Liberaltarians: Liberals and Libertarians Uniting

I’ve often discussed the incompatibility between libertarianism and conservativism as Republcans have increasingly embraced big government and have allligned themselves with the religious right. Brink Lindsey also realizes that liberals and libertarians share considerable common ground (with his article also cross posted at The New Repubic). Sebastian Mallaby also discusses this at The Washington Post.

While we might not agree on every specific, much of Lindsey’s article (quoted below) is consistent with the approach I’ve taken at Liberal Values. I’ve been uncompromising in my commitment to liberalism as a philosophy which has its orgins in support of individual and economic liberty. I disagree with Lindsey on one point but this actually makes the chances of alliance greater. Lindsey believes, “progressives remain stubbornly resistant to embracing capitalism, their great natural ally.” While perhaps true of many progressives, I am a business owner and a capitalist. My objection to conservativism is not to capitalism, but to the tendency of conservatives to support “free markets” as an excuse to allow the fox to guard the hen house, and find their support corporate welfare to be more common than support for true capitalism.

Lindsey wriites that we can find a viable compromise “by treating economic policy issues as technical, empirical questions about what does and doesn’t work, rather than as tests of ideological commitment.” That is exactly how I approach the issue, with a bias towards limiting government involvement unless the value of government action can be demonstrated. This bias should generally assist with reaching agreements, however I suspect that my experince in health care, and seeing the failure of private business efforts as compared to government, would lead to some disagreements on empirical questions of handling entitlement programs which Lindsey also discusses in his article.

A portion of Lindsey’s article follows under the fold: (more…)

Chopra: If The Universe Didn’t Have Imagination, Neither Would We.

Deepak Chopra is on to part seven of his review of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, but has yet to provide any signs that he ever read the book. If he did, he certainly doesn’t understand any of it. Previously we “learned” from Chopra that we can prove the existence of God from the existence of yellow flowers and that “we are in god as a fish is in water.” In this installment, which he claims will be the second from last , we learn that “if the universe didn’t have imagination, neither would we.”

To Chopra, the universe really is a conscious entity with imagination. To attempt to put this installment’s absurdity into context, attempt to make sense of the full paragraph:

Nature is constantly remembering. Nature is constantly creating, exercising imagination, discovering quantum leaps. When hydrogen and oxygen combined, the result wasn’t another inert gas. It was water, and water represents a huge imaginative leap on the part of the universe. The reason one can say this with confidence is simple: if the universe didn’t have imagination, neither would we. That’s what it means to be imbedded in the field. Nothing we know about ourselves can be separated from what Nature displays.

Which finally, at long last, breathes new life into God.

Of course there is more in the post, and PZ Myers sums it all up:

Shorter Deepak Chopra: “I don’t know how DNA works, so there must be an omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient God-field who does.”

To that I would add that Chopra writes as iff human knowledge has hit a barrier and we will never learn more about what he finds mysterious. The things which Chopra finds to be a mystery today, such as how DNA works and how consciousness works, will inevitably be better understood as a result of scientific examination. At that point, Chopra finding God in human consciousness will be shown to be as absurd as finding God in storms, earth quakes, or other natural phenomenon as ancient humans did.

Related posts on Deepak Chopra

Second ESPN Writer Criticizes Choice of Florida Over Michigan

Another writer at ESPN has criticized the manner in which voters chose Florida to go to the national championship game to avoid a Michigan v. Ohio State rematch. Pat Forde wrote:
The voters have spoken. Between Gator chomps, here’s what they said:

Never mind.Never mind what we did the last couple of weeks, voting Michigan ahead of Florida. We’ve changed our minds because, hey, we can.

Because the rematch thing suddenly became too real. Because when Urban Meyer politicks, we listen. Because we thought it was time to throw the embittered SEC a bone after stonewalling Auburn’s national title bid two years ago.

We thought the Wolverines were better than Florida back in November — and even though Michigan hasn’t played a down of football since Nov. 18, we’ve decided that we don’t think so anymore. We were dazzled by the Gators’ work since that date: a seven-point victory over Florida State and a 10-point win over Arkansas. And we decided that Ohio State-Michigan was not in need of a sequel.

That’s our story and we’re sticking to it. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’d like to put our fake nose and glasses back on and return to anonymity. These publicized ballots make us more accountable than we’d prefer. Goodbye.

Once again, Florida and the ballot box have made for a wildly controversial combination. Six years ago it was hanging chads. This year the voters are hanging Chad (Henne) out to dry outside the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.

Some system, huh? You’ve got to love a sport that reduces its championship to a politicized popularity contest/guessing game.

