Thursday, July 31, 2008

New Public Policy Poll substantiates Libertarian impact in North Carolina

Public Policy Polling continues to find Libertarian Candidate Michael Munger garnering a solid 6% in the North Carolina governor's race.

This Libertarian factor is becoming critical, because Democrat Bev Perdue has now opened a 9 point lead over Republican Pat McCrory, and Munger is capturing a full 8% of the GOPer vote, and he's also polling higher among African-Americans than McCrory [8% to 7%].

Munger's numbers are probably actually being deflated in this poll. Reason? He scores substantially higher among men than women (9%-4%), and the poll numbers are significantly biased toward women (54%-46%); this suggests that Dr Mike might do a couple percentage points better in the general election.

(Besides, when NC voters really get the chance to see Munger in the October 15 debate, I'll bet his numbers among women go up. He presents well on issues that matter.)

What's even more interesting is that this poll shows Munger's running mate for Lieutenant Governor, Philip Rhodes, is also pulling 6%, but that Rhodes is attracting different voters than Munger.

Munger's voters, as mentioned above, are primarily male (9%), Republican (8%), and age 30-45 (11%).

Rhodes' voters are primarily female (7%), Democrat (7%), and age 18-29 (10%).

I'm not sure, in practical terms, precisely what this means, or why it's happening. Theoretically, it could be a survey artifact, but it doesn't feel like one. It feels like Munger and Rhodes--both Libertarians--are somehow appealing to two different but overlapping constituencies. This defies a lot of thinking about the nature of Libertarian voters.

One final note for Munger, Rhodes, and other Libertarian candidates. Dr Mike is running most strongly among voters concerned with immigration (12%) and education (11%). The problem is that in this poll only 6% of the voters selected either of these categories as their most important issue in Statewide races. Not surprisingly--given the real estate bust and rising energy prices--47% of the voters polled chose Economy and Jobs as their number one priority. Only 6% of those people are supporting a Libertarian.

To break through, then, my proposition is that Munger and Rhodes have to start hitting economy, energy policy, and jobs much harder. I know that Mike's positions on all those issues are both sound and salable, but obviously the voters don't know that.

Time to let them know.

Hands-free cell phones and fact-free science

I love the way that Nanny State legislation works.

Here's the story from AOL Auto about the increasing number of states enacting "hands-free only" cell phone laws for drivers:

Law enforcement officials in six states can now give you a ticket for talking on your cell phone while driving, so that hands-free device you should be using for your cell phone is going to become your best friend. If you don't have one then you should ask yourself why and get to the store to buy one. Some important information on why and what to look for is below. The reason you may need to start wearing that dorky Bluetooth-integrated ear piece is actually quite startling and sobering. Distracted drivers cause 80 percent of all road accidents, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. In fact, a recent study by the Public Policy Institute of California shows hands-free laws have the potential of saving 300 lives in California each year and perhaps thousands if similar laws were enacted in all states.

"I wouldn't be surprised if more states enact laws much like California's new law," said Elliot Darvick , Celebrity Car Parade editor for MyRide.com, whose recent survey results show 70 percent of people agree that driving and cell phones don't mix. However, only 23 percent of respondents say they refrain from talking or texting when driving.

To date, six states have enacted statewide hands-free laws and 20 states have active hands-free law legislation on the books.

"I certainly don't want to see people on the road texting or talking," Darvick said. "I'd rather they have their hands on the wheel."


Now this sounds all well and good: distracted drivers cause accidents and "hands free" save lives, right?

Until you actually go look at the studies....

The Insurance Information Institute is an industry lobbying group that has every interest in having hands-free laws passed. Why? Because if you can be cited for that and later you get in an accident, chances are your insurance company can find a loophole to bail on you. Point being: the III is interested in citing research that backs up hands-free laws, so you can consider them a hostile witness.

So let's look at what they say.

That Public Policy Institute of California survey predicted that 300 lives could be saved, but "researchers concluded that the ban will reduce traffic deaths by about 300 a year, but only in adverse conditions, such as on wet or icy roads."

Oops, that's just a tad different than what the AOL article says, isn't it?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study in 2007 found that hand-held cell phone usage while driving is decreasing in statistically significant terms, even in places that don't have hands-free laws. Imagine that.

Nationwide Mutual Insurance conducted a dangerous driver survey that found that 73% of people talk on their cell phones while driving, but did not correlate this with any increased chance of accidents.

Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) conducted a study of teen drivers that found teens reporting cell phones as their number-one distraction, but again did not report any causal or correlational data to accidents.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Australia did report a correlation between cell-phone use and accidents, one of the few studies to actually do so. But it's embarrassing for a different reason: "The results, published in July 2005, suggest that banning hand-held phone use will not necessarily improve safety if drivers simply switch to hand-free phones. The study found that injury crash risk didn't vary with type of phone."

Oops, changing over to hands-free doesn't make you safer? Wonder why AOL Auto didn't talk about that one?

In fact, almost as an afterthought, III reports that multiple studies have challenged the idea that hands-free cell phones are any safer than hand-held.

The 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study, conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) focused on driver distraction before accidents, discovering that "the most common distraction is the use of cellphones, followed by drowsiness," but also that " cellphone use is far less likely to be the cause of a crash or near-miss than other distractions, according to the study. For example, while reaching for a moving object such as a falling cup increased the risk of a crash or near-crash by nine times, talking or listening on a hand-held cellphone only increased the risk by 1.3 times.".

Funny, badly designed cup-holders come in almost every car I've ever owned, but even New Jersey doesn't plan (that I know of) to ban Big Gulping While Driving.

This is followed on the site by this: "These findings confirm an August 2003 report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that concluded that drivers are far less distracted by their cellphones than by other common activities, such as reaching for items on the seat or glove compartment or talking to passengers."

The question would be, then, where's all the data that (a) hand-held cell-phone usage is so dangerous, and that (b) hands-free cell-phone usage is any safer?

Oh. It's not there. Right.

I'm sure everybody has both (a) an opinion on the necessity for such laws, and (b) at least one anecdote regarding stupid drivers texting while driving. Or shaving while driving. Or reading the newspaper. Or putting on make-up. Or getting blow jobs.

There's a law in virtually every State right now that covers this: it's called inattentive driving.

So here's the deal: go ahead and push for all the Nanny State laws you want, but please don't try to make the case that you're basing public policy on science.

Because I hate it when you lie to me.

When Reagan said, "Starve the Beast" he meant the government; Los Angeles means its own (poor) citizens

From the AP (with h/t Thoughts on Freedom)

The Los Angeles City Council has approved a one-year moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in a low-income area of the city.

The moratorium unanimously approved Tuesday is a bid to attract restaurants that offer healthier food choices to residents in a 32-square-mile area of South Los Angeles.

Councilwoman Jan Perry says residents at five public meetings expressed concern with the proliferation of fast-food outlets in the community plagued by above-average rates of obesity.

Nearly three-quarters of the restaurants in South L.A. are fast-food outlets. That's a higher percentage than other parts of the city but the restaurant industry says the moratorium won't help bring in alternatives.


So we will refuse to allow people to have access to restaurants that apparently provide the food people want to eat and can afford because Councilwoman Perry wants them to blow a month's wages at Ruth's Chris Steak House (assuming someone is stupid enough to open one in the middle of a neighborhood where the residents can't afford the appetizer salads).

Apparently eliminating trans-fats and forcing restaurants to post calorie counts didn't satisfy Nanny.

This is Statism in its most naked form: those ignorant (did I say, fat) poor people can't resist pigging out on Big Macs, so we'll force them to eat salads.

Being careful not to take kavips out of context (at 10, 2, or 4)

WARNING: long wonkish post alert. Skip this one if you're expecting concise, pithy, political news.

kavips latest post on the salmonella scare is not only thoughtful and informative about the issue itself, but it contains what I might call a meta-message.

Far too often we end up in these kinds of discussions stuck between two poles of opposition: the Statist view that everything could be solved if only the FDA has more money, more inspectors, and more authority; and the Libertarian view that if we just leave them alone market forces will solve everything.

There usually isn't even a continuum: you're at one end or the other.

Which is why it is so refreshing (in a Dr. Pepper sense, natch) to read this piece.

kavips is a progressive, and kavips believes in the need for the public sector to have oversight of critical infrastructure items like our food supply.

On the other hand, kavips is also intellectually honest, and admits that the evidence suggests with respect to food traceability that the private sector is the one leading the way:

When asked what problems this outbreak illuminated for the Produce Marketing Associations, Bryan Silberman of Newark, Delaware said that the tight grasp on information being held tight to its chest by the FDA, made assisting in the investigation difficult....

