September 11, 2017

Harvey, Irma, and Frédéric – the “Broken Window Fallacy” returns

Jon Gabriel tries to set the record straight on what a natural disaster means for the economy (hint, ignore anyone who says the GDP will rise due to the recovery efforts):

Ever since Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas two weeks ago, we’ve seen countless images of heroic rescues, flooded interstates and damaged buildings.

As awful as the human toll was, it was not as bad as many of us feared. But it will take months to repair the homes, businesses and infrastructure of Houston and the surrounding area. The same will be true in Florida after Hurricane Irma.

The economic impact could be felt for years, but many economists and financial experts think there’s a silver lining.

The Los Angeles Times crowed that Harvey’s destruction is expected to boost auto sales. CNBC reported that Harvey “could be a slight negative for U.S. growth in the third quarter, but economists say it may ultimately provide a tiny boost to the national economy because of the rebuilding in the Houston area.”

Even Goldman Sachs is looking at the bright side, noting that there could be an increase in economic activity, “reflecting a boost from rebuilding efforts and a catchup in economic activity displaced during the hurricane.”

Economically speaking, it’s great news that all this damage in Texas and Florida needs to be fixed, right? Not only does this mean big bucks for cleanup crews, but think of all the money that street sweepers, construction workers and Home Depots will rake in.

And what about all those windows broken by the high winds? This will be the Golden Age of Texas Glaziery!

Not so fast.

All of this is based on a misunderstanding of what the GDP actually measures. It’s a statistic that often gets mentioned in the newspapers and on TV, but it is almost always used in a way that misleads people about what is happening in the economy. GDP — Gross Domestic Product — is intended to show the approximate total of goods and services produced in a national economy. Thus, when the GDP goes up, it means that the current period being measured recorded more goods and services produced than in the previous period.

When a natural disaster like a hurricane, earthquake, flood, or tornado strikes a city, state or region, all the work required to fix the damage will artificially boost the recorded GDP for that year. But the affected area isn’t that much richer than it was before, despite the GDP going up, because the GDP does not measure the losses suffered during the natural disaster.

This is where Frédéric comes in. I’m referring to the French economist and author Frédéric Bastiat, who brilliantly illustrated the GDP misunderstanding in his essay “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen“:

In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.

There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.

Yet this difference is tremendous; for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa. Whence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good that will be followed by a great evil to come, while the good economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil.

The GDP problem I identified at the start of this post is a general case of what Bastiat called the “Broken Window Fallacy”:

Have you ever been witness to the fury of that solid citizen, James Goodfellow, when his incorrigible son has happened to break a pane of glass? If you have been present at this spectacle, certainly you must also have observed that the onlookers, even if there are as many as thirty of them, seem with one accord to offer the unfortunate owner the selfsame consolation: “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody some good. Such accidents keep industry going. Everybody has to make a living. What would become of the glaziers if no one ever broke a window?”

Now, this formula of condolence contains a whole theory that it is a good idea for us to expose, flagrante delicto, in this very simple case, since it is exactly the same as that which, unfortunately, underlies most of our economic institutions.

Suppose that it will cost six francs to repair the damage. If you mean that the accident gives six francs’ worth of encouragement to the aforesaid industry, I agree. I do not contest it in any way; your reasoning is correct. The glazier will come, do his job, receive six francs, congratulate himself, and bless in his heart the careless child. That is what is seen.

But if, by way of deduction, you conclude, as happens only too often, that it is good to break windows, that it helps to circulate money, that it results in encouraging industry in general, I am obliged to cry out: That will never do! Your theory stops at what is seen. It does not take account of what is not seen.

It is not seen that, since our citizen has spent six francs for one thing, he will not be able to spend them for another. It is not seen that if he had not had a windowpane to replace, he would have replaced, for example, his worn-out shoes or added another book to his library. In brief, he would have put his six francs to some use or other for which he will not now have them.

Let us next consider industry in general. The window having been broken, the glass industry gets six francs’ worth of encouragement; that is what is seen.

If the window had not been broken, the shoe industry (or some other) would have received six francs’ worth of encouragement; that is what is not seen.

