Archive for May 2007

Oh, the Irony

FIRE points out yet another university that is attempting to restrict speech it does not agree with, in the name of, uh, freedom or something.  The university's Student Union proposed to close down the campus humor magazine that made a joke about race relations.  The reason?

Specifically, in response to the "overtly racist, sexist, and generally
offensive articles, statements, and images published in the Spring
Issue of Gravity Magazine," and because the publication of this joke
had caused "members of our community to feel "˜unsafe,' "˜powerless,'
"˜unsupported,' "˜harassed,' and "˜threatened;'"

Now, this university is private, so I suppose as a private body they can define acceptable speech in their private confines any way they want (just as my kids dropping F bombs is legal by the first amendment, but banned in my household).  However, I fear that the folks involved do not understand that they need to leave these attitudes behind when they leave their private little cocoon university, because speech that hurts your feelings is not illegal, thank goodness, in the rest of the country. 

Unfortunately, it is almost too much to ask nowadays that universities understand that, as Louis Brandeis wrote, the best response to speech you don't like is more speech.  The rich irony comes from the fact that this occurred at ... Brandeis University.  The freaking place was named after the man who wrote:

Those who won our independence believed"¦ that freedom to think as
you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the
discovery and spread of political truth; that without free speech and
assembly discussion would be futile; that with them, discussion affords
ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious
They recognized the risks to which all human institutions are
subject. But they knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear
of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage
thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that
repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the
path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed
grievances and proposed remedies; and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones.

Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free
speech and assembly"¦ To justify suppression of free speech there must
be reasonable ground to fear that serious evil will result if free
speech is practiced"¦ [N]o danger flowing from speech can be deemed
clear and present unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so
imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full
discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the
falsehoods and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of
education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence. Only an emergency can justify repression.   (Emphasis added.)

Check out the FIRE article to learn much more about the events in question, including what the original joke was.

Income Inequality and Game Theory

Consider this situation:  You are a member of a four-person rock band.  Each member of the band has contributed somewhat equally over time, and band revenues have always been split evenly, 25% to each member, though its total earnings on an absolute basis have been small  However, the band has suddenly become the next U2.  It is likely the band will make tens of millions of dollars over the coming years.  Just as this is happening, the other three band members come to you and threaten to make you Pete Best.  They will allow you to stay with the band, but only if you accept a reduction in your share of the earnings to 10%.  You perceive this move as unfair given your equal contribution to the band to date.  However, even 10% of the band's new fortunes would be a LOT of money (and fame) and you honestly believe that even a 10% share is better than you could do with any other band or occupation.  What do you do -- take 10% or quit?  (assume you want to be famous and you have no legal recourse against the other members)

In an analytical vacuum, one might predict that any rational person would take the deal -- while it is less than might be hoped, it is certainly a better deal than one could get any place else.  A pure profit maximizing decision would be to stay with the band (and watch you back at night for more knives).

However, numerous studies and surveys have shown that in fact, a  large number of people would choose to give up the money rather than feel cheated.  Just look at the number of professional football players who have held out for a whole season to try to get a better contract.  In every case, the present value of the salary lost for that season is far greater than any increase in salary in the future from taking the tough stand.  But these players would rather be paid nothing than feel underpaid.

TJIC had a pointer to an interesting article on game theory.  In it, the author talks about this behavior in the context of a game that divides up pies, and summarizes:

Apparently, making money is not the players' only concern; participants have a sense of pride and care about how they are treated by others, economists have concluded. Thus, offers perceived to be "unfair" are rejected out of a desire for revenge.

In fact, revenge and/or envy has been tested in a number of games, where scientists gave players trailing in the game the ability to spend money solely to take away money from the leading players  (e.g. you can spend your last $10 to make $10 of your opponents money disappear).  There is something in human behavior that wants to bring down the winners, even when doing so makes one worse off himself.  (Question to Red Sox fans:  would you accept a lifetime bad of the Sox from the World Series if you were guaranteed the Yankees would never make the World Series either?)

