July 30, 2004

NCPA - Brief Analysis 460, Uninsured by Choice: Update

This is an EXTREMELY interesting report from October 2003 about health care. We constantly hear all the Democrats and Green fear-mongering about health care wahhh wahhh health care, everyone needs health care, wahh everyone always has health care or they die immediately. Yeah, right, like nobody ever lived without health insurance before. Typical fear-mongering pansy crap. Democrats are such wimps sometimes, and I'm not talking about military service; they just fear business, fear the market, fear capitalism, fear corporations, fear products, fear that everybody is always out to screw them over if not for the intervention of big, ever-benevolent government. So it's typical they they tend to exaggerate various crises in the country and then attribute the problem to lack of government (Republicans do the same thing, especially with terror and civil liberties).

They love to talk about statistics, about how a hundred bajillion thousand infinity-trillion people don't have insurance and how everybody is dying in the streets. In 2002, about 43.6 million people were uninsured, although the record uninsured was in 1998 (in raw population; in percentages it would have been 100% uninsured before health insurance existed).

Let's look at the findings of this study that show how the typical overblown leftist whining doesn't match up to the truth.

- The uninsured rate for those in household making under $50k a year fell 17% from '93 to '02. The rate rose 57% for those in households making $50k to $75k annually and it rose 114% in households making over $75k. Conclusion? Without socialized medicine ('universal health care') rich people are losing insurance and poor people are gaining it.

This means many people are uninsured by choice, not lack of money.

- Fourteen million uninsured children and adults (five million children and 9 million non-elderly adults) are covered by various state insurance programs, and have simply failed to register. Virtually every child of low-income families is covered by state health insurance. These adults and parents simply have not yet signed up for the insurance they are eligible to receive.

This means many people are uninsured by choice, not lack of a program.

- Many uninsured are young people aged 18 to 24. Statistics show that heads of households in this young age bracket spend FIVE TIMES more on entertainment and dining than on health care. This is probably due to the priorities of young folks and to their exceptionally good health compared to older groups. The fact that they have so much to spend on luxuries shows the real reason for lack of insurance.

This means that many people are uninsured by choice, not lack of money.

- Almost all uninsured periods are relatively short. Three-quarters of uninsured people have insurance within one year. Only 2.5% of the uninsured remain uninsured for more than three years. This includes low-income uninsured households, half of which were insured again within six months.

This means that virtually everyone is insured again within three years.

- We also need to recall the distorting effects of state health care policies (e.g. Vermont under Dean) on private insurers. Many states have virtually driven out the private insurers through a variety of coercive policies. When some Democrat or leftist talks about how the market failed to provide insurance, they should realize that state policies disrupted the market and forced out otherwise-profitable insurers - it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This is illustrated under Dean where the number of people insured FELL during his administration, but because it started in the high 90s it still ended up in the 90s. The difference was he destroyed the private insurance market and forced most people to accept the poorly run state system. And of course the state system was funded through taxes and is projected to balloon in cost, but he never mentioned that whenever he talked about balanced budgets in the campaign. Fiscal conservative my ass. Anyway, back to the larger point.

So we should take away a few key facts:
- More than 99% of the elderly are insured.
- Virtually every low-income child is eligible for health insurance.
- Most people without health insurance will be insured again within a year, and virtually all within three years.

All of this is achieved without wholesale government health insurance, single payer, or nationalization of the health care industry.

Furthermore, statistics show that countries with socialized medicine spend much less of their GDP on health care than the US (of course, some communists brag about this, as though they give a damn about efficiency). The US attends to its health care needs much more fully, sending resources and jobs to the health industry to cover our needs. This is because the market sends profit opportunities to the service of health care. In seeking profit, companies send tons of money that way, hoping to invent some new technology or pharmaceutical to attend to our needs and thereby make a return on the investment.

Because many quasi-socialist medical policies do not allow for nearly the same level of profit-making or business-friendly environment in the health industry, they spend much less attending to the health needs of their citizens. They have to wait in those countries for the central government to appropriate money to the health care sectors and then hope it's enough to cover demand.

The market is much better at attending to our desires, and the US market shows that. What are the growing fields? Nursing, biotech, pharmaceuticals, and medical technology. Yeah, see, jobs and money go where they're needed; in Europe and Canada, jobs and money go wherever the politicians say. The result is a much slower system that doesn't listen to consumer demand and doesn't spend nearly as much as a more capitalistic system does.

Our system gives us much more attention paid to health care precisely because there's money to be made here. Simple economics, something the populists and socialists never get, and try their hardest to ignore. Asking a populist about economics is like asking a creationist about evolution. They don't get it, they don't like it, they like to pretend they have a valid alternative - but in the end it's a total load of crap built on lies and delusions.

Our policy should be simple. 1) Deregulate the system, allowing for more insurers and more hospitals, and lighten zoning regulations against the health care industry, 2) lower or eliminate taxes on health care companies, and 3) eliminate spending limits on Archer MSAs (tax shields; sort of like the Roth IRAs are tax shields for retirement, Archer Medical Savings Accounts are tax shields for all health expenses).

And by the way, MSAs are awesome, whatever you put in (there's an annual limit, also like IRAs) and then spend on health care is free, if you don't spend it on health care it gets taxed at the normal rate. According to the IRS, 71% of people using MSAs were previously uninsured - proving they are a huge success for pro-liberty and pro-market policies to improve the insured rate. It's a great system because it's so common sense, anti-tax and pro-market. It's especially great while we still have to deal with income taxes. Of course, ideally we wouldn't have to have a tax shelter because we wouldn't be taxed, but then ideally we wouldn't need health insurance because we'd never get sick.

So there you go. Make sure to read the actual report from the National Center for Policy Analysis on the subject, as linked at the top and linked right here.

July 29, 2004

One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State

I hate when people say red state and blue state because they always gives the Democrats blue. This is stupid for two big reasons.

First, most obvious, the color-coding of ideologies. If you're a red or a pinko you're left-leaning or a communist. What color is for conservative stock investments and the symbol of monarchy? Blue. In Europe, Red is the color for socialists and social democrats, Blue is the color for conservatives and Christian Democrats. They also have colors for other parties, but red and blue are the relevant colors. Giving Republicans the color socialist-red makes as much sense as calling them the party of the left. Conservative = blue; social democrat = red. get it straight, goddamnit.

Second, psychological. What was the main color for Gore-Lieberman signs and Bush-Cheney signs in 2000? What was the main color for most of the primary contenders in the 2004 Democratic primaries? What are the colors for Kerry-Edwards and Bush-Cheney? Yeah, all the same: dark blue. Everybody picks dark blue because it seems stable, attractive, powerful. Red can be very powerful and pasionate but it also seems radical and striking. There's a psychological advantage to colors, red has the potential to seem crazy and blue seems stable.

Regardless, it makes more sense to make the Democrats red and Republicans blue, because that's how the color scheme makes sense.

Libertarians should get yellow, gold or tan, that's the color for (classical) liberal parties in European tradition. The Greens uhh get green, although an Islamic party would have claim to green as well. For the Constitution Party it's harder, maybe some Christian-y color, or... brown. :) Nader should get gray because he's a muddled, stupid, sleaze who shouldn't get even the vaguest or mildest compliment by getting a real color. Anyway, there ya go.

Switch the colors!

July 25, 2004

Badnarik at 3% in Poll

From the Badnarik blog:

"[Polling results:] 43% of respondents chose Bush, 46% chose Kerry, and 3% chose Badnarik - with 8% not sure. This poll of 1000 adults was conducted on July 21 by Rasmussen Research, providing a 3% margin of error.

"Some other data presented show that 68% of those polled support open presidential debates.

"When asked if people would vote for Badnarik if they know that Bush and Kerry supported the War in Iraq and the Drug War, and that Badnarik opposes them, Badnarik received a 34% positive rate, compared to 55% who would not vote for him and 11% undecided. Gordon noted, 'In a three way race, 34% is all it may take to win.'

"Another question revealed that millions of public tax dollars are spent to stage the Democrat and Republican national presidential nominating conventions.

"When asked if tax money should be spent to stage these conventions, 24% said "Yes," 62% said "No" with 14% being unsure.

