28 February 2007

But How Does It Effect AIDS Transmission?

Largo official preparing for sex change: Times Exclusive: City Manager Steve Stanton told the Times this morning he is undergoing counseling and treatments. He plans to remain in his city position. (Lorri Helfand, St. Petersburg Times, 2/28/07)
The mayor at his side, longtime Largo City Manager Steve Stanton disclosed to the St. Petersburg Times on Wednesday he is undergoing hormone therapy and counseling in preparation for a sex-change operation.

Through the process, which could take well over a year, Stanton plans to remain as the chief executive of this city of 76,000. He has the support of Mayor Pat Gerard, who was elected last March.

“He’s a dedicated city manager and puts his job first,” she said.

Stanton, 48, said he eventually will change his name to Susan, the name his late mother would have given him if he had been a girl.
Sure, blame the mother.

Just Asking

I've had an inquiry as to when we're going to start reading another book in unison. I'm more than willing to participate and even lead/moderate, but I think we should pick a book that everyone is eager to read or reread.

Al Gore Rejects Kyoto

Others more qualified than I are doing a wonderful job ridiculing Al Gore for using twice as much electricity in a month than the average family uses in a year. Gore argues that his energy use is ok because he buys carbon offsets, and he is also getting in trouble on that score.

There is, though, an interesting fillip that I haven't seen pointed out. When Al Gore was negotiating the Kyoto accords, he argued on behalf of the Clinton Administration that the treaty should include three types of carbon offsets. First, so-called "hot air" trading so that the US could buy credits from Russia, which would receive credits because of the post-communist collapse of its industrial base. This would account for about one-third of the US "reduction" in carbon emissions. Second, carbon-sink credits for the carbon absorbed in US forests and through reforesting. The Clinton Administration hoped to get another third of US reductions in this way. Third, a "Clean Development Mechanism" in which the US would get credit for funding cleaner energy generation and use in the developing world. This would account for about 15% of the US reduction. In other words, like Al Gore today, the Clinton administration hoped to satisfy about 80% of the US commitment to reduced carbon dioxide emissions without actually reducing carbon dioxide emissions at all.

Environmentalists howled. Here's one typical comment:
If the US gets its way, environmental groups charge that greenhouse gas emissions in the US could increase by 18 percent from 1990 levels-while still technically meeting its reduction targets.

"Accounting gimmicks may fool bureaucrats, but they will not fool Mother Nature," said Alden Meyer, director of government relations for the Union of Concerned Scientists. "The climate treaty must make real cuts of real pollution or the severe storms and other impacts that we are already starting to see will only get worse."
The EU, which intended to use the economic decline of Eastern Europe and Russia to help meet its goals (which is why 1990 was used as the benchmark year) blocked must of these offsets. It's nice to see Mr. Gore sticking to his guns rejecting Europe and the environmentalists and decreasing his carbon footprint without actually decreasing his carbon use.

27 February 2007

Condi Almost Gets The Call

Apparently, the Taliban sent a suicide bomber to take a doomed chance to kill Vice President Cheney. The Vice President survived, the suicide bomber didn't.

How Lawyers Think

Instapundit points us to this blog entry claiming that this First Circuit decision "reaffirmed the broad protection this statute [the Communications Decency Act] provides to bloggers." The odd thing is that the words "blog" and "bloggers" doesn't appear anywhere in the decision. Why does the American Constitution Society think that the decision applies to bloggers?

Lycos runs the Raging Bull stock discussion board site, which, if you've never been there, is a complete and total zoo. A publicly traded company sued Lycos claiming that it was responsible, under state and federal law, for comments left there by pseudonymous commenters allegedly defaming the plaintiff's stock. Lycos successfully moved to dismiss, arguing that it was immune to suit under the Communications Decency Act. The appeals court agreed, noting that:
Section 230 provides that "[n]o provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider," 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1), and that "[n]o cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this section," id. § 230(e)(3).
An "information content provider" is "any person or entity that is responsible, in whole or in part, for the creation or development of information provided through the Internet or any other interactive computer service." 47 U.S.C. § 230(f)(3).

