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2:24 pm - Wed, Apr 16, 2014
1 note
Now that’s what I call a horse race!

Now that’s what I call a horse race!

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9:45 am

Pop Quiz: Which Policy Is Worse?

Osage

If you are like most people, you probably spend a lot of time wondering, “What is the absolutely worst environmental policy on the planet?” And if you are like most people, you probably think it is America’s ethanol policy. So Virginia’s recent decision to subsidize what will be the largest ethanol plant on the East Coast might strike you as doubling down on the dubious.

Don’t be too hasty. We have some competition.

True, America’s policy of blending corn-based ethanol into gasoline is unbelievably awful. For decades, Congress lavished billions of dollars on fuel producers to encourage the practice. As a result, almost half the U.S. corn crop gets pumped into gasoline tanks. Owing in no small part to that, corn prices more than doubled from 2006 to 2011. This raised the price of food both for people and for animals that people eat, such as farm-raised pigs. As a result, notes Bloomberg Businessweek, “ethanol mandates have acted as an efficient way to funnel cash from the world’s disadvantaged to its agro industry conglomerates.”

So the mandate is bad for poor people. But at least it raises gasoline prices! For one thing, ethanol costs more to produce than gasoline. And when Washington replaced ethanol subsidies with a renewable-fuel standard, it set increasingly high – and increasingly unrealistic – targets for the amount of ethanol to be blended with gasoline. Since there is not enough ethanol to go around, some gasoline producers have to buy ethanol credits known as renewable identification numbers (RINs). The trading of RINs has driven their price sharply higher, which has raised prices at the pump.

(Bonus point: Federal rules are driving refiners up against a “blend wall” – the point at which the ethanol content in gasoline exceeds 10 percent. Using more than a 10 percent ethanol blend voids many car warranties.)

But ethanol is helping to stave off global warming, right? Wrong. Corn needs farming, and farming needs fertilizers and tractors and hauling and so on. In some cases ethanol production requires more energy than the fuel delivers to your engine. Analyses differ, but by some estimates ethanol actually raises carbon-dioxide emissions from the tailpipe 12 percent over non-ethanol blends. (Even the federal government – which imposes the mandate – concedes “the ethanol program has little effect on the environment.”)

Ethanol is therefore one of the few subjects on which all corners of the ideological map agree. U.S. ethanol mandates are “catastrophically idiotic” (Mother Jones); “costly and unnecessary” (the Heritage Foundation); and “blatant corporate welfare” (the Cato Institute). Aside from that, they’re great.

So naturally, last week Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe boasted that he had played “a significant role” in using state subsidies to revive a defunct ethanol plant in Hopewell, south of Richmond. Osage Bio Energy built the $200 million facility a few years ago in the hope of raking in federal incentives for turning barley into gas. That didn’t pan out, and the plant never even lit the boilers. Last year Vireol, a British firm, bought the plant, intending to disassemble it and ship it overseas.

But thanks to Riley Ingram, Hopewell’s representative in Virginia’s House of Delegates, the company is going to stay. He sponsored legislation ensuring that for the next three years it will get up to $1.5 million in state support to produce about 170 million gallons of ethanol. The company also will get a $250,000 state development grant, matching tax breaks from Hopewell, employee training incentives, and Enterprise Zone incentives. This is supposed to create jobs – if you don’t count the jobs that would otherwise be created if not for the economic inefficiency of all that government meddling.

Upshot? Virginia taxpayers will shell out millions to help make food and gasoline more expensive while making global warming worse. ’Twas a famous victory.

It’s hard to find a policy that makes less sense – but London’s Daily Mail has done so. According to a story it ran in March, vast swaths of North Carolina forest are being clear-cut to make wood pellets for use in Britain, which is supposed to almost triple its renewable-energy use in the next six years. Subjects of the British crown are paying hefty subsidies to underwrite the cost of shipping a million metric tons of wood pellets a year 3,800 miles across the ocean – the ships leave from Virginia ports – so they can be burned at the Drax power station in Yorkshire.

If you think that sounds incredibly inefficient, you’re right. It actually generates 20 percent more carbon dioxide than burning coal would – and twice as much as burning natural gas would. Meanwhile, the trees being mowed down to feed the insatiable Drax maw will take about a century to regrow. But since they do regrow, that technically makes wood pellets a “renewable” resource. (By that logic, so is coal.)