I really don’t have a problem with a Florida-Ohio State title game. In fact, I prefer it to Ohio State-Michigan — prefer to see a battle of conference champs, and prefer not to put the Buckeyes in double jeopardy against a team they’ve already beaten.

But I don’t like the way it came about.

On Nov. 26, the Wolverines led the Gators by 86 points in the Harris Poll and 30 points in the USA Today poll. By Sunday morning there had been a 154-point reversal in the Harris poll and a 56-point swing in the USA Today poll.

That was shocking. If you were already predisposed to voting Michigan ahead of Florida, I didn’t see enough in that game to merit that kind of turnaround. We certainly didn’t see anything from Michigan to merit a demotion, given the fact that the Wolverines weren’t playing.

Which makes me suspect that habitual slot voters massaged their ballots simply to block a rematch — something they should have considered the previous two weeks, it seems.

Or perhaps they simply liked the sound of Meyer’s insistent voice, as he lobbied like nobody since Mack Brown groveled Texas into the Rose Bowl two years ago. If we’ve learned one lesson from recent BCS history, it’s this: Whiners win. And that will only breed more whining in the future.

(Harris Poll voter Jim Walden was apparently so smitten by Meyer’s pitch that he became the only voter on the planet to put Florida No. 1, ahead of Ohio State. Walden also voted Oklahoma fourth, Boise State fifth, Wake Forest seventh and LSU 11th. Makes me wonder whether we were watching the same sport all fall.)

Here’s something else we learned this weekend: When the going gets tough, voting is optional. Buckeyes boss Jim Tressel flat refused to vote in the final USA Today coaches’ poll and got away with it.

Tress was OK with voting every other week of the year. But now it’s time to cast the final ballot — which, coincidentally, will be made public — he suddenly bails out?

Nice precedent there. How many coaches made a mental note of that maneuver and will try to employ it next year? What if 10 coaches decide that propriety demands an abstention on the critical (and public) final ballot?

Tressel will say he didn’t want to influence the outcome of a vote that decided who his team will face for the title. But if he voted in August, September, October and November, he damn well ought to vote in December, too.

Of course, in a rational world the polls would be little more than curiosities, and the championship would be decided on the field. As Meyer himself said on ESPN Sunday night, the voters are “asked to do a job you can’t do.”

Divining the difference between 11-1 Michigan and 12-1 Florida is truly an impossible task — though at least the voters were spared from splitting hairs in triplicate when USC spit the bit against UCLA.

The only way to know for sure is, of course, a playoff. But if you call a Division I-A university president today, you’ll probably get the following ramble: “academic concerns … length of season … maintain integrity of the regular season … Meineke Car Care … MPC Computers … once-in-a-lifetime experience … this is a recording. …”

“Next year’s going to be the same thing,” Meyer said Sunday night.

Please, Urban, don’t go ruining 2007 already.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for He can be reached at

Related Stories:

ESPN Columnist: Michigan was Robbed
Election Day in College Football

Kerry Attacker Exposed as Fraud

Many believe the attacks on John Kerry’s war record were a major reason for his loss in the 2004 election, even though the charges were exposed as false and many of those launching the attacks were exposed as partisan hacks whose stories contradicted both the military record and often their own previous statements. Yet another Kerry attacker has been exposed.

In October, Paul Morin, National Commander of the American Legion attacked Kerry by repeating the false charge that Kerry’s botched joke was an attack on the troops despite the fact that it was clearly an attack on George Bush when evaluated in context. The prepared text further verified that this was a joke about George Bush. Morin compounded this dishonesty by misquoting Kerry’s Vietnam era testimony as an attack on his fellow troops. Kerry’s testimony was actually a statement supporting the troops, including calling for better health benefits and ending the policies of the Nixon administration which often placed the troops in untenable situations. Morin, as do many conservatives, misquoted Kerry’s answer about the testimony presented at the Winter Soldier hearings to falsely claim Kerry was attacking the troops.

Morin was exposed by the Boston Globe for falsely claiming to have served in Vietnam. After repeating Morin’s claims to have served in Vietnam, they report that, “according to his military records, Morin spent his entire two years of Army service, from 1972 to 1974, at that Army training base.” While the false charges about Kerry’s war record have been debunked in the past, we now have evidence that one of Kerry’s attackers actually fabricated his own war record. We have yet another example of someone who did not serve in Vietnam attacking the record and integrity of someone who did serve there.