I guess I don't really have a problem with such behavior in consensual transactions (though I personally work pretty hard to purge my ego from business decisions).  My problem comes when people motivated in this way vote in our society that has proven to have inadequate protections of the minority, at least when we refer to the minority of rich and successful

In Closing of the American Mind,  Allan Bloom tells the story of a question he used to ask his classes vis a vis income inequality.  He would ask something like "Would you vote for a law that reduced income inequality but at the same time reduced total wealth, such that the poor might get a larger slice of a smaller pie, and might even be worse off on an absolute basis afterwards."  Apparently, he would get solid majorities for "yes" and in fact I have been in classes where this same question was asked and at least 40% said "yes."  This is a situation a bit similar to the one above, but without it being personal.  In other words, no one has explicitly hosed you, they have just done better.

I hope you can see the parallel.  Large numbers of people are willing to pay (or equivalently make less money) to reduce the earnings of people who are wealthy and/or successful. They are even  more willing to do so if they think that they have been treated unfairly.  Which is why you see so many politicians and media outlets working so hard right now to convince the middle class that current income distribution patterns are somehow "unfair."  Politicians are pandering to this base human emotion, the desire to spitefully bring someone else down (in the case of income equality laws, someone the person has likely never even met or transacted with) even if it makes oneself worse off.   

I can understand why Pete Best might harbor a grudge against the Beatles.  But why do so many Americans harbor a grudge against people they have never met, just because they make more money?

This is Really, Really Wrong

I won't even add a comment to this:

Real, or fake? Never mind the busty woman walking her dog in the park - it may just be her pooch who's sporting implants.

Some pet owners who neuter their male dogs are opting for a surgical
procedure meant to make Fido feel like he's back in the good ol' days
B.C. - Before Castration.

Neuticles - testicular implants for dogs that look and feel like the
real thing - are said to boost a pet's self-esteem by replacing what
was lost. It's a procedure that's becoming increasingly popular in New

"We did it so Truman could still walk proudly down the street," says
Penny Glazier, a Manhattan restaurateur, of her 8-year-old bull mastiff.

"We felt it would be good for him psychologically," she adds. "He
actually still marks trees, though I'm told neutered dogs aren't
supposed to do that anymore."

Extra points to the poor slob who worked overtime to get the "feel" right. Edgar River has the best comment:

For dog owner Edgar Rivera of the Bronx, whose Jack Russell terrier and
Chihuahua were both neutered, Neuticles were never an option. "That's
just nuts," Rivera says.

Best Headline of the Year

"Fire Joe Morgon" nominates this for best headline of the year.

That 70's Show

Straight from the 1970's, the US's golden era of bumbling government intervention in the economy, come the same proposals that worked oh-so-well the first time around.  Democracts blame big oil for gas prices, and propose channeling solutions from Hugo Chavez:   (via Q&O)

Congressional Democrats are taking aim at big oil companies as U.S. gasoline prices near a record average $3.05 a gallon.

industry experts doubt it will have any effect, half a dozen senators
gathered in front of a Washington service station to push their own
remedies to the situation, the Washington Post said.

The latest average price for a gallon of unleaded regular gas was $3.042, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge report.

Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Congress to consider breaking up the
giant companies. Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., pushed for a windfall
profits bill.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., promoted her
anti-price-gouging bill, which the Senate Commerce Committee adopted
earlier this week.

Gee, since every transaction in a free market requires a willing buyer and a willing seller, wouldn't it be just as correct to blame profligate consumers for the increase?  And why is it I don't remember any of these actors in Congress rushing to clamp down on greedy sellers when home resale prices skyrocketed far more than gas prices have?  Does anyone remember Maria Cantwell imposing windfall profits taxes on home-sellers?  Or, for that matter, on sellers of Internet stocks who financed their campaigns selling stock above $80 that would soon trade only in the single digits?  And by the way, how can any party who elected Maria Cantwell to the Senate seriously call members of the other party "stupid."

Let's do a thought experiment.  Let's assume that through a series of government actions, Congress is able to return oil profits "to the people."  Oil company profits are now reduced to zero.  That should make a huge difference in gas prices, right?  Well, out of a $3.00 gas price, taxes and the retailers margin are probably 75 cents or so (46 cents tax, 10% or 30 cent retail margin).  This leaves $2.25 for the greedy oil companies.  It turns out large oil companies like Exxon make about 6% of revenues in the bad times, and 10% in the good times, like now.  So, this leaves a profit of  14-22 cents per gallon.  The "people" are saved!  Gas prices can come down by a whole 15-20 cents.  Of course, in return for saving a buck or two on fill-ups, we've nuked the whole incentive system for investment and finding new oil and improving efficiency.  Gas prices over time will rise much higher than they are now, and lines will start reappearing at gas stations, but that probably won't show up until after the next election, so why should anyone in Congress care?

