Rosa Parks, the libertarian view

On the commemoration of her passing, Thomas Sowell notes that the racial segregation that Rosa Parks fought to end was the work of the state:

Far from existing from time immemorial, as many have assumed, racially segregated seating in public transportation began in the South in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Those who see government as the solution to social problems may be surprised to learn that it was government which created this problem. Many, if not most, municipal transit systems were privately owned in the 19th century and the private owners of these systems had no incentive to segregate the races.


The incentives of the economic system and the incentives of the political system were not only different, they clashed. Private owners of streetcar, bus, and railroad companies in the South lobbied against the Jim Crow laws while these laws were being written, challenged them in the courts after the laws were passed, and then dragged their feet in enforcing those laws after they were upheld by the courts.

Isn't it neat that corporations and the free market fought tooth-and-nail for racial integration, even in the post-slavery Deep South? And that, as Sowell notes, it came about not despite of but because of their amoral adherence to the bottom line.

(Via Best of the Web)

UPDATE: Yaron-savvy Dawn Summers points out the segregated lunch counters at Woolworth's in Greensboro, SC, which were strictly the work of the private sector. That's true, dammit!


Notorious (he is)

I just saw on MTV a "town meeting"-style interview with Bill Gates. Because it's MTV they a big logo behind him saying "Notorious B.G.". Ha ha. It's interesting, though, because I just finished reading "High Stakes, No Prisoners", by Charles Ferguson, the guy who developed FrontPage, which he eventually sold to Microsoft. It's interesting to see Gates looking so affable and calm, because the portrait Ferguson paints of him is of a ruthless businessman, who demolished Netscape in the late 90's, both by taking advantage of Netscape's strategic blunders, like not going aggressively after the server market, to backhanded tactics like threatening to end business with PC manufacturers who wanted to bundle the Netscape browser into their computers. Ferguson still ends up, somehow, with an overall positive impression of Gates and Microsoft and their ruthlessness, which is partly why he agrees to sell to them: if it weren't for that kind of force constantly exerting its will on the software and hardware industries, he says, there wouldn't be nearly the same standardization across hardware and software that we've taken for granted for at least the last ten years or so. If PC manufacturers really had their way, they'd each have their own operating system running on their hardware, with their own set of software tools, and charge for every part of it.

The results are in

And the person who knows me best is... Dawn Summers. (?)

Open and shut case.


Test your knowledge

And another meme... since Karol, Dawn and Ari demonstrated the fun-ness of the concept, I created a quiz that's all about me. If you've read my blog carefully you should know all the answers.


Meme again

Petitedov tagged me with another meme. In this one you have to find your 23rd-ever post, take the 5th sentence of that... and I think that’s it. Here’s my entry:

“Why would you do this to me, New York Sports Club?”

There it is. Another self-indulgent whine? Or a bold new Hemingwayesque literary voice, crying out at the human condition? You decide.

Haloscan's not working!

Now that they have a virtual monopoly on the comment market, I guess they can go down whenever they want. And they did! It's been that way for about the last 24 hours. Dammit! Does RateYourMusic still exist? Is it time to switch to Blogger comments? Lord, I hope not. Those make every comments section look like a high school yearbook page.


New on the playlist

I stopped listening to Belle and Sebastian about three months ago, after some of their members started making anti-Israel statements, and guess what? Haven't listened to them since, and don't really miss it.

But I've got a new obsession anyway: post-punk/"C86" music from the early 80's, bands like Orange Juice, Felt, Gang of Four, and especially Josef K. I've known some of these bands for a while, but mostly I started listening to them after an Archives Listening Project party that played some of them (thanks, ALP!). There's an energy and sparseness to it that I like, and it's not pointless and dated-sounding like some of the so-called punk greats (looking at you, Television).


Friday fun link

"Everything Sounds Like Coldplay Now" - the video!

Of course, those guys stole it from Radiohead. But I guess the student has become the master.

Performed by Mitch Benn, who seems like Britain's answer to Weird Al.


Sharpton terrorized

John Stossel sends Al Sharpton into a tizzy:
What if it were legal in America for adults to carry concealed weapons? I put that question to gun-control advocate Rev. Al Sharpton. His eyes opened wide, and he said, "We'd be living in a state of terror!"

In fact, it was a trick question. Most states now have "right to carry" laws. And their people are not living in a state of terror. Not one of those states reported an upsurge in crime.

More eye-widening facts in the piece. Including, if you can believe it, that criminals tend not to buy their guns in stores.

Via Instapundit.



