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.

Thursday, May 5, 2005

Wireless Internet

Seattle To Make A Big Advance In Wireless Internet
Three companies are teaming up to beam high-powered wireless Internet signals across Seattle.

Some people are calling it "Wi-Fi on steroids." Eventually this will be huge for people who use laptops, giving you access to the Internet almost anywhere, without having to be near one of those hot spots at, say, a coffee house or on a ferry boat.

But that's probably a year away. Right now, this new technology will be available to businesses.

Bruce Chatterley, president and CEO of Speakeasy, bravely walked out onto the halo of the Space Needle Wednesday morning to announce the largest deployment of WiMax of its kind in North America.
This story is encouraging; a private company is leading the charge in pushing wireless internet. Even more interesting, they're using Wi-Max.

The Philadelphia plan, which I discussed here, is for Wi-Fi.

This article, in IEEE Spectrum (the Institue of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the organization that literally sets the standards), points out that Wi-Max is more suitable for delivering broadband internet to multiple customers, while Wi-Fi is more suitable for small, very local (more like household-wide) networks.

In 3 years, it'll be interesting to compare the quality and availability of wireless internet in Seattle to that available in Philadelphia, where the government owns and operates a wireless network.

Tuesday, May 3, 2005


What are the Scandinavian countries doing right?

According to Freedom House (PDF), Finland has the most press freedom. The countries with the most press freedom are:
  1. Finland
  2. Iceland
  3. Sweden
  4. Denmark
  5. Norway
The top five spots belong to the five Scandinavian countries.

According to this MSNBC story discussing the 2005 Mothers Index (PDF) compiled by Save the Children USA, Sweden is the best place to be a mother. Here are the top rankings:
  1. Sweden
  2. Denmark
  3. Finland
  4. Austria
  5. Germany
  6. Netherlands
  7. Norway
(Iceland isn't listed in the index).

This Forbes story discusses the World Economic Forum's 2004-2005 ranking of economic competitiveness. Look who's number 1! Here are the rankings
  1. Finland
  2. United States
  3. Sweden
  4. Taiwan
  5. Denmark
  6. Norway
  7. Singapore
  8. Switzerland
  9. Japan
  10. Iceland
Wow. The one report where the Scandinavian countries don't fare so well is the Fraser Institute's (Canada's answer to the Cato Institute) ranking of economic freedom. Here's how the Scandinavian countries fare there:
  • Finland - 11
  • Denmark - 14
  • Iceland - 14
  • Sweden - 22
  • Norway - 36
For the record, the United States was tied for 3rd.

Ahhh, but of course, this isn't the only ranking of economic freedom. Here, a Copenhagen "Chamber of Commerce like group touts Denmark ranking as the 8th best country for economic freedom in the 2004 Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom. Here are the rankings of that study:
  1. Hong Kong
  2. Singapore
  3. New Zealand
  4. Luxembourg
  5. Ireland
  6. Estonia
  7. United Kingdom
  8. Denmark
  9. Switzerland
  10. United States
  11. Australia
  12. Sweden
  13. Chile
  14. Cyprus
  15. Finland
  16. Canada
  17. Iceland
Norway ranked 28th, which was still better than Taiwan (34) and Japan (38).

Will Wilkinson, in an oh-so-hip "Caeser's Bath" post, listed "Anti-Swedenism" as one of the things that annoys him:
Conservatives and libertarians seem to have an irrational disdain for Sweden, as if it could slide into full-on Juche flesh-eating collectivism at any moment. They crave and horde bad news about the Swedish economy or the travails of the Swedish welfare state. Why? Because Sweden is a fairly rich, happy, stable, and quite free nation with a gigantic welfare state. And we don't want to be more like Sweden, and we resent the fact that it works as well as it does. But I think it is quite possible to make the argument that we shouldn't be more like Sweden without feeling the need to argue that Sweden is a disaster.
With all this data, I have to agree.

In brief, I think the Scandinavian countries have things so well off because:
  1. They can feed off of technical innovation provided by the U.S., Hong Kong, China, Japan, etc.
  2. They have an almost completely homogenous culture; everybody already gets along because everybody already looks the same.
  3. They have a relatively small population. Socialism works great for families, but horribly for big countries. Maybe for small countries like those in Scandinavia, quasi-socialism (the only thing that makes them more socialistic than us is their nationalized health care, but we're almost there) isn't so bad. Especially when you have such excellent press freedom to ensure that government is run efficiently.
UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.