For this, British taxpayers shelled out more than 62 million pounds – about $100 million – in green-energy subsidies last year. Britain’s government also is going to make them pay 105 pounds ($176) per megawatt-hour for this “green” energy, which is seven times what they’ll pay for nuclear energy, which really does help reduce global warming.

Nigel Burdett, Drax’s environmental manager, explains why this is happening: “Our whole business case is built on [the] subsidy, like the rest of the renewable energy industry,” he told the Daily Mail. “We develop our business plan in light of what the government wants – not what might be nice.”

So back to the question at the start of this column: Which policy is worse? To answer that one, the judges might need to go to the videotape.

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3:32 pm - Tue, Apr 15, 2014
2 notes

As a real animal softie, I was skeptical of horse-drawn carriages in New York. Liam Neeson explains why I was wrong:

New York’s horse-carriage trade is a humane industry that is well regulated by New York City’s Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene and Consumer Affairs. Harry W. Werner, a past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, has visited the stables and “found no evidence whatsoever of inhumane conditions, neglect or cruelty in any aspect.”

Every horse must be licensed and pass a physical examination by a veterinarian twice a year; typically, the horses spend about six hours per day in the park. They cannot work in excessive cold or heat, and must also be furloughed for five weeks a year on a pasture in the country.

New York’s horse carriages have made an estimated six million trips in traffic over the last 30 years. In that time, just four horses have been killed as a result of collisions with motor vehicles, with no human fatalities. In contrast to the terrible toll of traffic accidents generally on New Yorkers, the carriage industry has a remarkable safety record.

A majority of carriage drivers and stable hands are recent immigrants, often raised on farms in their home countries. They love their jobs and their horses, and they take pride in being ambassadors for this great city. I can’t help but see the proposed ban as a class issue: Their livelihoods are now at risk because the animal-rights opponents of the industry are well funded by real-estate interests, which has led to speculation that this powerful lobby wishes to develop the West Side properties occupied by the stables.

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9:29 am - Mon, Apr 14, 2014
4 notes
A real old sticker on a real new car.

A real old sticker on a real new car.

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5:44 pm - Sun, Apr 13, 2014
11 notes

Does Anyone Like Free Speech?

Do conservatives owe the Dixie Chicks an apology? It sure looks that way. Liberals, meanwhile, owe some apologies too.

A little over a decade ago the Chicks’ lead singer, Natalie Maines, told a London audience: “Just so you know, we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.” This was less than two weeks before the shooting started in the Iraq war, and patriotic fervor was running high. Blowback came swiftly. Country-music stations stopped playing the Dixie Chicks. Their No. 1 single “Travelin’ Soldier” fell off the charts. Critics started calling them the “Ditsy Twits” and the “Vichy Chicks” and even less flattering things. They received death threats.

To the left, this epitomized the “stifling of dissent” that all truly patriotic Americans should abhor. To conservatives, this was simply the free market in action. As a later piece in National Review put it, “fans were also only exercising their own freedoms, in choosing not to buy albums. Radio stations were exercising their business freedom in choosing not to play songs that outraged their listeners and repelled their advertisers.”

Back then, you didn’t see conservatives expressing the sort of alarm they have been voicing ever since Brandon Eich resigned as head of Mozilla. Six years ago Eich donated to California’s Proposition 8, upholding traditional marriage. His recent elevation to CEO ignited a debate over that. Within days, Eich bowed to the pressure and stepped down.

To the right, this was a “purge” carried out by the “thought police” and the “gay mafia” that banishes the “politically incorrect” to the “liberal gulag.” Not quite government censorship — but certainly a dangerous stifling of dissent and an example of, in Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf’s words, “mob rule.” On the other side, many liberals defended the ouster as entirely appropriate. As one piece in The New York Times put it, Mozilla had simply realized its “CEO’s worldview is completely out of touch with the company’s — and America’s — values and vision for the future.” Companies have a right to live their values, after all.

Really? As Jonathan Tobin pointed out in Commentary, that’s hardly the orthodox liberal view of Hobby Lobby. According to the liberal view, Hobby Lobby’s desire not to arrange contraception for its employees is not an expression of the corporation’s viewpoint, because corporations aren’t people and they don’t have any rights. Rather, liberals say Hobby Lobby is forcing its owners’ values down its employees’ throats. By that reasoning, Mozilla was forcing its values down an employee’s throat — Eich’s — and violating his right to have his own political opinions.