Why does the ACS think that Lycos is like a blogger and the posters on Raging Bull like commenters? Obviously, if one looks at the Secret Blog, Lycos is like Google, which owns Blogger, provides our blogging software and hosts the site. I am like the Raging Bull commenters (hopefully, only functionally), and thus this decision stands for the proposition that Google is not responsible for any of my nonsense. [And for the first time in months, David C. Drummond breathes easy.] But does it stand for the proposition that I am not responsible for the maunderings of the Secretians?

The answer is that it does, and it doesn't. If Google is sued in the District of Massachusetts, which is part of the First Circuit, for something I say, it can bring forward this decision and argue that it is binding precedent that the District Court is compelled to accept. But if I am sued for something you people do, I have to make a slightly different argument. I have to argue that this is a persuasive precedent that the District Court should accept. I have to look at the First Circuit's reasoning and argue (here, a pretty simple argument) that the reasons for the First Circuit's decision also apply here and that this decision indicates that, if faced with the issue of holding a blogger responsible for the actions of a commenter, the First Circuit would surely decide for the blogger.

Based on this decision, we can say with some confidence that the First Circuit, or at least these three First Circuit judges, would rule for the blogger. We cannot say with absolute certainty that it would do so. For example, the court might hold that a blogger is different from Lycos because a blogger chooses the topics to be discussed and frames the discussion. The blogger is also somewhat responsible for the tone and tenor of his comment section. Is it, therefore, unfair to hold that the blogger is, in part, the "information content provider" responsible for the offending comment. I don't think that this argument is persuasive, given the First Circuit's decision, but I can't say that it is directly contradicted by that decision. Still, I agree with the American Constitution Society. This decision reaffirms that bloggers are not legally responsible for the comments left on their blog, by close but not exact analogy.

26 February 2007

If We Elect Hillary ...

...Will she let us cheat on her with other Presidents?

25 February 2007

Sometimes There Are Simple Answers

If you follow this sort of thing, then you've noticed that one of the hottest policy/environmental/economic questions at the moment has to do with our fisheries, bad regulation and the tragedy of the commons. I assume that you're all familiar with the tragedy of the commons, which teaches us that a scarce resource that is simply there for the taking will be overexploited. In Coasian terms, in the absence of clear property rights, the resource will not move to its highest value use. As a result, we will as a society suffer a dead-weight economic loss.

The fisheries are a perfect example of a common resource that is not exploited optimally rationally because of perverse "tragic" incentives. [A reader makes the good point that the fishermen are acting rationally, given the incentives they face. In this circumstance, however, the unclear property right scheme insures that the resource is not being exploited optimally.] Whoever gets to a fish first, gets that fish and all the gain associated with it. Whoever gets there second (metaphorically) gets nothing. Fisherman therefore feel like they must get the most first, or get nothing. Fish are overfished and a valuable resource is misused. If one person owns a resource, she considers (among other things) its value today versus its value tomorrow. Since she is assured, for economic purposes, of realizing that future value, she will conserve the resource if doing so makes economic sense. She will protect the resource from theft and other depredation and she will reap the benefits of a social utility maximizing exploitation strategy.

If fisheries are commons, on the other hand, fish will just be eaten as fast as they can be caught, because no one can be sure that they will be the ones to profit in the future. As a result, we end up with too much fish on the market, effecting the supply of other foodstuffs that are underexploited. Also, fishing technology is pushed to capture as many fish as possible as fast as possible, whereas a wealth maximizing strategy might allow more differentiation between individual fish (small versus large or young versus old). When the push to take first, fast and completely has resulted in sufficiently advanced technologies, the fisheries start to decline and the resource is wasted.

