31 July 2010

Running away from police

By simply parking and waiting for them to go away....is apparently suspicious enough behavior to justify traffic stops?

What exactly are police supposed to be doing again? It would seem to me that ignoring and not making eye contact with a cop is pretty routine. I don't look at them anyway and keep going on about my business and I more or less ignore them when they are actually talking to me as well. It is not required for me to be cooperative or responsive to their inquiries. All that does is either a) get him more information than he needs in order to issue some citation or even make an arrest or b) smooth out the encounter such that I will be on my way faster, but at the cost of some of my personal rights as guaranteed, which I'm a little leery about doing.

And as far as parking a car... that's pretty standard too. Perhaps the guy needed to text someone for directions or was simply lost and attempting to get his bearings by examining the street. That behavior (parking one's car briefly and then driving on) would not need to be linked at all to police activity in the vicinity. Are we to envision that all people who become nervous around authorities, such as the police, are now to be considered as potential criminal actors? Seems to me like this is a facts are backward type thinking. The people who get more comfortable around police seem more like the career criminal types. They're used to the attention and scrutiny and know their ways around their rights, such as the cop will allow them to properly exercise, by that point.

But in any case, I suggest the following action when you see police.

Run Away!

Because pulling out a camera will apparently be deemed as an offensive weapon at this point. And that's no defence at all if police are going to delete the evidence, which is distressingly common behavior at this point in relation to the filming or photographing of police misconduct.

A juggernaut

Speak to me in rhymes
I hear only whispers
Without the volume turned up
The walls keep out the noise
Slide though the bars the tune

Look at me, I'm trapped
in a circle, running
There are only two doors
to nowhere
Escape is not his plan

Tied down to the mast
Watch a siren song
Burning through desires
A long time forgotten
Abandoned in worlds past

No box to hold it in
A glass to pour it out?
Or it wells up behind
Pushing out two at a time
Seeping out an ache

Thought that wound was covered up


It healed

As the runner paced
Victory is far away
A lane for no celebrations
Only to keep going
Express lane is closed

Make it home on your own
Drunk on the most powerful
form of addiction
Gets hard to see straight
When the walls are quivering

By sight, and not by light
Shining through the mirrors
No use eventually, pierced
straight through
Crumbled, and shattered

In a million pieces
Careful, sharp, biting
down on the taste of skin
to skin, it never stops
Keeps running for anything

musical chairs

That was probably the song for the week. Hit a lot of different spots, with some left over for others to deal with.

But the randomness that is pandora brought up something else.

Not really the global aspect that was the mark. Local matters have taken some precedence. As they tend to do for normal people. They are too much, or not enough. Probably a reason I stick to global and far thinking as much as possible.

29 July 2010

a few hours to kill


Starcraft II doesn't seem that different from the first one yet (haven't tried MP yet). Units die fast, like I remember from the first one. There's a little bit of rock-paper-scissors on the units, but that was there before because of the shields on one side and the swarm strategy on the other. The campaign is different because of the way upgrades are handled (and more of them) and having mercs to draw on, but I don't see much difference yet other than graphics that should have taken over a decade to make sequel for the original...much less that they'll need to release the 3 campaigns as 3 separate games.

Back to the grind though. Play with it some more when there's less on the plate.


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Best Leak Ever
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

I suppose the ease of smuggling data was a funny part. The non-enforcement of DADT in the field apparently hasn't made the news either. Though I don't suspect listening to Lady Gaga is on the list as a disclosure of one's sexuality per se. It may suggest a bit of an odd preference for music I suppose. But I suppose there's no accounting for taste, as its said.

The really special part is the reaction by people who haven't been following the situation. Was it really a shock when Pakistan's intelligence service is showing up as a villain in the story...and that we've been essentially funding the "insurgency"? No. Yeah, that is a fucked up-edness. But that's been true for 5-10-20 years now. It's kind of a big reason not to be messing with the place the way we have been.

As far as the President being "angry", I concur, who gives a shit. This was mostly (not entirely, some information pertaining to intelligence agencies and agents in the field appears to have been leaked as well) information that should be in the public eye and, in some cases, has been available or known for some time. That the information being summarized and made available may change and alter public perceptions for those that haven't cared much about a little hilly place halfway around the world that we have troops in is not my problem. It's your problem Mr President for committing to a dumb strategy (both in the campaign and in office) and selling it to us as though it could work given the factors on the ground that weren't accounted for by that strategy (local corruption and the degree of control over territory not by "insurgents", but by the enemy, cross-alliances and regional interests, etc).

Same with the Afghani police getting high. I've seen the same "act ridiculous" or "got the giggles" as a behavioral "issue" from people getting drunk as well, usually it's worse in fact. Sure, they shouldn't be doing that right before going on a mission, but that hardly impresses upon me as the most serious problem we're having to contend with. That many of those police or soldiers may be inadequately armed or trained without years of continued American support or occupation, or may be just plain corrupt, is kind of a bigger deal.

28 July 2010


I need to get on some performance enhancing drugs.

To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems...

It looks more like the causality is social groups more so than the alcohol itself. Smarter people tend to be congregated in social demographics that drink more freely, converse more freely, exchange ideas and so forth while experiencing their buzz induced brain boost.

I'm not that worried about my tee-totaling ways on this point at least.

It's a start

The safety lecture continues

Immigration edition.

I'm not sure the Constitutional questions of immigration enforcement are being addressed here in full. For instance, large sections of Arizona's law are essentially federal law and so there are questions of who has jurisdiction over immigration under the Constitution, etc. And thus there are almost certainly sections of federal immigration laws which should be sought to be overturned on the same restriction of liberties questions that this law was restrained from if that's the basis of argument.

As far as "resolving" the issue, most people seem to think the government (the federal government) should step in and address immigration with appropriate reforms. I hate to disabuse them of this notion, but it's not going to matter if they do and it's almost certainly not going to be an adequate reform for either nativists who want to restrict further immigration, sometimes legal or otherwise, or open borders people like myself who don't see the difference in whether a job goes to a Haitian or an American or a Mexican or an Indian, provided that person does the job adequately for the employer who contracts with them to do it.

But really, the two parties involved have little reason to consolidate the issues in a meaningful way. Republicans, as a party supposedly backing "markets" and "free trade" (when they do little enough of either), have generally backed or prodded dangerously along xenophobia and nativist sentiments, which do have some prominent popular support. That's a contradiction which seems very strange, but then there's Democrats, who support and court Latino voters through token movements on immigration, but cannot move stridently on the issue because of large union backing which often opposes it (for the usual union wage restriction reasons). If anything gets done as a consequence of this political reality, it will be of little use to people who wish to come here and work and live and learn as citizens and legal residents of the country, or to mollify those who perceive all (illegal) immigrants as usurpers, thieves, hoodlums, and a drain on the public treasuries.

In any case...

Why is it

that when you get free food, suddenly you're not as hungry as if you paid for it.

At least, there's food still left there when you're full. It's very odd.


27 July 2010


Song for a day

26 July 2010

News from April

BP fires CEO

So yeah, like nobody saw that coming. The obvious routine was to keep him around until the leak was plugged or more or less under control.

Since that's happening, bye bye now.

Also not free

A councilman in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv is ousted from his position for playing Farmville during budget meetings. There are now at least three apps that use the iPhone’s camera to show the world right in front of you so you can keep texting while walking down the street, confident in your ability to avoid sinkholes, telephone poles, and traffic.

We needed 3 apps to look up? And who needs to look to text?

Not so free

When somebody can just decide you broke a law and exercise the power of the state to compel that assessment into force.

Not the fun kind of criminal really this way.


might take a while to read

90000 pages? I thought it was over 250,000 when I first heard about it.

Doesn't sound like there's a whole lot of new information from the initial reports. What it is unvarnished acknowledgments by people on the ground or in charge of the situation that the project of making Afghanistan into a respectable country capable of suppressing the Taliban without massive external support (or more importantly, Al Qaeda) is pretty unreasonable (and always has been).

