Saturday, May 31, 2008

Anti-Capitalism and Environmentalism Are Not Coextensive

...And I really wish that Progressives would stop pretending like they are. If fossil fuels are evil and are the biggest source of global warming such that we need to collectively take steps to reduce our use of fossil fuels, then surely anything that reduces that use cannot be a bad thing correct?
Similarly, if corporate profits are inherently evil such that we need to create a "Reasonable Profits Board" for the purveyors of fossil fuels, then any environmental measures that increase prices (and thereby corporate profits) cannot be a good thing, correct?
Of course, the answers to both of these questions are rhetorical. The problem is that at least as applied to oil and fossil fuels, anti-capitalism and environmentalism are utterly inconsistent with each other.
The proof? According to the Federal Highway Administration:

The FHWA’s “Traffic Volume Trends” report, produced monthly since 1942, shows that estimated vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on all U.S. public roads for March 2008 fell 4.3 percent as compared with March 2007 travel. This is the first time estimated March travel on public roads fell since 1979. At 11 billion miles less in March 2008 than in the previous March, this is the sharpest yearly drop for any month in FHWA history.

And of course, the reason for this is high gas prices. In other words: perhaps nothing has had more of a positive effect in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions than higher gas prices. So why would any committed environmentalist want to intervene in the market in order to make gas prices lower, on the grounds that high gas prices create "unreasonable" (to whom? by whose standards?) profits?

Meanwhile if higher gas prices (and thereby higher corporate profits) are an inevitable element of any attempt to reduce carbon emissions, then why would any committed anti-capitalist ever be willing to work towards the reduction of carbon emissions?

I suppose one way you could work out these discrepancies is through massive government internvention wherein profits from carbon fuels are either illegal or so highly taxed as to effectively make the oil and gas industries nationally controlled. But if that is the answer, I warn you: that way lies madness. It is impossible to escape the laws of supply and demand - you may as well try to escape the laws of gravity, and any attempt to reconcile anti-capitalism with environmentalism as applied to carbon fuels must, repeat MUST, require an attempt to escape the laws of supply and demand.

In other words, to my Progressive friends: environmentalism or anti-capitalism- you can choose one, but not both. For what it's worth, I might mention that many of you are apparently a lot less anti-capitalist than you think, so perhaps you already have chosen but just want to express anti-capitalism because you think as a Democrat you're supposed to be anti-capitalist. Why do I say this? Because, according to this study, Democrats are as likely to support free trade, pro-business policies as Republicans, when those issues are presented without reference to political party.

Bottom line: if you're an environmentalist who wants us to cut back significantly on our carbon emissions, then you should support big profits for oil companies, in addition of course to some sort of Pigou tax - whether we sign Kyoto is almost irrelevant if fuel prices go sufficiently high.

H/T: Coyote Blog

Friday, May 30, 2008

Of Scarves and Terrorism

Kyle at CFLF weighs in on Scarf-gate and comes away saying that it is "How we know the terrorists have won." The post is one of Kyle's best; normally I'd provide some commentary of my own, but he hits it so far out of the park that I actually have nothing to add.
My only quibble is that I think the terrorists won the second we made it impossible to set foot in public or turn on the TV without seeing Rachael Ray and her annoying awful-catchphrase spouting mug.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Songs of Freedom

Back in October, I blogged with great sadness about the murder of Lucky Dube by carjackers in Johannesburg, South Africa in front of Lucky's own children. In the post, I discussed Lucky's lifelong passion for freedom and individual liberty as expressed through his music. As I said then, but no other musician had as much an effect on my worldview as he did - not even the great Bob Marley. I doubt he was even vaguely familiar with the philosophy of libertarianism, but Lucky's music oozed freedom, liberty, and individualism, as you can see from the lyrics I quoted in the October post. His song "Together As One" was the first anti-apartheid song ever to make it through the airwaves of South African radio, making Lucky a truly courageous freedom fighter. Moreover, he didn't give up the fight for freedom when apartheid ended- if anything, his lyrics became even more anti-authoritarian, pro-liberty, and pro-individualism with songs like "Taxman" and "Affirmative Action," amongst others including the pro-gay rights "Sleeping Dogs Lie."

