Saturday, May 31, 2008

Thinking about Libertarian strategy in the General Election

It started with the whimsical post in Third Party Watch by Steve Gordon of a three-party split in the electoral college [Libertarians in the sick yellow-green, ugh]:

This led to an extremely interesting thread in Independent Political Report entitled Could Barr/Root win electoral votes?

While the Gordon map was quickly (and accurately) dismissed as fantasy, the resulting conversation then evolved into what strategy should the LP presidential nominee pursue in this election?

Commenter G. E. Smith summarized the argument:

Okay, so we have about four strategies identified here:

1. Swing State (try to be a “spoiler”)

2. Safe State (try to maximize votes by campaigning where it doesn’t matter)

3. “Winnable” Sate (focus resources in a few small or otherwise winnable states to get electoral votes)

4. Status Quo: Do what Libertarians have done thus far but, hopefully, better.

The problem is that most Libertarians, in their concentration on message and philosophical principle, forget that after somebody has been nominated, you have to work with the pragmatics of the numbers in crafting an election strategy.

Let's think about this for a moment. Here are the vote totals for the LP since 1972:

Libertarian Presidential Tickets
1972: John Hospers and Theodora Nathan
2,691 popular votes (0.003%); 1 electoral vote;

1976: Roger MacBride and David Bergland
173,011 popular votes (0.21%)

1980: Ed Clark and David Koch
921,299 popular votes (1.1%)

1984: David Bergland and James A. Lewis
228,705 popular votes (0.25%)

1988: Ron Paul and Andre Marrou
432,179 popular votes (0.47%)

1992: Andre Marrou and Nancy Lord
291,627 popular votes (0.28%)

1996: Harry Browne and Jo Jorgensen
485,798 popular votes (0.50%)

2000: Harry Browne and Art Olivier
384,431 popular votes (0.36%)

2004: Michael Badnarik and Richard Campagna
397,265 popular votes (0.34%)

The question would be, where did the Libertarian Party (especially in 2004 and 2000) pick up those not-quite 400,000 votes?

Libertarian vote (2000/2004)
Alabama 5,893/3,495
Alaska 2,626/1,675
Arkansas 2,781/2,352
Arizona 5,775 [for L. Neil Smith]/11,856
California 45,520/50,165
Colorado 12,799/7,664
Connecticut 3,484/3,367
Delaware 774/586
DC 669/502
Florida 16,415/11,996
Georgia 36,332/18,387
Hawaii 1,477/1,377
Idaho 3,488/3,844
Illinois 11,623/32,452
Indiana 15,530/18,058
Iowa 3,209/2,992
Kansas 4,525/4,013
Kentucky 2,896/2,619
Louisiana 2,951/2,781
Maine 3,074/1,965
Maryland 5,310/6,094
Massachusetts 16,366/15,022
Michigan 16,711/10,552
Minnesota 5,282/4,639
Mississippi 2,009/1,793
Missouri 7,436/9,831
Montana 7,436/1,733
Nebraska 2,245/2,041
Nevada 3,311/3,176
New Hampshire 2,757/372
New Jersey 6,312/4,514
New Mexico 2,058/2,382
New York 7,649/11,607
North Carolina 12,307/11,731
North Dakota 660/851
Ohio 13,475/14,695
Oklahoma 6,602/nr
Oregon 7,447/7,260
Pennsylvania 11,248/21,185
Rhode Island 742/907
South Carolina 4,876/3,608
South Dakota 1,662/964
Tennessee 4,284/4,866
Texas 23,160/38,787
Utah 3,616/3,375
Vermont 784/1,102
Virginia 15,198/11,032
Washington 13,135/11,995
West Virginia 1,912/1,405
Wisconsin 6,640/6,464
Wyoming 1,443/1,171
Grant Totals 384,431/397,265

I break these down state-by-state to make an important point: there are three types of States as far as the LP is concerned, which come in two flavors.

The types: Tiny (under 3,500 votes); Medium (3,501-9,999 votes); Large (10,000+).
The flavors: Consistent (vote totals in 2000/2004 similar); Fluctuating (significant changes in votes 2000/2004).

