March 2008

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Dark Ages Hour 

I'm all for the efficient use of resources, but I think that the symbolism of Earth Hour (encouraging everyone to turn off their lights between 8 and 9pm tonight) is awful.

It reminds us that many who oppose modern comforts regardless of environmental impacts are using the specter of global warming to move us back to the dark ages.

And Google is helping, with their black-background homepage today.

Maybe Google should do something that would actually have an impact on energy use and shut down all of its servers for an hour. Maybe for a week! Or, maybe for a few hours every night. I'm sure the earth would really be better off then!

They could follow the progressive lead of that great earth-friendly country: North Korea. This picture of the Korean peninsula at night speaks volumes.

Nobody is going to make much progress at actually improving our energy-use situation sitting in the dark tonight.

I'm going to turn on a few extra lights at 8pm.

I'd rather make a symbolic statement supporting the Enlightenment.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Political Economy 

Don Boudreaux doesn't seem very excited about Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's recently proposed "solutions" for the economy.

His bottom line:

Almost all that any politician says on any topic other than political strategy should be treated with even less respect than would be accorded a professional circus-clown's speculations about string theory.

Awesome.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hillary's Memory Under Fire 

Hillary Clinton says she made a "mistake" when she repeatedly gave a false account of having been under sniper fire in Bosnia.

I'm still trying to figure out which is worse for her as a prospective candidate...if she knowingly lied, or if she believed an elaborate false memory.

It seems like she'd like us to believe that the latter is true.

So, is she asking people to vote for her because of the experience she has, or the experience she thinks she has?


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Obamania 

So, I've finally watched (and read) the entire speech by Barack Obama on race that so many bloggers (including libertarians) have been gushing about. I agree that Obama is very bright, and that his speeches (including this one) are very well-crafted and well-delivered. And, I think he did a good job of defending his refusal to completely disown Rev. Wright after the wide distribution of inflammatory video.

But, I didn't really see anything new or brilliant in the speech that seems likely to lead to great consequences. He said some true things that most people don't talk about. He pointed out that there are explanations for each of the different (often angry) positions staked out in the race controversies. He tapped into the strong feelings that many of us have about race, and our hopes that the problems can be solved.

But, with all of his stirring oratory, I didn't see any evidence that he's likely to improve things. I'm afraid he's just likely to cause more and more people to fall for "Politicians Logic", that:

1) Something must be done.

2) This is something.

3) Therefore, we must do it.

His focus on policy prescriptions are hard to find, but what I find isn't very encouraging:

By investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations...Let us be our brother's keeper...Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well. This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools... This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together... This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

When I look at Obama's policy prescriptions (in this speech, and others), I don't see much that inspires hope in me. There is some good stuff, like more transparency in many areas of federal activity. But, I mainly see pandering to anti-trade irrationality, appeals to class resentment, proposals for the federal government to "invest" in every possible solution to people's problems, anti-speech campaign "reforms", favoritism toward unions, socialization of health care, increasing burdensome regulations, etc. The same old leftist drivel.

When I hear Obama, I feel like I'm hearing Peter Pan ask us to all clap our hands if we believe in fairies. Exhorting us to believe and hope hard enough to get these pigs to fly.

Well, I think that these are bad policies, and that no amount of hope and optimism will make them good ones. I'm sure that we can all think of talented politicians who persuaded the masses to follow them down the wrong roads. I understand that it feels good. I'm sure that new street gang members feel good about the solidarity, and camaraderie and shared commitments that they have. But, it's a sham. It's not in their, or our, interests for them to join these projects even though it feels good.

I don't believe in fairies.

We survived FDR's New Deal, and LBJ's Great Society, and I'm sure we can survive Obama's Perfect Union (or whatever inspiring name he gives this pile of policies).

But, I hope we don't have to.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Eliot Spitzer: Busted 

I admit to a few seconds of schadenfreude when I heard that NY Governor Eliot Spitzer was caught buying prostitution services, and that it will probably end his political career.

But, then, I felt a little uncomfortable by all of the glee expressed on some of the libertarian blogs I read. I don't really like the idea of anybody suffering because of unjust laws. In fact, I don't like the idea of anybody suffering at all. Not really.

Of course, it's hard to argue with Glen Whitman,who wrote that "The only people I think should be prosecuted for victimless crimes are people who have prosecuted others for those crimes."

Also, I suppose that if somebody had to suffer because of the silly enforcement of this victimless crime law, it's better that it's a pompous, abusive, bullying jerk like Spitzer, who has ruined many other people's lives for his own glory.

I don't know whether or not New York is likely to get a better or a worse replacement; so it's not clear to me whether this is a good thing for their political scene.

My pie-in-the-sky hope is that all of this attention will hasten the day that prostitution is legalized.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Homeschooling in California 

It was upsetting, but not shocking, to read about the recent California Court of Appeals decision In Re Rachel L., that asserted that "Parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children," and that homeschooling is illegal unless the parent has a teaching credential.

I'm not sure whether this is a bad decision in terms of how it applies existing law, but it sure is bad in terms of protecting basic rights.

Fortunately, it seems that Gov. Schwarzenegger has the right idea about all of this, and will urge the improvement of existing law.

Perhaps this can be like the Kelo v. City of New London case that ruled against property rights, but raised awareness enough to change the laws in several states, and reduce incidence of eminent domain abuses.

There's too much to say about schooling in a single blog post, but I just want to note that it's amazing how blind so many people, who claim to be vitally concerned about civil liberties, can be to the basic injustice of the state position. Children are not criminals. They do not deserve to be forced into state education facilities. Homeschooling is not producing worse outcomes than public schooling. It seems to be an article of faith in the religion of statism that children are better off going to state-run schools.

I agree that children should be protected from parents who deny them access to basic information about the world to the extent that it inhibits their ability to develop the knowledge and skills required for a successful, independent, adulthood.

But, it seems to me that the evidence is overwhelming that mandating school attendance (with state-credentialed teachers) is very far from the most reasonable way to achieve this protection.

Children have a right to be fed, too! But, we don't mandate that state-credentialed nutrition professionals prepare each child's food. I can imagine the high cost and low quality of that food.