"The Libertarian Party supports its national convention with totally private funding."

States decided by under 3% of the vote in 2000:

Florida, 25 EVs, 0.01% margin
New Mexico, 5 EVs, 0.06% margin
Wisconsin, 11 EVs, 0.22% margin
Iowa, 7 EVs, 0.31% margin
Oregon, 7 EVs, 0.44% margin
New Hampshire, 4 EVs, 1.27% margin
Minnesota, 10 EVs, 2.40% margin

Plus, Missouri (11 EVs), Ohio (21 EVs), Nevada (4 EVs) and Tennessee (11 EVs) were all between 3.34 and 3.86 percent margins.

Sixty-nine electoral votes were decided within 3 percentage points in 2000, and an additional forty-seven were between 3- and 4-point gaps.

That's a pretty big hunk of the election, very likely the entire ball game. If Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire and Ohio were all flipped to Kerry by Badnarik it would be an astounding victory, and proof that the spoiler really is important. Of course, it's more likely to just be Florida and New Hampshire, but even that is over 30 electoral votes (especially with the rescaled EVs, wherein FL gained).
Dear Whining Bitching Republicans

To those faithful, clubhouse GOPers (Know Demmycratz alloud! Lolz!) stop being such arrogant little punks. If you bastards would quit being condescending pukes and conservative tools then maybe you wouldn't get your asses spoiled. Bitches.

Nobody owes you a vote. I don't owe your goddamned party anything. I fucking hate being obligated to vote for a party. No, I DON'T think the Republican Party is the only good party, the party to save America.

Have any of you sane people ever met these clubhouse Republicans? They think that everybody smart and good is on their side and that being good and patrotic and intelligent means you're on their side. I've met more than my share of Democrats like this as well (even worse because those goddamned communists are supposed to open-minded; hah!) but it's aggravating as hell because Republicans almost to the man have this mind-set that their party is a wonderful place to be, the only right party to join, and a big family or support group for everyone. This lockstep clubhouse fraternal loyalty means they're completely AGHAST at why anybody might want to rebel and vote against them, and they certainly hate libertarians because we challenge their basic ideology.

The far-righties like Buchanan and Peroutka and Phillips and the Constitution Party are both too under-reported and too misunderstood to get much attention. When they do get GOP attention, they're usually just considered wayward conservatives, holding the same values just more extreme in every regard. That's not quite true, since the Constitution Party is extremely paleoconservative and the GOP is much more center-oriented, but it passes for truth.

The Libertarians, though, are an enigma to many Republicans. They figure we're just Republicans who want to smoke pot, but they like that we hate taxes and they think we should just vote for them. Libertarians provide a consistent challenge to the GOP on both economic issues and social issues. We also at times give the left a way to criticize the GOP (Democrat: "Why can't you be socially libertarian, too?! ... even though I can't be bothered to be economically libertarian so I should shut up.") And the GOP recognizes these distinctions and is uneasy with them. But hey, they think to themselves, Ron Paul is kinda cool and it would be nice to have huge tax cuts and pot.

When the subject of voting for a Libertarian against a Republican comes up, the somewhat tender alliance turns into flashing rivalry. The spurned GOPers, more spiteful than a thousand female stereotypes, at first react in anger or confusion. "How could you let THE DEMOCRAT win?!?!" they cry out to everyone and noone. Nothing is worse to a Republican than a Democrat (except for Zell Miller types).

It is incomprehensible to them why one might vote for a Libertarian and this allow a Democrat into office. They exist in opposition to the Democrats, therefore to them Democrats are the worst thing in office. The fact that they exist to oppose Democrats is also the source of many horrible GOP policies.

Even if they can't understand why, they have to stop dismissing it. They dismiss the possibility of a libertarian spoiling a Republican as pipe dreams, like Canada beating America in a war, or France beating anybody in uhh well, anything. This is just bravado, the Republicans should realize their extreme vulnerability to libertarian spoilers.

In 2002 alone:

Thune would be the junior Senator from South Dakota if not for his libertarian spoiler opponent. McCallum would be Governor of Wisconsin if not for Ed Thompson. Bebout might be Governor of Wyoming if not for Dawson. Mannix might be Governor of Oregon if not for Cox. Largent might be Governor of Oklahoma if not for Richardson (note, Richardson was anti-tax but not running with the LP formally). Salmon might have become Governor of Arizona if not for Hess.

Spoilers happen, and libertarian/Libertarian spoilers ruin GOP candidates all the time.

If the GOP can't drop the clubhouse mentality, the least they can do is realize that not everybody loves the GOP unconditionally. Libertarians will vote against it because they're not Republicans.

The GOP mainstream needs to realize the distinction, stop condescending, and get off their asses to make a party that deserves libertarian votes.

July 22, 2004

ICJ Makes Partial Ruling Againast Israeli Fence

The International Court of Justice ruled that the portion of the Israeli security fence that falls in the West Bank is in violation of international law. The border is the 1967 Green Line, the former border that marked Israel and Jordan (when Jordan occupied the West bank) until the stunning military successes of Israel in the Six-Day War that year. The Israelis are building a security fence along a good portion of the border between Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. A huge number of terrorist activities stem from the West Bank.

Since the construction of the fence has progressed, suicide attacks have fallen dramatically - proving its effectiveness. Unfortunately, the wall also disrupts the lives of many locals, often dividing towns and families from each other and their places of work. The ICJ ruled that the sections of the fence inside the Green Line are in violation of international law and agreements, and freedom of the locals to movement and freedom to seek health care, employment and education. They categorized the fence as in violation of borders and essentially an attempt to move the border.

I happen to agree that the fence should simply follow the Green Line and not deviate either way, and I said it before. It's important to remember that, although any attempt to secretly move the border should not be allowed, all countries in good standing have a moral right to self defense. And in legal terms, all countries have a right to self defense. So well over 90% of the fence (95 to 98 percent, depending on estimates) was not even included in the ruling, and is presumed perfectly legal.

We should also all remember that, even though almost all shots of the fence are big concrete slabs, the vast majority of the fence is chain-link. In areas of extreme risk or heavy traffic the fence is concrete to prevent snipers on the West bank from firing through at Israeli citizens and soldiers.

Anyway, the ruling is largely solid, if we assume that the Occupied Territories are not part of Israel proper. Since the people in those areas aren't citizens of Israel, I'd say that's a pretty good assumption. Let's just make sure we don't turn this into yet more Israel-bashing, which is all too common in UN-afiliated institutions.

July 19, 2004

Libertarian Isolation

Why is it that libertarianism is so rare? In America, polls show that 2% of the country identifies as libertarian and as a whole 16% of the country, after taking the World's Smallest Political Quiz, is ideologically libertarian. Libertarian parties in the world are all extremely rare yet commonplace at the fringe. Virtually all Western countries have some libertarian party or organization, they just tend to be less than irrelevant.

Of course, there are exceptions. Costa Rica elected a half-dozen members to its national legislature with just under 10% of the vote. The party ACT New Zealand also elected a small minority of MPs in that country. And of course, the US Libertarian Party still has more elected officials than all other third parties combined. But none of these parties are serious contenders for world or even national political power, and in the near future none will be the heads of state or government for their countries.

There are plenty of classical liberals in the world, or so it would seem. This is essentially a more moderate form of libertarian (or more accurately: libertarian is the extreme or strenghtened form of classical liberalism) and since it's closer to the center in every country it stands to reason there'd be more of them.

But even classical liberals are hard to find in the world. In England, they're more positivist than classical, but the classicals are a sizable wing of the party, but the Liberal Democrats are clearly the third party. In Germany the Free Democrats are very Jeffersonian classical liberals, and they more or less never break 10% of the vote. In Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party is largely a coalition of centrists and conservatives with some classical liberal elements, but the more stridently classical liberal party is the Liberals, which has more or less been voted down to a dozen legislators out of 727 (in both chambers combined).

Why is it like this? Why are classical liberals and libertarians relatively rare everywhere? Simple, because there are few groups advertising reduction of government on all levels.