This gives us the following

Tiny (consistent): Arkansas, DC, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming
Tiny (fluctuating): Alaska, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Vermont

Medium (consistent): Connecticut, Idaho, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Tennessee, Wisconsin
Medium (fluctuating): Alabama, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina

Large (consistent): California, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Washington
Large (fluctuating): Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia

Those large states are particularly important, because an analysis of the voting patterns indicates that the 15 largest Libertarian states account for an overwhelming percentage of our party's vote: 271,405 of 384,431 in 2000 (71%) and 275,527 of 397,265 (69%).

However, that's not the critical point. The critical point is that the fluctuations in nine of these states are so large that they indicate a significant reservoir of voters with a proven record of having chosen a Libertarian candidate in at least one of the two past presidential elections.

If we take the largest Libertarian vote total of either 2000/2004 in the large states we arrive at an important ballpark figure: the number of strong potential Libertarian voters available without having to sway a single voter who has never voted for a third party before.

Here's what you get:

Arizona 11,856
California 50,165
Colorado 12,799
Florida 16,415
Georgia 36,332
Illinois 32,452
Indiana 18,058
Massachusetts 16,366
Michigan 16,711
North Carolina 12,307
Ohio 14,695
Pennsylvania 21,185
Texas 38,787
Virginia 15,198
Washington 13,135

Grand Total: 326,421

In other words, there are over 50,000 voters in those 15 large states who sometimes vote Libertarian and sometimes don't.

When you have not broken 400,000 total votes in the last two general elections, these are the first voters you have to go after.

As a second priority, you have to look for large states in which you might significantly increase your voter turnout above previous LP totals. While I have not done a state-by-state analysis, I can suggest two states right off the bat which show potential for huge growth: Georgia and North Carolina.

Case One: Georgia. Aside from the fact that this is Bob Barr's home state, there is strong evidence that a Libertarian candidate can do extremely well in Georgia. In his 2006 campaign for Lieutenant Governor, Libertarian Allen Buckley scored 3.6% of the vote (over 75,000 votes--or twice the number of votes that any Libertarian presidential candidate received in 2000/2004). Georgia cast 3.3 million votes in 2004; 3.6% of that would total 119,000 votes. I have doubts about achieving that total, but let's assume for the sake of argument that Barr/Root along with Buckley as a strong Senatorial candidate could potentially rack up 75,000 votes. That's an increase of over 35,000 votes. Of course, this does presume that Bob Barr stops supporting Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss and starts supporting the Libertarian candidate.

Case Two: North Carolina. Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Michael Munger is currently polling around 4%. The LP Presidential candidate normally does less than .5% in the Tarheel State. Let's assume that Barr/Root campaigns hard for Munger, and that Munger reciprocates (as he has indicated he will). Then let's cut the poll number in half, and give the LP Presidential ticket 2% of the vote. That's 70,000 votes--roughly 58,000 more votes than any Libertarian Presidential ticket has gotten in NC over the past two elections.

Here's my point: There are potential Libertarian votes out there, but we have to know where to look for them. Between maximizing the large fluctuating states (50,000 votes), Georgia (35,000 votes), and North Carolina (58,000 votes), we've just identified strong prospects that 143,000 new votes are within our grasp if we just target them.

It is also evident that strong Libertarian support for same-sex marriage in California and Massachusetts could attract at least another 5,000 new voters, while between them in Montana (2,000), New Jersey (2,000) New York (3,000), Oklahoma (if we get on the ballot, 6,000 votes) potentially pick up at total of 13,000 more voters from fluctuation; that's an additional 18,000 votes before we've even begun to talk about the possible strength of our foreign policy arguments, and a target total of over 550,000 votes.

None of this takes into account the increased media attention that the ticket is getting this year, or the potential McCain spoiler vote.

The question is whether the Barr campaign and Libertarians throughout the country will take a realistic, data-driven approach to winning votes.

There are least disquieting indications that they won't: for example, Wayne Root's convention statement that the campaign should concentrate significant resources in Nevada. No more than 3,300 citizens have voted Libertarian in the past two elections.

Likewise the idea that we could end up with some electoral votes is, frankly, wishful thinking at this stage of our development.