Things like Pakistan's support for the Afghani Taliban, which goes back many years, don't help of course. But that's not a new development, and it should be one that we should have been able to account for in forming a strategy. If a regional ally is supporting the enemy forces that we're trying to attack, it doesn't make sense to keep prosecuting a war against that enemy in the way we're doing (by occupation and counter-insurgency rather than perhaps militant or aggressive counter-terrorism and intelligence work). At least if the insurgency itself is partly backed by allied forces.

I suppose one could say we should attack or threaten Pakistan. But we're sort of stretched out as it is and those hawks still want to bomb Iran. Which bombing other countries would put a crimp on that agenda.


"This is a litmus test I use for how close I am with a friend. If s/he doesn't tell me anything bad about their life, I assume we're not very good friends."

By that standard though, I should think most people would play it pretty close to the chest. There's also a couple odd thoughts involved in that

1) What about people who don't tell you anything but the bad parts of their lives? I would say you might be useful for them in the same way that a psychologist is, but at some point, maybe something good happened? Most people are pretty good at mixing this up at least a little. But people who don't tell stories, not as much. Such folks tend not to need other people to validate that they had fun doing something. What they need is advice and support.

2) How does one cross the dividing line from a person who tells you only good things or has positive shared experiences to being a trusted source of advice or confidence of dealing with much lesser and bad or painful experiences? It would seem like this might a line that many people might not want crossed and might prefer the more casual nature of associations. It can be kind of a Rubicon point in a friendship of any kind to confess your sins and struggles and weaknesses instead of the happiness.

This explains a lot

Be less lazy!

Lazy is evolutionary, to keep us from doing stupid things when we might need the energy to run away from danger or find food or water or shelter.

Busy is apparently the mind's way of looking for something to do that will increase utility (happiness). Downtime needs to be filled with something or boredom from laziness sets in as a mood in and of itself. Since modern societies leave little need for finding bare necessities of survival, it's pretty much GIVE ME AN ACTIVITY! being screamed by the brain.

I'm sure that goes over well when it involves other people.

25 July 2010

expounding a point

on the nature of personal social choices, made by me.

It should come as little surprise to anyone that I tend to be a highly introverted person. Part of this is that I have a long-standing relationship with theories, facts, observation, and so on, that tend to require a wide degree of time within reflection and the avoidance of messy personal complications that come with having many friends and associates. I think the average person (since the average person is an extrovert) would say this is a complicated way of saying I have no life and spend too much time reading. But in truth, I do try to from time to time to have a life. There are some complications however that make it harder.

1) Most people do not relate easily to people who have complicated thoughts and express them in preference to small talk. I do learn something about people by observing their stories and how they react to things like weather or how they get around town and how much attention they pay to people who are not in the room with us as topics of interest, but these are trivial conversations most of the time. And in general, I only learn something useful in relation to observing a story that I do not automatically relate to, say, a story that was of something done many years ago without my presence to corroborate and connect myself personally into the equation, by relating it to other parts of a person's narrative that I am more acquainted with. Thus if other people are talking in way which resembles an inside joke, I don't get it until I know anything about the people involved and tend not to respond or contribute anything, or be all that concerned about observing. I also tend not to be that bothered about other people's work environments and jobs. Unless they are very excited about their work and thus interesting and not simply a person who is easily impressed (ooo look a blue car!) or someone working in sales, which is still boring no matter what face I would put on it and puts me on a defensive role immediately on the assumption that they will try to sell me on something instead of engage in a conversation. In general since most people at random gatherings must fulfill these very basic conversations before they start plunging away arguing over political viewpoints (with any seriousness, and not mere ill-considered and easily mouthed platitudes) or the intricacies of the pick and roll defence, it's pretty hard to find a random person to get along with and become acquainted.
2) In general even beyond these boring and tedious small talk rituals, people tend to have stories with which I cannot relate to. I don't have a kid and haven't really thought about it. My parents weren't divorced (I can cheat a bit here because I've had some friends who had). I don't drink. I don't watch and follow football or nascar or ufc unless it's on while at some public gathering that I have dragged myself into. And so on. Certainly there are very common topics on which I can converse (basketball or baseball or sexuality for example), but my conversational methods are sort of uncasual in these subjects. That is, I've probably over-analyzed it relative to the casual observer. A topic which I cannot relate to, or have very limited frame of reference again increases the difficulty curve of me wanting to put up with a person.
3) If I already know a person reasonably well from previous encounters, then new data like distinct interests from my own can be parked in the box where I store everything else about a person. This assumes I had some common frame of reference formed already. This also implies that there was some degree of interest such that I actually want to learn these random tidbits and file them away for potential use someday. Again, without much overlap, it's pretty hard for me to acquire a new interest in something I hadn't previously simply because some random person recommended it to me. A history puts such recommendations in context so that if I hear a movie was good or a book or a restaurant, then I can put some stock in these experiences. I don't tend to advertise these to random people on this reasoning that hearing that a strange person liked X isn't really an inducement to go and experience X if you haven't before. Hearing that interesting person (or friend) Y liked X might be.
4) In general a group of people beyond about 8 is pushing my limitations of tolerance for personal space violations that must occur as a consequence of knowing many more people who have demands and wants of their own. And no less than 4 or 5 seems adequate to provide me with plenty of diversions (I've gone many years with a number less than that, at least locally and frequently accessible). Most days I am quite content to sit around in contemplation or actually, I don't know, work, with very minimal distractions made available from whatever it is I've focused on for the day. If I were to do nothing social whatsoever 5 or 6 days per week, many weeks out of the year that would be grand. Where I am interested in social contacts, it seems necessary to have a sufficient number of core people I can draw upon reliably to "have fun". In some sense, part of the fun is discussing whatever it is I've come into contact intellectually over the week or month or however long it's been. If it is a book, a movie, or a bit of news, it has to be broken down and its component parts fought over or engaged in at least some discourse to insure my brain isn't sitting there passively taking something in and not processing it (I do enjoy some simple things from time to time, but these are different kinds of experiences than cultural creation). This is a large reason why I started blogging, so I could toss my thoughts into a big bag and other people could encounter them at their leisure and whim instead of me cornering them with a debate on Kant and evolutionary psychology. Still, that sort of contact only accounts for some, not all, of my social habit or demand, and often does little to satisfy other people's demands on my time, which may be more complex or demanding than simply discussing objects in space or the latest police shooting during a drug warrant search. Like say, attentively playing a game, talking in actual conversation, and so on.
5) These demands are more arduous without being very cautious with the selection of company, people who are more amusing, more clever, and have a wide enough variety of interests and experiences to provide a broad base of conversation and back and forth on which for me to relate to or at least to observe vicariously (ie, if other people have done something together, their story can be related to me without me being too concerned that I was not included in cool thing X, Y, or Z. At least on the assumption that I did not ask to be included). I do not tend to have stories of my own to relate to others such that they could understand me and find me likable through that, much less keep tabs on what I've been doing in their absence. Instead, most of my interactions are limited to references to better known cultural aspects (comedians, movies, art, books, etc), on the basis that people will readily understand the analogies and I'll get to see what people were talking about without exposing anything or making anything clearer about my own life story.
6) In general this makes me highly selective about company and people. Most people are less so and when they make plans for their gatherings they often include people who are less interesting (to me), but maintain their own private even mutual interests with each other. I don't find this offensive in the slightest, but it does often mean that there are many gatherings where I may be less useful for the occasional remark or observation that I would ordinarily contribute to the group dynamics and which it may therefore be best that others have their fun without me.
7) In general the people I've chosen, over time, to express a little bit of myself toward in actual forms rather than through indirect methods, tend to be rather fascinated (by me) or mystified about the choice (of them). I suspect this is that I've chosen very well (which is usually true) or that its very unclear to others what my interests are in the first place, including themselves. I don't consider myself very complicated, but I've seen this "criticism" applied over and over by well-meaning people who may otherwise be considered as friends or associates. Such people are often very surprised that I am not more open or expressive toward others, as though this is a desirable action. There are some good reasons, such as that it's time consuming to deal with people, particularly the average person where much activity has to be sifted through to find common ground. And some less good reasons, such as that it's risky to be open and trusting of others.
8) Computers have made it easier to keep tabs or communication with people who are far flung across a continent. But since a good chunk of my interactions with people consist of non-physical conversations concerning ideas and activities, it's very difficult to get through to my head that I need to make some local associations with whom I can do actual things with more regularly if need be. I have decided that is a problem that requires a solution, at least minimally.