The Obama Legend Jolts 2008 Campaign

Obamamania continues. The Washingtonian has an excellent profile on The Legend of Barack Obama and it is well worth reading the entire article. Obama’s charisma is a large part of the story:

A few short years ago, no one had heard of the skinny Chicago state senator and constitutional-law professor with the big ears and the funny name. A few months ago, he would have gamely demurred when asked if he’d run for president in 2008. Now all bets are off. According to advisers, colleagues, and friends, Obama just might be willing to be the next president of the United States. It would be the capstone of an amazing rise for a politician whose charisma and personal story—half-Ken­yan, half-Kansan, a Hawaii-born, Harvard-educated lawyer—has breathed life into the Democratic Party.

At the heart of “Obamania” is his personality and presence—part preacher, part professor, part movie star. His charisma seems effortless, his charm an afterthought. National Journal White House reporter Alexis Simendinger recalls the first time Obama visited the White House after his election. He was mingling in the East Room with other members of Congress. As she watched him move through the crowd, a photographer asked, “Who is that guy? He’s certainly got ‘It.’ ”

The question now is how far “it” takes Obama—and how fast.

A vague attribute of “it” might create limitations or limit Obama to a few minutes of celebrity, but Obama shows there is substance to. I was impressed with his recent book, which he reportedly actually wrote himself. I do hope he follows this up with more specifics as to what he would do should he run for President. He is starting out well for a freshman Senator, although it is not clear that this is sufficient to qualify him to be President yet.

In Washington, Obama has become a policy wonk. “He’s an amazing person in his capacity to understand the issues,” says Chris Lu. Obama also has worked to develop the framework for his worldview and approach to governing. “Early on he wanted to come up with an overarching narrative,” says Samantha Power, who worked with him on foreign policy. “I was really struck by that desire to front-load the big thinking, the toughness of cracking this nut, articulating this balance between freedom and security.”

Obama has been frustrated by what he sees as the Senate’s wasted opportunities. “I think what has frustrated him more than the process itself is how the Republicans aren’t interested in the issues that he thinks are important to the American people,” says Lu, who explains that Obama would rather concentrate on issues facing the middle class, like healthcare and education, instead of the ideological issues the Republicans have been pushing. Says Obama, “A lot of times what gets done in Washington on a day-to-day basis isn’t all that much.”

The senator’s highest-profile ventures have been bipartisan, including a tutelage in nuclear nonproliferation with Indiana’s Richard Lugar that took Obama to Eastern Europe and Russia, an effort to bring transparency to government contracting with Oklahoma senator Tom Coburn, and a push for immigration reform with Florida’s Mel Martinez. Obama was the first to raise the threat of avian flu on the Senate floor and has spoken out for victims of Hurricane Katrina, pushed for alternative-energy development, and championed improved veterans’ benefits—all while working to expand his support in Illinois, where he held 39 town-hall meetings in his first year. “You have to devote time—things don’t just happen here because of who he is,” Butts says.

With all the prominent Democrats looking at a 2008 run it is hard to believe that Obama is suddently being seen as a front runner. The New York Times writes that the possibility of Obama running is jolting the 2008 field:

But more than simply picking up the pace, Democrats increasingly believe that Mr. Obama has the potential of upending the dynamics of the 2008 contest more than any other Democrat who might run — short, perhaps, of Al Gore, the former vice president, whom some Democrats are pressing to run.

In Mr. Obama, Democrats have a prospective candidate who both underlines and compensates for the potential weaknesses that worry many Democrats about Mrs. Clinton.

He is a fervent opponent of the war in Iraq, and Democrats see him as an exceedingly warm campaigner with a compelling personality and a striking ability to command a crowd. He has no known major political baggage (though he has yet to encounter anything approaching the level of scrutiny Mrs. Clinton has undergone during her years in public life). And Mr. Obama can even match Mrs. Clinton’s arresting political storyline if he tries to became the nation’s first black president as she seeks to become its first female president.

While other candidates had hoped that lightening would strike and they’d survive as the main alternative to Hillary Clinton, Obama’s sudden prominence makes it much more difficult for candidates like Bayh, Vilsack, Dodd, Ricardson, or Biden to gain traction. While John Kerry has the name recognition and cash on hand to make a run if he desires, he has had to postpone his decision in response to questions raised by his handling of the attacks following his recent botched joke. At the moment a Kerry nomination appears to be an uphill battle, but we saw when Kerry came back from trailing Al Sharpton in the polls in the fall of 2003 to winning the nomination that predictions this far out, with regards to any candidate, mean very little.

Iran Restricts Internet Use

Yesterday I noted a means to evade internet censorship. Iran is showing why this is needed. The Guardian reports new restrictions on internet browsing:

Iran yesterday shut down access to some of the world’s most popular websites. Users were unable to open popular sites including and YouTube following instructions to service providers to filter them.

Similar edicts have been issued against Wikipedia, the internet encyclopaedia,, an online film database, and the New York Times site. Attempts to open the sites are met with a page reading: “The requested page is forbidden.”

