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It shouldn’t be that tough for newspapers to figure out this newfangled Digital Age-thing before it’s too late — except that it’s journalists doing the figuring.

Here, for free, from a ex-newspaper guy who did everything he could for 35 years to make papers livelier, more interesting and more ideologically diverse, is how to turn your average daily newspaper around and turn it back into a relevant news-making, news-breaking force for the public good:

Take 20 young reporters, give them iPhones, a laptop, a decent camera, a geographic beat — and tell them to get out of the office and never come back unless there’s a going-away party they have to attend.

All day long the reporters are supposed to cruise their territories, looking for real news but also blogging about whatever they see that’s interesting, funny, important, etc. They should interview people on the street or wherever. They should take photos or video of car wrecks or drug dealers or other photo-ops.

The reporters’ content should go straight to the newspaper’s digital news desk where it is put up on the (geographically organized) web site as fast and as lightly edited as possible. Mistakes will be made; big deal; mistakes will be fixed in three seconds.

If a plane crashes in her territory, the reporter is right there with instant photos and quick tweets and blogs and content sent to the digital news desk — which can now break the video and news faster and better than TV or radio can; no longer is the newspaper last with the news, but first (again). Other reporters and their iPhones flock to the plane crash scene ASAP, blogging, tweeting, reporting their butts off.

The web site editors build the story on the fly (sorry, plane crash victims) from reporters’ reports/photos/video, plus citizen/crowd input. The web site eventually hands off everything it has to the print people, who use the web content and other content (perspective, analysis, whatever) to put the big (or little) story together for the next day’s newspaper.

Web site first, paper second. Every day. All scoops appear on the web first.

On Day 2, the paper’s deeper content is stashed/archived on the web site ASAP for the rest of eternity, where it can — unlike the last 100 years of newspapers’ content — be found easily by all.

Monetize this process; tout the news-breaking, bottoms-up, in-your-community coverage of the digital side and take full advantage of the digital age. Make a real news partnership with a TV station.

Put the deep, smart, ideologically diverse analysis and commentary in the paper first, then move it to the web; do investigative stuff in the paper first, then to the web.

Use the web to promote and feed the paper and the paper to promote and feed the web.

Trust the reporters.

Trust the readers.

Make apps about movies, clubs, restaurants, sports, etc., that a kid might want to be caught dead downloading.

Change.

It’s already too late.

Charity: it's for God damned communists.

Charity: it’s for God damned communists.

Today we have Scott Parker, who begins his tale of redemption thusly:

During college, a friend admitted he was confounded by my politics. He didn’t know how to reconcile my libertarianism with my other commitments. We were Buddhists and vegetarians, and I knew exactly what he meant. The tension centered around compassion. He wanted to know how someone concerned with the world’s suffering wouldn’t adopt a more compassionate political perspective.

How to reconcile? Let’s see, you personally believe in Buddhism and practice it. You, I assume since the vegetarianism is in reference to”compassion,” are concerned about factory farming and the suffering of animals, so you personally do not eat meat. And you personally believe that a small government is the most effective pragmatically for society (and more wealth and more success leads to more money for charity!) or morally (it’s my life, my money, my choice!) or even both (free markets are best, small, decentralized government is more efficient and more choice is moral). You chose all three beliefs. None of them conflict with the others. This hand-wringing over the contradictions within are a screamingly false scenario.  Since it’s the entire first graf, it’s hard to want to keep reading. But let’s all the same.

Parker has the ghost of fair point buried in the rest of his vaguely written piece, that libertarianism or free markets can sound too easy a solution in our big, complex world. But that is only to and coming from people who don’t know what libertarianism or free markets means. People say communism works only on paper (though it doesn’t really) and that being true of libertarianism instead is a popular liberal critique of the latter. Parker notes this, and he notes that he now believes libertarianism doesn’t work in the real world. This sounds profound, because it implies that he, and other critics, have taken the time to actually consider the ideology before dismissing it. But they haven’t. It’s just a variation on the asinine idea that saying “the market will take care of it” is somehow equal to saying the government will take care of it, or the deus ex machina will. See: lots of liberal jokes about the invisible hand.