So I could
1) Take vacations to where people of interest live or work
2) Move. More long term that one though.
3) Figure out how to put up with more people and meet them in more non-specific forums.
4) Write about less dense topics and encourage people to read and catch them in the web that way.

I'm leaning toward some combination of 3 and then 2. Some factors involved may push 2 upward or backward though. I'll see I suppose.

Another possibility is to expand my narrow band of interests slightly.
For example, I like music, but don't like dancing (or do any of it). Music can be easily (and often best) enjoyed in private. But there's options to exercise it with company. Of course, that does little to attract attentions that I'd like to exercise in all cases either. But the example suffices.

Not the Onion

But funny.

Couple of those were awesome signs. In particular the last one: "Magnets, how the fuck do they work?" mockery of ICP's idiot rant posing as... something other than an idiot rant. Saturday Night Live had a good mockery of that as well a couple months ago (almost like the literal music videos mockeries).

I'm not quite sure it's necessary to protest the Westboro folks anymore. They pretty much write their own self-protest at this point out of the ridiculousness of their works and words. But it's still funny.

24 July 2010

The power of


And laughter.

Conversations definitely have rules. People should respond to each other where they can, speak with one another in mind, generally try to be amusing/entertaining/diverting of attentions (that whole laughter thing is contagious and useful signaling for one thing). And most of the time is best spent listening to the other person speak and simply pushing the conversation in directions where you can speak once in a while usefully to demonstrate that you are enjoying their company or conversation. Stories are good, when they are stories that other people can relate to and chime in with their own, such that you will learn something about them. Arguments are less good. Simply because people tend to end up talking past one another rather than demonstrating points of order and logic. They can be functionally done where people are attentive and well-informed. But they're often not.

There are lots of tricks to this. But this one I liked particularly. "As a general rule, the more dangerous or inappropriate the conversation, the more interesting it is." I like it. I use it liberally by trying to post things that I find as "inappropriate" or dangerous thinking in order to get others to think more on the subjects involved. I'm guessing I have crossed the line often enough that people don't generally comment in conversational forms, which defeats the entire premise.

In any case, laughing as a social hierarchy is a fascinating thought experiment. Most people laugh when they are talking, and laugh much more in company than alone. Neither of which is terribly surprising, but the nature of what it achieves is useful to consider. A safe and comforting environment is achieved by people laughing amongst each other. It communicates within the group a level of comfort.

Also not surprising that men/boys are typically the class clowns. Not sure I'd take a woman laughing at something as a sign of "submission", but it does communicate something useful: amusement or at least attentiveness, either of which can be useful for pair bonding, friendships, etc, but can be overestimated with ease. Laughs are clearer than smiles for such estimations. The clearest estimate is simply paying attention back and watching that such smiles and other responses are genuine and well-timed instead of simple "she wants me" reactions. Incidentally, smarter fellows are more likely to leap to the "she wants me" reaction, which is laugh inducing. It's a bias that I even can fall for what with my limited self-impression of my reflection and hence self-awareness of my effects on the opposite sex.

I can see people using laughter as a manipulative tool, despite my ambivalence for its signaling effect in a smaller dynamic (like a conversation or mating prospects). Comics do tend to be projecting a dominating stance by commanding a room to laugh for example. A good joke isn't typically used by a politician in public (because a good joke is a dangerous subject matter usually), but in the right setting, they are powerful.

And yes, it's still good medicine.

23 July 2010


Being non-religious, even anti-religious, is difficult. In a culture that is pervaded with religious symbolism and appeals to religion especially.

There's two ways to deal with it that I've found.
1) Don't care, make up your own interpretation of meaning. Or perhaps just enjoy the artistic value of something in spite of its religious overtones or mentions. Lots of classical music and art is in this theme for me, though it's much less so with literature (anybody who liked Brothers Karamazov and Heart of Darkness is probably not the most likely person to attach a lot of liking to a lengthy religious intoning by a novelist). Lots of rap has these appeals as well. I presume some country music does the same for people like that sort of thing.
2) Look into what other people think it means, and then put your own spin on it.

So the Wire opens up with a gospel like blues song as its theme.

It's pretty heavy on the "literal" religious images (such as religion has literal images). But those religious images seem to be fairly universal for most of us. We suffer from "temptation", things that we want but maybe shouldn't have. We have to walk through places in our lives that we don't and didn't want to go in the first place, and so on. I suppose you could blame that at some external force and deal it with it that way by calling on further external forces to presume to help take these problems away for us.

But since this was the theme for the Wire, I never saw anybody asking to take something away in that way on there, much less see a problem wished away in this manner, or even the burden eased that way. And I can't say I've ever seen that work for anybody else out in the real world either. People do something themselves usually (maybe with some external help from people they know, if they ask or if it seems needed), and they either take the credit for themselves or they blame something else for their successes and failures. There isn't a whole lot of mystery to it that requires the majestic symbolism and appeals to cosmic forces to explain. But it doesn't make the actual dealing with the things any easier for the people involved to know this. And in a sense, it does mean that we have to keep things down in a hole sometimes, maybe to pocket them for later in acts of patience or mercy, and maybe to draw them out like a poison by ourselves where they are pains that we don't want to expose or share.

Some people draw strength from the presumption they are not alone when they do this, and that's their purpose for faith. I'd rather give or draw strength to and from people because they are alone than play make believe that they're not and wait for them to get the point and start moving the pieces around the board for themselves. I'm not seeing much getting done that way.

Objectivists are weird

Particularly when they don't seem very objectivist

Like when they decide that private property rights should be overridden to serve some supposed communal interest (or their own, but not necessarily the property owners', private demands). My Randism may be a little hazy, but I'm pretty sure that overriding private interests by legal force is like original sin for Catholics, it's the thing you're trying to run away from as fast as possible.

In any case, I still don't see how this is such a big deal, even if there isn't popular support.

What I know of public policy suggests that many dumb ideas are popular, and many good ideas are unpopular. . So that's hardly suggesting that we should override private property rights, not the mention the 1st amendment's free exercise clause, or even the decisions of a local zoning board because of external (ie, non-local) demands and concerns.

22 July 2010


A shape in the darkness
Follow it with my gaze

A laugh
Smiles. Back.
Bewildered at the same line of vision

A tear.
Wets upon my shoulder
Frustrated. Helplessness
Seeing reaching and restraint tossed in the breeze

A dream
Good one, who can say?
Built in castles of sand
Washed away by tides
Brought back by a memory

20 July 2010

Why won't you just go away

and play hide and go fuck yourself, lady.

This is kind of like the evolution "debate" where the answer is: "fossil".

The answer to this question is twofold:
"1st Amendment guarantees freedom of religion"
"Private property rights are supposedly important to you people"

Again, how many times do I have to point out this woman is not a libertarian. Get her the fuck away from me.

But at least this guy said more or less what the opinion of NYC will be. I can at least take some positive vibe from that.

PS: I'm not sure it was "racist" either. But it was classic Palin-dumb-pander-to-her-base. Government officials or people who presume to speak for such don't really have an ability to sound off on what sort of religious like facilities are built where, private property rights and the lack of a state religion trump that capacity. Palin of course is a private citizen (or at least for now likes us to believe she will continue to be). So she can say dumb things like this. But it doesn't mean that she shouldn't be ignored when she makes up new words to play her games of madlibs with the politics of the country. The "interests of healing" are apparently for Muslims to pretend that they do not exist so that good American-born-American speaking Christians can go on killing them in foreign countries I guess without the inconvenience of being attacked once in a while by random acts of terrorism and violence. I suppose it might be sensible for the people building it to consider carefully where it was built and the impact it has. But I'm guessing 9 years is plenty of time to consider that.

