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The quiet, unassuming middle

This is, of course, a drum that we've beat long and hard at Reason, in all its emanations: That broadly defined believers in "Free Minds and Free Markets" are in fact the dominant group in the U.S. of A.

--Nick Gillespie


Ratigan still in a different universe

Micha believes a news story about the protests yesterday vindicates Dylan Ratigan's view that the Tea Party contains a significant number of people who say, "I want to kill blacks and Jews and women."

There's a clear difference between an insult, even a very ugly one, and a death threat. I've been called all sorts of names during my life, but the only time I've been shaken is by a death threat. Saying, "I want to kill you" is very different from saying, "You are a ______."

The first thing I noticed about that particular story was the fact that the "witnesses" were three politicians and a writer for the Huffington Post. Call it my tinfoil helmet sense, but I get a distinct tingle about the timing and setting of these accusations.

Where are the other witnesses? In the age of ubiquitous camera technology, why is there no video of the chants? The only video I can find remotely close to the incident was this one:

I don't hear any slurs. You'll notice the caption was added later which reads, "This footage was taken about 5 minutes after Lewis was initially accosted by the angry mob." So maybe the slurs came before the time the footage was recorded. Could very well be, but as I said, where are the other witnesses? Is it a conspiracy to stay silent?

Edit: In the comments below, Andrew Ian Dodge linked to another site with a different video which looks to take place earlier than the above footage.

Ann Althouse writes,

A member of Congress said he was spit on? Guards were right there. Was no one detained? Show me the person who was arrested. Otherwise, I'm assuming it's a lie.

I have a friend who attended the rally and took 417 pictures. I looked at every single one. Not a single racist, anti-gay, anti-woman sign in them.

--------------------------------------------

Now let us suppose, for a moment, that these accusations are indeed true. Maybe some evidence will come out, some video footage, or some witness will corroborate the accusations. Does that mean that the sentiment represents the essence of the Tea Party protesters? I think we can all agree it doesn't. Does it represent a significant number of the protesters? There were anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 protesters. Three politicians and a Huffington Post reporter heard the accusations. Can we not surmise that the number of such epithet hurlers can probably be counted on a pair of hands? Can we not all agree that this number is not significant and represents neither the essence or even a meaningful part of the Tea Party?

Get 10 people in a room, you'll have at least one idiot. Get a 100 people in a room, you'll have a few that believe the moon landing was faked. Get 20,000 people together, and you will have some who believe Elvis is alive, Xenu brought his minions to Earth millions of years ago, and yes, some racists. It does not mean they represent any meaningful part of the whole.

---------------------------------

Why does this burn me so much? Because it is an effort by mainstream politicians and media to paint the only populist libertarian movement in the world as a bunch of racists, when it's clearly not true. As Randy Barnett says,

Now the political consciousness of an enormous number Americans is entirely focused on government and the political class. There is a genuinely grassroots "liberty movement" in this country that has not existed in my lifetime - perhaps not in a century or more. And they are not interested forming in a third party.

Micha- a few years ago, you began to see yourself as allied with the "left". I think that's a big mistake, not because it's the wrong side, but because there's no need to pick any side. Picking sides is at best, a fixed-sum worldview, and at worst, a fashion statement. It leads to purges and schisms. And I think you're being very unfair to the Tea Party because you see them as being on the "right", and therefore, you believe have to be against them. They are "the other" that you must distance yourself from, if not purge outright.

I don't believe that to be true. I don't agree with everything the Tea Party says, but I don't have to. If a movement sprouted on the left that was skeptical of the government and supported free markets, I'd be blogging about them daily. Left and right doesn't matter to me.

There was another march that took place this weekend, an antiwar protest made up largely of leftists. This is one picture:

Why is there no media outrage about this pic? Why aren't you arguing that the antiwar left includes a significant number of people who say, "I want to kill Jews!" Would you be so credulous if such a story was reported in the news?


HCR's Eve

It looks like there will be a vote tomorrow. Part of me wishes this thing passes so that the entitlement crash accelerates. The faster it arrives, the faster we can move on from the currently dominant entitlement-welfare state that began in the previous century.

Intrade's contract for HCR passing is currently at 80.


Tricks up the sleeve

Obama has given a deadline of March 18 for a vote. If da Dems had da votes, they'd have voted already, meaning they don't yet have the votes. So why is Intrade's price for Obamacare's passage reaching higher every day? Either Intrade is totally wrong, or there's something wrong with the conventional wisdom.