In steps the government. I am no expert on fishery regulation, but it seems that the government has gone about its work in just about the worst way possible. Regulators have capped the total annual harvest from endangered fisheries except where the fishery has been entirely closed. As a result, the full cost of regulation has fallen on the fishing industry, which was only responding to the incentives it faced. Even worse, where a cap was introduced, the quota was filled on a first come first served basis. Catches were tallied against the cap as they came in and when the annual cap was reached, the fishery was closed. In other words, the government took the worst aspect of the tragedy of the commons -- the incentive to take the most fish first -- and made it even worse. Also, there is some evidence that, by taking steps to protect younger fish at the expense of older fish, on the theory that younger fish would breed more than older fish, the government was exactly wrong. Older fish are survivors who are ready to breed now. Younger fish might well be eaten before they are ready to start breeding sometime in the future. In short, regulation seems to have been a fiasco. As we all know, though, the government only has one response to failed regulation: new and more elaborate regulation.

This is particularly exasperating because there is an obvious, cost-free, permanent solution to this problem. The tragedy of the commons is that they are held in common. There is no single owner of the fisheries with the incentive, derived from clear and secure property rights, to impose a value maximizing exploitation strategy. The obvious solution, therefore, is to give the fisheries to a single owner. Each fishery could have its own owner, or they could all have a single owner. The owner could be chosen almost at random (I think that the fisheries should be given to me, since I came up with the idea) but the best solution would be to auction them off. No one is more serious about maximizing the value of a resource than someone who has just put up a lot of money. The only owner who is right out is any entity set up to hold the fisheries in trust for the peoples of the world. A regulatory bureaucracy by any other name would be as incompetent as the government.

Now, think about what it says about government, about us, that this easy, effective, cheap (indeed, potentially revenue raising) solution is absolutely politically impossible.

Sunday Brunch

There cannot be a "conservative environmentalism" for any recognizable values of "conservative" or "environmentalism."

23 February 2007

Winter Comes To New England

Yesterday we had just our second snowfall of the year worth mentioning, but a wet snow and a calm day gives us that beautiful New England winter frosting.

22 February 2007

Theme Of The Day

The brown, gray and black:

WARNING: Adult language.

Just In Time For HDTV

We learn today that Helen Thomas will no longer be seated in the front row at White House briefings:
Every theater-style seat in the White House briefing room, now closed for renovation, had a brass plaque inscribed with the name of a news organization. Only one, in the middle of the front row, had a name: "HELEN THOMAS," it said. The unique assigned seat between the chairs for CBS News and ABC News was reserved for the legendary United Press International correspondent who is now a columnist for Hearst Newspapers.

The press corps is scheduled to move from temporary facilities back into the spiffed-up, rewired briefing room in May or June. Thomas, who has been questioning presidents and press secretaries for 46 years, plans to be there. But her front-row seat won’t be. Plans call for her to be moved to the second row to make room for a cable news channel – a sign of Washington’s changing pecking order, and of the new ways that Americans get their news.

19 February 2007

Optimistic Signs

It might be sign of my desperation to see signs of hope in popular culture that I'm fixating on a movie I've never seen. On the other hand, on the strength of the trailer, and an unreasoning faith in Chris Rock, I'm prepared to believe that Hollywood is making a grown up movie that takes monogamy seriously.

18 February 2007

Sunday Brunch

Why isn't there more internet based remote control?

17 February 2007

One Of Life's Mysteries

I don't much mind a car running a red light in order to turn left and scoot through the intersection just ahead of me, and I'm resigned to being stuck, every once in a while, behind an old lady going 25 mph in a 35 mph zone, but an old lady running a red light and scooting in ahead of me in order to go 25 in a 35 mystifies me.

