Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Keep laptops out of the hands of poor people

Who would buy a $398 laptop? People that can't afford to buy a $1,000 laptop. In other words, poor people. So why does the state of Wisconsin forbid Wal-Mart from selling a laptop for $398? Good question...seems pretty insensitive toward the "have-nots," to borrow a term from so-called progressives. I guess Wisconsin thinks only rich people should have laptops.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Beating the terrorists at their own game

Looks like Miami police have found a way to stop the terrorists...terrorize the citizens first and steal the terrorists' thunder. I read about this story here.

Sunday, November 6, 2005

New type of wind turbine

Well, new to me, at least. TMA's vertical wind turbine sounds neat.

I heard about this company from this post at The Energy Blog.

Have all of our problems been solved?

If this is true, our energy problems may be solved, but the physicists' problems are just beginning.
Randell Mills, a Harvard University medic who also studied electrical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, claims to have built a prototype power source that generates up to 1,000 times more heat than conventional fuel. Independent scientists claim to have verified the experiments and Dr Mills says that his company, Blacklight Power, has tens of millions of dollars in investment lined up to bring the idea to market. And he claims to be just months away from unveiling his creation.
I heard about this story from this Slashdot post.

Update: Here's Blacklight's website.

Thursday, November 3, 2005


I don't live in California. Maybe some day I will...who knows. But I had to say something about this. Regarding California's upcoming special election, a group called "Speak Out California!" has produced a voting guide to tell people how to vote (and do all that annoying thinking for them). Anyway, on this page about how they think California should work, they ignorantly bash the "free market":
Republicans and their free market fundamentalist attack groups claim that they stand for economic growth, but the stock market on average performs 12% better under Democrats. Why? In short, because tax cuts don't create jobs: people do. We believe in producing robust and sustainable growth in this state by:

* Investing in education and infrastructure
* Encouraging public-private partnerships
* Making California the home for the green economy
* Protecting working families
* Supporting responsible corporate stewardship
There are soooo many things wrong with this statement. First, the assumption that Republicans are somehow allied with "free market" thinking and, even worse, that "free market" is necessarily associated with "fundamentalist attack groups," whatever those are. Republicans pay lip service to free market ideals when it suits their purpose, then spend taxpayer money like there's no tomorrow when their power is unchecked. I don't know what a fundamentalist attack group is--Swiftboat Veterans, maybe? Some pro-life group? I can't think of a fundamentalist attack group that actively supports free market ideals.

Next, the claim that the stock market performs "better under Democrats." Huh? Under which Democrats. Sure, the stock market did well during the 1990s, while a Democrat was president, but during most of that time Republicans controlled at least one house of Congress. More importantly, however, is that neither of those things are directly responsible for the better-than-average stock market performance of the 1990s. What about the boom in technology centered around the internet? This is a once-in-a-lifetime development that completely transformed the way the world works during the 1990s (and still continues today). Imagine if there was a stock market around before and after the invention of the wheel. Would not that fictitious stock market experience tremendous growth, regardless of who was in power (provided they weren't an out-and-out Communist), simply because of all the new stuff that the new technology allowed?

This is getting long, but I think our country functions best (given the current two-party duopoly) when a Democrat is president and Republicans control Congress. This leads to gridlock (which slows down regulation-passing) and animosity between the two branches of government, just as our Constitution intended.

Anyway, back to the critique. "Tax cuts don't create jobs, people do." Well, "guns don't kill people, I do." Seriously, though, what kind of empty statement is that. Obviously, people create jobs (who/what else could?). Tax cuts are a reduction in that which inhibits job creation--government interference in the economy. With our ridiculously-complicated tax code, I don't want to argue about whether one type of tax cut is more effective than another, but I think it's easy to see that, regardless of their impact on jobs, tax cuts improve the economy. Just ask Europe why the U.S. is the only G-8 country to experience consistent GDP growth at over 3% during the last few years.

Now for a point-by-point critique:

Investing in education and infrastructure - Good enough, I guess. If the government is already involved in these things, they should be improved upon. "Invest" is an ambiguous term, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, here.

Encouraging public-private partnerships - What, like taxpayer-funded stadiums? Subsidies for Big Farm?

Making California the home for the green economy - By regulating the state to death so that no one can afford a car?

Protecting working families - From whom? Working families should be worried about government taking away their hard-earned money to "encourage public-private partnerships."

Supporting responsible corporate stewardship - Fine. But don't use the word "stewardship." It's annoying.

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Comments sind zurück

Now that Blogger has a word-verification tool to weed out spam comments, comments are back on.

Good Quote

From this debate at Reason:
Just as people cannot live without eating, so a business cannot live without profits. But most people don’t live to eat, and neither must a businesses live just to make profits.
-- John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Defending Wal-Mart

Yeah, Wal-Mart has problems. But sometimes they're worth defending. First, there's this story (which admittedly sounds more like a press release) about Wal-Mart switching to corn-based plastic for their packaging instead of petroleum-based plastic. Sounds pretty win-win to me. I just hope the corn-based plastic isn't subsidized, but I'm sure it is somewhere along the supply chain. So it's not the best story ever, but it's better than nothing.


From this LP article:
As the GOP actively sheds its conservative base, hitting stagnation in support, the Libertarian Party continues to grow each day as "dislodged voters" are turning to the LP as the only viable party that will stand by principle for the benefit of the American people....'More and more citizens are looking to us, the Libertarian Party, to break the two-party system and lead this nation to peace and prosperity,' stated Shane Cory, chief of staff for the Libertarian Party.
Okay, Michael Chertoff during the Conventoin Center fiasco. Sure, the LP is a couple people a month. Nothing against the LP--indeed, I hope their membership skyrockets. But I think the picture they're trying to paint here is a little rosier than the way things really are.

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.


Nick Gillespie, the editor of Reason, is a great guy to have on the libertarian side. Credible, insightful, but at the same time edgy. Plus he's on the same wavelength as me. Or I'm on the same wavelength with him. Whatever...

This post discusses how society is becoming increasingly individualistic, which is in my opinion a very good thing not only for individuals (which we all are) but also for liberty.
The wider social implications of this sort of biomedical technology are pretty staggering, I think, and will almost certainly lead to significant shifts in how we perceive already-fluid group identities such as race and ethnicity.
I think that many people look forward to the day when each person is viewed as an individual and not be their "race." Tearing down arbitrary classifications along the lines of race, ideology, and even class (yes, class is arbitrary--it can't be defined objectively) will help people take control of their own lives...Hopefully.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Maximizing the power of individuals

I'm not only skeptical of the power governments have over the lives of individuals, but also the power corporations have over the lives of individuals. Yes, private companies are [almost always] more effective at accomplishing something than government, but that doesn't mean I think private companies should control society. Rather, individuals should control their own lives. To me, this is the maximum level of freedom.

So that's why I think Outfoxed is neat. It gives individuals the ability to influence how a site is perceived by other individuals. It allows individuals to view, edit, and read comments from other individuals about any website. So people can be "socially-aware surfers" or learn how a website treats spyware. Basically, it informs individuals and allows them to hear all sides of the story about whatever website their visiting. Sure, such a system is vulnerable to false information, spin, and bias, but so is Wikipedia, and the users of Wikipedia have effectively dealt with such potential problems to make it one of the most informative, reliable, and oft-used sites on the internet.

