Pirate Party of the United States

I have always been a fan of third parties … here is one which is one day old, the
Pirate Party of the United States
. It takes its lead from Sweden’s Piratpartiet and has a clear “information wants to be free” agenda. Copyright and patents must have their uses, but clearly, they are being exploited for private gain and not the public good. I believe a good open debate on what is property and what property deserves the state’s monopoly of force to defend is warranted.
I would imagine if they thought about it, The Pirate Party would be for “free roads” too, though.

High Speed Rail Fact Sheet

The proposed California High Speed Rail line would be more expensive than every other active HSR proposal in the country put together. While subsidized by everyone who pays the regressive sales tax, its users would have a higher than average income, so it is a subsidy from the poor to the rich. It would cost about $600-$1000 person or $2000-$3000 per California household before a single trip is made. This money could support about 20,000 teachers or police perpetually. For every $1 spent by the passenger, it would entail $4 in public subsidy, twice the annual expenditure of the State Transportation Improvement Program

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The Box

The Box by Marc Levinson (no relation, despite the fact he writes books on transportation) is a new book on the history of container shipping. It is a fascinating account of this method of shipping’s birth in multiple places, but primarily fostered by Malcom McLean, through its growth and expansion, driving the evolution of both the ships that containers sail on as well as the ports at which they are transferred.

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Airport Security

I wrote this letter to Senator Mark Dayton in 2002 concerning Airline security. Given his crackerjack reputation overall and for constituent services, I suppose it is no surprise that I received no response.

July 29, 2002
The Honorable Senator Mark Dayton
SR-346, Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, District of Columbia 20510Dear Senator Dayton,

I write to you concerning airport security policy. The recently created Transportation Security Administration is (or will soon be) responsible for screening passengers at all major airports. A large portion of their cost is paid by a passenger ticket tax that is uniform for all passengers. Yet airlines (to be specific, United Airlines at Chicago O’Hare as one example), are giving privileged access to those security terminals to “first class”? and other “priority passengers”?. Those passengers paid more for their tickets to get a better seat on the plane, and other benefits from United Airlines. They did not pay to get better security, yet they are getting first dibs on passage through the security line. This is because United Airlines is managing the line approaching security to ensure this (they are not managing the security itself). This strikes me as a loophole and against the spirit of the rules, if not the letter. These privileged passengers are jumping the queue; thereby making other passengers, who paid exactly the same security tax, wait longer. This is worse than allowing people to pay to drive in a toll lane parallel to a free lane – which you opposed on I-394 several years ago. I believe this is unfair, and I thought this policy had been eliminated already. While money and wealth do buy some advantages in our society, everyone should be equal under the law. Police service should not be faster for the rich than the poor. I urge you to investigate this matter and rectify this situation. Lines are capable of managing themselves, as shown throughout the transportation sector, without airline herders giving advantages to some travelers at the expense of others. This is particularly pertinent given the large subsidies the airlines are receiving over the past year.

Please contact me at the above address if you, or your staff, wish to discuss further,


Professor David Levinson

Enclosing the Commons

According to the Strib, the City of Minneapolis is trying to keep strangers out of alleys:A back-alley approach to fight crime in Minneapolis. The alleys will essentially become private streets for the residents.
From the article ‘”If you don’t live there on that block there’s no reason to be in the alley,” said Killebrew, who proposed the ordinance to the city attorney.’
Well I can think of reasons, namely taking a walk and looking at the backs of houses, which provides lots of entertainment for law-abiding folks in the summer, doubling the amount of entertainment that can be had from simply looking at the fronts of houses.
I just don’t understand how this is supposed to help. If you have already broken the law (or intend to), the alley ordinance doesn’t seem like much of a disincentive. Neighbors might now report more suspicious activity (where “strangers” in the alley are suspicious), but nosy neighbors are pretty good at that in Minneapolis already.
See enclosure and private road.

The Thick Of It

I have just started watching The Thick of It on BBC Four and BBC America. A weird combination of Yes Minister and The Office, it hilariously captures the rise of public relations over substance in the bureaucracy. It reminded me of the politically hyper-sensitive reign of current Congressional candidateElwyn Tinklenberg as Transportation Commissioner in Minnesota during the Ventura administration.
My favorite quote of course is in Episode One when the then Minister of Home Affairs is being told to resign, and he suggests the Transport Minister resign instead, and the political aide says something like “We can’t fire him. Transport, that’s important stuff, you know, cars, trucks, roads” and the doomed Minister of Home Affairs says “I know what Transport is”.
— dml