16 February 2007

No Free Lunch

Just a quick pointer to this bloggingheads tv dialogue between Megan McArdle (aka Jane Galt) and Henry Farrell. Megan makes the important but almost unmentioned point that global warming is being sold dishonestly. The believers always present the steps to be taken as all being on the supply side. Energy companies, automobile companies, companies in general, will have to sacrifice while normal people will live their lives more or less as usual, except with higher carbon taxes, fewer cars and shorter commutes all made possible by magical new technologies. In fact, as Megan points out, any serious attempt to cut carbon emissions by 20% will necessarily mean a steep fall in western standards of living and comfort. Megan is rightly skeptical that the political and popular will exists to force and endure these changes once the sacrifices involved become clear. For example, if I didn't want to shower daily, I'd move to France.

15 February 2007

David's Secret Multi-Media Blog

Apparently, blogs are now supposed to have pictures, too. So I thought I'd illustrate this post at Think of England with my own, personal picture of the mob scene around the Mona Lisa.

America's Favorite Prime Minister

Using the hook of a new statue of Baroness Thatcher about to be unveiled in the House of Commons, the Daily Mail has a very nice article about Mrs. Thatcher's life today. Unfortunately, like her friend Ronald Reagan, Mrs. Thatcher is losing the battle with old age and reportedly has no short term memory. Even worse, she is unsure of her place in British history and in the hearts of her countrymen. Everyone agrees, though, that Americans love her.

The comments are as interesting as the article. The Americans who comment -- true to form -- love her. The Brits are split between those who think she single-handedly saved the country (or, rather, postponed the apocalypse) and those who think she was the apocalypse. If the comments are representative, and my impression is that they are, it seems that the Brits have not come to terms with Thatcherism as we Yanks have come to terms with Reaganism. To use a cliche, Reagan changed the American paradigm. The British, or at least some of them, think that it would be possible to go backwards and reverse Mrs. Thatcher's works.

Have You No Sense Of Decency Mr. Murtha, At Long Last?

I have received the following mass email from the Republican National Committee that is, unlike every other mass email I've ever received, worth passing along:
Dear David,

The Democrat strategy on Iraq is finally clear.

We've known all along that they want to cut and run before the job is done. But they've been afraid to confront President Bush directly. Today, Democrat Rep. John Murtha let slip what he and Nancy Pelosi really intend to do, and it is genuinely frightening.

They call it their 'slow-bleed' plan. Instead of supporting the troops in Iraq, or simply bringing them home, the Democrats intend to gradually make it harder and harder for them to do their jobs. They will introduce riders onto bills to prevent certain units from deploying. They will try to limit the President's constitutional power to determine the length and number of deployments. They will attempt to keep the Pentagon from replacing troops who rotate out of Iraq. They may even try to limit how our troops operate by, for example, prohibiting our armed forces from creating and operating bases in Iraq.

'Slow-bleed' is exactly the right name for this incredibly irresponsible and dangerous strategy. Cutting and running is bad enough. But the Murtha-Pelosi 'slow-bleed' plan is far worse. It is a cynical and dangerous erosion of our ability to fight the terrorists while we still have men and women on the ground in Iraq. It will put their lives in far greater danger, as resources slowly dry up. How can our troops operate without bases? How can they fight without backup?

'Slow-bleed' cannot become law. Luckily, we have an opportunity to stop it. The Murtha plan depended on stealth. Now, however, the press has broken the story. And now we can act.

Click Here to read the full story on the Democrats' secret plan.

Write a letter to your editor today. Spread the word that we cannot abandon our men and women in Iraq. Because that is exactly what would happen if the 'slow-bleed' plan becomes a reality.

Our armed forces are the best in the world. They are serving with tremendous honor and bravery in Iraq. We cannot gradually abandon them. We cannot allow the Murtha-Pelosi 'slow-bleed' plan to happen. So please, take action today.
If this really is the Democrat's plan -- and I remain unconvinced simply because it is so despicable -- it must be stopped. The problem is that you have to fight a war with the political party you have and, supposedly, today dozens of Republican members of the House are going to vote for a "non-binding" resolution second-guessing the surge.