The influence of Outfoxed may be small, but I think it is indicative of a trend for society to become more individualized and for individuals be become more empowered. More individual power is synonymous with more individual freedom. This is good.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Why Libertarians Aren't Succesful at Anything, Including Ending The War in Iraq

This article, by RollingStone's Tim Dickinson, is very insightful (+4, Insightful). It talks about how the anti-war movement in the US, while it has momentum and even the support of public opinion, may ultimately be unsuccessful because the movement is "too fractured."

As public opinion turns against the War in Iraq, the anti-war movement has grown and, in many ways, become more credible. Veterans and families of veterans involved in the war (literally) have come out against the war, and they obviously have a huge amount of credibility. On the other hand, the "Free-Mumia" wing of the anti-war movement detracts from the success of the movement because (1) they're seen as radicals in the first place, and (2) because they can't stay on-message. From the article:
When Cindy Sheehan, the grieving mother whose vigil at Bush's ranch in Texas catapulted the anti-war movement from the margins to the mainstream, took the stage, organizers even tried to cut her speech short -- after barely two minutes -- to make way for a screechy slew of unknowns, who shouted on about the Angola Three, the Cuban Five and "legitimate revolutionaries" branded as terrorists by the "U.S. puppet regime" in Manila.
Get it? The wackos in the movement are ruining the credibility of the people that are actually on to something. Sound familiar?

Libertarians have been battling this problem almost since the inception of the party. A powerful minority of LP'ers wish they were alive in 1776 to fight against the British and in 1789 to ratify the Constitution. They go off about the gold standard and fiat currency, as if anybody besides themselves cares. They wear three-corner hats to anti-tax rallies at the post office on April 15th.

And these people become the face of libertarianism. Literally! The three-corner hat wearing protester--he's real! He was on national TV (Jimmy Kimmel Live)and wasn't afraid to admit he was a member of the Libertarian Party. Great, the perfect spokesman!

Anyway, all of the non-crazies that are either in the LP, consider themselves libertarian, or would at least vote for a libertarian are done a tremendous disservice by the movement's more...eccentric members.

Now back to the RollingStone article. I found the following passage interesting.

President Bush and his men certainly aren't worried about the opposition. "There is no real anti-war movement," Karl Rove reportedly declared before the September rally. "No serious politician, with anything to do with anything, would show his face at an anti-war rally." Rove knows that beyond its simplistic sloganeering about "Out now," the peace movement has failed to develop a pragmatic exit strategy -- one that mainstream Democrats can embrace without being blasted as part of Cut and Run. Opponents of the war have to do more than pillory the president's policy -- they must bring a serious alternative to the table.
"Everybody knows that things are fucked up in Iraq," says Rieckhoff. "But the question is, What do we do now? The Republicans got us into this mess, but the Democrats don't have a plan to get us out." Rieckhoff suggests that opponents of the Bush Doctrine sit down and formulate a viable exit strategy guided by generals who oppose the war -- the "Zinni Doctrine," say, or the "Shinseki Doctrine" -- that would serve as the basis for a broad-based coalition. "That's ultimately what's needed," he says. "The problem is, that kind of coalition isn't being formed now."
The LP released its Exit Strategy in July, and shortly thereafter the LP's Michael Dixon was interviewed by Alan Colmes. There was a lot of discussion in the vaunted "blogosphere," both for and against the plan. The libertarian pragmatists largely supported the plan, as it seemed like the quickest we could get out of Iraq in a reaonable, politically-viable maner. Of course, libertarian purists railed against the plan and its gradual troop withdrawal and economic assistance to the Iraqi government.

Well, it's been a few months since the plan was released, and there's not much talk about it in the media now. Sure, there's a bunch of discussion about an exit strategy, but not about the LP's specific proposal. Clearly, Tim Dickinson either isn't aware of the LP's plan or if he knows about it doesn't take it seriously.

My question is this: with public opinion turning increasingly against the war, why isn't the LP solely focused on promoting their exit strategy. The LP should be THE anti-Iraq War party. They've been against the war from the start and are against it now. Yet probably 2% of Americans know this. Even the LP's own site shows where its priorities are. Tucked up in the upper left corner is the graphic linking to the Exit Strategy. But front and center is a big image asking for more money!

Why is the Exit Strategy getting the shaft? Who's responsible for not [re]-striking while the iron is hot? Are the LP hardliners holding back this plan because it's not "principled" enough? Is there any other issue that the LP can ride a wave of popular support to mainstream credibility on? What's the deal?

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Powering your home with a fuel cell

Imagine getting all your heat, electricity, and fuel to run your car from a unit stationed at your home. That's possible with a home-based fuel cell that extracts hydrogen from natural gas. Sure, it's not perfect (you still need natural gas, which continues to be expensive). This article (scroll down; it's after the bit about the hydrogen car) discusses a recent Honda innovation, and this page talks about how the public library of Eden Prairie, MN, is powered by such a unit. From the article about Honda:
In addition to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by some 40%, according to Honda’s calculations, the HES system is expected to lower by 50% the total running cost of household electricity, gas and vehicle fuel.
The really cool advantage of this system is that it uses the heat created as a byproduct of the hydrogen extraction to heat the home. Finally! If you think about it, the byproduct of almost any energy generating/converting process is heat. On a macro scale, think of how much heat is wasted because the heat is generated at a location (i.e. a power plant) where it can't be used. By localizing (individualizing?) energy generation, the heretofore-wasted heat can now be put to good use.

With the price of natural gas continually increasing, I hope this becomes available soon. Even though it runs on natural gas, if there truly is a net energy cost savings of 50%, then it's worth it. And even without a hydrogen car, it may still be worth it just for the home electricity generation and heating.

And imagine if such a unit could be powered by something besides natural gas (wind, solar heat, etc.?)...

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Wal-Mart and Red-state Hypocrisy

This story embodies what I guess I'll call Red-state hypocrisy (even though I hate using "Red-state" as a euphemism for "conservative," but "conservative" is such an abused word that the term "Red-state" is actually more accurate).
Jarvis had assigned her senior civics and economics class "to take photographs to illustrate their rights in the Bill of Rights," she says. One student "had taken a photo of George Bush out of a magazine and tacked the picture to a wall with a red thumb tack through his head. Then he made a thumb's-down sign with his own hand next to the President's picture, and he had a photo taken of that, and he pasted it on a poster..."

An employee in that Wal-Mart photo department called the Kitty Hawk police on the student. And the Kitty Hawk police turned the matter over to the Secret Service. On Tuesday, September 20, the Secret Service came to Currituck High.

"At 1:35, the student came to me and told me that the Secret Service had taken his poster," Jarvis says. "I didn't believe him at first. But they had come into my room when I wasn't there and had taken his poster, which was in a stack with all the others."
On one-hand, Wal-Mart pretends to embrace free-market ideals (but they can't even do that right because they accept over $1 billion in subsidies), and on the other hand they seem to support the suppression of individual rights. They cell censored CDs and now, apparently, they snoop through your pictures and will tattle on you if you're satirizing the Supreme Commander and Leader of Our People Himself, Mr. George W. Bush, blessed be His Name.

