Smoking bans snuff out bar jobs

Do smoking bans hurt businesses? A new article by Michael R. Pakko, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, says yes.

I don’t pay much attention to arguments about the economic effects of smoking bans — it’s a question of free association, not business profits. This is a good review though, and worth keeping in mind when ban proponents implausibly argue that bans will bring out in droves the people who currently stay home because of their aversion to smoke.


Getting on the wagon

I think this cure would leave me unfit to consume anything, not just alcohol, but it’s worth a shot if you’re desperate:

c. 1500 According to J.D. Rolleston, a British medical historian, a medieval Russian cure for drunkenness consisted in “taking a piece of pork, putting it secretly in a Jew’s bed for nine days, and then giving it to the drunkard in a pulverized form, who will turn away from drinking as a Jew would from pork.” [Quoted in Roueche, op. cit. p. 144]

The rest of the drug timeline is here.


Boycott Budweiser?

Don’t mind if I do! I’ve been “boycotting” Bud products for as long as I’ve been drinking beer, but Tom Pearson reports that there’s a reason besides taste to do so: In Birmingham, the local distributor is actively opposing legislation that would lift the state’s ban on beers that are high in alcohol or served in bottles larger than a pint — in other words, lots of really, really good beers.

Just brewing Budweiser is crime enough, but actively preventing Alabamans from having the option of something better is even worse. I feel your pain, Tom. Luckily I can soothe mine with a big bottle of Allagash. I’ll be thinking of you.

Get the details at Free the Hops.


Blue Bottle’s new machine

Looks like I need to go to San Francisco again. The New York Times reports that Blue Bottle — makers of the best espresso I’ve ever tasted — have a very cool new coffee brewer from Japan:

With its brass-trimmed halogen heating elements, glass globes and bamboo paddles, the new contraption that is to begin making coffee this week at the Blue Bottle Café here looks like a machine from a Jules Verne novel, a 19th-century vision of the future.

Called a siphon bar, it was imported from Japan at a total cost of more than $20,000. The cafe has the only halogen-powered model in the United States, and getting it here required years of elliptical discussions with its importer, Jay Egami of the Ueshima Coffee Company.

It’s an elaborate series of vacuum brewers, heated by halogen lamps. It looks fantastic.

The article also gives a lot of space to discussing the Clover, the high-end single cup brewer that’s proliferating across the country.


Aztek: The Ultimate Car

The Aztek has been out of production for two years, but it’s still tearing up the sales charts. 25 cars sold in 2007! That probably ties it with back issue sales of the equally strange-looking Aztek: The Ultimate Man comic. Clearly, Aztek is a name with branding issues.

I’m a proud member of the group AutoBlog describes as those “who appreciate the practical design of the Aztek’s interior layout, smooth ride and the world’s best built anti-theft device (i.e. its looks).” Its humor value is also a big bonus.

Hat tip: Courtney, closet Aztek lover.

The Aztek that should have been
A car that makes children cry


The Post <3 libertarians

Sunday’s Washington Post Outlook section included an op-ed from my Cato colleague Tom Firey and I on Virginia’s proposed smoking ban. Amazingly, we’re against it! The section also featured Reason editors Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie telling Congress to butt out of baseball’s steroid controversy.


Praise for the hometown

Cato’s Randal O’Toole praises Houston in the Chronicle:

Houston is the freest major city in America, with no zoning and only moderate government intrusions into how property owners use their land. This freedom has made Houston the most affordable major city in America, with housing costs that are less than half of most other major urban areas. This freedom has also created an innovative and growth-friendly environment that is creating tens of thousands of new jobs each year.

Read the whole thing here.


Calvados times two

It’s a good thing this month’s Mixology Monday closes at midnight Pacific Standard Time, because otherwise I’d never have made it in under the wire. First a plugin I installed to make my site faster completely backfired, then literally minutes after that was fixed DreamHost ran into tons of database problems. Now everything is finally working… for the moment. It’s a enough to make a guy hit the brandy.