Liberals have not been so understanding of other corporate entities, either. Two years ago the breast-cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure found itself instantly reviled when it halted grants to Planned Parenthood. The blowback was so intense 26 U.S. senators signed a letter urging Komen to recant — which it did only three days later. Komen’s president and founder, Nancy Brinker, stepped aside. Conservatives were aghast.

Nor were liberals overly worried about the free-speech implications of the backlash against Chick-fil-A two years ago, when president Dan Cathy provoked outrage by expressing his own personal opposition to gay marriage. Conservatives, on the other hand, declared this a dangerous development in a culture war that threatened to silence anyone who strayed from the progressive party line.

This is a strange position for conservatives to take — and not simply because of the Dixie Chicks episode. As a general rule, conservatives think social norms are best upheld not through government coercion but through the moral suasion of community mores. Since Hobby Lobby is the only case involving government compulsion, conservatives ought to feel sanguine about the other developments: Americans are working out their differences through the marketplace of ideas, even if the process sometimes looks rather unpretty.

Of course there is more to it than that. Even when the First Amendment isn’t implicated — as it isn’t in the Mozilla case — it’s reasonable to wonder where lines should be drawn. Few would object if a company fired a Nazi or a member of the Klan. But as Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit notes, Eich has been ousted for a 2008 view shared at the time by Barack Obama. (Obama, unlike Eich, has changed his position since then.)

If companies start policing executives’ beliefs, then there is no reason to limit the scrutiny to one issue. Suppose abortion becomes a litmus test — with some companies firing pro-life executives and others firing those who are pro-choice. Should companies vet their leaders’ views on gun rights? Or drug legalization? What about universities — many of which already view any conservative as barely tolerable? Should nonprofits and civic groups also enforce ideological conformity? They certainly have a right to. But having a right to X does not make X the prudent thing to do.

People have a right to express — and advocate for — their opinions, and other people have a right to object. But there also is something to be said for the principle of live and let live: It’s possible to disagree about an issue without despising those you disagree with.

Unfortunately, as Barton Swaim put it in a recent Wall Street Journal review, America increasingly resembles a place where people “speak of their country as if it has been overtaken by a hostile force with whom they share no premises or aims.” If we all start excommunicating one another at the first sign of apostasy, it’s going to become a very cold and lonely place.

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1:10 pm - Fri, Apr 11, 2014

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8:25 am
3 notes
Federal taxes are due in a few days, but Americans will be working a few days after that to earn enough money to pay their tax bill for the year.
As the chart above shows, taxes cost Americans more than food, shelter and clothing — combined.

Federal taxes are due in a few days, but Americans will be working a few days after that to earn enough money to pay their tax bill for the year.

As the chart above shows, taxes cost Americans more than food, shelter and clothing — combined.

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12:54 pm - Wed, Apr 9, 2014

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10:52 am
28 notes

Bush Lied. So Did Obama. And Clinton. And…

According to an exhaustive Senate Intelligence Committee report that might be declassified someday — and sources speaking on condition of anonymity confirm that timeline is “pretty doggone solid” — the CIA might have told a tiny fib or two about its conduct in the War on Terror.

Among other things, the CIA reportedly was a lot rougher on alleged enemy combatants than it admitted. Also, it suggested harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding produced valuable intel — which is sort of, well, not true. And it appears to have exaggerated — just a little bit, mind you — the importance of certain detainees. Abu Zubaida, for instance, turns out not to have been a senior al-Qaida leader, as was claimed while he was being repeatedly waterboarded. The U.S. government now concedes he was never even an al-Qaida member. Oopsies.

Of course, the investigation of events that occurred during the administration of Republican president George W. Bush was conducted by Senate Democrats. This could mean either that it was a rigorously honest inquiry unhindered by partisan loyalties — or that it also exaggerates and misrepresents, to paint the opposing team in the worst possible light. Nevertheless, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein found its contents “shocking” — a sentiment shared by good Democrats everywhere.

Democrats have exhibited much less skepticism — let alone consternation — about the current administration’s claims regarding the number of people who have signed up for health insurance. The White House says Obamacare hit its target of 7 million people. So far as Democratic cheerleaders are concerned, that’s a slam-dunk refutation of all the naysaying from conservative Republicans. As The New York Times’ Paul Krugman put it, Democrats should “feel free to ridicule right-wingers” who predicted otherwise.

