shot of yours truly (a few sheets to the wind) doing the Shotski:

A toast to all of my friends!

Detroit: Worse Than Iraq

This is outstanding. Hilarious. Fantastically outrageous.

So CNN has this article about how the "most dangerous city" rankings twist the numbers. CNN is trying to convince you in this article that some of the most dangerous cities in the US aren't really that dangerous. And, in the course of defending these misunderstood metropoleis, the CNN reporter in question wrote this:

Detroit was pegged the nation's murder capital in the 1980s and has lost nearly 1 million people since 1950, according to the Census Bureau.

Pardon me.

(Wahahahaahahah. HAAAAA.)

Whew. OK. I'm back. So, apparently Detroit has seen suffering from about 21,000 murders per year (or 57 per day) since 1950. And you know that it peaked in the 80s, so they were probably losing hundreds of people per day at some point.

I mean, I expect this sort of mangled language from FoxNews, but this is CNN.

If you want to know what the reporter meant to say, you can read the whole article.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The True Costs Of Iraq

Tyler Cowen has a great piece in the Washington Post, highlighting some of the hidden costs of the war in Iraq:

Foreign governments, of course, drew the obvious lesson from our debacle -- and from our choice of target. The United States invaded hapless Iraq, not nuclear-armed North Korea. To the real rogues, the fall of Baghdad was proof positive that it's more important than ever to acquire nuclear weapons -- and if the last superpower is bogged down in Iraq while its foes slink toward getting the bomb, so much the better. Iran, among others, has taken this lesson to heart. The ironic legacy of the war to end all proliferation will be more proliferation.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fun Friday: Geek Edition

Because nothing is geekier than Marching Band and Video Games:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Awesome Toys. Way Better Than Transformers.

I mean, I thought that Legos were great...that is, until Cock Bloc Super:

That's not even the best one either. I'm also a fan of the kiddie stripper pole, and the Jesus robot.

Big ol' hat tip to Tyler Cowen, who also discusses the new, very observant cigarette machines.


Former Co-Blogger Ryan started a beer blog. You should check it out. Michelob Oktoberfest? Ewwwwww.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Worst. Censorship. Ever.

I was just watching The Breakfast Club on Bravo. In the scene where Vernon is giving Bender all of those detentions, at one point Bender tells Vernon to:

Bender: Eat my shorts.
Vernon: What was that?
Bender: Eat. My. Shorts.

This was apparently a bit too risque for Bravo, which edited the conversation to read:

Bender: Eat my socks.
Vernon (and Paul): What was that?
Bender: Eat. My. Socks.

I mean, holy shorts! It's like 10:30 at night too. What the hell?

One time I was watching "Tremors" on USA and they edited out the words "mother humpers" and replaced them with "damn monsters." I didn't think I would hear an edit more egregious than taking out a vague sexual reference in favor of blasphemy, but I think that "socks" for "shorts" might best it.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Does This Mean That Pat Robertson Supports Hurricanes?

Former presidential candidate and faith-healing weirdo Pat Robertson has endorsed the twice-divorced, gay-friendly cross-dresser, Rudolf Giuliani for President of the United States.

If memory serves, Pat Robertson often says crazy things like 'God will destroy Florida because of Disney's "Gay Days."' For instance:

Mr. Robertson said tolerance of homosexual activity ''could bring about earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor.'' He warned Orlando, then festooned with flags marking the gay celebration: ''You are right in the way of some serious hurricanes and I don't think I'd be waving those flags in God's face if I were you.''

What can we conclude from this? Clearly, Pat Robertson wants to destroy the country.

I mean, either that or he's a phony hypocrite who cares more about winning an election than the actual issues involved.

I wonder, given the "end times" mentality of some evangelicals, which option is actually more plausible.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Stupid Republican Quote

Last week I was listening to Mark Belling. He said:

The Constitution never mentions waterboarding. Where in the Constitution does it mention waterboarding? Where does it say that it's illegal? It's not like a search and seizure.

You, of course, already know why this is stupid. But it's nice to point out the plethora of ways in which this is stupid.

First of all, the Constitution does not forbid many specific acts. It does not say "Thou shalt not covet they neighbors ass." It tends to be a bit more general, and deals more with the powers of government. Everyone that has ever read the Constitution knows this.

This argument is sort of an offshoot of the asinine conservative argument that the words "separation of church and state" are not mentioned in the Constitution. While technically true, the concept does in fact exist in the Constitution.

Anyway, Belling made this way dumber than it had to be by actually referencing the Bill of Rights. Of course there is no "search and seizure" issue. There is also no issue of quartering soldiers.

Waterboarding is, of course, cruel, and unusual. This runs afoul of 8th Amendment:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

I italicized the relevant portion, just so no one misses it.

If you believe that waterboarding is not torture, read this.

Friday, November 02, 2007

CTA Doomsday

I frequently pick on the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) just because they occasionally try to murder me. Lately, they've been running their biannual "Doomsday" advertisements in which they attempt to convince people who don't ride public transit to pay more in taxes so that people who do ride public transit don't have to pay an extra dollar in fares. It's surprisingly effective.

On one of their signs on the train (they put their advertising up everywhere during "Doomsday month" to the exclusion of revenue-generating advertisements) they compare their level of state funding with the transit systems in San Francisco, Boston, and L.A. You will notice that these three systems exist in very high-tax states. You will also notice that New York City is conspiscuously absent.

But I'm not here today to bore you with financial minutiae. Oh no. I'm here today to report on what CTA Chairwoman Carole Brown said in an interview in the RedEye this morning. (It's not yet online, so I'm copying the quote from the paper version.)

Carole Brown wants more funding because:

We don't advertise it, but during the day, we increase bus service around certain schools and high schools to clear the campus and avert conflicts...keeping kids from being caught up in gang activity.

She goes on to say that if service is cut...

It makes me sick to my stomach to think about what might happen.

That's right. Public transit prevents gang activity. Kids are apparently waiting around after school, getting bored, and joining least until the bus shows up to save the day!

We commuters have heard many stupid reasons to call our legislators about CTA funding, but this one is probably the worst. And as everyone in the city knows, they could probably fix all of their problems by firing all of Todd Stroger's second cousins.

(Note: You really should click on the Todd Stroger link, just to see his nickname on Wikipedia while it's still there.)

Update: This morning the Wikipedia entry for Todd Stroger listed him as Todd "Urkel the Douchebag" Stroger. Seriously. It has now been edited to Todd "Urkel" Stroger.

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