And if we were to take into consideration what is not seen, because it is a negative factor, as well as what is seen, because it is a positive factor, we should understand that there is no benefit to industry in general or to national employment as a whole, whether windows are broken or not broken.

Now let us consider James Goodfellow.

On the first hypothesis, that of the broken window, he spends six francs and has, neither more nor less than before, the enjoyment of one window.

On the second, that in which the accident did not happen, he would have spent six francs for new shoes and would have had the enjoyment of a pair of shoes as well as of a window.

Now, if James Goodfellow is part of society, we must conclude that society, considering its labors and its enjoyments, has lost the value of the broken window.

From which, by generalizing, we arrive at this unexpected conclusion: “Society loses the value of objects unnecessarily destroyed,” and at this aphorism, which will make the hair of the protectionists stand on end: “To break, to destroy, to dissipate is not to encourage national employment,” or more briefly: “Destruction is not profitable.”

Related: Shared by Thomas Forsyth on Facebook:

July 8, 2017

QotD: Recreational boating

Filed under: Humour, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Marine Forecast is always telling you obvious things, such as which way the wind is blowing, which you can figure out for yourself just by watching the motion of your spiderwebs. They never tell you about the serious boating hazards, which are located — write down this Boating Safety Tip — UNDER THE WATER. It turns out that although the water is basically flat on top, underneath there are large hostile objects such as reefs and shoals (or “forecastles”) that have been carelessly strewn around, often smack dab in the path of recreational boaters.

I discovered this shocking fact recently when some friends visited us in Miami, and in a foolish effort to trick them into thinking that we sometimes go out on our boat, we actually went out on our boat. It was a good day for boating, with the barometer gusting at about 47 liters of mercury, and we had no problems until I decided to make the boat go forward. For some reason, motorboats are designed to go at only two speeds: “Virtually Stopped” and “Airborne.” We were traveling along at Virtually Stopped, which seemed inadequate — barnacles were passing us — so I inched the throttle forward just a teensy bit and WHOOOOMM suddenly we were passengers on the Space Shuttle Buster. Every few feet Buster would launch himself completely out of the water and attain such an altitude that at any moment you expected flight attendants to appear with the beverage cart, and then WHAM Buster would crash down onto a particularly hard patch of water, causing our food and possessions and spiders to bounce overboard, forming a convenient trail for the sharks to follow. (“Look!” the sharks were saying. “A set of dentures! It won’t be long now!”)

In this relaxing and recreational manner we lurched toward downtown Miami, with me shouting out the various Points of Interest. “I THINK THAT’S A DRUG DEALER!” I would shout. Or: “THERE GOES ANOTHER POSSIBLE DRUG DEALER!” I was gesturing toward these long, sleek motorboats with about 14 engines apiece that you see roaring around the Miami waters driven by men with no apparent occupation other than polishing their neck jewelry.

So it was a pleasant tropical scene, with the wind blowing and the sea foaming and the sun glinting off the narcotics traffickers. As the captain, I was feeling that pleasant sense of well-being that comes from being in total command and not realizing that you are heading directly toward a large underwater pile of sand. I would say we hit it at about 630 knots, so that when Buster skidded to a cartoon-style stop, we were in about 6 inches of water, a depth that the U.S. Coast Guard recommends for craft classified as “Popsicle sticks or smaller.” This meant that, to push Buster off the sand, my friend John and I had to go INTO THE WATER, which lapped threateningly around our lower shins. Probably the only thing that saved our lives was that the dreaded Man-Eating But Really Flat Shark was not around.

Dave Barry, “Look Out! Dave’s At The Helm Of Buster Boat”, Orlando Sentinel, 1991-05-30.

October 3, 2015

The TSA and the transgendered traveller

Filed under: Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Scott Shackford on the special hell the TSA reserves for transgendered air travellers:

When Shadi Petosky began tweeting about her terrible treatment at the hands of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers at Orlando International Airport on Sept. 21, she detailed an experience of being ordered around, patted down, dehumanized, and threatened. She was describing a situation familiar to anybody who gets caught up in the agency’s airport security theater.

