Everything You Need to Know About Last Week’s News #17-#18

Well I missed this last week, but no one seemed to complain so I didn’t feel too bad. But I still have this list of news articles from the last couple of weeks, so here goes a Double Edition of Last Weeks’ News….

In reverse order of importance:

Continue reading Everything You Need to Know About Last Week’s News #17-#18

Peak California

Something else happened in the 2012 elections that I haven’t blogged about yet: Californians most likely elected a super-majority of Democrats to both chambers of the state congress. This means they essentially have enough votes to pass whatever they want, especially higher taxes, which through a quirk of history requires two-thirds approval in a very blue state that still usually had at least one-third Republican congressmen saying no.

But no more. Conservatives and libertarians alike are practically giddy that California has “open[ed] the gates to an endless flood of tax increases.” Now “Americans will be able to see the modern liberal-union state in all its raw ambition.” They think California will try to fix its budget problems with higher taxes, which will keep driving businesses and rich people out of the state, which will keep making the problems worse, until the state finally collapses, and there will be no one to blame but the Democrats and their now-unfettered schemes!

I call this theory “Peak California,” and like other peak political theories, you might not be surprised to find me skeptical.

Continue reading Peak California

While you were watching the Presidential race, the GOP Congress got more libertarian

The eyes of America have a myopic focus on the office of the Presidency. The media lavishes us with articles about Obama’s acceptance speech and what he plans to do with his second term. NPR brings on experts to speculate about what the Republican party will have to do to win next time. Conservative pundits console each other with pet theories about what Romney’s campaign did wrong or how the mainstream media foiled their chances. The conservative base mourns that America chose socialism and we’re all doomed for a path of debt, unemployment, and eventual collapse.

I suppose this is what Gene Healy calls “The Cult of the Presidency.” The power of the executive branch has been expanding for decades, along with the expectations of the American people regarding its capacity to be their savior. But there is more to the federal government than the executive branch, and I think the 2012 election results do not give conservatives any reason to become more depressed. In fact, it gives them some powerful reasons to hope.

First, the federal government has not changed for the worse. Obama was already president, the Democrats already controlled the Senate, and the Republicans already ruled the House. The next two years at least are likely to be similar to the last two years, which, while unsustainable in the long run, really weren’t that terrible. Now that the election is over Republicans could admit that the economy isn’t really getting worse; it’s actually recovering, just very slowly.

Second, the legislative branch has changed for the better. On Tuesday night, a number of small-government tea-party-backed libertarian-leaning citizens were elected to Congress, joining a growing coalition of forces with the primary goal of reducing Big Government.

Say Hello to Small-Government Republicans

Continue reading While you were watching the Presidential race, the GOP Congress got more libertarian

Victories For Liberty From the 2012 Elections

There was a lot to disappoint libertarians and other small-government advocates in last night’s elections. Gary Johnson only got around one percent of the vote. Economic interventionist liberals like Elizabeth Warren won Senate seats. But if you’re looking for some optimism (dare I say “hope”?), there were a number of silver linings and outright bursts of sunshine that I would count as defeats for Big Government and victories for freedom and liberty.

1. My state of Missouri defeated Prop B, which would have raised the cigarette tax to fund schools and health programs. There may be pragmatic arguments for raising the lowest rate in the nation and trying to reduce smoking rates, but I think it’s dangerous to let the majority dictate the taxes on a minority’s behavior for the majority’s benefit. It’s also dangerous and unstable to make government funding for schools dependent on a behavior the government is simultaneously trying to discourage. The status quo remains unchanged.

Continue reading Victories For Liberty From the 2012 Elections

Even When Third-Party Candidates Shine In Polls, They Still Don’t Exist

The media likes to pretend third-party candidates like the Libertarian’s Gary Johnson and the Green’s Jill Stein don’t exist in the horse race between Romney and Obama. This isn’t surprising, but the level of ignorance is simply stunning sometimes. It’s one thing to just not talk about them very much. It’s another to not include them as options in most of the polls even though they will be on the ballots in most of the states. But it’s exceptionally frustrating when they are included in a poll, shining brightly with record levels of support, and everyone still pretends they don’t exist!

CNN just released a new poll in the almighty swing state of Ohio. The big headline:

Obama 50% – Romney 47% in Ohio

This is followed by two or three pages of fascinating analysis and quotes and context about how important this is for everyone and everything. Buried in the third-to-last paragraph is the following:

Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode are also on the presidential ballot in Ohio.When their names were added to the poll, Obama is at 47%, Romney 44%, with Johnson at 5%, Stein at 1% and Goode registering less than one-half of one percent.

Continue reading Even When Third-Party Candidates Shine In Polls, They Still Don’t Exist

The Hidden Costs of Price-Gouging Bans

As Hurricane Sandy attacked the northeast coast, I was disappointed to learn that New Jersey governor Chris Christie was signaling strong enforcement of his state’s price-gouging restrictions. Maybe the Republican politician is more interested in populist appeals to his citizens than actually helping them with some limited government, or maybe he just doesn’t understand economics.

Continue reading The Hidden Costs of Price-Gouging Bans

Global Climate Snapshot: Fall 2012

It’s been three months since the Summer 2012 snapshot, and it’s time for an updated look at the official scientific data. Does it show the earth breaking new records? Is it breaking them as fast as scientists have predicted?

Oceans and Ice

Arctic sea ice.


After several years of stalling, the northern polar cap retreated significantly to a record low in September. It quickly recovered to the previous October lows, but even now it is drifting into new record low territory for this time of the year. Skeptics continue to claim it’s just part of a cycle that’s bigger than our relatively short satellite record of 30+ years, and the ice definitely didn’t disappear this summer as some scientists predicted five years ago, but it’s still hard to ignore a new low that’s hundreds of thousands of square kilometers below the previous record. For the first time I’m going to say that YES the arctic ice cap looks like global warming.

Continue reading Global Climate Snapshot: Fall 2012

Polling and Turnout and Crosstabs… Oh Sigh.

I like polls. During the first presidential election that I and the Internet were both old enough to follow (though I don’t remember if it was 2000 or 2004), I remember being impressed at the way every single “solid” state turned out exactly as predicted. Time after time, polls generally seem to be accurate, and when you learn a bit about statistics and polling methodology, it makes sense.

Of course, there will always be specific situations where the polls are wrong, and a lot of right-wingers think that is happening today. Nate Silver gives Obama a 75%+ chance of winning, and apparently a lot of conservatives are attacking him and/or the polls for having a liberal bias. Sonic Charmer finds himself an unlikely defender of Silver’s analysis by quickly reproducing a crude version of it in a spreadsheet.

I generally agree with Sonic here, but I haven’t seen the liberal opponents in the media and blogosphere respond (though I haven’t really been looking for it) to one of the primary conservative poll complaints brought forth by folks like @NumbersMuncher, who say that the pro-Obama polls are hopelessly overestimating Democrat turnout to be equal to or even greater than 2008 levels. Here is one tweet that made the rounds yesterday:

Continue reading Polling and Turnout and Crosstabs… Oh Sigh.