Besides, of all the things being built in NYC, Columbia University's recent eminent domain, read: abuse, case was a much bigger and weightier issue than this, especially for New Yorkers.

As for the linguistic impression that somehow put Shakespeare with Palin in the same sentence:

"To suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous liberals, or to quit halfterm, and by opposing, rake in speaking fees"

19 July 2010

Private Joker

Whenever I suffer from a condition of feeling unmotivated.... this does not help.

Shaking head.

"I'm not aware of any agency with the authority, responsibility or a process in place to coordinate all these interagency and commercial activities. The complexity of this system defies description."

The result, he added, is that it's impossible to tell whether the country is safer because of all this spending and all these activities. "Because it lacks a synchronizing process, it inevitably results in message dissonance, reduced effectiveness and waste," Vines said. "We consequently can't effectively assess whether it is making us more safe."

Wasn't that what "Homeland Security" was supposedly for as an agency? To coordinate responses and the flow of information? Naturally the fact that there are dozens of agencies doing exactly the same kind of work is wasteful. It's certainly useful to have multiple opinions and multiple agents doing different vectors on the same sort of issues. Not so much with entire agencies essentially diligently copying each others' work. But one would think that if we created an entire cabinet department to prevent such things, that sort of thing wouldn't happen. Obviously that intuitive thought process when it comes to public policies is horribly flawed.

So instead of it's actual mission, Homeland Security (through it's control of the TSA) appears to be really good at putting hundreds of thousands of people on no-fly lists and keeping them off airplanes on the assumption that they are dangerous there only, while allowing them to do all sorts of potentially dangerous things anywhere else they please. That is to say, we charge or accuse people with a potential crime, with almost no means of challenging that determination, if any, without actually detaining their person for actual criminal behaviors. And this of course, is all to keep the rest of us "safely" in the orange colour coded part of the chart. Meanwhile, the ridiculousness of the idea that somehow there are really hundreds of thousands of dangerous people in the country that we need to prevent getting onto airplanes is never considered, much less considered as one of the main impediments to doing actual investigative work gathering intelligence on actual threatening people (ie, precise and actionable intelligence). Too many data points equals noise.

Keep this in mind: "Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications". Now imagine trying to filter through 1.7 messages a day, what sort of resources it would take to do so in order to make any sense of the resultant spaghetti that is produced by such a monstrous system. What kind of system believes that there are, at any given time, 1.7 billion emails, phone calls, etc worth listening to, sorting through, and digging into EVERY DAY, day after day, to look for terrorists, much less the more expansive and intrusive uses such a system could be, and has historically been, used for instead of the simpler counter-terrorism mandate upon which the entire architecture has been sold upon. That architecture, clearly, seems either to have been a very complicated joke and a lie, or a measure of the utter powerlessness and deliberate inability to comprehend the nature of enemies in this thing (global terrorism) that we would instead build a massive infrastructure and an incoherent logistical chain of information and command and control in order to combat it.

The idea that people have "nothing to hide" and therefore "nothing to worry about" is ever more troublesome when combated by the features of such a beast that must be fed, and starves us, the people it is spying upon, of its nature and abilities. Almost everyone has something they wish to hide. It is not generally a dark secret plot to kill others. But it might be something they won't want to be made public, or disclosed to authorities who might decide, often entirely on their own agenda, to penalize them for actions that may be, or more worrying to me, may once have been, entirely legal or, at worst, otherwise harmless. But even more troubling at present is the idea that this is a system designed in the first place to improve our safety. The information needed to prevent major terrorist plots or to detect unstable individuals who may be plotting such events, is, according to the government itself, already available. The trouble is that they are not acting upon that information or connecting it toward the idea that it must be acted upon, and that right soon. That is not a problem of having insufficient resources for surveillance and information gathering. It is a problem of not being able to use and identify useful bits of intelligence that is already gathered from either inadequate analytical tools or, more likely, too much data and noise to be able to start to make sense of the gemstones contained in it. A few plots may be averted in this way, but enough others will not be that it nets us no gains.

Trading a little liberty still does not improve safety and security any more in the 21st century than it did in the 18th.

More behavior

means more licensing

This is a very familiar theme in behavioral economics. Make a car safer, people will it drive more recklessly. Offer a diet soda and calorie charts, people will overeat. Buy a fuel efficient car and people will drive more (and thus clog up the road).

The main problem with something like "going green" is that it is a conspicuous form of consumption. It becomes a signaling game. "I am superior to you because I drive a Prius and not your silly Hummer. Ha! Take that!" Ideally, the reason to go green is for the conservation of resources, to make a sensible economic decision personally to not over-consume and waste energy or fuel or water on senseless and wasteful things. The reason it doesn't happen is that instead of these being essentially simple and private decisions, they're public and thus create feelings of entitlement. You have to take the recycling containers out to the curb or drive around town with a sticker that says "hybrid" on your car. I'm guessing those bring you up a notch. Then that notch is dispelled through a series of minor adjustments back downward. The sticker is on an SUV. People order a diet soda with their fast food. Money is spent on useless consumer goods (which require energy and resources to manufacture of course). And so on.

To be sure there are many people who do environmentally sound things because they assume, perhaps rightly, that they are doing something morally sound for themselves and for the benefit of others. We preserve a natural space of a park because it brings enjoyment to many people to see natural wonders and beauties, and in general human happiness and welfare is considered a reliable moral good. So environmental thinking is hardly useless as a framework for an individual's moral considerations. But if we buy a fuel efficient car, one sensible and practical reason to do it is to reduce fuel costs of our actual driving habits. Not to act as an excuse to drive around town more (and thus increase fuel costs by raising traffic congestion). Confusing economic and budgetary decisions with moral ones is bound to mix up these incentives. The moral decision is simple "I care about X", x being the planet or my children or animals, etc. But much environmentalism is really boiled down to sensible economic decisions. Energy efficiency in products from light bulbs to washing machines to cars is designed to lower resource use and personal bills for consumption. It has a significant side benefit of being environmentally helpful, but it is not the primary selling point to any random individual. That is, that expending less money on energy or resources frees up finances for other things.

One problem with this, and one reason that a carbon tax has so much appeal, is that pricing the cost of resources being used is vitally important to insuring that damaging and harmful resources are reduced in their effects. To be sure there are many billions of dollars in subsidies and corporate welfare which go out the window to feed oil and coal wealth that should be eliminated. But these are hardly the full measure and cost of the consumption of such goods. Pollutants, regardless of the long-term damage on climate, have significant immediate impacts on quality of life and health. These are not always priced into the current regime (some regulatory costs increase the cost of coal/oil based energy to the end consumer, but not all costs can be passed along in this way). We then hear arguments against such an idea that "taxing these things will make them cost more". I think that's the point in the first place, but it's not that hard to make an adjustment in personal and corporate income taxes to accommodate the increase in energy taxes (and the decrease in subsidies, to all forms of energy generation, including ethanol or nuclear power) at the same time as one seeks to raise, ideally in stages, the cost of non-clean fuels and energy consumption.

the cause of liberties

I've been engaged in trying to explain how a competitive market for schools would work to the economically challenged. It has not been going well.

But I suspect that this is hardly the only situation where a supposed "conservative" who might be reliably framed as favoring markets would in fact support something totally ridiculous instead (that is, the present system that creates parental oversight over ALL schools rather than simply allowing parental oversight over the school of their choice).

