Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's for the kids: Government Motors and government schools

The teachers' unions and other defenders of government near-monopoly schools are always telling us that whatever they want "is for the kids."  General Government Motors is following suit in outstanding politically correct fashion with this announcement today (from GM's official news release):

The first Chevrolet Volt available for retail sale will be offered at public auction with the proceeds benefitting math and sciences education in the Detroit Public Schools.
"Every aspect of the Volt – from its aerodynamic shape to its battery chemistry – is a testament to the importance of math and sciences," said General Motors North America President Mark Reuss. "By encouraging Detroit-area students to pursue these topics, we hope to cultivate the next generation of engineers who will build upon the Volt's innovative technologies."
Reuss announced the auction during an event at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, where the Volt is assembled. At the event, Reuss announced the first Volt built during regular production will be retained by Chevrolet in recognition of the team's efforts to bring the revolutionary car from concept to reality. The first Volt bearing the vehicle identification number ending in BU100002 – will be auctioned with all proceeds benefitting the Detroit Public Schools Foundation.

Indiana toll road chief charged with felony theft

Public toll roads or tolls run by "public-private partnerships" create an illusion of efficiency in the provision of a socialized public service.  But the reality is that the administration of public tollways is often more corrupt than the administration of ordinary public (socialist) roads, from toll collectors' patronage jobs to politically gained public contracts.

Here is another example from the Associated Press today:
The former commander of the Indiana State Police Toll Road post has been arrested on 17 felony charges, including 10 counts of theft, six counts of forgery and one count of official misconduct.

Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill Jr. says Dallard Tackett is accused of stealing more than $90,000 in state police funds for his own use during a three-year period. Tackett resigned in August after being questioned about money that he was supposed to send to Indianapolis.

Technology -- not government regulation -- revolutionizes driving

Social networking by car, data extraction to improve driving, travel price-costing, KERS, traffic camera apps, and more.

Quotation for the day: W. Turrentine Jackson

The American frontiersman expressed his individualism by seeking an untrod path into the wilderness for a new home.  Yet the pioneers' individualism and adaptability did not preclude their willingness to call upon the government for practical help in solving problems of migration and transportation.  When projects, because of size or financial outlay, were beyond the means of private enterprise or the collective action of a western community, the resources and sponsorship of the national government were unhesitatingly demanded.  Local groups constantly besieged Congress with requests for roads and other internal improvements.  In the process localism was broken down, and a great desire to expand national power soon permeated most western communities.  The pioneer became a nationalist as well as an individualist.

W. Turrentine Jackson, Wagon Roads West: A Study of Federal Road Surveys and Construction in the Trans-Mississippi West (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1952) 319.

[Photo: University of California-Davis]

Monday, November 29, 2010

Greenwashing award for the "green" Leaf

The Nissan Leaf has just been named the European Car of the Year.  Think of all those coal-fired electric generation plants hard at work to keep these cars recharged.

Seriously, though, Nissan is more deserving of this honor than was the Chevy Volt for its recent haul of blatantly PC awards from Motor Trend, Automobile, and Green Car Journal -- all timed around the GM IPO (or was it the other way around?).

[Photo: Christian Science Monitor]

UK govt ministers: record parking fines

This is one way for government to pay for itself:
David Cameron's promised drive to cut the cost of government cars is being undermined by his ministers running up record levels of parking fines.
Penalties average more than £1,000 a month, despite the PM's edict that departments should switch to public transport as much as possible. In the first six months of the coalition, the bill came to almost £7,400 – more than double the cost in May to October last year.

Quotation for the day: Henry Ford

[T]he automobile, by enabling people to get about quickly and easily, gives them a chance to find out what is going on in the world -- which leads them to a larger life that requires more food, more and better goods, more books, more music, more of everything.  The benefits of travel are not confined to those who can take an expensive foreign trip.
Henry Ford quoted in Samuel Crowther, "Henry Ford: Why I Favor Five Days' Work with Six Days' Pay," World's Work, October 1926, 613-6; viewable in its entirety here.

[Photo: wikimedia.org]

Sunday, November 28, 2010

He make his face shine upon thee

Meet Smiley SID, the Speed Indication Display:

Its UK proponents reassure:
Developed as non-aggressive means of speed limit enforcement, SID is seen as the "Friendly" face of community and site speed education.
The British manufacturer says:
The units are no-confrontational and serve as an aid to calming road traffic.  Features of the sign include a ‘smiley face' that rewards drivers for complying with the speed limit and a ‘sad face' for those which are not.
Is it just me, or does SID's seemingly kid-friendly (or simpleton-condescending?) premise encourage sheeple motorists and other viewers to look up -- literally -- to Authority for its smiling approval?

SID is being introduced into a local traffic management in a number of UK localities.

[Paraphrased verse: Numbers 6:25 (KJV); photo: The [Portsmouth] News]

NYC cabbies get a little TLC on dress code: a free market would get better results

New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) is proposing a new dress code for Gotham cabbies, to be enforced with penalties.  The historical background is described in a NYT piece.  Note the following taxi drivers' comments:
Zack Doganay, a cabby for 32 years, drives his fares around the city in an orange Ralph Lauren wool sweater, a blue checked scarf and a pair of cap-toe oxford shoes.
“I respect myself, and I get more respect,” he said the other day, filling up his cab at a gasoline station on 10th Avenue. Or, as Jimmy Hyacinthe, a cabby in a plain white T-shirt, put it: “A suit and tie is unnecessary, but comfortable and clean is important.”...
Dido Goze, a driver from Ivory Coast, said he took umbrage at the suggestion that cabbies may need a makeover.
“‘Professional’? We do that already,” Mr. Goze said, standing by his Crown Victoria in faded jeans and a black fleece sweater. “I don’t know why they need to change it.”
If New York had a true free market in cabs, without the ubiquitous heavy-handed regulation one finds in everything there, the market would undoubtedly encourage most cabbies to get their acts together, not only in dress but in the cleanliness of their cars.  But it would allow the free-spirit, nonconformist driver a chance to do his thing and compete too.

Besides this, the authoritarian Mayor Bloomberg -- already a food nazi and so much else -- is intent on regimenting the 49,000-person industry further with the Taxi of Tomorrow scheme (about which I will comment later).  In the process, he continues a decades-long licensing and regulatory regime (just like rent control) which makes the cost of transportation high, especially for New Yorkers of modest means.