Alas, Lucky was barely heard of here in the States. And so, I think it is my solemn duty to change that fact as much as I can. Starting this week, I'm going to try to post one Lucky Dube video every Friday. Enjoy.


Why Obama Could Be the Best Dem President in Recent Memory

I still have every intention of supporting Bob Barr this election as an F-You to the Republicans. But stuff like this gives me hope that a President Obama actually would undo a lot of the harm done by President Bush and Co.:

If elected president, Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama said one of the first things he wants to do is ensure the constitutionality of all the laws and executive orders passed while Republican President George W. Bush has been in office.
Those that don’t pass muster will be overturned, he said.

Maybe he will do this, and maybe he's just pandering. But if it's pandering, then it's not the sort of pandering that the average person cares about. Regardless, the very fact that he is making a statement like this at least creates the possibility that a President Obama would follow through on it. Would McCain do something like this? I guess it's possible, but as long as he has to walk the tightrope of keeping Bush at arm's length but not so far as to piss of the GOP base, I don't see it happening. As for Sen. Clinton? Please- do you really think that she of the legendary executive privilege battles and of the Health Care Task Force would be willing to overturn decisions that gave her more power?

H/T: Jim Henley at Art of the Possible (via Obsidian Wings).

More at Memeorandum.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Best Wishes to Libby!

Libby Spencer is one of the most kind, considered, and intellectually honest bloggers around, left, right, libertarian, or otherwise. Libby blogs at a number of sites, two (Newshoggers and The Impolitic) of which are in my "regular reads" - and in each instance, this is largely because of Libby's smart and honest commentary. Even though I disagree with her probably as often as I agree with her (which is more than I agree with most Progressives thanks to her great work on the War on Drugs and on civil liberties), she has never said an uncivil word in response.

So it was with a strange combination of sadness and relief that I read that the tumor she has been dealing with these last few months was deeper and more extensive than expected, but was also successfully removed. According to her co-bloggers at the Newshoggers, her surgery yesterday was a complete success, and she is recovering well. If you have a second, you can leave her your best wishes here.

Mind-Numbingly Bad Statistics

Since I fit in with neither side, I like to think that I try really hard to criticize the Left as much as the Right. But this week, this has been almost impossible.

A new poll shows that a majority of Californians now support gay marriage and oppose the proposed constitutional amendment banning it. As you may know, I have argued that judicial "activism," to the extent that it protects insular minorities against the tyranny of the majority, is actually a good thing. As such, I don't buy into the arguments made by conservatives these days that the decision validating gay marriage was "legislating from the bench" in a way that usurps the "will of the people." But nonetheless, having a poll that shows that the "will of the people" in fact supports gay marriage pretty much destroys any argument that the "will of the people" has in fact been usurped.

And so, of course, the only response for conservatives who oppose gay marriage and claim that their position is the "will of the people" must either back down from their arguments, or try to discredit the poll. And, given the poll from a week or so ago showing substantially different results from this one, it is entirely possible that this poll is flawed. BUT, if you're going to discredit a poll, it's probably a good idea to be intellectually honest about it, rather than doing what JammieWearingFool does here:

Of course, if you refer to the poll, you see under ideology a full 70 percent of those sampled consider themselves middle of the road (53-35%), moderately liberal (72-23) or strongly liberal (85-11))and they overwhelming favor gay marriage. If you look at the 30% considered moderately conservative (61-32) or strongly conservative (85-11). When broken down by party, the sample is 43% Democrat, 33% Republican, 24% non-partisan. In other words, Republicans are outnumbered 67-33%. Los Angeles County and the San Francisco Bay Area comprise 46% of those polled.In other words, this poll doesn't even come close to a fair representation of the
population. Granted, California is a blue state, but you cannot possibly claim a poll where left outnumbers right 70-30% as valid.