For example, conservatives have cynically been defending medicare against cuts (after decades of railing against the program's very existence. Of course, their passing a massive expansion of the program has not helped). They often suggest methods of cutting social security. Both of these are programs that I'd suggest should not even exist at all. As with schools, it might be a public good or a significant externality to require people to save money for retirement as a hedge against mass irrationality, just as there is a case to fund education through public taxation. But that case does not mean that the government should administer the methods of funding, and hence act not as an honest broker transferring funding to needed and desired public goals. Instead it seizes funding and presumes the public's goals. Similarly, there may be a strong case that consumers should in fact have some method of saving or insuring against medical risks and perhaps that should be a mandated requirement, with public assistance for those who cannot afford to do so. But this again does not mean that the government should thus decide which manner of insuring risks shall be used, what risks should be insurable, what methods of treatment should be deployed, etc. It may well be that the government can act to preserve transparency, to conduct studies on the efficacy of treatments, on the desirability of curing various diseases and conditions relative to the costs and benefits of such things in a general way, and also act to demand transparency of information and costs from providers of health care. These methods could act to preserve and extend markets into health care. But it makes little sense to transfer hundreds of billions of dollars to the aged (and hence infirm) on the sole basis that they are aged. It should be the responsibility of the individual to assume control over their health care, its quality and provision as well as their own health maintenance over a period of a lifetime. A system which provides relatively free health care and medications to people on the basis that they "need" them, without a full regard for their private ability to provision themselves with such things is apt to be a program which transfers vast sums of money to people who do not need it and did not ask for it.

That is hardly "conservative" either, just as it is hardly conservative to demand all schools teach what a handful of active parents decide through local or state school boards.

I could of course go on at length on the subject of the flailing drug war and its costs to human life and liberties, and to the subject of condemning people to suffering and privation of abject poverty on the basis of their place of birth by excluding the possibility, indeed the hope, of improvement by relocation here. But after a while, it gets depressing to see such visions as those of drug warriors and xenophobes/nativists taken with any seriousness.

18 July 2010

Explaining in half the time

What I took about 15 pages plus a dozen different blog entries to do. Evolutionary psychology and the explanation of morals.

And moral truths.

Which basically boil down to "what sort of rules are needed for this society to succeed and flourish?" or "how does it need to be organised for individuals to survive and cooperate as needed?"

17 July 2010

Story I DO follow

"You have to be asleep to believe it."

Bigger problem is that it goes back decades. "All that is best in human life depends on a certain kind of self-respect, self-determination; a man who has allowed outside pressure to dictate the ends for which he shall live can never be more than a slave.

Our modern State education is mainly designed to produce convenient citizens, and therefore dare not encourage spontaneity, since all spontaneity interferes with system. There is a tendency to uniformity, to the suppression of private judgment, to the production of populations which are tame towards their rulers and fericious toward "the enemy"." - Bertrand Russell. 1923.

But the best part is this. Want to think? Don't go to school it seems. I'm puzzled however by the CEO effect. If they say they want creativity, why is creativity punished by workplaces? It often manifests itself in "inefficient" ways, like questioning methods, seeking improvements over status quo and authority, etc. One would think a good CEO would seek to reward innovative thinking to acquire more products or services under their aim. Instead, an army of middle managers are deployed to beat out of the system what was not crushed by the educational system. Very strange.

Russell's critique and advice still seems adequate, decades later.

"That a good community is a community of good men and women - of men and women, that is to say, who live freely but not destructively or oppressively."
"As things stand, we know the sins of our enemies, but not our own; thus indignation produces merely an increase of mutual enmity".
"...Given equal opportunity for all, we may hope that there will be much more of such work than there has hitherto been. But there will be none at all if the State, in its schools, sets to work to mould the minds of the young according to a uniform plan. There must be the utmost encouragement to freedom of thought, even when it is inconvenient to bureaucrats."
"The fight for freedom is not to be won by any mere change in our economic system. It is to be won only by a constant resistance to the tyranny of officials, and a constant realisation that mental freedom is the most precious of all goods. Mechanism has its place; its place is the in the material side of life, the provision of the food and clothes and houses without which we cannot live. But it has no place in what makes life worth preserving, in art and thought, in friendship and love, or in simple enjoyment. These things demand freedom - not only outward freedom, but freedom in our minds and hearts. Such freedom is too little respected in our schools and in the schemes of economic reformers. It is in danger of being lost through the tyranny of purely material aims. But no perfection of organisation can ever compensate for its loss: and nothing can prevent its loss unless we remember that man cannot live by bread alone."

A debate.

Here's the RAND study they keep referring to.

"Legalizing the production and distribution of marijuana in California could cut the price of the drug by as much as 80 percent and increase consumption, according to a new study by the nonprofit RAND Corporation that examines many issues raised by proposals to legalize marijuana in the state...Based on an analysis of known production costs and surveys of the current price of marijuana, researchers suggest the untaxed retail price of high-quality marijuana could drop to as low as $38 per ounce compared to about $375 per ounce today." - I assume that's the good part for those interested.

This was the bad.
"While the state Board of Equalization has estimated taxing legal marijuana could raise more than $1 billion in revenue, the RAND study cautions that any potential revenue could be dramatically higher or lower based on a number of factors, including the level of taxation, the amount of tax evasion and the response by the federal government...RAND researchers caution there are many factors that make it difficult to accurately estimate revenue that might be generated by any tax on legal marijuana. The higher the tax, the greater the incentives would be for a gray market in marijuana to develop, researchers say." - More or less the same problem with tobacco or alcohol. Not an strong argument against legalisation that "it wouldn't make enough money". It's costing far more right now to enforce laws that penalize voluntary and hence victimless behavior. Not spending that money to investigate and enforce such laws and ultimately arrest or detain or convict people of criminal acts who have committed no violent or harmful actions seems like a fiscal gain even without the additional revenue that could be had.

It is possible that there would be negative price externalities (that is undesired social costs, such as employment and possibly driving) for marijuana use which are significant enough to desire some foolishness with the price mechanism in order to account for these. That is, this is an argument for taxing the stuff. What is not clear is whether a sufficient tax could be levied to account for it. It is very clear that a raised alcohol excise tax might capture many undesired social costs, in the same way that raised tobacco taxes will reduce casual use in particular and induce some heavier users (ie, addicts) to amend their social behavior as well. So an argument for a legal and accessible but regulated (such as you can't sell to teenagers) and taxed market should suffice.

In a similar vein, it would be desirable, regardless of the legality of the product, to design tests that could detect active impairment of the drug (ie, someone actually stoned) versus drugs that were still in the system from a weekend or even the night before. While at present, it suffices for police (and employer) purposes to detect any use whatsoever, this will undoubtedly not be true into the future and in many other countries, is already becoming less of an issue. An appropriate test for active intoxication and any impairment costs that provides may be needed at that time to appropriately penalize less responsible use of a narcotic or mind-altering substance. We won't get such a test without the cooperation of enforcement resources who would require them and we already cannot properly enforce such laws as driving under the influence without them. I fail to grasp how this as well would be a strong case against legalisation then.

Wait, who?

are we supposed to appoint to over see Wall Street again?

Somebody who likes the place? I'm pretty familiar with Warren's work at this point, she's not some radical leftist person. In fact, she's a fiend for contract law, which is more or less the bedrock of free market operations.

And contract law seems to be precisely what is needed to oversee much of the operations of finance and banking, if for no other reason than to increase transparency and the position that at least give the appearance that the deals being made are open and honest bargains struck by two or more willing parties to them, no matter what they are over. I don't think that means that Wall Street won't be able to make a quick buck doing things that are perceived as shady (short selling, mortgage derivatives, etc). But whatever.

If there's somehow an actual reason to oppose this appointment, I don't see it myself. I suppose you could in theory object to the existence of the new regulatory agency itself, but if you're not going to do that, then I don't see how this isn't a qualified choice to fill it.

And that's interesting

Autism's "real cause"

Appears to be money. At least, that actually correlates. The supposed villain of vaccines, not as much.

What looks more like a "cause" is the age of parents (particularly fathers).