Unions have their own bent, often supporting socialist, social democratic and labor parties. Farmers often historicall supported parties named liberal, but this was always for more populist or social reasons than support for reduction of government. Agrarians tend to be socially moderate to conservative and economically moderate to left, supporting subsidies and controls for farmers. Aristocrats usually pick old-style conservatives, who are not classical liberals or libertarians, and in America the very rich often side with the center-left. Fascists and Communists typically draw support from the middle class and lower middle class, usually in crisis situations or following wars. Who supports classical liberalism?

Usually a special part of the middle class that does not feel so insecure as to push it into supporting state economic intervention nor so in control that it wants to push state social control. This segment of the middle class wants to be alone to rise and fall, succeed and fail, to own businesses and property, to thrive and live as it wishes. These are the people who push liberalism, whether it's Locke (who was a Puritan, stereotypically English middle class), the generation of 1776 (which was overwhelmingly middle class, especially in New England) or any of the countless other examples in history.

The middle class is traditionally the closest thing to a demographic base for libertarianism and classical liberal thought. And historically this has been very difficult to maintain.

In order to reach beyond the middle class (or for other demographics to reach INTO the middle clss) the typical strategy is to appeal to the middle class with liberal policies (balanced budgets, targeted tax cuts, free trade, fight inflation, economic liberalism, free markets, etc.) and we've seen that lately. The left is breaking into Third Way center-left politics as the radicals grow up to have mortgages and real jobs. They realize that central economies fail or stagnate and that free markets thrive, but they maintain the old values. So they poach on classical liberal territory.

The conservatives also do this, to a lesser degree, by playing to the security concerns of the middle class with regard to crime, immigration, foreign policy and perhaps even to general 'social order.' So that's why crime is a big issue in so many countries, and why the GOP makes such a huge case of foreign policy (and in almost every foreign policy matchup the Republicans smash Democrats). This is also why we see the FMA, an attempt to pursue social order (the status quo) without being blatantly bigoted or radical. The conservatives poach on classical liberal territory all the time, and since most conservatives can easily portray their economic views as liberal (they usually aren't, not truly) they can really break into the middle class as well.

So even though the middle class is growing around the world, we're not seeing a rise in classical liberal parties, only a move toward classical liberalism from the anti-liberty parties.

Add in historical problems, the tradition of monarchy and aristocracy in most countries, traditional ethnic or social or religious sympathies and it can more than explain why most countries have very limited classical liberal parties and why libertarians are a footnote outside a handful of legislatures.

The one good thing is that the left and right have to play to our ideas because as markets and freedoms expand, so does the middle class (by and large, it's not a perfect relation because there are so many other factors) and as the middle class expands, so does the popular support for its ideas. The only thing now is for classical liberals to realize the uniqueness of their ideas and to form and strengthen the liberal parties instead of working for the left-liberalism and right-liberalism they are today.

July 17, 2004

Comparison of Presidential Campaign Sites

What we have here is a comparison of Badnarik.org, Johnkerry.com, Georgewbush.com, Votenader.org and Peroutka2004.com. All of these sites at times are or have been in the top 100,000 ranked web sites as determined by the Alexa service. The Cobb campaign site votecobb.org is pitifully low, not making it into the top 100,000 in the last few months (and likely never before that, either) and other candidates like Jay for the Personal Choice Party or Brown for the Socialists are also not running top-100k sites.

First of all, notice something crucial: Badnarik.org beat Votenader.org almost every single day from late May (during the Libertarian convention) to today's posting. Only one brief spike puts Nader's site ever so slightly above Badnarik's. After that spike, Nader's site plummets right off the 100k list for nearly a week and Badnarik's site climbs marginally and maintains its general placement for the same period. The whole rest of the last few months since May 30 have seen Badnarik beating, leading and at times smashing Nader's website. Now, what does this mean? Does it mean Badnarik will outpoll Nader in November? Well, I think that will happen, especially after Nader only gets on in a half-dozen states and withdraws, but that's not what this means. It means Badnarik is being much more effective at running a web-based campaign.

Who uses the Internet? They tend to be younger than the general population, often adolescent or young adult, and they also tend to be middle class, fairly intelligent, and Internet people are also substantively more libertarian than the general population. Sure, there are online hate groups like Stormfront and others and there are tons of Democrats like the Democratic Underground and Dean's blog (heh, I mentioned Stormfront and Democratic Underground in the same sentence), but the average person online tends to be more inclined to favor a little more hands off attitude in social and economic policy. The Internet is a great place for the Libertarians to work, showcased by the Libertarian Party website (which I, biased though I may be, believe is more accessible, visually appealing and well-designed than all the other party websites) and other efforts such as the Free State Project. The Free State Project, an effort to move 20k libertarians to New Hampshire for activist reasons, was originally conceived online and owes much or perhaps indirectly all of its successes so far to the Internet's libertarian roots. Further, online chat groups and sites are more likely to have libertarian rooms, sections, lists or links than anything equivalent in the real world.

The reason is simple. Aside from the fact that libertarians tend to be young, middle class, tech-savvy and so forth, they also have nowhere else to coalesce. There are libertarians everywhere, just in small numbers. Every state in the union has a Libertarian Party, they are just diffuse. There is only a small percentage of the population that tends to think like a libertarian, and political polls routinely show between 12 and 20 percent of the population is ideologically libertarian. Only 2% of the country self-identifies as libertarian, fewer than that vote Libertarian. The numbers aren't especially concentrated, although there are pockets and clusters in Northern New England and the West. The only place to reasonably organize for libertarians is the Internet, the place where geography is meaningless to anybody not ordering a package for delivery.

The Free State project again gives us some focus - libertarians realize they are a very widespread force but also an extremely diffuse one. Libertarianism is not isolated to Alaska or Georgia or New Hampshire or New Jersey or California. It is all over the place, and while individual parties have more or less success, ultimately each party is pretty small. The Free State Project is a conscious attempt to correct that problem and focus resources and membership on one state, to increase the chances of success from activist efforts. The major parties do this every year, especially for special elections. Take, for example, a recent special election in Kentucky. The national parties sent buses of interns, volunteers and party activists from DC on over to KY to campaign for the election. They distributed activists in the best way to win. That's what the FSP does, and that is exactly what the Internet overcomes for libertarians.

Further, there are quite a few libertarian bloggers (not like me, famous ones... With talent) and neo-libertarian bloggers. It's quite common. After all, they're online, big audience, plenty to say, nowhere else to say it, blogs make perfect sense for libertarians.

Now, I think I've somewhat established the importance of the Internet activists to libertarianism. It is an important but under-recognized core of the party, it is our convention or our clubhouse, this is where we hang out, the Internet, and the degree to which we are activated on the Internet shows the degree to which all libertarians are activated. After all, there are so few of us around that very-active online libertarians are an extremely large section (perhaps a majority) of all US libertarians. So if you're getting good response with online libertarians, chances are it's a great indication of strong support from the entire libertarian contingent.

When Badnarik's website consistently beats Nader for the span of over 2 and a half months, that says that libertarians online are actively engaged in his website. And it's not paltry, either. The average visitor to Badnarik.org had, on July 17th, 9.4 page views. The average page views the same day for Kerry was 3.2, for Bush 2.5, Nader 2.3, and Peroutka 4.3. This means that people don't just click up page ranks, they actively read the site material, biography, schedule, issue papers, blog entries, etc. Meanwhile, most people come to Nader's site and click a couple times, perhaps looking for some information, then click off to another site.

Further, online polls, surveys and mock elections are being swamped with libertarians voters. Dave Leip's Election Atlas runs a mock election and Badnarik has for a number of weeks been leading in both the popular vote and electoral vote - at one time winning 2 out of every 3 electoral votes. While this is obviously not going to be the actual result, it is indicative of widespread support, mobilization and effort by libertarians to get out the vote and support Badnarik. There are other examples, such as a North Carolina news outlet running an online straw poll that included Badnarik. As soon as it appeared on the Badnarik blog he shot into first place, and as of right now is in the lead with 49% to Bush's 36% and Kerry's 14%. Nobody thinks Badnarik will carry the entire state of North Carolina, but this is indicative of the organizational efforts and the activist support the campaign now wields.

Also, as shown with the Dean campaign, online contributors can be very effective at raising large sums of money. Now, while Dean obviously had many more people contributing than Badnarik will have, it shows that there's potential for support from those he does have. He's already been successful in raising money through the Amazon contribution list, and in many other venues.

