Thursday, June 4, 2009

Letters To The Editor!

One of my favorite blog formats involves letters to the editor, generally submitted to The Capital. I reproduce the text of the letter, then provide accurate, witty, and insightful commentary in response to the points the letter writers are trying to make. The benefits of such are a format are twofold:

1. I can engage in a debate without giving the person I am debating a chance to respond, which makes it much less stressful for me.

2. Letter writers feel compelled to write about a variety of issues, which gives me the chance to comment on many issues that would otherwise be irrelevant.

Today, we have 2 letters. Let's begin!

I noticed gasoline prices are slowly climbing up again, a few cents more every few days.

I recently noticed Mrs. Politics was slowly taking more and more pennies out of my piggy bank, but you don't see me complaining.

On Sunday night the gasoline was $2.39 and on Monday morning the same gas station had changed it to $2.45. I cannot understand why gasoline would go up from a Sunday night to a Monday morning by 6 cents.

I have a bad feeling about where this letter is going. As one former Ward 1 Alderman infamously said, 'I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you.'

When I asked the Maryland Department of Energy (Director Woolf) this question I was transferred four times to a different phone line, and after that I received no answer.

My goodness. OVERREACTION. Even if you assume that the state department of energy knew why a single gas station raised it prices, and even if you further assume that they could do something about it, a gas price increase of 2.5% justify a call to a government agency when gas prices have famously been up and down to the order of 100% in 1 year? (Answer: no.)

It seems that nobody can explain to me why the gas is going up again in the past few weeks. All I wanted was a simple explanation. I tried asking the gas station owner, and everyone gives you a different answer.
KATHY, Annapolis

For everything you might want to know about gas prices, click HERE. But, Kathy, you asked for a simple explanation, so I'm going to give it to you. There are only 2 possible reasons why the price of gas might have changed:

1. supply
2. demand

Retail gas stations are one of the most awesome studies in capitalism one could want. There are basically an unlimited amount of places that could sell you gas, all of those places sell the same thing, and the price of that thing is posted on a huge sign. The risk of collusion amongst gas station owners, as well as the risk of arbitrary or predatory pricing, is low. If one gas station raises the price, you can go to another station, and the original gas station will not make any money.

So, why specifically may the price have gone up? Here are some possible reasons:

-increased demand for Memorial Day Weekend
-increased demand due to summer/vacation traveling
-increase in the price gas stations have to pay to get the gasoline

I suspect if you look at recent economic news you will find evidence suggesting some combination of those things is at work.

And on to the next letter.

On the night of May 29, I was astonished to see the platoon of local police and state troopers loitering the Dock Street area.

Do platoons exist in police forces? Also, it is not so astonishing to see police officers on patrol near a crowded area.

The officers, who were decked out in their tactical body armor as if an invasion was imminent,..

an imminent invasion?

..blatantly parked their cruisers in the middle of the street. While the officers focused their attention to the pretty women waiting to get inside the bar, vehicular traffic was forced to zig-zag around their cruisers.

I get the feeling that this guy really doesn't like the police. So far he has characterized them as being in a military unit and wearing body armor, all the while chatting up bar-going ladies. I often wear body armor when talking to women, for reasons I wish not to reveal.

The scene immediately reminded me of the Gestapo during World War II or the Berlin border of 1985.

Ah yes, I remember that the main complaint against the Gestapo was their disruption of traffic patterns.

At what point did the city of Annapolis sacrifice freedom for security? I completely understand the importance of projecting an image of security for the people of Annapolis. This method projected fear, not security.
ANTONIO, Annapolis

Allright. First of all, it sounds like they were actually providing security, rather than "projecting an image of security". If people were waiting in line to get into a bar, as you mention, that means the time of day was nighttime. Having police near the bars at nighttime seems like a very reasonable police practice.

And on to what I really wanted to talk about: freedom vs. security. I believe that security always comes before freedom, provided the decrease in freedom really does provide an increase in security. 'Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness' are famously listed as unalienable rights, but life comes before liberty both in the wording of the Declaration, and logically.

Now, this doesn't mean that our rights can be infringed upon cart blanche based on a vague correlation to a public safety danger. I have devised some examples:

-having money involuntarily taken from you (taxes) and used to fund a national military: acceptable.
-being confined to your home by the government to prevent possible spread of cold virus: unacceptable.
-having to zig-zag around police cars so officers can address possible problems with late night bar patrons: acceptable.
-being involuntarily drafted into military service: ehh, ??
-allowing warrantless wire taps to prevent terrorist attacks: ehh, ??

There is much room for debate. However, if the abridgement of rights is justified by an increase in safety, then we should be ready to sacrifice some freedom.


Eye On Annapolis said...

Whew--for a moment there I thought they were waiting for the imminent invasion to affect the eminent domain seizure of the Market House!

Anonymous said...


Glad to see you're back; I've missed reading your witty blog.

I like the letters to the editor format.

On gas prices, you do an excellent job of explaining the demand side.

On the supply side, I think the last time this country built a new refinery, we were all wearing bell bottoms and leisure suits.

Bob McWilliams