Take the list of states G. E. Smith suggested for concentration:

My strategy would be to raise cash, open offices and work hard in Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, Maine, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. Do a lot of polling, and wherever it’s not working, get out and concentrate resources where it is working.

How many votes would we have to rack up to win any of these states? Based on 2004 vote totals, achieving over 50% in these states would require the following number of votes (with the highest vote total achieved in 2000/2004 following):

Georgia 1,654,240 votes (36,332) deficit to overcome: 1,617,908
Idaho 302,216 votes (3,844) deficit to overcome: 298,372
Nevada 418,941 votes (3,311) deficit to overcome: 415,630
New Hampshire 342,258 votes (2,757) deficit to overcome: 339,501
Maine 374,080 votes (3,074) deficit to overcome: 371,006
Montana 227,475 votes (7,436) deficit to overcome: 220,039
Wyoming 122,931 votes (1,441) deficit to overcome: 121,490

Seems a bit of a tall order.

For what it's worth (and maybe that's not much), here's the best technical strategy for the LP Presidential ticket this year:

1) Focus on the large LP states--especially the fluctuating states to turn out the maximum number of voters who have chosen the LP at least once in the past two general elections. This means turning strongly to the State Libertarian parties to help them bring out their supporters.

2) Do the crash research to identify states like Georgia and North Carolina where there is hard data to suggest a potential for tying the top of the ticket to local LP candidates with good potential.

3) Hit the messages in the Libertarian agenda that will truly resonate with significant numbers of potentially disaffected Demopublican votes in 2008. My list would be foreign policy/terrorism/Iraq (emphasizing a non-interventionist foreign policy); same-sex marriage; medical and decriminalized marijuana; and reducing taxes.

4) Study the net-based strategies used by both Howard Dean and Ron Paul to organize and fund-raise.

The objective: break 1,000,000 votes.

The only real impediment: our candidates and their Perot-era campaign manager plus Mr Direct Mail, none of whom have shown the slightest understanding of what it will take to do this.

Let's help them out, huh?

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Government's action was illegitimate in the first place, but I'm still going to place restrictions on you as a result of it

This is how you advance the idea of a State that is above the laws.

You find a group of people toward which the media and many Americans are unsympathetic, like, say, those polygamist families in Texas with the weird hair.

Now that the Texas Supreme Court has ruled that the State acted inappropriately in seizing all their children, you'd think--rule of law and all--that what happens next is that those 400 children are returned to their families, right?

No, not according to Texas District Judge Barbara Walther:

A Texas judge refused on Friday to sign an agreement that would have paved the way for the first large batch of children taken from a polygamist sect's ranch to return to their parents, dashing hopes raised by a Supreme Court ruling in the case.

Texas District Judge Barbara Walther wanted to add restrictions to the parents' movement and broaden the authority of Child Protective Services to monitor the more than 400 children in foster care before signing an agreement by CPS and the parents that would have reunited the families.

When several parents' attorneys objected and argued that Walther didn't have the authority to expand the agreement, she said she would only sign the initial document after all 38 parents whose case was considered by the Supreme Court signed off — a provision attorneys said would ensure the children stayed in custody at least through the weekend.

So let's trace it down:

1. Child Protective Services removes 400 children from their families in a blatantly illegal fashion, based on no valid complaint or any certifiable evidence of abuse.

2. The Texas Third Court of Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court both smack the wrist of CPS and says the State's kidnapping of 400 children crossed the line. Quoth the Third Court of Appeals:

The Third Court of Appeals said that the local authorities had acted too hastily by not going to court first. “Even if one views the FLDS belief system as creating a danger of sexual abuse by grooming boys to be perpetrators of sexual abuse and raising girls to be victims of sexual abuse . . . there is no evidence that this danger is ‘immediate’,” the court said in its ruling.

“Evidence that children raised in this particular environment may some day have their physical health and safety threatened is not evidence that the danger is imminent enough to warrant invoking the extreme measure of immediate removal.”

3. Judge Walther says, I refuse to let your children come home until you agree to sign a provision allowing CPS to monitor your treatment of your children.

And what we hear from the Demopublican presidential candidates is--predictably--silence.