Crucially, this forecasts a surprising unity among the individualist voters, the libertarians who so often complain or vote for another third party, or for the better of the two establishment candidates, or who abstain from voting entirely. Getting the libertarians to unify is both very difficult and very important. With both Russo and Nolan already working for the campaign and Russo producing the ads (Badnarik's strategy is "Television, television, television") the campaign is in a solid position, and as online activism heats up the natural passions of libertarians country-wide, we'll see the skeptics and naysayers fall into line.

But I suppose what we should all take from this is a trend. Along with the recent (this week) inclusion of Badnarik into several mainstream polls (Zogby's much-maligned online survey, Mason-Dixon poll, HHH Institute poll, and others) it suggests that Badnarik is steadily going to gain on and then overcome Nader. He's beat him online, he's beat him in ballot access, now the next two steps are to be the designated third candidate in polls and to beat Nader in media access and interviews.

It's looking like a very strong libertarian campaign, and Zogby even said that Badnarik is likely to affect the entire outcome of the race, polling even at or around 1% of the vote. I'm predicting Badnarik will poll third place, same as 1984 and 1988, will make at least 50 if not all 51 ballots, and will poll over 1.1% of the vote - which would end up being the best Libertarian campaign to date.

July 16, 2004

Right-to-Marry Hypocrites

First of all, congratulations are in order all around as the Federal Marriage Amendment failed a procedural vote (cloture, which ends filibuster) and is widely perceived as discredited or even dead. It was a stupid, petty social issue that should never, ever have been elevated to the constitutional level, same as Prohibition. If adults want to marry, we shouldn't stop them.

Now, Democrats would overwhelmingly shake their heads at that last statement. Let's read it again.

If adults want to marry, we shouldn't stop them.

Hmm, sounds good, right Democrats? Well think for a second, that means not just gay marriage, but what else? That's right: polygamy! Say that dirty word again: polygamy! The marriage among three or more partners, wherein one husband with multiple wives is polygyny and one wife with multiple husbands is polyandry. In almost all polygamous cultures, polygyny is the war it works. Anyway, this would also be covered under letting people want to marry. Does it still sound as good? Let's give it a shot.

If adults want to marry, we shouldn't stop them.

Now, I'm going to be an optimist and say generally most Democrats (by which I means activists and voters, not politicians) would be pretty okay with that. After all, it doesn't really hurt anybody (assuming it's not involuntary or with minors, of course) and it's not all that different from gay marriage. But I'm willing to bet $100 that you couldn't find two Senators or 15 Representatives willing to go on CNN, Fox and MSNBC sponsoring a polygamists' rights bill. The national Democrats are, I'm contending, not willing to allow polygamy. And that's why the pro-gay marriage mainstream politicians are being hypocritical here, not to mention slightly bigoted. The fact that the anti-gay marriage politicians are also being discriminatory should be obvious, and I'm not even going to bother arguing it right now.

There are plenty of people all up in arms about gay-bashing and homophobia and discrimination and they're convinced that this is a mini-recurrence of the civil rights era. They think they're like the new Freedom Marchers and the Bush Administration is like George Wallace. While I have to agree that there are some parallels between the black civil rights movement and the gay civil rights movement, I think they've selfishly cast themselves as pinnacles of freedom and virtue. I have to disagree.

The Republicans are fighting for their culture, theology, morality, philosophy, or whatever else you want to call it. They are not fighting for a universalistic cause (e.g. freedom or justice or tolerance or equality) but rather for a relativistic culture, for a social vision instead an ideal vision. They are fighting for what they're used to, for what seems normal, not for what seems objectively right. They are pushing their own culture. That may be commonplace but it's not excusable. The gift of America is in its individualism - we should each find our own happiness, values and culture from the marketplace of ideas. Allowing people to privately pursue happiness and virtue is what makes this country great. We should not push culture onto others, as often happens and has happened more or less since the beginning of culture.

I must strenuously object to the FMA and the entire anti-gay marriage concept. Look who pushes it: Southerners, family values advocates, the Pope and Catholics, and people who want to defend culture and civilization. These are all very culturally and socially oriented groups, they want to force and maintain their social vision onto the country because they believe it is right. That should never be what our country is about. What if a group in our early history had succeeded in keeping out all Catholics or all non-Europeans? They didn't think anybody but Protestants of Northern European descent had anything good to contribute. That was not their call to make and thankfully it never fully came to pass (although it had many supporters at one time or another).

So let me reiterate: forcing your unique cultural vision onto all of us is wrong. Trying to secure the public liberty and safety is good. I could go on forever about the distinction, but I think that's a way to frame the issue that most will understand.

Now the pro-gay marriage movement, by which I mean the mainstream national politicians, what are they doing? They tell us they're fighting for justice and tolerance. It sure looks that way at first, especially given that the Republican and anti-gay marriage folks are pushing for a basic cultural vision. But these national pols aren't truly tolerant, at least not in the absolute sense, and certainly not about love and marriage. If they were, they'd want to allow any adult to marry any other adults - polygamy, not just monogamy. They tell us that we should accept gay marriage even if we disagree with it, but then almost NOBODY tells us we should accept polygamy even if we disagree with it. What if you asked them? I'm willing to wager that most of those pols would be against polygamy. If in fact that is the case, I can only make one conclusion:

Both sides are fighting for their own social views, and the pro-gay marriage people simply have a strong claim to justice and tolerance then fall short (again, speaking of the national, mainstream politicians). It's a competing vision of two cultures, essentially. It just so happens that one group only likes straight marriage and one group only likes two-person marriages.

Now, I will admit, the propensity for being truly tolerant and open, representing freedom and justice and all that is certainly far stronger than the anti-gay marriage side - which clearly has no claim to that position on this issue. I give the pro-gay marriage side credit for trying to be critical and objective of tradition and for at least recognizing that freedom and justice should be the goal, not some mere social custom. But I think what should we really realize is that nobody even mentions alternative marriage outside homosexuality. That's the real bigotry, being totally ignored. When Republicans and conservatives are against gay marriage, at least they mention it, they come up with SOMETHING to say. The real bigotry (granted, this is not an extreme form, just an insulting one) is when you won't even acknowledge the argument or attempt to gain recognition.

Conservatives all the time argue that if we allow gay marriage we'll eventually allow polygamy and bestiality. What is the typical leftist response? Shoot down the claim as ridiculous (which in most forms it usually is) but then barely ever acknowledge that maybe polygamy should be legal or isn't even wrong. That's not the hate spewed forth at gay couples or androgynous people on the street, but while it's not mean it sure is insulting. So please don't take bigotry to mean that mainstream Democrats hate polygamists, rather I mean they don't even acknowledge that they may have a legitimate argument. A very, very soft but at the same time rampant form of bigotry. Certainly Republicans and conservatives practice it as well - and almost certainly much more often and more deeply - but the fact that the people putting themselves up to be tolerant, objective and freedom-loving don't do it should be disappointing.

Multi-partner relationships deserve to be recognized in the political debate, or at the very least, deserve to be legalized then left well enough alone. Who is going to do either of these? The Libertarians already have. Libertarians across the country are saying that marriage should be privatized, let everybody marry whom they want (by which I mean adult humans, natch) and don't make it a regulatory issue. No licensing, just private ceremonies. Badnarik has also endorsed this, pointing out that baptisms and bar/bat mitzvahs are private, and marriage should be, too.

Why don't we get mainstream Republicans urging this? Because, frankly, it's weird and feels abnormal, like society isn't under their control - which it damn well shouldn't be. They're pushing their social view that romantic relationships should only be one man and one woman.

Why don't we get mainstream Democrats urging this? Because they don't want to seem out of the mainstream, and because there are no PACs for polygamists, and no votes. It's almost universally illegal hence you don't find a lot of polygamists admitting to it. The lefties are pushing a social view that romantic relationships should only be one person and one other person. Again, at least they try to be tolerant, though.

