Jun 16, 2007

Quick California note: I'm from the Detroit area. On my side, my father works for Chrysler/(whatever Chrysler calls itself this year); on my wife's side an uncle is a well-known race car builder. (If you watch racing on TV, you've seen his cars.) Other relatives are in the car industry. I'm from the car capitol of the world.

The last thing I expected was to come out here and hear more car talk than I'm used to.

Maybe it's just because the dot-com engineers make enough to care about the details of various kinds of cars, but it seems like everyone here is a car maniac, even those who aren't anywhere near buying their own yet.

(This is probably another housing price distortion; once you're paying $5k a month on housing, buying a "very nice car" doesn't seem like such a stretch.)

Jun 12, 2007

Followup on my last post: Why Even the Best Old Cars Sucked. via dangerousmeta!.

The really nice thing is that even the used car market has advanced to a decent era of cars; a well-treated late 1990s is still a very decent car on average, but you pay rock-bottom prices on all but the most luxurious cars.

"The Future is Now"
Jun 08, 2007
It's amazing just how pervasive the web has become, and how rapidly it happened -- and how much we all take it for granted.... My dinner tonight was a delivered pizza. I ordered it using a web site. The chain has a central system, which I used to specify the crust and toppings I wanted. Once I finished the order and put it into the system, they flashed a message to the local franchisee, and a delivery guy showed up here 20 minutes later.

Sometimes we don't even have to wait for delivery. I've purchased software recently and literally downloaded it within seconds of purchase confirmation....

All of this is ridiculously convenient, and I've gotten spoiled by it. We live in an age of miracles, and we're all completely blasé about it. - Steven Den Beste (now with ∞% more permalinks!)

Read the rest...

Government Myth #9: Checks And Balances Being Used Implies Broken Government
Jun 08, 2007

The US Federal Government has the famous "Checks and Balances" system in play. Rather than strictly partitioning the three branches, each branch has a certain amount of power over the other, usually in the form of stopping the other branch from doing something. Many State and lower governments are also built on this model, to one degree or another. (I would imagine it's most or all state governments, but I don't know enough to say that.)

These use of these Checks and Balances is not a sign that our government is failing or a signal of the Immanent End of Democracy. It's the normal functioning of our Government.

Legislative branch passes unconstitutional law -> Judicial branch nullifies law is normal. Yes, in theory our Legislative branches shouldn't be passing unconstitutional laws, but a system built on depending on that would be naively Utopian and not work. This happens all the time and is probably the most frequent thing that gets into the news, along with refinements like partial nullification or re-interpretation.

Bad Judicial decision -> New Legislative action is the system working as designed. Many people, including me, believe the Kelo decision granted the government too much power by poorly interpreting the Constitution. But that wasn't the end of Democracy as we know it; instead, many State governments quickly moved to clarify their own eminent domain laws in a beautiful display of Federalism.

What is actually bad is when bad law gets past all the branches. Certainly this happens, although we may disagree on what exactly qualifies as such a "bad law". (In the spirit of this post, I'd prefer a definition based on poorly reflecting the choices of the people or having concretely bad effects, rather than one based around "I don't like it"; per the previous myth, "I don't like it" is not proof of failure either.) When this happens, yes, it's bad. But all three branches acting stupid in concert does happen less often than any single branch acting stupid. And that sentence, in a nutshell, is why checks and balances are so cool; on average, when one branch checks another branch, something stupid is stopped.

(The cynic in me is compelled to claim that's because on average, when a government acts, it's stupid, so how can you miss...)

This is a late entry to my Government Myths series.

California Livin'
Jun 02, 2007

This post is basically a diary entry about being in California and how it's going out here for me. Y'all are free to read it, 'cause it's all bloggy and all, but I'll keep it out of the RSS but for this snippet.

Read the rest...

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