Drug smugglers prove Walter Block right about the "blockade" argument against private roads

On Thanksgiving Day, a kaleidescope of US federal agencies announced that they had
found a sophisticated tunnel used to smuggle drugs between Mexico and San Diego, the second such discovery in the region in less than a month.
The half-mile passage runs from a residence in Tijuana to a warehouse in San Diego's Otay Mesa area, the San Diego Tunnel Task Force said in a statement...
The secret passageway ran the length of six football fields and had lighting, ventilation and a rail system to send loads of illegal drugs from Mexico into California.
Walter Block has effectively refuted the various arguments advanced against road privatization in his numerous writings (see here, courtesy of the Mises Institute).  One argument posited is that one or more land owners could effectively blockade the owner of a piece of land from getting acces to a road.  Block anticipated this argument in his 1979 article, "Free Market Transportation: Denationalizing the Roads," Journal of Libertarian Studies, vol. 3, no. 2 (Summer) 218:
[I]n the rare case of a holdout who possesses an absolutely essential plot, it is always possible to build a bridge over this land or to tunnel underneath.  Ownership of land does not consist of property rights up to the sky or down to the core of the earth...
As distasteful as their trade may be to most people, the drug smugglers have effectively proven Block right.

* * *

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement news release had a laughable comment in connection with the bust:
“This discovery again shows the cartels' growing desperation in the face of beefed up border security and the costly extremes these organizations are trying in an effort to avoid detection,” said Miguel Unzueta, special agent in charge for ICE Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego.
Growing desperation, Special Agent Unzueta?  No, just rational economic decision making.

[Photo: US ICE]

PCR: "Who is cowing Americans into submission, terrorists or the TSA Gestapo?"

Apropos of this earlier post, see Paul Craig Roberts's column "TSA Gestapo Empire":
It is difficult to imagine New Yorkers being porno-screened and sexually groped on crowed subway platforms or showing up an hour or two in advance for clearance for a 15 minute subway ride, but once bureaucrats get the bit in their teeth they take absurdity to its logical conclusion. Buses will be next, although it is even more difficult to imagine open air bus stops turned into security zones with screeners and gropers inspecting passengers before they board.
Will taxi passengers be next?  In those Muslim lands whose citizens the US government has been slaughtering for years, favorite weapons for retaliating against the Americans are car and truck bombs. How long before Pistole announces that the TSA Gestapo is setting up roadblocks on city streets, highways and interstates to check cars for bombs?

Eh? Feds say "no" to LRT in Edmonton

The Edmonton Journal reported that the city's transportation manager said in a Thursday news conference last week that
The federal government "owes" Edmonton a contribution for LRT expansion after spending huge amounts on transit in other cities, transportation general manager Bob Boutilier says.
Boutilier, who released the recommended track alignments and station locations for the west and southeast LRT lines Thursday, said the government gave $1 billion to Toronto's transit system a decade ago.
"Why aren't we getting that kind of support here?" he asked at a news conference.
"When you look at LRT -- the reduction in emissions, the reduction in roads -- it's green ... there's all kinds of reasons to (back) it, and I just think we're owed. It's time."

City leaders were hoping for largesse from Ottawa to support Edmonton's 2017 Expo bid for the world's fair.  Not receiving it, statists in the Alberta capital are playing the regional bias card.   But the newspaper editorializes today ("Federal funding refusal a good thing") that some measure of sanity will now return to civic business:
I think the reason expo boosters are so angry is that their excuse for lavish municipal spending has been taken away from them, along with the chance of roping taxpayers in other parts of the country into paying for their elaborate "vision" of the city. Now initiatives such as LRT and University of Alberta campus expansion will have to be trimmed back to realistic budgets and timelines. There will be no fast-tracking projects in the name of welcoming the world.
Had the expo bid gone ahead, and had Edmonton won the right to host a world's fair over rivals Liege, Belgium, and Astana, Kazakhstan, every high-priced or controversial municipal project from now through 2017 would have been declared vital to our hosting obligations.
Not happy that LRT expansion is going ahead twice as fast as planned -- right through your front yard? Unfortunate. But you know, we've got the world dropping by for a visit in a few years. Gotta have everything ready.
So now its back to the drawing board, with LRT planning delayed two years and ambitions curtailed, says the Edmonton Sun:
And if plans for southeast and west LRT lines don’t get moving within the next few years, they could be scrapped altogether, Bob Boutilier said.
“A year or two is fine, but beyond that, we’re just not going to build it,” Boutilier said Thursday.
“That’s my concern.”
But that's not stopping the social engineer-cum-transit boss and his colleagues:
The new lines could revolutionize Edmonton transit, Boutilier said.
“Our team is planning new LRT lines that are completely different from what Edmontonians are used to,” he said...
“These are plans that help shape the city,” said Adam Laughlin, director of facility and capital planning.
Even in oil sands-, wheat-, and timber-rich Alberta, the LRT project's price tag of C$3.4 billion is too expensive a toy train set.

McKeynesian economics: UK prosperity through transport spending (and our management fees, of course!)

The UK and Ireland branch of management consultant McKinsey and Company issued its "From austerity to prosperity: Seven priorities for the long term" report (with executive summary here) last week.  Its Number Three Priority of the seven is to "Unlock infrastructure investment" by rousing the profligate penny-pinching British public sector to spend more money on government-monopoly transport.  The good people at McKeynes have detected insufficient courage on the part of Her Majesty's Government to spend money which the British people are rumored to either not have or (how selfish of them) unwilling to surrender to the Exchequer.