Petosky is also transgender, and that played heavily into her experience. But being transgender and tripping up alerts at airports and getting taken aside or treated poorly is also not a new problem with TSA screening, though it was the first time Petosky, a writer and producer, had an encounter this bad. While she was tweeting her experience, other transgender people on Twitter responded about having similar problems.

What’s new is that Petosky’s encounter ended up getting significant news coverage, from The New York Times, to the Los Angeles Times, to Vox.com, along with television networks. The coverage highlighted a problem that has persisted for a while: TSA agents are not well-trained to deal with transgender travelers, leaving these flyers uncertain of what to expect when going through airports. Furthermore, the screening technology used for scanning bodies passing through the airport has no real mechanism for recognizing the biology of transgender travelers, prompting confusion to trigger completely unfounded security fears.

Many travelers may not even realize it, but as they’re forced in to spread eagle for body scanners in security lines at the airport, a TSA agent is pressing a button telling the machine whether the person inside is a male or female. They don’t ask—they just look and decide. In Petosky’s case, the TSA employee saw a woman and pressed the appropriate button. And then the employee declared there was an “anomaly,” which Petosky bluntly explains to Reason, is her penis.

August 4, 2015

Tallahassee does the right thing about its red light camera system

Filed under: Government, Law, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Last month, Randall Holcombe reported on a sensible decision by the Tallahassee, Florida city government when it was discovered that its red light camera program had achieved the stated goal:

Five years ago my hometown of Tallahassee, Florida contracted with Xerox to set up 19 red light cameras at seven busy intersections in town. The contract had the city pay Xerox about $87,000 a month to operate the cameras, and charged drivers a fine of $142 for being caught on camera running a red light.

When the program was established, city officials claimed that the cameras were installed for safety reasons, to deter drivers from running red lights, not to raise revenue. If we take them at their word, the program worked. Red light violations have fallen more than 90% since the program began. The program has been so successful that the city is not taking in sufficient revenues from fining violators to pay Xerox the fees for operating them.

You can guess the ending of this story. The city has announced that when the contract with Xerox expires in August, it will not be renewed and the red light camera program will end. Here is a program that has been a huge success by the city’s stated criterion, so the city is terminating it.

I see two possible explanations for this. One is that governments tend to terminate successful programs and continue the unsuccessful ones. The other is that the city officials who originally stated that the motivation for installing the cameras was to deter red light violations, and not the revenue generated from fines, were lying. I’m not ruling out the possibility that both explanations are correct.

Other municipalities presented with the same set of facts went in another direction: reducing the amber light time to increase the number of cars that could be caught on camera violating the law. That this had nothing to do with increasing public safety on the roads — in fact, probably increased the danger around traffic lights in the case of drivers braking suddenly to avoid entering the intersection as soon as the light turned yellow — but it did do a fine job of increasing the fines that could be collected (who cares about the safety of drivers and pedestrians when municipal revenue is at stake?).

March 20, 2015

Epigenetic researchers – “We can double the size of these bugs!” Everyone else – “No, thanks. We’re good.”

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Science can be a great source of fascinating experiments. Doubling the size of insects is perhaps not the best way to advertise your particular speciality, however:

Florida carpenter ants

Researchers have changed the size of a handful of Florida ants by chemically modifying their DNA, rather than by changing its encoded information. The work is the latest advance from a field known as epigenetics and may help explain how the insects — despite their high degree of genetic similarity — grow into the different varieties of workers needed in a colony.

This discovery “takes the field leaps and bounds forward,” says entomologist Andrew Suarez of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who wasn’t connected to the study. “It’s providing a better understanding of how genes interact with the environment to generate diversity.”

Ant nests have division of labor down pat. The queen spends her time pumping out eggs, and the workers, which are genetically similar sisters, perform all the other jobs necessary to keep the colony thriving, such as tending the young, gathering food, and excavating tunnels. Workers in many ant species specialize even further, forming so-called subcastes that look different and have different roles. In Florida carpenter ants (Camponotus floridanus), for example, workers tend to fall into two groups. Minor workers, which can be less than 6 mm long, rear the young and forage for food. Major workers, which can be almost twice as long, use their large jaws to protect the colony from predators.

