Monthly Archives: December 2008

Quote of the Day: The Death Penalty Edition

From Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. dissent in Doss v. Mississippi

[T]he most terrifying possibility in a system where the death penalty is dealt arbitrarily: innocent men can be, and have been, sentenced to die for crimes they did not commit. In 2008 alone, two men – both black – convicted of murders in Mississippi in the mid-1990s have been exonerated fully by a non-profit group that investigates such injustices.

One of these men, Kennedy Brewer, spent an astonishing six years on death row. Just as a cockroach scurrying across a kitchen floor at night invariably proves the presence of thousands unseen, these cases leave little room for doubt that innocent men, at unknown and terrible moments in our history, have gone unexonerated and been sent baselessly to their deaths.

Hat Tip: Reason Hit & Run

Open Thread Question: Is Naming a Child “Adolf Hitler” Child Abuse?

Heath and Deborah Campbell have three young children. Their names: JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell, Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, and Adolph Hitler Campbell. Unsurprisingly to everyone (with the exception of Heath and Deborah Campbell), having such names for their children can have very negative effects on their children. When it came time to request a birthday cake from ShopRite complete with the words “Happy Birthday Adolf Hitler,”* ShopRite refused. ShopRite offered to leave room for the Campbells to write the inscription themselves but the Campbells refused.

In the comments section of this news story, some suggest that the very act of naming a child Adolf Hitler constitutes child abuse. There’s no question that in the course of Adolf’s life his name will cause him a great deal of hardships; not having a cake with his name on it will probably be the least of them. But child abuse?

I am hesitant to say that naming a child after a despicable person is child abuse for the same reason I oppose so-called hate crimes legislation: criminalizing thought. Are those who would argue that naming a child Adolf Hitler is child abuse suggesting that CPS should take the children away from the Campbells? If so, what other names should be considered child abuse worthy of the state taking action? David Duke? Joseph Stalin? If the Campbells would have chosen “Che Guevera Campbell” or “Mao Zedong Campbell” (Mao who killed many times that of Adolf Hitler), ShopRite probably would have had no problem inscribing those names and the child would likely have far fewer problems associated with those names in his lifetime.

Perhaps when Adolf reaches adulthood he can choose to change his name** and serve his loving parents with a lawsuit for a lifetime of otherwise avoidable emotional and psychological damages?

But until that day, how should the public respond to the Campbells? They should be shunned.

And goods and/or services businesses would otherwise provide the Campbells? ShopRite did the right thing by refusing to grant their request. Businesses should have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason.

If enough people refuse to associate themselves with the Campbells, perhaps they will be shamed into learning that naming a child Adolf Hitler isn’t the best idea. But to say that giving their children such terrible names is child abuse may be a bridge too far.

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The Gloves Come Off At The Fed

Well, they’re about to make it official. The Fed will stop at nothing to make sure they “save” the markets. So far they’ve been unable to stop the deleveraging and get things moving, so they’re pulling out all stops:

The Federal Reserve may today reduce its main interest rate to the lowest level on record and prepare for one of the boldest experiments in its 94-year history: using its balance sheet as the key tool for monetary policy.

The Fed’s Open Market Committee will probably cut the benchmark rate in half, to 0.5 percent, according to the median of 84 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey. The central bank may also signal plans to channel credit to businesses and consumers by further enlarging its $2.26 trillion of assets.

Bernanke, a scholar of the Great Depression, indicated in a Dec. 1 speech that policy makers will need to focus on “the second arrow in the Federal Reserve’s quiver — the provision of liquidity,” including options such as purchasing Treasuries to inject more cash into the economy.

A formal commitment to expand the balance sheet would constitute “the most extraordinary policy approach we have seen” so far, said Brian Sack, a former economist at the Fed’s Monetary Affairs Division, who is now senior economist at Macroeconomic Advisers LLC in Washington.

Emphasis added for a very strong reason. In early September, that Fed balance sheet was reading about $900B. It’s now up to about $2.29T. And not they’re actually admitting they want to expand it, which can only mean we’re looking at another enormous addition.

All this so far, and they’re throwing more money around, and it doesn’t seem to be improving. Anyone else get the sense that the saying that best explains the situation is “pushing on a string”?

Driving Home In The Dark

For a long time, I’ve been pissed off about Daylight Savings Time. In my job, I work with a lot of people across the country, and thus I get into work early (7:30 or so) and leave about 5:00 PM. Before it went into effect this year, each morning I would drive to work in sunlight, and return home in sunlight. I’d have a good half an hour or more of evening dusk when I got home. After it went into effect, I still drove to work in the sunlight, but each day I drive home in the dark.

I had remembered learning, years ago, that it had something to do with making life easier on farmers. Which I never understood, because farmers live far more based on the earth’s clock than man’s. But even so, I never quite understood why the rest of us would be stuck going along with it, when we no longer live an in agriculture-dominated society. Then, they changed the deal, making the duration of DST shorter in the hopes of being more “green”.

It turns out, though, that DST is actually rather pointless AND it is an energy-waster.

The Daylight Savings idea was one of Ben Franklin’s worst. He thought we’d all save candles if, in the summer, we started the day earlier on the clock, leaving more sunshine for the evening.

Politicians made it official: Move the clock one hour forward in the summer, to hoodwink people to get up earlier and leave more daylight hours for after work.

But now it turns out that Daylight Savings Time doesn’t save energy. Matthew J. Kotchen and Laura E. Grant, writing in the New York Times, report on their recent study in Indiana, where implementation of Daylight Savings has been county-by-county, a perfect statistical testing ground.

They found that Daylight Savings cost one percent extra. Franklin didn’t figure on morning heaters and daytime air conditioning.

I lived in Indiana before DST was in effect there, while I attended Purdue. Half the year, I would be on the same time as my parents in Illinois, and half the year I’d be an hour ahead of them. While it was largely an annoyance, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I often chided my hoosier friends* about the residents of their state simply being incapable to comprehend DST and change their clocks.

But — and believe me, it pains me to say it — maybe Indiana was right? Could it be finally time to put an end to DST once and for all?

UPDATE 10:30 PM: Okay, folks… Mea culpa. I said I never quite understood the whole deal about DST, and then I proved myself completely correct. I’m still not a big fan of it, but thanks for pointing out my mistakes.
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Lining Up At The Trough

Don’t think it’s just Wall Street & the Big 3, everyone’s coming for this:

“We’re talking a significant bump up in Pell,” says Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. The association is one of the organizations signing on to a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that outlined the proposals, citing the need to help struggling families who cannot pay for college.

Other education groups signing on to the plan include the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, State Higher Education Executive Officers, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the United States Student Association. The National Consumer Law Center and Project on Student Debt are other co-sponsors.

The move comes as automakers, mayors and other sectors are putting pressure on Congress for new federal spending to combat the recession. After passing a $700 billion financial bailout largely aimed at Wall Street, lawmakers are planning a large “Main Street” economic stimulus package with public works and construction spending and, education leaders hope, some attention to postsecondary education.

“I think everybody is going to fight for their fair share,” Nassirian says of the current budget climate.

As a result, long-time concerns about deficit spending and limited resources have all but vanished. “The budget always has checkmated many policy ideas we presented in the past,” Nassirian says. Of the abrupt shift in tone in Washington, he says, “It’s extraordinary.”

Am I the only one reaching straight to protect my wallet any time anyone starts talking about a “fair share”? To them, fairness means to make sure some other sucker pays the bill, and they get the reward. Fairness is ensuring that when they line up for free goodies, there are still some left when they get to the front of the line.

Put simply, most people’s definition of “fairness” scares the hell out of me.

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