The censored CDs are one thing...that's they're decision as a business. I disagree with it, but they're free to do it, because they own the store. And scanning through your photographs--well, I guess that'd be alright as long as they tell you beforehand so you don't have a false presumption of privacy. But tattling on you to the police?!? Now that's wrong. That crosses the line.

Wal-Mart's behavior is indicative of the behavior of many so-called conservatives these days. They bash government when doing so suits they're purpose (and they're image), but actually embrace goverment in a manner far scarier than how big-government liberals embrace it when they call for tax increases and universal health-care. Higher taxes and goverment-run health care are indeed scary, but the wolf-in-sheep's clothing conservative that claims to hate government while steadily stealing your rights out from underneath you is way worse.

You know, "Red-staters" are looking increasingly-deserved of that color designation.

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Support Frank Gonzalez

Frank Gonzalez got 27.2% of the vote to be Florida's 21st District Congressman as a Libertarian (yeah, that's right, with a capital L). Now, he's running (and probably wisely so) as a Democrat in 2006 for the same seat. Let's hope he wins.

Also, can we get him a better (more professional-looking) website? And maybe the domain name or or or or something?

Special Report on Energy Conservation

Thanks to Google's blog search, I found the sustainablog, which had a link to this BusinessWeek Online special report on energ conservation.

Solar Heat vs. Solar Cells

Give solar heat another point in its battle vs. solar cells. Apparently, there's a growing shortage of polysilicon, the stuff that solar panels are made of. Solar dish and solar trough systems (both of which concentrate solar energy to heat something to produce energy) don't have photovoltaic cells, so they're not affected by increases in the cost of polysilicon. In fact, if anything such a shortage helps those technologies because people/companies/utilities interested in solar power may be increasingly likely to go with non-photovoltaic technologies. The more business that flows towards solar dishes and solar troughs, the cheaper and better those technologies get.

More Solar Energy in the Southwestern US

A company called Solargenix has gotten the go-ahead to build a solar-trough style electricity generating plant in Nevada. Read more about the story from ther press realease, here. And read more about solar trough technology here, at the ever-informative The Energy Blog.

Using hydrogen to help gas burn cleaner

This is an interesting story about a company in Canada that is creating a device to help gasoline burn cleaner (and a bit more efficiently) by adding hydrogen to the combustion reaction. Hydrogen is formed by electrolysizing water (with the assistance of some chemicals that apparently don't get involved in the combustion reaction).

Sure, it doesn't really address the problem of oil being a limited resource, but it would (theoretically) dramatically reduce the amount of carbon dioxide resulting from car emissions. If gas can burn clean (really, really clean compared to how it burns now if this device can do everything it claims), then we might as well use oil until we run out.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The expanding world of interfaces

USB, WiFi, Webcams...these technologies are all making increasingly creative interfaces possible. On the output side of things, here is a toy rabbit that uses WiFi to wiggle its ears when you have email. For input, here's a demonstration of using play-doh to control the playback speed of a video.

This reminds me of Durrell Bishop's marble answering machine (Ctrl+F and search for "marble") , in which marbles (real, physical marbles) are used to inform the user how many messages they have and to, by dropping the marbles into a hole, playback the messages.

This trend of using physical, tangible interfaces to control non-physical events (email, video, voice messages) is really exciting, especially for those who don't want to let computer programmers and graphic designers have all the fun.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Usability sells?

Nintendo thinks they'll be able to market the usability of their new video controller to help sell their next-generation video console.
"We thought about how everyone in the family uses the TV remote, but some people don't want to even touch the game controller," Nintendo President Satoru Iwata said. "We want to set a new interface standard for games."

Germany's FDP

I just discovered that Germany's Free Democratic Party (FDP) is [at least moderately] libertarian. In the most recent election, they got 9.8% of the vote (more than expected). Plus, there's talk of a coalition government between the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Christian Social Union (CSU, similar to the CDU but only for the state of Bavaria), the Green Party, and the FDP. Since the CDU and CSU are economically "liberal" (i.e., libertarian), the Green Party is socially liberal, and the FDP is both economically and socially liberal, it's possible that the new German government could be rather libertarian in nature.

In order to avoid a gridlocked "grand coalition" (I'm sick of the term, but that's what it's called) with the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the CDU/CSU has to convince the Green Party to join them instead of the SDP (the obvious partner). But to do this, the CDU/CSU might have to agree not to do anything too socially conservative (a la the Republican Party in the US) or support any military excursions (again, a la the Republican Party). Of course, it may also mean supporting some socialistic ideas regarding East Germany that the Greens support, but the presence of the FDP within such a coalition may cancel this desire out.

I don't know much about German politics, so this is all just [wishful] speculation. But a coalition comprising the CDU/CSU, the Greens, and the FDP may be able to all agree on their support of individual rights, hopefully both socially and economically.

UPDATE: For comments, see original blog post here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

More Stirling Engine Solar Power

Another Stirling Solar Dish facility is to be built in California. It's being built by, who else, Stirling Energy Systems. Man, I wish they were a publicly-traded company. Here's their press release.

An anti-eminent domain stance that's hip

You can protest eminent domain abuse in New York and be ultra hip, too. So do it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Interesting Company - WindLogics

WindLogics is headquartered in St. Paul, but they have an office in Grand Rapids, MN. This article discusses the company. And here's their website.

Basically, they analyze the wind potential of a certain area to help determine the viability of a wind farm in that area. There will be a great deal of wind farm expansion in Minnesota and Wisconsin in the next several years (at least), and it looks like WindLogics is in a good position to feed off of that growth. Too bad it's not a publicly-traded company.

Solar Power and You

This evening, a very special after-school special: Solar Power and You.

So, umm, anyway...I just saw this article about a huge new solar power facility in California. This is the other solar energy, though. Not photovoltaics--those sorry, 20% efficiency beasts. No, this facility will rely on Stirling dishes to concentrate heat and drive a Stirling engine. Instead of the measly 20% efficiency you'd be lucky to get from photovoltaics, Stirling dishes are about 30% efficient.

The Stirling dishes will be made by Stirling Energy Systems, which sounds like a really neat company. The image to the right (from their website) shows how their machine works. As you can see, it's way more mechanical than a photovoltaic system.

Of course, one would expect an alternative energy project of this [potential] magnitude to have massive government subsidies. Happily, that is NOT the case.
Sacramento is willing to subsidize new solar projects, but SoCal Edison says the price it negotiated with Stirling Energy is so attractive -- "well below the 11.33 cents per kWh" it now pays for peak power -- that it won't seek any state subsidies. That seems certain to cement approval.
So it looks like this is a bona fide case of solar power actually being financially viable. Bonus.

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Alternative Energy Stocks to Watch

This is a pseudo-permanent page that will be updated with stocks and/or funds that deal with or focus on alternative energy.

More on OTEC

Dr. Liang Nai-kuang, a Taiwanese professor, discusses the possibilities of OTEC here. He raises the idea of storing energy created on offshore platforms (where access to deep, cold water is easier) to create hydrogen via electrolysis, then creating ammonia or methyl alcohol to store the hydrogen for transport, a la these "hydrogen pills."