Republicans now expect Democrats to pass health care through the House with a trick only Capitol Hill could dream up: approving the Senate bill without voting on it.

Democrats will vote on a separate bill that includes language stating that the original Senate bill is “deemed passed.”

So by voting for the first bill — a reconciliation measure to fix certain things in the Senate bill — that will automatically pass the second bill — the original Senate bill — without a separate roll call taking place.

It’s called the “Slaughter Solution” (prepare for a weekend of endless TV gabbing about it).

And after debating House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on the chamber floor, Minority Whip Eric Cantor emerged convinced that Democrats are going to use the tactic, and that they won’t allow Republicans, and the public, to see the text of any legislation for 72 hours before a vote.

I don't understand any of this, but what it basically boils down to is shoving the bill through on a technicality that's even more technical than reconciliation.

It would be a say day for the republic when this happens because it sets a precedent. Anything the Dems do today can be matched by the Repubs in the future. Legislation will become that much easier to pass. For those of us who believe that legislation trends the size of government in the wrong direction, ,it will be a dark day indeed.


Obamacare Countdown

Here's a great post by Keith Hennessey about the ins and outs of what needs to happen for Obamacare to pass in this dirty game called politics.

As of today, Intrade prices the futures for Obamacare passing at 57.


What it means to hit rock bottom

Ike Whitaker was once a scholarship athlete playing quarterback for Virginia Tech. Though he showed promise very early in his career, he was eventually kicked off the team for violation of rules. Eventually, the news came out that he had a problem with alcohol. Articles appeared in the press containing feel-good interviews with Ike in which said all the right things about how he was working to get sober, and later Ike was even reinstated on the football team. However, just a short time later, he was once again dismissed, and rumors flowed about his relapse. That was over a year ago.

Ike just made his first public statement since then.

Okay. I’ve been sober now for five months. I hit rock bottom in the fall. I was still in Blacksburg, but I had nothing going on in my life. I wasn’t part of the football team, I wasn’t in class, I didn’t have a job...I was nothing. My life was bad. My life was corrupt. I was drinking every day. I had no money. So, I’m very ashamed to admit this, but it’s part of my recovery to be completely honest with myself and everyone, so, I would steal food where I could find it to have something to eat. There were stretches that I really don’t remember. My alcoholism had completely taken over. I had to drink to function. That’s how bad it was. Much of it is a blur.

I remember that I was ready to end my life. I was a burden to myself and everyone around me. I just felt dark inside. I knew I had to stop drinking, but I couldn’t. So, I decided to just end it. That’s how tough this addiction is. That’s how depressed and sick the alcohol can make you.

I wanted to go and see Coach (John) Ballein one last time because he had been good to me through my toughest times. He never beat around the bush, he was honest with me and hard on me, but I knew he was hard on me because he cared about me and wanted to see me get my life straight. I remember that I had a bag of alcohol, I had been drinking all night and all morning, and that I was in his office. I don’t know exactly what I said to him, but I’m sure it was something to let him know that I was saying goodbye and that I appreciated everything that he ever did for me and that I’m very sorry that I let him and Coach Beamer down.

Well, I never made it out of his office. He told me that I wasn’t going anywhere and that I certainly wasn’t going to hurt myself. He took the bag of alcohol out of my hands and told me that I was coming with him and that we were going to get some help. I thank God for Coach Ballein. He’s truly an angel on earth. Coach Beamer and Coach Ballein gave me chances and I blew every one of them. That’s totally my fault. I’m ashamed that I treated those two good men the way I did. I’m ashamed that I lied to them. I’ll always regret that and I’ve told them that I’m very sorry.

...

Every day is a battle. It’s a battle. As soon as my eyes open in the morning, I drop to my knees and I ask God to give me the strength and courage to get through another day. I just can’t go back to where I was. I can't. I was at a point where I was no longer drinking for the high, I was drinking to just function. I needed alcohol to be able to speak. I needed it to be able to walk to the store. That’s how bad it was. My body couldn’t function without it.

Also, I want people to know that I’m not a bad person. I don’t have an evil heart. I have a good heart. I don’t mistreat people. I’m a loving, caring person. I’ve just been very sick. I’ve been in a battle and I’ve been losing. But now, I’m starting to win that battle.

