Futures and Options

Just another town along the road.

Monday, April 20, 2009

It’s environmentally responsible!

But it’s not high-speed rail.

Despite the praise being heaped upon the idea of high-speed rail by certain segments of the population, Obama’s high-speed rail plan remains a terrible idea.  Indeed, the fact that it’s a recycled plan from 2005 may just be as close as it comes to being environmentally responsible.  And even the new “high-speed” segments are not going to make rail travel competitive with airlines and automobiles.

To fly from DC to Chicago takes two hours.  By rail?  17 and a half.  There are those who would counter that people would be taking the train for the shorter hops, like the drive I’m doing every other week now from Philadelphia to Harrisburg to avoid having to take the short-hop flight.  The high-speed train would cost around $200 round-trip.  It costs me less than $20 in gasoline to make the round-trip myself in a full-size Chevy Impala.  And I have the added benefit of having a car at my destination allowing me to come and go at my own leisure.

For bulk freight, rail is fantastic, but for transportation it just doesn’t make sense.  For short distances it’s no faster than driving yourself, much less convenient, and more expensive.  For long distances it’s far slower than flying (and more expensive).

I know this is all stimulus spending and not infrastructure spending, but wouldn’t it make more sense to take that same money and put it towards things that will actually get used?  Things like highway upgrades and airport expansion?  Heaven knows that there are enough delays out of airports like Philadelphia and Chicago that they could benefit from a few new runways.

posted by Zenmervolt at 13:07  

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

75% of people do not want more government.

According to a Rasmussen poll, only 25% of people in the US think we need a greater amount of governmentally-administered services and the necessarily accompanying higher tax rates.  Perhaps there is some hope remaining after all.

posted by Zenmervolt at 16:54  

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Nice try Tea Party people…

You may tempt me with redheads, but I shall not be swayed from my skepticism of your effectiveness!

posted by Zenmervolt at 11:43  

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Well, I suppose it’s honest.

It seems that Maryland Senator Benjamin Cardin has proposed a bill that would allow newspapers to claim non-profit status and operate as tax-exempt entities.  It may just be me, but I’m pretty sure that most newspapers have been operating without profit for a while now.

*Sorry, I know it was a bad joke, but I couldn’t resist it.

posted by Zenmervolt at 19:18  

Saturday, April 4, 2009

99.99985% of all firearms were handled in perfect safety today.

I just wanted to point out to readers that 99.9999% of all privately-held firearms did NOT kill anyone today.

There are between 238,000,000 and 276,000,000 privately-owned, legal firearms in the United States.

On average, 89 people die each day from firearms in the United States.  54% of these are suicides and do not count towards the murder rate.

Even if we include suicides in the calculations (and thereby more than double the instances of firearm deaths), the math adds up to 99.99996% of firearms killing nobody.

If we include injuries, at a total of approximately 267 per day (3 injuries per firearm death), the math adds up to 99.99985% of firearms being handled in perfect safety.

99.99985% safe.  That’s a staggeringly good number.  Even condoms are only 98% safe and effective, and that assumes perfect use.  In actual practice, condoms are only 85% effective.  So, actual rate to actual rate, firearms are 99.99985% safe, while condoms are 85% safe.

Going purely by the numbers, the object I trust to safeguard my home and my life is significantly safer than the object that many people trust to safeguard their health, yet people claim that firearms are risky while condoms are “safe”.

*All math assumes “only” 238,000,000 firearms in the US.  If the larger estimate is used, the safety percentage for firearms improves.  All estimates are taken from anti-gun groups in order to prevent any claims that the numbers used are somehow “biased” in favor of pro-gun groups.

**I do not mean to imply that condoms are unsafe or ineffective.  I strongly recommend that anyone who is sexually-active use condoms unless both they and their partner have been tested and they are either seeking to have a child or are using an alternate form of contraception.

posted by Zenmervolt at 21:50  

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New Contributor

I would like to officially welcome Futures and Options’ newest contributor, Strix Nebulosa.  I have known Strix for a long time, but don’t hold that against him.  He’s a very bright guy and I’m glad to have him on board.  His first posting has already been published and I look forward to many more.

posted by Zenmervolt at 06:24  

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Move the Supreme Court to Boise

A hearty thanks to Zenmervolt for inviting me to join his site as an occasional contributor.  I can say, without irony or exaggeration, that it is a privilege to share space with such a thoughtful writer.

My virgin blog post (yes, first-ever, anywhere! you saw it here!) concerns a panel discussion I watched today, sponsored by the local student chapter of the Federalist Society.  They asked the school’s four professors who teach introductory constitutional law to propose a “makeover” for the Supreme Court–a change (no matter how wildly fanciful) in the appointment process or case-decision process that would produce beneficial results.  The discussion was lively and excellent all around, and I’ll report a few of the most interesting ideas here.

John McGinnis proposed a constitutional amendment requiring a 60-vote threshold for Senate confirmation of Supreme Court nominees.  Supermajority requirements tend to produce “better” results, he argued, which in this case means nominees of higher quality that are less likely to be radical (on either side of the political spectrum).  In the long run, that’s a good thing for the rule of law, promoting more respect for the Court as it produces fewer decisions likely to enrage a significant portion of the citizenry.

Lee Epstein noted the increasing “professionalization” of the federal judiciary:  US attorneys beget district court judges beget appellate court judges beget Supreme Court justices.  For the first time in history, all nine current justices were federal appellate judges before they were promoted to the Court.  Epstein argued for greater diversity of backgrounds on the Court; diversity of input leads to stronger output.  She backed this up with empirical evidence of the cost of a monolithic court.  One problem is that justices tend to have too much loyalty to their mother circuit.  Justice Breyer, for example, affirms the good old First Circuit 70% of the time, but the other circuits only 30%.  And with four former judges now on the Court, the D.C. Circuit is enjoying a historically low reversal rate.  Interesting to note that George Bush made similar arguments when he nominated Harriet Miers.

Steve Calabresi threw out seven different proposals, the most novel of which, I thought, was to move the Supreme Court out of Washington.  He thought the justices were exposed to too many lunches with Senators, galas with diplomats, and even hunting trips with Vice Presidents (Calabresi’s allowed to poke a little fun at Scalia; he clerked for him twenty years ago).  All this mingling with the political elites is bad for the separation of powers, and it leads to the justices being out of touch with the people.  Justices with too much personal investment in the enlightened East Coast establishment will be trying to impress the wrong people when they decide cases and write opinions.  Personally, I like this idea a lot; we could even take it a step further and move the seat of the Court around every four years, Olympic-style, and cities would compete to determine who would win each four-year term.  Such a system would dramatically increase voter interest in the goings-on at the Supreme Court.  And better yet, the justices themselves would vote on where they wanted to go next:  Mobile, Toledo, Duluth, Topeka, Boise…?  Where would YOU choose?

posted by Strix nebulosa at 05:30  

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Project 365

Oh jet lag, how I had forgotten thee.

Light reading.

posted by Zenmervolt at 18:48  

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Project 365

Pulling out all the stops for my welcome back to traveling.  Snow?  In Charlotte?  In March?

posted by Zenmervolt at 22:32  

Friday, May 2, 2008

And so it begins…

…not with a bang, but with a whimper.

posted by admin at 22:07  
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