Saying the market will take care of it is simply saying that voluntary decisions will be made, leading to a likely to be localized solution to, say, a lack of restaurant diversity or transportation options in a city. And there are concerns over this. No respectable libertarian believes in utopia, only improvement.  And they wonder over who will help the very poor or disadvantaged. They have written books upon articles upon books about every facet of this. And somehow, often, even in our crony capitalist, big government world, people will see a problem and try to solve it, either because they are motivated by enlightened self-interest or because people, for myriad reasons, do actually work hard in other to help people who are down on their luck, either temporarily or permanently. They do. But liberalism demands that we ignore the stunning voluntary generosity of people, because it is inconvenient to the ideology that some people must force others to help others. (But help often means in a bureaucratic, stifling manner that may include zoning or health regulations or other laws that unquestionably restrict voluntary charity.)

So why does someone like Parker, who claims to have read certain (unnamed) books on libertarianism imply with every word that he was the first libertarian to consider compassion, or to worry about the poor? Why does he not mention a single scholar, author, thinker, or anyone else to demonstrate what he believed before, and what he believes now as a healthily nuanced liberal?

Because it’s about feelings in the end! And Parker felt bad.

 My thoughts and feelings were at odds. The feeling nagging me was that I couldn’t reconcile my humanity with my ideology any more than my friend could for me. Over time, that feeling became a reason in its own right.

It’s hard not to think he just gave in to peer pressure. He convinced himself he couldn’t possibly care about people without wanting to force others to do so in a rigid, legalistic fashion.

But why is (supposed) rigidity only the domain of the libertarian (or, we presume, the communist)? Why is, people will figure out their own lives and the lives of their loved ones, and maybe help figure out the lives of the people in their cities or neighborhoods or blocks, somehow a one-size fits all, abstract, clunky philosophy? And of course “more government spending, more federal oversight, we’ll hash it out in Congress” is not? And when does Parker’s new noble, compromising and “messy” virtue become slightly less virtuous, after the second Iraq war? A couple of drone strikes? The war on drugs?

Parker is reminiscent of one of those people who responds “run for office!” or “vote!” when you express moral qualms over something, even something they as a progressive should agree is wrong, such as war or injust imprisonment. Say, aren’t some things just wrong? Rape is surely wrong, but isn’t decades in prison, with the potential for rape, over the consumption and sale of a substance? Murder has got to be wrong, the ultimate wrong. So maybe murder by missile and drone is the very same thing, no matter who voted for what, or how neat and tidy the process of getting there happened to be?

It’s not lazy ideology to say that the onus should not be on the person whose life is being ruined to prove it should not be. (Not to mention, voting and running for office is more likely to lead to no change at all.)

Libertarians philosophy is chock full of thinkers and writers, none of whom Parker bothered to mention. But more importantly, government, not libertarianism, is the entity that tries to fill every crevice of human experience and existence without nuance. It is the intellectually feeble answer to every real or imagined ill. And what is more smug than believing you know best how strangers should live their lives, and you know it so damned well, it’s going to happen by force?

Previously on Salon’s Praise Me, I Am No Longer a Libertarian: ‘What’s The Point of This Salon Article By a Man Who Went From Libertarianism to Liberalism?’

799px-Bushmaster_M17S_rightFor their Facebook page, The Guardian chose an interesting pull-quote from a piece on school shootings and gun control:

Schools now practice lockdown drills to prepare students for what to do if a shooter does enter the building. These drills entail getting all students out of the hallways, turning off the lights, locking doors, and having students sit silently on the floor and away from the windows. These drills are practiced multiple times a year, so these issues are constantly on students’ and teachers’ minds.

Silly me was damn sure this was a Lenore Skenazy-esque plea for sanity in a time of unprecedented safety, happiness, and prosperity for our nation and for our young people. Sadly, author (and teacher, that’s going to come up a lot) Ashley Lauren Samsa is not about that. She desperately wants President Obama to do something about the gun violence in America, particularly in our schools. Samsa supports a ban on automatic weapons and background checks for every firearms purchase. That’s fine, in that her opinion is not an uncommon one — it’s even the majority one for the latter measure — and more importantly, it is her prerogative to argue whatever she wishes. But read how she begins her plea for fewer guns, and tell me if it strikes you as odd:

As a teacher, I expected to return to my classroom after the holidays refreshed and ready for the second half of the year. That’s happened to a certain extent, but I can’t ignore the ongoing violence in America’s schools. On 14 January, a 12-year-old boy in New Mexico came to school with a sawed-off, 20-gauge shotgun and opened fire, wounding two students before a teacher was able to persuade him to put the gun down. On 17 January, two high school students were injured at a charter school in Philadelphia when another teen opened fire. On 20 January, a student sitting in the parking lot of Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania was injured by an unknown gunman. On 21 January, ateaching assistant was killed by a gunman at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Yesterday, the University of Oklahoma was shut downbecause a member of the faculty reported hearing what he thought were three gunshots, though, fortunately, police are now saying what he heard was more likely machinery backfiring.

All this horror in the the first weeks of January alone.

Not one of these events has prompted the national uproar America saw after the Sandy Hook shooting on 14 December 2012. While the damage done at these schools was far less than that done at Sandy Hook – where 20 children and six staff members were killed – the lack of attention paid to these events is indicative of a larger issue: Americans are becoming numb to gun violence.

For teachers, however, these tragedies are all too real. With so many of these shootings – many of them the worst the nation has seen – taking place at schools and universities, we educators can’t help but feel afraid.

Four injuries in side a school, one outside by an unknown actor who potentially had no connection to the school. One death. And best of all, one case of “machinery backfiring.” The juxtaposition between that anticlimactic incident and the sentence beginning with “All this horror…” is inadvertently hilarious, which is not the tone Samsa intended. And she goes on, even more bizarrely, to suggest a numbness towards school and gun violence has occurred since Sandy Hook. Why? Because five injuries, one death, and one case of loud noises had not provoked the same reaction as twenty slaughtered six-year-olds? Hell, I turned on the TV a few days ago and CNN was broadcasting a press conference about the shooting by the 12-year-old with the shotgun.

Did they do a press conference about the 70-odd people killed by car bombs in Iraq during the same time? I didn’t see one. U.S. policy is greatly to blame for the disastrous state of that country and that’s a lot more deaths. How do we decide what should provoke our horror and our hand-wringing? How about car accidents? We’re clearly willing to do accept that level of risk, based on the convenience of automobiles. Or the risk that comes with owning a home or a bathtub? Why are guns so — pardon the pun — politically loaded? And just once, I would like the onus to be on the person suggesting a ban or restriction or law to be to prove it will go just as they say it will. Do they want a potentially dangerous, Jerry Brown California-style round-up of now-illicit guns? What will the punishment be for those who don’t obey the laws? Do liberals, who profess to be (and to be far, the good ones really are) against the prison-industrial complex, realize that demanding the outlawing of something will lead to more outlaws, then more prisoners? By all means, write about and advocate for a new law, but stop pretending that human beings will simply follow it, end of story. Human nature and all of history disproves that notion.

So no, we don’t react to every newspaper blurb like we did to the second worst school shooting in US history. Because as hysterical as we are about violence, we’re not as hysterical as Ms. Samsa as she pushes for gun control legislation and implies that one death is two injuries, is a loud, scary noise ,as long there was some tenuous — occasionally entirely psychological — connection to guns.

Rolling Stone Loves Obama!It’s a new year, but one thing hasn’t changed: Rolling Stone still blows. In fact, they’ve always blown. From the day those commie bastards trashed Zeppelin’s first album in a spectacularly ill-conceived and shortsighted take down of a band that was so far beyond Rolling Stone‘s hippie-“man” scope of musical comprehension that only their trying-to-hard, hipper-than-thou-basis-of-all-Pitchfork-reviews-ever-written, review of Led Zeppelin II could make it seem reasonable.

Forty-five years later and little has changed. Their head political writer, Matt Taibbi is an asshole and former comrade of two of the worst “journalists” (if not people) on earth, Mark Ames and Yasha Levine. These three delightful human beings were part of the Russia’s number one expat newsletter, Exiled. Yet even while living in the shadow of a psycho like Putin, minutes from the gloried relics of the worst authoritarian regime in human history, somehow they came back even more convinced of the glories of big governments.

Taibbi has the annoying tendency of correctly identifying the problems plaguing America — corruption, corporate cronyism, the drug war — then blaming it all on lack of government oversight, instead of too much government power.