So what is needed? Dr. Acheson of the FDA, laid it out specifically: more money to inspect. more money to train. Often the field investigators showing up at farms, came from other FDA departments such as pharmaceuticals. These people hadn’t a clue of what to search out, and had to call there on the spot, their department head in order to get the right questions needed to ask the farmers…

One trend currently occurring is that as American companies go to Mexico, they are taking their best practices with them and insisting that their practices be enforced within that local market…

Whereas private industry has stepped up with innovation, the weakest link in our defense against pathogens on produce, is the underfunded FDA which is struggling under the Bush cuts.

The industry’s current estimate is that more than 50% of produce companies have their data on electronic records… Mandatory tracing is something that the entire industry could reasonably adjust to. Tracing was not the problem. Within hours or days we can trace right up to a single farm. But at what cost? That is the limitation. Agencies, federal and state, with no funds cannot send agents out into the field. So far no proposed legislation has been proposed

Florida growers informally and voluntary adopted a tomato model of tracing distribution which will be implemented by the agriculture department of Florida and may perhaps be used nationwide someday…


Notice that in this presentation both the growers and the bureaucrats are presented as being genuinely interested in reaching a workable solution to the problem of putting healthy food on the tables of American citizens. Aside from the fact that the growers stand to lose (or go out of) business if their products are not trusted, I have this silly thesis that people who grow food don't get into that business to poison their customers.

This raises two important issues for thoughtful people at all points on what used to be a continuum of interest:

1) Recently most of our news coverage and political punditry around industry/consumer/government issues--especially in terms of issues that involved questions of safety, regulation, and testing, have been presented in diametrically oppositional terms. That's in part because of the nature of the industries which have been subjects of the debate: tobacco and oil, especially. It's easy (and sometimes even justified) to create the mental label BIG TOBACCO or BIG OIL to use in those sorts of discussions. But it's not very helpful, because it fosters a common misconception that large industrial, manufacturing, or agricultural sectors of the economy have a decided interest in producing inferior products or harming their own customers. In reality, it's not in the interest of growers to do things that make people distrust food, it's not in the interests of auto makers to produce unsafe vehicles, and it's not in the interest of pharmaceutical companies to market unsafe medications.

In fact, big food voluntarily pours millions into its own inspection processes, big auto spends millions of producing safety innovations, and big pharma spends millions on medical research...

Yet all of these bad things do happen (remember the Ford Pinto's gas tank and Vioxx?). Why? Because while market forces and the profit motive will resolve most of these problems in the long run, that short run can involve lots of death and other harm. Leading me to....

2) The primary difference between industry self-monitoring and government regulation is (no, strike that, should be) the time frame of response. Industry self-monitoring, driven by market forces, is generally an excellent, cost-effective vehicle for dealing with long-term trends and establishing routine systems of accountability. But the market does not turn on a dime, and the market does not react to anomalous emergencies. There has to be a third party organization capable of reacting quickly to short-term emergency scenarios. And--much as I viscerally hate to admit it--there are times when somebody has to have the legal authority to shut things down in the short term, without argument and without respect to market forces.

This observation, kavips, is not going to win me any points from other Libertarians. But you have come a long way out of the normal progressive mindset, so in good faith it's important to meet for a real discussion.

Ideally, from a Libertarian perspective, such interventions might, in a future world, be handled by private foundations that are independent of the government. But there currently exists no road to get there from here, and the world of the past in which governments played no role in (to be situationally specific to our topic) agricultural product quality control is an imaginary past created for ideological purposes

I encourage anyone who disagrees with that statement to read and digest Fernand Braudel's three-volume Civilization and Capitalism, wherein you will find that at least since medieval times city, regional, and State governments have always been involved in monitoring and regulating the quality of food supplies.

But what Braudel reveals (possibly without realizing it--he's dead, so I can't ask him) is that governments had fewer powers to use in that regulating, and the systems that evolved were--in the modern political sense--hybrid, dynamic systems that involved balancing the roles of the State and the Market against each other. Neither entity had the ability to dominate the system.

This is not true today. Over the past two centuries the power of government has dramatically expanded, and while the wealth of corporations has also ballooned, it is indicative of a changed balance that corporations must work through influence (either above or below the table) because if mobilized they cannot withstand the regulatory power of government.

This has led (in a highly condensed, simplistic sentence) to the development of an "either/or" ideological breakdown: either government regulates everything (Statism) or government regulates nothing (Libertarianism). Approaches that might be considered "in the middle," like so-called managed capitalism or China's experiment with limited economic freedom in an authoritarian state have not been exceptionally successful because both are still solutions being imposed by a government that lacks many serious limitations to its regulatory powers.

The Framers of the US Constitution did a bang-up job in the late 18th Century of erecting limits around government while still trying to give it sufficient power to balance against the market. But over the past two centuries, as the times and the technologies have changed, we have little by little eroded those limits in response to specific situations. Then those specific erosions have become precedents, and we have depended upon them rather than having new conversations about the powers and limitations of government.

This is critical. Far too many of our discussions about the powers of government or the role of market forces are conducted not with an overall view of the nation, but with respect to specific crises or specific industries. Those debates tend to become highly politicized, and less rational the longer they continue.

That's why the nuanced understanding of kavips' original post (see, you thought I'd rambled off and forgotten it, didn't you?) made me happy. Finally, here's a liberal progressive willing to discuss the joint responsibilities of State and Market, and to report as objectively as possible what each is doing well and poorly.

It's not an end in itself, but it could be the beginning (at least here in Delaware, where we all know each other) of a mutually profitable discussion.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Conserve gasoline so that we can tax you more? Makes perfect sense if you are a Statist

According to the Wall Street Journal, for the second straight month the number of miles driven by Americans has declined in the face of high gas prices: 1.8% in April, 3.7% in May. That's 5.5% in two months, nationwide--in the East the cutback has actually been higher [see map]. (I believe that's also called the impact of market forces.)



If you read or listen to automotive ads, they're trying to give the damn things away now. I just saw a VW Beetle on a car lot on Kirkwood Highway with a sticker in the window offering no money down and 2.9% financing for 72 months. That's six years, right?

What this all means to the government, however, is less tax money for highway maintenance and mass-transit projects:

"We were losing ground to these incredible increases in construction costs, but then to see the erosion in driving -- it's a double whammy," said John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. On top of the federal gasoline tax, currently 18.4 cents a gallon, the states charge their own gasoline taxes, which are typically slightly above the federal rate.


Obviously, this will lead to the government scrambling to find any number of revenue enhancements in order to repave roads, repair bridges, and construct new light rail systems (when the only functioning passenger rail system in the country can only survive through massive taxpayer subsidies).

Or, as in North Carolina [reported by Big Bend Bikers for Freedom], the government could take it out on mo-ped riders.

A lot of people are suddenly ditching their cars in favor of gas-sipping mopeds. There goes car registration money, vehicle transfer taxes, gas tax revenues.... What to do, what to do?

What to do is to manufacture BS fears that untrained mo-ped riders are a potential safety hazard on the roads, so that then you can justify passing legislation that forces them to take a $130 training class.

See, here's the problem: the so-called public sector is not an honest broker--and this is not something that can be blamed on Dubya.

For decades a variety of government policies have been put into place that both passively and actively encouraged Americans to consume more and more fuel. Then the same government based highway and bridge-building decisions on models of fuel consumption (and therefore tax revenues) that would keep expanding forever.

In the process they've let the nation's transportation infrastructure decay to an alarming point:

About 25% of bridges in the U.S. are either "functionally obsolete" or "structurally deficient," like the Mississippi River bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis last August, killing 13 people.

Moreover, the pavement is rated "not acceptable" on one of every seven miles of the nation's roads, according to the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, whose job is to assess infrastructure problems and recommend fixes.

Overall, the commission estimated, $225 billion a year is needed to meet the country's transportation infrastructure needs. Current spending is about 40% of that level.


Curious question that I don't see answered anywhere: There are a small but statistically significant number of toll roads and bridges across the country, some owned by the government, some in a public/private partnership, and some actually owned by private enterprise. I wonder what kind of shape, comparatively speaking, are the parts of our transport infrastructure which have been paid for primarily with user fees?

You're probably not going to find that answer, either.

But in the meantime, expect any number of nanny state assertions that because you've started conserving energy it's time for you to pay more taxes.

Libertarians in Kentucky forget how to breathe?

As Lee at A Secondhand Conjecture said in a post I quoted earlier, the Libertarian Party of Kentucky's 9-0 Executive Committee decision to dump genocidal, race-baiting Sonny Landham as their Senatorial candidate was good, but hardly outstanding:

Given the psychopathic nature of Landham’s views, I feel a little like I’m congratulating them for breathing.


