Archive for May, 2008

Bob Barr candidacy fails market test

Monday, May 26th, 2008

I was going to post this at Midas Oracle, but there seems to be a software problem there [fixed, edited version posted there], so I’ll post here, with added vitriol and pejoratives I would not have used there.

Yesterday at about 5:30PM EDT the Libertarian Party (U.S.) nominated ex-Congressperson Bob Barr for temporary dictator. Barr’s nomination does not appear to have been certain — it took five rounds of voting, including two rounds where he tied for first and one in which in placed second.

So what do the relevant prediction markets make of this new information? Is Barr a contender, a potential spoiler, or irrelevant?

At Intrade, PRES.FIELD2008 has attracted no trades since May 22, three days before Barr’s nomination. We didn’t need a market to tell us a Libertarian Party nominee would not be a contender, nor help the chances of another non-Democrat and non-Republican.

The idea that Barr could be a spoiler is not completely ridiculous on its face (Barr and Wayne Allen Root, his running mate, are both recent ex-Republicans). However, PRES.DEM2008 has attracted no trades since May 24, the day before Barr’s nomination, while PRES.REP2008 did not trade between 18 hours before the nomination and over 3 hours after.

I think we can conclude that traders believe Barr’s nomination will have no impact on the outcome of the U.S. temporary dictator election. And, sadly, that volume on Intrade is pathetic.

It should be no surprise that traders dismiss the impact of the Libertarian Party’s choice. The last time they nominated a marginally credible candidate — in , another (then) ex-Republican ex-Congressperson, Ron Paul — they received 0.5% of the total vote.

Regarding the Libertarian Party generally, I can’t say it much better than Tim Lee:

Ultimately, I wish the LP would just go away. The structure of American elections dooms third parties to perpetual failure and obscurity, and that, in turn, creates a vicious cycle where the most talented activists and potential candidates go elsewhere, causing the party to be even more out of touch and politically tone-deaf in the next election. But given that the party is going to nominate somebody, Barr was probably the best choice. He’s a reasonably credible candidate, he’s got decent media skills, and so far, at least, I haven’t seen him take any positions that I strongly disagree with (since his road-to-damascus conversion in 2006, anyway). But I don’t plan to support his candidacy because while he may be the least-bad option on this November’s ballot, he certainly isn’t the kind of person I want associated with libertarianism. And every vote he gets will mean more visibility for the embarrassing candidate the party is likely to nominate in 2012.

Memorial Day (U.S.)

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Another year, another fine day to honor draft dodgers, deserters, and anyone with enough sense to not join the murderous gangs sponsored by any jurisdiction.

Some say it is a fine day to criticize politicians (emphasis added):

One would hope that this day, above all others, would be a time for condemning those whose lies and failures resulted in thousands of their fellow citizens being killed.

Though it may annoy to see the current temporary dictator strut with former murder gang members/slaves, now hilariously motorcycle gang members, the above leaves me with two reactions, following.

First, boredom. What day does not pass for a good day to criticize hypocritical politicians? I reserve this day for honoring those who have not taken part and those who got a clue and got out. If anyone must be condemned today, let’s keep it on the level of those actually doing the killing. Take for example this so-sad story of a gang member and gang recruiter who killed himself:

“He told me he kicked down over 1,000 doors,” Maxey said. “He was the lead guy, the first one to go in, and most of the time it was the wrong place. There would be terrified old people and little kids sitting there.”

Good riddance.

Second, the author of the first quote above is part of the problem, for buying into nationalist rhetoric. If he really had to dwell on the higher ups, he should have written this:

One would hope that this day, above all others, would be a time for condemning those whose lies and failures resulted in thousands of murders.

No index.php

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

On a mailing list I’m on someone just pointed to It’s been awhile since I’ve run across that site (or, before it existed, Slashdot commenters condemning use of TCWWW — The Cursed WWW), but I strongly agree — www. in a domain name is pointless.

Even worse is index.php in the path. You’ve taken the time to publish a website, now take a few minutes to make its URLs less ugly. I’m not going to bother setting up, but someone should. However, in the spirit of, here are a couple resources for removing index.php from popular software installations:

Please remove index.php from your URLs, or signal that you have no taste, no technical abilities, or both.


The Cult of the Presidency

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

April 23 I saw Gene Healy speak in San Francisco on his book The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Presidential Power. I’d noticed recently that Tim Lee thinks Healy is great, I’m extremely sympathetic to the idea that the temporary dictatorship is a problem, and the event was held on the top floor of (sadly) , with great views.

I found the talk pretty uninteresting, consisting of too many quotes indicating people expect the U.S. president to be a parental figure and warlord at the same time and a standard libertarian critique that simply says presidents who do a lot are by definition bad — Healy likes and . I tend to agree (though I favor ), but none of this is remotely news. Healy used a cute name for partisan interpretation of rules — “situational constitutionalism” — but didn’t bother to spell out why he thinks partisanship leads to the expansion of executive power rather than (or at least more than) a check on it.

Overall I got the impression Healy knew a whole lot of facts about the U.S. presidency and its baneful impact on the polity and culture, but not much more. His responses to questions from the audience indicated he hadn’t really thought about excessive executive power relative to judicial and legislative abuses, executive power in other jurisdictions, nor any approach to limiting executive power, each of which is many times more interesting than any particular collection of facts about any U.S. president or the presidency. To me.

I hope the book does very well and is read by many people who either don’t think the U.S. presidency is too powerful or is only too powerful when their preferred party is not in power.

Jim Lippard blogged about Healy speaking in Phoenix and had a more favorable impression.

View from 52nd floor of 555 California, looking southeast.

Gene Healy speaks.

Of course Obama is elitist

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

So are Clinton and McCain. They all consider themselves worthy of the temporary dictatorship.

If I took a more sanguine view of the U.S. presidency I would demand only elite candidates. The most abominable, I mean powerful, person in the world had better be the smartest and wisest possible person available.

The alternative to demanding an elite is demanding a demagogue. It never fails to stun and embarrass me to see the preponderance of discourse demanding the latter, while politicians comply by running away from any charge of elitism while reveling in demagoguery.

This weakness is one reason I try to only follow electoral races in highly digested form, though it is hard to avoid reading headlines, thus this post.