Again, another opportunity exists for the Barr/Root ticket to stand up on an issue that makes sense to Americans (at least half of whom, many polls suggest, agree completely that the local CPS authorities acted inappropriately). In my fantasy campaign, I visualize this statement:

One of the reasons that Libertarians oppose the power of the State, is that the State far too often refuses to adhere even to its own laws and regulations. Recently, Texas appellate courts ruled that the seizure of 440 children from a polygamist sect was inappropriate, and that the children should be returned to their families. Now, however, Texas District Judge Barbara Walther has ignored not only the law, but the ruling by superior courts, to impose an additional set of conditions before she will execute the decision of the Texas Supreme Court.

This amounts to blackmail and judicial kidnapping.

It is simply wrong when the State decides not only to target people because their private relationships are based on different values than the majority, but also to ignore the rule of law and the force of judicial decision to coerce American citizens who have not been convicted of any crime into signing an agreement to allow the government to monitor the manner in which they have chosen to raise their children.

Without doubt, the polygamist beliefs of this fundamentalist sect of the Church of Latter Day Saints run counter to those of many--possibly most--Americans, but as the Libertarian Party platform declares:

Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no discriminatory impact on the rights of individuals by government, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration, or military service laws. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships. Government does not have legitimate authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships.

I challenge the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates to join me in issuing definitive statements condemning the actions of this rogue judge.

Bob? Wayne? Where the hell are you guys?

The problem with Libertarians is that they take themselves entirely too seriously. . . .

. . . . which is even more amazing in a movement that features people who adopt names like Starchild and Ann R. Key.

So it's worth it to enjoy this bit of anti-Bob Barr humor no matter what you happen to think of radicals, reformers, anarchists, and minarchists:

(h/t Libertarian Republican which, predictably, takes it too seriously)

My Dad cuts me no slack

His childhood occurred during the Great Depression.

Summers he would spend at his grandmother's farm. He slept in the loft. At wake-up time, which was around 4:30 am, she would call him once, then a second time. Then he would hear her cane tap as she put her foot on the bottom step.

One time when he was five years old she (and--most importantly--the cane!) got all the way up to the loft with him still not moving. Suffice it to say that he was careful, for the rest of his childhood and adolescence, never to let her get beyond that first step again.

I don't recall him every hitting us as children. He never had to.

We sometimes talk politics or economics when I call home now.

I got to tell him about two weeks ago that he could stop lecturing me that a gallon of milk cost more than a gallon of gas when I whined about prices at the pump. After all, I pointed out, the two now stood pretty much at the same level.

He gave me that one, but I could tell he was just biding his time.

Last night I mentioned the fact that this year we didn't go away on the Memorial Day weekend, and that the price of gas was a factor in that decision. (In all fairness, it was a smaller factor than my wife's post-op recovery.) I told him we'd stayed home, worked on our yard, and had cook-outs with the neighbors.

I told him about somebody on the net coining the term stay-cation.

You could almost hear Dad spit on the other end of the phone.

"In other words," he said, "you're back to doing what we had to do when you were growing up. Staying home and having a good time in the neighborhood. Didn't seem to stunt your growth or anything, not being able to run off to Disney World at the drop of a hat."

Dad was a public school teacher back when public school teachers only got paid during the months they worked. During the summers he joined the custodians on the district paint crew, and spent 8-hour days slapping paint on gyms and classrooms all over Augusta County, Virginia. If he thought it was unfair that he had to take a second job every summer to keep food on the table, he never mentioned it.

My Dad's definitely not a Libertarian. He grouses a lot about the poor quality of the government services to which he believes he should be entitled.

But he comes from a generation that exhibited a certain toughness of character, a willingness to defer gratification, and an insistence on standing on his own two feet that sometimes seems to me to be dying out along with the greatest generation, especially in the whining American middle class.

I think I drifted initially into Libertarianism because my Dad provided (and continues to provide) an example for me of some essential quality that we will lose when the government controls our lives from the cradle to the grave.

Thanks to my Dad I don't fear the coming upheavals as the era of cheap oil ends, even as I realize that my children are going to spend their adult lives in a completely different world.

What I fear is that the whiners (as he would call them) will become progressively more willing to turn over bits and pieces of their birthright freedom and hard-bought (if only by their ancestors) civil liberties to an increasingly omnipotent State.