Obviously, a few breathing lessons are in order, as Paulie Cannoli reports for Last Free Voice:

The Libertarian Party of Kentucky will reconsider its endorsement of Senate candidate Sonny Landham Wednesday evening, just days after initially disassociating their party from his bid. This news comes after the office of Kentucky’s secretary of state announced yesterday that Landham would need 5,000 new petition signatures to secure ballot access to run as an independent.

“We’re really stuck,” said Libertarian Party chair Ken Moellman. “We don’t necessarily want to kick him off the ballot.”


Granted, ballot access rules for third parties in Kentucky are grossly unfair--so what? They are everywhere.

Here's the situation made real simple for the 12 members of the LP Executive Committee in the Bluegrass State:

You screwed up by letting a real nutball on the ticket in the first place. The man is Lyndon Larouche mixed with David Duke.

The damage that one Sonny Landham can do will undo all the advances made by serious, thoughtful LP candidates in North Carolina, Georgia, Indiana, Texas, Michigan.... The list goes on.

It's time to take one for the team.

Eric Schansberg proves again why Libertarians aren't Republicans (or Democrats)

Headlined from the Libertarian Party of Indiana [with h/t to Last Free Voice]:

Schansberg congratulates President Bush and Democratic Congress on world-record budget deficit


JEFFERSONVILLE, IN
-- Just in time for the Olympics, the White House has predicted a $482 billion deficit for 2009—which if successful, would allow the President and the Democratic Congress to set a new world record. A $482 billion deficit would smash the current record of $413 billion in 2004.

The 2009 deficit will extend the current national debt to more than $10 trillion. On top of that, unfunded liabilities—most notably, for Social Security and Medicare—add tens of trillions of dollars in debt.

Dr. Eric Schansberg, a professor of Economics and the Libertarian candidate for the 9th Congressional District in Indiana, noted that current debt necessarily leads to higher future taxes. And Schansberg pointed to massive increases in spending as the cause: "Tax revenues, as a percentage of GDP, are well within historical ranges. But spending has increased dramatically. With hundreds of billions of dollars for a housing bail-out, a banking bail-out, the 'macro stimulus package', the farm bill, our on-going efforts in Iraq, and so on—after awhile it adds up to real money."

Schansberg pointed to the subtle costs of the profligate spending: "The dollar has depreciated about 40% since 2002. This leads to a host of problems—most notably, higher costs of imported oil and thus, gas prices. If the dollar was as strong as it was in 2002, we'd be paying less than $3 per gallon—and there'd be very little discussion about gas prices right now."

In terms of his campaign, Schansberg observed that he is the only fiscal conservative in the race: "If you look at the data from NTU, CAGW and Club for Growth, it is obvious that Sodrel is a fiscal moderate and Hill's claim to be a fiscal conservative is laughable. If we're going to restore fiscal sanity in the federal government, we need to send principled, fiscal conservatives to Washington DC."


Note: Sodrel and Hill are Schansberg's Demopublican opponents. One is the incumbent and the other used to be in Congress. I forget which one. Does it matter?

Maybe, Eric, we just need to send a real economist to Congress.

Just another one of those wild Libertarian ideas.

The howl of the Coyote and other Libertarian thoughts...

Liberalgeek and I have been continuing to discuss his formulation (originally posited impromptu in a thread on gun control):

I am in favor of sensible restrictions on things that can be easily misused.


And because I am trying to move the discussion forward rather than lampoon his position, let's also include this comment:

Indeed, I see your point. As a geek and a liberal, I abhor the whole library censorship thing. I think that often they are inspired by people that don't understand the fact that information is like water in a basement. It will find a way to get out there. This applies to predators, bomb-making and sexual perversions. You cannot stop.

I can see your point fully. My quote was, I believe, regarding putting restrictions on guns. There are certainly parallels and I have not thought about it in that way before. I will consider this and get back to you if I can formulate a counter. I am pretty well stumped. For example, I suspect that shoulder-launched SAM's should not be available for purchase, but I cannot necessarily make an analogy to Internet access.


So I found this on Coyote Blog, which seems germane (although I'm working on explaining exactly how):

Everyone is a libertarian when it comes to his or her own choices:

My speech should be legal (though those other guys are over the line)

My choices, diet, lifestyle should be legal (though those other guys need to be protected from themselves)

My personal interactions are fine (but those other guys are all racists, threats to children, indecent, etc)

My business is great (but those other guys are all evil exploiters)

The hard part about defending freedom is not defending it for oneself. The hard part is defending other people's right to be free.


Apropos of something, even if ... I'm not sure ... exactly what.

This is why the Sonny Landram affair matters to Libertarians nationwide...

A Secondhand Conjecture is not a Libertarian blog, although it certainly displays some pretty consistent libertarian leanings.

As I read this post analyzing the Sonny Landham flap and the Libertarian Party of Kentucky, I think Lee hits it right on the money:

Looks like the Libertarian Party of Kentucky has dumped Sonny Landham, previously their clinically insane pick for US Senate. Good for them. Even if given the psychopathic nature of Landham’s views, I feel a little like I’m congratulating them for breathing.

While the Obama campaign might like to think that the LP could pose a serious threat to John McCain in Georgia, the Landham misadventure only reminds me yet again of the extraordinary amateurishness that seems to characterize almost all Libertarian Party political campaigns. There’s simply no excuse for failing to properly vet a candidate you intend to challenge for the seat held by the Senate Minority Leader.

As a former Hollywood actor and convicted criminal, it wouldn’t have been particularly difficult to uncover Landham’s violent imagination or deplorable associations with rightwing hate groups. A simple YouTube and Google search might have sufficed in fact.


I recently quoted a representative of the Libertarian Party of Texas noting that we need fewer paper candidates, and more people out there actually campaigning. True. But we also have to stop feeling so needy that we open our arms to accept people who are not only not Libertarians, but whose calls for bombing other countries over trade issues make us look like total losers.

Keeping Rachel Hoffman's memory alive ... because it matters


I blogged about Rachel's story back in May, recounting the shameful story of how Tallahassee police blackmailed a college student caught for marijuana possession into serving as a confidential informant, and then let her get killed through negligence and apathy.

Over at Delaware Curmudgeon, Shirley has the update, provided courtesy of RC at Big Bend Bikers for Freedom.

RC is now leading a full-court press to force the Tallahassee Chief of Police to resign over the incident. His coverage is awesome.
Read it; and send a message.

Becky, the Girl in Short Shorts, also places Rachel on the continuum of other American citizens who have gotten killed due to police involvement in the drug war. Her final dry comment is pointed:

But Gee Whiz, you have to expect a little collateral damage now and then.

After all, there is a drug war going on, and it's worth it to rid the nation of the scourge of marijuana.


ABC's 20/20 has even done a piece on Rachel.

[And I can't forget that I first picked up her story from Drug War Rant.]

I have one question: when are YOU [yeah, you, reading this] going to decide finally that getting some American citizens killed and ruining the lives of countless others with prison is NOT an acceptable price to pay for ridding the nation of the scourge of Reefer Madness.

When the hell are YOU going to demand candidates who will take a stand against it?

Allen Buckley explains gravity (I think)


In what has to be one of my nominations for least comprehensible news story title of all time, the Duluth [GA] Weekly puts up Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Buckley explains gravity on deficits report in light of baby boom entitlements.

I'd say, "What the F?" here, because i think that's the point: the word "on" was probably supposed to have been the word "of."

Anyway, after going through all the debt and deficit numbers in the new budget [which I would cite but they would only start your day off badly], this appears:

All of these debts are being incurred just before the massive baby boomer entitlements start. The first batch of baby boomers-those born in 1946-will be eligible for Medicare in 2011. Each year thereafter, a new batch is added.

Allen Buckley, a CPA and attorney, and the Libertarian Party’s candidate for U.S. Senate in Georgia, said the following regarding the situation: “As stated by the GAO on many occasions, we are on an imprudent and unsustainable fiscal path. I’m the only candidate in the U.S. Senate race in Georgia who will address these problems, and propose workable solutions to the problems. I ask the media to help me notify the public of these facts.”

Mr. Buckley’s website is www.buckleyforsenate.com . He can be reached for comment at (404) 962-1042.


Every little bit of publicity helps--even when you're explaining gravity.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Why we're all taking the wrong approach to climate change...

... and also why you should elect me king of the world because I think of this stuff.

The answer is because none of the models take into account either technological change or massive intentional human impact on the environment. [Yes, you read that correctly.]

Point one: technology

I recall watching the old Walter Cronkite specials on the future way back in the late 1960s. We were going to have household robots and you would get in your car, turn it over to the traffic control system, and doze your way to the Beach. Well, half the drivers on the road each weekend appear to be dozing their way to the Beach, but none of that ever happened.

Why?