This is interesting.

Energy from Cold Water

I read this article from Wired Magazine a while ago and didn't want to forget about it--hence this post. The article is about how cold water (really the difference in temperature between cold water and hot air) can be used for air conditioning, fresh water generation, and even power generation. Plus, you can use the "side effects" to help grow fruit faster.
Running the frigid pipes through heat exchangers produces unlimited air-conditioning that costs almost nothing. Draining their sweat yields an endless supply of freshwater for drinking and irrigation. The cold water also creates a temperature difference between root and fruit that Craven believes speeds growth. And by turning the flow on and off, Craven has found he can further accelerate the plants' growth cycle by forcing them in and out of dormancy - he can get three crops of grapes a year and pineapples in eight months instead of the usual 18.
And to generate electricity:
Pipes draw warm water from the ocean surface and cold water from the seabed. The warm water enters a vacuum chamber and is evaporated into steam that drives an electricity-producing turbine. The cold water condenses the steam back into water for drinking and irrigation.

Update: Here are some links on Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC):
UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Another Hydrogen Storage/Transport Method

The Weizmann Institute has released a new study detailing a process to create hydrogen indirectly from zinc-oxide. Basically, the process works by using concentrated solar energy to heat zinc-oxide to a high temperature, thereby transforming it into a gas and resulting in the separation of zinc from oxygen. The zinc later cools and condenses into a powder. Add some water at about 662°F, and the zinc reacts with the water to form zinc-oxide and hydrogen. Now you've got hydrogen and, as a nice little bonus, more zinc oxide with which to start the process anew.

This article explains the process pretty well, as does this article. These first two articles claim the process "generates no pollution," yet this physorg article states (along with a nice animation):
At a heat of above 1200°C (2192F) the ZnO breaks down into Zn and oxygen which in turn recombines with the carbon to create CO as a minor by-product.
This article (which is copied-and-pasted from a Nature article that is only available to premium members, one of which I am not) sheds some light on the carbon-monoxide thing. The process uses coal as a sort of catalyst to reduce the temperature at which zinc-oxide splits into zinc and oxygen, allowing the focused solar energy to provide sufficient heat. The physorg article says, "For the future, the team sees the possibility of replacing the coal completely with biomass thus making the entire process completely pollution free."

But that's not true, either. Just because you're getting the carbon from a "natural" source doesn't mean CO or CO2 won't be produced during the reaction. So there'd still be pollution. The bottom line:

The zinc-forming reaction also releases carbon monoxide from the charcoal, which eventually converts to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In a full-scale industrial process, the carbon monoxide could be harnessed to help produce even more hydrogen from water. But this too would produce carbon dioxide. For now the process produces as much carbon dioxide as extracting the same amount of hydrogen from natural gas, Epstein says.
So, it's not a perfect solution, but that's probably a good thing, because it means it's probably realistic and perhaps commercializable. Is that a word?

Oh yeah, one more thing. The organization that produced this research is the Weizmann Institute, not the Weitzman Institute, as it's referred to in the physorg article.

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Hybrid Cars

This article has a nice review of the various hybrid automobiles available now or in the near future. Of course, you have to take the 0-60 times and EPA mileage with a grain of salt, but the zippiest model is the new Honda Accord Hybrid (0-60 in 6.7 seconds), and the most efficient model is the Honda Insight, which is rated at 60 mpg city, 66 mpg highway. The Accord is pictured to the right.

Friday, September 9, 2005

Hydrogen Pills

Don't eat these.
“Should you drive a car 600 km using gaseous hydrogen at normal pressure, it would require a fuel tank with a size of nine cars. With our technology, the same amount of hydrogen can be stored in a normal gasoline tank”, says Professor Claus Hviid Christensen, Department of Chemistry at DTU.
NOTE: 600 kilometers = 372.822715 mi (from Google)


I like to keep track of technological innovations having to do with alternative energy, so I'm going to do it through this "blog," as it were.

You know, since the government was so effective in this case

How can so many people completely miss the blatant hypocrisy in this?
Hearkening even further back in history to the days of Roosevelt’s New Deal and its vast expansion of federal power in the 1930s, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., called for a New Orleans and Gulf Coast Redevelopment Authority modeled after the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Clearly, if there's one thing we've learned after Katrina, it's just how efficient and effective the federal government can truly be!

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Will Wilkinson is a good writer

Well said.

More evidence of law enforcement preventing people from leaving New Orleans

This post discusses a very detailed account of people trapped (thanks to the authorities) in New Orleans.

By the way, the Red Cross is better than FEMA.

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

I like Mike Gabai

I've never met Mike Gabai, and I only know one thing about him. But I already know I like him.


Because he's the owner of, which as of right now automatically forwards you to

See this Radley Balko article and this Catallarcy post to see why I typed into my address bar.

Monday, September 5, 2005


The disaster, it seems to me, is the failure of a philosophy. A philosophy of small government, tax cuts, deficits and privatization. The federal government should have arrived sooner but the federal government was doing other things.
The above is from this article by Stephen Elliot.

Huh? The disaster is indeed a failure of philosophy, but a philosophy of big government. Were it not for big governement, would half of the Louisiana National Guard's resources be in Iraq? Were in not for government largesse, would the Red Cross (a non-governmental organization) be prohibited from entering New Orleans and doing what they do best--save lives? Were it not for the iron-fist of the government, would the only exit out of New Orleans become a checkpoint (watch the video)?

Please. The contention that the atrocity that the aftermath of Katrina became is somehow the result of small government is patently absurd. What's more, it's impossible, since government has grown faster under George Bush than Bill Clinton, and has been steadily increasing for the last eighty years (save a one-time cut of non-defense discretionary spending under Reagan).

The evidence is clear. Government failed. Not because it was too small. Nay, as Will Ferrell would say. Because government was too big. Too clumsy and bureacratic to pass the paperwork through agency after agency to get things done. Too procedural to let people who actually could help do so. And too focused on making the public think everything was copasetic to worry about pesky things like evacuating people and saving lives.

Government Failure

Bill Clinton agrees with me.

Utter Government Failure

Watch the video of Geraldo here. It is documented proof that the government was actually preventing people from leaving the horrid New Orleans Convention Center.

So that's one failure. Here's another--the government prevented the Red Cross from entering New Orleans.

Here's another.

But thank God for propaganda--the American people may never know.

But wait, wait. What we really need is more government. 'Cause, you know....they did such a bang-up job here.

I actually think the government (federal, state, whatever) does have a role to play in dealing with natural disasters, but they certainly shouldn't interfere with experts like the Red Cross, or prevent people from leaving hell holes like the Convention Center. Come on.

Oh, and don't forget about Iraq. Due largely to the War in Iraq:
The National Guard Bureau estimates that its nationwide equipment availability rate is 35 percent, about half the normal level, according to Pentagon statistics."
I think Tim West summed it up brilliantly:
Louisiana is not better off becuase of the Iraq War, it’s much worse off."

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Clever License Plate

I saw a really clever license plate on a Toyota Prius the other day:


It's even better when you say it fast.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

What if there were no traffic cops?