Luckily, that’s the theme for this MxMo, hosted by Marleigh at Sloshed! (Thanks, Marleigh!)

At Open City, the bar where I work, we have a tea called Chaucer’s Cup from Serendipitea. It’s a tisane made from dried apples and mangos, cloves, cardamom, ginger, and various other fruits and spices. It’s popularly served here infused into hot apple cider.

Chaucer’s Toddy

It’s a tea I rarely drink, but it struck me that the tea and the bottle of calvados (French apple brandy) I’ve been enjoying at home would naturally go together. And so Chaucer’s Toddy was born:

6 oz Chaucer’s cup tea
2 oz calvados
1 cinnamon stick

Chaucer’s Toddy

This one came together on the first try. It’s very basic, with no sweetener or lemon added as is done in many toddies. Either addition could be alright, but the apple in the tea and the apple in the brandy go together so well that there’s no reason to add distractions. Simple, but it works.

This MxMo also gave me the reason I needed to open up a beer I’ve been holding on to for about a year, J. W. Lees Harvest Ale Calvados Cask, brewed in 2005. It’s an English barley wine at 11.5% abv, a serious ale. It pours with a lot of sediment, has just a little carbonation, and is richly sweet, malty, and well-balanced. The hint of the brandy is subtle. I don’t often get to drink Lees’ Harvest Ales, and if I did I might have been able to pick out more of the barrel’s contribution. Even so, it’s a great beer, perfect for capping a winter weekend and following a hot calvados toddy.

[Cross-posted at Eatfoo.]

Update 1/19/08: Marleigh’s got the complete round-up here.


Saturday night Dog’s Nose

It’s Saturday night and before going out I’m feeling like tinkering in the home bar, so I start browsing through Gary Regan’s The Joy of Mixology to find something new I can make with the ingredients I have on hand. Eventually I hit on the Dog’s Nose:

12 ounces porter or stout, microwaved to luke warm
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 ounces gin
freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish

The Dog’s Nose is mentioned in Dickens’ Pickwick Papers, in which a character named Mr. Walker blames his habit for taking the drink for losing the use of his right hand. Not exactly a strong endorsement for a cocktail that combines warm stout with gin…

Even so, I try it out. It’s actually pretty good! A weird combination, but it works, and makes a nice drink for a winter night. The kind of drink I’ll enjoy just on occasion, rarely enough that I expect I’ll be using my right hand for a long time to come. (No jokes about my dating life, please!)

I hated reading A Tale of Two Cities in high school, but this concoction evens the score between Dickens and me.


Where will Paul’s campaign money go?

At Volokh, Ilya Somin writes about the opportunity cost of donating to the Ron Paul campaign. That is, given how things have turned out, think of what better use these dollars could have been put to in the hands of a group like the Institute for Justice.

A more troubling cost is how the remaining money may yet be spent. From my understanding of the law, Paul could donate leftover millions to a non-profit organization of his choosing. Yes, I believe this includes the Ludwig von Mises Institute, the group that’s been vocally supporting Paul and that’s currently headed by the guy widely thought to have been his frequent ghost writer when the offensive newsletters were published.

11 CFR 113.2(b) provides [pdf]: “In addition to defraying expenses in connection with a campaign for federal office, funds in a campaign account . . . [m]ay be contributed to any organization described in section 170(c) of Title 26, of the United States Code . . . .” [meaning organizations who may receive tax-deductible contributions.]

I’m not a lawyer, so I may be incorrect. However this seems like a direct application of the law. For those of us who donated to the campaign, this would not be a thrilling outcome.


Once more on Paul

That Ron Paul bumper sticker looked so good on my Pontiac Aztek. Now I have two things to be embarrassed about when I drive.