But at least Taibbi is a well-known author with years of journalistic grunt-work under his belt. He’s written for well-known publications like Men’s Journal, The Nation, New York Press and Playboy. He has enough journalistic bona fides that he has his own link on the Rolling Stone.com banner. His ideas may be rooted in far left territory, he’s done some pavement pounding at least.

Then there’s Jesse A. Myerson, a 2008 graduate of Bard College, (same as Taibbi) where he majored in Theatre and Human Rights. He’s a self described #fullcommunist and the author of “Five Economic Reforms Millennials Should Be Fighting For”.

(And according to his LinkedIn page has quite the talent for theater, community outreach, performing arts, improvisation and stage.)

Jesse-Myerson-Linkedin

The article is the usual lefty garbage, written in the trying-desperately-to-be-hip, dumbed down, “hey buddy, doesn’t BLANK suck, you know what doesn’t suck? #fullcommunism” popularized by millenials trying to appeal to other millenials.

It’s a new year, but one thing hasn’t changed: The economy still blows. Five years after Wall Street crashed, America’s banker-gamblers have only gotten richer, while huge swaths of the country are still drowning in personal debt, tens of millions of Americans remain unemployed – and the new jobs being created are largely low-wage, sub-contracted, part-time grunt work.

Millennials have been especially hard-hit by the downturn, which is probably why so many people in this generation (like myself) regard capitalism with a level of suspicion that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. But that egalitarian impulse isn’t often accompanied by concrete proposals about how to get out of this catastrophe. Here are a few things we might want to start fighting for, pronto, if we want to grow old in a just, fair society, rather than the economic hellhole our parents have handed us.

It’s the usual. Blame Wall Street, ask for more government, and more free money. It’s a terribly written article, written by an idiot (and theater major). So why are we so worked up about it? Currently sitting at 39 thousand Facebook likes, 2,567 tweets, 287 Google+’s and 7354 comments, this story has consumed the internet so far as to have write-ups and put-downs in prestigious media havens like CNBC,The LA Times, Slate, Washington Post, Business Insider, and Forbes to name a few.

Unfortunately every time the story is mentioned, it only further inflates the numbers and prestige of an article more suited to a .blogspot than a website that gets 60,000,000 monthly page views.

Like Salon and Slate before them, Rolling Stone trots out some nobody with the sole intention of stirring up a bee’s nest of conservative and libertarian mockery, and it works like a charm.

Tremble in fear capitalist dogs! Jesse A. Myerson’s is going to blow you away with his observational communism. Behold his takes on:

  • Unemployment! – “Unemployment blows.”…
  • Jobs! – “Because as much as unemployment blows, so do jobs.” …
  • Landlords! – “Ever noticed how much landlords blow?” …
  • Hoarders! – “Hoarders blow.” …
  • Wall Street! – “You know what else really blows? Wall Street.

And what’s the deal with Republicans? Amiright?!

Congratulations Myerson, you’re the cliched parody of Jerry Seinfeld of communist thought.

Which is why no one in America should care about this article. It’s poorly written and on a subject this man is clearly not qualified to write about, in a magazine that hasn’t produced a relevant thought since the ’60s. It’s okay to ignore these obvious troll attempts, in fact it should be encouraged. Every time the conservative/libertarian outrage machine gets fired up it’s only going to lead to more of the same, namely, lots and lots of page views which begets more advertising revenue which begets more bad writing which begets making celebrity’s out of idiots like Jesse A. Myerson.

(And before you call me out on my own inability to not write about this article, please note that I wouldn’t have written about it if people more powerful than I hadn’t first. Also, we need all the linkbait we can get. Also, I have no convictions.)

potI could have written a serious response to Miller, but she didn’t deserve one. All that needs to be said is, if you write a column like Miller did, you either know nothing about the criminal justice system — literally nothing — or you just don’t give a shit how many people suffer as long as your desires for society are prioritized,  I am not sure which is worse. All I know is, Miller should never be taken seriously as an advocate for small government ever again.

Obama.

Obama’s America.

Can you believe what’s happening in Obama’s America? He thinks Americans aren’t adults, can’t even pick their own light bulbs in fact. And DC is no better, it’s dangerous and it takes months and months for a good, upstanding citizen to get a legal firearm to protect herself against crime.