Robotics in the Star Trek android/Terminator sense has so far turned out to be a dead end. And neither dear old Wally or his advisors even sensed the oncoming information revolution.

Rapid technological change (especially knowing which technologies will actually be feasible on a large scale) is essentially unpredictable.

Let's consider three examples from this week's news.

I posted the other day an update on India's Tata Nano. All the environmentalists are giving Mr. Tata crap for developing a cheap car that will enable millions of Indians to get off those damn motor scooters, and thus potentially screw up all the carbon emission forecasts. Except that Mr. Tata is apparently going to have the last laugh, as industry insiders report he will soon announce a Tata Nano fueled by the world's first compressed-air engine that generates little or no pollution.

So technology has potentially allowed Tata Motors to reduce carbon emissions in India by selling more cars, because the compressed-air engine will actually produce less pollution than the gasoline-powered motor scooters in use today.

Example two: from this week's issue of Discover, concerning ultra-capacitors:

Capacitors have the handy ability to store and release electrical energy very quickly—much more quickly than the batteries and fuel cells already being used in electric and hybrid-electric cars. Unfortunately, typical capacitors have been able to store only tiny amounts of charge, making them useless for driving the power-hungry engines these cars use. Not so ultracapacitors. While they still can’t store as much total energy as a fuel cell or a battery, ultracapacitors—also known as electrochemical capacitors—can supply the burst of energy needed to accelerate up a hill or around another car on the highway. They can also soak up energy that would otherwise be lost during braking, storing it for later use.


Such ultra-capacitors are now being field-tested; Toyota and Honda are looking closely.

Acceleration has always been an issue in hybrid or all-electric cars. Potentially the solution is closer than we think.

Example three; from the New Scientist regarding graphene:

The carbon supermaterial graphene is already known for its exotic electronic properties. Now two studies suggest that the material is also one of the strongest, most elastic and stiffest materials known to science.

Graphene crystals are atom-thick sheets of carbon atoms connected together in hexagons, like chicken wire.

Graphene flakes are produced every time we put pencil to paper – the graphite in pencils is simply a 3D structure comprising multiple stacked layers of graphene. And yet graphene was only isolated for the first time in 2004.

In the graphene "gold rush" since then, scientists have scrambled to uncover the material's properties and discover potential applications. The large surface-to-volume ratio and high conductivity already suggest uses in ultra-small electronics.


But researchers are also looking at bringing graphene out of the microscopic world:

"We are limited only by the size of graphene flakes available," says Booth. "There is no reason that the method will not scale up to much larger flakes."...

Graphene could be added to polymers to form super-strength composites, Booth says.


One of the most significant problems with automobiles is controlling weight (more pounds equal more energy necessary to move them). Suppose that with compressed-air engines, ultra-capacitors, and super-strong graphene we could build pollution-free automobiles that were light as a feather but safe in collisions while using very little energy....

And this is only one facet of the technological explosion occurring right now.

Point two: intentional massive human impact on the environment.

So far what we hear about in the media has to do with averting climate change, or reducing our carbon footprint (I personally like to leave carbon footprints on the ceiling to amaze my guests), but the reality is that we're very near to being able to intervene in the environment in a BIG way.

Again, back to Discover, looking at the sidebar to an article on ocean acidification and its threats, Three Bold Plans to Save the Seas:

1 One proposal, first suggested in the late 1980s by oceanographer John Martin of the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in California, involves seeding ocean surfaces with iron to promote phytoplankton blooms that will soak up carbon dioxide, eventually exporting it into the deep ocean. The plan has the added theoretical benefit of reducing atmospheric carbon....

2 A second tactic under consideration at places like the Carnegie Institution of Washington and the University of California at Santa Cruz is to neutralize the seas—possibly with limestone from, say, the White Cliffs of Dover....

3 Last year a team of scientists led by Kurt Zenz House, a doctoral candidate at Harvard University, proposed something they call engineered weathering, inspired by a natural process in which slightly acidic freshwater is neutralized by exposure to alkalizing minerals. Under House’s proposal, hydrochloric acid would be harvested from the ocean by a specialized electrochemical treatment and then exposed to silicates, resulting in a net alkalizing shift....


There are, of course, technological drawbacks to all of these plans. And then there is the difficulty of funding them or achieving international consensus to pursue one or more of them.

But they are all inherently feasible with existing technology, and they represent only the smallest sample of scientists THINKING BIG.

Thinking small will get us lives that are, ultimately, nasty, brutish and short (with no apologies to Thomas Hobbes--he's dead and it has long since been in the public domain).

Thinking big will leave us scrambling to deal with the new consequences of our own actions.

But that, combined with the potentials of rapidly changing technology, suggests to me that we are mostly being far too passive about the potential for dealing with climate change.

Humanity has always succeeded best not when it adapts to given circumstances, but when it is the adapting agent.

Jason Gatties, won't you puh-leez come to Delaware and be a university trustee here?

For reasons both personal and professional that I won't (can't) detail, this letter to the editor (published by the Niles Michigan Daily Star) by Jason Gatties, the Libertarian candidate for Lake Michigan College Board of Trustees makes me crave elected trustees in the First State for UD, DSU, and DelTech.

Which ain't gonna happen.

[Reading this, understand that millage refers to the LMC ability to raise taxes--ala our own public education system--to support itself via referendum]:

To the editor:

As both a candidate for Lake Michigan College Board of Trustees and concerned taxpayer, I urge your readers to once again reject LMC's millage proposal that will appear on the ballot this November. The Board of Trustees may try to justify the need by saying the millage increase will be less than $25 per year for those who own a $100,000 home. However, the Board of Trustees must stop "begging" for taxpayers money and stop "threatening" to end certain programs and start acting fiscally responsible.

Under my plan, we could avoid a millage increase by thinking "outside the box." I call for the privatization of certain non-academic services, combining departments and the elimination of non-essential administrative positions. I would also explore other ways the private sector could donate to the school without forcing another millage. We are a very charitable community, those of us who can afford to give will do so, but do not force that action upon us with another tax increase.

It is not the fault of the taxpaying public for your continued mis-management of school funding. Don't ask the public to clean up the mess you helped create.

Jason Gatties

St. Joseph

An Open Letter to Anti-Death Penalty, Prison Reform and Anti-Drug War Organizations/Advocates on behalf of Mike Munger

Two weeks ago I had the good fortune to interview Dr. Michael Munger, the Libertarian Candidate for Governor in North Carolina. My initial question to him involved the top three initial priorities for a Munger administration.

I'd like to share the first two of them with you [the other one concerned attracting jobs]:

First priority: I issue an executive order placing an immediate moratorium on capital punishment in the state. Then I commute the sentences of everyone on death row to life in prison without parole.

Third priority: I would create a study commission to check over the cases of all citizens incarcerated in NC's prisons for purely nonviolent crimes. (Embezzlement is violent, by the way, even though it is theft by stealth.) These crimes would include: possession of small amounts of any drug, prostitution, etc. And then I would take the resulting list of nonviolent offenders, after it had been checked to make sure that NO crimes of violence had been committed by anyone on the list, and commute their sentences to time served. The money saved by reducing the number of folks in the steel hotels of our state would be spent on treatment and addiction programs, and adjustment programs to try to reduce recidivism.


You (or your organization) has a demonstrated track record of favoring either (a) the elimination of the death penalty; (b) prison reform; or (c) the scaling back/eradication of the Federal war on drug-users.

My guess is that you are unaware of Dr. Munger's positions and his unique qualifications to bring these issues to the forefront in North Carolina. He is not the usual third-party candidate who can be dismissed by the major parties or the mainstream media. He is the Chair of the Political Science Department (with a joint appointment in Economics) at Duke University, a former official with the Federal Trade Commission, and the well-respected author of numerous books on economic regulation. Dr Munger led the ballot access initiative in North Carolina that secured over 108,000 signatures for the Libertarian Party, and has been invited to the October 15, 2008 gubernatorial debate with the Democratic and Republican candidates. He is currently polling between 2-6%, with the difference between Bev Perdue (D) and Pat McCrory (R) being only about 2-3%.

Polls in North Carolina show that at least 38% of the voters feel that life imprisonment would be a more just and humane sentence than death.

Your organization contacting Dr. Munger's campaign, publicizing his positions on the death penalty/prison reform/drug war, and even endorsing Dr Munger's candidacy would not only improve his chances, but would provide a vehicle for your message to reach North Carolina voters in time to have an impact on this year's governor's race.

I urge you to visit Dr Munger's campaign website, and to consider providing him with publicity and an endorsement to help him take your common fight before the public in North Carolina and across America.