Between Paul’s 1996 responses, his current non-response, his likely dishonesty on CNN, and his continued close association with the rumored author of the newsletters, I’m through hoping for a sufficient apology. As David Boaz writes at the Cato weblog:

Ron Paul isn’t running for president. He’s not going to be president, he’s not going to be the Republican nominee for president, and he never hoped to be. He got into the race to advance ideas — the ideas of peace, constitutional government, and freedom. Succeeding beyond his wildest dreams, he became the most visible so-called “libertarian” in America. And now he and his associates have slimed the noble cause of liberty and limited government…

Those words are not libertarian words. Maybe they reflect “paleoconservative” ideas, though they’re not the language of Burke or even Kirk. But libertarianism is a philosophy of individualism, tolerance, and liberty. As Ayn Rand wrote, “Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.” Making sweeping, bigoted claims about all blacks, all homosexuals, or any other group is indeed a crudely primitive collectivism.

Libertarians should make it clear that the people who wrote those things are not our comrades, not part of our movement, not part of the tradition of John Locke, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, and Robert Nozick. Shame on them.


Ron Paul on Wolf Blitzer

Ron Paul appeared on Wolf Blitzer today to talk about his old newsletters. It’s on YouTube, parts one and two.

Paul repudiates the charges of racism, apparently to Wolf’s satisfaction. He denies knowing who wrote the articles, knowing how to find that out, and reading them when they were published. These last three claims are hard to swallow.

Watching the videos, my impression is of a good man whose sense of integrity is pulling him in two different directions. Pulling in one direction is his honesty; in the other, his loyalty to old friends. Sadly, he’s chosen the wrong friends, and he’s misguidedly protecting them at the sacrifice of his own reputation.

Then again, perhaps I’m just reading libertarian blog rumors into the situation. With neither Paul nor the author(s) coming forward, it’s too damn hard to be sure.

Update 1/11: The rumors are going mainstream. Here’s The Economist naming names.


Ron Paul hates orcs

From a mass email the Ron Paul campaign sent out today:

Does this mean our campaign has done everything right? No! We have made mistakes, and will make them again. Not only because errors are to be found in any human endeavor, but because an effort like this, to repeal a hundred years and more of evil, is brand-new on the face of the earth. But now is the time to stick together like the brothers and sisters we are, to stand side by side in this fight against the media toadies, warmongers, and Wall Street rip-off artists who stand against us, and who always remind me of Tolkein’s Orcs.

I can believe that this was actually written by an aide. And statistically speaking, 95% of Orcs probably are criminals. But this isn’t Middle Earth anymore.

Seriously though, complaining about the media and brushing aside mistakes is not the best response to the coverage of the past few days.


Magical Macbeth

I passed on the all-nude Macbeth that played in Arlington last year, but I won’t be missing Teller’s production. Teller, the usually silent half of Penn and Teller, is bringing gory illusion to the play:

Years of close reading, of seeing productions and screen versions that he’s sometimes tolerated but mostly loathed — “Hate is one of the best fuels for artistic endeavor” — have led Teller to an epiphany or two. An example: “Macbeth” is a supernatural horror thriller. “I’ve begun to think that one of its themes is a lack of understanding about where reality leaves off and your own internal perceptions begin,” he said. “The play is full of allusions to hallucinations. Macbeth has hallucinations. Mrs. Macbeth has hallucinations.

“I thought it might be a very interesting idea to do a production in which all the magic stuff fooled audiences so that they’d be in the exact same position as Macbeth. I know it’s a pretty cerebral idea, the idea that we’re trying to see what it’s like to be Macbeth. But,” he added with palpable delight, “where it leads you is some very weird places.”

“Macbeth,” as envisioned by Teller, is not, as in many versions, a downer with a glum title character. “I just think that pushes things in the wrong direction,” he said. The right direction? “It’s a thrill ride,” he said. “The play was written essentially to make James I happy, and he was a paranoid schizophrenic who believed in witchcraft. So ‘Macbeth’ is a wonderful paranoid schizophrenic fantasy and everyone is having a jolly good fiendish time. If there’s one thing we’ll try not to miss is how much fun this play is.”