Obama and the rest of the Democrats think you and I are children. It’s disgusting.

It’s almost as disgusting as the fact that recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over went on sale last week in Colorado. Adults will be able to consume pot. Marijuana. Mary Jane. “Weed.”

Marijuana is a child, not a choice. Wait, no. Marijuana is something adults can now use to “to get stoned for kicks” in Colorado. And Washington state soon. My God.

And 21 other states allow “supposedly ‘medical'” pot, with DC to follow. DC that is already so crime-ridden will now let sick people make a healthcare choice for themselves. A wicked, wicked healthcare choice.

Pot, you see, is like heroin or cocaine. Not like alcohol. Which is why less than zero people have ever overdosed on weed. I know that 25,000 people die from alcohol overdoses in a given year, but that’s different. The difference is that I like alcohol. And guns. And light bulbs. And that’s what’s important. Things I like.

What isn’t important is that 750,000 people are arrested in a given year for marijuana — 87 percent for simple possession. Nor is it important that black people are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. I’m totally against a dependent society, but prison doesn’t count. I mean, prison beats welfare! Prison is a great motivational tool. And I am worried about violent crime and people’s ability to protect themselves, but not enough to suggest that police stop going after nonviolent drug users. That would be raising the white flag and embracing the far left and Hollywood (and 38 percent of the US) and their propaganda that to use marijuana is not to doom society. Marijuana ruins lives. It’s that simple.

And fiscal conservatism is nice, but not when we’re talking about fighting a plant.

Sure, life in prison for selling marijuana is a lot (especially for a white guy) but that’s the price I am willing to pay for a free society. I am also willing to sacrifice the Fourth Amendment, because that’s for terrorists.

The point is, it doesn’t matter if prohibition works, the important thing is not to learn anything or try anything new from decades of bad policy. Just keep on arresting people so they stop consuming and selling a substance. Giving up is for liberals and dependent societies!

Obamaaaaaaa!

Arguably part of that mighty stream of anti-libertarian pieces coming out of Salon, Alternet, and other left-leaning publications these last few months, Tyler Lopez’s “Libertarian  and gay rights: the party failed to take a stand” article (published at Slate) is a bullshit generalization that leads, inadvertently, to larger questions of the definition of rights and oppression. But it falls wildly short of an honest critique of libertarianism.

Reason’s Brian Doherty has already addressed the piece’s simplicity, noting that the official Libertarian Party was anachronistically gay-friendly at its inception, including their nomination of the gay John Hospers as their first presidential candidate.

In the barely-post-Stonewall era, with homosexuality newly not an official mental illness, the Libertarian Party platform started out advocating for a repeal of all laws that restricted consensual, adult sexual activities. A few years later, as I noted in an October PolicyMic piece, and Doherty also notes, Ralph Reico wrote a long essay that said “the Libertarian Party was born believing in gay rights.” He later noted that the stance for libertarians candidates in 1976 was as follows on gay marriage:

  • Repeal of legislation prohibiting unions between members of the same sex, and the extension to such unions of all legal rights and privileges presently enjoyed by partners in heterosexual marriages.

Not too shady for the ’70s, no? Apparently no.

With that bold beginning, why then, according to Lopez, has the Libertarian Party “failed” on what is arguably the biggest civil rights fight of modern times?  His piece trolls all good libertarians by using a photo of 2008 Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr, but it doesn’t actually mention him. Which is strange, because the ill-advised selection of would-be President Barr, the author of, if eventual disavow-er of, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), would be a way for Lopez to score points (or, to put it more nicely, to cement his thesis). Lopez, though, begins with the very tenuous critique that the official LP website doesn’t have a whole tab devoted to Gay and Lesbian issues. Never mind that acceptance of gay people is a tenet of the platform, now and forever, the party dropped the ball by not giving the gays a tab.

Lopez goes on to scorn the lack of press releases the party has put out about LGBT, then sarcastically scorns them for trying to portray Democrats as being bad for gays. Well, they’re trying to get voters, just like any party. And is it illegitimate for the LP circa-2010 to have been pragmatically going after Obama for not repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or  DOMA? What’s so sinful about them trying to win gay supporters? Isn’t that a good thing?