Fortunately, McKeynes sees clearly through the fog, reports Construction Enquirer:
Kevin Sneader, UK managing partner at McKinsey, said: “Contrary to the prevailing economic gloom, we judge the prospects for long-term economic growth to be strong–provided that bold action is taken to remove key barriers.
“We believe that it is critical to move on from today’s necessary focus on the UK’s short-term fiscal position.”
The McKinsey plan represents a 45% increase on the average spent between 2000 and 2009 just as public spending is being slashed.
McKeynes promises a fuller report soon [page 38]:
McKinsey’s upcoming report "Building the transport infrastructure that the UK needs" estimates that the UK will need to spend £350 billion over the next 20 years to renew its strategic road network, railways, and airports and expand capacity where most needed... This is the minimum level of expenditure required if economic growth is not to be hindered.
Quit being so short-sighted! Let's be bold and spend our way to prosperity.  If you hire us, we'll show you the way, McKeynes further told Dow Jones:
"Our research estimates that almost GBP50 billion of the shortfall can be delivered by improving the efficiency of construction," it said. "Our experience working with infrastructure owners around the world suggests that materials expenditure can almost certainly be reduced by 12-14% while front line labor can often be reduced by around 20%."
McKinsey said the remaining GBP50 billion would have to come from road and rail users, and added that toll charges for road use would be a much less efficient way of raising the funds than through taxes on fuel or vehicles. The firm estimated that to raise the required sum, fuel duty would have to rise 11% or vehicle tax by 50%. Neither of those moves would be politically popular.
"Our research suggests that road usage is, on average, considerably cheaper in the U.K. than elsewhere in...Europe," McKinsey said. "To close the funding gap, the U.K. would need to raise an additional 0.5 pence per vehicle kilometer, making the cost of motoring similar to that in Germany."
Wot?  No money?  We're gobsmacked.  You need us to perform back-office efficiency management...and you have to raise taxes "create additional funding streams to fund road investment" in order to lower "key barriers" to economic growth.  Voila!  Prosperity just around the corner.  John Maynard would be proud.

So it is with the government practices of the major management consulting firms.  Their sales jobs obscure this fact: that large government cannot "just be managed better", but rather cannot manage at all.


TSA's groping hand reachs to touch mass transit next

Authoritarians usually announce their next steps for anyone to hear -- even though few hear or want to believe.

TSA Gruppenführer John Pistole telegraphed his intentions in July in his first interview after taking control of America's fastest growing security organ:

Protecting riders on mass-transit systems from terrorist attacks will be as high a priority as ensuring safe air travel, the new head of the Transportation Security Administration promises.
...John Pistole told USA TODAY that some terrorists consider subway and rail cars an easier target than heavily secured planes. "Given the list of threats on subways and rails over the last six years going on seven years, we know that some terrorist groups see rail and subways as being more vulnerable because there's not the type of screening that you find in aviation," he said. "From my perspective, that is an equally important threat area."

Then riders of the Port Authority Corporation (PATCO) in the Philadelphia are got a feel of random pat-downs in early September.  (Note the NBC affiliates very un-GE like online headline: "Random pat-downs turn PATCO into police state"!)

Further, TSA agents tingled to their very finger tips at a Greyhound terminal in Orlando on October 21:

Bryce Williams wasn't expecting to walk through a metal detector or have his bags screened for explosives at the Greyhound bus terminal near downtown Orlando.
But Williams and 689 other passengers went through tougher-than-normal security procedures Thursday as part of a random check coordinated by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.
The idea is to keep off guard terrorists and others who mean harm, thereby improving safety for passengers and workers. There was no specific threat to the bus station on John Young Parkway south of Colonial Drive...
Although the TSA is best known for its agents at airports, the agency's Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response, or VIPR, teams stage periodic operations at bus and train stations, ports and other transportation centers. They began work in December 2006.
Thursday's daylong event was the first at a Greyhound station in Florida, said John Daly, TSA security director for the Orlando region...
On Thursday, 50 officials from agencies including TSA, Orlando police, the Orange County Sheriff's Office, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection patted down passengers.

Next, Knoxville bus riders and Greyhound employees enjoyed a random search on October 28, prompted by nothing:

TSA agents say a search of the downtown Knoxville Greyhound bus station Thursday evening was not prompted by a terror threat.
The agents said it was just a random check.
The TSA's Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response or VIPR did the search. The agents worked with the Knoxville Police Department, the Knox County Sheriff's Office, and Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Despite the furore over November's airport pornoscanners and feel-up policy, don't be surprised for Gruppenführer Pistole to expand the TSA "state within a state" into train and bus stations permanently.  If the US treasury could support it, we would soon be treated to "random" traffic checkpoints before long.

[Photo of John Pistole: New York Post]

Distracted driving: transit union says "no," but...

US DOT secretary Ray LaHood has been repeatedly attacking the "epidemic" of distracted driving with zeal over the course of this year.  Just two week ago, he launched a “Faces of Distracted Driving” awareness campaign -- an unusually benign turn for the man who wants "more enforcement" and (surprise) a federal law on an issue belonging to the states.

With all this attention from the bully (in multiple senses of the word) pulpit of the Obama administration's transit promoter-in-chief, fancy the recalcitrance shown by this transit union over an almost zero-tolerance policy over bus drivers' and LRT operators' cell phone use.

General Motors propaganda on socializing economic losses

"We all fall down"?  What an apt non sequitur for the corporatist age we live in. 

Mises taught us:

Profit tells the entrepreneur that the consumers approve of his ventures; loss, that they disapprove.
Human Action: A Treatise on Economics (1949); reprinted as the Scholar's Edition (Auburn: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1998 and 2008) 701; online editions here (courtesy of mises.org).

Quotation for the day: Adolf Hitler

Hence we are building roads with the German worker that are nowhere else to be found...You can all be proud of the fact that you have had a part in accomplishing this task, whether as engineers or as laborers.  In it, you are creating a work which will stand even after a thousand years have passed.  It is a work which will bear witness to yourselves, even if not as much as a speck of your dust will still exist on this planet.  These roads will live on.  It is magnificent and wonderful to live in such an age and be able to take part in such work.  In the future, every single German will come to profit from this work, just as was the case with the railroad.  In the space of but a few decades, these roads will witness a vast amount of traffic in which the entire Volk [people] will figure.  Millions of our Volkswagens, the large buses of our KdF [Strength through Joy] excursions, and the huge volume of long-distance traffic and tourists will roll along these roads.

Adolf Hitler, June 23, 1937, addressing workers who completed the Reichsautobahn section connecting Dresden and Meerane; in Max Domarus, ed., Hitler: Speeches and Proclamations, translated by Chris Wilcox and Mary Fran Gilbert (Wauconda, Illinois: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 1992) vol. II: 905-6; original edition: Max Domarus, Hitler. Reden und Proklamationen, 1932-1945 (1962-3).

[Photo: Hitler beim ersten Spatenstich für die Reichsautobahn bei Frankfurt 23 Sept 1933; Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R27373]

GM, IPO, and the UAW: alphabet soup with a bad taste

Given their talking points by the Obama Administration and the Fourteenth Floor about last week's IPO, most of the Mainstream Media and subservient automotive media fed us a steady diet  about how "GM is back," the "new GM" is turning around decades of bad management with "exciting" products like the (economically unviable) Chevy Volt, and how American taxpayers are starting to recoup "their investment."