The Libertarians are saying privatize it all, let individuals decide what's right or wrong and the rest is nobody else's business. I have hope for Democrats and the ACLU-types to embrace this (maybe they are starting to already, cross your fingers for marriage privatization) but right now, they're going for their social views and their voting base. I tend to believe the grassroots types holds plenty of young people willing to allow polygamy (if not privatize marriage) but when it comes to party leadership, it's gotta be the Libertarians. The libertarians in every party are the truly tolerant ones here.

Now, as a quick policy explanation, plenty of people know marriage is useful for inheritance and work benefits, so wonder what would happen without the institution of marriage. Well, inheritance should be allowed to whomever you want, tax-free. That's the Libertarian position already, and until 2011 that's the federal tax code (the tax resurfaces at full-strength in 2011 without permanent relief). For benefits, people should simply choose their beneficiaries without needing to prove marriage. Let me explain what I mean.

Monogamous? Put your spouse as a beneficiary. Polygamous? Put all your spouses as beneficiaries. Celibate (e.g. priest or Buddhist)? Put a friend, a mentor, a parent, a pupil, a nephew, an aunt, a cousin, or whomever else. Anybody could simply decline to name any beneficiary. If you name more than one person (assuming your company allows) than your benefits get split for each person - for 5 beneficiaries, they each get 1/5 the total benefits. Not too hard.

This is the policy we should pursue. Privatize marriage, let every individual find his or her own happiness in life without hurting others or being hurt by others. I realize there aren't many polygamists (at least right now) so it seems like maybe the harm is less, but if we're going to put ourselves up as tolerant and open to non-harmful private actions, we should allow polygamy as well as homosexuality and heterosexuality. We shouldn't fall into the same close-minded rut as the conservatives.

And when that's what you want, to not just be pro-gay but actually be anti-discrimination, it's a rare breed to find, and almost every Libertarian fits there. Sad to say, I can't believe the same about most of the national politicians favoring gay marriage. Maybe that will change soon, but I wouldn't go out and get thirteen spouses just yet.

July 12, 2004

Free Trade!

You know, free trade is at once extremely common and the worldwide consensus from government to government around the world is quite strongly in favor of more open and freer trade, at least in theory. Support becomes even stronger when you ask foreigners if America should have unilateral (one-sided) free trade with their countries. People want the exchange of goods and services - the flow of welath, jobs and capital into their countries - that comes with increased trade. Unfortunately, Democrats are more than happy to scale back or break this vital commitment to the world while they have the nerve to talk about forging international cooperation and community.

Remember the steel tariffs Bush put in 2001? They were found in violation of the GATT (a treaty system Americans originally devised) in the WTO court system. Europe strongly disliked the tariffs, calling them unfair and illegal and so forth. But you don't hear a lot of criticism of John Kerry's new found fair trade beliefs from the Democrats, certainly nothing about how offended our allies would be if we were to pull back jobs and capital from their countries.

Clinton and the New Democrats were and are pretty big free traders, although it's easy enough for them to include lip service rhetoric to "labor and environmental standards" nowadays. This was, ultimately, part of the left's attempt to jump the gap between the unions, taxes, welfare state policies and protectionism into professionals, balanced budgets, welfare reform and internationalism. The Republicans successfully pursued free trade starting with Reagan, who signed our country's first free trade agreements (Israel in 1985, Canada in 1988) as part of his worldwide 'Democratic Revolution" and market reforms.But Republicans had favored markets, capitalism and the entrepreneurial system way back to their founding and before, when the Free Soil Party advocated what it called 'free labor' - the exaltation of individual labor in a free market as opposed to southern slave labor.

What makes this interesting, is that ultimately the Republicans were always largely appealing to the middle class, and Democrats appealed to the very rich, and the poor, including immigrants. The system is largely in the same state today, with some changes admittedly. Clinton made an effective campaigner because he took the base of the Democrats - the quite rich, the working class and the poor - and reached out to the middle class more effectively. Now granted, there were most undoubtedly many middle class Democrats, but this was never the most loyal area for Democrats, and usually the most loyal area for Republicans.

Clinton picked up issues that mattered to the middle class so he could seem credible to an electorate the shot down Dukakis, disliked Carter and smashed Mondale. He consolidated on social issues, but mostly he tried to appeal to them with balanced budgets, NAFTA and the "Reinventing Government" thing. He tried to recapture some of the economic center and thereby seem responsible and reasonable to the middle class.

Of course, unions hated what they saw as a betrayal by their patrons, whom they expected to oppose any threat to their jobs and well being (leaving aside larger moral arguments they might have advanced). But they stayed for fear that the GOP would cut entitlements, expand free trade faster, cut taxes deeper, and not raise the minimum wage (at least not as quickly). The mindset of noblesse oblige is always somewhat pliable and hardly radical, so they followed him for his social opinions and the fact that he was their party's man. The rest followed suit either complaining or cheering and Clinton captured enough of the middle class to win. Ultimately, it was unions that got left out and the middle class that was promoted within the Democrats' priorities.

So back to free trade itself. Kerry, Dean, Edwards, Gephardt, almost the whole Democratic crew is trying to move back toward fair trade (which is code for anywhere from mild to severe protectionism) without rocking the boat too heavily. The message is clear: they have no clear message. Okay, but they are trying to work it so they can get the fair trade/anti-trade vote back more loyally in their pocket and compete in Rust Belt and "less than high school" demopgraphics. Simultaneously, they want to woo the middle class by holding onto those tax cuts and not being explicitly against trade.

The result is John Kerry saying he might want to renegotiate CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, despite the fact that it was negotiated with sovereign democratic countries that know increased trade will bring increased capital and revenue. His election concerns have put him in the awkward position of threatening the historic economic policies of our allies and neighbors. The Kerry campaign is just wrangling between the middle class, the unions, the Bush campaign, his primary challengers, the fair trade left, and the international concensus for free trade.

Since he stands for nothing, he is trying to avoid upsetting anyone. How long until these sides (absent the Bush Campaign, which obviously wants to do whatever it can to paint Kerry as incompetent, retarded and one step above Nixon) realize that Kerry doesn't owe any of them allegiance, and will sell out some or all of them for other concerns?

Free trade is a yardstick for other beliefs. It measures one's social conservatism, since markets do not guarantee tradition, custom or security and freuqently disrupt old orders; it measures one's economic liberalism (capitalism) in allowing goods and capital to move over what can be very long distances, often scary to those accustomed to government-guaranteed economic security. It measures one's internationalism, since in all likelihood money and jobs will be in flux between countries just as they are between US states today. Ultimately, it measures whether you favor security or liberty and wealth creation or wealth manipulation (or redistribution).

John Kerry is backpedlaing his party on free trade just like he's backpedlaing on spending - recommending Gephardtian advances in the welfare state with socialized medicine, massive regulation, subsidization and even partial nationalization of the transportation infrastructure, and massive growth in the Homeland Security and Defense Departments. In other words, Kerry is trying to slowly work back into the old coalition between the condescending rich and the self-serving unions. Big government, more regulation, and restricted markets. He doesn't want to piss off the center and the middle class while he does it, but he wants to bring it back.

Free trade is just the symbol of Kerry's cautious lack of trust for the market system and for what individuals and entrepreneurs will do given the freedom to act. That's why no self-respecting libertarian should vote for him, even in protest.

July 09, 2004

Winning Libertarian Strategy

In order for Libertarians to win, they have to start playing smarter. Up to this point, we tend to try and win the moral victories. We try to run the purist campaign, and debate philosophy to the uneducated masses. We try to be perfect in every way. We don't try to be radical, but we rarely shy away from it. And so here we are, the people with the best answers and the strongest ideas, but for all that we've still never won a US House race. Sure, we're stronger than all the third parties put together, we are THE third party, but we're not in the house.

How can we fix this? Well, we need to look at our methods. Politics is kinda like warfare. It's a big conflict, it takes a lot of time, there are many nuances, different strategies, generals, captains, sergeants, grunts, and there are winners and losers. The way we fight the war right now is overly ambitious. We fight to win the whole thing in one bang. Imagine if ike had tried to drop troops on Berlin in March, 1942. Aside from the fact that we had no paratroopers, we would've lost anyway. That was much too ambitious.

