Mandatory Non-discrimination

This is getting old, but I’ve been busy. I oppose legal carve-outs for people of faith, but I still disagree with the understanding of rights that says a bakery has to sell a wedding cake to a lesbian couple.

If I have a right to be served, what do you call the corresponding obligation that you serve me? Obviously, there is law compelling businesses that serve the public do so in a non-discriminatory manner. But that’s a law, not a right. It would disappear if Congress amended the governing legislation and the President signed it. Rights don’t come and go at Congress’ whim.

My rights don’t make demands on you. I have a right to free speech. (That right is not absolute; it is limited for slander, inciting to riot, fighting words, yelling fire in a crowded theater, decibel levels, etc.) But even if I am properly exercising that right, there is no obligation for you to listen. If you had a right to be served, it would be like a right to free speech that required people to listen.

Should you be required to work for R.J.Reynolds? Should you be required to shop at Walmart? If you don’t approve of Chic-Fil-A, should you be required to eat there? Of course not. But if you can refuse your services and your trade to those businesses, why can’t they refuse theirs to you? If you get to make economic choices to help you to achieve your objectives in life, why can’t businesses? Shouldn’t it be up to their management (and ultimately their shareholders) to decide whether to turn away paying customers?

If what’s being discussed is a government service — public schools, highways, police and fire departments — then as a citizen, you have only one government and you can’t go to one with a more enlightened policy. Citizens should all be “equal before the law.” So the law should mandate non-discrimination by the government.

But private businesses (even those that serve the public at large) should be free to discriminate just like the public is free to discriminate against businesses.

The root problem with Jim Crow — the discriminatory laws that people like President Woodrow Wilson passed — is that the water fountains and buses and hotels were required by law to be segregated. Rosa Parks was arrested for breaking the law.

Businesses were forbidden by law from making racial nondiscrimination part of their business model. Instead, the law made it so that companies run by and for bigots were protected from the economic consequences of their own stupidity. The law today simply reverses that, making all companies pretend to be enlightened, making it that much harder for me to identify and reward the ones that truly are.

With Leftists You Just Can’t Win

For … well, it seems like for ever, I’ve heard leftists complain about Wall Street and its obsession with the next quarter. Instead of basing our economy on short term profits, we need to base it on politics.
Then you can call taxes “investments”. Because Congress and Presidencies always take the long view.

Well, not really, of course, but let’s pretend. Let’s pretend that politicians aren’t worried as much about profits as doing the right thing. That would be great, wouldn’t it?

It would be sort of like Amazon is doing.

Except that when a private enterprise acts that way, it’s “terrifying“:

what makes Amazon not just amazing but downright dangerous is that as a financial matter it has something even better than profits—the boundless faith of the investment community. … Wall Street is on board with an Amazon business strategy that doesn’t require it to actually make profits as long as it increases sales volumes. And if you’re in any line of business where you compete with Amazon–and Amazon is in a lot of businesses, and seems to get into new ones each year—that should terrify you.

It’s this “tails you lose, heads I win” thing — goalpost moving at its most obnoxious — that I find most objectionable about conversations with leftists, and why, increasingly, I just assume there’s no point.

How CEOs Speak

In (of all things) a discussion of last night’s SOTU address, Megan McArdle describes listening to CEOs talk to financial analysts on earnings calls. I never used to do that; all the times I’ve heard CEOs talk to me it was because I was one of their underlings. But one thing certainly seems to be the same, no matter whom the CEO is talking to:

The absolute favorite tactic, however, is the management reorganization. You may be in a saturated market where your second-rate franchisees are slowly destroying your brand, making it impossible to attract higher-quality franchisees . . . but that’s nothing that can’t be fixed by creating a new Chief Strategy Officer under the CEO, and giving that officer oversight of marketing, research, and HR. Perhaps a much larger competitor whose cost structure allows them to undercut your prices by 32% has entered your niche, but can they really withstand the fearsome might of your ISO 9000 certification and your new cross-functional product teams? The government regulators who just outlawed your three top-selling products and made two-thirds of your capital plant obsolete may be powerful–but not as powerful as your revolutionary sales force compensation scheme!

Fixed my car today

With WD-40, no less!

The ignition has been getting stickier and stickier. Yesterday I almost couldn’t get my key back out of it. So this morning, I gave it a shot of “the wonder drug that works wonders,” et voila!

A good thing. My car just turned 15 years old, and in the last couple of months I’ve had to repair the brakes and the radiator. I also had to replace the timing belt and the water pump. (The latter two were long-deferred 90K mile maintenance.) Adds up to about $1600 this year. Which isn’t too bad. That’s about $170/month in repairs and maintenance, which beats a monthly payment of $300 or more.

City Pool

I left work early today, because my wife was taking the kids to the public pool for the last day of summer. But when I got there, it was closed. When I got home, I asked WTF and she told me this was the last day, but that means the last day for the staff. They spent it cleaning the swim rings and whatever else you do at the end of the season, then they all left.