Sincerely,

Steve Newton, Publisher
Delaware Libertarian

This letter has been sent (at least) to the following:

http://victimsoflaw.net/

http://realcostofprisons.org/

http://www.demaction.org/

http://www.cdpl.org/

http://deathwatch.wordpress.com/

http://www.pfadp.org/

http://www.ncmoratorium.org/site/default.asp

http://blogs.salon.com/0002762/

I urge all readers of this post who support Mike Munger, and feel that the death penalty, prison reform, and the drug war are important political issues, to contact these or other organizations on his behalf.

Feel free to quote this letter in whole or in part.

Please note: I have no formal association with the Munger campaign, and have not been asked to do this. Nor has Dr Munger approved this post. (Hell, he'll be just as surprised as anybody.)

kavips always makes me think...

... and that may or may not be a good thing, depending on the day or the issue.

The latest edition of Outside the Perimeter: Fragments delves into the question of whether the Delaware blogosphere is becoming more fragmented and less cohesive than before. kavips is difficult to excerpt, because s/he develops complex arguments that defy short quotations, so go read it for yourself.

Then come back and read on.

kavips stimulates me to two responses:

1) The blogosphere is a self-organizing network that is inherently non-linear and chaotic. Translation: a bunch of people with too much time on their hands, an inflated sense that the world needs to hear their opinions, and vastly different interests have a common medium for inflicting themselves of willing victims. I suspect that cohesion (such as the DE blogosphere experienced long-term over windpower and short-term over eminent domain) is the exception rather than the rule. Too much of the rest of the time our interests don't coalesce, because (thankfully) there's nobody directing the band. I tend to look at such occasional disappearance of fragmentation as a valuable rarity; I don't expect more.

2) I think we still over-value our own importance. If you take the five political blogs in Delaware with the highest daily traffic, I suspect (and I have some preliminary research to back up the suspicion) that you would find fewer than 1,000 absolutely unique visitors reading those blogs. Some of those visitors--maybe Mascitti or Selander--are in a position to take something they read to a broader audience; most aren't. Those thousand people (not all of whom will be from Delaware, by the way), are a wide spectrum in themselves, with widely different political and social views. Some read for entertainment, others love to stir the pot. The actual activists and doers among them are a small percentage.

Until we find a way to increase blog readership in Delaware to a daily average of, say, 5-10,000 visitors, we will not see any form of consistency emerge. And that form of consistency will emerge as a market-driven product. Those blogs producing the kinds of material that people want to read will gain high readership. Without a band leader or (thank God) a fairness doctrine for blogs, it could not happen any other way.

How do we increase that readership? Tricky question. Pretty much only some form of advertising or marketing will do so (hence the proposed radio spots over at DL). Free media is going to be tough, because neither the Snooze Journal or the State Rag really wants to give a plug to its competition. Why read the Snooze when you already know what it will report about state politics two days earlier if you read the blogs?

And increasing readership will bring its own changes, not all of them comfortable to this small community, where everybody pretty much knows (and knows how to insult) everybody else, from sock-puppets to trolls. The very edgy feel that we all enjoy--including the inside jokes and the freedom from censorship of offensive humor--is probably going to disappear as success fills the pages with members of the Women's Temperance League.

It's a complicated question, for which I neither have an answer nor a good closing line for this post.

Caution: NGOs are bad for your country's health

Libertarians take so much crap for opposing large-scale, intrusive government on the national scale that we rarely even get around to the same argument with respect to the UN and the whole host of related NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) spawned by, or associated with that august body.

So it is only a time-out here to make note that New Scientist reports on a study which finds that the International Monetary Fund is hazardous to the health of the countries to whom it lends money.

I am quoting liberally from the dead-tree edition, as the current issue is gated:

Plenty of anecdotal evidence exists for the negative impact of IMF loans. A decade ago, frustrated African doctors were calling it the Infantry Mortality FUnd because of what happened to child survival rates when it started guiding government spending.

This week comes news that tuberculosis deaths, a sensitive indicator of the quality of public health services, climbed in 21 countries during IMF programmes... In addition, deaths correlate with the length of IMF involvement and the amount loaned. The effect did not appear to be a statistical anomaly, nor the result of other factors affecting TB: the IMF is clearly in the frame.


OK, so how could the IMF be causing increased TB deaths by loaning money to developing nations?

The International Monetary Fund lends money to countries with financial problems and in return requires them to cut spending to control inflation. Others have long charged that this in fact reduces spending on healthcare and so promotes the spread of disease...

The team also found that for each year of a country's involvement with the IMF, the TB death rare increased by 4 per cent, on average.


Of course, IMF doesn't believe this:

William Murray, a spokesman for the IMF, says that the organization advises countries to spend on healthcare, and that the increases in TB and mortality are due to something else.


That's a highly technical term: something else.

Before anyone feels empowered to launch into a neo-colonialist diatribe about corrupt government and poor infrastructure in African nations, I should point out that the study focused on IMF-funded countries in central and eastern Europe.

IMF has always been a contradiction in terms: an organization that so fervently believes in free-market capitalism that it imposes a particular form of freedom of choice from the same cookie-cutter on all countries and cultures regardless of their level of infrastructure, industrialization, or social set-up.

See? When you get intrusive nanny-state government coming in with sweeping powers, it doesn't even matter if it's your government.

It could just as easily be an NGO like the IMF.

If you have a New Scientist subscription, then go here to read the whole article. Otherwise you can wait about two weeks and read it for free.

And here's one reason Libertarians are not Republicans...


... in the legislation proposed by Illinois Republican Mark Steven Kirk that would create a Federal ban on internet access to MySpace and FaceBook in America's libraries.

Here's the story from Switched:

First, libraries were forced to start filtering out obscene content in 2000. Then came the Patriot Act, which granted the government the right to examine the books you checked out and the sites you visited on a library's public computers. Now, lawmakers are trying to ban children from accessing MySpace and Facebook on library PCs in order to keep the kids safe from sexual predators.

The heavy-handed legislation -- a bill introduced by Representative Mark Steven Kirk of Illinois -- is, of course, being fought by the American Library Association. The library wants to protect people's privacy saying that it is essential if a community is to utilize the library for intellectual pursuits.


You may remember that I took issue a week or two back with liberalgeek's belief that:

I am in favor of sensible restrictions on things that can be easily misused.


While I don't want to paint LG as favoring this particular piece of nanny state insanity (feel free, geek, to take a stand on it whenever), I would like to reprise a tiny part of my rebuttal:

The higher the level of government imposing the restriction on any item, the more sweeping the restriction will be, and the less ability there will be for local conditions to moderate that restriction. It is a direct corollary of this that if the Federal government imposes a restriction for one purpose, it will soon find other purposes for which to use that restriction, purposes that will generally be to the detriment of the civil rights of individual American citizens.


This proposed legislation certainly meets the first criterion: a rigid, inflexible, and sweeping answer to a question that either parents or localities should be answering on their own.

With respect to the second: given advances in cookies, how long will it be before the Feds want to be able to force libraries to track all interactions with their computers and report them to, say, the FBI?

Given that the FBI has already, within the last two weeks, attempted to strong-arm information from a librarian without benefit of a warrant, this hardly seems like a ridiculous slippery slope argument any more, does it?

Everything (of course) is bigger in Texas ...

... including the Libertarian Party.

I am reminded of a Cold War era joke: Seeking to impress and intimidate the Americans, the Soviet politburo orders one gross of three-foot-long condoms from a company in Texas. The Texians fill the order, packing the condoms in a crate marked "medium."

There are 173 Lone Star Libertarians running for office this election season.

One way you can tell that the LPT is doing well is by the fund-raising numbers:

The Libertarian Party of Texas (LPT) has reported $81,765.81 in contributions for the first six months of 2008. That is up from $54,204.57 for the first six months of 2007, and $55,454.24 for the first six months of 2006.


Equally important, however, is the urgent requests of Texas Republicans that Libertarians get out of their races, as reported in the Austin-American Statesman:

The Libertarian Party of Texas is not ready to be king, but it expects to be kingmaker — or spoiler, depending upon your point of view — in the state's most competitive legislative races this fall.

The state's perennial third party, hoping to draft behind the momentum of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's failed presidential run, counts Central Texas as its stronghold in the Lone Star State.

"It used to be nobody looked at us; now they are looking at us," said Pat Dixon, the party's state chairman and a Lago Vista City Council member. "We can swing votes. We're going to be a factor in more races."

Even before Paul's emergence on the national stage, Libertarians were kingmakers at the local levels. In 2004, Libertarians were credited with helping Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, beat Republican incumbent Jack Stick. The Libertarian candidate received 2,390 votes; the margin of victory was only 569 votes in the north Travis County district.

By the Libertarian Party's count, its candidates in 2008 have a "high" probability of being a deciding factor in four state House races and a "medium" possibility in four more.