Yet as Shikha Dalmia pointed out Friday in Reason, the 7 million figure looks awfully sketchy. Roughly 20 percent of those who sign up through the ACA’s exchanges drop out without paying. And “out of the remaining 5.6 million, only about half were likely previously uninsured.”

Likewise, many of those who signed up for Medicaid represent the normal churn in that program, which has seen hefty growth for years even without the ACA. And then there are all the Americans who have lost coverage as a result of Obamacare. In Maryland, for example, 60,000 people gained coverage through the ACA — while 75,000 lost it. Oopsies.

This isn’t a one-off. Obama earned PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year” award for repeatedly promising you could keep you insurance if you liked it.

Fact-checkers also slapped his hand for claiming pre-kindergarten brings a 700 percent return on its investment. And again recently for claiming Obamacare opponents have spent “billions” opposing the law (they haven’t).

The administration has inflated the number of unlawful immigrants it deports by counting some “returns” — people turned back at the border — as deportations. And then there was James Clapper’s now-infamous lie to Congress. Asked if the NSA were collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans, Obama’s director of National Intelligence responded, “No, sir.”

Not all lies are quite so baldfaced. Recently Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe “announced” 40 new jobs in Nottoway County, and said the state “is partnering” with the Trout River kiln company to build nine new lumber kilns.

Virginia’s end of the “partnership” consists of a one-time grant of $100,000, but you’re left with the impression that the jobs wouldn’t have been created if not for the governor’s personal intercession.

McAuliffe’s predecessor, Republican Bob McDonnell, also tried — time after time — to hog the glory from new business ventures he had little or nothing to do with. So did his predecessor, Tim Kaine. It’s S.O.P. But notice how they never “announce” layoffs.

These days McAuliffe asserts that failing to expand Medicaid means other states will get Virginia’s share of federal funding for expansion. They won’t: Total appropriations depend on the number of enrollees, so if Virginia enrolls no one, Virginia’s share of the money will not be allocated elsewhere — it will not be allocated, period.

McAuliffe professes total ignorance of an email setting price points for access to him and the Executive Mansion — just as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie professes total ignorance of the manipulations that led to Bridgegate. Just as Bill Clinton professed not to have had sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.

Back during the Vietnam War, the Pentagon’s PR guy, Arthur Sylvester, told a group of reporters: “Look, if you think any American official is going to tell you the truth, then you’re stupid. Did you hear that? Stupid.” Sylvester was being too harsh. Americans are pretty sharp when it comes to picking up on lies told by the other side. If they believe the lies told by their own side, it’s not because they’re imbeciles. It’s because they want to.

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3:54 pm - Tue, Apr 8, 2014
1 note
You spelled “nonviolence” wrong.

You spelled “nonviolence” wrong.

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10:21 am
21 notes

You Can Have My Knife When You Pry It From My Cold, Dead Hands

A certain fellow — we’ll call him Fred — broke the law a while ago. He didn’t mean to. He didn’t even know he was doing it. Nevertheless, had he been caught he could have gone to jail — for a year.

Fred lives in Virginia. Last fall he went on a camping trip. Not knowing what the terrain might be like, he stowed a short machete in his backpack — in case he needed to clear away some stinging nettles, or behead a stray boomslang. (Boomslangs are extremely poisonous snakes whose venom makes you bleed to death from every bodily orifice. They are usually found only in sub-Saharan Africa — but why take chances?)

In any event, Fred unwittingly committed a Class 1 misdemeanor. Virginia’s concealed-weapons law makes it illegal to carry “hidden from common observation” not just firearms but also dirks, bowie knives, switchblades, razors and a variety of more exotic items usually seen only in poorly dubbed martial-arts movies. The list also includes machetes.

Fortunately for Fred, he has an ally in his corner — a group called Knife Rights, which is like the National Rifle Association but for knives. Last month Knife Rights won a big (for them) victory when Tennessee repealed a law prohibiting switchblades. Tennessee followed the lead of Alaska, which legalized them in 2013. Knife Rights was behind both efforts.

You wouldn’t think the country has much need for a group like Knife Rights. After all, there is no countervailing force trying to ban knives in America: No Knife Control Inc. or Center for the Study of Knife Policy and Research. There have been no Million Mom Marches for knife control, no congressional efforts to ban big blades.

On the other hand, a few years ago nobody would have expected New York to ban the Big Gulp, either. Now look.

