Safety Creep 2: Anatomy of a Conservative Freakout

Attention, conservatives! The freakout regarding TSA screenings on Tennessee highways has been cancelled! OK, not cancelled, just dialed back a wee bit… According to, the TSA “came in for just three days – Oct. 18, 19 and 20 – to help the state improve communication between state, federal and local agencies during a crisis. It does not plan to stick around, and won’t be setting up permanent checkpoints in the state…”

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Safety Creep: TSA Comes to the Interstate

UPDATE: There is less reason to freak out than previously suspected, although there is still reason to be concerned..

Attention, conservatives! Did you get the latest memo? There’s a new Thing For Conservatives To Be Freaked Out About. The TSA now has checkpoints on Tennessee highways.

Now sometimes conservatives get a little hysterical about all the evil, socialist things that Obama and the government are doing. Remember when the food bill was going to make backyard gardens illegal? Whatever happened to that anyway? But some actions by the government do seem legitimately frightening. (Don’t forget about the Gibson guitar raid.) And with as much reasonableness I can muster, I think this new venture by the TSA is something to be rather concerned about.

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Reasons For Optimism 5-6

5. The latest Gallup poll puts public support for legalizing marijuana at 50% for the first time. Regardless of your personal feelings about what people should be allowed to do, I think it’s rather obvious that the “war on drugs” has been very costly yet very unsuccessful. It is very costly to find people with marijuana and catch them and build prisons to put them in and keep them in. The law and its enforcement has not killed the demand for the drug but only sent it to the black market, supporting violent drug cartels. It makes little sense to put people in prison for consuming something that hurts themselves and no others, especially when prisons often merely serve as a network for recruiting and running the drug cartels – creating more problems for law enforcement, not less.

Sooner or later I expect California to be the first state to successfully pass a public resolution to legalize marijuana, and as overall public support continues to increase, I expect an alliance to emerge between varying political factions that will begin to see legalizing marijuana as a silver bullet to decrease budget costs, increase tax revenue, reduce border violence, and more. (Though I also hesitate to express that expectation with too much confidence or put a time interval on it.)

6. One of the leading iPod developers has created a smart thermostat. Technology has been hurtling forward in devices like phones and cars, but the programming in most thermostats is still clunky and hard to use. Tony Fadell has done his part to bring that device into the digital age, and it’s supposed to have Apple-inspired ease of use combined with enough artificial intelligence to save energy – and money – on your air and heating bills. $249 isn’t a bad starting price, and that’s before competition brings it down.

Competition In The Texting Marketplace

I wasn’t as fast as the typical Apple fanboy, but over the weekend I finally upgraded my iPhone 4 to iOS 5.0. Among other things, this means that any text I send to or receive from another iPhone will no longer count towards my $5 limit of 200 texts per month, because Apple will send it as data instead of through AT&T’s texting system. Over 3G the texts will instead count as a little bit of data, and when I’m in wi-fi the texts are now essentially completely free. My economic beliefs have led me to expect this event for several years, and even though it took longer than I expected, and did not take the form I expected, it is finally here. (Aside: I realize Blackberry has had a similar feature for some time, but I never had a Blackberry, and neither did most of my friends. The effects of the marketplace competition have finally reached me.)

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The Right To Keep Exotic Animals

It’s not the kind of news story you read every day. “Dozens of exotic animals, including bears, lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves, giraffes and camels… on the prowl in eastern Ohio…” I found the media’s ubiquitous use of the word “exotic” interesting, as I had always considered the word to have an “unusual” connotation, and I don’t think lions and tigers are all that unusual since pretty much any zoo worth visiting has a few. (Let’s talk about Komodo dragons or a giant squid!) But I suppose it’s pretty unusual for Bengal tigers to be running free around a town like Zanesville, Ohio.

By now we all know the basic facts: 62-year-old Terry Thompson owned a “wild animal farm,” and on Tuesday he apparently set his animals free and killed himself. Local sheriffs and deputies ended up having to kill most of the animals as tranquilizing was not really in the logistics for public safety as nightfall ensued – something that even animal rights activists seem to be conceding, though sadly.

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Celebrating Good Capitalism

We stopped by the Bush Bean Museum on our way to the Smoky Mountains last weekend. I thought it just sounded like a random, quirky, and free place to visit, but I left with an appreciation for the underlying values represented by the museum. A large part of the museum simply showcases the history of the company as they overcame hardships, innovated new canning technologies, and came up with foods that customers wanted to buy – basically, a shining example of good capitalism.

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The Negative Externalities of Occupying Wall Main Street

Paul Krugman is at his best when he points out silly things Republicans say:

Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, has denounced “mobs” and “the pitting of Americans against Americans.” The G.O.P. presidential candidates have weighed in, with Mitt Romney accusing the protesters of waging “class warfare,” while Herman Cain calls them “anti-American.” My favorite, however, is Senator Rand Paul, who for some reason worries that the protesters will start seizing iPads, because they believe rich people don’t deserve to have them.

But Krugman is at his typical biased worst when he claims:

there has in fact been nothing so far to match the behavior of Tea Party crowds in the summer of 2009.

I think that’s an outright lie.

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Steve Jobs Proves We Are NOT The 99%

So the Occupy Wall Street protests are continuing and reverberating around the country. I sympathize with some of the grievances and demands pertaining to the unjust influence of corporations on our government. But in reading accounts and viewing pictures of the crowds and signs, it seems that the vast majority are expressing a more generic reaction against “corporate greed.” The most popular slogan of the movement seems to be “We Are The 99%,” suggesting that the top 1% wealthiest Americans have all the money and influence and that this is unjust. “We Are The 99%” is meant to bring solidarity to the lower classes, uniting 99% of the country under a common position.

Some of this may simply be, as an Econlog commenter suggests, a natural emotional reaction to the fact that life seems to be getting harder for a lot of us but not any harder for those at the top. Such a reaction is understandable, but I believe it is misguided to channel this reaction into anger at those at the top. Additionally, I believe the very slogan “We Are The 99%” reveals a defeatist mindset that I would encourage you to overcome. (Besides, you can arbitrarily define a group of people that includes 99% of the population, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of that 99% is mad at the other 1% like you are.)

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How Government Begets Government In Three Levels of Insanity

Back in August, I wrote about the Congressional legislation that reduced the fees banks could charge to merchants, and how Wells Fargo was fulfilling predictions that banks would make up for those fees in other ways. Now Bank of America has jumped on board, and they are blaming the government that they have to charge consumers for something they used to charge to businesses.

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