The trouble of course with this is that JammieWearingFool makes several totally absurd assumptions here: 1. That people who consider themselves "middle of the road" are part of the "left"; 2. That people who consider themselves "non-partisan" are part of the "left"; and 3. That even under his unbelievably broad definition of "left," only slightly more than half the voters should be part of the "left."

So when JammieWearingFool says that "left outnumbers right 70-30%" in the poll, he is being more than a little obtuse. In reality, the poll numbers reflect that left and center outnumber right 70-30%, but that self-identified liberals are outnumbered by self-identified conservatives, 30-28%. If California were a pure "purple" state, then you would essentially expect left, right, and center to be about 33% each. Since, as JammieWearingFool acknowledges, California is a "blue" state, a decrease of only 3% from this norm is not exactly earth-shattering. Moreover, this poll from SurveyUSA (and I'm sure there are plenty others from other firms that make similar findings) shows that only about 26% of Californians self-identify as "conservative," with 42% self-identifying as "moderate" and the remaining 22% as "liberal." So, if anything, the poll slightly oversampled conservatives and liberals by about an equal amount.

But the flaws in JammieWearingFool's analysis go further. He decries that only 33% of the respondents to the poll self-identified as Republicans, leaving 2/3 of the people as "not Republicans." In the process, he seems to ignore that 24% of the respondents self-identified as independents, and that Dems only outnumber Republicans 43%-33%. And looking at the numbers from the 2004 elections, we find that in 2004, 43% of voters identified themselves as Democrats, 34.7% as Republicans, and 23% as independents. So, at worst, the poll undersampled Republicans by a whopping 1.7%; of course, given the hard times the GOP has gone through since 2004, it's more likely that self-identified Republicans have decreased by about 2% in California.

Finally, JammieWearingFool criticizes the fact that 46% of poll respondents were from Los Angeles County and the Bay Area. Well, according to the 2006 US Census data, just over a quarter of California residents lived in LA County; and roughly another 20% lived in the Bay Area....which adds up to, you guessed it, 46%!

I look forward to the retraction.

More at memeorandum.

**UPDATE**Lest you think that I'm just picking on one lonely lesser-known Righty blogger, I note that at least one other Righty blogger has picked up the meme from JammieWearingFool.

Political Correctness Strikes Again

At this point, I think we libertarians are officially fighting alone when it comes to the war against political correctness. Clearly, after Michelle Malkin's latest, the Right has lost any and all credibility on this front. To recap: in a commercial for Dunkin' Donuts, Lucifer....err, Rachael Ray, wore a scarf that apparently, kinda sorta, looked like a keffiyeh, which is a Palestinian head dress (most famously the trademark head gear of Yasser Arafat). According to Malkin (clearly an authority on these matters), keffiyeh-like scarves are now a fashionable way of showing solidarity with Palestinian terrorism or for expressing anti-war sentiments (you know, since those two things are clearly two sides of the same coin). As a result, Malkin launched a campaign against Dunkin' Donuts over the ad, threatening a boycott in the, really.

It seems that Dunkin' Donuts has decided to cave in to this threatened boycott. Celebrating her victory, Malkin writes, without a hint of irony that:

"It’s refreshing to see an American company show sensitivity to the concerns of Americans opposed to Islamic jihad and its apologists. Too many of them bend over backwards in the direction of anti-American political correctness. "

Compare this statement to Jesse Jackson's statement in the wake of the Don Imus firing by CBS that the firing was a "victory for public decency." Or to the NAACP's statement that the controversy over that firing was "refreshing." Get my drift?

Political correctness is idiotic, whether it comes from the Right or the Left. And threatening a boycott over a freaking scarf is an all-time new low for trivialities.

More at memeorandum.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Non-Political Thought of the Day

As painful and depressing as this season has been for me as a Mets fan, I never seem to tire of listening to the SNY TV crew. I honestly can't imagine a better color team than Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez. To be sure, there are more entertaining crews (the NESN crew come to mind, but never underestimate the "I am Keith Hernandez" factor at SNY), and there may even be more informative crews (though I doubt it), but there can't be a better all-around broadcasting team in baseball.