A team from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, suspected that the mechanism involves DNA methylation: the addition of a chemical to DNA. Genome sequencing and other methods suggest that these physical differences don’t usually stem from genetic differences between individual ants. Instead, environmental factors help push workers to become majors or minors — specifically, the amount of food and coddling that young ants receive. But just how do these factors change the size of ants?

May 17, 2014

Weird NFL lawsuit – “remember that anyone can file a lawsuit for almost anything”

Filed under: Football, Law — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:53

A very unusual lawsuit has been filed against Jacksonville Jaguars first round pick Blake Bortles by David Rothrock and “Theodore Bridgewater”, from a prison in Pennsylvania:

Injunction against Blake Bortles

A bizarre, handwritten restraining order has been filed against Jacksonville Jaguars first-round pick Blake Bortles and the NFL in a Central Florida court in what appears to be an attempt to bar Bortles from playing for the Jaguars and in the National Football League.

The plaintiffs, listed as “Theodore Bridgewater” and David Rothrock, allege that Bortles is under the influence of steroids and also HIV positive. The lawsuit was filed from a Pennsylvania prison, presumably where Rothrock is incarcerated, and lists the co-plaintiff as “Theodore Bridgewater,” with a P.O. Box in Louisville, Ky., as the address. The plaintiff named on the suit is surely not Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, despite a P.O. Box in Louisville, KY being listed as the address.

The filing not only accuses Bortles of taking steroids and HGH, but also alleges he’s been involved in some other nefarious dealings including an allegation that Bortles framed Rothrock for a crime so he would be jailed and unable to talk to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who approached Rothrock about the distribution of steroids and HGH.

The plaintiff in the case is representing himself “pro se,” which means he is advocating on his own behalf.

H/T to Vikings Territory for the link.

Update, 23 May. Further proof that anyone can file a lawsuit for almost any reason. This one is against Cleveland Browns first round draft pick Johnny Manziel:

A person has filed for a restraining order against Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel and is seeking $25 million in damages, claiming he has sexually harassed a woman for more than a year.

The document, filed in federal court in Florida on May 16, makes numerous salacious allegations against Manziel centered on him allegedly sending nude photos of himself to a woman. It lists a woman’s name on the complaint, but a deputy court clerk in Tampa said the complaint arrived by mail and the court has no way of confirming who sent it. The court clerk, who did not wish to be named, said the filing was mailed in Trenton, N.J.

The document also does not list an attorney, and no other supporting documents could be found in the record in a search by USA TODAY Sports on Friday.

Manziel’s agent, Erik Burkhardt, immediately wrote on Twitter that the complaint is “fake” and “frivolous.”

“It’s insanity,” Burkhardt told USA TODAY Sports. “You can read the thing for yourself.

“What some people will do for publicity is just embarrassing. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

December 5, 2013

The much-touted economic benefits of government subsidized professional sports facilities

Filed under: Business, Economics, Government, Sports — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:32

In short, if there are any positive externalities to governments spending vast sums to erect baseball, basketball, football, or hockey facilities for professional teams … most of the profit is captured by the well-connected and doesn’t benefit the communities who put up the money. I’ve linked to several articles that debunk the usual claims about how building this team a new stadium will provide so many millions of dollars in new spending, and the story always seems to be the same, regardless of the location of the latest corporate welfare pitch.

Earlier this year, Neil deMause linked to this Tampa Bay Times analysis of the local economic impact of the Tampa Bay Rays:

In 2008, Matheson studied sports projects from across the country to see if taxable sales rose after stadiums were built. The study also examined whether tax collections dipped when sports leagues shut down for strikes or lockouts.

“There was simply not any bump at all,” Matheson said.

Tax collections were as likely to drop as rise when a team started play in a new city. And collections dropped during some strikes, but rose during others.

The main reason relates to how spending ripples through an economy, said Dennis Coates, an economist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

When a couple spends $100 for dinner and a movie, much of that money goes to waiters, ticket takers and other local workers and suppliers. Those people, in turn, spend their paychecks on rent, food and other sectors of the local economy.

