Sunday, May 25, 2008

No, that's the sound of a gathering in a Big Tent!

Unable to attend the LP convention, I am getting a sense of it from weblogs such as Brian Holtz's Libertarian Intelligence and Reason Hit and Run. 2008 will go down as the year LP Libertarians decided to act like a political party, when those who truly desire to use the political process to move policy in a more libertarian direction stood up to the village anarchists and gave the ideologues their comeuppance for insults ranging from the 1983 convention to the bait-and-switch tactic to relentless attempts at "internal education" whereby those who don't accept "natural rights theory"--usually because they are well-educated and well-read enough to know better!--get slandered as "statist" and "socialist" and stabbed in the back during their campaigns.

The delegates in convention today adopted a unity platform, one that does not undermine registration efforts and political campaigns, as it represents what thinking Libertarians believe, not what a few loutish sophomores would rather us believe.

Alone, regardless of who wins the nomination for President, this restores my faith in the Party, giving me reason to give it a second chance, or an Nth chance, for another few years.

The anonymous-by-request author of Classically Liberal, with affected nineteenth-century bombast, decries the Reform Caucus effort and this new platform as wanting to "dim the libertarian torch or make the battle cry an "uncertain sound". Nonsense. The Reform platform is the sight and sound of a Big Tent. Political victories are won by bringing people to the cause, not driving them out because they won't mouth filoque clauses about total ends to taxation or privatizing national parks. Disagreement is a sign of health in such an organization.

Torches? Biblical horns? Who would listen? Who does listen? Anyone who believes in a Libertarian priesthood, that the voter will treat the Libertarian as his conscience or treat him as his better needs his head examined. (Anyone who thinks that I should recognize Rothbardites as my better doesn't even need the exam, as he is certifiably nuts.) Political parties that cannot be even a credible threat at the polls are non-entities. Chasing off people who disagree on bits of the agenda is a step away from being a credible threat. Unlike membership in a single-issue organization, which is binary (do you support the abolition of slavery or do you not?), membership in a political party is a matter of shades of grey: libertarianism is not a unified whole or a package deal. "Do these people and me share enough of a common policy direction to justify collaboration?" If the Party were Dave Nolan and Eric Garris: no. Those gentlemen plus Brian Holtz and Tim West and Tom Stevens and the like? Yes.

I presume that the author of Classically Liberal understands the difference between a single-issue organization and a coalition. Perhaps, in the fit of bombast, he simply forgot. Purism of a certain sort makes a single-issue group strong and a political party weak. How many members will a political party have if made up only of people who agree on everything? A "village anarchists'" club cannot be a stronger political force than a real libertarian political party. There aren't enough villages!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bernie Sanders, move over for Maxine Waters!

Senator Sanders, Ms. Waters is now seated to your left.

"This liberal will be all about socializing...basically...taking over, and the government running all of your companies.”

Will the voters have good enough sense to throw her out of office in 2010? Do we have a PAC devoted to sending Reds back home to find honest work? If we don't, we should. Anti-liberal sentiments have no place in American public discourse, let alone Congress.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Stochastic Gain Medium

As though I didn't have enough 'blogs already, I've started a science weblog: Stochastic Gain Medium.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Platform worthy of activists and candidates.

They're at it again. Those statist, socialist, nerf-core asshats of the Libertarian Reform Caucus, disguised as a legitimate Platform Committee, are presenting to the delegates at this week's LP Convention (which I am not attending, for professional reasons) what could be the Party's first respectable Platform since long before I joined up in '96.

Gone are the bizarre extremism of Murray Rothbard, Williamson Evers, and co. Gone are explicitly anarchist/nihilist clauses calling for a total end to taxation, an individual right to secession, and the like. Gone also is the bizarre four-part format which necessitated sloppy plank writing, encouraged sloppy thinking, and made dragged out, knock-down fights between the ideologues and the casuists inevitable.

If the delegates do not decide to take a step backwards and "Restore '04"--a good possibility given the outright veneration some give to Dave Nolan--the Party will have for the first time since the ideologues ruined it in the early 1980s a platform worthy of its activists. The committee's proposal is a platform candidates can stand on, a platform which won't make reporters think we're all anarcho-nihilists, a platform that won't turn people off to the party before they even encounter an active member, and a platform street-level organizers, like myself, won't have to explain away. ("No candidate in his right mind would advocate such a policy; that thing is flypaper for the ideologues and dunces!")

Jacob Hornberger, of course, will foam at the mouth due to paranoid fantasies of "compromise and concealment", as though we all really secretly believe in legal animal sex, a torts-only approach to environmental law, a total end to taxation, individual secession, and man-boy love. Just pat ol' "Bumper" on the head and recommend he submit an amendment.

Blog of Rights

The ACLU's national office has today officially announced its weblog on the topic of civil liberties. To date, its focus has been on Federal matters.

