Dog-Waste Management

Freakonomics: “…In 1978, New York enacted its famous (and widely imitated) ‘pooper scooper’ law, and the city is plainly cleaner, poop-wise, than it was. But with a fine of just $50 for the first offense, the law doesn’t provide much financial incentive to pick up after your dog. Nor does it seem to be vigorously enforced. Let’s pretend that 99 percent of all dog owners do obey the law. That still leaves 10,000 dogs whose poop is left in public spaces each day. Over the last year, the city ticketed only 471 dog-waste violations, which suggests that the typical offender stands a roughly 1-in-8,000 chance of getting a ticket. So here’s a puzzle: why do so many people pick up after their dogs? This would seem to be a case in which social incentives – the hard glare of a passer-by and the offender’s feelings of guilt – are at least as powerful as financial and legal incentives.

If social forces get us most of the way there, how do we deal with the occasional miscreant who fails to scoop?” (New York Times Magazine)

Dubner and Levitt float a unique solution that, at first, sounds quite Rube-Goldberg-esque, but bears thinking about. Very entertaining having them as Times columnists.

The Dhimming of the West?

Thanks to walker for alerting me to this phenomenon and, more properly, to the fact that it has a name. Dhimmi is the Sharia (Islamic law) term for the status of a non-Muslim in a Muslim state. While some emphasize the official toleration of non-Muslims as a virtue of Islamic society, others focus on the restrictions that apply.

‘Dhimmis, “protected people,” are free to practice their religion in a Sharia regime, but are made subject to a number of humiliating regulations designed to enforce the Qur’an’s command that they “feel themselves subdued” (Sura 9:29).’(Lost Budgie Blog )

Some see in particular “an ongoing initiative by some Muslims to force British society to conform to Islamic standards.” Here is a website that exists solely to chronicle the supposedly stunningly rapid advancement of the “mentality of dhimmi servitude” in the West. In particular, there have been ongoing battles over the offense taken by the displays of pig-related items including toys, piggy banks and images of Winnie the Pooh’s friend Piglet.British schools have removed or restricted access to “anti-Muslim” children’s books including The Three Little Pigs, Charlotte’s Web, the Olivia and Babe series. Animal Farm, of course, offends as well. Supposedly, an employee of an Orlando, FL Muslim-owned business was fired for eating a BLT sandwich. And one commenter warns that depictions of dogs are more offensive than those of pigs..

In evaluating all this, however, we should take a hint from the fact that much of this alarm emanates from the righthand side of the weblog world, not exactly bastions of tolerance. This is in the mold of the longstanding tendency of the right to lampoon the excesses of political correctness as if they make a mockery of all of free speech and tolerance. Especially in the wake of the London bombings in the UK, one can expect an incidence of fearful misjudgments and overreactions from some British magistrates and civil authorities. String together the most egregious examples, throw in a sprinkling of US parallels, ignore all counterexamples, and you can thoroughly obscure the distinctions between toleration of Muslims in a multicultural society and encouragement of intolerant extremism. This all smacks of Dubya’s fatuous insistence that “they hate us because we are free.” Radical Islamists stand far less of a chance of bringing down Western freedoms (such as they are) than these anti-Muslim jihadists; we’re doing it for them. In general, we in the West have much more to fear from anti-Muslim totalitarianism than the ugly spectre of the Muslim kind these writers depict.

Abortion Might Outgrow Its Need for Roe v. Wade

“With the confirmation last week of John G. Roberts Jr. as chief justice of the United States, eyes turned to President Bush’s next judicial nominee, who, on a closely divided court, may determine the fate of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that recognized a woman’s right to an abortion. But such speculation overlooks a paradox in the abortion wars: while combatants focus on the law, technology is already changing the future of abortion, with or without the Supreme Court.” (New York Times )

‘Going Sane’: A Mad, Mad World

Review: “There are ‘no famously sane poets,’ writes the British psychoanalyst Adam Phillips. He might have added that there are no famously sane mathematicians, few notoriously even-keeled guitarists. On the stage of our cultural history, ‘the sane don’t have any memorable lines.’ So begins ‘Going Sane,’ Phillips’s unraveling of sanity. This book, like previous ones such as ‘On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored,’ brings his original and accessible readings of psychoanalytic thought to bear on some unexamined phrases of daily life. Historically, he argues, sanity has been consigned to one of two fates: it’s either been ignored because it’s not dramatic enough (Hamlet gets all the good lines), or it’s been written off by cultural critics (in a mad world, grumble malcontents from Rousseau to Foucault, only the crazy are authentic). Some of his categorical claims are inflated. Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, for example, spring to mind as imaginatively sane literary characters. Nevertheless, his broad story of sanity’s humble position in a madness-crazed culture is persuasive. We have detailed iconographies of insanity, but few compelling definitions of sanity.” (New York Times )

Dog-Waste Management

Freakonomics: “…In 1978, New York enacted its famous (and widely imitated) ‘pooper scooper’ law, and the city is plainly cleaner, poop-wise, than it was. But with a fine of just $50 for the first offense, the law doesn’t provide much financial incentive to pick up after your dog. Nor does it seem to be vigorously enforced. Let’s pretend that 99 percent of all dog owners do obey the law. That still leaves 10,000 dogs whose poop is left in public spaces each day. Over the last year, the city ticketed only 471 dog-waste violations, which suggests that the typical offender stands a roughly 1-in-8,000 chance of getting a ticket. So here’s a puzzle: why do so many people pick up after their dogs? This would seem to be a case in which social incentives – the hard glare of a passer-by and the offender’s feelings of guilt – are at least as powerful as financial and legal incentives.

If social forces get us most of the way there, how do we deal with the occasional miscreant who fails to scoop?” (New York Times Magazine)

Dubner and Levitt float a unique solution that, at first, sounds quite Rube-Goldberg-esque, but bears thinking about. Very entertaining having them as Times columnists.