The most interesting theory would be whether the traits, or related traits, of autism could help make people rich in the first place. Things like high order memory and analytical processing do seem like they are useful economic traits at least (easily transferable to other skills). And so would visual or auditory processing (the ability to visualize 3 dimensional spaces for example).

16 July 2010

Story I don't follow

NAACP vs the Tea Party.

Instead. I'll go here.

I get that there are some real morons in the Tea Party. I get that there are people who oppose things like social welfare programs or support stricter immigration reforms on the basis of racial anomosities. It's not all there is to those ideas. And some of them are just bad ideas or incompletely thought out and poorly executed (like the Tea Party's opposition to deficits, with no plan how to achieve them).

But really. Is it that hard to call out the morons? Do they have to be in a position that they can call themselves a movement spokesperson and just make it blatantly obvious that they are in fact racist morons?

The story I really don't care about is this one. The Black Panthers/black power movement had a heyday in the 1968 Olympics. That was 40 years ago. They don't matter. But hell, neither does Jesse Jackson and people still make a big deal when he compared free agency and owning sports teams to slavery.

So to answer this...

15 July 2010

Right! That settles it.

You're on my list

Getting around 76 on metacritic too. So.

Yeah. Seems good enough to be worth a trip to the movies.

So ready for robots...

to drive my car

I'll settle for robots parking for a start.

Or they could park like this...

Politics as usual

I get into far too many disputes over things that people are not supposed to talk about. Sex, politics, religion, and country music or the proper consumption of bananas.

But it amuses me that I manage to aggravate people of both sides of the traditional American spectrum so easily. Bring up economics, and you're bound to be rubbing up against a neo-Keynesian view of the world at the high end, and people who support vast counterproductive measures of protectionism and immigration controls. Bring up civil liberties and war and you're bound to piss off a neoconservative. Bring up abortion or gay rights and again, social conservatives stand annoyed. The shading on these issues and the level of importance that individuals attach to them changes. But by and large I view most of these as best governed by impersonal forces like markets with very strict protections over human rights overarching those markets (for example to prevent people from being sold into slavery or to have their property and livelihood seized against their will or without a contract to that effect).

That puts me at odds with people enough that it may be necessary to use a more complicated term to define my politics. I put it as a liberal-right-wing progressive. Based on that sort of analysis anyway, which I find persuasive enough to cover most issues (excluding foreign policy, which varies widely).

In general, the idea of liberalism was at its roots a philosophy centered around the importance of individuals and protecting as much as possible their wants, needs, and rights. It is less clear what the modern definition seeks, though at times these goals are aligned (as in the case of civil libertarians). I seek whereever possible to look for systems that restore power to individuals, or at least reduce power granted to authorities over them. Much of the Constitution is based on the premise that a government which holds wide and arbitrary power over its subjects will abuse that power and thus most of its subsequent amendments are designed not to limit freedoms of individuals but to abolish or restrict powers otherwise seized by governments to those that are absolutely essential to the proper functions of government (law and order, court proceedings, the mechanisms to design new laws through public support, etc). I do not share a view that it is necessary to expand government operations in all cases in order to preserve or expand individual liberties, though on occasion such a view can be sympathetic if properly understood (such as public goods or externalities). In general I defer to authority only where the rules are properly framed and willing to be explained if needs be. If those explanations are inadequate, then rules will be challenged and violated if necessary.

Right-wing, like liberal, holds a perverse modern definition. I think of this as a meaning implying that a form of social justice is that which permits people their just rewards for their toil and sweat and innovation. In examining education I have some sympathy for the function of people on the lower end of educational attainment through public schools (or ideally, just "schools"). But I have a lot more sympathy for what happens with the educational elites through schools such that they can be properly developed and motivated when they emerge from those systems. The same applies to economic competition for jobs and products. The best skilled or most efficient and so on should be allowed to prevail where possible. I'm not blind to the problems of misfortune. Those need to be dealt with, in part because they can, if left unattended, cause serious problems for those more successful (crime for example). But I prefer a system that encourages success more than one that puts a measure of minimal comfort in place, and in particular the systems that define what the minimal level should be for all people in a paternalistic way, such as those we often presently use. I think people can figure out what their basic needs are and how to meet those by following rational signals without much government interference.

As for progressive, the now ubiquitous insult most favored by conservative windbags who think Woodrow Wilson was a worse stain upon humanity than Mao Zedong, it's basically a simple meaning that such people prefer looking toward a better future rather than assuming that the past should instruct the present. The manner of approaching or achieving that desired future thus varies on the basis of these other moderating influences. A person who favors largely individuals over institutions will seek to, far from apportioning greater sway and power to the state remove such powers wherever practical-able.

So in the context of the debate over "liberaltarians" or the proper scope and mission of libertarians themselves, I'd still say we're better off staying neutral and homeless on many issues. In large part because there are often limited constituencies of support on those matters. But it does make sense to tactically strike out to fight the growth of government programs which might intrude on civil liberties just as easily as it makes sense to strike down those which might intrude on economic and property rights. Such tactical moves would permit alliances of convenience just as much as they permit people like me to annoy everyone at once.

This was kind of neat

Prick us do we not bleed!

Bloggers are apparently people too for all their lack of humors as broadcast through a digital medium.

"More neurotic bloggers used more words associated with negative emotions; extravert bloggers used more words pertaining to positive emotions; high scorers on agreeableness avoided swear words and used more words related to communality; and conscientious bloggers mentioned more words with achievement connotations. These were all as expected. More of a surprise was the lack of a link between the Big Five personality factor of 'openness to experience' and word categories related to intellectual or sensory experience. Instead openness was associated with more use of prepositions, more formal language and longer words.

The sheer size of the data set at Yarkoni's disposal allowed him to look not only at links between personality factors and broad word categories (as past research has done) but to also zoom in on the usage of specific words. Among the most strong and intriguing correlations were: Neuroticism correlated with use of 'irony' and negatively correlated with 'invited'; Extraversion correlated with 'drinks' and negatively correlated with 'computer'; Openness correlated with 'ink'; Agreeableness with 'wonderful' and negatively correlated with 'porn'; and Conscientiousness correlated with 'completed' and negatively correlated with 'boring'."

For some basis of comparison
I typically score(d) on the "big five" test:
Around 80 on openness (roughly the same percentile score)
Around 60 on conscientiousness. (lower half)
Around 20 on extraversion. (roughly the bottom 2 percentile)
Around 30 on agreeableness. (bottom 5 percentile)
Around 35 on neuroticism. (about average, a little below).

I don't sadly use the word "ink" very often. But "porn" has been used on here many times along with some other choice four letters when needed. And "boring". "Drinks" has not been used very often at all.

In general, I write the way I think and to some extent act in public settings, so it should surprise no one if they meet me that I have random sometimes disagreeable or unpopular opinions and no compunction about expressing them openly and argumentatively with others. But also almost zero interest in engaging the average random passerby with such debates.

I also am sort of curious why its a big surprise that "openness to experience" correlated so poorly with word categories like "thinking" or "sensory experiences". I should think that people who have a blog in the first place would use such things generally liberally enough that it would be noise statistically. What you're really looking for I should think to distinguish such things is somebody who has enough openness to have careful expressions that they want other people to take with some seriousness (even the sillier ones are crafted) and who uses writing and blogging both as an art and as a form of communication.

13 July 2010

Things I get to say I told you so about

Toyota edition

I guess those floor mats were a bad idea, but since Toyota is still rated very highly as a manufacturer of very safe cars and this whole rash of incidents mirrored previous "death trap out of control" panics on the part of the general public, I'm going to file this whole under the "not a story stories" that it belonged in months ago. The problem is that it wasn't a not a story story months ago. So it'll take a while for people to figure that out.

Meanwhile, in other good news from a long, long time ago (as these things go with investigations and court proceedings). Fox actually did something useful. For now anyway. Sooner or later the FCC will decide to define more specifically what "patently offensive" means (it meant what ever they said before). I'd still like to know how "fuck" has an inherently sexual connotation in all its many, many uses and how that decision was reached, but whatever.