After opening in New Jersey, the play will come to DC’s Folger theater starting in February.


Ron Paul in Texas Monthly

I vaguely recall reading this Texas Monthly profile of Ron Paul. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember this part:

Then [political adversary] Morris’ subalterns dug up something even more damaging to Paul: copies of a 1992 newsletter he had published that contained racially tinted remarks.

They caused a minor sensation. In one issue of the Ron Paul Survival Report, which he had published since 1985, he called former U.S. representative Barbara Jordan a “fraud” and a “half-educated victimologist.” In another issue, he cited reports that 85 percent of all black men in Washington, D.C., are arrested at some point: “Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the ‘criminal justice system,’ I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.” And under the headline “Terrorist Update,” he wrote: “If you have ever been robbed by a black teenaged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be.”

In spite of calls from Gary Bledsoe, the president of the Texas State Conference of the NAACP, and other civil rights leaders for an apology for such obvious racial typecasting, Paul stood his ground. He said only that his remarks about Barbara Jordan related to her stands on affirmative action and that his written comments about blacks were in the context of “current events and statistical reports of the time.” He denied any racist intent. What made the statements in the publication even more puzzling was that, in four terms as a U. S. congressman and one presidential race, Paul had never uttered anything remotely like this.

When I ask him why, he pauses for a moment, then says, “I could never say this in the campaign, but those words weren’t really written by me. It wasn’t my language at all. Other people help me with my newsletter as I travel around. I think the one on Barbara Jordan was the saddest thing, because Barbara and I served together and actually she was a delightful lady.” Paul says that item ended up there because “we wanted to do something on affirmative action, and it ended up in the newsletter and became personalized. I never personalize anything.”

His reasons for keeping this a secret are harder to understand: “They were never my words, but I had some moral responsibility for them . . . I actually really wanted to try to explain that it doesn’t come from me directly, but they [campaign aides] said that’s too confusing. ‘It appeared in your letter and your name was on that letter and therefore you have to live with it.'” It is a measure of his stubbornness, determination, and ultimately his contrarian nature that, until this surprising volte-face in our interview, he had never shared this secret. It seems, in retrospect, that it would have been far, far easier to have told the truth at the time.

The article confirms that Paul very foolishly allowed his name to be used on articles he didn’t and wouldn’t write, then through some warped sense of loyalty to the author(s) and undue deference to his advisors opted to try and defend them rather than take immediate responsibility for his mistake. And even though this should have destroyed his campaign, he won a seat in Congress. Having escaped unscathed once before, it’s perhaps understandable why he thinks it’s not a big deal this time around.

But it is a big deal. It’s a huge deal. His failure to see that has not only alienated him from many of his supporters, but tarnished the image of libertarian ideas for people who have been exposed to them for the first time through Paul’s presidential run. We’re all paying now for his unwillingness to repudiate these statements the first time they were used against him. Simply issuing a press release that they are “old news” and declaring that they do not represent his beliefs isn’t going to make them go away; the flippancy with which he’s treating their reappearance shows that his sensitivity to these matters hasn’t much improved since 1996.

In fact, if the Texas Monthly writer is correct that his interview is the first in which Paul publicly denied writing these abhorrent passages, then Paul’s statement yesterday that “for over a decade, I have publicly taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name” is not true. He seems to be implying that he has taken responsibility since his campaign to return to Congress, or at least since 1998. The profile was published in late 2001.

[Via Virginia Postrel, whose thoughts on the matter are posted here and here.]

Update 1/10: As always, read Jim Henley too.

Update 1/11: Jim points out that Paul had ample opportunity to denounce the statements in 1996 and clearly didn’t. Combined with his thoroughly unconvincing appearance on CNN last night and his continued close association with the probable author of the articles, I no longer think there’s anyway to deny Paul’s culpability in their publication.