Tonight was an outright high point, with Keith Hernandez moving down to the front row seats behind home plate to get a different view. He and Ronnie wound up having one of the most instructive discussions about pitching and hitting that I've ever heard.

The thing about this crew is that they don't condescend to the viewer like certain (coughcough McCarver coughcough) other commentators, and so they actually contribute something to your enjoyment of the game by being willing to give the viewer credit for understanding the basics of baseball. Where most color teams are Baseball for Dummies, the SNY crew winds up being more Baseball 301: Advanced Theory and Application.

Plus, you have two members of the '86 Mets doing color....and they're not shy about telling war stories. How bad can that be?

Big Government Conservatism, Part II

Tom Coburn has an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal today that makes the case against so-called "compassionate conservatism" and, believe it or not, against spending increases for Iraq and Afghanistan. The piece argues, correctly, that Republicans are in denial that what ails the Republican Party is that Republicans over the last 8 years have ceased to act like Republicans but are instead trying to be big-government liberals. As any of the millions of libertarians and libertarian-leaning conservatives who have abandoned the GOP over the last 8 years will tell you, this is exactly correct.

The response to Coburn's piece from the Right is particularly telling in demonstrating just how much the Right has ceased to care about limited government.

Self-described "libertarian (HA!)" Karl from Protein Wisdom argues that in fact it is Coburn who is in denial, noting that "The 2006 exit poll data suggests that the GOP lost control of Congress because: (a) about half of the electorate had a bad opinion of the economy; (b) the Iraq mission was unpopular; and (c) voters did not see the GOP as particularly ethical. " Of course, all three of these things are symptoms of big-government conservatism, but Karl is unwilling to admit that.

AJStrata: "But that is a minor problem, the bigger problem with Coburn is his whining finger pointing. I have numerous examples of compassionate conservatism which were wholly conservatism and were low to no cost, proving that his rants against the impure are fiction. " Strata goes on to claim that Coburn is a hypocrite since as a Senator he played a part in all of this. This ignores the fact that Coburn has been perhaps the single most steadfast opponent of the growth of government spending in the Senate.

These arguments are not about effective governance, which is what conservatism was once about. Instead, they are arguments about how to gain power. But by focusing for the last 8 years on how to gain and maintain power, Republicans have inevitably governed poorly. Which is why they now stand on the verge of losing all the power they had gained, with virtually no conservative accomplishments to be proud of.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Big Government Conservatism

See-dubya, writing at Michelle Malkin's site, demonstrates how modern conservatism is ultimately more about finding things for the government to do than it is about limiting the size of government. In the post, he says that it is a "fair question" of what our counter-terrorism strategy should be "when" we defeat al-Qaeda. One would think that once the biggest threat (and entire raison d'etre for most of the government's counter-terrorism expansions) was eliminated, the appropriate conservative response would be to, quite simply, eliminate those elements of the government.

But that is not what See-dubya thinks. Instead it would appear that the appropriate conservative reaction to beating al-Qaeda, rather than being to decrease the size of government, is instead to "look[] beyond the end of Al Qaeda and consider[] what fresh horror radical Islam may try to release upon the world. " In other words: once we've beaten the threat of al-Qaeda, the next step ought to be to convert our current unofficial war on Islam into an official war on Islam. I'm sure that won't do ANYTHING to push more people into terrorism and radicalism.

Neo-conservatism is increasingly nothing more than a giant self-fulfilling prophecy.

**UPDATE** I forgot to mention this little nugget from See-dubya's post:

"Administrating the peace is every bit as important as winning the war, as the history of a badly drawn peace after WWI shows."

Of course, the fact that the peace after WWI was so badly drawn arose out of a desire to punish the Central Powers as much as possible (just as See-dubya wants to punish Islam as much as possible) seems to have escaped his memory.

(Last sentence edited for grammar)

A Few More Notes on Barr

Although I have thought Barr was the wisest choice for the LP all along, there were still some areas where I personally had some major hangups (although he previously answered a lot of my concerns about his immigration policy, as I wrote here).