Things I'd rather know, but not

Heroin edition

And eating edition.

Sometimes it's better to be homeless in this sense.

Right Is Wrong
Libertarians need to disengage from Republicans and conservatives once and for all.

By Brink Lindsey

By the waning years of the Bush administration, the old “fusionist” alliance between libertarians and social conservatives seemed to be on its last legs. After the inglorious collapse of Social Security reform, the political agenda of the right was more or less free of any contamination by libertarian ideas. The GOP sank into ruling-party decadence marked by borrow-and-spend fiscal incontinence and K Street Project cronyism. The broader conservative movement, meanwhile, expended its energy on gay-bashing, anti-immigrant hysteria, fantasies of World War IV, meddling in the Schiavo family tragedy, and redefining patriotism as enthusiasm for mass surveillance and torture.

Now, however, opposition to Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress has sparked a resurgence of libertarian rhetoric on the right, most prominently in the “Tea Party” protests that have erupted over the past year. “Libertarian sentiment has finally gone mainstream,” wrote Chris Stirewalt, political editor of the conservative Washington Examiner, in a column this April. “After two wars, a $12 trillion debt, a financial crisis and the most politically tone-deaf president in modern history, Americans may have finally given up on big government.”

Such talk gets many libertarians excited. Could a revival of small-government conservatism really be at hand? After the long apostasy of Bush père et fils, could the right really be returning to the old-time religion of Goldwater and Reagan? Could the withered fusionist alliance of libertarians and conservatives channel today’s popular disgust with statist excess into revitalized momentum for limited-government reform?

In a word, no. Without a doubt, libertarians should be happy that the Democrats’ power grabs have met with such vociferous opposition. Anything that can stop this dash toward dirigisme, or at least slow it down, is a good thing. Seldom has there been a better time to stand athwart history and yell “Stop!” So we should rejoice that at least some conservatives haven’t forgotten their signature move.

That, however, is about all the contemporary right is good for. It is capable of checking at least some of the left’s excesses, and thank goodness for that. But a clear-eyed look at conservatism as a whole reveals a political movement with no realistic potential for advancing individual freedom. The contemporary right is so deeply under the sway of its most illiberal impulses that they now define what it means to be a conservative.

What are those impulses?

First and foremost, a raving, anti-intellectual populism, as expressed by (among many, many others) Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. Next, a brutish nationalism, as expressed in anti-immigrant xenophobia (most recently on display in Arizona) and it’s-always-1938-somewhere jingoism. And, less obvious now but always lurking in the background, a dogmatic religiosity, as expressed in homophobia, creationism, and extremism on beginning- and end-of-life issues. The combined result is a right-wing identity politics that feeds on the red meat of us versus them, “Real America” versus the liberal-dominated coasts, faith and gut instinct versus pointy-headed elitism.

This noxious stew of reaction and ressentiment is the antithesis of libertarianism. The spirit of freedom is cosmopolitan. It is committed to secularism in political discourse, whatever religious views people might hold privately. And it coolly upholds reason against the swirl of interests and passions. History is full of ironies and surprises, but there is no rational basis for expecting an outlook as benighted as the contemporary right’s to produce policy results that libertarians can cheer about.

Groupthink and Fever Dreams

Modern conservatism has always had an illiberal dark side. Recall the first great populist spasms of the postwar right—McCarthyism and opposition to desegregation—and recall as well that National Review founder William F. Buckley stoutly defended both. Any ideology dedicated to defending traditional ways of doing things is of necessity going to appeal to the reactionary as well as the prudently conservative. And since, going all the way back to Buckley’s God and Man at Yale, the right’s adversary was the nation’s liberal intellectual elite, conservatism has always been vulnerable to the populist temptation.

But prior to the rise of the conservative counter-establishment—think tanks, talk radio, websites, and Fox News—the right’s dark side was subject to a critical constraint: To be visible at all in the nation’s public debate, conservatism was forced to rely on intellectual champions whose sheer brilliance and sophistication caused the liberal gatekeepers in mass media to deem them suitable for polite company. People such as Buckley, George Will, and Milton Friedman thus became the public face of conservative ideology, while the rabble-rousers and conspiracy theorists were consigned to the shadow world of mimeographs, pamphlets, and paperbacks that nobody ever reviewed. The handicap of elite hostility thereby conferred an unintended benefit: It gave conservatism a high-quality intellectual leadership that, to some extent at least, was able to curb the movement’s baser instincts.

Now, however, the discipline of having to fight intellectual battles on the opponent’s turf is long gone. Conservatism has turned inward, like the dog in the joke, because it can. The result is what reason Contributing Editor Julian Sanchez has called the movement’s “epistemic closure.” The quality of the right’s intellectual leadership—the people who set the agenda, who define what “true” conservatism means at any given time—has consequently suffered a precipitous decline. What counts today isn’t engaging the other side with reasoned arguments; it’s building a rabid fan base by demonizing the other side and stoking the audience’s collective sense of outrage and victimization. And that’s a job best performed not by serious thinkers but by hacks and hucksters. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Joseph Farah, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin: they adorn the cathedral of conservatism like so many gargoyles.

Yes, there are still many bright and inquisitive minds on the right, but they are not the movement’s stars and they don’t call the shots. On the contrary, if they stray too far in challenging the conservative id, they find themselves cast out and castigated as heretics and RINOs (Republicans In Name Only). Bruce Bartlett and David Frum (who are friends of mine) are only two of the more prominent victims of that intolerant groupthink; both were sacked by conservative think tanks shortly after loudly expressing heterodox opinions.

As the worst get on top, they bring out the worst in their loyal followers. Goaded by the conservative message machine’s toxic mix of intolerance and self-pity, mass opinion on the right has veered off into feverish self-delusion. Witness the “birther” phenomenon. According to Public Policy Polling, 63 percent of Republicans either believe Obama was born in a foreign country or aren’t sure one way or the other. A more recent poll by the same outfit shows that 52 percent of Republicans believe that ACORN stole the 2008 election for Obama with voter fraud, while another 21 percent are undecided. This polling outfit is closely tied to the Democrats, so take the exact numbers with some grains of salt if you wish. But it is beyond doubt that paranoia is rampant in right-wing circles these days.

The return of small-government rhetoric does not signal a break from the right’s illiberal commitments. Rather, those same commitments are simply being expressed in a different way to suit the changing times. We’re in the midst of a deep slump, and economic issues always come to the fore during tough times. Furthermore, Washington is now under Democratic control. When their own gang was in power, conservatives rallied “us” against a grab bag of “thems,” most notably gays, Mexicans, and “Islamofascists” and their liberal “appeasers.” Now the us-versus-them game has gotten much simpler. Barack Obama—Harvard-educated, left of center, the son of a foreigner, a suspected Muslim who (according to Palin) “pals around with terrorists”—pulls together all the hated “thems” in one convenient package. Opposing Obama and his agenda may sound libertarian, but it’s also the perfect outlet for the same old distinctly anti-libertarian mix of populism, nationalism, and dogmatism.

Let’s look in particular at the Tea Party movement, whose sudden rise is what has sparked all the talk of a fusionist revival. In April The New York Times published a detailed survey of Tea Party supporters, and the results are telling. First, this movement is definitely a right-wing phenomenon. Of those polled, 73 percent said they are somewhat or very conservative, 54 percent called themselves Republicans (compared to only 5 percent who confessed being Democrats), and 66 percent said they always or usually vote for the GOP candidate. When asked to give their opinions of various public figures, they gave favorable/unfavorable splits of 59/6 for Glenn Beck and 66/12 for Sarah Palin (though a plurality said the latter would not be an effective president). And in the single most depressing result of the whole poll, 57 percent of Tea Party supporters expressed a favorable opinion of the big-government president George W. Bush—as compared to Americans overall, 58 percent of whom gave Bush an unfavorable rating.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Tea Partiers hold distinctly unlibertarian views on a wide variety of issues. According to the Times poll, 82 percent think illegal immigration is a very serious problem, and supporters of decreasing legal immigration outnumber those who want to liberalize immigration by 42 to 14 percent. Only 16 percent favor gay marriage (compared to 39 percent of the country at large), and 40 percent call for no legal recognition of same-sex unions. Meanwhile, 77 percent support either banning abortions outright or making them more difficult to obtain.