I didn't believe the earlier interviews. I believe this one. There's nothing feel-good about it. Hitting rock bottom means standing naked before the world with all your imperfections. This is a prerequisite for recovery. Now Ike has a fighting chance.


Dylan Ratigan has an anger problem

It's unbelievable that MSNBC has a host who actually believes that the Tea Party constituents include a significant number of people who say, "I want to kill blacks and Jews and women." What universe is this guy living in?

Once in a while something amazing happens: a person accuses someone else of the very thing they themselves are doing while being oblivious to the fact. Classic example.


Dems go Nuclear

There's been a shift in sentiment over the past week. I thought health care reform was dead, but it has suddenly sprouted wings. Obama is pushing the reconciliation option without actually calling it that. Despite what the pundits said about the Republicans winning the health care summit, I think they lost. The opinion input wasn't pro-Republican; it was anti-Democrat. When America thinks your opponent is being completely unreasonable, you do not give them a chance to appear reasonable. The pundits said that Republicans came across as "reasonable"; what they missed is that Obama came across as reasonable too. That gave new life to reform.

What's interesting now is that the pundits have no idea what's going to happen. Rather, there's no sort of consensus about what's going to happen. Most think there's no chance in hell. Many others, though, are cautiously optimistic. Intrade was at about 30 yesterday and is 55 today.

I wouldn't be surprised if Republicans get completely pwned here.


Celebrity Deathmatch: Mencius vs Hanson

I finally got around to seeing the video of Robin Hanson debating Mencius Moldbug about "futarchy".

As some have remarked, that was one nerdy gathering. I think if I showed up there, some of the attendees would have hid under the table.

Most of the questions in the follow-up session were piss-poor (except, of course, DDF's) showing that nerds aren't always that smart about markets and government. Then again, I'm just one of those young doctors that Hanson believes thinks they know everything.

I agree with Hanson that futarchy should be judged against the status quo, not against some hypothetical ideal.

Getting down to the meat of the argument, I don't think liquid prediction markets can be manipulated to any significant degree. We have examples of prediction markets right now: stock markets and sports betting markets. It's nearly impossible to predictably manipulate the stock market, and the only way to manipulate the sports betting markets is for a player to throw a game, something that's rare enough to be a non-factor.

Can decision markets be manipulated? That was the question at the center of the debate. The example most understandable to me was a decision market on whether or not Steve Jobs should be replaced as Apple's CEO by a chimpanzee. Let's look at that more closely, because I'm not sure I understand the mechanisms that well. Futures used in prediction markets, I understand. But I don't know how a decision market would actually work.

I can't find where exactly in the video Hanson mentions the "called off bets", and I don't feel like watching the whole thing over again, but lets say there are two cash for stock markets, one for keeping Jobs as CEO (symbol: KEEP), and one for replacing Jobs with a chimp (symbol: DUMP).

On a given day, KEEP is worth $15 and DUMP is worth $10. What exactly does this mean? What am I buying? As I understand it, the losing side gets their money back. So if the board sees that the price of KEEP is higher than the price of DUMP at some predetermined time in the future, it keeps Jobs as CEO of Apple, the KEEPers win, the DUMPers get their money back (because that would be the called-off bet). What do the KEEPers win? What's the payoff? Is there something that ties KEEP to AAPL?

I can't have any sort of opinion on whether decision markets can be manipulated because I don't understand how they would actually work. I suspect this was also the case with most of the audience of the debate.


Happy Birthday, Tea Party

It's been a year. It's amazing how one man can spark a huge movement if there is enough pent-up pressure in society.

Respect to Brian Macker and Arthur B. who were there when it all started.

A NY Times article profiles Keli Carender, a Tea Party activist from Seattle.

Keli Carender has a pierced nose, performs improv on weekends and lives here in a neighborhood with more Mexican grocers than coffeehouses. You might mistake her for the kind of young person whose vote powered President Obama to the White House. You probably would not think of her as a Tea Party type.

But leaders of the Tea Party movement credit her with being the first.

...

She, like many Tea Party members, resists the idea of a Tea Party leader — “there are a thousand leaders,” she says.

Glenn Beck? “He can be a Tea Partier, but it’s not like the movement bends to him.”

Sarah Palin? She will have to campaign on Tea Party ideas if she wants Tea Party support, Ms. Carender said, adding, “And if she were elected, she’d have to govern on those principles or be fired.”