In the Ukraine, there's been no significant change since Viktor Yushchenko dissolved the traffic police.

I think a lot of people would agree that American roads are over-regulated. Why can't we, for example, drive more than 70 mph (the highest the speed limit gets in Minnesota) on a straight, flat road? 70 mph is arbitrary. What's so special about it? I doubt there's any corellation between speed limits and human reaction time.

And what's with the abundance of "no right turn on red" signs in Minneapolis. I'm sure some are justified (for example, if the there's a stoplight on the segment of road you want to turn onto shortly after the turn, then allowing people to turn right on red might create excessive backups and/or gridlock), but there are some that seem to be placed particularly to cause annoyance.

For example, on 50th St. and Vincent, you're not allowed to turn right from eastbound 50th onto southbound Vincent when the light is red. Why not?!? Vincent is a very non-busy road. Often, there's not even anybody going straight on Vincent (perpendicular to 50th) while you're waiting on 50th during the red light. And there aren't any stoplights on Vincent south of 50th. There are barely even any stop signs. What would be the harm in just letting people turn right on red here?

Anyway, all I'm saying is that I think we could do with a reduction in traffic regulations. Common sense is all I'm asking for. Basically, if you're actions on the road aren't going to [practically] endanger anybody else, they should be legal.

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Vilifying Subsidies in Popular Culture

I was happy to see that in the super-funny (I'm not using the word "hilarious" only because it's overused on the internet) movie Wedding Crashers, the movie's primary antagonist is a guy who (to paraphrase) 'got the governor to subsidize a scallop fishery' (or something along those lines). Anyway, what I'm so happy about is that the subsidy-seeking is not crucial to the character's persona. Rather, it's just thrown in there, almost capriciously. Like they producers of the movie are saying to the audience, "Yeah, this guy's already a jerk, but on top of it all, he lobbies for increased subsidies!"

It's subtle, and most viewers probably didn't even notice it, but it was encouraging to see. After all, they could have made the antagonist a guy who works to eliminate trade restrictions (as a stereotypical "evil capitalist"), but they didn't. Those chose to vilify subsidies.

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Fair is Fair?

"Fair is fair. There are too many individuals dying of heat here."
That is Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, as quoted in this MSNBC article. Here's what he's talking about:
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said his office was asking Congress to provide utility assistance for soaring cooling bills the same way it provides for heating bills in Eastern states.
Nice mentality--The taxpayers of the rest of the U.S. have to subsidize people living along the East Coast, so they should have to subsidize people living in Arizona.

Nobody likes extraordinarily hot weather, but I'm sure there are many Americans that would enjoy living in Arizona. Why should people in Wisconsin have to pay for people to live in what some would consider an almost perfect climate (besides the occasional extra-hot temperatures)? If air conditioning costs a lot because it's so hot in Arizona, then that's the price of admission. People in South Dakota don't get to enjoy the nice, dry Arizona heat; why should they have to pay for it?

Same for New England heating oil. Most people probably don't like New England winters as much as Arizona summers, but regardless, a high heating bill in New England is the price of admission. Don't like the cold? Move somewhere else. Hate the cold but love the New England charm? Then pay for it. People in Missouri don't get to enjoy the benefits of living in New England, so why should they have to pay for things when the going gets rough?

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Pharmaceutical Tyranny

Well, I don't have to say that healthcare in this country is messed up, because everybody knows it. Most of the discussion is about insurance and single-payer universal suffrage copayments blah blah blah. That's all important, but it's also really complicated.

What I find more intriguing (right now, at least) is the racket that is the pharmaceutical industry in America. With respect to the medicine we take (for even the most mundane of ailments), the FDA has a venerable stranglehold over our freedom to decide about whether we're qualified to decide. America has got to be one of the least-free nations in the world when it comes to having the liberty to determine for ourselves whether we need professional advice. The way things stand now, we don't have a choice. Even if we know exactly what we need, we still have to go to a doctor. Even if the visit lasts only four minutes.

Would you believe that, of all nations, France's prescription regulations are far less draconian? I know people that, when they go to France, will stock up on drugs like Zyrtec, which in France can be purchased over-the-counter, just like aspirin. Here, Zyrtec is available only with a prescription.

Similarly, after forgetting an extra pair of contact lenses on a trip to Germany (and briefly the Netherlands), I was able to buy contact lenses in Amsterdam in about ten minutes. I just told them my prescription and they gave me the contacts. No doctor appointment needed. Hardly the case in America, where I would have had to wait how many days or weeks for a routine appointment to tell me what I already knew, that I needed the same prescription I've needed for the last five years. And what's the difference if I buy contacts that are too weak or too strong. How could I hurt anyone? By staring at them for too long?

It's such a racket. Why can't we just decide for ourselves? Why can't we just get input from the pharmacists? I'm not saying we should all go out and take anything we want. But why can't we decide what we're qualified to decide about and what we need to go to doctors for? I know I need Zyrtec. I'll always need it during the summer because I'll always get allergies. I don't need a doctor to tell me that, as luck would have it, my allergies have continued!

Imagine how much healthcare costs would decline if we could eliminate the middleman (the doctor) for things like allergy medication, contact lens refills, acne medications, antacid-type medications, etc...

Update: Here's more complaining about how politicians (this time it's Republicans) insist on saving us from ourselves by keeping us ignorant.

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Saturday, July 9, 2005

Political party websites

Since the Democrats have a newly-redesigned website, here's my ranking of the various political parties in the U.S. in order of quality of website design, from best to worst.
  1. Democratic Party
  2. Green Party
  3. Libertarian Party
  4. [Minnesota] Independence Party
  5. Republican Party
  6. Reform Party
  7. Constitution Party
  8. Democratis Socialists of America
  9. Socialist Party USA
  10. Whig Party
Just kidding about the Whig Party...I like them just because wigs are funny. I included the Minnesota Independence Party because it's [still] a major party in Minnesota and it's sort of a rebel offshoot of the Reform Party (it was founded by Jesse Ventura after his disgust with the Reform Party).

PDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Neat site

Here's a neat site:

This is broken

They talk about, among other things, product design.

Update: Ironically, the above link is broken, so use this one instead.

Tuesday, July 5, 2005


I love this quote:
Individualism celebrates the life of each thing as essential in the life of all things.
It's from this essay by Crispin Sartwell, which I found from this story on The Agitator. The actual quote is, "It celebrates the life of each thing as essential in the life of all things," but 'it' is a pronoun referring to individualism, so I think the above quote is reasonable.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

My idea for a libertarian billboard

Here's my idea for a libertarian billboard. Hammer of Truth is running a contest (maybe it's more like an online brainstorming session) for a libertarian billboard that could be put up in Washington, D.C.

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Is this what it's going to take?

Remember this:

Is this what it's going to take? Some brave defender of freedom standing in front of bulldozers about to demolish his house in New London, Connecticut?

By the way, the guy in this picture (the original) is awesome.

Goverporation, Inc.

So when a local government is bulldozing houses for a wealthy development, it's a local issue, and the rich and powerful may bulldoze what they please. But if a local government is allowing terminally-ill patients to ease their suffering by smoking medical marijuana, it's a federal issue, and DEA agents can raid marijuana dispensaries. Right.

