The musings of one Andrew Langer - defender of liberty, passionate protector of individual rights, foodie. (Note: Said Musings of Andrew Langer are his own, and the views represented herein are likewise his views, and not the views of any other people, entities, foodstuffs, etc [unless otherwise specifically and explicitly noted].)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Desperate Cowardice of Statist Anonymity

Originally, today’s blog article was going to be about the SBA’s new report on the cost of regulation for small business. But that changed when I received an e-mail from a friend in DC. The e-mail was letting me know about a series of totally false allegations being levied anonymously on the internet against John Berlau, Warren Brookes Journalism Fellow at CEI (where I used to work). So, I thought I'd write today about a certain tactic of the statist left: the lie from the anonymous source.

One of the things I look askance at is anonymous or pseudonymous criticism. Now, I know that one of the hallmarks of a free society is the ability of someone to criticize someone else from behind the mask of anonymity. But it always seems that the most ill-thought, most base, bad-intentioned, insulting, and untrue critiques come from those writing anonymously or pseudonymously.

When I used to write on Usenet, I developed a fan base, as I’ve mentioned (and I use that term facetiously. I do not mean that these people were actual fans of mine). Some of my “fans” indeed did use their real names, but several of them wrote under pseudonyms. More often than not, these pseudonymous posters fell into that category of writing base, insulting, non-germane, and outrageously untrue things—and they were statists.

For instance, there was a poster named Devin McAndrews, who posted under the pseudonym of “Chive Mynde” (among other pseudonyms – frequently, they would talk to one another). Devin was the worst kind of extreme statist pseudonymous troll – and he reveled in the fact that his pseudonymity rendered him rather untouchable. Like many egotists (and I should take this time to caution folks against their hubris – all men are mortal), he thought he could write anything with impunity. But like all who let their egos make their decisions for them, eventually he went too far.

He stepped over the line, and he was beaten back. Swiftly and soundly. By me. And like all cowards who have been so exposed, he eventually retreated.

And pseudonymous criticism has come to the Liberty Blog, too – like the comment from Leftist Southpaw in response to my RIP sentiments for Chief Justice Rehnquist.

One of the issues that I still plan on discussing here is the role that regulations have played in exacerbating the problems caused by Katrina (and now Rita) – things like an energy policy driven by environmentalist NIMBYism that has resulted in having a substantial portion of our oil drilling, refining and shipping capacities concentrated in the middle of hurricaine country. Or the role that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the abuse of that law by environmentalists which resulted in the prevention of much-needed repairs, upgrades and expansion of lowland Louisiana’s complex levee system.

This has been studied by the House Resources Committee, and a number of commentators have written on it. One of these was John Berlau, who as I said earlier is the current Warren Brookes Journalism Fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Well, apparently Berlau’s writings have hit a little too close to home for somebody in and around the DC area, because starting soon after John’s first article exposing this important bit of dot-connecting, he found himself the target of a series of anonymous attacks. About a week ago, a mysterious post appeared on the DC Craigslist boards, strangely accusing Berlau of working with the Arlington Police Department to either entrap prostitutes or their clients, offering amnesty if they were to cooperate for an article he was supposedly writing.

Since the first post, a series appeared – the themes and players changed somewhat. Some included the mentioning of an intern. Others mentioned Jacob Sullum. All had some variation on the thought that Berlau was writing on behalf of CEI and Reason (either the Reason Foundation or Reason Magazine)

But here’s the first problem: anyone who knows Reason or CEI knows that they wouldn’t be involved in sanctioning a story like this. CEI is focused on regulation and economics, and has no interest in issues surrounding prostitution, while Reason wouldn’t be involved in anything that would smack of entrapment by law enforcement.

So it’s all a load of bull-flop. It is completely and unequivocally untrue. An utter and total falsehood. A lie. John Berlau has no intern – let alone a hot blonde one (with or without a New Jersey accent, as was asserted). He’s not doing a story on hookers and their johns, in Arlington County or anywhere else for that matter. He's not a smoker, never has been, certainly not a chain smoker. Reason and CEI are similarly not involved in this at all. Nick Gillespie, Jacob Sullum, et al, are similarly uninvolved.