Leave it to the Washington Times to shed necessary light on how the UAW was advantaged in the IPO mockery.  It quotes Glenn Reynolds, CEO of CreditSights and a longtime critic of the GM bailout, as follows:

"It gives outraged flashbacks to the old GM bondholders," who remain mired in the bankruptcy proceedings and are unlikely to recover more than 30 percent of their investments, Mr. Reynolds said.
He compared the deal to the corrupt crony capitalism in Russia under President Vladimir Putin.
The White House "took a page out of the Putin political asset reallocation and reward system" when it engineered the deal, he said.
Mr. Reynolds also described the White House deal as a combination of "Boss Tweed on steroids" and "Hugo Chavez on meds," as far as the bondholders are concerned.

[Photo of Glenn Reynolds: Reuters.]

Saturday, November 27, 2010

FedEx cuts costs by adding human freight

Robert Wenzel reports:
Fed Ex reportedly pays people $10.00 per hour to ride as passengers in  Fed Ex trucks, when they want a Fed Ex driver to take the HOV lane.
Of course, FedEx is simply making a rational economic decision which saves their customers time and money.  It won't take politicians or bureaucrats long to at least try to forbid this practice, perhaps as the next chapter in the attempted Brown Bailout.

[Photo: truckernews.com]

London Underground strike

London Underground workers plan a 24-hour strike for beginning Sunday night.  With government monopoly mass-transit, paid for through government-coerced funding (taxes), not performing its advertising function -- transporting sheeple -- one must ask: How can such a "public good" be good for the public?

Quotation for the Day: John DeLorean

If we're successful, we'll be part of history.  We're going to solve the Irish problem for the British.

John DeLorean, as quoted in William Haddad, Hard Driving: My Years with John DeLorean (New York: Random House, 1985) 48.

[Photo: Detroit News]

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ni qu na li? Harnessing Beijing taxi drivers' "street smarts"

Oh, the wonders of private endeavor!  MIT's Technology Review:
Anyone who's ridden in a taxi knows that cab drivers know their way around a city better than the average driver. They seem to have super-secret side-street maneuvers that shave minutes off a trip by avoiding traffic, lights, and other problems. Now researchers from Microsoft are mining cabbies' knowledge to create faster driving paths for online maps.
Beijing's taxi companies and owner-operators are dynamic economic actors, resisting trade unionism and noted for their resistance to regulation.  (See: S. Xiao-shan, An explanation of the regulation failure in the taxicab industry - tested on the case of the taxi regulation in Beijing. Paper presented at the International Conference on Management Science and Engineering [2006].)

In other words, Beijing cabbies are perfect subjects for this research.

Chris Martenson: Massive energy crisis heading this way

Yes, okay, it's true, he is a fellow of the Post Carbon Institute and a Peak Oil jeremiah to boot.  But there's something about Chris Martenson's analysis of the International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook 2010 (released November 9) that seems at least somewhat right.

Maybe it's this:
There will be an energy crisis in the near future that will make anything we've experienced so far seem like a pleasant memory.
And this:
The potential knock-on effects of less energy to the complex system known as our economy are unpredictable in their exact details and timing, but are thoroughly knowable via their broad, topographical outlines.  The economy will become simpler and less ordered.
Maybe the Peak Oil bogeyman won't be the cause of Martenson's apocalypse, but there are other credible culprits: unsound money, the bumbling of interventionist statism, and crushing debt.

[Via Zero Hedge: some of the reader comments are hilarious.]

* * *

Speaking of the WEO 2010, here's Robert Wenzel's take yesterday:
The International Energy Association, in its Energy Outlook 2010, predicts crude prices will rise steadily and could go as high as $161/barrel by 2015, $250 by 2025, $350 by 2035.

IEA is as mainstream as you can get. There are correct about the price hikes, but given the inflation that is likely ahead, It won't take 2015, 2025 and 2035. It will occur in 2012, first half 2013 and second half 2013.

Here, PIIG-y, PIIG-y: Portuguese transport workers strike and the State fails.

How nice they waited until President Obama and the eco-warrior elites (NATO officials driven around in electric cars) finished their summit last weekend.

Portuguese public sector workers are striking today -- a mass general strike.  The usual suspects, too: port, airport, and transit workers, among many others.

AFP reports:

The transport sector was crippled, with no flights taking off or landing at any airport. More than three-quarters of train services and 60 per cent of bus services were cancelled, operators said.
Lisbon’s metro system was closed for the day, along with the ferries linking the two sides of the Tagus.
In protesting modest and overdue pension austerity last summer, remember that French strikers forced the closure of refineries (and, consequently, gas stations) all over the country and even blocked public access to roads.  So when someone argues that the owners or operators of private roads (or any other transportation mode) could not be trusted to always allow travelers access, the response can be: the State cannot be trusted to allow access either.

[Photo of deserted Lisbon International Airport: Francisco Seco/AP]

Rubles-for-clunkers program extended into 2011

From the Russian Federation's English-language service Thursday:
The Russian government will allocate 13,5 billion rubles for the implementation of the cash-for-clunkers program in 2011, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said on Thursday.
Under the program, anyone is allowed to turn in a 10-year-old vehicle and receive a coupon for a 50,000 ruble discount for the purchase of a Russian-made car.
Since the program began in March, the Russian government has reportedly expended an estimated 21.5 billion rubles (US$700 million) to prop up domestic car demand, primarily to benefit AvtoVAZ's Lada brand (in which Renault-Nissan is likely to take a greater stake).  For example, August car sales rose 51% over July.

The rubles-for-clunkers extension into next year demonstrates the Putin government's continued significant economic interventionism, despite claims to the contrary.

When Prime Minister Putin announced an earlier extension in July, the Avtostate agency suggested that the program had already outlived its purpose:
Deputy Director of the Avtostat think tank Sergei Udalov said that while the utilization program had its advantages, Russia's car market had begun to recover separately from it.
He said its extension, which was approved by Putin on Thursday, would not aid large Russian carmakers except AvtoVAZ, for which it is, indeed, a life and death question, as it was hit hardest by the global financial crisis.
Udalov said there was little sense in extending the program, and that the age of the cars should be raised to 20 years and the amount of the discount decreased.