Writing quality is rather high; they've recruited Glenn Greenwald of and Daniel Larison of American Conservative to supplement their staffers' contributions. This is worth a daily "hit", and I've added it to my blogroll.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

U. Chicago announces Friedman Institute; Norberg demolishes Naomi Klein

It would be an exaggeration to claim that Milton Friedman singlehandedly restored to economic liberalism a sound intellectual footing, but he nevertheless was both the towering giant of postwar economics and the US's foremost defender of liberty in the latter half of the 20th Century.

Today the University of Chicago announced that, to honor his contributions (and, of course, to attract contributions and entrench its prestige), it will establish the Milton Friedman Institute.

Explains Gary Becker, in the University's announcement:
The Institute will build on this important tradition by focusing on research questions that support development of economic models grounded in economic theory and empirical evidence and designed to evaluate a variety of questions related to economic policy.

Nearly as soon as Milton Friedman slipped in the tub, those whose ideologies are incompatible with Friedman's intellectual legacy began to attack it, sometimes with a savage dishonesty that could not have been brought to bear were he here to defend himself. Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, is the prime example.

That Klein distorted history and failed to fulfil the affirmative duties of the scholar is already well-known. Tyler Cowen summed up the trouble with her book in his review. Earlier this week, the Cato Institute released a more extensive, and damning, rebuttal, penned by Johan Norberg. Were Klein an academic, I could say she was headed for ruin, Michael Bellesiles-style. Since she's merely a more industrious version of the common Che Guevara t-shirt wearing, "people before profits"-screaming lout, nothing of the sort will happen, although thinking people will be less likely to take her claims at face value in the future. Joseph Stiglitz is, of course, excepted.

This week's score: 2 for respect for the dead, zero for the radical Left.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

But more seriously: one can still mess with airport security!

Airport security is very good at putting on a show for the rubes--"we make you take off your shoes so stupid people feel safer"--but when it comes to novel situations, anything goes.

Last night, on the way from San Jose to Tucson, the through count in Las Vegas had one passenger too many. After letting some passengers on the plane, the stewardess, list in hand, asked the passengers who originated in San Jose to raise our hands. Twelve people answered, each of whom was on the list. Puzzled by this result, the process was repeated. I spoke up: "If I were a stowaway wanting a free flight to Tucson, I wouldn't raise my hand."

Were I wearing an untucked T-shirt and a baseball cap indoors, or black, or perhaps not reading Susan Jacoby's (mediocre) Age of American Unreason, or not flying Southwest, I might have been harassed, reported to security, or bounced from the flight. But instead my interjection elicited a laugh from the other passengers and the stewardess not in charge of the count, a nervous giggle from the counter, and little more.

The raised-hand name check was attempted once more, with the same result. The rest of the passengers boarded and, other than a 45-minute delay due to dangerous wind conditions, the flight proceeded as planned. Somebody who knows the routes got a discounted flight!

I now have one more reason to fly Southwest: they take being relaxed seriously. Code Orange? Is that a techno band?

Downing an airliner, part III

For quite some time, the Chinese, with a large vegetarian subculture, have been able to make passable meat-substitutes out of wheat gluten.

I'm not an expert in explosives chemistry, but it would seem as though if one can make gluten into duck, one can make explosive or poison-gas precursors into paper, to be torn out and thrown in the toilet or mixed with the $4 mini-bottle of Jim Beam. It shouldn't be much more difficult than disguising them as instant soup.

Tuesdays with Morrie? So bland, it's suspect; if you were a terrorist, isn't that the book would you choose to look innocent? You certainly wouldn't pick something like the Koran or the Anarchist Cookbook, right? And that gloss on the pages of Maxim may not be what you think it is!

Airline magazines and Sky Mall are it from now on!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Classier than a Che Guevara t-shirt, and it's got electrolytes.

If you couldn't figure out with what to wash down that Extra Big-Ass Taco, now with more molecules, take heart in knowing that one can now purchase Brawndo without use of a Time Masheen.

Buying a product primarily to make some sort of statement used to be confined primarily to greeting cards. (Please don't beat me over the head with The Substance of Style; I know I'm being coarse.) Ready-made blatant signaling has apparently moved from the Hallmark aisle ("glad you were there for me after you ran over my dog...") and t-shirts to the beverage aisle. Unlike the Che t-shirt ("I'm spiteful and ignorant, and I vote!"), this one's a little more of a nerd in-joke, but from a certain perspective, it still falls into the category of things trite people can purchase to make a statement against "consumerism", whatever that is.

Putting my snobbery aside for a moment, however, this one's more interesting than the usual. I can't recall any other independently proposed and developed movie knockoff being produced with the studio's blessing. Given our culture's shift away from a top-down "television" model with clear demarcation between performers/producers and consumers towards a more distributed, amateurist "internet" model, it was bound to happen sometime, but to date the studios have been firmly opposed.

For those with particularly acute electrolyte cravings, Amazon is selling single cans.