Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I returned Sunday from the Porcupine Freedom Festival, and here’s a selection of PorcFest stories that have come out so far (I will continue updating this post over the next days and weeks – I know New York Times Magazine, Concord Monitor, and The Economist will have stories as well):

  • Union-Leader on the “DIY” theme
  • Yahoo.com: brief story on Bleish-Bush family
  • “Guns, Weed, and Bitcoin: Among the Freestaters” from Free Beacon – a fairly well-rounded piece, but mixes some ironic commentary in with the reporting and focuses on the outre
  • “Inside the Libertarian Version of Burning Man” – from the Washington Post, focuses very one-sidedly on the outre – yes, there was one guy in a loincloth, and apparently another guy had an extreme mushroom trip with no long-lasting ill effects, but what about the 200 kids and their families, the new technologies on display, the great speakers including overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, etc., etc.? And gotta love “majority white male.” I would guess only a very narrow majority of attendees fit both categories. Basically meant to make smug proggies feel superior to scary libertarians.
  • Update: The Economist story now out – short but largely fair, despite the silly headline, & well-written (“I’m an incrementalist,” explains Jason Sorens, the subdued intellectual who dreamed up the Free State Project while he was getting his PhD from Yale. Now a lecturer at Dartmouth College in Hanover, he is eager to use New Hampshire to test libertarian theories about enlightened self-interest and reciprocal altruism, small government and large networks of voluntary institutions. “We don’t have all the answers,” he says, “but it’s worth the experiment.”)
  • Update #2: Two Concord Monitor stories

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In Search of a Name

The US Patent Office has ruled that the Washington Redskins name is “disparaging to Native Americans” and the federal trademark for the name must be canceled.

If the ruling is not overturned on appeal, I would assume that this would lead to more Redskins swag on the market rather than less, at least in the short run. But ultimately, if the Redskins lose the right to market gear with their own logo, this will create powerful incentives for Dan Snyder (and other NFL owners who profit from revenue sharing) to change names.

I could imagine a few possibilities for a new name (the Washington Rent Seekers, the Washington Overlords) but I am sure there are better ones out there (suggestions?)


The Surveillance State

Thanks to the Snowden revelations, we have learned much about the comprehensive data collection and storage programs run by the NSA. At the same time, one might suspect that the technological savvy of the federal government is not quite as great as one might fear. Yes, the IRS loses email records (when convenient). But even more striking, the FBI’s Intelligence Research Support Unit has developed the extremely useful glossary of internet slang. Why go to  http://www.urbandictionary.com/ when you can spend taxpayer money? As the document (available here) notes: “This list has about 2800 entries you should find useful in your work or for keeping up with your children and/or grandchildren”). Caitlin Dewey (Washington Post) has a fun piece about the glossary, that was obtained through a FOIA request. Some of the selections, like IAWTCSM (“I agree with this comment so much) have been used rarely, in this case, 20 times in the history of Twitter. Others like NIFOC (“naked in front of computer”) may be used rarely (1,065 tweets) but might nonetheless be useful if you are investigating some members of Congress. Speaking of Congress, there is TLDR (“too long, didn’t read”) that might be most commonly used in connection with the legislative process (e.g., “ACA…TLDR”).

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Video of last week’s panel discussion of “Expanding Opportunity in Oklahoma,” sponsored by the Charles Koch Institute and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, is now up.

Things got rather feisty among the three Oklahomans (two progressives and a conservative). I tried to play peacemaker on occasion.

P.S. I did not get any Koch money for participating in this panel, for those who are wondering.

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Twenty-Five Years

It is hard to believe that it has been 25 years since Tiananmen Square Massacre.


The picture of an unidentified man standing before the tanks has become something of a symbol of the individual versus the state.

Much has changed in China over the past quarter century, particularly with respect to economic growth, per capita GDP, and life expectancies. Yet, the fact remains that most Chinese may never hear of what happened in Tiananmen Square. As the anniversary approached, access to various Google services was blocked (along with a variety of other internet services).