More Power than George III & Oliver Cromwell....

Where is the Senate and Congress?

This is a teaser:

"No executive in the history of the Anglo-American world since the Civil War in England in the 17th century has laid claim to such broad power,” said David Adler, a prolific author of articles on the U.S. Constitution. “George Bush has exceeded the claims of Oliver Cromwell who anointed himself Lord Protector of England.”

It only gets worse from there, you can read the rest of the story here.

In the Interest of Consistency (mine): Bob Barr and abortion

One of the stupider criticisms of Bob Barr as Libertarian presidential nominee has revolved around comments that his evolution into a Libertarian cannot be trusted because he's a hypocrite on abortion.

Far be it from me to quail at criticizing Barr for intellectual or moral consistency, as regular readers know, but this one's really not fair game.

The whole issue arose during the Clinton impeachment, when Hustler publisher Larry Flynt cast his net far and wide to document the sexual indiscretions of Republicans. Given that Barr was then a prime mover and shaker in the House team that tried Bubba in the Senate, Flynt was thrilled to find this dirt:

Barr was one of 13 House Republicans chosen to act as prosecutors in Clinton's Senate trial. Barr, Flynt's investigators found, was guilty of king-size hypocrisy: An outspoken foe of abortion, the Georgia lawmaker had acquiesced to his then-wife having an abortion in 1983. And he had invoked a legal privilege during his 1985 divorce proceeding so he could refuse to answer questions on whether he'd cheated on his second wife with the woman who is now his third.

Barr, in Flynt's mind, was guilty of far more heinous moral crimes than Clinton. ``Bob Barr stood on the House floor and said abortion was the equivalent to murder,'' Flynt told the assembled press. ``To me, that represents the ultimate form of hypocrisy, and in many ways it's worse than failing to tell the truth under oath.''

In his 1986 divorce hearing, Barr testified that he had objected to the abortion, but Gail Barr's affidavit for Flynt claimed otherwise:

8. In March of 1963, 1 became pregnant for the third time. When I became pregnant the third time, our two sons were three years old and a year-and-a-half. I was 38 years old, concerned with health complications the pregnancy might present, and Bob's practice was slow, and he was not home much. We did not have any health insurance. I asked Bob what we should do; whether I should have an abortion. He said it was entirely my decision and that I should do whatever I wanted to do. This was an extremely difficult choice, but Bob did not want to help in making the decision, even though he was the father. If Bob had said, "No, don't have an abortion," I never would have had it done.

9. Bob never told me not to have the abortion, or that he was in any way against my having the abortion. Any statement he made that he expressed his opposition to the abortion is simply not true.

10. On the Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend in 1983, Bob drove me to the clinic to have an abortion. He watched our boys at home while the procedure was done. He then came to the clinic to to get me. He paid for the procedure.

Three things can be safely deduced from this statement, even allowing for the bias of the witness:

1. Bob and Gail Barr discussed the possibility of abortion when she became pregnant the third time.

2. Bob insisted that the decision to have an abortion was purely her choice.

3. Barr drove her to the clinic and paid for the abortion.

What's intriguing here is that Barr's attitude and conduct is actually Libertarian.

Remember, there are both pro-abortion and anti-abortion Libertarians; the LP Platform actually says,

Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.

If actions speak louder than words, consider this. Barr obviously has personal objections to abortion, and in his worst moments he has participated in efforts to reduce women's reproductive freedom.

But faced with the situation in his own family, what did he do? He refused to cajole or coerce, insisting that abortion was his wife's decision alone. Then he drove her to the clinic, watched the boys, and paid the bill.

(And, yes, he probably lied about it in divorce court. Show me somebody who hasn't lied when they were in divorce court.)

In other words, even his ex-wife acting as a hostile witness couldn't come up with anything more damning than "He said it was entirely my decision and that I should do whatever I wanted to do."

Which is--oh shit!--pretty much the entire Libertarian philosophy in a nutshell.

I've got a lot of problems with Barr as Libertarian presidential nominee--everything from the Patriot Act to DOMA to his own little war on drugs.

But this isn't one of them.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

An Open Question for all Delaware gubernatorial candidates. . .