That’s par for the course. When they aren’t shutting the pool down during operating hours, they’re letting little kids crap in it. Then they shut down for a day while the chemicals kill off anything that got in the pool.

It sucks that Yucca Valley doesn’t have a real public pool. Instead, it has the High School’s pool, except for about 10 months of the year.

(If it had a pool designed for kids of all ages, instead of high-schoolers, they could have a smaller wading pool for kids of crap-in-the-pool age, and reduce the risk of having to shut down the pool for everyone.)

But I don’t know what’s up with not having a public pool. You’d think a pool would be a no-brainer for a town of 25K in the middle of the desert.

Of course, the town could just tell people to put in their own pools. It could just cut taxes accordingly, and people could use their money to buy pools, or home theaters, or off-road-vehicles, or whatever else melts their butter.

But, honestly, that wouldn’t be the best thing here, though, since this is the desert. It doesn’t make sense to have a whole bunch of small pools all over the place evaporating, when you could have just one big one doing it. Likewise for draining it at the end of the summer.

In fact, if you had one big pool, and were able to amortize its costs across a lot of users, you could put a building around it, so the water doesn’t evaporate. And you could use it all year long, so you wouldn’t have to drain it at all. In fact, you could use the other three seasons to help pay for it.

That’s such a great idea, in fact, that somebody else already thought of it. There’s a pool just like that here in Yucca Valley. It’s called the Senior Center and Pool, and is located at the Morongo Basin Senior Support Center.

It would be awesome if there was something like that for people who were under 55+.

But kids don’t vote, so they can use the high school pool, from mid June to mid August. The rest of the time, they can look forward to being 55. And if they get bored doing that, they can get tatoos and piercings and join gangs and tag buildings and sell drugs.

To be fair, there is a skateboard/BMX concrete-jungle by the library. Of course, it’s a sunk cost, approximately $zero/year to operate.

I bought another PC…

And worst of all, it’s got Hasta La.

That’s actually the reason I got it. There’s something I need to do. It requires either a couple of weeks of my spare time to get it working on a Mac or on Linux, or $268 to get a new Dell and do it on a PC.

I’ve mentioned here my earlier purchase of a certified refurbished laptop from Dell. Well, I just purchased a PC with the following features:

  • Intel Pentium dual-core processor E5200 (2MB L2, 2.5GHz, 800 FSB)
  • Optical 2-Button Mouse and USB Keyboard
  • Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 4 GB DDR2 NON-ECC SDRAM 800MHz (4 DIMMs)
  • 320 GB SATA Hard Drive (7200 RPM)
  • 16X DVD +/- RW w/dbl layer write capability
  • 1 Yr Limited Hardware Warranty, In-Home Service after Remote Diagnosis, 24×7 Phone Support

For less than $300. No coupons, no mail-in rebates. Just order it. Amazing.

I wonder what I can sell it for in 3 months when I no longer need it? $100? $50? A venti latte at Fourbucks?

Foul Queso

We were too lazy at New Year’s to make our own chili con queso, so we decided to try this:

Foul Queso

It is foul. We couldn’t get through a single 13-oz tub. Not on New Year’s End, not even half. When we looked at it in the refrigerator a few days later, nobody could work up any enthusiasm to try it again:

Foul Queso

Despite what the label says (“New Bowl, Same Great Taste!”) it’s not the same great taste. In fact, it’s a big-ass lie. The cheese sauce at Taco Bell is actually edible. (Arguably. I’m not saying it’s health food, or that it’s all-natural.) And even if you don’t like Taco Bell’s product, you’d see that this isn’t it from the 2nd photo. Tango Bravo cheese sauce is a brilliant day-glow yellow, not this muddy orange sludge. If you’ve never seen it, it’s almost worth navigating through the Flash-only Taco Bell web site to see them. Almost, but not quite. Flash-only web-sites should be boycotted, and you can just trust me that the cheese is a vibrant lemon-yellow color.

Anyway, this tub of whatever-it-is says “Taco Bell” on the label, but it’s actually made by Kraft rather than Taco Bell.

I was going to write Taco Bell’s corporate overlords (NYSE:YUM) and tell them they were morons to let Kraft (NYSE:KFT) dilute their brand selling nasty effluent like this. But the Taco Bell’s web site is content-free; if there’s a place that tells me where to send a letter like that, I couldn’t find it. (My idea was to send the letter to TB with a copy to Kraft.) Then I looked at the YUM! foods web site, which isn’t flash-only but is largely content-free. Kraft is no better.

What the hell is wrong with corporate America? Why do they make it so hard to tell them they’re screwing the pooch? Or are these uniquely stupid companies? I can’t buy a stick of gum from Wal-Mart without being asked questions about my shopping experience by the credit card scanner, and then the receipt importunes me to go online and take a survey. Why does Wal-Mart want so desperately to know what I think and Kraft and Taco Bell not care at all?