Via Instapundit, the HUD is engaging in rather creepy behaviour: attempting to strong-arm towns across America into re-doing their zoning to achieve more diversity.
But the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development—the source of the $5 million planning grant used to fund the racial mapping—says that mapping is intended, in part, to identify suburban land-use and zoning practices that allegedly deny opportunity and create “barriers” for low-income and minority people. Under its forthcoming “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” rule, HUD will provide communities with “nationally uniform data” of what it views as an appropriate racial, ethnic and economic mix. Local governments will have to “take meaningful actions” to further the goals identified.
Let me explain something to these geniuses who want to re-engineer America: what makes an area a valuable place to live is the civic engagement of one’s neighbours, not the value of the property, the amount of property taxes, or the ethnic make-up of the town. All other things being equal, people would rather move into a street with a youth basketball coach, volunteer fireman, college alumni volunteer, and Boy Scout leader than one in which people sit on their arses all day and eat bonbons.
Maybe instead of browbeating nice, middle-class families about their zoning ordinances and lack of inclusiveness, these rocket surgeons in the bureaucracy could try giving lessons in civic engagement to the people they are trying to help. Our parks don’t get magically cleaned; money doesn’t fall from the sky to pay our science team and youth baseball coaches; our bake sales baked goods don’t spring into being like Athene from Zeus’ brow; and people who sit on town boards aren’t getting paid for their service. Moving in people with no idea of civic engagement only means that our towns will have fewer coaches, cleanup crews, and bake sale bakers per capita.
Okay, he didn’t quite say that, and “lies” is harsh.
I came across this article in the Harvard Business Review, citing a study which proves that wearing high-status brands signals to potential interviewers that you are more qualified and should be paid more money. (Story here.) Put on a Burberry and, voila!, people will think that are qualified and worth extra money.
The set-up itself was good: videos of the same interview, but some of them were edited to add a conspicuous logo to the interviewee’s attire. The problem is that the people analysing the interview are college students. Not only are they all barely legal to drink, at best (and therefore entirely unrepresentative of what a fifty-year-old interviewer may think), they have never hired someone for a position before.
The research is intriguing, but the proper conclusion may well be that young people with little experience rely heavily on outward indicators of success and status. It is entirely possible that older, more seasoned interviewers would dislike status signalling (and, anecdotally, I know a few who prefer hungry and ambitious to spoiled and wealthy).
Cat Owners Survival Guide.
I’ve just given up on my carpet. At this point, I cover my bedspread with a blanket so that Sir Pukes A Lot will throw up on something easily washable.
Sorry for the lack of blogging recently. I have thirty or so articles lined up in my email, all ready to type something about… and I haven’t had the chance. Mea culpa.
Anyway, onto actual blogging. In January, Lilly Pulitzer announced that it would be pairing with Target to come out with a special line for the store. Mayhem ensued. Last weekend, the brand hit stores, and even more mayhem ensued. Target’s server almost crashed; the stores were sold out in hours; and throngs of Lilly-loving bargain hunters cleaned the place out.
This is fodder for the commetariat set, who enjoy the shrieking about how Lilly would be rolling over in her grave, or how this is so gauche. Charlotte Wilder covers it here, but she falls into the “Lilly is for snobs” trap.
Look, kids: Lilly Pulitzer isn’t about being snobbish, exclusive, or elite. It’s about being fun. In case you can’t tell from the giant animals in bright pastels, Lilly apparel and accessories are about enjoying life. You can buy secondhand Lilly (there’s even a Facebook group for it!), Lilly on sale, or wear your Lilly for years. My great aunt tried to steal my Lilly Pulitzer bracelet over Christmas. She has dementia, so it’s probably not a brand recognition thing; it’s because it’s super-cute and shiny:
Who can resist that, whether it’s sold in Target or on Martha’s Vineyard? So cute.
If you see “fun” and “lighthearted” and immediately think of dour snobbery, it’s not the country club set with the problem. Get yourself a flamingo dress, a mai tai, and a pedicure, and come back to us.
Neil says it well.
The K-cups that I throw away every week can fit in my hand. We aren’t talking the Exxon-Valdez spill here.
A Chinese Buddha statue that dates from approximately the 11th or 12th century was found to have a mummified monk inside of it as well as even older pieces of rolled textile carpet, covered in Chinese text. (Story from LiveScience.com)
The Buddha statue itself is made of gold-plated papier-mâché and, according to the carbon dating performed on it, was created around the eleventh or twelfth century. The monk inside of the statue may have performed self-mummification, wherein he slowly starved himself to death in a way that would promote mummification and reduce decay. His body was then placed in a lotus position inside of the statue.
It’s interesting that we think of this as a mummified monk who was surprisingly found inside of a Buddha statue, rather than viewing the statue itself as a part of the mummification. Here is the CT scan of the mummy:
Given that the Buddha statue seems to have so precisely matched the contours of the monk’s remains, it appears to be an artistic, elaborate coffin, rather than a statue that just happens to have a corpse hidden inside of it. (Just bear in mind that my study of the classics was limited to Greece, Rome, and a smidge of Egypt, and ended sometime around 400 AD.)