[Photo of Lada C-Cross: http://www.nextconceptcars.com/concept-cars/lada-c-cross-concept/]

Quotation for the Day: Rose Wilder Lane

Originally, the use of majority-vote in American government was only as a check on Government. Constitutional law gave a majority of tax-payers a quick recall of the men who assessed and spent their taxes.

This principle is worth thinking about.

Using this principle today would alter the structure of State governments, for the people of each State determine the qualifications of voters. But the unique characteristic of American Government is its flexibility. Americans are always adapting the structure of their Government to the new conditions that American energy constantly creates. A State legislature or a convention of delegates can always make a new Constitution.

Apply the principle of using the vote, not as an imaginary and impossible control of men in office, but realistically in the American revolutionary way, as a check on men in office. The effects today would be innumerable.

For example: No one but automobile owners would vote for members of Highway Commissions or pay for highways. They would elect the Commissioners by direct vote, pay taxes directly to them for building and maintaining highways, and re-elect (or not re-elect) the Commissioners frequently. (Of course, American Government never should have interfered with highways. Americans had created a free, mutual association, the American Automobile Association, which was dealing competently with all the new questions arising from the invention of automobiles. Private enterprise originated and built the first trans-Continental American highway; free manufacturers and car-owners would have covered this country with highways, as free Americans covered it with wagonroads. Americans wanted cars and highways; no police force was needed to take their money from them and spend it for highways. And it is injustice to the Americans who do not own cars, to compel them to pay for highways.)
Rose Wilder Lane, The Discovery of Freedom: Man's Struggle Against Authority (New York: The John Day Company, 1943) 213.  Digital edition here, courtesy of the Mises Institute.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Al Gore repents on ethanol subsidies. But why?

Reuters reported last Monday from Greece:
Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore said support for corn-based ethanol in the United States was "not a good policy", weeks before tax credits are up for renewal...
"It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for (U.S.) first generation ethanol," said Gore, speaking at a green energy business conference in Athens sponsored by Marfin Popular Bank.
"First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small.
"It's hard once such a programme is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going."
He explained his own support for the original programme on his presidential ambitions.
"One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president."
But why make this admission?  The ethanol lobby responded by merely stating the former Nobel Peace Prize winner was wrong.

Steve Milloy of CanadaFreePress.com may have the real answer:
If we turn to the investment portfolio of the venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers (KPCB) where Al Gore is a partner, we find that KPCB has invested in Mascoma Corporation, whose business is cellulosic ethanol. Here’s how KPCB’s web site describes Mascoma,
Leading in the development of bio and process technology for cost-effective production of cellulosic ethanol, an inexpensive and source of renewable energy. Cambridge, MA
In 2008, Mascoma received $61 million in financing from a group that included KPCB. In 2006, KPCB was part of a $30 million financing package for Mascoma. 
And who knows what other cellulosic ethanol ventures KPCB and Gore have going?
The Reuters reporters didn’t ask Al Gore about his cellulosic ethanol business interests and, of course, Honest Al Gore didn’t volunteer those revealing tidbits either.
So while Al Gore appears to be lamenting bad policy that he supported, instead he is really just trashing corn ethanol in hopes of advancing cellulosic ethanol and his investment in Mascoma.
[Illustration: New York Times]

Increased cost of driving in UK twice rate of inflation; 2011 VAT increase "likely to take us into a new era of record petrol prices"

RAC has issued its Cost of Motoring Index 2010 for car ownership in the UK:

The average annual cost of owning and running a new car has jumped by 6.3% in the last 12 months, according to RAC's annual Cost of Motoring (CoM) Index.  The £346 increase, which is twice the rate of inflation, takes average costs up to £5,869 from £5,523 in 2009. This equates to £112.87 per week or 48.91p per mile.
The Index addresses the costs of owning and running a new car and includes fuel, insurance, maintenance, road tax, breakdown cover, depreciation and finance.
In addition to the overall costs, the Cost of Motoring Index also focuses on the day-to-day running costs by stripping out both depreciation and car finance. New car running costs have increased by £197 (8.9%) to £2,417. This figure is up from £2,219 in 2009 and equates to a weekly cost of £46.48 – an increase of £3.79 per week.
Overall, it now costs an average of £736 more to own and run a car than it did before the onset of the recession and financial crisis in 2007.

The full Index can be read here.

The report provides fodder for motoring advocates who are decrying the coalition government's fuel tax increases - a fuel duty escalator of 1% over inflation and a January 2011 VAT increase.  RAC's Adrian Tink said, "Motorists will continue to be hit hard in the New Year with the additional rise in VAT to 20%. This is likely to take us into a new era of record petrol prices, which is why it is vital the Government takes a close look at the issue to help end the war on motorists’ pockets," a reference to the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government Transport Secretary Philip Hammond's promise in May that "We will end the war on motorists."

NHTSA and FTC to regulate recalled rental cars

ABS News reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Trade Commission are addressing the problem of rental car companies not repairing manufacturer-recalled vehicles, following an investigative story aired by the network in July.

As it turns out
No federal law requires that rental companies fix recalled cars before handing the keys to consumers, and...not all firms have policies in place to ensure that vehicles under safety recall are repaired before they're rented.
Have no fear, U.S. Sen. Chuck Shumer is on the case: "If the FTC can't or won't act, Congress will."

Jerusalem: No self-respecting welfare/warfare-state can be without LRT

Three years behind the promised completion date, the light-rail project in Jerusalem is preparing to open sometime (!) next year.  Of course, it is the "only solution" to traffic congestion, say a city spokesman.  It also has the incidental benefit of further consolidating Israeli control over the Palestinian eastern half of the city.

Like neighboring merchants in American cities who do not appreciate all the benefits which State monopoly rail projects will ultimately confer on them, Jerusalem business owners along the rail line are angry about the badly managed and delayed construction phase, according to Agence France-Presse:

On the ground, residents and shopkeepers along the tram's route complain of having suffered years of loud, dirty construction work.
"We had to live with the dust, we were assaulted by jackhammering, and as a result our customers abandoned us," grumbled one merchant in the city centre.

Canadian govt: no TSA security measures needed

Canada's Conservative government has said that it will not institute American "enhanced" pat-downs and that its electronic scanners do not pose a safety risk like that of the Michael Chertoff pornoscanners.  The comments were made by transport minister Chuck Strahl during yesterday's question time in parliament.