Do you have as much integrity as New York Governor David Paterson?

From the New York Times (via Waldo):

On May 14, Mr. Paterson’s legal counsel, David Nocenti, wrote a memo to all state agency heads that directed them to evaluate their policies and begin rewriting them so they comply with a state appeals court decision that said New York must recognize gay marriages performed in other jurisdictions like Canada and California.

At a news conference on Thursday afternoon, Mr. Paterson repeated the directive and said that although he supports gay marriage and will continue to push for it in the future, this was not an “end run around the Legislature” but merely his interpretation of current laws on the books.

“I’m following the law as it always has existed,” he said.

Asked to respond to critics of the directive, he said, “I would suggest that if they went back and read the law, that they would come to a different interpretation themselves, even if they disagree with the concept of marriage equality.

“If I didn’t take this action,” he added, “I would leave this state open to law suits. I would leave the state treasury open to monetary damages.”

Here's the choice for Jack Markell, John Carney, Bill Lee, Mike Protack, and even Rob Foraker:

Prove that you support the full faith and credit clause of the US Constitution, or. . . .

. . . . just get it over with and endorse the Still and Venables proposed Delaware Constitutional amendment (Senate Bill 156) to keep those damn queers in their place (which is somewhere else but not here) (except during the summer when they spend a lot of money at the Beach) (we hate queers but we will still take their money in the parking meters). . . .

Sen. Still & Sen. Venables

Sens. Bonini; Reps. Ewing, Hocker, Lee, Thornburg




BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE (Two-thirds of all members elected to each house thereof concurring therein):

Section 1. Amend Article XV of the Constitution of the State of Delaware by adding thereto the following:
“Section 11. Marriage is prohibited and void between persons of the same gender. A marriage obtained or recognized outside this State between persons of the same gender shall not constitute a legal or valid marriage within this State. The uniting of two persons of the same gender in a civil union, domestic partnership, or other similar same gender legal relationship shall not be valid or recognized in this State.”.

Here's just one really big reason why you guys need to take a stand.

Suppose a gay couple that some demon-worshipping Satanist has married in Massachusetts or California moves to Delaware.

One partner takes a position at DelDot; the other teaches public school.

If the State of Delaware does not recognize their marriage as valid, both individuals will have to pay health insurance premiums.

If, on the other hand, Delaware recognizes their marriage as valid, neither has to pay health insurance premiums, because they are a State-share couple.

Aside from the ethical issues, can't you just see the lucrative discrimination lawsuit?

(With apologies to Becky for stealing the cool illustration)

The greatest danger from Mexico is not brown people cleaning houses and cutting grass. . . .

. . . but the fact that continuing to fight the drug war with more machine guns instead of a better policy could turn the area south of the Rio Grande into a genuine failed state.

Visit Drug War Rant for the details (and be sure to click through to the source material).

It's a scary picture.

Ironically, however, the team of former CIA-type spooks who penned the assessment suggest that a classic Libertarian strategy may be Mexico's best chance to avoid disintegration:

One way to deal with the problem would be ending the artificial price of drugs by legalizing them. This would rapidly lower the price of drugs and vastly reduce the money to be made in smuggling them. Nothing hurt the American cartels more than the repeal of Prohibition, and nothing helped them more than Prohibition itself.

But that, of course, would make too much sense.

Being called soulless by the Huckster is like being called ugly by an Arkansas razorback

A given: from a GOP perspective, Bob Barr as the Libertarian candidate is a bad thing that could cost him a critical battleground state.

A maxim: if you want to further marginalize a third-party candidate or political movement, don't talk about it, don't take notice of it, and by all means don't make it part of the public debate.

That being said, I'm wondering tonight just why Mike Huckabee doesn't want John McCain to win the election, given his interview in the Huffington Post:

Republicans need to be Republicans. The greatest threat to classic Republicanism is not liberalism; it's this new brand of libertarianism, which is social liberalism and economic conservatism, but it's a heartless, callous, soulless type of economic conservatism because it says "look, we want to cut taxes and eliminate government. If it means that elderly people don't get their Medicare drugs, so be it. If it means little kids go without education and healthcare, so be it." Well, that might be a quote pure economic conservative message, but it's not an American message. It doesn't fly. People aren't going to buy that, because that's not the way we are as a people. That's not historic Republicanism. Historic Republicanism does not hate government; it's just there to be as little of it as there can be. But they also recognize that government has to be paid for.