Each dollar of original spending can contribute $3 to $4 to economic activity and job creation.

Professional sports mute this ripple effect.

“Spending that goes on inside a stadium tends to flow into the pockets of a relatively few, high-income individuals who live a large portion of the year outside the city,” Coates said. “Much of that money flows out.”


Sports franchises also drain an economy by soaking up taxpayer money that could go to other city services or tax relief — both of which stimulate economic activity.

In her 2005 study, the “Full Count,” Harvard University professor Judith Grant Long pegged Tropicana Field’s public subsidy at 130 percent of its construction cost, one of the highest public shares in the country.

“The real cost of public subsidies for sports facilities is significantly higher than commonly reported,” Long wrote. “Public costs associated with the operation of the facility and foregone property taxes are routinely ignored.”

The best face on Rays economic impact came from two 2008 studies that indicated that baseball bolsters tourism revenues to the tune of $100 million to $200 million a year.

Tourism analysis is an optimistic approach because it focuses only on dollars flowing into the area without examining how baseball might sap local spending levels.

At Field of Schemes, Neil deMause also notes:

The economists note other reasons why sports spending is overblown (some studies could be double-counting fans for each game that they attend even if they’re in town for an entire series, among other things); the whole article is worth reading. And when you’re done with that, check out Shadow of the Stadium’s rundown of other reports on how economists nearly unanimously agree that stadium subsidies are a really, really bad idea. Not that economists are always right, but it should if nothing else put the burden of proof on team owners to show why the heck they should be getting hundreds of millions of dollars in public cash, when nobody can spot any significant public benefits.

July 14, 2013

The Zimmerman trial

Filed under: Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:21

I haven’t written anything about the Zimmerman trial in Florida, and (I just checked) haven’t linked to anything about it either. I don’t watch TV, so I managed to avoid the round-the-clock coverage on US networks, too. As a result, I’m less surprised at the jury’s decision than a lot of people seem to be. For my fellow (in this case) low-information readers, Doug Mataconis wraps up the trial:

… I really don’t see the kind of instant trial analysis that was occurring on each of the cable networks covering the case to be of any value. Indeed, I think that kind of analysis tends to cloud the way that viewers see the case because, unlike the jurors, they are being exposed not just to what unfolds when the camera shows witness testimony but also what they analysts, both pro-defense and pro-prosecution, are telling them. The feeling was reinforced as I watched this case being discussed on social media over the past three weeks and it became apparent to me that many people had already made up their minds about Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence and were viewing the case accordingly. Rulings that Judge Debra Nelson, the presiding Judge, made that were in favor of one side or the others were viewed as being part of some conspiracy. Even when she denied the Defense’s Motion for Judgment of Acquittal at the end of the State’s case, something that happens in pretty much every criminal case given that Judges are loathe to take a case out of a jury’s hands unless there’s simply no evidence to support guilt, it was seen by Zimmerman supporters as a sign that he was the victim of a judicial set-up.

Now, while I didn’t watch all of the trial, I have watched portions of it, and read about day-to-day events elsewhere to form some basic impressions. Based on that, I’ve got to say that I don’t find this outcome surprising. From the beginning, my general impression was that the prosecution’s case was weak, especially for 2nd Degree Murder, which I never thought was an appropriate charge to begin with since they never seemed to be able to prove the intent element of that crime. Indeed, several of the witnesses that the State called, from police investigators to at least two of the neighbors that acted in response to signs of a struggle outside their homes that fateful night, seemed to be more helpful to Zimmerman’s self-defense claim than they were to establishing the elements of either the primary charge of 2nd Degree Murder or the lesser included offense of Manslaughter. Additionally, the prosecutors chose to put into evidence several statements that Zimmerman had voluntarily given to the Sanford Police Department about the incident that night, including a video he participated in the day after the incident in which he walked through his version of what happened the night before with investigating detectives. While there were some minor inconsistencies between several of these statements, none of those inconsistencies seemed extreme enough to doubt his credibility and all of them were consistent with the basic outline of his story that Martin attacked him first, they ended up on the ground with Martin punching him, and that he only ended up shooting Martin when he thought his life was in jeopardy. Additionally, several of the State’s witnesses just seemed to hurt their case — including their so-called “star” witness Rachel Jeantel, who was on the phone with Martin moments before his encounter with Zimmerman, and Medical Examiner Shiping Bao, whose testimony came across very badly compared to the expert that the Defense had hired, Dr. Vincent Di Maio, a nationally recognized pathologist.