Great Moments in Monopolies

True monopolies, which are extraordinarily rare in the private sector but all too common when the government uses it coercive power, lose any incentive to provide good customer service.  Via Adam Schaeffer at Cato, here are your government monopoly schools at work:

In Montgomery County, beloved third-grade teacher Soon-Ja Kim was
bounced on the word of one reviewer despite an outpouring of support
from parents who knew what great work she had done with their
children.  I can't say it better than it's reported:

But a panel of eight teachers and eight principals
charged with reviewing Kim's performance gave little weight to the
parent letters when they considered her future in a closed-door
meeting, according to panel members.

Doug Prouty, vice president of the Montgomery County
Education Association and co-chairman of the panel, said in an
interview that the strong parental support for Kim was considered only
a "secondary data source."

The good test scores of Kim's students, he said, were also secondary.
The primary sources for the decisions, he said, were the judgments of
Principal Elaine Chang, a consulting teacher assigned to evaluate Kim
and the panel members themselves that Kim was ineffective in the
classroom and hurting her students' progress.

"That's a bunch of hooey," said Elyse Summers, one of the multitude
of pro-Kim parents. "Our children went to Mrs. Kim's class every day,
came home and are performing extremely well."

"We take parent feedback, both good and bad, about teachers very
seriously," Edwards replied. But the Montgomery schools spokesman added
that "the final decision about the effectiveness of teachers must come
down to those with the professional expertise."

So, it does not matter if you are a great teacher who gets good results, if you don't kiss the principal's ass enough, you are gone.  This is not to say that private employers can't be equally silly.  However, in the private sector, if a company is stupid enough to fire a good employee for petty political reasons, its competitors will snap that person up.  If it happens enough, company 2 will quickly begin to outcompete company 1.  When the government maintains a forced monopoly on schools, there are no such feedback mechanisms to force improvement, except maybe parental feedback, and you see how much that achieves in this case.

Update on My Most Abusive Vendor

A while back I profiled my most abusive and annoying vendor, which turned out to be .. the government.  After profiling some of their practices in a quiz format, I wrote:

Give up?  Well, most of you have probably guessed that this vendor
is... the government!  Or specifically, the Colorado Department of
Wildlife and the specific product discussed is fishing licenses.  That
is why this particular vendor can get away with practices that no
company that actually has to compete in the market place would ever
attempt, and, in a couple of cases, gets aways with practices that
would be illegal for a private company.

I have an update, again for fishing license sales but this time from the Arizona Department of Fish and Game.  My business only sells fishing licenses.  We have no call for hunting licenses, and in fact hunting is illegal on the lands surrounding the store in question.  But in January each year, the government FORCES me to take a whole pile of hunting license and duck stamp inventory as a prerequisite to get the fishing license inventory.  I have to hold this inventory, unused, in my safe all year.  I cannot return it until the end of the year, and if I lose it or forget to return it (12 long months after it was sent to me) then I have to pay for it all.  Lovely. 

Kudos to Open Office

My company is a big supporter of Open Office, the free MS Office clone that works great (and was developed by Sun as a jab at their least favorite competitor).  Generally I promote it because it works fine and costs $0.  We are putting it on all our new computers instead of Microsoft.

Today I have a new reason to promote it.  I had a very large and complex .xlw file that Excel refused to open - it gave me messages that it was locked and read only and eventually opened it as a total mess, giving me a message that the file was impossible to repair.  Obviously, the last time Excel had worked on and saved the file, it had corrupted it somehow.  All the formatting was gone, data was missing, etc.  So, on a whim, I dug up a copy of the Open Office spreadsheet (which can open and write MS formats), and what do you know, it opened the file right up.  Everything in its place.  I save-as'd to an Excel file, and now Microsoft can open its own file again, but only after Open Office fixed it.  LOL.

Holy Security State, Batman!

