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.