In the end, as always, it was the state’s burden to prove that George Zimmerman was guilty of the charges against him beyond a reasonable doubt. By the time the case came to an end, there seemed to be a general consensus among observers that they had not done so, most certainly not with regard to 2nd Degree Murder and that the odds of getting a Manslaughter conviction seemed to slip away as well. Although I had assumed for a long time that Zimmerman would have to take the stand in his defense in order to fully be able to relate the self-defense theory to the jury, that proved to not be necessary are at all thanks largely to the fact that the prosecution had put all of Zimmerman’s previous statements to law enforcement into evidence. So, it was no surprise when he told the Judge shortly before the defense rested that he would not be testifying. There really wasn’t any need for him to do so and, in terms of the risks of cross-examination, the risks were far too great. Instead, his attorneys put on a defense that poked holes in the remaining parts of the state’s case. Additionally, while both sides put on strong closing statements, defense attorney Mark O’Mara’s was a tutorial in the touchstone of criminal defense attorneys, reasonable doubt, and it was obviously enough to convince the jury. Adding all of that together, we had a case where the state simply failed to meet its burden notwithstanding being represented by a trio of attorneys who were quite skilled, and quite passionate in presentation of the case the were given.

Update: An actual Florida lawyer asks for the media to do a few simple things:

3. HLN, get rid of Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell. They are not legal commentators helping the public understand our important, essential, and treasured criminal justice system. Neither are many of their guests who should never be asked back. There are 95,000 lawyers in Florida, there is no reason a lawyer from another state who doesn’t know Florida law needs to be on daily telling everyone “I don’t practice in Florida, I don’t know Florida law” just because they can yell. Their daily display of drama may be what you believe to be the “First Amendment,” but it is also pathetic, and making people dumber and angrier.

4. CNN needs to send Sonny Hostin and Gloria Allred packing. First of all Piers Morgan, this is a criminal trial in Florida. Why is the only guest you continue to have on is someone from California that doesn’t practice criminal law and is known for representing, at press conferences, women victims? What could she possibly have to offer about this case?

And CNN, especially Anderson Cooper, get rid of Sonny Hostin. This woman was a prosecution shill from the beginning of this trial, struggling to say anything positive about the defense. Last night, after the verdict, she said “justice took the day off.” She wasn’t there to provide commentary, she was shilling for the state. She should have disclosed from the beginning that she desperately wanted a conviction, that way it would have been easier to listen to her biased commentary. She’s terrible and should never be asked to appear in the media again when there is an important trial.

5. The media, especially TV, needs to start vetting their guests. I know these are lawyers with agents, but they’ve never been in a criminal courtroom, or at least not since they spent a year as a prosecutor in 1978. Can you not find lawyers that actually know what they are talking about? Piers Morgan is asking Gloria Allred what she would do in opening in the Zimmerman case? I have a better question, Gloria, when is the last time you gave an opening statement, in any case?

May 20, 2013

18-year-old charged with two felonies due to relationship with 15-year-old

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:08

An 18-year-old Floridian is facing two felony charges of “lewd and lascivious battery on a child 12 to 16” due to a relationship with a 15-year-old girl:

“These people never came to us as parents, never tried to speak to us… and tell us they had a problem with the girls dating,” Kaitlyn Hunt’s mother, Kelley Hunt-Smith, wrote in an statement posted to Facebook. “…They were out to destroy my daughter. [They] feel like my daughter ‘made’ their daughter gay.”

According to Hunt-Smith, police arrived at the family’s home Feb. 16 and put her daughter in handcuffs. Local news website TCPalm.com listed Kaitlyn Hunt’s arrest for “lewd and lascivious battery” on Feb. 18, and the girl’s mug shot is still easily accessible on the Internet.