Community and Exit

Max Borders and Mike Gibson propose a debate over at A Thousand Nations-- Does the right to exit a community undermine the very idea of the community?


Insurance and Mortality

Last week, Megan McArdle wrote in The Atlantic that after you control for this and that, it's not clear that having insurance makes one less likely to die. Leftists were shocked and outraged. Matt Yglesias was all a-twitter:

Do rightwingers really believe that US health insurance has no mortality-curbing impact?

Megan McArdle replied that, okay, maybe there is a relationship between having insurance and being less likely to die that we don't see in the research, but if there is, it's gotta be small.

I'm surprised at the shock and awe from leftwingers, though maybe I shouldn't be. It's part of their gospel that people are dropping dead left and right because of lack of insurance.

As someone in the medical field, though not an epidemiologist or familiar with the research, my personal reaction was a lack of surprise at McArdle's conclusion. Why?

  • Any emergency will be treated at US hospitals. If you don't have insurance but are in a car wreck and bleeding, you will get treated-- you'll receive fluids, blood, angiograms, and if needed, surgery.
  • Aside from that, medical science is still at a primitive level on an absolute scale, even if it has made significant progress on a relative scale. Most things that are going to kill you will still kill you even with the best medicine has to offer. Insurance won't save your life if you get a metastatic cancer (with rare exceptions).
  • The place where insurance would make a difference is with things that would kill you if not treated but would save your life if treated. These types of illnesses, in my anecdotal experience, are rare in the larger scheme of things.
  • On the other side of the ledger is when medical care kills people who would otherwise live to an old age.

Where's the beef?

David Harsanyi has written an article in response to Ron Paul's winning of the CPAC straw poll that can only be described as a "hatchet job". I kept waiting for the meat of his arguments to emerge, but they never did. I'll quote one part:

If only it stopped there. Paul isn't a traditional conservative. His obsession with long-decided monetary policy and isolationism are not his only half-baked crusades. Paul's newsletters of the '80s and '90s were filled with anti-Semitic and racist rants, proving his slumming in the ugliest corners of conspiracyland today is no mistake.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of Paul is that thousands of intellectually curious young people will have read his silly books, including End the Fed, as serious manifestoes. Though you wouldn't know it by listening to Paul or reading his words, libertarians do have genuine ideas that conservatives might embrace.

Did the folks at Reason just dig up an article from two years ago and put a new timestamp on it?

What about monetary policy is "long-decided"? Shouldn't the fact that the Fed was created to promote economic harmony but has reigned over numerous recessions be unsettling?

If Ron Paul is not a "serious thinker", why not, and by what standard? Are Obama, Bush, or McCain serious thinkers?


Obligatory Olypmics Post

Only this year did I realize the essential difference between the summer and winter olympics. Summer Olympics are about pure athleticism - how fast can you run? How high can you jump? (Though I still think LeBron James and Michael Vick are better athletes than any summer olympians).

Winter Olympics are about conquering fear. Most of the events involve performing feats with a decent risk of death: jumping off a mountain, doing multiple flips in the air on a snowboard off a halfpipe, riding down a mountain in a sled doing 90 mph, etc. You have to be a little bit crazy to get good at doing these things.

Maybe as a result of this realization, I find myself enjoying this Olympics, whereas in the past I usually changed the channel. Or it might be that one of the events combines skiing and shooting a rifle.

Also, short track speed skating is awesome.


One party will tax and spend. The other party won't tax, but will spend.

This is part 1 of Glenn Beck's speech at the CPAC. The rest of the speech can be found on Youtube.

Though I don't agree with every single thing he said, I agree with much of it. There are times in my life when I've hit rock bottom when it appeared that my dreams had been shattered, and Beck's message about picking yourself up without the government's help certainly resonates with me. Beck's bottom was obviously much deeper than mine as his alcoholic mother and one of his siblings committed suicide when he was young, he dropped out of college, and was an alcohol and drug addict without a job. He's got rock bottom "cred". Failure has to be allowed--for people, institutions, businesses, Fortune 500 companies--because it teaches the lessons needed to succeed.

He praises the charitable impulse of Americans. Perhaps the most moving part of the speech was his reading of Emma Lazarus' poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty describing America as a place where immigrants could come and lift themselves up out of poverty.

He calls out not just the Democrats, but also the Republicans, and receives applause. He thoroughly eviscerates McCain by implication.

His calls to end the Fed received applause too, a response that would have been unthinkable to me only two years ago.