Isn't the federal government supposed to protect the liberty of we the people, not the privileges of they the corporations?

Sandra Day O'Connor nailed it in her dissent:
"The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."
She also dissented in the Raich case:
"[The decision] stifles an express choice by some states, concerned for the lives and liberties of their people, to regulate medical marijuana differently."
Radley Balko is correct in saying that this was "worst Supreme Court term for the cause of liberty in a very long time."

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

How the federal government keeps Africa poor and America polluted

One word: subsidies.

This article, from Reason, explains how American agricultural subsidies severely hurt sub-Saharan African economies. An excerpt:
U.S. agriculture policy undermines U.S. efforts to alleviate poverty because it drives down global agricultural prices, which in turn cost developing countries hundreds of millions of dollars in lost export earnings. The losses associated with cotton subsidies alone exceed the value of U.S. aid programs to the countries concerned.
And consider this:
The aid is ineffective because of the appalling way in which Africa is governed. In recent decades, of each dollar given to Africa in aid, 80 cents were stolen by corrupt leaders and transferred back into Western bank accounts.
So by eliminating pork-barrel farm subsidies, we can help Africa more than any government-to-government aid ever will. With subsidies, we're basically saying, "Okay, we like our society the way it is. We don't want to let anybody else join the party." So our subsidies keep worldwide agricultural prices artificially low, and the hardworking African farmer trying to help his country build a self-sufficient economy gets hammered down by big American corporations receiving fat-cat subsidies via "our" reprsentatives on Capitol Hill.

If we really want to "make poverty history," we have to kill all subsidies, now. I don't care how many "family farmers" will be put out of business in America. The fact is many more families are dying in Africa because of these subsidies.

Subsidies also make more environmentally-friendly energy not financially-feasible in America. From an MSNBC article on the success of ethanol produced from sugar cane in Brazil:
In the United States, the sugar-cane industry has had little incentive to diversify into ethanol production because import quotas support U.S. sugar prices far above world levels...

...Most U.S.-produced ethanol is now made from ground corn in a process that has been faulted as inefficient. Corn yields less sugar per acre than sugar cane, and the refining uses substantial amounts of energy. To keep ethanol competitive with gasoline, major refiners such as Archer Daniels Midland Co. have relied since the 1970s on a tax subsidy, now 51 cents a gallon.
Yeah, that makes sense. Let's use import quotas to keep sugar prices artificially high and therefore stop sugar cane growers from producing ethanol efficiently, but then give subsidies to corporations who make ethanol inefficiently. To make matters worse, the federal government has high tariffs against imported ethanol:
The United States imposes a stiff tariff on imported ethanol. But over the past 12 months, 160 million gallons of the Brazilian product still entered the country. The U.S. agribusiness giant Cargill Inc., the third-largest U.S. ethanol refiner, announced plans last year to refine Brazilian ethanol in El Salvador and export it to the United States duty-free under provisions of the Caribbean Basin Initiative.

To be fair, the Brazilian ethanol industry (big surprise) hasn't done this all on its own:
In the 1990s, some distillers went bankrupt and many refiners and sugar-cane farmers fell on hard times. But the government stuck by its commitment to alternative fuels, purchasing unsold stocks of ethanol and showering tax breaks on cabdrivers who used ethanol.
But imagine if the U.S. wouldn't have had all of those subsidies, tariffs, and other forms of economic protectionism in place since the 1970s. If there were a truly free market in sugar (and its products), the Brazilian industry wouldn't have needed so much government help and there probably would be a thriving sugar cane-based ethanol industry in America.

Instead, we're more relient than ever on foreign oil, and we're fighting a War in Iraq to secure future oil sources fight terrorism.

Sustainable development is the all the rage right now. Well, capitalism has led us increasingly toward more sustainable industries. That's how capitalism works. If a business isn't sustainable, then it goes out of business. Think about subsidies; all they do (by definition) is prop up failing businesses. How can that ever be good? If we prop up our own failing, polluting industries with subsidies, we prevent other, more sustainable industries from developing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Why a radical platform will never work

Opponents of LP platform reform have pointed out that if candidates for school board are stupid enought to discuss their ideas for ending the War on Drugs or their opposition to income taxes, they deserve to not get elected. They should know better and they should focus only on the relevant issues.

Okay, that's fine.

But the problem with this argument is that with the LP’s radical platform, the candidates don’t get to determine which issues become important.

See, there's a new piece of technology called the "internet." Well, with this “internet,” people can now go “online” and find out how almost anyone who cares about politics feels about almost any issue, either directly or by association.

So, a candidate can limit their output to the relevant issues, but voters can get their input from sources other than the candidate’s output. Now, everything is fair game, and candidates don’t get to set the agenda. Anybody that calls themself a Libertarian is automatically associated with the dogmatic platform and pledge of the LP, whether they want the voters to know it or not.

That's why a radical platform will never work.

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

LP platform reform is necessary

If anyone doubts that the LP platform stops the party from growing and being more successful, read this string of comments from a Fark link regarding a protest made by a member of the Free State Project. More information about the protest here.
Basically, a lot of the commenters on Fark seem sympathetic to libertarianism but are turned off by the anarchic positions of the party.

How much more obvious can the demand for a moderate LP platform be?

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A model candidate

Barack Obama might be the most popular national politician in the U.S. today. He is a model candidate, and I think anybody that is going to run for an elected office should study his campaign and how he runs his office (including his website, which is very nice).

He's going to be on Oprah this Thursday, and I'm sure this is just one small part of an upcoming media blitz that will be enormously successful. The promotional clips for the show use the teaser, "Will he run for president?" It's not the first time the question has been raised.

His stance on issues isn't the worst. Some of his positions jive with libertarian [moderate] principles, while others definitely don't:
  • opposes mandatory minimum sentences
  • is against the death penalty
  • is pro-choice
  • supports banning some guns
  • supports school vouchers
  • thinks health care is a "right" but doesn't want to nationalize the system
  • isn't really a free trader
I'm not saying he's going to be president in 2008 (or 2012 or 2016), but he will be successful. If he chooses to, I think he can be a senator for as long as he wants. As long as he doesn't have some scandal, who's going to beat him (much less run against him)?

Imagine if libertarians had such a candidate. Instead, we have people like this.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The LP's infamous pledge

I wonder if the two dominant political parties in America have pledges to stop any non-purists from (gasp!) joining their party....Nope. Hmmmm...I wonder why they're so successful?
Well, they're not "principled," though. So what if they keep winning all the elections and using their ever-increasing power to destroy liberty. Libertarians, thank you very much, would rather keep their principles. You see, for them, principles are more important than liberty.
Wait a minute...

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

A dangerous combination

The recent Supreme Court ruling looks downright scary when you consider the "snitch-or-go-to-jail" legislation that Congress is currently mulling over.

Is your terminally-ill grandmother with glaucoma currently using medical marijuana? Go undercover and rat her out, or else!

Is your friend with AIDS using medical marijuana to keep his appetite up? You better wear a wire for us the next time you visit!

You helped a medical marijuana organization make some Xerox copies of their price list? You better tell us where we can arrest them, or we'll arrest you!