But the trouble didn’t stop there. The other girl’s parents repeatedly tried to have Kaitlyn, a senior, expelled from school. Despite the Sebastian River High School administration’s denial of their request, and a judge’s order allowing Kaitlyn to remain in school (so long as the girls had no contact), the 15-year-old’s parents successfully petitioned the school board to have Hunt removed from school weeks prior to graduation.

On the one hand, it’s outrageous that Hunt has been charged, but it’s oddly re-assuring that even though it’s a lesbian relationship, it’s being dealt with exactly the same way that a comparable heterosexual relationship would be: treated as a sex crime. And yes, in either case it’s absurd that teenagers are being classed as sexual predators for relationships that would have been considered quite ordinary a decade ago.

May 6, 2013

QotD: This seems like a bad idea

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:13

A Florida county sheriff is being given a million dollars to violate the rights of the people who were stupid enough to put him in office.

According to an article by Palm Beach Post staff writers Dara Kam and Stacey Singer, posted Monday, April 29, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has been awarded $1 million by Florida House and Senate budget leaders for a new “violence prevention unit aimed at preventing tragedies like those in Newtown, Connecticut and Aurora, Colorado.

It would be bad enough if this particular jackbooted thug planned only to use this ill-gotten tax money for the usual militarized toys — machineguns or armored personnel carriers — the cops are so crazy about today, but Bradshaw reportedly wants to create “prevention intervention units” consisting of “specially trained deputies, mental health professionals, and caseworkers”. which “will respond to citizen calls to a 24-hour hotline with a knock on the door and a referral to services”.

“We want people to call us if the guy down the street says he hates the government…” the Big-Brotherly Bradshaw bloviated. “What does it hurt to have somebody knock on a door and ask, ‘Hey, is everything OK?'” Since the cops these days do their knocking with a three-foot concrete-filled section of four-inch diameter steel pipe, with welded rebar handles, Bradshaw’s stupid question tends to answer itelf.

L. Neil Smith, “Cutting the Root of Tyranny”, Libertarian Enterprise, 2013-05-06

April 4, 2013

April 1st meets scientific illiteracy in Florida

Filed under: Humour, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Did you know that there is dihydrogen monoxide streaming out of the water taps in Fort Myers, Florida? Apparently a lot of radio listeners thought this was a very bad thing:

Florida country radio morning-show hosts Val St. John and Scott Fish are currently serving indefinite suspensions and possibly worse over a successful April Fools’ Day prank. They told their listeners that “dihydrogen monoxide” was coming out of the taps throughout the Fort Myers area. Dihydrogen monoxide is water.

The popular deejays are mainly in all this trouble (potentially of a felony level) because their listeners panicked so much — about the molecular makeup of their drinking water, however unwittingly — that Lee County utility officials had to issue a county-wide statement calming the fears of chemistry challenged Floridians.

March 4, 2013

Florida student punished for taking part in incident with a firearm

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Education, Law, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:20

His participation in the incident was to wrestle the loaded revolver out of the hands of the football player who was threatening to shoot another player:

A 16-year-old Cypress Lake High School student, who wrestled a loaded revolver away from a teen threatening to shoot, is being punished.

The student grappled the gun away from the 15-year-old suspect on the bus ride home Tuesday after witnesses say he aimed the weapon point blank at another student and threatened to shoot him.

The student, who Fox 4 has agreed not to identify and distort his voice because he fears for his safety, says there’s “no doubt” he saved a life by disarming the gunman. And for that he was suspended for three days.

[. . .]

The teen we spoke to and authorities both confirm the Revolver was loaded. According to the arrest report the suspect, who Fox 4 is not naming because he is a minor, was “pointing the gun directly” at another student and “threatening to shoot him.”

That’s when the student we spoke with says he and others tackled the teen and wrestled away the gun. The next day the school slapped him with a three day suspension.

“It’s dumb,” he said. “How they going to suspend me for doing the right thing?”

According to the referral, he was suspended for being part of an “incident” where a weapon was present and given an “emergency suspension.”