In some election cycles, a handful of House races might not matter much in the bigger picture. This year, however, the control of the House — and House Speaker Tom Craddick's hold on the leadership — are in play. A few seats could make a difference.

In 2006, Central Texas was the Libertarian Party's highest performing region in statewide races (averaging 5 percent of the vote or better). Party officials credit the region's entrepreneurial and tolerant bent, plus the party's local efforts in fielding candidates for races ranging from the courthouse to the state house....

"Our preference is that Libertarians, by Election Day, will come back home and seek to find common ground with Republicans," said Joe Gimenez, a Travis County GOP spokesman.


LPT Chair Dixon also emphasized a critical point, not just in Texas:

Dixon acknowledges that Libertarians need more candidates who raise money and actively campaign as opposed to being just "paper candidates."


[By the way, if you think this is just hype, pay attention to the note of peevish desperation at The Texian Online, a noted conservative blog:

The LP is threatening to knock out some of the best Republicans in the Lege. -- that should be the last thing a small government liberty minded voter should want.


Note for the Texas GOP: you don't own votes or offices in a republic, you have to earn them every time.]

Here are the most competitive Libertarian candidates in Texas, according to Austin paper:

Lillian Simmons, House District 52.

William Collins, House District 78

Todd Litteken, House District 96

Gene Freeman, House District 106

Alan Duesterhoft, House District 17

Paul Bryan, House District 11

Lenard Nelson, House District 32

Brandon Parsons, House District 107

For a complete list of LPT candidates, go here.

[Note 2: The Lone Texian is especially worried about Simmons, Litteken, Duesterhoft, and Parsons.]

[h/t Last Free Voice for the initial information on this piece]

Kentucky Libertarians dump Sonny "Bomb all the Camel-dung Shovelers" Landham

From Paulie Cannoli at Independent Political Report:

The Libertarian Party of Kentucky dumped Sonny Landham as its candidate for the U.S. Senate on Monday, one week after the former actor made several anti-Arab remarks.

In a nine-to-nothing vote, the party decided to withdraw its support of Landham. This means the party will not have a candidate in the November election.

Last week, Landham publicly remarked that Arabs should not be allowed to travel to the United States. He said Arabs should not be in America’s schools, and he said the United States should have bombed Saudi Arabia, Syria, and other Arab nations.

In a statement, the state party said it stands for tolerance of all people, regardless of race, creed, sex, and national origin.


Landham, as you may have read here earlier this week, is a nutjob who stood a chance at becoming our party's David Duke or Lyndon Larouche. Granted we have some colorful characters--and even some quaint ideas--but it is good to see that certain principles (non-aggression chief among them) survive.

I compliment the nine members of the LPKY for their guts and their judgment.

Monday, July 28, 2008

In which I attempt to commit the impossible....

I can recall with some pride as a Libertarian that this is what North Carolina gubernatorial candidate Mike Munger said he would do first if elected:

First priority: I issue an executive order placing an immediate moratorium on capital punishment in the state. Then I commute the sentences of everyone on death row to life in prison without parole.


On the other hand, I read with emotions and thoughts that are difficult to describe the Question of the Day at Delawareliberal, Does not giving a crap if someone is dying and having nothing good to say about “said” dying person make you a bad person?, where I found comments like this:

[Dorian Gray] So everyone deserves our respect because they just so happen to have been born…like a blind compassion… now I understand why there are so many people who still believe this quaint religious shit.

[Joe M] I think it’s sad that a guy like Falwell died. Not because I thought he held any value as a human being, but for the pain of loss his loved ones will feel.

DV is restricting the question to compassion for the person who is dead/dying and I’m led to agree with him.

Sometimes the world is made better through the loss of someone.

[Sharon] "The point that DV is making is that compassion has to, to some extent, be earned."

The very essence of compassion is that it is unearned. But I guess if someone can’t understand that, then maybe it explains a lot of the comments.

[Joe M] Sharon, you are very much oversimplifying the idea. Consider LGs question: Do you have compassion for the death of Charles Manson (when it happens)? Jeffrey Dahmer?

I don’t mean compassion for whatever made them what they were, but simple compassion that they were humans dying?

How about Pol Pot? Would you weep for Stalin? Mao Tse Tung?

If not, then where’s your unconditional compassion?

[pandora] Unconditional compassion doesn’t exist. It’s just tossed out there when people criticize someone you like.

[donviti] oh ok Sharon,

so I get it, you get to be “sort of” a dick while you are alive and IF inflicted with some painful life threatening illness I can’t speak ill of you? got it, great. cool, it’s lifes equalizer.

being a dick + debilitating possibly life ending diagnosis = all forgiven

got it. Sweet. I’m hoping i get pancreatic cancer so you can say I was a nice guy.


And then I come to today's story of George W. Bush signing the first execution death warrant for the military that any President has signed since 1951.

And no doubt Spec 4 Ronald Gray is one of the scumbags of modern American history:

Gray was held responsible for the crimes committed between April 1986 and January 1987 in both the civilian and military justice systems.

In civilian courts in North Carolina, Gray pleaded guilty to two murders and five rapes and was sentenced to three consecutive and five concurrent life terms.

He then was tried by general court-martial at the Army's Fort Bragg. In April 1988, the court-martial convicted Gray of two murders, an attempted murder and three rapes. He was unanimously sentenced to death.

The court-martial panel convicted Gray of:

_Raping and killing Army Pvt. Laura Lee Vickery-Clay of Fayetteville on Dec. 15, 1986. She was shot four times with a .22-caliber pistol that Gray confessed to stealing. She suffered blunt force trauma over much of her body.

_Raping and killing Kimberly Ann Ruggles, a civilian cab driver in Fayetteville. She was bound, gagged, stabbed repeatedly, and had bruises and lacerations on her face. Her body was found on the base.

_Raping, robbing and attempting to kill Army Pvt. Mary Ann Lang Nameth in her barracks at Fort Bragg on Jan. 3, 1987. She testified against Gray during the court-martial and identified him as her assailant. Gray raped her and stabbed her several times in the neck and side. Nameth suffered a laceration of the trachea and a collapsed or punctured lung.


So I reached the decision a couple years back, based on both Libertarian philosophy and that quaint religious shit, that I oppose capital punishment.

There are plenty of people I think probably deserve to die, that the world would be better off without, and even some that I can sense in myself a quite visceral willingness to throw the switch.

But in a society that possesses the resources to confine Jeffrey Dahmer or the UnaBomber for the rest of his life, it is no more ethically acceptable to execute criminals than it is to order area bombing against a target of minimal military significance.

Which means, I think, that I am affirming the belief that even Pol Pot or Saddam Hussein was a human being worthy of unearned compassion. In my parish I have heard prayers offered for Saddam and for Osama, and I ascribe my difficulty in joining them wholeheartedly to my failings, not theirs.

I do not oppose the death penalty because it might take the life of an innocent person; I oppose the death penalty because allowing the State to impose boutique death along with mass mayhem diminishes us all.

I do not accept that the argument of the death penalty's effectiveness as a deterrent has anything to do with the morality of the death penalty.

Gouging eyes would also have a deterrent effect. (And please, don't start drawing the meaningless cruel and unusual distinction. It's not germane to the comparison.)

I realize that this is a somewhat (severely?) muddled post. The issue is a muddling one.

But when I come right down to it, I both agree and disagree with pandora (a position in which I too often find myself, dear lady), when she says, "Unconditional compassion doesn’t exist." She's right: it doesn't.

Yet it should--and I find it a worthwhile goal to strive for.

Executing Ronald Gray won't bring his victims back, and given that he was convicted twenty years ago, I have to face the lurking suspicion that all sorts of interesting political calculations went into finding a victim for the first military execution in half a century who wouldn't excite sympathy from anyone.

Except me, and the others who follow that quaint religious shit.

By the way: the military has also identified the second (and then presumably the third, and so on) person they want Dubya's approval to kill.

Things are apparently overcrowded at Fort Leavenworth.

The potential impact of third parties on the general election: what polling data shows

UPDATE/CORRECTION: Due to a screw-up in my source material I mistakenly listed Dave Krikorian as running in Oklahoma, not Ohio; it has been corrected.

I've just done a state-by-state run of most of the more recent polls, and I have excerpted general results below.

I have learned several things by doing this.

1) Adding actual third-party names (Barr, Nader, etc.) as Zogby does, really changes the response pattern. Not only did it break out that Other category, in many cases it caused a dramatic shift in the Obama-McCain numbers at serious odds with other polls. Usually this effect hurt McCain more--but not always. The question then becomes, which type of polling is more accurate? Polls that focus on the big two, or polls that add in all the other names and potentially sway voters with that choice? I have no idea.

2) Forget the confident projections of any particular outcome: several battleground states are swinging back and forth like crazy; where they swing in November, nobody today knows.