Here's the official Libertarian Party rejoinder (h/t Independent Political Report):

Huckabee is right that Libertarianism is a threat to Republicanism. The Republican Party, with the help of people like Sen. John McCain, has done nothing but increase the scope and power of government while throwing fiscal responsibility to the wind. It’s the ‘compassionate conservatism’ touted by people like Huckabee, McCain and President Bush that has caused a soaring national debt and a society where prisons are overflowing because of Republican ‘compassion.’ Libertarianism is unquestionably the American message because libertarianism is the only political message that empowers the American people by giving them more control over their lives and their wallets. Huckabee proves once again that there is very little difference in the messages of Republicans and Democrats, and shows that McCain and Obama might as well be running in the same political party.

That's good, but not great.

Here's my suggested response:

Mike Huckabee apparently doesn't trust the American people.

If a smaller government took fewer of their hard-earned dollars, he thinks they'd be too self-centered to invest some of that money in locally controlled schools. He'd rather trust bureaucratic organizations like the FDA, which routinely lets thousands--if not millions--of American citizens suffer and die because it delays for years the approval of medications already thoroughly vetted at safe in Europe and Canada.

In Mike Huckabee's America, you can't trust people to make their own decisions about education or which drugs they should use to dull their cancer pain.

In Mike Huckabee's America, government needs to look up your dress or into your pants before it decides that you are allowed to get married.*

Which is your America?

If you believe in an America where the government should be able to pull money out of your wallet before you can spend it on your own family, the Democrats have a great candidate for you.

If you believe in an America where the government's reach should extend into your bedroom, the GOP has the man for you.

But if you think America is about individual liberty and personal responsibility, then send Mike Huckabee, Barack Obama, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton a message.

Vote Libertarian.

Still probably too long, but you get the idea.

Thanks, Mike, for keeping our brand out there for us.

Now the only question remaining is this: Bob and Wayne, why doesn't a Google search give me any response from you guys?

Raising the Barr: Take a stand on Warner-Lieberman, please

Again, in the spirit of Thomas Knapp's suggestion that even Libertarians who are skeptical/hostile to the Barr/Root ticket should engage positively in a way that strengthens the overall party:

Here's a first gauge of our candidates' ability to keep themselves relevant and in the public eye:

Lieberman-Warner America's Climate Security Act comes up for debate next week. It is a comprehensive carbon cap-and-trade proposition which will--in its effect on refineries--cause gasoline prices to spike by an estimated 48-cents-per-gallon almost immediately, followed by an additional 13-cent-rise over the following year.

It is a knee-jerk, poorly considered piece of global warming legislation that--if it passes (Dubya has promised a veto)--will wreck more immediate havoc on the American economy that ethanol subsidies have. Moreover, it combines the worst sort of shoot-from-the-hip social engineering with a regressive tax that will be felt primarily by the working poor.

John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton are all on the record supporting cap-and-trade.

The Demopublicans intend to solve the world's environmental problems by taxing poor and middle-class Americans.

Here's how you keep Barr/Root in the news and begin to gather voters to the Libertarian standard.

The Democrats and the Republicans think that $4/gallon gas is too cheap.

Not satisfied with forcing food prices up by using billions of dollars of your tax money to subsidize ethanol, they want to add more than 60 cents to the price of every gallon you have to pump.

That's what the Lieberman-Warner America's Climate Security Act would do.

The Senate starts debating it this week.

All three Democrat or Republican presidential candidates support the idea of using the so-called cap-and-trade policy to force higher gasoline taxes.

Shouldn't there be at least one presidential candidate with the common sense to say NO to higher gasoline taxes for poor and middle-class American families?

Shouldn't there be at least one presidential candidate capable of admitting to America that the hundreds of billions spent on ethanol subsidies have been a disaster at the grocery store and the gas pump?

Shouldn't there be at least one presidential candidate willing to go beyond phony gas tax holidays and tell the American people the truth: it's our own government's ridiculous taxes, regulations, and policies that are primarily responsible for our current energy crisis?