Having admitted that yes, maybe, a little bit,  the early 70s LP was more pro-gay than was in fashion at the time, Lopez is as plodding as possible in his praise:

Libertarians like to tout the fact that the party supported marriage equality in 1971, when it was founded. Sort of.  In fact, two years after Stonewall, the party’s platform called for the abolishment of “victimless crimes,” which lumped homosexuality with prostitution, polygamy, recreational drugs, abortion, and gambling. While certainly not a ringing endorsement of the LGBTQ community, the mere acknowledgement of gay people’s existence was an important step forward for an American political party. It’s also true that in the 1990s, the Libertarian Party (having no elected representatives) did join a small handful of Democrats in opposing DOMA and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, despite overwhelming public support for both measures. This might seem like a case of talk being cheap, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Plenty of Libertarian candidates take strong positions on gay rights.

Note the subtle implication that to include gay issues with “vices” was to equate them with immorality in the libertarian world. Never mind that many libertarians do not see any of those other “moral failings” as objectively wrong either (some do, but would never presume to do anything but bother you about it). And never mind that 42 percent of people thought gay sex should be illegal in 1977 (dipping much lower into the conservative 1980s). Definitely never mind that gays have been a part of the libertarian movement since forever and particularly at the dawn of the official party.

Nope, Lopez cannot damn with enough faint praise, because, you see, the LP “never left the 1990s.” They care only for the the right to be free from state oppression, not the right to be free from individual discrimination. Lopez also notes that libertarians — some libertarians — would prefer that marriage become a private contract, thereby removing the should government endorse this question all together. This is true for some small government folks, but not all. But even conservatives including Tucker Carlson and Glenn Beck have come around on the minarchist compromise that, namely, if someone is receiving the government perks of marriage, there is no legitimate reason to bar homosexuals from that privilege.

Lopez goes on, into questions of employment discrimination, and he ends on a dishonest note:

Rather than boldly argue for equal rights for everyone, Libertarians have merely argued for the dismantling of everyone’s rights—the right to legal marriage, the right against workplace discrimination, and so on. That’s not liberty; it’s giving the green light to entrenched systemic discrimination. Libertarians could have led on this issue. Instead, they’ve fallen unforgivably far behind.

Again, Lopez could have written, “for a party with a long, impressive history of being accepting towards gays, the choice of Bob Barr in 2008, was regressive and bizarrely socially conservative.” He could have admitted that there was nothing wrong with needling Barack Obama’s spending 16 years pretending to be unsure about gay marriage for political reasons. And Lopez certainly could have used a column inch or two to give props to Gov. Gary Johnson, the 2012 LP presidential candidate who came out for gay marriage while still trying to run as a Republican. But Lopez does none of this.

It’s fine that he believes in a world of positive liberties, where employers cannot discriminate, and where rights are more than just equal protection under the law. But the difference between positive liberties (the right to, say, healthcare, education, anything that requires the labor, time, or money of someone else) and negatives ones (freedom from government restriction on speech, trade, etc.) should be clear even to someone who believes in positive rights, as modern liberals do. You may agree that we, as a society, should all get together and pool our money and give everyone medical care, but you must admit that that mandates a great deal more planning than the First Amendment’s “Congress shall make no law…”

To muddy these warring definitions of rights like is dishonest, because it masks the general definition of a libertarian. Lopez might as well have written “libertarians could have lead the way on gay rights if they became liberals.” He may be disappointed that libertarianism isn’t something else than what it is, but there’s no reason to not give the Party props for solving the first part of his equation — that gays should have the same rights and freedoms as heterosexuals — long before the majority of the political world did. Libertarians didn’t “fall behind” on gay rights, they went down a different path.

roadzThe headline: “Why I fled libertarianism — and became a liberal”.

The subhead: “I was a Ron Paul delegate back in 2008 — now I’m a Democrat. Here’s my personal tale of disgust and self-discovery”.

Edwin Lyngar was a Ron Paul delegate in 2008. Once he got to the GOP convention,  he was baffled by the number of Birthers, Truthers, MoonTruthers and Chemtrailers who apparently made up his fellow Paulbots. (Lyngar also casually equates interest in gold, the Fed, and the JFK assassination with such conspiracy theories. He is not alone in this attitude — the highly-touted conspiracy theory  poll from last spring was similarly sloppy. An enthusiasm for monetary policy is dry, so why not spice it up by implying that to believe in the gold standard is to be sure that the president is from Kenya?)

