Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What Donny Ferguson actually wrote in the 23 February Monday Message.

Someone named David F. Nolan has thought it alright to change a single word in Libertarian Party Communications Director Donny Ferguson's 23 February "Monday Message" in order to stir up some action to undo the positive reforms made in that organization over the last few years. It's much more convenient to condemn Ferguson if he is advocating pandering to the voters than if he is advocating winning the libertarian vote!

Pasted below, verbatim, is the message that got Nolan's panties so bunched up. Judge for yourself.

Subject: LP Monday Message: Is the LP really an 'alternative?'
Date: Monday 23 February 2009
From: "Libertarian Party"
To: (scratched by BSK)

Feb. 23, 2009

Your Monday Message From the Libertarian Party:

Dear friend,

Backed by a growing swing vote that decides elections and support for its
economic plans, the Libertarian Party is not an "alternative" political

"Alternative" implies something outside the mainstream or an unconventional
choice. The Libertarian Party, with its sensible balance of fiscal
responsibility and social moderation, is, in fact, the nation's only
mainstream political party.

In a nation where a vast swath of the electorate define themselves as
generally fiscally conservative and socially liberal, it is the Democrat,
Republican, Constitution and Green parties that find themselves isolated on
the extreme left and right. Not only are these the voters who decide
elections, poll after poll finds these voters generally agree more with the
Libertarian Party than any other.

In their 2006 study of the American electorate, The Libertarian Vote, Cato
Institute scholars David Boaz and David Kirby find between ten and twenty
percent of the electorate is generally fiscally conservative and socially
liberal -- in other words, libertarian. A 2006 Gallup Governance Survey puts
the "libertarian" vote at 21 percent, tied with the "liberal" vote and behind
only the "conservative" vote at 25 percent.

That growing libertarian vote is getting close to the same percentage as those
describing themselves and liberal or conservative and large enough to
assemble a winning coalition in election races. Many of the "unaffiliated"
or "non-ideological" voters agree more with libertarians than with
conservatives or liberals.

So why haven't Libertarians won more elections than they already have? With a
renewed focus on winning the LP did win 200-plus races in 2008 and increased
its presidential vote total for the second straight election, but there is
room for so much more growth.

Much of the blame lies with ballot access laws placing an intolerable burden
on citizens who wish to vote for something other than Republicans or
Democrats. The Libertarian Party is hard at work in state legislatures
across the country changing those laws.

Right now is a great time to be a Libertarian. Voters cite economic issues
and job growth as their top concerns in poll after poll, both Libertarian

Those same polls show majorities support the libertarian solution of reducing
the size and government and expanding regulatory and tax relief for
employers. They know it does more to create jobs and renew faith in the
economy than spending $30 million on the "salt marsh mouse," as Democrats
propose, or spending $700 billion bailing out unsuccessful businesses and
trillions more expanding government, as the past big-spending Republican
administration and Congress did.

They're looking for someone to let them know that, if elected, they'll focus
on their concerns by sticking to proven solutions that create jobs and get
capital flowing. Libertarians are the only ones who agree.

The Libertarian Party is not an "alternative." It is the only mainstream
political party in America. That's why it is up to you and me to listen to
those voters, learn what they want us to do and promote solutions voters
agree on.

With optimism,

Donny Ferguson
Director of Communications
Libertarian Party

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Opening a car.

Losing my keys somewhere on the China Lake Naval Reservation, hundreds of miles from both home and my destination, is no fun, but there was a side benefit: I observed for the first time a locksmith at work.

The object is to obtain a code for the car's key, then to cut a new one. It would seem that this is ordinarily done by a sort of bootstrap procedue. First the interior of the car is opened by slim-jimming the lock if possible. Mine was already open. Then, the trunk is opened from the interior, by pulling the lever next to the driver's seat. That is, unless the trunk is in lockout mode, which mine was.

If the side door is not openable by slim-jim or the trunk is unopenable by lever, the alternative is to make a key by impression. The locksmith wiggles a blank in the lock, leaving impressions where the tumbler pins are. Cuts are made in the blank with a rattail file, and the process is repeated; the pins stop leaving marks when the cuts are of proper height. The door or trunk can be opened with the new key, usually with a bit of wiggling as the fit isn't exact.

What follows is removal of a lock cylinder, on which a code is printed that the locksmith can then look up in a reference manual and use to cut a proper key. Some cars--such as, unfortunately, my 2000 Mitsubishi, require a third step: resetting a code in the computer. Many newer cars have a reprogrammable RFID tag in the key that needs to send the right number to the computer in order for the car to be started. No code, no spark. The locksmith has a device not unlike an engine scanner which can reprogram the computer to match the new key; old keys can be reprogrammed using a less portable device.

Interesting stuff. $300 worth of interesting? Maybe not. The Coso Petroglyphs--the reason I was there in the first place--are worth seeing and, as the American Altamira or Lascaux, less well known than they ought to be. Photos to be posted after everything is processed and scanned: so far only my Fuji Acros is back from the lab.

A worthwhile climate lecturer.

Paul Kushner of the University of Toronto gives a truly outstanding hour-long introduction to climate modeling for the scientifically literate audience, managing also to slip in some of his current work, for illustrative purposes, near the end.

I got a chance to sit in on it earlier today, while visiting Stanford University. I recommend him highly as a speaker, if you get the chance to invite him.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An Epinions shout-out for Kiva.org

Epinions's promotion next month will be contributions to a charity to be selected by member voting. I put in a good word for Kiva.org, managing to name-check Julian Simon, Peter Bauer, Milton Friedman, and Manmohan Singh in the process.

If you write for Epinions, it wouldn't hurt for you, too, to write a review in support of Kiva. If you don't write for Epinions, it wouldn't hurt for you so sign up, write a few beer reviews, and then put in a good word for Kiva, either.