Anyways, after reading about his answers during the LP debate Saturday night, the "major" policy disagreements I have with him were reduced to almost zero. There are still disagreements, to be sure, but for the most part they are matters of detail rather than big picture issues. Quoting from Stephen Littau's liveblog, the most important statements Barr made for me were:

"Barr says U.S. policies are based on fear. Kill the PATRIOT Act real good. "
"What immigration policy? Make sure immigrants are not security threats then let them in. "
"Barr: regrets sponsoring the Defense of Marriage Act. Will work to repeal it."

As far as I know, those were the three areas where Barr's libertarian credibility was most in question. As long as you believe his sincerity (and I do), then I think he passes the libertarian litmus test in just about every way.

For what it's worth, I might add that at least on the immigration issue, Barr's position is more consistent with libertarianism than libertarianism's alleged savior, Ron Paul. Also, his recent work on marijuana policy reform demonstrates a greater commitment to ending the War on Drugs than Ron Paul has ever shown.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bob Barr '08

Count me amongst those who are relieved that Bob Barr will be at the top of the Libertarian Party's ticket this fall. To be sure, his Congressional record was far from libertarian. But as I wrote last month, I believe his "conversion" to libertarianism is authentic. The basis for my belief arises from several occasions I had to meet the Congressman (albeit only briefly) back in 2003-2004, long before he called himself a libertarian. Prior to that, in mid-2001, I covered one or two hearings in which Barr participated while interning during law school. The Bob Barr I met in 2003-2004 was already a politically changed man in comparison to the Bob Barr of mid-2001, particularly with respect to foreign policy and civil liberties issues. That this evolution would have continued through the following 4 years strikes me as more than likely. For that reason, I believe Barr that many of his current positions are sincerely held.

Barr is someone who brings an instant level of credibility to the LP that it has not had in its entire history. In a year with so many disgruntled libertarian-leaning conservatives, he represents a real opportunity to siphon off votes from McCain.

But the purists are correct when they say that it shouldn't just be about votes - the LP's mission is to spread the libertarian philosophy. Barr represents an opportunity to do precisely that, as there is a chance (perhaps only 1 in 3, but a chance nonetheless) that he will gain enough support to get into the Presidential debates. If he can do that, then he will have an actual platform to spread libertarian ideals; without that platform, no LP candidate will ever succeed in spreading libertarianism. As such, without that platform, the candidate the LP nominates is irrelevant.

This leaves the next question, that of the Vice Presidential nominee. Friend of PE and contributor at Nick Bradley offers some interesting thoughts:

In my mind, the most appropriate course for the LP to take is to go with whatever wing of the party is currently in power, i.e. go with a right-libertarian ticket in order to counter the biggest current threat to liberty, the GOP, and go with a left-libertarian ticket if/when the Dems become a bigger threat to liberty.

The implication of this would seem to be that Root is the better nominee, an idea that may have gained some traction after Root's concession speech. I think there is a lot to that concept.

However, for this election, I wonder if the better nominee wouldn't be Steve Kubby, who was apparently being courted for the VP slot by just about everyone this weekend. I say this not because Kubby would be a way of pacifying the purists in the party - I don't think that Barr's running mate should be an olive branch for a couple of hundred particularly disgruntled party insiders when Barr represents a likelihood of picking up an additional several hundred thousand to several million votes by himself. However, Kubby represents an interesting VP candidate if - and only if - Barr can get into the debates. Importantly, I think Kubby's personal story combined with Barr's notoriety could get enough press coverage to push the LP above the debate threshold. But then, in the Vice-Presidential debates, Kubby would have the ability to undermine public support for the War on Drugs like no person in history. I would love to see the VP candidate of the Republican Party personally explain to Kubby - on national television - exactly why it is that medical marijuana should remain illegal.

Alas, I expect that Root will be the VP nominee, which is fine by me. I just don't think he adds to the ticket as much as others seem to believe.

Finally- many thanks to Stepen Littau and Jason Pye at the Liberty Papers for their coverage of the convention this weekend.

More at memeorandum.

***UPDATE***Ron Chusid says that Root got the VP nomination as expected. Again, this is fine by me; but I still think Kubby would have added a lot to the ticket.