As it turns out, the laws governing knives can be surprisingly restrictive — and in some ways even more restrictive than firearms laws. Example: In Virginia and many other states, you can get a concealed-weapons permit to carry a gun — but if you want to carry a hunting knife under your coat, too bad: You can’t get a permit for that. Switchblades may be technically legal in Virginia, but possessing one is considered prima facie evidence of intent to sell, which is illegal.

In Pennsylvania it’s illegal to bring any knife of any size onto school property, concealed or not. And in New York, Knife Rights has filed a lawsuit on behalf of two men who were charged with carrying illegal weapons after police officers noticed the clips holding their folding pocket knives. The knives had thumb studs enabling them to be opened with one hand, and locking mechanisms to keep them from folding onto the holder’s fingers by accident.

Knives like that are as common as Diet Coke — but New York D.A. Cyrus Vance Jr. thinks they should be verboten. Four years ago he settled a case against several diabolical criminal enterprises, including Home Depot and Paragon Sports, for selling them. The stores surrendered almost $2 million for, as Vance said, “brazenly” hawking what he mistakenly called illegal gravity knives. (As the name implies, a gravity knife will open through gravity alone, or through centrifugal force if flicked. Common folding knives won’t.)

The trouble with such restrictions is that knives are dual-purpose objects. They can be used as weapons, just as hammers and baseball bats can, but like hammers and baseball bats they usually aren’t. Most kitchens have several big ones. A few years ago, the fact that people sometimes use kitchen knives in fits of rage led the editors of the British Medical Journal to call for restrictions on them. “We need to ban the sale of long, pointed kitchen knives,” they wrote. That meant any knife longer than two inches.

This was too much even for the usually ban-happy New York Times. But it might not be too much for others. Activist Al Sharpton has suggested we might need more knife control. Gothamist, a major New York website, thought it was a real knee-slapper that “Knife-lovin’ patriots” would object to the city’s tough knife laws: “Who doesn’t enjoy a nice recreational afternoon in the park with a razor sharp gravity [sic] knife?”

Curiously, many dangerous-weapons laws have what seem like gaping holes in them. The Code of Virginia, for instance, doesn’t say a thing about hatchets. The only restriction on axes is a prohibition against hunters bearing them on private property without the owner’s permission. Nor does the Code mention swords, cutlasses or scimitars. But if your untucked shirt conceals a hefty hunting knife on your belt, you’re breaking the law. Once is a misdemeanor, but get caught with a concealed bowie twice and you’re up on felony charges.

Doug Ritter, the chairman of Knife Rights, says some of the blade restrictions have historical roots that are no longer valid, if they ever were. Laws against switchblades proliferated in the 1950s, when visions of street gangs like those in “West Side Story” danced through lawmakers’ heads. Bowie knives — large, fixed-blade sheath knives with drop points — were banned in the 19th century because of their frequent use in duels.

There’s no doubt knives are dangerous — witness the recent spate of knife slayings in China. What’s more, according to the FBI, more than 1,500 Americans were killed by knives or other cutting instruments in 2012. But that’s still just a fraction of the more than 33,000 Americans who were killed by motor vehicles in 2012, and nobody has suggested banning them — yet.

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1:53 pm - Fri, Apr 4, 2014
157 notes
Just sayin’.

Just sayin’.

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2:42 pm - Wed, Apr 2, 2014

The fascinating history of Moorfield Storey — anti-imperialist, first president of the NAACP, and an early libertarian.

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1:31 pm
21 notes

Zoning’s Racist Roots Still Bear Fruit

“Blacks,” said Mayor Barry Mahool, “should be quarantined in isolated slums in order to reduce the incidents of civil disturbance, to prevent the spread of communicable disease into the nearby White neighborhoods, and to protect property values among the White majority.”

Mahool was the mayor of Baltimore who, in 1910, signed into law a racial zoning ordinance. According to Christopher Silver’s “The Racial Origins of Zoning in American Cities,” he was also “a nationally recognized member of the ‘social justice’ wing of the Progressive movement.”

The cities employing racial zoning included many Southern ones: Norfolk, Atlanta, Louisville, Birmingham and more. But they were not limited to the South: Chicago practiced a form of racial zoning, too. San Francisco and other California cities used it to keep Chinese laundries in their place.

Yet the ball really got rolling in Richmond, where a 1911 zoning ordinance made it illegal to sell a house on a majority-white block to a black person, or a house on a majority-black block to a white person.