14 February 2007

Puppet Pity

I've done my best to avoid our national wallowing in the death of Anna Nicole Smith, but it would be impossible to have avoided it entirely. One theme I've noted, from the wallowers who don't wish to be seen wallowing, is nicely captured in the title of this article, Women as Meat: Reflections on the death of Anna Nicole Smith by Rabbi Marc Gellman. Rabbi Gellman writes that:
Next we must force ourselves to remember that this front-page story is echoed by a thousand untold stories about unknown women who have died or been killed or driven to fatal addictions just because they were pretty. These women died because they were meat on the banquet table of predatory men. Their deaths must not be seen as merely tragic accidents, but as cautionary tales for us all, and particularly for men who are taught to see women as playthings and not as human beings made, as religious folk like me would say, in the image of God.

What's striking about this line of argument is that it does to Anna Nicole Smith exactly what it complains about. It robs her of her humanity. She made a series of decisions, some of which worked out well for her and some of which were disastrous. To say that she was merely meat for powerful men denies her own agency and says that whatever she does is meaningless except for how it effects powerful men.

11 February 2007

Sunday Brunch

Can you sense when someone unseen is staring at you?

09 February 2007

In Which We Suggest That Government Money Is Not Always Mispent

This is more Skipper's turf (deck? vessel?) than mine, but you can go here for the top twenty Hubble Space Telescope pictures, as rated by viewers at Space.com.

You're Crazy And I Love You

Michael Fumento has a nice article here making a persuasive case that non-embryonic stem cells have greater proven capacity to cure illness than embryonic stem cells. Now, I am no biologist, and I am quite willing to believe that a proponent of embryonic stem cell research could write an opposing article muddying the water beyond my ability to clarify it. (Although his argument that the New York Times, as part of its anti-Bush agenda, is simply lying about the science is probably irrefutable.) Not least, they could argue that it is unfair to restrict research into embryonic stem cells and then point to the lack of research success as vindication. (Please, no comments about how only federal funding was restricted, because (a) I know that and (b) I don't care.)

But let's accept for the moment that non-embryonic stem cells can be teased into doing all the things that embryonic stem cells might be able to do: they can be made to replicate endlessly in a laboratory and they can become any kind of cell. Let's also accept that the resistance to using embryonic stem cells is irrational, as, in fact, it is, and that it is a minority opinion, as it might be. In a democracy, to what extent should we defer to the deeply held irrational beliefs of a substantial minority?

When it comes to stem cells, I share the irrational belief: I think that the inherent dignity of the human being is incompatible with taking stem cells from embryos for either research or treatment. So, I would like the majority to defer to my deeply held irrational belief and, if there really is no obvious benefit from embryonic stem cells, would be insulted if the majority didn't defer to my irrationality. It's my government, too, and it really shouldn't be doing things that I strongly disapprove of -- especially if there's no obvious benefit. But what about issues in which I'm part of the rational majority?

That's a harder question, in no small part because it's depressingly difficult to come up with an issue in which I am both part of the majority and the majority is rational. The only such issue that comes to mind is the Iraqi war. The decision to go to war was rational and popular. The anti-war position strongly believed that going to war was not something their government should do. To what extent was I willing to defer to that belief? I was perfectly willing to hear them out, to treat their view with respect (it was an eminently respectable view, even though wrong) and to let them try to make their case. On the other hand, I wasn't willing to not go to war.

There's also the controversy over teaching Intelligent Design. ID is not rational and I don't believe in it, although I might be in the minority. The smart political position seems to be to say that one personally believes in evolution, but that we should "teach the controversy." I'm fine with teaching the controversy, but it shouldn't be taught in Biology Class because it is not a Biology controversy. On the other hand, if the irrational majority doesn't want evolution taught in their schools, that's perfectly fine with me albeit a different question entirely.