But at least the Tea Partiers are dedicated to reining in government spending, right? After all, it’s the movement’s defining issue. Well, put me down as a skeptic. If you really care about restraining the growth of government, the number one priority has to be restructuring the budget-busting Medicare program. Yet during the health care debate the GOP sank to shameless demagoguery in defending Medicare’s sanctity. The short-term goal was to score points against ObamaCare, but the most likely long-term effect was to make needed reforms even more difficult to achieve. And how did Tea Partiers, and movement conservatives generally, respond to this irresponsible pandering? They scarcely said boo.

Authoritarian and Unpopular

Notwithstanding the return of libertarian rhetoric, the right today is a fundamentally illiberal and authoritarian movement. It endorses the systematic use of torture. It defends unchecked presidential power over matters of national security. It excuses massive violations of Americans’ civil liberties committed in the name of fighting terrorism. It supports bloated military budgets, preventive war, and open-ended, nation-building occupations. It calls for repressive immigration policies. Far from being anti-statist, it glorifies and romanticizes the agencies of government coercion: the police and the military. It opposes abortion rights. It opposes marriage equality. It panders to creationism. It routinely questions the patriotism of its opponents. It traffics in outlandish conspiracy theories. If you’re serious about individual freedom and limited government, you cannot stand with this movement.

In any event, conservatism in its current incarnation looks like a political dead end. Its wildly overheated rhetoric, with cries of socialism and dark hints of impending dictatorship, alienates the moderate center of American public opinion even as it thrills the hardcore base. That base, meanwhile, is in long-term demographic decline. White, married, churchgoing, with kids—all those categories associated with a right-of-center orientation have been shrinking as a percent of the population, and all are expected to continue shrinking. In analyzing the impact of demographic change on the 2008 election, the journalist Ron Brownstein looked at six basic groups: whites with college degrees, whites without degrees, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and other minorities. If each of those group’s share of the electorate had remained unchanged since 1992, McCain would have beaten Obama by 2 percentage points instead of losing by 7.

At the same time, younger Americans have decisively repudiated the contemporary right’s illiberal social values. The Pew Research Center’s 2007 survey of Americans aged 18–25, dubbed “Generation Next,” is illustrative. Pew’s polling reveals that young adults are dramatically less religious and less nationalist than their elders. Twenty percent say they are not religious, compared to only 11 percent of Americans 26 or older. They favor evolution over creationism by a 63 to 33 margin. Supporters of gay marriage in this age group narrowly outnumber opponents (47 to 46 percent), while among everyone older opponents carry the day by a 64–30 spread. Among young adults, 52 percent say immigrants strengthen our country, while 38 percent say they are a burden; by contrast, Americans 26 and up embrace the anti-immigrant view by a 42–39 margin. In the rising generation, only 29 percent agree that “using overwhelming force is the best way to defeat terrorism,” while 67 percent think that “relying too much on military force leads to hatred and more terrorism.” Among Americans 26 and older, though, hawks beat doves 49 to 41. God-and-country populism may still appeal to a large number of Americans (though certainly not a majority), but its future looks bleak.

Back in the Cold War, when socialism remained a living ideal and totalitarianism was a leading force in world affairs, an anti-socialist alliance between libertarians and social conservatives may have made sense. It doesn’t anymore.

Does that mean I think that libertarians should ally with the left instead? No, that’s equally unappealing. I do believe that libertarian ideas are better expressed in the language of liberalism rather than that of conservatism. But it’s clear enough that for now and the foreseeable future, the left is no more viable a home for libertarians than is the right.

The blunt truth is that people with libertarian sympathies are politically homeless. The best thing we can do is face up to that fact and act accordingly. That means taking the libertarian movement in a new direction: attempting to claim the center of American politics. If that move were successful, ideas of a distinctly libertarian cast would define the views of a critical swing constituency that politicians on the left and right would have to compete for.

Make no mistake, though: relocating to the center would make for a very different movement than the one we’ve got now. The organized libertarian movement began with the goal of offering a radical alternative to conservatism and liberalism. But ever since the main vehicle of that aspiration, the Libertarian Party, fizzled into irrelevance in the 1980s, the movement has tilted heavily to the right. However much individual libertarians like to think they transcend the left-right divide, the actual operating strategy of organized libertarianism has been fusionism.

In particular, a great deal of libertarian talent and energy has gone into building a “free market” movement of organizations that focus more or less exclusively on economic issues. These organizations include fundraising groups such as the Club for Growth, activist outfits such as FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, legal shops such as the Institute for Justice, and state-level think tanks such as the Mackinac Center and the Goldwater Institute. By steering clear of social issues and foreign policy, the free-market movement has shunted aside the questions that divide libertarians from conservatives and instead institutionalized the ground they seem to share.

Expressly libertarian writers have spent much more time engaging conservative audiences than reaching out to liberals. They have written more frequently for right-wing outlets such as National Review, The Washington Times, and The Wall Street Journal than for their counterparts on the left. They have regularly identified with the Goldwater-Reagan current of conservatism, notwithstanding the profound differences between that strain and libertarian thinking on a number of fronts. And they have often couched libertarian arguments in conservative terms, venerating the timeless wisdom of America’s founding principles while conveniently ignoring the fact that another set of founding principles included the enslavement of blacks, subjugation of women, and expropriation of Indian lands.

Declaring independence from the right would require big changes. Cooperation with the right on free-market causes would need to be supplemented by an equivalent level of cooperation with the left on personal freedom, civil liberties, and foreign policy issues. Funding for political candidates should be reserved for politicians whose commitment to individual freedom goes beyond economic issues. In the resources they deploy, the causes they support, the language they use, and the politicians they back, libertarians should be making the point that their differences with the right are every bit as important as their differences with the left.

The first step, though, is recognizing the problem. Right now, like it or not, the libertarian movement is a part of the vast right-wing conspiracy—a distinctive and dissident part, to be sure, but a part all the same. As a result, our ideals are being tainted and undermined through guilt by association. It’s time for libertarians to break ranks and stand on our own.

It's been a couple days now

But Ohio, seriously get a grip. (check the sign)

And not just Ohio. Now LeBron's ignominious exit from Cleveland and the reaction it garnered from the team ownership and city is being compared to slavery? Uhm. No. Slavery the escape was "I'm getting the fuck out of here". Free agency the escape is "I'm getting paid and I want to win, show me what you can do with those or I'm going to the next table to see what they'll give me". There is no comparison there worth making. All the war analogies we usually use for sports, this is much dumber and useless. It might have been true enough decades ago (say during the Comiskey/Black Sox scandal), but not so much anymore.

I get that Gilbert would be bitter because it does seem like LeBron made up his mind months ago on this one and the manner of handling it was terrible. But really, an owner in football will cut players who have laid out everything on the field and sacrificed more than just money to win games and get paid all the time for shrewd business reasons. Players have every incentive to the same to the owners on the level playing field that has been worked out and established from years of contracts between players and owners. But it's not slavery. There is no ownership of players. And there isn't even any implied. It's more about loyalty and the way these things are handled publicly. You burn your bridges the way these things were done, expect people to be angry and lurid in their commentaries. My guess is that I probably wouldn't want to play for Gilbert either if this is how he treats his players and I was such a person who could play basketball at that level. I'm a big fan of Mark Cuban for that reason. You demand much of the people you pay as an owner of a business (or a sports team), but you should reward them, coddle them, provide room for growth and give them every incentive to believe that you want them to succeed just as much as you are trying to, and they'll reward that treatment with loyalty of their own.

You just sign the checks and you're just the paycheck.