The LP is running a war and we try hardest for two goals: the smallest of races and the biggest of races. The tiny little nonpartisan races for water conservation board are important to localities, but they don't help a whole lot with party building. The Presidential race is great for prestige and party building, but we'll never win it. We're spending our efforts onr aces that either almost nobody cares about or almost nobody thinks we can win. In the war analogy, we're occupying tiny abandoned utility sheds outside the enemy's base, and we're trying to capture the center of their entire command. That's an awfully big shift.

We need to focus on the races we can win and that matter. We need to focus on state races in a few concentrated states. This is how the Liberals (now Liberal Democrats) in England fought their way back from a handful of MPs. They built up loyalties in a few areas with local elections and then ran for Parliament. Their districts are fairly small, so elections are a different ballgame over there, but the principle is the same. We need to work our way up the whole ladder.

Local races are valuable when it makes a libertarian credible for state House or state senate races. That's how Democrats and Republicans do it - they don't go straight to the US Senate race unless they already have a community record or a very famous face (business, movies, sports). We need to eat our vegetables before we get to the chocolate cake, and tiny local races are the vegetables. Win the school board race, win it again, then run for your local state house district. You have experience, you have friends, you understand what the state house can and should do to help your community and your school district. It's a plain good idea besides helping us to win elections.

The national party should identify the races where somebody can win a state house or state senate race with reasonable funding, and target those races. Unless we get a boatload of money, this list should be small (no more than a couple dozen) so we can concentrate the funds where they do the most good. Inevitably a lot of these will be in New Hampshire if the Free State Project gets going. So we should send national LP money to the Live Free or Die state. Focus on getting people back into the NH state house, and use that to build credibility, then run for state Senate. If somebody is popular with a big face, run him or her for US House after that. Eventually there will be a reasonable race for Governor. Obviously this is going to take a long time if it ever works, but this is the kind of pattern we have to follow if we want to win. new Hampshire is a great state because of fusion, so if the Republicans nominate a libertarian-ish governor, we could do fusion with them (I think current Governor Benson is a pretty libertarian guy for a Republican, he deserves the LP line).

We need to take this strategy toward building the party. Only if we can win local races that matter can we build into a party with Congressional representation. The problem then, is that we don't focus on the mid-level races, the ones between dog catcher and President. We need to a) stop running for US Congress unless it's a two-way race or somebody has a great shot at winning, b) stop trying to run a full slate (I know it feels great, I swell with pride at the though of a full libertarian ballot, but then they all go down to lose, we need all our money and volunteers going to fewer races to pool our resources), c) make our presidential candidate work for these local races, send him to all the districts we've targeted above for national money, then send him again, send him to another event there, then send him again.

We need to have representation in the presidential race and maybe in gubernatorial races, this proves we're not juist some third-rate, no-backing party. But after that we can't splurge on filling the ballot. I love a full LP ballot but it hurts us in the long run. It's a luxury we can't yet afford. Better 1 elected libertarian on an otherwise empty ballot than a dozen losing libertarians. Sending the candidate to local races can really help in those races, and really show we mean business. Imagine if you got to meet Badnarik or Nolan or Russo, told him you liked where he was going but he was too extreme or you had to vote for Bush or Kerry to stop Kerry or Bush, then in response he asks you if you'll support X state house candidate. It's awfully good publicity, it's good for the local candidate, it's good for the party.

It's important we narrow our efforts to win. We don't have the exorbitant sums of money the two establishment parties have. We have to spend smarter. The candidate for President is vital, it gives us face time and legitimacy, and spreads knowledge of the word libertarian. We can't abandon that. We must abandon these races for US Congress. Our money and efforts should go to state house races. If we make the presidential candidate go to state house races we can combine the budget for the state house and presidential campaigns.

Now, of course, it's also very important to group together our efforts. The Free State Project is the perfect example. Getting our money and volunteers into closer and more efficient groupings is very effective for the purpose of partybuilding. This feeds into building local followings, a la the English Liberal Democrats. Anywhere we go, we have to spend money to promote the party and our ideas. If we were only in one or a few states, then our efforts at legitimacy and party promotion build on each other. This is much more efficient, so we should really try to build the party in New Hampshire. The LP should build a strategy complementary to the Free State Project, but also make sure to support growing parties in other states.

So, a brief summary: we need to convince people to our party, to do this we should focus on winnable races without losing the presidential campaign, and we should support the free state project as the most efficient method to promote the party.

Now, we also need to focus on a campaign platform. We should have a specific focus. We have been trying to win on philosophy. This puts us in the position of defending the entire libertarian platform in one blow. We should be fighting the real battle. We don't need to prove that libertarianism as a whole is perfect and true for all times and for all people. We only need to prove that individual policies are right. We shouldn't focus on taking on everything - that's great academics, bad politics - we should focus on easily winnable arguments.

Instead of arguing that we need to end all taxes, let's argue to eliminate the bottom income bracket, which hurts a lot of hard-working lower income Americans. Instead of arguing for the legalization of all drugs, let's argue to legalize medicinal marijuana. We need to focus on winnable fights. We have the best arguments out there, we're just not making them intelligently.

We need to embrace incremental libertarianism. It's better pragmatically, and it's better politically. We can't get the abolition of all taxation in a few short years, but we can get rid of a couple of the more intrusive or harmful ones. Therefore I suggest the following revised platform, to be revised again every two years to be more ambitious in light of whatever successes we accomplish:

1) Ballot access reform
2) Reduction of taxes, especially sin taxes, sales taxes, and taxes with disproportionate effects on lower income people
3) Medical marijuana, and marijuana decriminalization
4) School vouchers and charter schools
5) Deregulation of marriage, allowing gay and polygamous marriage
6) Free trade agreements (federal)
7) Lighten load on small businesses, especially regulations and taxes

And there's a lot more we could put in here, but I wanted to keep it short. We need to focus on issues that are in contention. Nobody asked us if the SEC should be abolished or all drugs legalized, nobody wants to know what we think about the gold standard or the Department of Interior eliminated. These are not issues in contention. But taxes, medical marijuana, vouchers, gay marriage (we'd have a truly unique position, we don't discriminate against polygamy like the Democrats), free trade, third parties, these are important issues. These are issues that get talked about on cable news, these are the issues we need to be present on. We're not engaging the center on the right issues, we're engaging them at the fringe where nobody pays attention.

When I was learning how play chess, the most important piece of strategy my father taught me was to keep my pieces in the middle. The idea was that you wanted to be in the middle of the battle where you could do the most damage. In politics, it's different but even more important. You must stay relevant to be included. If we talk about the issues of today then we can get pundits and politicos on shows like Lou Dobbs, O'Reilly Factor, Scarborough, the Sunday morning shows, etc. We can be included in the debate, and since we have the best arguments we will benefit from this exposure.

So we need to consolidate, target state races, and talk about relevant, plausible policies. This is the best way to get a few Libertarians into the US House, to build the party, and to see our policies come to fruition.

July 07, 2004

Presidential IQs

"The Lovenstein Institute of Scranton, Pennsylvania detailed its findings of a four month study of the intelligence quotient of President George W. Bush.

"Since 1973, the Lovenstein Institute has published it's (sic) research to the education community on each new president, which includes the famous "IQ" report among others.

"According to statements in the report, there have been twelve presidents over the past 50 years, from F. D. Roosevelt to G. W. Bush who were all rated based on scholarly achievements, writings that they alone produced without aid of staff, their ability to speak with clarity, and several other psychological factors which were then scored in the Swanson/Crain system of intelligence ranking.

"The study determined the following IQs of each president as accurate to within five percentage points:

147 .. Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)
132 .. Harry Truman (D)
122 .. Dwight D. Eisenhower (R)
174 .. John F. Kennedy (D)
126 .. Lyndon B. Johnson (D)
155 .. Richard M. Nixon (R)
121 .. Gerald Ford (R)
175 .. James E. Carter (D)
105 .. Ronald Reagan (R)
098 .. George HW Bush (R)
182 .. William J. Clinton (D)
091 .. George W. Bush (R)"

Now, I'm sure many of you buy into this, and it went around e-mail circles in 2001. Many people assume on face value that Democrats are smarter than Republicans and that Bush is a complete fucking idiot.