What Would Janice Do?

Janice Rogers Brown, that is. How would she have voted in this recent medical marijuana case?

Given the age of some of the Supreme Court justices, I wonder how long it will take before she gets nominated for the Supreme Court?

Here are some of her positions.

I think she would have sided with Thomas.

Let's regulate the interstate commerce clause itself

I'd write something about the recent Supreme Court case ruling, in which the federal government's drug laws now officially trump contradicting state laws, but Radley Balko's got pretty much every thing I'd want to say covered (plus a lot more).

In my view, this ruling is just another in a long line of federal government abuses of the infamous interstate commerce clause of the Constitution.

I think the only solution might be to have a Constitutional amendment that strictly defines what *does* and what *does not* constitute "interstate commerce."

Sunday, June 5, 2005

Paying for driving by the mile

Apparently, Britain is considering implementing a pay-per-mile system to pay for their roads.

Most libertarians hate this idea, but I actually like it.

Yes, I know, there are huge privacy concerns here. But they also very obvious concerns. It's not like the government is going to install a GPS receiver in anyone's car and charge them taxes (with a monthly bill?) without them noticing.

Plus, the system could should be engineered to not even keep track of the data. Why not just dynamically check against a database of all roads every time your odometer ticks up another mile to see which type of road you're on? If you're on a freeway, your total fare is incremented by x. If you're on some main drag, your fare is incremented by y. Some residential road--add z.

In other words, there's no need to save your position data. The system would just need to instantaneously grab the position data to figure out how much to increment your total driving bill.

Some people might say that such a system effectively reduces freedom because now people will limit their driving and feel less mobile knowing that every extra mile they drive will cost them.

And that's bad because??? It's not exactly like there's an energy surplus right now. And traffic's fun to sit in!

But besides the practical advantages to implementing such a system, the best reason is that it makes the automotive transportation market much more free market. You pay for what you use; no more, no less. If I never use a road, I never pay for it. If I drive on roads a lot, I have to pay for it.

The overall cost of automotive transportation is currently buried in oil industry subsidies, pork barrel road projects, gas taxes, licensing fees, and probably many other things. So while the average person thinks they're paying 10 cents per mile (assuming 20 mpg and $2.00/gallon gas), they're really paying much more. Now they'll finally see that.

And this will have several big benefits. First, it will level the playing field for things like buses, light rail, subways, and personal rapid transit, all of which might be profitable for private companies to run (instead of governments) if automotive transportation weren't de facto subsidized, as it is now. Second, it may pave the way (no pun intended...well, maybe) for the future privatization of roads...up until now one of the more kooky and unrealistic goals of libertarianism.

Yes, pay-per-mile systems for automotive transportation have an inherent potential for privacy abuses. But so do (and did) a bunch of new technologies. Cellular phone conversations used to be able to be picked up by off-the-shelf police scanners. The internet, while one of the greatest technological innovations of all time, is ripe with privacy concerns. But nobody is suggesting we abolish the internet.

We shouldn't just shy away from new ideas like this one because they carry privacy concerns. We should embrace new technologies and use things like the Constitution (remember that document?) to ensure that our privacy is protected. Laws can be used to protect our liberties, too.

I heard about this story from The Agitator.

For comments, see the original blog post here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

James Sensenbrenner has got to go

Senator Palpatine James Sensenbrenner (R, WI) has got to go. Among the legislation he has championed:
In addition, in 2004 he supported a couple bills that would "prohibit the courts" from reviewing certain bills.
  • A bill "prohibiting the courts from reviewing a provision of the 1996 "Defense of Marriage Act" that allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriage licenses issued in other states or jurisdictions." (HR 3313 (Roll Call 410))
  • A bill "preventing most federal courts from hearing cases challenging the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance." (HR 2028 (Roll Call 467)
Any way you slice it, Sensenbrenner, who is at least decent on most economic/trade issues (he supports legislation stopping the FCC from requiring digital TV tuners in all TVs, for example, and has won numerous awards for his economic conservatism), has an unquenchable thirst for robbing Americans of social freedoms. That, and his blatant hatred of the separation of powers make for a scary combination for someone so powerful.

Interestingly, it looks like this fascism is somewhat newfound. In 2004, Sensenbrenner won a
"Defender of the Constitution Award" in 2004 from the Conservative Political Action Conference (a conference that many libertarian organizations attended). He's even criticized the Patriot Act, although that crticism came in 2003.

Whatever the reason behind this frightening change of heart against liberty, I say it's time to send him packing.
He's up for reelection in 2006. Please, people of Wisconsin's Fifth District, vote this power-hungry legislator out of office for the sake of us all.

Lou Dobbs

I got tired of Lou Dobbs' xenophobic rants a while ago, but was rereminded about how backwards his logic is by Reason's Hit and Run.

An even better rebuff of Dobbs' arguments is linked from that Hit and Run post, here.
Dobbs (and tech workers disillusioned by the bursting of the dot-com bubble) might fondly wish that highly educated professionals in Asia would be kind enough to lobotomize themselves and go back to farming for the sake of inflating U.S. programmers' wages.
Spot on.

Monday, May 30, 2005


I'm currently watching Nightline's Fallen, its memorial to those troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obviously, I don't really think this, but wouldn't it be nice if every American were "forced" to watch this? I don't think it's necessarily anti-war or pro-war. It's just reality. These Americans died. We didn't.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Libertarian Scorecard

A blatant ripoff of Newsweek's 'Conventional Wisdom', I'm going to start a weekly scorecard of libertarian winners and losers for the previous week (but for this first scorecard, I'm using the past two weeks). The scorecard is completely subjective and as unscientific as a George Bush paper on environmental policy. Anyway, here it is.

+2 = really good
+1 = good
0 = no change
-1 = sort of bad
-2 = really bad

Cato Institute: -1

Major contributors the Koch's industrial connections leave me with the unsettling taste of bias in my mouth.

Free State Project: 0

Nothing too big seems to have happened recently. Membership growth is stagnant.
Institute for Justice: +2

Their major victory in deregulating interstate wine shipments was viewed as very populist by the media. Their name was cited by a bunch of articles, and they use the word "libertarian" on their website. Possible was initially funded by the Koch's.

Reason: +1

They continue to be the hippest libertarian organization, plus Reason's Nick Gillespie was not only a guest on the O'Reilly Factor, he made Bill O'Reilly eat his words. Plus, while on the show, Gilespie was able to say something like, "We're libertarians; we believe in free markets and free minds."

Tim Lee: +1

I think I met him at a NORML meeting at the University of Minnesota (I went to a total of one), and I knew he got a job at Cato, but I recently discovered his "blog," as it were (or weren't, as he claims).

Tim West: +1

His insistence on libertarians being more openly anti-corporate welfare is starting to sound more and more like a good idea, given the problems with Cato.

Wookies: +2

First, they get their own planet in Episode 3...then they're compared to libertarians. They're on a roll! Bonus question - does anyone remember the song "Chewbacca" from Clerks?

Free Talk Live: +1
Two new affiliates in, where else, New Hampshire. 0
Yes, they released their Read the Bills Act to Congress, but I haven't seen anything about it in the media...even the libertarian media.

