Last Week in Weird

Here comes the rain again

For the last several weeks, Louisiana has been inundated with rain — reportedly receiving 6.9 trillion gallons of rainfall in one week alone — which has, of course, led to massive flooding. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the floods (though, thankfully, very few people have died), and many of them needed rescue. Fortunately, many area residents took it upon themselves to help their fellow man, and a loose coalition of boat owners called the "Cajun Navy" sprang up, which headed out to patrol flooded areas and search for people in distress. There is no doubt that the quick and comprehensive action of the Cajun Navy is much of the reason why so few people have been killed by this record-breaking flood, and it’s a wonderful and awe-inspiring thing to see people coming together to help those in need.

Of course, the government is upset at them because they didn’t ask permission, opting instead just to go save lives.


There is a huge contradiction in the witness' testimony!

What Do Words Mean Anyhow?

The Adam Smith Institute’s Tim Worstall claims to be one of the world’s foremost experts on scandium. Whether or not this is true I am ill-equipped to say, as I know almost exactly nothing about scandium. I assume they use it to make scanners, and I was figuring it was probably from Sweden, but then I realized I was confusing it with Scandinavium, a similar metal so heavy that Iron Maiden’s played there nine times. Anyhow, the point is: I don’t know anything about scandium, and I freely concede, in advance, any arguments about scandium I ever get into against Tim Worstall, who knows much more about scandium than he does about socialism. Sadly, it’s the latter he’s chosen to write about today, in an utterly bizarre article nominally about the mining strikes in Bolivia.

If you haven’t been following the Bolivian mining strikes, they’ve now escalated to the point where Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Rodolfo Illanes was recently kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by the strikers. Our friend Tim Worstall would have us believe that the strikers are protesting against socialism, but is that really the case? We’ll explore that very soon, but before we dive into the pièce de résistance, we need to whet our appetites with this lovely little amuse-bouche of stupidity:

Around here we usually make fun of Bolivarian socialism by reference to the idiocies which Nicolas Maduro has been imposing upon the people of Venezuela. They do, after all, call their system "Bolivarian socialism." Across the continent, in Bolivia, we also have a closely related Bolivian socialism. Evo Morales has often said that he takes inspiration from Hugo Chavez, and that the system he is using in Bolivia is similar. So, Bolivarian socialism in Bolivia then. Umm, perhaps both Bolivian and Bolivarian socialism?

Why yes, those do sound rather similar! What an astonishing coincidence! On a related note, I’ve always found it weird how similar the titles of Superman and Superman II are. What do you suppose were the odds that would just happen by chance, as it so obviously did? The universe is a mysterious place, my friends!


Reëxamining Some Thinking

In case you’re unfamiliar with Alicia Dearn, she’s a lawyer and establishment libertarian who worked in the Gary Johnson 2012 campaign, then went on to lobby for his VP slot in 2016 (only to get passed over for the worst possible choice). Last week, she made the following pronouncement:

Libertarians who think that the anti-discrimination laws are against libertarian ethics are wrong and need to re-examine their thinking.

I’m one of those horrible wrong libertarians, as I believe I’ve made clear once or twice recently, so I consider myself fortunate that I have Alicia Dearn to hand to guide me through reëxamining my thinking. Let’s see what she has for us!



Last Week in Weird

I’m Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite auction on the internet

Last year, Kapersky reported on the existence of a secret, highly sophisticated hacking group they dubbed the Equation Group. The Equation Group was all but confirmed to be a part of the NSA, due to its frequent use of encryption techniques otherwise only observed to be used by the NSA, and was discovered to be responsible for a series of highly advanced hacks that could do things no other known malware could do (such as rewrite hard drive firmware). Clearly, this was evidence that the United States government employed the most terrifying, invincible hackers anywhere in the world!

And then last week the Shadow Brokers announced that they’d stolen the whole suite of hacking tools, and offered to sell it to the highest bidder.



Last Week in Weird

Them coincidences keep on comin’

A month ago, a Democratic National Committee staffer called Seth Rich was shot to death in Washington D.C. The police advanced the notion that his killing was part of a robbery, which deranged conspiracy theorist his father refused to believe for no better reason than because absolutely nothing was stolen from the young man, despite the fact that he was carrying cash, credit cards, a cell phone, and a watch, all generally things that robbers display a tendency to rob. The internet picked up the story and ran with it, eventually linking Seth Rich to the DNC e-mail leak that led to the resignation of chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and a fairly hefty amount of embarrassment for the Clinton campaign. As snotty media outlets with large onhand supplies of scare quotes explained, though, this was a "crazy conspiracy" and a "fantasy," and as much Donald Trump’s fault as anything he was completely unconnected to could possibly be.

Then last week that crazy Julian Assange stopped just shy of confirming that, yes, Seth Rich was a Wikileaks source:

Our whistleblowers go to significant efforts to get us material, and often very significant risks. There’s a 27-year-old, works for the DNC, shot in the back — murdered — just a few weeks ago, for unknown reasons, as he was walking down the street in Washington…

I’m suggesting that our sources take risks, and they become concerned to see things occurring like that.



Last Week in Weird

Hat speech

One of the most enduring symbols of the American liberty movement is the Gadsden Flag. Designed by Colonel Christopher Gadsden in 1775, it consists of a bold yellow field emblazoned with a coiled rattlesnake — which had been used as a symbol of the American colonies since the 1750s — and the legend "don’t tread on me." Though it was originally designed as the standard to be flown by Commodore Hopkins’ flagship in the brand-new continental navy, its striking design and powerful message made it popular with liberty-minded sorts, and it was frequently used in the revolutionary government, and has remained in use to this day among the people opposed to what that government has become.