Lyngar had no libertarian moment of aha!, thanks to a Hayek book, or a Ron Paul speech. He doesn’t really explain why he cared enough to be a delegate for Paul in 2008. He was just vaguely born libertarian, in that he comes from a small town in Nevada where, he writes, “we burned our own garbage and fired guns in the back yard.” He even admits that libertarians are pro-pot, mostly pro-gay, and mostly anti-war, so they have their bright spots still. But also, when he left his small town, his eyes were opened:

I learned that libertarians are made for lots of reasons, like reading the bad fiction of Ayn Rand or perhaps the passable writing of Robert Heinlein. In my experience, most seemed to be poor, white and undereducated. They were contortionists, justifying the excesses of the capitalist elite, despite being victims if libertarian politics succeed.

If you think that selfishness and cruelty are fantastic personal traits, you might be a libertarian. In the movement no one will ever call you an asshole, but rather, say you believe in radical individualism.

Heinlein is only “passable”? Buddy, you read the wrong Heinlein. And if you’re in the libertarian movement, someone will call you an asshole at some point. Or they will call you a statist. Though there are generally agreed upon tenets in libertarianism, there is also tedious in-fighting and minute-to-vital points of disagreement on issues, interpretations, and conclusions. We are not your cheap Dagney Taggart or Randy Weaver jokes, as much as you try to cram us into that convenient mold. We are diverse, and by God, we will shoot ourselves in the foot whenever possible. (Lyngar does acknowledge this incompetence later in the piece, so at least he’s not one of those “dear God, the libertarians have taken over!” folks.)

Lyngar is mostly done with specifics after his live from the GOP Convention ’08 beginning. He changed slowly after his realization that libertarianism indeed attracts weirdos. Soon he was crying for unspecified, but positive reasons when Obama was elected president. And then the financial crisis:

Libertarians were (rightly) furious when our government bailed out the banks, but they fought hardest against help for ordinary Americans. They hated unemployment insurance and reduced school lunches. I used to say similar things, but in such a catastrophic recession isn’t the government supposed to help? Isn’t that the lesson of the Great Depression?

I’m going to give our friend the benefit of the doubt and say, sure, okay, you met three libertarians who were most passionately opposed to school lunches. That was their number one issue, closely followed by the horrors of unemployment insurance. But there are a lot of libertarians who would prefer to tackle the bigger issues first: war, prisons, police, the drug war, financial ruin for the country, occupational licensing, zoning laws, lack of school choice, the death penalty, transportation, whatever you like. And you would know that if you spoke to more than three libertarians — that no, most of them wouldn’t start with cutting the lunches for shoeless Appalachian children program. They’d probably start with trimming the military, the Department of Homeland Security, or that sentimental favorite, the Drug Enforcement Administration.

(And no, that is not the lesson of the Great Depression. That is not even close to being the lesson of the Great Depression. Suggesting that means you paid no attention to economics even while you were a libertarian, dude.)

Lyngar goes on to marry a Canadian liberal, then be disgusted by the racist Birthers in the Tea Party movement. He lurches towards nuance by implying that libertarians who work with the Tea Party are not necessarily the same thing as those religious freaks, etc. But then he notes that at last he has learned to “care about children — even poor ones.” Thereby separating himself from monstrous libertarians, he writes:

I love the National Park system. The best parts of the America I love are our communities. My libertarian friends might call me a fucking commie (they have) or a pussy, but extreme selfishness is just so isolating and cruel. Libertarianism is unnatural, and the size of the federal government is almost irrelevant. The real question is: what does society need and how do we pay for it?

To paraphrase the best French guy ever, Frederic Bastiat, man, liberals really seem to think that if you’re not for government funded, or government-run institutions, you must be against them entirely. Parks are awesome. Some parks also have a long history of hilariously-arrogant mismanagement by government. And it’s cool that you love communities. That means literally nothing in general, and nothing specific to libertarianism. Most of us do not wish to live alone, Unibomber-style. But we’re very keen on anyone’s right to do the best they can at achieving that sort of lifestyle.

