How do market forces prevent gas main explosions?

Today’s news says that Rand Paul is opposing legislation that purports to make gas pipelines safer. Many are jumping on this as an example of Tea Party resistance to any measure that might cost business some money, even if it will save lives. A brief look at the bill raises some concerns about whether it actually addresses any safety issues. Regardless of the merits of the bill itself, it raises the question: how do we go about ensuring safety? If it is not the job of the government, how would market forces prevent tragedies like the San Bruno explosion last year?

Kakistocracy

Government by the execrable.

The word kakistocracy popped up in Johnson, the Economist's language blog. Normally I don't include words unless I have to look them up for some reason other than idle curiosity or seeing them on a word of the day site or the like. In the specific case of word of the day sites, it would feel a little like plagiarism to every day post the word I'd «looked up» by seeing it as the word of the day.

A few gay men

Update: this is a joke. Cpt Hill never said any of this. It was lifted from Col Jessep's monologue in the film A Few Good Men. It would be an appropriate response to Rick Santorum's answer to Cpt Hill's question, but it is entirely fictional. I'd thought it would be obvious, but it seems that quoting a movie that's almost 20 years old gets lost. I apologize to anyone who earnestly believed these to be Cpt Hill's words. 

Stephen Hill's reply to Rick Santorum really ought to be:

Senator, we live a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it, you? You, Senator Santorum?

September 22 GOP debate wrapup

On Thursday, nine contenders for the GOP nomination for president participated in a televised question-and-answer session hosted by Fox News and Google. As usual, I hesitate to refer to these events as «debates» because they really aren't debates. There's not enough time allotted to permit more than a soundbite on each issue and there are few real chances for rebuttal. They are all about the personalities and very little about the principles and issues.

The elephant in the room

Tonight at 6pm Pacific/9pm Eastern time, nine GOP presidential hopefuls will take the stage in a live question and answer session intended to familiarize Americans with the candidates. This will be the seventh so-called debate in the 2012 presidential primary season, and the second to include Governor Gary Johnson, who appeared in the first of these debates back in May but who has not been permitted to participate since. In a surprise (but welcome) decision on September 20th, Fox News invited Johnson to participate in the debate over the objections of the Florida Republican Party, a co-sponsor of the event.

Johnson was the Governor of New Mexico from 1994 to 2003, a republican elected and reelected in a predominantly democrat state. Unlike some republican governors elected to liberal states, he was uncompromising on fiscal policy, using his gubernatorial veto over 750 times in his eight years in office. This proves two things about voters that seem to be forgotten in today's political climate: that voters will back a candidate they believe has integrity even over one with whom they agree on policy issues (within reason, of course) and that voters are hungry to escape from the unholy alliances that party politics force.

Libertarian: better adjective than noun

Recently I listened to a Commonwealth Club discussion with Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch titled WWLD: What Would Libertarians Do? Gillespie and Welch are co-editors of Reason magazine, which I've never read, but is reputed to have a strong libertarian bent. The topic is of interest to me, as I have mixed feelings about libertarians. In the 1990s I was a registered member of the Libertarian Party.

Got my groove back

It's been a tough couple of months. I've been pining away for my Moto Guzzi, which has been in the shop. That means more than just an emotional gap in my life; I've been less able to get from place to place and have even resorted to driving four-wheeled vehicles on occasion. That was an exercise in frustration; not only did it take twice as long to get anywhere,  it usually took longer to park than it did to drive.

Paradoxically

Used to describe something, eg a situation, having attributes or events which preclude one another.

I can't fault the New York Times too much. After all, they were quoting what others said in yesterday's article Can a Playground Be Too Safe? about the effects of modern safety playground equipment on the emotional growth of children.

«Paradoxically,» the psychologists write, «we posit that our fear of children being harmed by mostly harmless injuries may result in more fearful children and increased levels of psychopathology.»

WINO

Most politicians deserve a little name-calling, but there are two labels—really two variations on the same label—that have become popular lately and really get my goat. They are RINO and DINO: Republican In Name Only and Democrat In Name Only. Even Libertarians call other Libertarians LINOs, Greens have their GINOs, and probably even Independents who get called IINOs even though I have no idea how to pronounce it.

What Google+ gets right

ImageOver the last week or so I've been exploring Google's new social networking system, Google+ or, as it is affectionately known, g+. At first glance it seems like a direct clone of Facebook with some fancy user interface improvements for organizing your «circles» of contacts. There are also some nice usability improvements, like the ability to edit a comment after it has been posted. Anyone who has ever hit the submit button with a typo still in their message—ie anyone—should appreciate the value in that.

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