Note, however, the opposition's reaction.  Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff -- of neocon "Lesser Evil" infamy -- is nonchalant about aggressive US-style security measures:
That’s what we have to do to keep us safe. ... I have long ceased worrying about these issues,” he said. “We have to keep this country safe and the people I feel strongly in support of are the hard-working security scanners. It’s not a great job. It’s tough. You’re wearing rubber gloves all day long.

Quotation for the day: Walter Block

On the US holiday of Thanksgiving, we give thanks to Walter Block, whose writings have been a major inspiration to this website.

Under present institutional arrangements, there is a modicum of competition, which takes place with regard to our nation's roads.  Sad to say, however, such competition is superficial, very limited and only indirectly related to these transportation corridors.  For example, advertisers compete with one another in terms of highway billboards; insurance companies vie with each other over automobile coverage; roadside restaurants, gift shops, etc., each attempt to wrest market share from their counterparts.  But in terms of knock-out, drag-out competition, of the sort which earmarks, for example, the industries which provide us with ships and sealing wax, computers, automobiles, books and movies, there is none.  There could hardly be any, since for the most part roads, highways, streets and other vehicular thoroughfares are all owned and managed by different governmental jurisdictions.  None of them can earn profits from wise managerial decision-making, nor suffer losses and risk bankruptcy from the lack of same; as with all activities performed in the public sector, such competition cannot, by the very nature of the enterprise, take place.

Walter Block, "Private Roads, Competition, Automobile Insurance and Price Controls," Competitiveness Review 8:1 (1998) 55; reprinted in Walter Block, The Privatization of Roads and Highways: Human and Economic Factors (Auburn: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2009) 169-70.  A PDF of this important compendium is free here, courtesy of the Mises Institute.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

UK speed cameras defended as national government moves towards budget austerity

The Royal Automobile Club Foundation for Motoring Ltd released a study today on speed camera use and effectiveness in the UK, arriving at the present time of "crisis in funding for speed cameras."

The RAC Foundation's director, Professor Stephen Glaister, writes in the introduction [p. ii]:

If there is one subject which divides drivers like no other it is speed cameras. Are they a mechanism for saving life or a method of raising revenue? Have they, as some contend, actually increased the casualties on our roads?
The study's author, Richard Allsop, finds [p. 40] among other things that:
Deployment of speed cameras leads to appreciable reductions in speed in the vicinity of the cameras, and substantial reductions in collisions and casualties there...
Recent data from road safety partnerships, while not comprehensive, indicate that there continue to be substantial reductions in fatal or serious casualties in the vicinity of cameras, and that decommissioning of speed cameras across Great Britain could well result in about 800 extra people being killed or seriously injured each year.
Allsop disputes a popular contention that the cameras are now a cash-cow for the State [p. 38]:

The cost of enforcement is thus borne by the detected speeding offenders in the form of penalties, leaving a modest margin of surplus.
However, public reactions today to Allsop's research suggest that many of the British driving public don't buy this argument.

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government ended funding to local governments for speed cameras as part of its dramatic and desperately needed austerity budget.  The BBC quotes government reaction to the study:
Road Safety minister Mike Penning said it was right that local councils decided how best to tackle specific road safety problems in their area.
He said: "We ended central government funding for new fixed speed cameras because we don't believe we should dictate to councils that they use them as the default solution in reducing accidents.
"It is not true however that the government has cut all funding for road safety, rather we have removed ring-fencing from local authority grants so that councils are able to set their own priorities.
"We would expect that road safety would remain a priority for local communities and that local spending would reflect that."
Capital costs for speed cameras are not the issue, but the operating costs for exising ones.  For example, Oxfordshire turned off 161 fixed and mobile speed cameras on August 1 after £600,000 was slashed in the council's budget.  (Though efforts are being made to reactivate them there.)

National fiscal survival or nanny-state speed limit enforcement?  Hmmm.  Now, let me think...

Of course, there's nothing wrong with speed cameras per se if they were part of a private road management system, which consumers could decide to use or not.  But in the UK, as in other countries, they are a really a tool of State behavioral control and revenue coercion as applied to government monopoly roadways.  The RAC Foundation's study doesn't refute that.

[Photo: speedcamerasuk.com/truvelo]

Hybrid cars "still not cost-competitive"; US gov't buys one-quarter of domestic production

Bloomberg reports:
“The lesson learned is that it isn’t easy to make these vehicles mainstream,” said Brett Smith, who specializes in alternative propulsion vehicles at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “They are still not near the point where they are cost-competitive in the market.”
“At some point, the reality is that for this technology to be accepted, it needs to be done without a government crutch,” said Jeff Schuster, director of forecasting at J.D. Power & Associates in Troy, Michigan. “But without a huge gas-price increase or further government demand, the natural demand just isn’t to be there.”
But the Obama administration is creating demand.  Bloomberg used a FOIA request to find out about the GSA's shopping spree :
President Barack Obama’s administration has bought almost a fourth of the Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. hybrid vehicles sold since he took office, accelerating federal purchases as consumer demand wanes.
The U.S. General Services Administration, which runs the government fleet, bought at least 14,584 hybrid vehicles in the past two fiscal years, or about 10 percent of 145,473 vehicles the agency purchased in that period, according to sales data obtained by Bloomberg under a Freedom of Information Act request. In fiscal 2008, hybrids accounted for less than 1 percent of government purchases, the data showed.
Federal "stimulus" money allocated to the GSA is paying for three thousand federal hybrid purchases.

Autoblog.com's Eric Loveday comments:
The GSA's hybrid vehicle purchases have boosted sales of some of Ford's and GM's gas-electric models. At the same time, the government agency has failed to help out automakers such as Toyota, Honda, Nissan, BMW and others that employ thousands of U.S. workers. It's a one-sided buying binge that has impacted the bottom line of two automakers.

The right to travel

Since early November, LewRockwell.com has maintained a critically important and constant drumbeat on the latest TSA outrages and their broader implications.  Notable recent LRC blog posts include:

Michael S. Rozeff, "The Right to Travel Goes Way Back" and his follow-up, "Pistole Proven Wrong That Flying is Not a Right"

Christopher Manion, "Is Liberty a Privilege or a Right?," in which he states:
The difference between air travel and automobile (or train) travel is one of degree, not of kind — in one, we are a few feet off the ground, in the other, a few thousand. And, of course, the government owns the roads (but not the air: just the airports).