I visited Moo Shoes, the vegan clothing store, for the first time today, and I got these shoes, made by Novacas (get it?). They're really comfy so far. Also a fake-leather belt. Are square-toed shoes totally out, by the way? I still like them.

Alright, guilty, I'm a "crunchy con"! Which reminds me, I'm looking forward to this book when it comes out.


The new Battlestar Galactica

I just finished watching the Battlestar Galactica miniseries on DVD last night, and it's just amazingly good. If you're confused, this was a miniseries that played on the Sci-Fi network in 2003 that's a "reimagining" of the original series. There has since been a full season, also on Sci-Fi, which started where the miniseries left off, and I guess the second season is airing now though I don't really know. I've never seen any of it on TV.

I think I first read about it on Samizdata, which really liked it in a libertarian sort of way; I probably wouldn't have heard it about if it weren't for the web, because I never watch the Sci-Fi network and it hasn't gotten that much juice in the media, I don't think.

The new Battlestar Galactica shares character and place names, and the basic premise, with the old show, but that's about it. I used to really like the old show back when I was little and it aired in Israel; I don't really remember anything from it now, except that the two main characters were always wisecracking with each other, getting women, and blasting away bad guys. It was like "Star Wars" with two Han Solos.

The new version, though, is a serious war drama: there are a lot of deaths, there's confusion, equipment that malfunctions, and no witty banter to lighten the mood. Also, it reflects a post-Sept. 11 consciousness; the bad guys (the Cylons) were originally created by humans: does that mean that humans are complicit in the monsters that the Cylons have turned into since? Also, some of the Cylon models now take on human form, which means that there's always paranoia about who's really on the good guys' side: how do you spot the enemy in your ranks? And, when order breaks down, what's the right tradeoff between security and following political protocol?

There are so many good aspects to this show that it's easy to take them for granted. The music is well done, usually some kind of tribal Gaelic or African drumming thing instead of the cliched full orchestration. The acting is great all around, and so is the dialogue, which avoids long, weighty speeches in favor of realism and lets the viewer fill in the blanks all they want. And the special effects are quite good for a TV show.

Planning to get the first season DVD at some point.


Friday fun link

How bad has the recent rain been in New Jersey? Really bad, according to the Today Show!

You can see it as a microcosm of the sensationalism of mainstream news, or an example of the thousands of ways news providers can distort the story before it reaches us, or you can just enjoy the fun clip of a woman in her canoe.

Via Ace of Spades.


Back from Hong Kong

Well, I've been back in the U.S. for a few days now, but jetlag and some other stuff have conspired against me writing anything.

Hong Kong is an amazing city. Apparently someone (the British, I guess) decided about 100 years ago it would be a good idea to build a city on the side of a mountain. The whole city is on an incline. And unlike San Francisco, which is also hilly but is basically just a normal grid over those hills, Hong Kong is truly three-dimensional: there are weaving elevated roads that cover the whole city in a tangle, plus a chain of escalators going all the way up from the harbor. Parts of it reminded me of the famous M.C. Escher painting. I might have some photos up later.

The food there was excellent, too: we had Nepalese, "Manchurian", and some other interesting cuisines. There's a lot of immigrants there from around the Asian world, plus England and Australia; it's pretty much the New York of Asia, even more so than Tokyo (that might be the L.A.). Just about everyone speaks English, and none of the expats seem to have any great interest in learning Cantonese (that's what they speak over there).

I also got some tailored suits and shirts, which fit great. Lots of eating and buying on the whole trip, basically. Hey, I'm an American, it's what's expected of me.


Oriental setting

I'm in Bangkok right now with my girlfriend, a little side trip bookended by a stay in Hong Kong. We've only been here a little more than two days, but ther's already too many experiences to list. Bangkok is a pretty neat city. It's big! There's about 10 million people here, and about half of them seem to be either eating or selling food at any given moment. There are street carts just about every 10 feet, and everything seems to be catered, from Buddhist temples to anti-government protests (even activists have their priorities straight). The food here is fantastic, and it's much more than just the Thai food you see at restaurants: I've had sour mangos with chili peppers, vegetarian larb (it's some kind of Thai mincemeat thing), a whole bunch of fruits I've never had before, like longan, mangosteen (illegal in the U.S. - really), rambutan, custard-apple (which literally tastes like apple pie), a whole bunch of fried foods, plus of course the expected pad thais and curries. We've been eating our way through the city, and at prices that would give Rachael Ray an epileptic fit: the equivalent of about $2 for a meal.

Also, we saw some muay thai kickboxing, and Buddhist services, and I bought a suit for about $90.

Today, we go back to Hong Kong.

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