Hollywood may like to criticize GWB for his over-eager and intrusive anti-terrorism precautions, but they sure seem ready to take a page out of the homeland security book when it comes to protecting their CD sales:

In Florida, the new legislation requires all stores buying second-hand
merchandise for resale to apply for a permit and file security in the
form of a $10,000 bond with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer
Services. In addition, stores would be required to thumb-print
customers selling used CDs, and acquire a copy of state-issued identity
documents such as a driver's license. Furthermore, stores could issue
only store credit -- not cash -- in exchange for traded CDs, and would
be required to hold discs for 30 days before reselling them.  (HT Overlawyered)

Requiring thumbprints from customers just to sell used CD's?  Are they nuts?  Can you imagine if they tried to apply this to anything else?  You'd have to have a retina scanner to use eBay.  Freaking totally insane.  I can buy a gun, an aircraft, and a shopping cart full of rat poison without a thumbprint but I need to go through the jailhouse booking routine to sell a CD?

By the way, note how insane the requirements on resellers are.  For example, having to hold a disc 30 days before selling.  Why?  I am sure for a lot of hot music products the value goes down about 50% a month.

Of course, we all know the reason why.  This is about politically powerful incumbents protecting their business from competition.  In this case, music companies don't want to have to compete with their own CDs showing up on the aftermarket.  Well you know what -- suck it up.  Car companies have had to deal with this problem for years.  I am sure they would love laws that make it difficult for anyone to buy a used car (or maybe they wouldn't - a healthy secondary market gives consumers the ability to trade up to new models frequently, something music sellers should consider).

Think about the recycling angle, by the way.  The best recycling plan is to reuse an item for its original use.  We all remember Hollywood giving Al Gore a big wet kiss at the Oscars, and congratulating themselves for being more green than the rest of us schmucks  Except, of course, when it hits the bottom line.  "Hey you little guys out there, don't resell those CD's, we want to make sure you throw them out and buy new.  After all, we can't keep our private jets flying without selling lots more CDs."

Immigration and Trespass

If I invite an illegal immigrant to come stay in my house, is he trespassing?  My Arizona legislators think so:

State Representative Jonathan Paton, a Republican, ... added that he
would prefer to detain smuggled immigrants under trespassing laws, a
move lawmakers are considering under a package of bills intended to
crack down on illegal immigration.

Wikipedia describes trespass as "criminal act of going into somebody else's land or property without permission of the owner or lessee." 

The only way one can define an illegal immigrant at my house as "trespassing" is if one accepts some kind of statist-socialist view of property, that the state has effective ownership of my property.  I have asked this before, but do Republicans, who once upon a time were at least nominally the defenders of private property, have any idea what they are doing?

Free Speech and Immigration

Frequent readers of this blog will know that I am a strong supporter of open immigration, and have substantial problems with how we are effectively criminalizing poor people looking for work. 

However, it is perhaps most important to defend the free speech of people with whom one disagrees.  A while back, my employee accidentally sent a private email from his private account expressing opinions about stronger defense of the border and enforcement of immigration laws (opinions that run counter to my own) to a government employee with whom we interact fairly frequently.  The government employee's first impulse was to threaten that our company may be liable under anti-discrimination laws for such speech, but to their credit quickly agreed that it was inappropriate for a federal employee to take any action based on private speech.  But that first, initial reaction was interesting.

It seems a professor here in the Phoenix area is facing sanction for similar reasons.

The case involves Walter Kehowski, a math professor at Glendale
Community College"”part of the Maricopa County Community College
District (MCCCD) system"”who e-mailed a single Thanksgiving message to
the entire MCCCD community. On the day before Thanksgiving, Kehowski
sent an e-mail
containing the text of George Washington's "Thanksgiving Day
Proclamation of 1789" over the district's "announcements" listserv.
Kehowski had found the Proclamation on Pat Buchanan's blog, and included a link to that webpage in his e-mail. That citation would have dire consequences.
Within weeks, five MCCCD employees complained that Kehowski's
e-mail was "derogatory" and "hostile" because the link he'd included"”if
you decided to open it"”led to a page where Buchanan also posted his
opinions of immigration. MCCCD soon held an Initial Assessment
of the complaints, and decided that since Kehowski's e-mail was not
work-related but rather expressed a "social comment," he had violated
MCCCD's e-mail policies, which limit e-mails to work-related
information. MCCCD reacted on March 9 by forcing Kehowski to cease
teaching, placing him on immediate administrative leave, and
recommending that he be terminated....