I’m sure you’ll be startled to hear that it’s racist.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is reportedly investigating the issue surrounding the ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ snake logo after an African American employee of a federal agency complained they [sic] were racially harassed when a co-worker wore a cap showing the symbol.

The complainant said he found the cap racially offensive to African Americans because the flag was designed by Christopher Gadsden, who [sic] he described as a ‘slave trader & owner of slaves’.


Second Helpings

I’m not letting go of this cake thing just yet. There’s much more to explore! First up, let’s take a look at the way economics is done. In economics, when we wish to elucidate a given concept, we often set up a simple thought experiment in which we hold all confounding factors constant, and just allow the one thing we’re interested in studying to vary. So to take a very simple example, we could propose the following:

Ron has a dollar in his pocket. He walks into a store that has twenty pieces of candy for sale. What is the highest price the store could charge that would allow Ron to buy all the candy?

Now, there’s nothing wrong with this example in a vacuum. It does, however, make a ton of assumptions — that all the candy is interchangeable from both Ron’s and the store’s perspective, that Ron would be willing to spend all his money on candy, that Ron would want all twenty pieces of candy at any price, that no other potential customers are also attempting to buy the candy, and so forth — that, while totally sensible from the limited perspective of our experiment, make it completely inapplicable as, say, a basis for public policy. If anybody were to say the government ought to intervene and set a maximum price of five cents on all candy so Ron can always buy it all, and that this example "proves" it, I suspect that basically nobody would have trouble understanding why that makes no sense.


Eating Your Cake nor Having It Neither

To think I was actually worried when Rand Paul suspended his campaign. Who would be there to make laughable, libertarian-lite remarks and to take utterly nonsensical positions in an attempt to compromise every principle with every claimant? Fortunately for me, Gary Johnson was there to take up the mantle, and, so far, he’s done a bang-up job of continuing the Rand Paulian message muddying. I’ve already reported that he declared religious freedom a "black hole" and said that he believes that the federal government should have unlimited authority to police human interaction so the dread bogeyman called "discrimination" wouldn’t force him to be a social conservative. Here’s the quotation most apropos to today:

[T]he objective here is to say that discrimination is not allowed for by business… I just see religious freedom, as a category, as just being a black hole.

So that was your Libertarian Party nominee for president last week. The reason I bring this up again is because the Clinton News Network had one of its laughable "Libertarian Party Town Hall" specials, in which Gary Johnson frustrates the network by sounding like a more feminine Hillary Clinton rather than a more feminine Donald Trump, and thus siphons voters from entirely the wrong side. Among many, many other moments of weirdness, Gary Johnson said this thing:


"The Problem With SoCalism," on the other hand, is a book about... oh, the same thing.

Book Review: The Problem With Socialism

Dr. Thomas J. DiLorenzo’s new book, The Problem With Socialism, hardly could have come at a better time; the socialist fever is riding high in the United States, with demagogues like Vermont senator Bernie Sanders selling the idea that ancient, discredited economic philosophies are somehow the wave of the future, while simultaneously telling people that the failed government economic planning that has dominated most of our lifetimes is somehow a function of "capitalism." Those of us who value the truth are always in need of new weapons in our arsenal, and this book is a valuable addition.

The Problem With Socialism is a short book, clearly designed for a popular and not a scholarly audience — if you’re looking for a deep philosophical disquisition about the flaws and failures inherent in socialism, Ludwig von Mises’ 1922 classic Socialism remains the gold standard in the field. The Mises book, of course, is six hundred pages long and dense in the way that only German philosophy can be, and requires days if not weeks of study to comprehend, making it unsuitable for people who want a quick introduction to the field, or for giving to one’s friends or children who have become "socialism-curious;" they’ll simply never read it. DiLorenzo’s book, on the other hand, is admirably suited to the task, fluidly written, easily readable in one setting and accessible enough that even a socialist could understand it.


Smell ya later!

Last Week in Weird

Gary Blues

Somebody must have told Gary Johnson that I actually wrote faintly nice things about the Libertarian Party, because he wasted absolutely no time making me regret them. Here he goes making disjointed, rambling remarks to the Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney, in which he states that the federal government should have unlimited power to force people to associate with one another, with, evidently, the single exception that he personally shouldn’t be forced to be a social conservative. You think I’m just trying to make him sound like a fool, but, no, that is pretty much exactly what he says. When Carney asked if the government of New Mexico — Gary’s own home state — should have the power to punish photographers for refusing to cover gay weddings, Gary sputtered out this crazy thing:

Look. Here’s the issue. You’ve narrowly defined this. But if we allow for discrimination — if we pass a law that allows for discrimination on the basis of religion — literally, we’re gonna open up a can of worms when it come stop discrimination of all forms, starting with Muslims… who knows. You’re narrowly looking at a situation where if you broaden that, I just tell you — on the basis of religious freedom, being able to discriminate — something that is currently not allowed — discrimination will exist in places we never dreamed of…

It’s the right message, and I’m sideways with the Libertarian Party on this. My crystal ball is that you are going to get discriminated against by somebody because it’s against their religion. Somehow you have offended their religion because you’ve walked in and you’re denied service. You. (Emphasis original)