Friday, February 27, 2009

Time for Libertarians and Conservatives to Stand Up Against the UN

The UN has already passed a non-binding version of a resolution that declares that putting down religion is a violation of human rights. Not surprisingly, many of its strongest supporters were countries with state religions, particularly Islam.

Now the same sponsors want to make the bill binding:

I certainly don't share the negative obsession with the U.N. that many American Libetarians do. But when there's a stupid law about to be passed, favored by medieval-minded theocrats and with a fundamental distortion of the basis and purpose of human rights, it's time to publicize and oppose it. Defending human rights is good, but only humans have human rights, not over-sensitive religions like Sunni Islam.

Allah Says No to American Energy Independence

Surprisingly, Saudi Arabian holy men have discovered that alcohol-based fuel is sinful. Amazing how that works!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama and Jindal Speeches Tonight

I didn't catch Obama's speech, but I heard most of Bobby Jindal's. You don't need me to tell you that Jindal is a smart guy - a Rhodes Scholar, like Bill Clinton - and his efforts to reform the endemic corruption of Louisiana are to be applauded. To get this out of the way: if we're honest we'll admit that in the back of our minds, some of us are suspicious that there's a reason that we suddenly have Michael Steele and Bobby Jindal as the faces of the GOP at the same time our first black president won in a near-landslide.

I sure hope that's not the reason. As Jindal himself stated, the GOP needs to regain Americans' trust, and that's not going to be done by a conversion to diversity values. Jindal's speech called for a return to core Republican values of fiscal responsibility and innovation, both the reasons that I frequently vote GOP,
as long as it's not running deluded religious extremists.

Which brings me to the GOP in 2012. Long ago, in April 2008, I posted a list of good guys and bad guys who could affect my decision to vote for John McCain, who I dearly hoped would be able to drag the GOP back to its core values of reason, innovation, self-reliance, and fiscal conservatism, and away from fundameantalists who think that book-learnin' is bad, and Charles Darwin is the devil. Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal were both bad guys. Note to culture conservatives: China is teaching their kids evolution, not creation, and they're trouncing us in the production of scientists and engineers, that our economy and military establishment depend on. If that's a-okay with you, then please stop calling yourself pro-America, and move to Iran where your views are more widely accepted.

It was clear that Jindal's speech had two intended audiences: the rank-and-file voter, and the slightly more discriminating Washington Post and blog crowd that you and I can count ourselves part of. It was critical not only that he gets the man and woman in the street talking about him, but the literati opinion-drivers talking about some of his more clever rhetorical tricks - of which there were many. And that's the problem.

The problem is that if you're selling a platform that really does appeal on its face to a majority of Americans, you don't have to make unstated implications that the current administration is severely cutting the armed forces. You don't, for example, have to talk about innovation when in fact you've openly declared your intention to wreck science education. Jindal may be a new kind of face for Republicans, but he's spouting the same message that got the Grand Old Party sh*t-canned in the 2008 election. The "purest" culture-conservative message the GOP has ever put out in a presidential campaign was in 2008, largely through its VP candidate, and the only place it expanded its vote was among white males in a strip from West Virginia to Oklahoma. Is that the future of America? That's why, if you want a real choice in 2012 and a close election, you should hope that Bobby Jindal is far away from the GOP ticket.

Libertarians: Here's A Real Chance to Legalize Marijuana

I've written before about legalization - it's not one of my main causes, but I've find the mindlessness of the opposition frustrating. A lot of money is wasted prosecuting it, and the worst part of marijuana prohibition is that a molecule of great medical value for chemotherapy patients is criminalized in the absence of reasons for doing so, other than vague "what about the children"-brand belly-aching. This wouldn't be the only benefit: we would also experience the decreased cross-border illicit trade (and decreased criminal activity) we observe any time we legitimize a previously black market. There are plenty of officers who feel the same way: check out the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). As they point out, this is an issue agreed on by William F. Buckely, Milton Friedman, and Reagan Secretary of State George Schultz. Should be a no-brainer!
Even Glenn Beck has decided it's at least worth an airing. (I've added two links to this article since I first posted it - is it me or are Americans suddenly talking about this issue?)

Unfortunately at the national level, the risk-benefit for getting involved in legalization means that if we wait for Congress to move on this, we'll wait forever. That's why we should support state-level efforts, even if they come from unlikely Libertarian ally Tom Ammiano, who has submitted a bill highlighting yet another potential benefit of legalization: consumption-based taxation. California is breathing an ill-placed sigh of relief at the moment after having finally passed a budget - ill-placed, because we're still in a deep, deep hole. We could sure use the $1.4 billion this would generate. That marijuana is California's most lucrative cash crop has long been known. So why leave this in the realm of cocktail-party jokes? Why not realize revenues, and use this fiscal crisis as an opportunity?

I am all for Ammiano's bill. Please spare me the "You're proposing a new tax and are therefore not a real Libertarian" cliches. I'm a Libertarian, not an anarchist. Like any entity, governments need revenues to run. In fact I would argue that any Libertarian who doesn't seize the opportunity that Ammiano's bill provides is less a Libertarian than me. Exactly how government revenues are generated is where the real debate is, and I've always advocated moving taxes from income and property tax to consumption tax. It's basic psychology that people react to taxes as if they're punishments (which they are), so why not tax consumption and waste? I'd rather pay taxes on something that's a consumible "dead-end" (like marijuana) rather than on my investments or income. Wouldn't you?