“If they wouldn’t’ve did what they had to do on that bus,” the teen’s mother said, “I think there would have been a lot of fatalities.”

H/T to Charles Oliver for the link.

November 8, 2012

Bless their hearts

Filed under: Humour, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:18

I used to work for a company that had offices in Tallahassee, Florida. Over several years, both on the phone and during on-site visits, I think I heard at least half of these phrases used in earnest.

H/T to Radley Balko for the link.

November 22, 2011

Herman Cain and the most awkward anecdote so far

Filed under: Media, Politics, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:16

I suspect Herman Cain has managed to talk himself out of the GOP nomination race with little anecdotes like this one:

Cain speaks for nearly a half an hour and despite a couple fleeting “999” mentions, keeps his speech to topics of faith and his recent battle with cancer. He begins with a story about how he knew he would survive when he discovered that his physician was named “Dr. Lord,” that the hospital attendant’s name was “Grace” and that the incision made on his chest during the surgery would be in the shape of a “J.”

“Come on, y’all. As in J-E-S-U-S! Yes! A doctor named Lord! A lady named Grace! And a J-cut for Jesus Almighty,” Cain boomed.

He did have a slight worry at one point during the chemotherapy process when he discovered that one of the surgeon’s name was “Dr. Abdallah.”

“I said to his physician assistant, I said, ‘That sounds foreign — not that I had anything against foreign doctors — but it sounded too foreign,” Cain tells the audience. “She said, ‘He’s from Lebanon.’ Oh, Lebanon! My mind immediately started thinking, wait a minute, maybe his religious persuasion is different than mine! She could see the look on my face and she said, ‘Don’t worry, Mr. Cain, he’s a Christian from Lebanon.'”

“Hallelujah!” Cain says. “Thank God!”

The crowd laughs uneasily.

Oh, good. He’s not quite xenophobic, just religiously . . . cautious. At least he chose the right kind of place to tell this little story:

By the time Herman Cain took the stage, Jesus had already been crucified, resurrected and returned to Earth to collect the faithful once that day.

Cain made a campaign stop Friday at The Holy Land Experience, a Christian-theme amusement park in central Florida where visitors pay $35 to watch a reenactment of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ just minutes from Disney World.

In the park, which is run by the religious television station Trinity Broadcasting Network, employees dressed as shepherd boys, pharisees, Roman soldiers and merchants from first-century Israel lead the faithful on tours through the re-created streets of old Jerusalem, perform re-enactment shows and serve as baristas in the coffee shop. Over the course of a day at Holy Land, you can take communion — fed to you from the hand of a bearded actor playing Christ with flowing brown hair — browse an impressive collection of early Bibles, rock out to praise-song karaoke, get baptized and even have your picture taken with Jesus on a Harley.

H/T to Doug Mataconis for the link.

August 31, 2011

Why aren’t atheists registered like sex offenders?

Filed under: Religion, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:05

Apparently because “they’re just too busy eating babies and having blood-soaked sex orgies“:

Meet Michael Stahl, otherwise known as “Pastor Mike.” Stahl lives in Miramar, Florida, and leads an online church called Living Water Church, which we think is a fancy way of saying he hangs out a lot in a Christian-themed chat room. Stahl has proposed the creation of a national registry for atheists, much like the ones in existence for sex offenders. It’s almost self-evident why this is a good idea, but let’s have Stahl explain it himself:

     Now, many (especially the atheists), may ask “Why do this, what’s the purpose?” Duhhh, Mr. Atheist for the same purpose many States put the names and photos of convicted sex offenders and other ex-felons on the I-Net — to INFORM the public! I mean, in the City of Miramar, Florida, where I live, the population is approx. 109,000. My family and I would sure like to know how many of those 109,000 are ADMITTED atheists! Perhaps we may actually know some. In which case we could begin to witness to them and warn them of the dangers of atheism. Or perhaps they are radical atheists, whose hearts are as hard as Pharaoh’s, in that case, if they are business owners, we would encourage all our Christian friends, as well as the various churches and their congregations NOT to patronize them as we would only be “feeding” Satan.

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