Orange Death?

In Delaware, Brett Chidester, 17, committed suicide in 2006 after becoming a carrot eater. There was no evidence that Chidester was under the influence of carrots when he killed himself, but within four months, state legislators passed “Brett’s Law,” making carrots a controlled substance.

Now replace “carrots” with “salvia” and you know what really happened. Interesting story, though.

Cuba Moves Toward Markets

What is happening in Cuba? Long-term loans of farmland, for one:

The Cuban government, in its most dramatic reform since Castro took over for his ailing older brother Fidel three years ago, is offering private farmers such as Fuentes the use of fallow state lands to grow crops — for a profit.

The most interesting sentence of this great story:

They are paid in cash, which Fuentes appreciates, and they are not told what to plant.

Seems such a basic thing, so I wonder what self-described socialists honestly think on the following question: Do you have to believe that farmers need to be told what to plant in order to be a street-credible card-carrying socialist?

If central planning means anything, doesn’t it mean someone in a position of authority over the farmer telling him, if nothing else, what to plant? If people shouldn’t be trusted to arrive at the most socially beneficial price for a good, why would they then be able to produce the most socially beneficial amount of corn/wheat/vegetables?

Is Raul Castro perfecting socialism? Is he abandoning it?

Attention Voters: Meg Whitman’s Time Is More Valuable Than Yours

Meg Whitman is a nonvoter. She is, therefore, an awful person and should not be allowed to serve as governor.

Meg Whitman owes the voters of California more than an apology.

The successful former CEO of eBay is a Republican candidate for governor in 2010. She is running as someone who will bring the skills of the boardroom to the serious economic problems afflicting her adopted home state. Because of her success in the business world and the personal fortune she’s prepared to invest in the race, she is one of the leading candidates to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).

But the formal launch of her candidacy last week was disrupted by a damaging report in the Sacramento Bee. Though Whitman seeks to lead one of the biggest and most troubled governments in the world, when it comes to politics, she has been — to put it kindly — an absentee citizen for much of her adult life.

Here’s my humble suggestion for what Meg Whitman should say to California.

I am sorry, voters of California, for spending a decade managing one of the most successful and socially beneficial corporations in recent memory. In my zeal to deliver profits to shareholders and quality service to customers, I forgot that most people believe voting to be more important than delivering value to society. If I am fortunate enough to become governor, I pledge to spend an hour or more each election day waiting in line for the miniscule chance of having my vote affect an electoral outcome. I will do this without regard to the important work I could be doing with that time.

She’d have my vote. I mean, unless I had something better to do that day.

Klein: Bills are Long Because …

Ezra Klein says:

Whining about the length of a bill is the first refuge of the scoundrel. It’s supposed to denote complexity and ambition and overreach. But what it really proves is that legislative language is sort of arcane.

Scoundrel, really? Legislative language is arcane, sure. But that doesn’t always mean that bills have to be long. Long bills don’t denote complexity?

What long bills prove is that humans are complex and that when you proscribe their behavior, you must also understand that they may act differently than you anticipate … so you need to define things more clearly … and repeat … and so on. You do this until, well, you have a very long, complex, ambitious and probably overreaching piece of legislation.

People pretty much want to take what they have and make the most with it. No law can account for everyone’s preferences or circumstances.

The legislation he refers to is the Baucus bill. Klein points to this chunk …

(c) General Definitions- Except as otherwise provided, in this division:
(1) ACCEPTABLE COVERAGE- The term ‘acceptable coverage’ has the meaning given such term in section 202(d)(2).
(2) BASIC PLAN- The term ‘basic plan’ has the meaning given such term in section 203(c).
(3) COMMISSIONER- The term ‘Commissioner’ means the Health Choices Commissioner established under section 141.

“Acceptable coverage,” “Health Choices Commissioner” and “basic plan” are all terms that must be defined in such a way so everyone is clear what behavior is verboten, what constitutes unacceptable coverage and what choices may be circumscribed by the commissioner.

Not only would it be a challenge for a Health Choices Commissioner or a single piece of legislation to adequately provide for all the preferences of hundreds of millions of people, it would be completely impossible. By the time you wrote a bill of sufficient length to provide for the desires of a hundred diverse people, the information would be rendered irrelevant by events. And that’s before politics even gets involved and votes are taken.

Klein, I hope, appreciates that people with thinking brains will do their best to get the most out of life no matter what Max Baucus might prefer.

"We Can’t Cut Spending"

Mark Thoma points to Bruce Bartlett’s Forbes piece on how Republicans are unrealistic about cutting spending. I think Bartlett is basically right about Republicans overestimating the ability of Republican-controlled governments to cut spending, but heavens, the criticism has to cut both ways, dudn’t it?

I question how anyone, anyone can believe that a federal government that has been unable to really cut Medicare in decades can produce $500 billion in cuts to the program to fund new health care spending.

If the votes aren’t there to cut things that the average person doesn’t care about, try cutting a program that millions of elderly Americans (read: voters) love, in part because of the wasteful spending.

POTUS Addresses the Children

President Obama will talk to students tomorrow. He’ll say this:

I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.

I know Mr. Obama taught constitutional law at one point, but I think even he would be hard pressed to show me where the federal government gets the authority to do any of those things. States, sure. But the feds?

Yet another reason to stay in school, kids. You don’t want future presidents like this to try to convince you that they have more authority than they actually do, do you?

Obama will close with this:

What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?

Considering I’ll never run for public office, there’s not much chance my name will end up on a bridge, federal building, dam, highway, overpass or parking meter. Still, I’d like a future president to come along, use me as an example of cynicism and say that I was an obstructionist and an opponent of progress/hope/change. That might be nice for my grandkids to hear.