The intent was clear: to taint John Berlau’s reputation (along with that of CEI, Reason and Jacob Sullum) in order to call into question Berlau’s research and writing. It’s classic misdirection: a bit of salaciously fallacious reasoning known as “argumentum ad hominem”. They can’t argue with what Berlau has written, so they’re going to try and lead you into either ignoring the substance of what he’s saying, or simply not believing the source because of their assertions regarding him.

And in the end, we’re left with nothing more than a classic tale of desperate statists who, unable to withstand the bright light of scrutiny when it underscores just how bereft of merit their public policies are, when it demonstrates just how people are far more harmed than helped by their obstructionist big government approach to issues, must turn to heinously anonymous attacks in a vain attempt to discredit their critics.

It's happened to me - I've been accused of all sorts of dastardly deeds. I've had my wife contacted (by a certain "activist" who tried bringing her unique brand of slimery onto the Liberty Blog, with no success), I've had friends call and ask, "Who the hell is this person and why does she have all these web pages written about you?" But I've stuck to my guns and weathered it - obviously, if what I said wasn't true, they simply wouldn't care.

So, take heart, John Berlau. We know it isn't true. We stand by you and what you've written, and no anonymous liars are going to change that.

- Andrew Langer

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Hot Topics For Discussion...

Okay - so here's the inside scoop on some of the things that are going on...

1) The Washington Post endorsed Roberts for Chief Justice. Yes, you read that right.

2) Best presentation at the World Congress: The study of 60,000 chinese workers exposed to silica whose conclusions now call into question NIOSH's classification of silica as a possible carcinogen.

3) The SBA's Office of Advocacy released it's twice-a-decade impact of regulation on small business study. Unsurprisingly, that impact (even adjusted for inflation) has gone up. And the study was peer-reviewed.

4) The EPA took the important step of waiving the Clean Air Act regs governing the sale of reformulated gasoline in order to substantially increase supplies in the wake of Katrina. Gas prices dropped appreciably almost immediately thereafter.

5) The pumpkin growing in my front yard grew by an order of magnitude while I was out of town. This is serious stuff.

6) Much in the same way that there was a link between NYC's ban on asbestos and the time it took the World Trade Center towers to collapse, there is a great deal of discussion right now of the role that environmental regs (and environmental group abuse of those regs) in creating and exacerbating the problems surrounding Katrina (levee collapses, fuel supplies and prices, etc).

7) The House is debating post-Kelo legislation. This is a good thing. They're also debating ESA reform. That's a good thing, too.

So, more to come. Thanks for your patience.

- Andrew Langer

Sorry For The Absence! (Really, I do Mean It!!!)

First off, I want to apologize for my recent disappearance - things got tremendously busy in the last few weeks. The week after Katrina hit was a bit of a scramble (though you did hear it here first regarding the proposals to drop the federal gas tax in light of gas price problems), and then there was a series of minor crises in the regulatory policy world. Then I had to gear up for my trip down to Orlando, which was a double deal: I attended the World Congress on Safety and Health in the Workplace, and gave a speech to the Coalition for Property Rights on the Kelo Decision (title: "The Kelo Paradox: How one act of Supeme Injustice Could Lead to Justice After All").

Now I'm back. Here's my promise: I'm going to be more diligent in posting to the blog. There's lots going on (in fact, I'm going to put some highlights in the next post). I can't promise that I'm going to post every day - but I am going to try really hard to ensure that we don't go three weeks without a post.

- Andrew Langer

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Rest In Peace, Mr. Chief Justice...

William Hubbs Rehnquist, Chief Justice, United States Supreme Court
October 1, 1924 - September 3, 2005
"To uphold the Government's contentions... we would have to pile inference upon inference in a manner that would bid fair to convert congressional authority under the Commerce Clause to a general police power of the sort retained by the States...To do so would require us to conclude that the Constitution's enumeration of powers does not presuppose something not enumerated... and that there never will be a distinction between what is truly national and what is truly local... This we are unwilling to do." Rehnquist, United States v. Lopez (1995)