Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Time to flush another Obama Promise

(edit) I made this so feel free to use it. You might also enjoy the 73+ comments to this picture on another forum that is full of liberals with a couple of repubs and only one other voluntaryist.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Another hidden cost in the war on drugs, wasting time buying cold medicine

The other night I went to the store and on my list of things to buy was some cold and sinus medicine. I went to the store alone because my wife was sick (hence the need for the medication). At the store you had to pick up a little card with a picture of the product you want to buy on it and bring to the pharmacy counter. I was lucky that the pharmacy was open as it was getting late. So I take the card up to the counter and the guy working there was on the phone, he never even acknowledged I was there. After a couple of minutes one of the workers in the back came up and helped me. She could not ring up the medicine on one of the cash registers because it didn't have a computer attached to it so she could put my name in some database to make sure I was not buying too much cold medication. So we went to the one register with the computer and she requested my drivers license and that I fill out a form. I complied with this this only because I love my wife and did not want to disappoint her by coming back empty handed. So then after all of the paperwork was filled out in order to buy the medication we had to move to a different cash register to ring up the medication, which I paid for separately. Only then was I able to go about my business and finish my grocery shopping.

I know that every libertarian hates the fact that it has become such a pain in the ass to simply buy cold medicine, but this encounter made me wonder about the hidden costs of such transactions. I wasted more than 5 minutes, so did the person working the pharmacy, who knows how long the person on the other end of the computer that my name was entered into spends analyzing peoples cold medicine buying habits. I am not sure how many of these “behind the counter” drugs are sold every year but I would guess probably 200 million boxes a year are sold in the United States alone, If every one of these purchases adds an extra 2 minutes to a shopping experience and requires 2 minutes of a pharmacy techs time, plus whatever time the bureaucrats spend maintaining this pathetic system. You are talking about millions of dollars wasted in lost productivity, and the vast majority of it hurts everyday people and not the bureaucrats who implemented this policy. It is just another cost of this war on drugs not tallied in any official cost estimate put out by the government.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

NRA equals more gun crime?

The other night at my weekly trivia event, one of the questions was “has the number of gun related crimes increased or decreased since the creation of the NRA?”. The answer is that gun crime has increased since the inception of the NRA.

Of course to a person who believes in gun laws the first reaction would be that this is obvious, the NRA opposes gun laws and gun crime has increased since the inception of the NRA, so they draw the conclusion that more gun laws would reduce gun crime. What they miss is that the NRA's creation preceded almost all gun laws in the US.

The NRA was established in 1871 when there were virtually no gun laws and people often carried guns openly. In the 139 years since the NRA was created thousands of gun laws have been passed in the US. Fewer and fewer people carry guns in their daily life and gun related crime has increased during this period.

So what has been more responsible for the increase in gun crime, the NRA unsuccessfully attempting to prevent new gun laws, or the government actively preventing people from being able to use guns for their own protection?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Is "Harold and Kumar escape from Guantanamo Bay" a libertarian movie?

Sometimes you find libertarian ideas in the strangest places. Last night I decided to watch Harold and Kumar escape from Guantanamo Bay. It is a really silly movie with many plot holes and a lot of bathroom humor. It is not for everyone, but if you like these kinds of really stupid movies (think movies like American Pie, Dude where's my car, Pineapple Express) check this one out for the not so subtle libertarian themes laced throughout.

The best scene to me was when Harold and Kumar were smoking pot with George W. Bush and say to GW “you get high and then put other people who smoke weed in jail? That is so hypocritical”. Then the GW impersonator says something stupid as a response, then he says he can't legalize pot because it would piss his dad off. Later GW says “you don't have to believe in your government to be a good American, you just have to believe in your country”. I agree with the first part of that statement, but I am not sure how to define the country without mixing it up with the government. Is a country just the plot of land we live on? I do think that the best Americans do not believe in the government, some might believe that there should be some sort of government, but I don't think any good American could believe that the government as a whole and as it currently stands is something to support.

There are other libertarian themes in the movie from the stupid and racist homeland security chief who sees Harold and Kumar as a way for him to make his mark. To Kumar's ex-girlfriends fiance who lands a high level position in the government because of his fathers pull. To the selective enforcement of laws based on who you are (Neil Patrick Harris is ushered through a checkpoint, Kumar is picked out of a line for further inspection at the airport, etc.).

I am not saying everyone should run out and see this move, but rather if you like stoner/stupid humor movies, this is one that gets a little deeper into the politics of marijuana and the hypocritical nature of politicians and the government in general.

Here is the clip of Harold and Kumar getting high with GW, even if you don't see the whole movie this scene is pretty funny in a knowing sort of way:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What if government healthcare was structured like government school?

I was watching Stossel's show on healthcare and public schools were brought up. It made me think to myself, would there be any support for government ran healthcare if it were structured like government schools?

If healthcare were structured like government school, then you would be forced to use a doctor based solely on where you live. You would have to move to get into the “medical district” that you think would offer you the kind of medical services that would work for you. If the doctor you like services an area that the housing is too expensive for you, then you are screwed. If you lie about your address in order to get a better doctor than you are breaking the law.

Does this sound reasonable? If not then why is it reasonable for schools to operate in this fashion? Also you have to wonder if the same organization that structures schools the way they are structured should be the ones in charge of structuring healthcare. How do we really know that the government will allow for any choice in who treats you? That is currently the promise, but we all know that the government always goes back on promises they make when trying to push a bill through and then retracts them later.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My personal journey into libertarianism

Why do I talk about shows like Penn and Teller and Stossel, and other shows on television so much? It is because I know they can bring people into the ideas of libertarianism. Even the trashiest show can bring converts, and so I relate my own story.