That's it for this week.

Is Cato controlled by corporations?

I've seen a bunch of stuff online recently that is highly critical of Cato and, more specifically, the Koch's, who are big contributors to Cato and other libertarian/conservative institutions. This criticism of the Cato Institute is not exactly objective (Cato's called a "quasi-academic think-tank which acts as a mouthpiece for the globalism, corporatism, and neoliberalism of its corporate and conservative funders."), but it uncovers some interesting things.

I did not realize, for example, how much Cato was funded by corporations. Obviously, being funded by corporations (or their charitable foundations) doesn't necessarily mean their positions are biased, but then why has Cato come out against wind turbines with an obviously disingenuous concern for birds that might be killed by such turbines:
On the environmental side, wind power is noisy, land- intensive, materials-intensive (concrete and steel, in particular), a visual blight, and a hazard to birds. The first four environmental problems could be ignored, but the indiscriminate killing of thousands of birds--including endangered species protected by federal law--has created controversy and confusion within the mainstream environmental community.
Cato's usual skepticism is absent here, accepting without much question the fact that wind turbines will kill thousands of birds. I would expect Cato to reason one step further and question, as this op/ed does:
One high-profile environmentalist admits that birds do occasionally crash into the twirling blades. But, he says (anonymously and carefully, for fear of unleashing another contagious quote), "Do you know how many birds die every day?" They crash into skyscrapers and plate glass windows; they're crushed by trucks; they're sucked into jet engines and gag on smog. Kids with BB guns knock them off. Windmills are a concern, but they don't appear high on anyone's list of avian threats.
I've come to expect more from libertarians. If someone mentions how many people "die each year" from a particular behavior, I expect libertarians to retort with something like, "Well, how many people die crossing the street every day?" I have to say, I'm disappointed with Cato's performance here.

I guess I can' t expect Cato to be perfectly objective, but their funding sources make them an easy target for charges of unobjectivity and acting on behalf of corporations. What irks me is that in these criticisms of Cato, the word "libertarian" is given a negative if libertarians support big corporations and corporate welfare. I think Tim West is right that libertarians (especially the LP) needs to make their opposition to corporate welfare and corporate corruption more vocal.

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Don't miss this opportunity, libertarians...

Right now there is wide open space on the political spectrum for someone to treat government as a grudging necessity to meet specific and limited goals, whether those are policing Deadwood's murderous streets, or guaranteeing healthcare for children while balancing a budget.
This, from Matt Welch at Salon is interesting when contrasted with the stuff Tim West has been saying for a long time:
The Libertarian Party, if it ever gets it’s shit together, has set itself up for a role in US politics in 2008 that it either capitalizes on or sinks like a stone. Americans are tired of this moral weakness in their lives across a very broad swath of the Left - Right spectrum. I dont have to read somewhere that this is true. I dont have to have some talking head on TV tell me this is so. I KNOW IT IS TRUE, becuase I hear this every day of my life, at work, at play, everywhere, from almost everyone I meet. Everyone is so jaded, and ordinary people are looking for a savior. If the LP can make a good case that it and it alone has the ethical high ground to clean up government, get the corporations out of government, give them in return the freedom to run their businesses so they dont have to lobby and corrupt government lawmaking, and stand for a return of the sense of RESPONSIBILITY at every level of american society, they will get a huge number of votes.
I'm now convinced more than ever that platform reform is desperately needed in the LP. Without platform change, the party will never succeed. More Tim West:
The LP needs to stop being a “educational” tool and start a conscious process of becoming a political party first, with a single goal of winning electoral office to affect public policy. Exactly how long do you think it’s going to be before a viable limited government party with a sugar daddy like Perot crops up, with a few hundred million dollars and a real plan for POLITICAL success?
If the LP doesn't do it, let's hope somebody does.

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

American Engineers

In the US, more students are getting degrees in “parks and recreation” than in electrical engineering.

This is from a Texas Instruments fact sheet on engineering education.

Read the Bills Act has finally submitted its Read the Bills Act to Congress.

Go here to urge your senators and representative to vote for it.

This idea has been discussed a lot on the internet:
Almost all of the comments I've seen, ranging from liberals to libertarians to conservatives, support this idea.

This is a populist idea that libertarians (including the LP) MUST latch onto.

Friday, May 20, 2005


This is an excellent idea. The outlets can rotate 360 degrees, allowing you to plug in multiple large AC adaptors into one outlet.

I found out about this here, and the image is from here.

UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Suburban Populism

If you've watched the news today, you've no doubt heard about this case, in which the Supreme Court banned state laws prohibiting direct shipment of wine to residents from out-of-state wineries, while allowing direct shipment from within-state wineries.

While the MSNBC story doesn't mention it, this Washington Post story does, and many of the TV reports I saw today mentioned the Institute for Justice, which spearheaded this case.

The Institute for Justice is great! This case, along with this case, this case, and probably many others have tremendous populist, "looking-out-for-the-little-guy" appeal.

Whereas the Cato Institute often gets unfairly portrayed as a lacky for the Bush Administration, I haven't seen any claims of the Institute for Justice being "right wing." Plus the name is awesome! Not just any old legal group....THE Institute for Justice. Sure, there may be other "institutes" working for "justice," but this is THE Institute for Justice.

This victory, along with this post at Liberty for Sale, makes me think that the best way for libertarians to be successful, for at least the foreseable future, is to strive to create a public image of populism by advocating practical positions that most Americans agree with. Legalize medical marijuana, reduce unnecessary, arbitrary, and unfair regulations, reduce taxes (or at least don't raise them), increase consumer opportunity by opposing regulations like this, etc.

Of course, there are less populist issues that libertarians can still support without looking like tri-corner hat-wearing weirdos, such as Social Security reform, income tax reform, support for free international trade, etc.

But it's the populism that will get you the votes. Republicans have been extremely successful by latching onto Christian populism. Now it's time for libertarians to win by latching onto suburban populism.

Jesse Ventura is a suburban populist. From this article in The Nation:
"In the high-income professional suburbs, Jesse did poorly," says Myron Orfield, a Democratic member of the Minnesota House and an expert on political demography and regional planning. "In the less affluent suburbs, which are full of households making less than $50,000 a year, often on two jobs or more, he did very well. He also won northeast Minneapolis, which is blue-collar land. And he did better in poor parts of the city than he did in the yuppie areas. The only place where the Democrats held their base was in the Iron Range, where he wasn't that strong."

Even more stunning, in a half-dozen suburban counties ringing Minneapolis-St. Paul to the north and west, Ventura won an absolute majority of the vote. All six of these counties--Anoka, Chisago, Isanti, McLeod, Sherburne and Wright--voted for Clinton over Dole in 1996. They are full of politically independent swing voters coveted by both parties. Indeed, Paul Wellstone spent a great deal of time in these counties during his 1996 re-election campaign. In each one, Ventura actually got more votes than Clinton.

I personally know people in these areas that voted for Ventura that probably didn't vote for Bush (and definitely not Badnarik!) Common sense rules here, as it does throughout the U.S. Someone like Ventura who can, despite his celebrity, seem like a regular old everyman, can do excellent in any election.

That's why I signed the petition.