My inchoate sense here is that we owe cheerful, ungrudging respect to the deeply held irrational beliefs of our fellow citizens. By cheerful and ungrudging, I mean something more than just the cold cost/benefit decision to defer to the irrational beliefs of others in return for their deference to my irrational beliefs. I mean something more than the realization that I could be wrong and that prudence thus requires that I not trash an idea I might later be forced to accept. I mean, I suppose, that the mere fact that an idea is imbued with importance by a fellow citizen means that I should give it due deference. How much deference is due? As much as I can spare while not sacrificing anything I care about.

04 February 2007

Amazing What You Find While Looking For Something Else II

Today, while looking for something else, I came across this page showing the average age of the population of the OECD nations in 1950, 1975 and 2000. Looking over the table, I was struck by what had happened to Japan during those 50 years. In 1950, Japan was the fourth youngest of the 30 OECD nation, with an average age of 22.3. By 1975, Japan was in the middle, the 15th youngest with an average age of 30.4. The population had aged nearly one full year for every year that had passed. In 2000, Japan was the oldest of the OECD countries at 41.3 years. The United States, by comparison, had moved from 13th oldest to 19th oldest to 21st oldest, and from 30 years old to 28.8 to 35.2.

Amazing What You Find While Looking For Something Else I

Editors Note, "Our Next Great Work", Journal of the American Association of Professional Engineers, April 1, 1954, v. XL, no. 3, p. 3.
The history of the last hundred years has largely been the history of engineering. From skyscrapers to dams, from exploration to the new interstate highway system, human beings, led by engineers, have been changing lives and the very face of the planet. Even our victories in the wars that have plagued us this century have – while taking nothing away from the brave soldiers who have secured our freedom – have relied on the skills of the American engineer. Engineers worked to turn out ships, tanks, jeeps and other materiel in numbers that would have, before the war, been unthinkable. Combat engineers worked to shape the battlefield and to provide the bases from which our armies emerged to defeat the enemy. Most of all, engineers worked next to physicists in the greatest engineering feat of the war – perhaps of all time – as theory was turned into explosive fact and the war in the Pacific was brought to a quick conclusion.

As professional engineers look backwards, we have every reason to feel proud of our contributions to the greater good. As we look forward, however, we do not see the next great engineering challenge. There is, to be sure, unfinished business that we must complete but nowhere do we see the great world-changing achievements that have characterized our professions past.

We need a new horizon.

Some say that our next great challenge will come from helping mankind step off of our planet and take his first step in space. It is true that space travel will come some day, but for now mankind has his eyes firmly focused on our planet; on healing the wounds of the recent war. Moreover, though we by no means intend to suggest that space travel to, say, the moon or Mars will be easy, a space ship is, at heart, simply a special type of gun or ballistic warhead. There is no new fundamental knowledge, no great leap into the unknown, for the space faring engineer.

When, though, that engineer first sets foot on a new planet, he will likely not find it to his liking. It will be too cold or too warm, too wet or too dry, with an atmosphere too thin or too poisonous to breath. Making that world more welcoming will be a fit job for tomorrow’s engineer.

If that (literally) world-changing engineer were then to return to Earth, he would see that his skills are also needed here. Even if we ignore the cooling trend of the last 20 years, likely just the result of normal variation, the fact is that our ancestral home, like many old family homes, is simply too cold and drafty. We propose that professional engineers spearhead a national (indeed, international) project to increase mean temperatures by at least 2┬║ F.

In the pages of this issue, JAAPE explores how engineers could bring us a warmer, richer and more welcoming world and the great benefits that would follow. Bruce Johnson explains how cleaner air would also mean a warmer world. Frank Goldman looks at how European Jews, freed from their sunless ghettos, are making the empty desert bloom. Cyrus White examines the population boom we can now expect thanks to modern medicine, longer life spans and a new stable international order and concludes that new arable land in Canada and the Soviet Union is the only way to avoid the coming Malthusian crash. Peter Nixon looks at how every family can play its part and jokes that we need to confiscate Dad’s car and give every family a truck. Finally, our publisher, John Burke, argues that, given the benefits to be won, a warmer world isn’t merely a good idea but every American’s duty to mankind.