The states' burden of Obama intercity rail projects

USAToday sums up:
Florida, Wisconsin, and Ohio, each awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds, have incoming Republican governors who have vowed to kill their intercity rail projects or are threatening to do so if they determine the projects will become a drain on taxpayers.
Read the entire article here.

That AAA travel estimate

November 16th, AAA announced that it expected a larger number of Americans to travel during the Thanksgiving holiday -- 11.4 percent higher -- than in 2009.  It estimates that 42.2 million people will travel more than 50 miles from home over the holiday.  These numbers have been widely cited in news stories throughout the nation in the run-up to tomorrow's holiday. 

IHS Global Insight conducted the detailed forecast for the automobile association.  This is the same firm used by the US federal and many state governments to do economic forecasting, an especially perilous task these days.  Global Insight has provided signifiant cover for Keynesian policies of late.  For example, in 2009, it declared that
The policy response to this crisis needs to be big, bold, and rapid.
It's provided analytic cover for the Obama administration in estimating that the ARRA "stimulus" was "creating" 2.5 million jobs.  The NYT said earlier this year:
Perhaps the best-known economic research firms are IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody’s Economy.com. They all estimate that the bill has added 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs so far and that its ultimate impact will be roughly 2.5 million jobs.
Okay, IHS Global Insight is a shill for its numerous Big Government clients.  So what?  How is this relevant to its AAA work?

The holiday travel forecast methodology is based on two components.  One component is IHS Global Insights's own knowledge, or as it's described [page 2]:
The economic variables used to forecast travel for the current holiday are leveraged from IHS Global Insight. These data include macroeconomic drivers such as employment, output, household net worth, asset prices including stock indices, interest rates, housing market indicators and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays.
("[E]conomic variables...leveraged from IHS Global Insight"?  In English translation, this seems to mean, "Trust us.  We're the experts.  Don't ask us any questions.")

The second conponent is data from a telephone survey of the traveling public.

Let's consider the economic assumptions in the AAA holiday travel forecast.

First [page 33],
The economy is inching its way along on a path to recovery, and Americans are, on average, better off this year than last year.
Second, see Appendix 1 [page 35], the IHS Global Insights October 7, 2010, US economic forecast summary, which contains the following nuggests of wisdom:
Crawling Forward.  We have pegged third-quarter growth at 1.5%.  [Let's see what the "revised" number eventually is, shall we?]
A full double-dip remains a possibility (25% odds), but not the most likely outcome. Credit conditions are starting to ease—albeit gradually. Growth in emerging markets is strong and looks sustainable.  [Propagating the myth that we recovered rather than the truth that we have been in deep shit the whole time and it's only going to get worse.]
Major fiscal stimulus shot its bolt last year, and now has such a bad image that—justifiably or not—another big package is politically impossible.  ["Justifiably or not"?!]
The growth outlook is worse than the Federal Reserve has been assuming, and the deflation risks greater.  [Correct on the first part only.]
Carefully couched, not all of their assumptions are bad.  But the broad implication is that we're in a "slow ascent out of recession" (as Appendix 2 is entitled [page 36]).  This is wishful thinking, not careful assumption making.

The economic overview is cited to buttress IHS Global Insights's forecast of higher travel numbers over the present US holiday.

But what does IHS Global Insights's survey research data from 479 in-depth interviewed traveler-respondents say?
The question, "Has the economy impacted your travel plans this Thanksgiving holiday?" was asked of survey respondents, and an encouraging 65 percent of respondents reported that their holiday plans have not been impacted by the economy. Of the 35 percent with plans that have been impacted, they were asked to provide an explanation of how the economy has impacted their travel plans. The most common responses surrounded frugality. Respondents plan to travel in thrifty ways which include staying with family, shortening their trips, staying closer to home, etc.
35% is a staggering number.  It certainly does not support on its face a claim that more Americans than ever are traveling "over 50 miles" during the holiday.

The AAA Thanksgivings holiday travel forecast may be accurate.  But then again, police estimates of a riot may be too.

American holiday tradition: "You get in the car, do your own thing"

The voice of an ordinary American holiday traveler, not frothing-at-the-mouth talking head or uniformed State security factotum, courtesy of the Associated Press:

Marie Johnston, 48, was traveling with her parents from Glens Falls, N.Y., to Columbus, Ohio, where her daughter, a recent college graduate, was hosting Thanksgiving in her new house. She took three days' vacation and scheduled an overnight stop in Buffalo, N.Y., where her son attends college, to break up the 10-hour trip.
Grabbing a cup of coffee at a rest stop just east of Rochester, N.Y., the family agreed that cost and convenience were the most important factors to them.
"Partially because of the recession, partially because maybe people feel more secure when they're in their own vehicle, and they have more liberty on where they'd like to go and if they change plans," the legal assistant said.
The family figured on about $100 in gas in their Honda sport utility vehicle — using a grocery chain's incentive discounts to save on every gallon — for the 1,250-mile roundtrip, compared with about $800 for airfare.
And another:

Eric Flynn, 35, of Salt Lake City, was driving to Junction City, Kan., to spend the holiday with family. Flynn, who was traveling with his wife, 4-year-old daughter and the family dog, was stopped at a gas station in rural Watkins, Colo., to fuel up.
He said he was happy to be on the road instead of in the air.
"It kind of seems like a pain" to fly these days, Flynn said, as he filled up the car's tank at the gas station on the wind-swept plains, the snowcovered mountains towering on the horizon.
"You get in the car, do your own thing," he said. "It might take longer, but it's more relaxing."

Scots like their cars: "Let me sound an alarm to your conscience"*

Aside from its post-First World War attachment to welfare-state socialism, there is much to admire about Scotland, its people, and its culture: the distilleries, the wind-swept natural beauty, bag-pipe music, the poetry of Robert Burns, and more.  Add something else: the Scots' affinity for the motor car.

The Scottish national government has released survey results which some find "sobering" (apparently bureaucratese Gaelic for "depressing"), according to The [Scotland] Herald:
The number of people taking public transport in Scotland has remained low as motorists continue to opt to use cars, Government figures show.
Over the past four years, the proportion of people who travel by bus – which accounts for the highest number of public transport users – as their main mode of travel has declined from 11.2% to 8.6%. Just 1.9% of Scots mention rail as their main mode of transport, a figure that has increased only marginally over the last four years.
The figures, contained in the Scottish Government’s Household Survey Travel Diary, were described as “sobering” by sustainable transport charity Sustrans yesterday.
Overall, just over half of respondents to the survey – 51% – said the car was their main mode of travel, while average car occupancy was consistent with previous years at 1.6.
The latest results show a marginal increase in the proportion of people favouring car travel over the past decade, though it is lower than a peak of 54% in 2006.