I realized I was a libertarian was while watching a trashy talk show. It was about 1988 I was 16, it was a late night talk show called the Morton Downey Jr. Show, Ron Paul was running for president as a libertarian and I saw him on the show discussing drug legalization and agreed with everything he said, after that I started calling myself a libertarian and the rest is history. As soon as I turned 18 I registered as a Libertarian and the next election I voted for Andre Marrou.

Back then I didn't know much about libertarianism, but I knew they were against public schools, and I knew they were for the legalization of drugs. Two really important issues for me at 16. Over time I have learned more of the intricacies of libertarian thought, and I have only became more hardcore in my beliefs. In the last few years I have given up on the idea of any coercive government at all and have became a voluntaryist, but a loud and raunchy talk show was where I realized there was a whole movement of people who beleived in things I did and it connected me to them.

One of the best things about the internet age is that when you go down memory lane, you can often find references on the internet to help you rediscover what had been lost. I found the Morton Downey Jr episode on youtube. This is great classic television. Remember this was near the height of the crack cocaine scare and the “just say no” movement. Morton Downey Jr. Was the Jerry Springer of his day and his show was very rowdy and this is no exception. This episode is wild and sometimes hard to follow, but it got me interested in libertarianism and back then it was more difficult to find information on libertarianism than it is now (pre-internet for the masses). It was still enough.

Part one:

Part 2:

part 3:

First episode of STOSSEL on global warming

I watched the first episode of “Stossel” on Fox Business network. This first episode was on global warming. The show started off a little bit slow, but by the end I had got into it. At first I was a bit taken back by the format. It was very much like a talk show similar to the likes of Phil Donahue or Oprah where the host and guest talk for a while and then take questions from the audience, but with a definite libertarian bias. The fun thing was that not one of the questions was from an AGW skeptic and so unlike most talk shows the audience was on the opposite side as the host and the guests. I think they hit on a lot of great points that come up in the AGW debate, of course they skimmed through a few points, but it was only an hour long show after all.

The most fun scene to me was when John brought in a golf cart and explained how he got it for free because of a government subsidy for “electric” cars. Come on, nobody is replacing their car with a golf cart, it is just another giveaway to the wealthy who are the only ones who drive golf carts. Most of us cannot afford to live on a country club estate, and these are the people you see who actually own their own golf carts. Besides it won't do anything for the environment for people to toot around in golf carts for trips that they otherwise would have walked or rode a bicycle. Most people are not replacing trips in their cars with trips on a golf cart, the golf cart doesn't have the range or speed to take it out of a protected environment. Since the show aired, Stossel reports that he is getting a lot of emails asking him for information on how to get a free golf cart. If you want the government to buy you a golf cart, then you missed the point and you are part of the problem, not the solution.

Overall I enjoyed the show and look forward to future episodes. I will be sure to watch every episode, because you just never know what subject you will get new insights for.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

John Stossel's new show on Fox Business premiered tonight

John Stossel's new show on Fox Business premiered tonight. I missed it because I did not realize it was airing so early local time (6-7), but not to worry it is repeating several times over the weekend so check your listings.

Another Uncle Fester

This is another Uncle Fester, but I liked the story. It is not often you find a heart warming story, about a guy who educates people on how to break the law. I am a proponent of free speech and believe that he is a hero of sorts for making extremely unpopular information available to the public. I am sure the government would like to shut this guy up. This is one of those things where once the genie is out of the bottle, you really can't put it back.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

UHI and global warming, presented by a 12 year old

I have long believed that part of the global warming phenomenon was related to the urban heat island effect as well as better temperature gauging equipment. So it is nice to see someone, a 12 year old boy and his father, have crunched the numbers and have proven that at least part of the global warming data can be directly attributed to the UHI effect. I cannot think of a better activity for fathers and sons to spend quality time on than debunking global warming.

If you don't know what an urban heat island is, it is simply the effect that large amounts of materials like concrete and pavement that collect and retain heat have on the temperature in any given area. These materials make the overall temperatures read higher by absorbing heat during the sunlight hours and expelling it overnight, this creates significantly higher average daily temperatures.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Trust us, our data is good, we have no proof, but it is good

SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based. It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.

...The admission follows the leaking of a thousand private emails sent and received by Professor Phil Jones, the CRU’s director. In them he discusses thwarting climate sceptics seeking access to such data.

In a statement on its website, the CRU said: “We do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (quality controlled and homogenised) data.”

The CRU is the world’s leading centre for reconstructing past climate and temperatures. Climate change sceptics have long been keen to examine exactly how its data were compiled. That is now impossible.

At my work, I sometimes have to do trending and I will sometimes have to eliminate anomalies and explain them. I am expected to not throw the original data away in case someone else wants to look at the raw data at some future point in time. The raw data is considered more important to keep than my adjusted data as it is assumed that the adjusted data could easily be recreated by anyone if my calculations were correctly done, and the raw data is what is actually important. By tossing the raw data and only keeping the altered data it indicates to me that these are either really terrible scientists or they are covering something up, which is it? I don't know, but it does not engender trust or make me less of a skeptic.

If today's scientists are coming to their conclusions based on erroneous data collected and altered by an earlier set of scientists then it throws even the best scientists data into doubt as your conclusions are only as good as the data you use to reach those conclusions.

Thanks to CLS for pointing out this article.