The best part of the piece — the part that elevates it to an artful act of trolling — might be the very end. Old Ed says of libertarians: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” That quote, and its accompanying viewpoint, is common in libertarianism. It sounds arrogant, but it’s the evangelizing of a fringe belief that is forever trying to gain converts. How else do you change minds except by convincing someone they are mistaken? And it is no different than liberals who shake their heads at all those folks who “vote against their own interests” — meaning, not for Democrats. To them, libertarians, if they’re not cold, rich, Randian cutouts, they are stupidly opposed to the communitarian pleasures of the left that could benefit them so much.

We’re all snobs when we’re in our own Google Groups, bars, or political rallies. There’s nothing wrong with reveling in “yes, totally! That!” for an evening. But the folks at Salon have the ideological privilege of not ever needing to convert libertarians to their viewpoints. Liberals often treat every conservative victory (one which with libertarians may or may not agree) as an assurance that the barbarians are at the gates. Mentions cuts, and there is nothing between that and Somalia. Liberals refuse to believe that their view of the proper role of government has been a dominant one for decades. They suffer from being The Man denial.

So then, what is the the point of this piece? Optimistically, we could say it could help prove to Salon readers that all libertarians aren’t monsters. Why, there’s always the hope that they will change their evil ways! But it’s more banal than that. This intensely shallow piece is solely an exercise in back-patting. It’s one man’s courageous story of being saved from the darkness of everything Not Liberal, without even the drama of a road to Damascus moment. It’s just that the election of Obama, and the worst of the Tea Party eventually took him on a self-satisfied journey away from conspiratorial meanies to the safe ” bosom of conventional liberalism.” He finally “developed [his] own values.” But a vague sense that libertarianism by nature is cold, cruel, and crazy is not an analysis of an ideology.

Some libertarians choose to interpret the recent cascade of anti-libertarian pieces on Alternet, Salon, and NSFWCorp the last few months as proof that the philosophy is getting somewhere — it can no longer be ignored by the mainstream. But Lyndar’s piece confirms lazy liberal dominance, because why try? Why fight libertarian beliefs, when you can simply revel in having beaten their imaged end-game, as Alternet did recently, — Libertopia apparently outlaws feeding or clothing the homeless! — or simply rejoice in having banished its evil from your own mind, as Lyndar does here.

Dave Eggers says in the Guardian that US writers must take a stand on NSA surveillance.

In my rant on the Guardian web site, in which I let my inner-libertarian rail unfetteredly, I say that Dave Eggers is right about what he says about government spying — but I also say he’s too old and too smart to think like such an infant:

We love Dave Eggers because he’s smart and good, but he needs to grow up and smell the evils of unlimited government: he asks “would President Obama, himself a constitutional scholar, actually endorse – much less expand – a domestic spying programme unless it were morally acceptable and constitutional?” Pathetically, Eggers still thinks Obama was/is any different from his predecessors.
Eggers doesn’t know yet that it doesn’t matter who is in charge of Big Nanny government’s power and purse. The notion that Saint Obama was going to be squeamish about protecting and growing and using the warfare/welfare/security state is touchingly naive. The only way the NSA — or FBI or DEA or CIA or XXX — will stop snooping on us and the rest of the world will be if their funding is taken away. Otherwise, they’ll do whatever they can get away with with their technology and computers, no matter what the courts say. The history of every government — even so-called good governments run by your own favorite politician-saint — is the history of government abusing its power and doing evil things to minorities, the weak or politically unfavored factions. Forget amending the Patriot Act. Forget telling the TSA to stop cavity searches of grandmas. Forget telling the NSA to stop listening to the pope’s phone calls. The only way to ensure that these federal agencies stop their unconstitutional or immoral practices at home or abroad is to starve the government of money, thereby severely limiting what it can do for (and to) people. That means liberals have to grow up and realize that big government is not a morally acceptable or useful social engineering tool, even when it’s employed to “help” poor people in inner Detroit or to shake down rich people or businesses with high taxes. The same powers that liberals/Dems happily and selfishly entrust to Saint Obama’s administration today will be used/misused by conservatives/Republicans tomorrow. This is nothing new. It’s been going on forever. If Eggers wants writers to be able to write without fear, he needs to start having a grownup conversation with himself about the nature of government and try to understand why its so important to free individuals that government be given as little power and as little to do to us or for us as possible.