But then the modern-day secular Calvinists have to reprove their fellow men:
John Lauder, director of Sustrans Scotland, said the results showed greater action was needed to achieve a shift from Scotland’s car dependency to more sustainable forms of travel.
He said: “These figures are a sobering reminder of where we are. Scotland is at the bottom of the heap in getting people out of their cars, on to public transport and taking up healthy forms of active travel."
(Nothing about economically sustainable modes of travel!)

[*  Robert Burns, "The Kirk of Scotland's Alarm" (1789), lines 1-5:
Orthodox! orthodox, who believe in John Knox,
Let me sound an alarm to your conscience:
A heretic blast has been blown in the West,
"That what is no sense must be nonsense,"
Orthodox! That what is no sense must be nonsense.]

TSA in 2008: "Thanksgiving travel projected to decrease." What will they say now?

Two years ago, the TSA's official blog announced a projected decrease in Thanksgiving holiday travel because of the bad economy:
This Thanksgiving season will be the first time that the Air Transport Association of America (ATA) has projected a decrease in holiday passenger traffic since 2001. Higher fuel prices combined with reduced consumer spending have led to a projected 10% drop in the number of passengers and flights in the 12-day period spanning November 21 (Friday before) through December 2 (Tuesday after), as compared to the same period in 2007.
If airline bookings decrease during this year's holiday season, what will the TSA attribute that to?

Midwest US high-speed rail: Wisconsin says "no," but Minnesota presses on with public hearings anyway

At the beginning of this year, the Obama administration announced that part of the $8 billion in federal "stimulus" funding for transit was awarded to a Minneapolis/Saint Paul-Madison-Milwaukee-Chicago high-speed rail project.  $823 million in planning money has been on offer from the Federal deficit-spending dope-pusher to (a) establish rail service between Milwaukee and Madison by 2013, and (b) plan for a "vision" so that
Eventually, passengers will be able to travel from Chicago to the Twin Cities at a top speed of 110 mph, saving time and energy compared to driving.
Wisconsin governor-elect Scott Walker campaigned on opposition to the "controversial train boondoggle," as he described it.  Shortly after his election on November 2, Walker made good on his pledge to reject the Milwaukee-to-Madison project and urged the Federal government to instead spend the money of repairing roads.

However, the bureacrats at the Minnesota DOT are pressing ahead with public hearings anyway, according to the Wisconsin Radio Network:
Minnesota DOT Passenger Rail Director Dan Krom says it’s part of a “federally prescribed” process that examines possible routes in Midwest rail expansion, some of which do not include a route through Madison.
Although Walker has stalled work on high speed rail, Krom says Minnesota’s plans are in such a preliminary stage, Wisconsin’s activity is not a factor here.
In other words, Minnesota rail advocates are patient people and will wait out the new Wisconsin governor if necessary.
By-and-large Minnesota residents are interested in expanding passenger rail. Krom cites input from 15 public hearings on rail, completed last year in which 90-percent of questions and interest was on passenger trains. He says Gopher State is interesting in getting connecting to the Midwest both physically and economically through Chicago.
Of course, only an infinitesimally small number of Minnesotans really care about high-speed rail...and most already know that their state is well "connected to the Midwest."  A commercial flight from MSP to Chicago is less than an hour long.  Driving between the Windy City and the Twin Cities takes less than six hours on the interstates I-90 and I-94.  And for those who really want to travel by rail, there's already Amtrak's "Empire Builder" route via Milwaukee.

This project, fulfilling no aching need and of untold true cost to US and state taxpayers, has never been more than a plaything for politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., Madison, and Saint Paul.

Quotation for the day: P. J. O'Rourke

Mexico has only one brand of gasoline, Pemex, owned by the government.  Quality and supply are the same as they would be if the U.S. Post Office was also the gas station.

P. J. O'Rourke, Driving Like Crazy: Thirty Years of Vehicular Hellbending, Celebrating America the Way It's Supposed To Be--With an Oil Well in Every Backyard, a Cadillac Escalade in Every Carport, and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank Mowing Our Lawn (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2009) 110.

[Photo: Car and Driver, November 2009]

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ihre Papiere, bitte: TSA gestapo may expand to transit and trains

Reichsführer Janet Napolitano of the Department of Fatherland Security said on Monday's "Charlie Rose" program:
“I think the tighter we get on aviation, we have to also be thinking now about going on to mass transit or to trains or maritime. So, what do we need to be doing to strengthen our protections there?”
So when will we see our uniformed Protectors performing "enhanced" screenings on motorists at the approaches to tunnels and bridges, State assets of singular importance?

The Hill: TSA methods "will kill more Americans on highway"

Over the past three weeks, it has become clear that at least a segment of Americans are rediscovering car or train travel.  Thanks to libertarian and other websites,  the TSA pornoscanners and new date-rape gropings -- plus the airlines' complicity in the burgeoning police state -- are finally outraging Boobus Americanus into doing something other than standing in line and taking it (literally) from behind.   But as millions of Americans prepare to travel over the Thanksgivings Day holiday weekend, the killjoys are ready to proclaim that TSA "enhanced" pat-downs will kill more of their fellow citizens, according to The Hill:
Steven Horwitz, a professor of economics at St. Lawrence University, told The Hill that the probable spike in road travel, caused by adverse feelings towards the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) new screening procedures, could also lead to more car-related deaths.

“Driving is much more dangerous than flying, as you are far more likely to be killed in an automobile accident mile-for-mile than you are in an airplane,” said Horwitz. “The result will be that the new TSA procedures will kill more Americans on the highway.”
So, sheeple, submit to your genitalia being touched by the State at its airports, or dying on its highways.

Market efficiency through satellite tracking of shopping mall traffic

Robert Wenzel notes on a Barron's story about satellite data which correlates high mall traffic to strong same-store sales:

Despite the SEC's apparent absurd harassment of firms seeking an edge by gathering information, such information makes the markets more efficient. Beginning and end of story.

The latest technique to gain an edge is to use satellite images. By using these images, investors can make better informed decisions and direct capital investments in a more informed direction.