Even back then, the only color that some people cared about was green. The ordinance was challenged by whites and blacks who wanted to do business with one another. In 1915 it was upheld. “There is no discrimination between the races,” a Richmond court ruled in Hopkins v. City of Richmond, because the law applied to blacks and whites alike. What’s more, the ordinances were written “to do a public good” by keeping “one race from encroaching upon the other. The ordinances are intended to protect each race from harm from the other.”

That justification held for two years, until the Supreme Court struck down racial zoning in Buchanan v. Warley — a case George Mason University law professor David Bernstein has called “one of the most significant civil rights cases decided before the modern civil rights era.” As he wrote at SCOTUSblog back in 2004, the “right at issue” was the “civil right” of property — a right enjoyed equally by both whites and blacks: “ ‘Colored persons,’ Justice [William R.] Day wrote for the court, ‘are citizens of the United States and have the right to purchase property and enjoy and use the same without laws discriminating against them solely on account of color.’ ”

Regrettably, the highest court did not get the last word. No longer able to enforce explicitly racial zoning regulations, many cities used “expulsive” zoning to the same effect, by putting factories in certain neighborhoods to drive blacks out.

They also used other, indirect methods — such as housing betterment. According to Silver, “Richmond’s reform movement produced its own catalog of housing horrors when the Society for the Betterment of Housing Conditions published [a] graphic depiction of the city’s dilapidated black neighborhoods. [The] report made no direct reference to racial zoning as a remedial action but, instead, concentrated on housing codes [and] building regulations.”

Ancient history? Hardly. Progressivism likes to think of government as defending minorities from discrimination by private enterprise. But time and again, history has shown progressive ideas marching in lockstep with racist motives.

In 1954, the Supreme Court allowed the District of Columbia to use eminent domain to eradicate blight. The court’s language was high-toned: “The concept of the public welfare is broad and inclusive,” it ruled. “The values it represents are spiritual as well as physical, aesthetic as well as monetary.” The victims, however, shared mostly skin tone: The “urban renewal” district to be bulldozed was 97.5 percent black.

In the 2005 eminent domain case Kelo v. New London, the Supreme Court allowed government to seize private property for someone else’s ostensibly higher use — condemnation in the name of social progress. Dissenting Justice Sandra Day O’Connor warned that “the fallout from this decision will not be random.” She was right. An Institute for Justice study of 184 eminent domain cases occurring since the 2005 decision in Kelo v. New London found condemnation was used disproportionately against minority property holders.

Another study, in 2009, found “a strong and significant … relationship” between low-density zoning policies and racial segregation. Yet another paper, published last year, found that “over half the difference between levels of segregation in the stringently zoned Boston and lightly zoned Houston metro areas can be explained by zoning regulation alone.”

That would not be news to the Bukharian Jews of New York — immigrants from Central Asia whose voluble architectural tastes offend the more subdued sensibilities of their neighbors in Queens. As Melinda Katz, head of the New York City Council’s land-use committee, complained in 2008, the houses in the area “have a specific aesthetic character” and “a lot of the houses that are [now] going up there are just simply too big. … They are out of character.” Oh, gracious.

To Boris Kandov, head of a Bukharian association, the issue looked rather different: “Why are we in America? Because we’re dreaming of this freedom! We were dreaming to build big house!” (New York to immigrants: Dream on.)

Related concerns are now raising hackles in Fairfax County. On Sunday, The Washington Post reported that longtime residents of some neighborhoods have taken to calling or emailing the county’s code-enforcement division with complaints about too many cars in certain driveways and too many people in certain houses. By an amazing coincidence, the objects of the complaints are always immigrants — usually large Asian or Hispanic families. As Tim Cavanaugh observed in Reason three years ago, the attraction of urban planning is that it “allows discrimination but dresses it up as discriminating taste.”

But to the complainers, the issue isn’t race or ethnicity — it’s “quality of life.” You can’t have a bunch of people sharing a house, fixing cars in the yard and so on. It’s out of character with the neighborhood. It causes tensions and creates civil disturbance. And it’s bad for property values. There’s no discrimination in simply wanting the rules enforced, right?

Baltimore’s Barry Mahool would certainly agree.

 

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2:04 pm - Tue, Apr 1, 2014
1,350 notes

The greatest roadside checkpoint stop in history, bar none.

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