The clampdown was ordered by senior judiciary officials in the latest phase of a campaign that has seen high-speed broadband facilities banned in an attempt to impede “corrupting” foreign films and music. It is in line with a campaign by Iran’s Islamist president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to purge the country of western cultural influences.

The bans also extend to the BBC’s Farsi news service. Iran is not alone in limiting internet access:

Iran was among 13 countries branded “enemies of the internet” last month by the human rights group, Reporters Without Borders, which cited state-sanctioned blocking of websites and the widespread intimidation and jailing of bloggers.

Cost, Not Choice, Limits Access to Health Coverage

Conservatives have sometimes objected to Democratic proposals to make health care more affordable by claiming it isn’t necessary. They try to downplay the growing number of uninsured by claiming they are people who just choose not to purchase insurance. A recent study contradicts this:

A majority of uninsured Americans lack coverage because they cannot afford it — not because they have turned it down, according to a new study.

‘There is a middle group of people who are not eligible for public programs and, in reality, can`t afford coverage,’ said study co-author John Holahan, director of the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute.

‘They`re effectively left behind,’ he told United Press International.

Of the 44.6 million uninsured Americans, 56 percent are ineligible for public programs and have insufficient incomes to afford coverage on their own, according to a study of data from the Current Population Survey by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the Urban Institute appearing this week on the Web site of the journal Health Affairs.

Another 25 percent of the uninsured are eligible for public programs, and the remaining 20 percent have incomes high enough to afford coverage.

Those most likely to fall into this coverage gap are young, childless adults, the study found.

Some have argued that many young people without coverage could afford it but feel healthy and simply choose to spend their money on other things, Holahan said.

But according to the study data 69 percent the 25.5 million uninsured childless adults in the United States are ineligible for public programs but cannot afford coverage on their own.

‘Some of these people are in good health — young adults, teenagers — but a lot aren`t,’ he said.

The affordability barriers facing uninsured parents are only slightly less severe: Of more than 11 million uninsured parents, 60 percent cannot afford coverage and have no access to public assistance.

The biggest reason for the lack of access to health insurance is the high cost, the researchers write. The threshold they used was 300 percent of the 2004 federal poverty level: $28,935 for a single person and $57,921 for a family of four. They calculated that people at these income levels would pay 14 percent of their incomes for individual coverage and 17 percent of their incomes for family coverage.

Annual Survey of Internet Users Released

The sixth annual survey of the impact of the Internet conducted by the USC-Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future found that the online world is as important as the real world to many internet users. The project surveys the same group of over 2,000 individuals each year to study how online technology affects their lives. The study also examines how changes in technology, such as the shift towards broadband internet access, affects behavior. Among the findings:

Involvement in online communities leads to offline actions. More than one-fifth of online community members (20.3 percent) take actions offline at least once a year that are related to their online community. A significant majority of members of online communities (56.6 percent) log into their community at least once a day.

Participation in online communities leads to social activism. Almost two-thirds of online community members who participate in social causes through the Internet (64.9 percent) say they are involved in causes that were new to them when they began participating on the Internet. And more than 40 percent (43.7 percent) of online community members participate more in social activism since they started participating in online communities.

The number of Internet users in America who keep a blog has more than doubled in three years (now 7.4 percent of users, up from 3.2 percent in 2003). The number of Internet users who post photos online has more than doubled in three years (now 23.6 percent of users, up from 11 percent). The number of users who maintain their own Web site continues to grow steadily (now 12.5 percent of users).

Internet users are finding growing numbers of online friends, as well as friends they first met online and then met in person. In 2006, Internet users report having met an average of 4.65 friends online whom they have never met in person. Internet users in 2006 report an average of 1.6 friends met in person whom they originally met online — more than double the number when the Digital Future Project began in 2000.

GOP Pays $135K in Phone Jamming Suit

From The New York Times:

State and national Republicans will pay $135,000 to settle a suit involving a scheme to jam Democratic get-out-the-vote calls on Election Day 2002, officials said Saturday.

”Although we believed our case was very strong, the cost of the trial as well as expected appeals by the New Hampshire Democratic Party would have easily matched or exceeded the present value of the settlement,” state Republican Chairman Wayne Semprini said.

Republicans had hired a telemarketing firm to place hundreds of hang-up calls to phone banks for the Democratic Party and the Manchester firefighters union, a nonpartisan group offering rides to the polls. Service was disrupted for nearly two hours.

Democrats had wanted more than $4 million in damages — the cost of seven months’ work for the get-out-the-vote effort. Republicans maintained they should only have had to pay about $4,000 — the cost of rental and use of the phones.