MCCCD has also found Kehowski guilty of violating the Equal Employment Opportunity policy.

Again we have government sanctioning speech based on its content, a definite no no, particularly since there was a pretty clear precedent for other people using the email system ant that particular listserv to pass on social commentary without sanction.  Its clear, though, that many in the college's community found the speech somehow in violation of discrimination laws.

However, this is the irony I find amazing:  State, Federal, and Maricopa County law require that businesses discriminate against undocumented aliens.  I can be fined and sent to jail for not discriminating against them.  Maricopa county, which runs this particular community college, employs a sheriff that revels in anti-immigrant rhetoric that probably runs more extreme than even Pat Buchanan and who prides himself on how many illegal immigrants he has rounded up this week (he.  In this context, how can it be illegal to advocate for enforcement of current law?  How can it be illegal to advocate for policies aggressively pursued by your own employer? 

Any viewpoint in speech needs to be tolerated, but I find it especially odd that government institutions are unable to tolerate speech that upholds what is essentially the official position of the government.

Royally Bad Day

Small business tip of the day:  If you find yourself waking up on Monday, thinking that you have finally climbed on top of things and everything is humming pretty well, expect a torpedo to hit you.  Maybe several. 

The red lights are all flashing here and the bulkheads are leaking.  Blogging will be light for a couple of days, while damage control progresses. 

Concert Review

Though my usual musical tastes run more to this, my wife and I went to see the Celtic Women in concert the other night.

So what's wrong with a hot blond babe playing the fiddle and a singer who looks like Xena warrior princess in an evening gown?

Uh, nothing.

We Know How You Should Be Living

TJIC has a nice post on the arrogant paternalism inherent in urban planning.

The Party is making decisions about how we should live, and then, eventually, telling us about them.

The aim is to have 80 percent of new housing and new jobs in cities
and larger municipal centers such as Framingham, Peabody, Norwood, and
Marlborough. That would enable more people to walk or use mass transit
and thereby reduce traffic and pollution, according to the plan.

So, of the million possible variables, the ones they've chosen to
optimize are the minimization of the average distance one has to drive
to get to work.

Things they have implicitly then de-prioritized:

  • open space per family
  • privacy per family
  • floor space per family
  • minimal overall commute time per individual
  • noise abatement
  • etc.

I liked this bit:

The problem is, the statists don't really care about green space per
se. They care about government owned (or at least government
controlled) green space. Which is better? 20 acres of land lumped into
a government owned wetland sanctuary that no one ever visits, or 20
houses, each on 1 acre lots, covered with gardens, yards, trees, and
tree-houses? The government employee doesn't get to meddle in the
individual lots, so he's always going to say that the government owned
patch is better.

Moratorium on Brains

For years, socialists (and some sloppy capitalists) have operated under the assumption that production only requires labor and capital.  Socialists assume that if a government steals both, it can produce just as well as any of those greedy private companies.  Hugo Chavez has been operating under this assumption, but he has run into a problem:

The companies ceding control included BP Plc,
ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp, Chevron Corp, France's Total SA and
Norway's Statoil ASA. All but ConocoPhillips signed agreements last
week agreeing in principle to state control, and ConocoPhillips said
Tuesday that it too was cooperating.

While the state takeover was planned well ahead of time, the oil
companies remain locked in a behind-the-scenes struggle with the

Chavez says the state is taking a minimum 60 per cent stake in the
Orinoco operations, but he is urging foreign companies to stay and help
develop the fields.

They have until June 26 to negotiate the terms.

The companies have leverage with Chavez because experts agree that
Venezuela's state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, cannot
transform the Orinoco's tar-like crude into marketable oil without
their investment and experience.

In other words, beyond their workers and plant and equipment, he needs their brains.  And I hope the American companies refuse to give in to him.