3) Bob Barr is having a distinct impact, though how long that will hold in a tight race is anybody's guess. Right now, if you believe Zogby, Barr is pulling at least 5% (and sometimes 7-9/10%) in 22 states! Nationally he's only showing at 3%, but for him to be having this sort of impact in nearly half the states is pretty damn amazing.

4) Ralph Nader is also having an impact, again garnering at least 2% in 14 states and 1% in another half dozen.

5) So if you take 3 and 4 together, that's a pretty hard 5-7% committed third-party vote across at least half the nation. Does it exist anywhere else? Without the polls, hard to know.

6) I've included all the poll results for named third-party candidates in non-Presidential elections where I could find them; some of them are really interesting, too.

Here are the numbers:

Alabama

Zogby has Barr at 4%, Nader below 1% and McCain up by 11%

Alaska

Ramussen has McCain up by 5%, with Other showing at 7%; Other in this case is Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin

Arizona

Zogby has Obama up by 3%, with Barr at 7%, Nader at 2% and Other (undefined) at 5%

Arkansas

The presidential polls are all over the place; Zogby has Obama winning 41-39 with Barr at 4 and Nader at 1, but Rasmussen has McCain at 47 and Obama at 37 with Other (undefined) at 5%--who the hell knows?

California

Zogby has Obama up 53-32, with Barr taking 5, Nader 1, and Other (undefined) 5

Colorado

Zogby has Obama leading 40-38 (but Quinnipiac has McCain up 46-44) with Barr at 8, Nader at 2, and Other (undefined) at 1

Connecticut

Zogby has Obama 48-32 with Barr at 5, Nader at 2, Other (undefined) at 3

Delaware

Doesn’t have an active poll since February—we rock, don’t we?

DC

Doesn’t have an active poll since February either; you’ll be glad to know that Hillary is losing.

Florida

The Presidential polls go back and forth, separating McCain and Obama by 2-4 points in either direction; Zogby has McCain up 43-39 with Barr at 6, Nader at 2, Other (undefined) at 4

Georgia

The State is going to have to move significantly if Obama is going to put it in play. Rasmussen has it McCain 48-39 with Barr taking 5%.

The Georgian Senate race is showing Saxby Chambliss with a comfortable lead over pretty much any Dem, but Other (which in this case means Libertarian Allen Buckley) is garnering 3-4% in Rasmussen polls.

Hawaii

Nothing since February.

Idaho

Nothing presidential since February. The Senate race is showing Independent Rex Rammell taking 6%.

Illinois

Zogby shows Obama winning (no shit) 52-32 with Barr at 5, Nader at 1, Other (undefined) at 3.

In Illinois’ 11th Congressional District, Green Party Candidate Jason Wallace is getting 6%.

Indiana

In presidential terms another seesaw, but Zogby right now has McCain up 40-39 with Barr at 7, Nader below 1, and Other (undefined) at 3.

In House District 9, Libertarian Eric Schansberg is holding at 4%.

Iowa

This is one place Barr seems to be killing McCain. The polls generally show Obama up by 4-7 points, but Zogby says Obama 42-38 with Barr taking 8, Nader 1, and Other (undefined) taking 3.

Kansas

Strongly McCain (52-32) according to Rasmussen with an undefined Other taking 9%.

Kentucky

McCain ahead 44-39 according to Zogby with Barr at 3, Nader at 1, and the undefined Other at 6.

Louisiana

Who do you trust? Rasmussen has McCain up by 54-35, but Zogby says it’s only McCain 47-40 with Barr at 4, Nader at 1, and Other at 3.

Maine

Rasmussen has Obama up 46-36 with Other at 7.

In the Senate race, Independent Herbert Hoffman (who is Other) is getting about 3%.

Maryland

Zogby has Obama up 54-30 with Barr at 6, Nader at 1, and Other at 3

Massachusetts

Zogby has Obama up (again, no shit) 54-29 with Barr at 5, Nader at 3, Other at 3

Michigan

All over the place.

Quinnipiac has Obama 46-42 with Other at 3
EPIC-MRA has Obama 43-41 with Nader at 3, Barr at 2
Rasmussen has Obama 47-39 with Other at 5
Zogby has Obama 47-43 with Barr at 6, Nader at 2, Other at 4
It seems obvious that Barr is costing McCain a shot at being competitive here; not so obvious is whether Nader is keeping Obama from putting it away.

Minnesota

Quinnipiac has the race tightening with Obama up only 46-44 with Other getting 2, but Zogby is more in keeping with what everybody else is showing with Obama up 48-32, Barr at 8, Nader below 1, and Other at 4.

Mississippi

Rasmussen: McCain up 50-44 with Other getting 3.

Missouri

Again Barr appears to be killing McCain, as according to Zogby Obama is up 42-40 with Barr taking 6, Nader 1, Other 4.

Montana

Rasmussen has this state having gone from McCain up 47-39 in May to Obama up 48-43 in July with Other at 4. Frankly, I have a hard time believing that in Montana Obama has accomplished a 9-point shift in two months without anybody noticing, but you never know.

In the Governor’s race, Libertarian Stan Jones is holding at 3%.

In the House race, Libertarian Mike Fellows is getting 5%.

Nebraska

No fifty-state strategy here, Barack. Rasmussen has McCain up 53-36 with Other at 6.

Nevada

According to Zogby it’s a dead heat 38-38 with Barr at 9(!), Nader at 2, and Other at 6. This could be intresting.

New Hampshire

Zogby has Obama up only 40-37, with Barr at 10(!! Of course he’s not on the ballot yet), Nader at 2, and Other at 7.

New Jersey

Zogby: Obama up 49-36 with Barr at 3, Nader at 2, Other at 3.

New Mexico

Zogby shows Obama up 46-33 with Barr at 9, Nader at 2, Other at 4; but the latest Rasmussen poll shows Obama only up 46-41 with Other at 5.

New York

Zogby: Obama 51-30, Barr at 4, Nader at 2, Other at 4

North Carolina

TelOpinion has McCain up 43-40 with Barr at 2; Rasmussen has McCain up 45-42 with Other at 5; Zogby has Obama up 47-38 with Barr at 4, Nader at 1, Other at 4.

In the Governor’s race, TelOpinion has (D) Perdue up 43-40 with Libertarian Mike Munger at 2; SurveyUSA has the GOP’s McCrory up 47-46 with Munger at 3. This is the only non-Presidential poll in the country where a third-party candidate is consistently proving to hold the difference between the major candidates.

In the Senate race, Libertarian Chris Cole has 2%.

In House District 8, Libertarian Thomas Hill has 7%.

North Dakota

This is a toss-up with Rasmussen Rating it 43-43 with Other at 7.

Ohio

This one goes back and forth: Rasmussen has McCain 46-40 with Other at 7, but Zogby has Obama up 43-38 with Barr at 7, Nader at 2, Other at 4.

In House District 2, Independent David Krikorian is drawing 6%.

Oklahoma

Zogby: McCain up 42-37 with Barr at 9, Nader at 2, Other at 5.

In House District 15, Independent Don Elijah Eckhart is getting 5%.

Oregon

Zogby: Obama up 49-33 with Barr at 6, Nader at 1, Other at 4.

Pennsylvania

Zogby: Obama 46-36 with Barr at 5, Nader at 2, Other at 4.

Rhode Island

Rasmussen: Obama 55-31; Other at 5.

South Carolina

Another madhouse.
Research 2000: McCain up 53-40
Public Policy Polling: McCain up 45-39 with Barr at 5
Zogby: Obama up 42-41 with Barr at 6, Nader at 1, Other at 3.

In the Senate race, former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride, running as an Independent, is getting 10%.

South Dakota

Rasmussen: McCain up 44-40 with Other at 7

Tennessee

Zogby: McCain up 41-36 with Barr at 7, Nader at 1, Other at 6

Texas

Zogby: McCain up 42-39 with Barr at 6, Nader at 2, Other at 4.

Utah

Rasmussen: McCain up 52-33 with Other at 8.

Vermont

Nothing since February

Virginia

A dead heat.
Public Policy: Obama 46-44
Rasmussen: 44-44 with Other at 5
Zogby: Obama 44-39 with Barr at 5, Nader at 1, Other at 4.
SurveyUSA: Obama 48-46

Washington

Zogby: Obama 48-35, Barr at 5, Nader at 2, Other at 4

West Virginia

Rasmussen: McCain up 45-37 with Other at 13 (!)

Wisconsin

Zogby: Obama up 48-38 with Barr at 4, Nader at 1, Other at 2

Wyoming

Research 2000: McCain up 53-40

I'm waiting to see a Progressive Party of Delaware emerge...