Unfortunately, this list would mean Clinton is smarter than Albert Einstein, who had an IQ of 160. Carter and Kennedy would be as well. The Republicans average 115.5, the Democrats average 156. The lowest Republican is 91, the lowest Democrat is 126. In other words, every Democrat except LBJ (and, depending on the scale, maybe Truman) can join Mensa, and of the Republicans only Nixon can. Clearly a bias.

The study is also wrong because in another part. "All the Presidents prior to George W. Bush had a least one book under their belt, and most had written several white papers during their education or early careers. Not so with President Bush," Dr. Lovenstein said. "He has no published works or writings, which made it more difficult to arrive at an assessment. We relied more heavily on transcripts of his unscripted public speaking." This is demonstrably false since Bush wrote a Charge to Keep prior to winning office.

Further, there is no such thing as the Lovenstein Institute, in Scranton or anywhere else. There is no such thing as the "Swanson/Crain" IQ scale. There is no Dr. Lovenstein associated with this non-study. Of course, since the fake came out, a website has sprung up to push the study, but there is no institute behind it, and the doctors it cites are fakes. It's basically an anti-Bush site.

The original e-mail going around was a joke. It was supposed to be an article in the Pennsylvania Court Observer, said to have a circulation of five readers. Dr. Lovenstein was said to reside at his mobile home in Scranton. It was obviously a joke. As the joke made it from e-mail to e-mail, people eliminated the jokier aspects and it seemed to be a legitimate study. Obviously it's a fake, though, since the Institute, Doctors and method of study are all suspect. There is no Swanson-Crain scale, and "estimating" IQ is extremely difficult, especially since formal tests themselves have their limitations.

The Guardian (London), Southland Times (New Zealand), and Doonesbury all reacted to the study like it was real. At least two have retracted their articles (Doonesbury retracted his strip).

So for all you casual readers:
Please do not spread this information as anything but a joke.

Of course it's also funny, because apparently the IQ experts can't do math. FDR was not President in the last 50 years, not even counting from 2001. They also had a typo or a grammatical error, confusing it's and its.

The real IQs are somewhat different. Starting with GWB, who is probably somewhere around 120 - the same league as JFK (estimated 119). According to Matarazzo the average high school grad has a 105 IQ, the average college grad is 115, the average MBA or advanced degree holder is 125. It's not unreasonable to put Bush in there, since he does hold an MBA. He also took the flight pilot exam for military entrance, which is actually very difficult to qualify for and to pass - but then there's the potential for foul play or malfeasance.

JFK, according to his biographer, "stumbled through Latin, French, mathematics, and English but made respectable marks in physics and history." He graduated 65th in his high school class of 110. Of course, when you're talking public speaking ability it's a whole new ball game. GW scored 1206 on the SAT (it was rescaled successively in the 1970s onward, so most of took different SATs than Bush and Gore) placing him in the top 16% of college entrants. The SAT is an imperfect test of IQ, but the 84th percentile rounds out to 115 IQ. Not exactly a moron, then.

In alternative history, Gore got 1355 on his SAT, and has an IQ of 134 (senior year of high school IQ test). If we (somewhat loosely) use the ratio of Gore's SAT to Gore's IQ, then GW comes out to 119 - or JFK's IQ.

So when you are thinking presidential intelligence, JFK and GWB are about the same.

July 06, 2004

Edwards Chosen

Hah. Kerry picked Edwards today, Tuesday early morning. This is precisely what I predicted. Obviously I predicted Edwards would be chosen, but I also said that the campaign would announced morning on a Monday or Tuesday to take advantage of the news. I'm not bragging (well, okay, maybe I am) it's just cool when a prediction turns out so right.

I made the prediction based on two facts: 1) the early to middle part of the week is often slows news (Tuesday, Wednesday, somewhat Monday) because there just tends to be less - especially in the morning. All the news from the weekend or the night before is run through (unless it's big) and the media folks look for something fresh. They send the reporters and correspondents out anew, going after a story. Doing it early gives you a jump on everyone else. It gives time for the 6 and 11 o'clock news to find quotes, stories and guests on your VP pick, and gives you time as the campaign to send positive news out to a bunch of people. And 2) Doing it quickly after the Sunday shows gives them time to prepare plenty of guests and stories and therefore make more coverage of your pick, and they're gonna want to cover it a minimum number of times, so you can stretch out the news story by a few days making the announcement Monday or tuesday instead of Friday or Saturday.

The strategy is more nuanced than this and yet more simplistic as well. But it can work quite well. In 1996 a presidential contender wanted to announce on a slow news day in April. He picked a Wednesday early morning to get the story out on his announcement. It was all set to be a slow news days and he was going to dominate the stories of the day. It was a great strategy. Unfortunately for the candidate and strategists, Timothy McVeigh decided to murder 168 that morning - they chose April 19, 1996 and the Oklahoma City bombing happened at 9:02 am. The announcement story was almost completely overwhelmed by footage of the terrorist attack. Aside from mass murder, the early morning-early week theory's still quite sound.

July 05, 2004

Kerry's VP

So everybody is wondering who Kerry is going to pick to be the Democratic VP nominee. He first tried to get McCain, which some people thought was just talk but reports from the media suggest it was quite serious. McCain, being prickly and independent with a penchant for blunt honesty, has tried to stop the military service attacks against Kerry just like he tried to stop them in the 2000 GOP primary against Bush. It looked like McCain might have been flirting with the nomination, but he's gone on the campaign trail with Bush so it would be mighty awkward having a VP that endorsed the other guy. Now whoever Kerry gets is at best his second choice.

His other choices tend to be reduced to a few. The list is usually three, sometimes more. The big three are Gephardt, Vilsack, and Edwards.

Gephardt won't be the choice if Kerry has a clue what he's doing - which he very likely does not more than half the time. Gephardt is, to be hyperbolic, pro-war, pro-union, anti-trade, big government, big spending, old-style, conservative FDR spendaholic Democrat. Now, that's exaggerated to make a point, to show the direction of Gephardt, it's not exactly true in that most big name politicians ultimately serve the center when it comes down to it.

Kerry is trying to play in this direction: hawkish, union, kinda fair trade, big spending, big government, big military, and so forth. He might be lured into picking Gephardt just to appeal to that image even more. That's why there's a possibility he'll go with Gephardt, but it's a bad idea. He'd be playing way too heavily to unions and hawks, not nearly enough to the anti-war left or to the suburbs - neither of whom especially like Gephardt. He also does not pull independents. He mostly pulls old people and unions, and that's not what Kerry needs to fight for right now.

Vilsack actually decreased Kerry's performance in Iowa polling. Since that should be the one state Vilsack absolutely must deliver, he's a bad pick already. No further examination here.

Edwards cannot necessarily deliver his home state, normally a huge strike against him. However, he likely can deliver other sectors: independent voters, suburban voters, more affluent Democrats, trial lawyers, and surprisngly the left. Kucinich and Edwards teamed up in Iowa caucuses, giving each other a second preference deal. Nader suggested publicly that Kerry pick Edwards.

So Edwards has appeal to indies, the South, the Midwest, the suburbs. It's not huge, but it improves on Kerry. But most importantly, look at Nader's suggestion. Nader, sensing the incompetence of his own campaign and weakness of support even from progressives, likely laid the groundwork for a withdrawal from the race. This way, he can use Edwards' selection as an excuse to hold a meeting or two with Kerry. This is just a theory, but Nader's campaign is failing and an early could save face. If Nader withdrew it would really tighten up the left, which would now be resigned to Cobb - and Cobb will not get a lot of media attention, certainly nothing like Nader's. Edwards shouldn't be picked on the assumption that he'll get Nader out, but it's an interesting thought.

Edwards' appeal to more affluent and suburban voters, as well as the South and Midwest, should be the basis for the choice. He's proven good at appealing to the Democrats making over $100k a year (the so-called limo liberals), but his Southern status could definitely improve the ticket's chances in the South.

It's a good choice, I'd say Edwards.

Maybe if Kerry gets up off his ass and makes a smart decision finally then this race will be competitive - allowing Badnarik to spoil the election and the Libertarians to hold the balance of power in this country. If Kerry can keep the race close then Badnarik can spoil the election from Bush in a few states (FL, WI, NH, NV, OR, maybe OH) and the Libertarians will be the spoilers of 2004, just like Nader was in 2000. It'd be instant coverage for 2008.