I made this point earlier in this critique of socialism:

Hanging out at
the beach one day with a distant family member, we got into a
discussion about capitalism and socialism.  In particular, we were
arguing about whether brute labor, as socialism teaches, is the source
of all wealth (which, socialism further argues, is in turn stolen by
the capitalist masters).  The young woman, as were most people her age,
was taught mainly by the socialists who dominate college academia
nowadays.  I was trying to find a way to connect with her, to get her
to question her assumptions, but was struggling because she really had
not been taught many of the fundamental building blocks of either
philosophy or economics, but rather a mish-mash of politically correct
points of view that seem to substitute nowadays for both....

picked up a handful of sand, and said "this is almost pure silicon,
virtually identical to what powers a computer.  Take as much labor as
you want, and build me a computer with it -- the only limitation is you
can only have true manual laborers - no engineers or managers or other
capitalist lackeys"....

replied that my request was BS, that it took a lot of money to build an
electronics plant, and her group of laborers didn't have any and
bankers would never lend them any....

told her - assume for our discussion that I have tons of money, and I
will give you and your laborers as much as you need.  The only
restriction I put on it is that you may only buy raw materials - steel,
land, silicon - in their crudest forms.  It is up to you to assemble
these raw materials, with your laborers, to build the factory and make
me my computer.

She thought for a few seconds, and responded "but I can't - I don't know how.  I need someone to tell me how to do it"

that is the heart of socialism's failure.  For the true source of
wealth is not brute labor, or even what you might call brute capital,
but the mind.  The mind creates new technologies, new products, new
business models, new productivity enhancements, in short, everything
that creates wealth.  Labor or capital without a mind behind it is

I offered more critiques of state-run companies here and here.  My more complete post on this topic his called wealth creation and the zero-sum fallacy.

Maybe This is a Victory of Sorts

The NYT reports on what looks like a well-reasoned study on officiating bias in the NBA.  I say well-reasoned mainly because Steven Levitt, who has become famous for applying tools of economics to such problems, seems to be comfortable with their approach.  The key finding is that white refs call fouls on black players at a rate .12-.20 fouls per 48 minutes playing time higher than they do on white players  [note that most players don't play a full 48 minutes per game, so the actual rate per player per game is less].  Black refs show the same tendency to call more fouls on whites, though the article omits this rate.

That's obviously a bummer -- we'd like to think that stuff never comes into play.  However, I would like to offer this bit of perspective:  Sixty years ago, black men were not allowed in the NBA.  Today, black men in the NBA, along with folks like Tiger Woods, are among the highest salaried people in the world.   In 60 years, we have gone from  total exclusion to a measurable difference of about 1 foul called every 10 or so games played.  That's pretty good progress. 

My sense is that we make snap decisions about other people based on a wide range of physical attributes, including height, attractiveness, clothing, tattoos, piercings as well as visible racial characteristics (e.g. skin color) and race-related appearance choices (e.g. cornrows).  It would be interesting to see where skin color falls against these other visible differentiators as a driver of third party decisions (e.g. whether to call a foul).   My sense is that 60 years ago, skin color would be factor #1 and all these others would be orders of magnitude behind.  Today?  I don't know.  While skin color hasn't gone away as an influencer, it may be falling into what we might call the "background level", less than or equal to some of these other effects.  It would be interesting, for example, to make the same study on level of visible tattooing and the effect on foul calls.  My sense is that this might be of the same order of magnitude today as skin color in affecting such snap decisions.

Good News

My friend and Cato-ite Brink Lindsey is blogging again, in conjunction with the release of his new book The Age of Abundance: How Prosperity Transformed America's Politics and Culture.  Those who read his earlier blog will not be surprised to learn that one of his first series of posts illustrates the concept of freedom in popular music.

Great Moments in the Justice System

How many of you think you could get out of jury duty to go fish?

Senior U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King,
overseeing jury selection for a civil trial at the Key West courthouse,
asked prospective jurors if anyone had cause to be excused...

A third fellow stepped forward and said his name was James Johnson.
He knew the importance of jury duty, he said, but he had a special
houseguest and, please, if he wasn't really needed, could he be excused?...

King looked at him funny. ''Did you coach?'' ``Yes.''

''Where?'' King asked.

Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, University of Miami, Oklahoma State. He rattled off others -- Iowa State, Wichita State.

''That's enough,'' said King as folks in the courtroom laughed. By then, the judge realized it was Jimmy Johnson....

Johnson, 63, an Islamorada resident, told King his houseguest was Bill Parcells, who recently retired as Dallas head coach. He planned to take the Big Tuna fishing.

King excused Johnson, but not before asking him to predict the Gators' record for next season.

Looks like Urban Meyer is probably safe from jury duty in this court too.