The Rosetta spacecraft inadvertently took a picture of its own shadow when it snapped a high-resolution image of Comet 67P. (Story.) Because this is the twenty-first century, wherein spacecraft take their own pictures on comets, the European Space Agency tweeted thus:
Timothy Norris of Wichita, Kansas attempted to pay his $600 property tax bill in one dollar bills that were folded so tightly that it took personnel six minutes to unfold each of them. Rather than spend approximately two and a half days of man-hours unfolding the bills, the tax agency requested that Mr. Norris depart the premises. When he refused, the police were summoned. Norris resisted arrest and was charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest. (Story here.)
Mr. Norris claims that most of the bills were one-dollar bills that were banded together, along with 150 origami-folded bills and $250 worth of unfolded $5, $10, and $20 bills. (The tax bill was $497.17.) Norris says,
“They didn’t make it convenient for me whenever they raised the taxes every year,” he said. “Why should I make it convenient for them?”
After unfolding $25-worth of money, Norris said he changed his mind and took the money back once the clerk started ripping and tearing the bills to get them flat. This also prompted him to abandon his plan, and he said he had no intention of using the folded money when he returned Jan. 28.
However, Norris said he also had to pay for a vehicle registration tag that day, costing him an extra $180 he did not expect. Because of this, he was left with only $450 for his property bill in unfolded money, forcing him to pull $50 out from the 150 folded one-dollar-bills he still had with him.
Sheriff David Duke claims that there was far more than $50 in folded bills, since it took his officers 2.5 hours to unfold them. The deputies had to unfold the bills because a person’s possessions are inventoried at the time of arrest.
Some of the confusion is likely between what Duke had on him at the time (i.e. $150 in origami-folded bills) and what he intended to pay with (i.e. many of the unfolded bills). I admire the man’s initiative and persistence, but can see how government officials would find such stunts a bit boring after a while. Perhaps Wichita and other municipalities ought to offer some sort of ‘discount’ to those who pay in convenient form, which is really just a surcharge on those who pay in pennies, folded bills, etc.
In the Daily Mail UK, Jessica Szalacinski discusses her experiences as a surrogate mother. She enjoyed bearing children for gay couples who could not do so, but loathed the discussions she had with a very rich, very famous couple who wanted a hot egg donor, picked the sex of the child, and ordered her to have an abortion if more than one embryo was successfully implanted in her womb. (Story here.)
The sensationalism of the rich-and-famous eugenicists aside, even ‘ideal’ surrogacy arrangements are morally problematic. Of Ms Szalacinski’s pregnancy and delivery, the Daily Mail writes, “In the delivery room, the baby was whisked away as quickly as possible, before any ‘biological urge’ could present itself.”
Maybe I’m some backwater dolt, but here’s my rule of thumb for when a newfangled medical procedure is ethical and when it crosses the line: if you are treating a mother’s love for the child she carried in her womb as a problem, you have gone seriously astray in life. This love is integral to the survival of the human race and is also a cornerstone of what makes us human, yet any surrogacy arrangement demands that this love, this desire to treasure and protect a newborn baby, be treated as a ‘biological urge’ that is best ignored and suppressed.
In April of 2010, Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of ObamaCare and an adviser to the Obama Administration, suggested that we tax people based on their weight. (Full essay here.) The theory is that fat people spend more in health care dollars, so we can tax to “modify behavior and raise revenue.”
If people who smoke, drink, don’t work out, or are professional bungee jumpers have higher health care costs than everyone else, then I have no problem with a private insurance company raising their rates. We do this for auto and homeowner’s insurance all the time: you pay more if you speed, drive drunk, or live in a place that gets hit by hurricanes. A private insurance company that charges people too much for various “sins” will lose those customers; an insurance company that charges too little will lose money. The force of the free market will push companies to get the most accurate risk assessment possible, and those companies would be just as happy with people quitting smoking and paying less as they would with smokers paying a penalty to cover their additional costs.
None of this is true about government sin taxes. Aside from the creepy and coercive nature of the government attempting to regulate our lives through financial penalties, extorted from us with the threat of jail if we do not comply, the government will tend to rely on increased ‘sin’ revenue. The money from cigarettes or adipose that pays for schools will no longer be there if people quit smoking or slim down. The government also has an incentive to increase this tax to the point just before political backlash: there is no downward pressure from competing governments that are ready to charge an amount that is more tailored to the expenses incurred from such weight.
Economics of sin taxes and insurance premiums aside, this is also problematic because weight is not what causes people to incur excess health care costs: it is fat, lack of physical fitness, high blood pressure, low muscle mass, and a host of other things. Most likely, the government will simply calculate our BMIs and tax us, rather than attempt the fine-tuned calculation of taxing people whose body composition puts them at a higher risk for health problems. It also highlights one of the many problems with socialised medicine: once you are forced to pay for some stranger’s health care, you have every right and incentive to stick your nose in that stranger’s business and dictate how his life ought to be run. It’s an ugly business, served up to us in the name of compassion.