There is some coverage of the anniversary at Reason and the New York Times. The Washington Post has a piece on what has become of some of the key players in the protests. I often wonder what happened to the man who is pictured above (known only as “Tank Man”). Was he one of the victims of the massacre? Was he detained an executed? Is he languishing in a prison? Perhaps he escaped detention and has lived a quiet life. While the identity of “Tank Man” remains unknown, Lily Kuo provides some background and some speculation.

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Waiting for Paul

Has anyone noticed that Paul Krugman has been strangely silent on the scandal at the VA, in which there seems to be a massive fraud in the failure to accurately report the real time that veterans have to wait for needed health care.

Perhaps this has something to do with this column, in which he said:

The system in question is our very own Veterans Health Administration, whose success story is one of the best-kept secrets in the American policy debate.


For the lesson of the V.H.A.’s success story — that a government agency can deliver better care at lower cost than the private sector — runs completely counter to the pro-privatization, anti-government conventional wisdom that dominates today’s Washington.


Cries of ”socialized medicine” didn’t, in the end, succeed in blocking the creation of Medicare. And farsighted thinkers are already suggesting that the Veterans Health Administration, not President Bush’s unrealistic vision of a system in which people go ”comparative shopping” for medical care the way they do when buying tile (his example, not mine), represents the true future of American health care.

Paul, I’m sure, has been holed up in his office trying desperately to show how the scandal is the result of right-wing extremists who are blindly ignorant to the facts and bludgeon reality with their ignorant, ideological hammers at every opportunity.

Of course that is the basic argument of every Krugman column, whether the “scandal” at issue is climate science, banking reform, austerity policies in Europe, income inequality, etc. etc.  He cycles through his pet lists of topics, but the argument is the same–cut and pasted from one article to the next.  Even if you think that the other Times columnists are whacky, too, at least the others come up with different whack from time to time and don’t expect to get paid for writing the same column every day.

So, Paul, we’re waiting.  Should be a doozy.


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The European Elections

There’s been a lot of commentary in the press about last weekend’s elections to the European Parliament. Most noted has been the rise of euroskeptic and far right parties in several countries. The far left also made advances, with a Marxist party coming first in Greece and a surprisingly strong performance from a new far left party in Spain. Yet we should also keep some things in perspective:

  • As the image to the right shows, the far right and far left combined will have just over 10% of the seats in the European parliament. Other euroskeptical parties will add another 8-9% to that total. The center-left and center-right blocs are the largest, as ever.
  • European Parliament

  • The European Parliament has little power to roll back European integration in any case. The irony of the United Kingdom Independence Party’s success in European elections in Britain is that they can do very little to withdraw Britain from the EU from their seats in Brussels. Until euroskeptic parties start forming national governments, we aren’t going to see any countries seriously reconsidering European Union membership.
  • There is not a positive correlation between the level of unemployment and the percentage of the vote for the far right. Some of the high-unemployment countries, like Greece and Spain, had very strong performances from the far left, but it still seems that national economic performance did not drive far-right voting. Still, the Eurozone crisis has damaged the legitimacy of EU institutions and markets more generally. Economic decline, even when caused by government or central bank mismanagement, always seems to undermine public support for free enterprise and international openness.
  • Even in the UK, public opinion on European integration already seems to have turned the corner. In no EU member state does a majority favor withdrawal.

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Quite a few libertarians have yet to sign up for the Free State Project. Why not? One reason is that libertarians take their commitments seriously and are therefore reluctant to enter into them lightly. Yet I argue that the FSP’s Statement of Intent isn’t a commitment or a promise of any kind. It’s just a statement of what you think you will be able to do. So leave your inhibitions behind, and sign up now to help us “trigger the move” next year! Check out the whole post on freestateproject.org.

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