Sunday Brunch

Longer lives, greater wealth and liberal democracy have killed traditional marriage as the dominant paradigm for organizing our personal lives. What's next?

03 February 2007

Quick Quiz

Government spending in the US -- Is it in deficit or surplus?

01 February 2007

In Which I Commit Law

I'm sure that by now you've all read or seen reports about a "guerrilla" marketing campaign that put small, lighted, crudely animated signs of an obscure cartoon character flipping off the observer. These signs were installed, as far as I can tell without permission, under bridges and next to roads and highways throughout nine cities, including Boston. In Boston, they were reported by a "T" transit worker as suspicious, resulting in traffic being halted while they were removed by the bomb squad.

The two unprepossessing gentlemen who installed or planted the devices, depending upon your sympathies, have been arrested and charged with planting hoax bombs. You may be wondering whether they can be convicted.

The statute in question, Massachusetts General Laws c. 266, Section 102A½ says:
(a) Whoever possesses, transports, uses or places or causes another to knowingly or unknowingly possess, transport, use or place any hoax device or hoax substance with the intent to cause anxiety, unrest, fear or personal discomfort to any person or group of persons shall be punished by imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than two and one-half years or by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than five years or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

(b) For the purposes of this section, the term "hoax device" shall mean any device that would cause a person reasonably to believe that such device is an infernal machine. For the purposes of this section, the term "infernal machine" shall mean any device for endangering life or doing unusual damage to property, or both, by fire or explosion, whether or not contrived to ignite or explode automatically. For the purposes of this section, the words "hoax substance" shall mean any substance that would cause a person reasonably to believe that such substance is a harmful chemical or biological agent, a poison, a harmful radioactive substance or any other substance for causing serious bodily injury, endangering life or doing unusual damage to property, or both.

(c) This section shall not apply to any law enforcement or public safety officer acting in the lawful discharge of official duties.

(d) The court shall, after a conviction, conduct a hearing to ascertain the extent of costs incurred, damages and financial loss suffered by local, county or state public safety agencies and the amount of property damage caused as a result of the violation of this section. A person found guilty of violating this section shall, in all cases, upon conviction, in addition to any other punishment, be ordered to make restitution to the local, county or state government for any costs incurred, damages and financial loss sustained as a result of the commission of the offense. Restitution shall be imposed in addition to incarceration or fine; however, the court shall consider the defendant’s present and future ability to pay in its determinations regarding a fine. In determining the amount, time and method of payment of restitution, the court shall consider the financial resources of the defendant and the burden restitution will impose on the defendant.
It seems clear that these two numbskulls put the devices in place. It doesn't seem like all that much of a stretch for a jury to find that these were put in place "with the intent to cause anxiety, unrest, fear or personal discomfort." The whole point of crudely animated cartoon characters flipping off passers-by would be to ├ępater la bourgeoisie.

So, the question would seem to be whether a person could reasonably believe that these were devices "for endangering life or doing unusual damage to property, or both, by fire or explosion." Notice that the intent of the accused is not relevant here. If they intended to cause personal discomfort, they don't have to have concluded that the devices could reasonably be mistaken for bombs. I do wonder whether the reasonable person here is a reasonable post-9/11 person who follows the news from Iraq, where IEDs are all too common? In any event, while a conviction isn't a lock for the prosecutors, there is real exposure here.

The Worst Former American. (No, There's No Word Missing)

OJ points us to this profile of Jimmy Carter in Commentary Online, which is well worth reading in its entirety. Carter is probably not a racist, probably not anti-semitic and probably not a conscious traitor. And those are his good points.