The best part of it is, if you don't use marijuana, it would only decrease your share of taxes, and it wouldn't cost you a cent.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Darwinism is the Root of Terrorism, Islam is the Antidote

That's really and truly the title of an article in (where else) the Tehran Times. Threatened by the teaching of evolution in schools? Looks like Iran is the place for you! Come on, creationists, where are you, what's the matter? Get with the program, it's time to present a united front! I'm sure with visionaries like Harun Yahya able to exercise their academic freedom, Iran's high-tech economy will soon overtake our own.

On a more serious note, the guy in this article has been distributing fundamentalist and creationist propaganda all over the West, includig to the United States. If you want a dangerous Islamic exporter of intolerance who wants us back in the Dark Ages with education subservient to propaganda, you have one here.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Canary in the R&D Mine: Big Pharma and the Early Phase of U.S. Brain Drain?

I frequently hammer on the importance to the U.S. economy of drawing and keeping top talent (our own, and from abroad as well). Conservatives, if you're waiting for liberals to get this, you're going to be waiting forever. These days I have a Google News Alert set for "Roche" and "Genentech", not surprising since
I consult at Genentech. Consequently, in one article which also discussed Roche's intentions in China, the following passage jumped out (emphasis my own):

The Swiss drugmaker [Roche] is also looking to hire “excellent” scientists in China and is transferring more chemistry-related research to partners there, [Global R&D Head] Babiss said.

“Most of the people that we’ve hired that have come back were trained at Harvard and MIT and these are brilliant people,” Babiss said, referring to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “At the beginning it was chemists, now the biologists are coming over. More of them are going to come back to China and shape that environment.”

Meanwhile, we have yahoos trying to pass laws like this one, and if there's another purpose besides making our kids stupid, I don't know what it could be. There are many other examples just so far in 2009; that's only the most recent one. Meanwhile, there are many problems with the Chinese government, but one of them is not that they hire mushy-headed whiners to interfere with their science and engineering curricula. They're serious about success. So, American legislators: all we're asking for is that our kids to have a fair shot at competing with business elsewhere in the world. That's all. Even if you can't help, do you think you can at least avoid being an obstruction?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Twenty Years Later, and China Still Hasn't Grown Up

It's sad to see how touchy the CCP is around the issue of Tiananmen Square 1989. It goes without saying that this is not the behavior of a modern, confident government, but it's par for the course for the country of censorship and the Great Firewall.

If Sweden Gets It, Why Don't We?

Sweden is relaxing regulation on nuclear power. What's wrong with the U.S.? To be honest, the environmental movement has been quiet recently and having a pro-nuclear President and a physicist Energy Secretary is a great time to show that nuclear power is green.

A Big Mistake by the Obama Administration

Can someone help me figure out what he's up to? Obama is making a mistake with his faith-based initiative. The idea isn't even popular anymore with most social conservatives, and with good reason: do Christians want their tax dollars going to Muslim charities? Or to atheist educational foundations? Probably not. Maybe Obama thinks that the non-believers he apparently tried to mollify by working them into his inauguration won't notice this; and it's not as if the social conservatives are suddenly going to love Obama for this. In any event, this is a big mistake on the Obama administration's part.

Google Orwell

I ran across the following today and thought this blog is as good a place as any to post it: Google now has an application to let your friends see where you are. This gives me shivers. Who would want this? I am not remotely interested in having my location passively available. Yes, I understand that if it counted, I could be tracked by my cell phone anyway - but that's different than intentionally making yourself more easily trackable. If I want someone to know where I am, I tell them ahead of time or I call them. If Google wants to develop this technology, that's up to them, but I find it odd that people are subjecting themselves to this kind of tracking voluntarily.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Economic Unrest in China

We're going to see more of this; my sense is it's being under-reported. Gordon Chang's 2001 The Coming Collapse of China seemed a little hard to believe when I read it some months ago; even with all the bad loans China's state-supported institutions have, they still have cash - but it's the wider class divisions in China and the irony that a Communist people's government its doing its best to oppress the working classes. Doesn't it always work out this way?

It's a given today that if it affects China, it affects you, and the future history of the world will look back on the twenty-first century and ask why the people of China and the U.S. made the decisions we did.

An Open Letter to Michael Steele

...not from me. I'm not the only one who thinks Steele is a good choice to lead the GOP back to its roots, something I've been arguing for for a long time.

The GOP has increasingly been focused on the wrong things, and while it has been and should continue to be a big-tent party, it has made a mistake in sacrificing American economic growth and technical competitiveness in order to shut up the extremists that have camped out inside that big-tent. This is why the open letter to Chairman Steele from David Silverman jumped out at me. An atheist, Silverman could not in good conscience vote for a party that told him he wasn't a real American. This is partly why I just voted for Obama as well.

"Good riddance" you say? You're already getting your wish. That seems to be what happened to a number of GOP politicians in Kansas the past couple years who are now back in business with a D next to their names. "[Mark] Parkinson chaired the state GOP from 1999 to 2003 but is now running as the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor. 'They were fixated on ideological issues that really don't matter to people's everyday lives,' he told the London Observer in June. 'What matters is improving schools and creating jobs. I got tired of the theological debate over whether Charles Darwin was right.'" This isn't some wacko with a blog; this was the chairman of the Kansas GOP. By the way, the article was written in 2006; he now is the Lieutenant Governor. With a D next to his name.

Going forward, the GOP has to decide whether it's going to keep losing my vote - and David Silverman's - and Mark Parkinson's (and Buckley Jr., and Kathleen Parker, etc. etc. etc.) and indeed those of millions of Americans who it's been pushing away. I hope Steele is the man for that job, otherwise the electoral blue invasion of the Heartland is going to continue.