... and I'm serious.

I've been watching the brewhaha over Jack Markell and John Carney, not just with smug amusement at Democrat discomfiture (because, hey, I'm human), but also because jason and liberalgeek and pandora are right about this: Whichever one of them wins the primary will be my next governor, like it or not.

Frankly, my gut tells me it's going to be John Carney. The advertising story is off the front page of the Snooze Journal today, and for most voters who are not party insiders it is a blip on the radar. Bloggers are doing their best to give the story legs, but I am skeptical. (Although I'm always willing to be proven wrong.)

The problem is, I take my friends over at Delawareliberal at their word: the Delaware Democratic Party is full of entrenched party hacks, special interests, corporate interests, and union interests--all of whom seem to have more or less forgotten that the purpose of politics is supposedly large than lining their own pockets and those of their constituents.

They have the money, and the party organization, and the smaller Progressive organizations or the grassroots candidates like Karen Hartley-Nagle have no real shot because they're not playing ball.

In this milieu Jack Markell is an anomaly, because as an entrepreneur with strong UD connections to help in the fund-raising, he's almost the local equivalent of a Steve Forbes or a Ross Perot--an individual who can, at least once, muster the resources to take on the machine in an open fight.

But I think he's going to lose--which is a shame because even though I'm not a Democrat, if I have to choose between Markell, Carney, and Bill Lee it's going to be Markell I'd be voting for. A Carney-Lee election race boils down to the tools of two parties up on the stage as sockpuppets of their respective political machines.

On the other hand, Jack Markell--and yes, even Mike Protack--are making part of a very important point for us here in Delaware if we can only see it: issues are more important than the parties which have taken on a corporate (and I use the word in all its worst senses) life of its own. The parties as organizations, like any other large corporation, now respond to survival instincts rather than rational, political strategies.

So I think it's time for a few more of them.

We've already got the IPOD which, for all of its problems is a sign in the right direction: more parties equal more democracy, less machine, and greater responsiveness to the grassroots.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that my friends at Delawareliberal became the organizing cadre behind the Progressive Party of Delaware, a party that was completely willing to run fusion campaigns with the Delaware Democratic Party when the candidates and the issues matched, but also willing to take the battle to the ballot box when they didn't?

What would that mean?

For one thing, right off, it would mean that on occasion the Democrats and Progressive would split the vote and let a Republican or (my hope!) a Libertarian slip in. But to be honest, I doubt it would happen very often. If the PPD could even capture 10-15% of the currently registered Democrats, then the Democratic candidates would find themselves forced to move toward PPD stances in order to secure that fusion nomination and that critical percentage of the vote.

And if at least one or two "name" Democrats--let's just say Karen Petersen or John Kowalko for kicks and grins--could be talked into jumping ship to the PPD, that would give the party standing in the General Assembly and force the Dems to do a fusion ticket as well in some districts.

This is NOT a low-maintenance strategy. A number of people with whom I am involved are trying to bring back the Libertarian Party of Delaware from just about room temperature. It's not easy; hell, it's downright frustrating. And the LPD is currently a fragment of what could be garnered by a new Progressive Party.

But the beauty of the plan is that even if it doesn't work, it still works.

Even if the PPD lasted only a few years, or even a single election cycle, it would force the Democratic Party to actually get out and work to maintain its own voters. That's where the Democrats have gotten lazy over the past few years.

I'd actually prefer it worked. I honestly think that Delaware, with a Democratic, Republican, Progressive, Independent, and Libertarian multi-party set-up where each party had at least some area of the state in which it had a solid base, would be a stronger, better Delaware. Compromises that are now unthinkable would be possible. Backroom deals that are now commonplace would be much more difficult. To maintain a majority in either house of the General Assembly, you would have to be advocating ideas and policies that resonated with more than one party.

This is not generally a blog that stimulates big conversations, but I'd really be interested in your ideas.

(Credit where credit is due: kavips first, almost unintentionally, gave me the idea.)

Tyler Nixon to seek fusion Libertarian Party of Delaware nomination

Rightly, around the blogosphere and around Delaware, Tyler Nixon is seen as one of the good guys.

I think of Tyler and the defense of civil rights, resisting eminent domain, being right on Iraq, and championing open government.

Now, I am pleased to be able to announce that along with filing as the GOP candidate in the House 4th District race, Tyler is going to seek the fusion nomination of the Libertarian Party of Delaware.

Regular readers here know that Tyler is very much associated with the pragmatic libertarian view of this blog, and I consider it a major coup that he is willing to identify himself formally with the movement for less intrusive government, more open government, and greater personal liberty and responsibility.

In this case, he brings his cachet to the LPD in a critical rebuilding phase, rather than the other way around.

The process will require Tyler to attend the LPD annual meeting in late August, to ask for the party's endorsement.

I have no doubt he will receive it; he deserves it many times over. And when Tyler wins the 4th District seat, there will be--for the very first time as far as I know--a Republican-Libertarian in the House.

There will be more LPD news forthcoming over the next two weeks: details of our annual meeting and a Libertarian alternative to Mike Castle. Yes, we're underfunded (we should get as much respect as Rodney Dangerfield), but when KHN filed a report saying she was $700 in the hole, suddenly I didn't feel so bad.

Stay tuned (and Go, Tyler!)

Your heroic TSA Gestapo at work...

... and wouldn't Osama bin Laden be proud?

Look what he has caused us to do to ourselves.



This is a completely unnecessary quasi-Federal police force that gets scarier every day.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

An update on India's Tata Nano


It has been a few months since I checked in on the buzz surrounding the imminent production of the world's cheapest car: Tata Motors Nano--a four-person mini- with a two-cylinder engine and a base price around $2,500.

Several items of note:

1) Rising prices are also pushing at Tata Motors; while it will still be the cheapest car in the world, the Nano probably won't stay under $2,500 by the time production ramps up.

2) You won't find the Nano available in America any time soon, according to Auto Observer. The vehicle doesn't have air bags, doesn't meet US crash test requirements, and has an emissions profile equivalent to EU III, which places it about 2-3 years behind what it needs to have to be certified in the US. Tata Motors promises to it EU IV pretty soon, but it will need to get to EU V to be considered for US entry. (And the crash test hurdle may also be overcome soon, as well.)

3) Environmentalists are still up in arms about the Nano, because it will encourage several million more Indians to drive automobiles, and that's not seen as a good thing. According to an article at Truthout:

Many environmentalists believe the new vehicle, with a price tag half that of India's current cheapest car, will simply clog up already busy and broken roads and add pressure to an infrastructure that is badly buckling. They stress the need to develop efficient, modern and affordable public transport, especially in cities such as Delhi, which now has a new metro system but where the bus service is overloaded and often deadly.

"My first reaction when someone says they need to buy a car is to say don't buy it," said Soumya Brata Rahut, a spokesman for Greenpeace India. "But people are buying cars, I cannot stop them. The revolution in small cars means there will be more and more."

Asked yesterday whether he thought India had adequate infrastructure to handle the hundreds of thousands of new Nanos that Tata hopes to shift when it goes on sale in a few months, Mr Tata said: "I think there definitely needs to be more investment in public transport [and] I think that India does not invest in our infrastructure." But he said such things were not the responsibility of his company.


4) Indian infrastructure aside, Mr. Tata may well have the last laugh on his critics, as his company is known to be moving ahead with the world's first non-polluting, compressed-air automobile engine for a future version of the Nano. Here's the scoop from EcoFriend:

In addition to the 33hp (25kW) petrol version, Tata is expected to release an air-powered model running a compressed air engine from MDI Enterprises. The engine emits one-third the carbon dioxide of conventional motors of the same size. Cold air, compressed in tanks to 300 times atmospheric pressure, is heated and fed into the cylinders of a piston engine. No combustion takes place, so technically there is no pollution actually produced by the car. But the compression of gases might still do that.

Even then the new engine is an absolute boon to the planet and hopefully all those buying this car will buy one with this type of an engine to power it. A Nano featuring the air-powered engine would be able to travel up to 200km for just $3 worth of electricity. This will also please the environmentalists who have been worried about more pollution since the Nano hit production. Tata has no official word on this yet, but it is just a matter of time.


This raises an important point: while it can't solve everything, market innovation can produce unexpected (and positive) shifts in technological trends that upset the predictions of the high and the mighty. Climate change modelers have always had to deal with the difficulty that their models do not (cannot!) take into account technological changes. If, instead of hybrids and electric cars, another option like the compressed-air engine becomes viable, even if only in the massive markets of China and India, the change to carbon output would be massive. So while some environmentalists were castigating Tata Motors for trying to meet an obvious market need, the company's engineers have been conducting research on a technology with potentially world-changing implications.

And for profit, too.

Will wonders never cease.