So anyway, prediction: Edwards.

July 04, 2004

Happy Fourth of July

Today we celebrate the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolutionary War. Interestingly, it has become popular in some circles, by which I mean some history professors and academics, to refer to the war between the colonies and the British as the War for American Independence. Now, when you first hear it, sounds the same, right? I love the word independence, it means all sorts of great things. But this is actually a dig at the entire concept of the American Revolution.

Those theorists behind the distinction argue something like this. The war was a conflict for home rule, to wrest control from England and put it in American hands. It was not, they contend, a substantive revolution because the economic and social dynamics remained largely the same. Of course, you have to be extremely narrow and focused on today's political developments to really buy into this.

It's become very popular to focus on the plight of disaffected groups within society - Indians, women, black people, the poor, national minorities, and so forth. Now don't get me wrong, it's important that we learn the shortcomings and bigotry of history because we must be sure to never repeat them, but we can't learn more about the minor groups of history than the actual movers and shakers of history. Sure, it's not fair - I agree, it should be merit-based, not based on arbitrary social acceptance - but these are the people that won.

It would be like learning about evolution and focusing almost exclusively on the extinct species. Sure, it really helps to get a full picture of what you're dealing with, but without seeing the winners of evolution or the winners of history, you're always only going to see less than half the whole picture. We should learn about the Kings and sexists and racists of history, how they ran the world, their countries and their lives, then learn how various minor groups lived in this framework.

To use another analogy, it's like building a cake out of just pink icing, no cake mix, no bread, no ice cream, no white or blue icing. Sure, maybe it's exciting - everybody wants to eat the rose - but in the end you've just got a big lump of mush because you skipped the damned foundation. You need that base, even if you find it boring, because there's no context otherwise.

The result of this new academic perspective on the Revolutionary War likes to recast that conflict because similar people held power in both circumstances - white, male, mostly mature, landowners, some slaveowners, all Protestants (and Deists). This social- and minority-focused view of history is extremely ill-suited to answer a fundamentally political question. Surprise, social historians don't know a damned thing about politics except how it kind of relates to social history.

The country went from a limited (I can't say constitutional when they STILL have no written English constitution outside the Magna Carta) monarchy, with numerous abuses, little trial protections, and a legally explicit second-class status for the American colonists to the world's premiere written Enlightenment liberal-republican constitution. We had rights, limits, a federalist structure, and most importantly - a President. The truly unprecedented nature of our choice is no longer evident to those of us living today. Back then, this was quite a shock to most of the world.

Our founders truly changed world history. Not only did we set in motion a chain of events that helped topple the British Empire, but we actually contributed to the end of old imperialism itself - and destroyed the mercantilist schemes of Europe. This inspired countless subsequent revolutions and governments, especially the French Revolution.

The American Revolution changed political thought, proved the legitimacy of republican government for large, prosperous states, and enshrined the ideals of the Enlightenment into a beautifully written constitution. Our Declaration of Independence was a masterpiece of political science, and the separation of powers idea is emulated in countries everywhere today - indeed one of the first Enlightenment definitions of tyranny was a state that did NOT separate the executive and legislative powers.

I could go on and on even longer than I have already, but it should be quite clear that the American Revolution was perhaps the single most important war in terms of political change in the world.

July 03, 2004

The End Of Civilization!

People always say our culture is declining and this is the decline of civilization and blah blah.

They say it about sexualization in the media. They say it about reality TV. They say it about uneducated voters. They say it about corrupt politicians. Funny, they've been saying it forever. People said in the 1970s that the Gong Show was the decline of culture. They say it today about Temptation Island. They say we like violence and hurting each other, and we've become very gruesome and desensitized.

Well, during the Jacksonian Era, steamboats often failed and exploded. There were a lot of accidents and people, body parts and debris would be blown far away. It was very violent, gruesome and bloody. A lot of people died in these accidents. Newspapers were extremely detailed and specific on these stories, and talked about all the violence. People ate it up, reading those stories with great interest. Surprise, we like the Matrix and Fight Club and the action scenes in Heat and people back then loved explosions, violence and death as well.

Antebellum prostitution practices were also astonishing. One preacher bragged to his church crowd that he had ONLY visited a prostitute a half-dozen times. This literally met with astonishment and praise of rhis self restraint. Such were the times, where prostitution was very, very common. Of course, we have more pornography now, and birth control, so that might contribute to the huge drop in prostitution, but the point is that times were not a whole lot better then.

I just think it's hilarious that we keep hearing about decline of civilization, but we've always been violent and sexual. It's just been a fact of history. If anything it used to be a lot worse in certain periods.

July 02, 2004

Michael Badnarik - 2004 Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate

I am a very strong supporter of Michael Badnarik, and have been for some time. He is a Libertarian, seeking to reduce intrusive government and at all sectors, cut taxes, restore our civil liberties, and allow the personal and economic freedoms we all deserve.

His nomination is often called a Cinderella story. He campaigned for months on less than s hoestring budget. He and his campaign manager would travel the country in a dated Kia, staying in the cheapest motels and often walking out of restaurants for fear of cost. He taught an eight-hour Constitution class as he went, and used the proceeds to fund his campaign. He showed up at events, debates, and conventions. Everybody found it quite admirable but few thought he would win the nomination.

He did fairly well in online polls, but Gary Nolan won all the non-binding primaries. Then Aaron Russo stopped running as an Independent to join the Libertarian race - which he had been planning to do anyway. Eventually it looked like a clear Russo win with Nolan in second. The debates the day before the nomination vote changed everything.

Besides the fact that Nolan and Russo had longstanding dispute they couldn't put behind them, Michael Badnarik gave the clearest explanations, the best delivery, and the most charisma of the three. Nolan had experience and Russo had flamboyance, but Badnarik was intelligent, genuine, witty and clearly the most Presidential. He won because of the debate, because the next day the third nominating ballot gave him a majority of the delegates.

Now the hope is that after making peace with Nolan and Russo - who are from most accounts honorable men with genuine commitments to liberty - he will put their experience and strategies, respectively, to good use with his personality. Russo in particular had three great strategies: commission his own polls to show support for the Libertarian candidate, protest and civil disobedience outside the debates if they refuse to let the Libertarian debate, and a HEAVY focus on radio but especially on TV ads. This is a great strategy.

Spending on advertisements in Reason magazine or the LP News is a dead-end. Libertarians are going to know who Badnarik is and whether they're voting for him or not. The one who aren't yet supporting him will not be swayed in most cases by seeing an ad in a low-circulation magazine they read. Wayward libertarians will be attracted to the campaign when it shows real promise outside the usual suspects. They are cynical, they need to see some real action after the dismal performance of the Browne '00 campaign.

Getting TV ads out there shows legitimacy. They need to run ads in a couple states and maybe just specific markets. They should focus on swing states where Libertarians can spoil the state: New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada, maybe Wisconsin, and perhaps Ohio. There are other states, but these are close states, and Florida and Ohio can very likely swing the entire election: making Badnarik the spoiler. Putting ads in these states, even if just in a few suburban, independent-heavy or pro-liberty regional markets within those states, can have a major impact on the legitimacy of the campaign.

Badnarik needs to run ads to show that his campaign is not irrelevant.

Further, he needs to run polls to show that his campaign has public support and room to grow. Russo's polls show that public support for a Libertarian grows into the mid to high teens if he is the only candidate against the draft or against the war in Iraq. There is clear room to grow, and the poll showed five percent were considering the Libertarian before assuming he was the only anti-war or anti-draft candidate.

If you support the effort to put Badnarik into the polls, please visit this link and register your support - consider making a contribution, as well.

There is room for the Libertarian to grow with very little campaigning - imagine what ads and hard work could do, especially in what is clearly a very close race. Badnarik could mean the balance of victory or defeat in 2004.

That's why it's critical that all the fence-sitters make a show of support for the cause, even if you have reservations. I have reservations and qualms about the overall effectiveness and strategy of the party for the last two decades as well. I am trying to improve them, but until that point I am strongly supporting an honest candidate that we can all bach. I ask that everyone put their hang-ups aside to vote for Badnarik in what will hopefully be a turnaround-breakout year for the party.