Fortunately, there is one.

His name is Bob Barr, and he's a Libertarian.

Plain and simple: next week we get the first indication of whether Barr is serious about challenging the status quo and keeping his candidacy alive in the mainstream media, or whether he just plans to sit on his ass.

I really hope he'll come out firing.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

This is the Libertarian Platform. . . . This is the Barr/Root position

Here's what the Libertarian Party Platform (as apparently adopted in Denver) says about same-sex marriage:

Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no discriminatory impact on the rights of individuals by government, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration, or military service laws. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships. Government does not have legitimate authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships.

Here's what Bob Barr says:

The Defense of Marriage Act insofar has provided the federal government a club to club down rights of law-abiding American citizens, has been abused, misused, and should be repealed, and I will work to repeal it... Regardless of whether one supports or opposes same sex-marriage, the decision to recognize such unions or not ought to be a power each state exercises on its own, rather than imposition of a one-size-fits-all mandate by the federal government -- as would be required by a Federal Marriage Amendment, which has been previously proposed and considered by the Congress.... The decision today by the supreme court of California properly reflects this fundamental principle of federalism on which our nation was founded.

Here's what Wayne Allyn Root says:

Abortion is a states' rights issue. Education is a states' right issue. Medical marijuana is a states' rights issue. Gay marraige [sic] is a states' rights issue. Right to Die (typified by the Terri Schiavo crisis) is a states' rights issue. Come to think of it, almost every social issue of our day is a States' Rights issue. Let's get the federal government out of our lives....

*I support gay rights and civil unions. Gay marriage however is not a federal issue. It is a States' Rights issue only.

If I read English correctly, the Libertarian Party Platform says Government should not be involved in determining who can be married, but the Barr/Root position is only that the Federal Government should not be involved in determining who can be married.

States' rights is a traditionally conservative concept with a history that goes back through massive resistance to segregation to the defense of slavery to Nullification of Federal taxes to the Virginia & Kentucky Resolutions.

So, in the spirit of Thomas Knapp suggesting we help the Barr/Root ticket find its Libertarian voice, here's the question that our national candidates need to answer:

Do you support the plank of the Libertarian Platform regarding Personal Relationships?

A Yes or No will suffice.

Would this be your lucky day, or would you turn yourself in?

From Drug War Rant (by way of others):

An unwitting passenger arriving at Japan's Narita airport has received 142g of cannabis after a customs test went awry, officials say.

A customs officer hid a package of the banned substance in a side pocket of a randomly chosen suitcase in order to test airport security.

Sniffer dogs failed to detect the cannabis and the officer could not remember which bag he had put it in.

I mean, I've found pens and pieces of flash drives in my luggage, maybe even the occasional odd dollar bill, but things like this don't happen to me.

Except when they happen in reverse.

In 1980 I was cycling back to the US with approximately 4,500 other troops from the 4th Infantry Division at the completion of Operation REFORGER.

Marijuana and Hash were the big drugs of choice.

I went up the the customs table to face the MP with absolutely no sense of humor.

"Empty your pockets," he told me.

I stuck my hand into each side pocket of my field jacket, and without thinking pulled out two baggies each festooned with vegetable material remains.

I could almost hear Popeye Doyle creaming his jeans for busting the French Connection. They strip-searched me. They used a finger to check areas in which I am usually required to turn my head and cough. They hauled my duffle bag out of the cargo hold and dumped it out. They stuck nails into my shoe polish--my shoe polish!--on the chance that they might find submerged Hash. (Who smokes Hash they've taken out of shoe polish?)

I became an instant, over-night sensation in the 4th ID.

The real answer (which they refused to listen to) was that I had taken a whole bunch of Sci Fi paperbacks to Germany with me for the five-week exercise. Because I knew they could well get wet and destroyed, I had carefully packed each in a ziploc baggie.

When I read each book, I stuck the baggie into my pocket. We moved a lot, and every time we left an area we had to pick up all the trash. It seemed safer to throw crap in your pockets and dump it later than to litter.

Moreover, by the time you'd finished weeks of rolling around in the muck, your pockets had also collected random bits of vegetation from the ground.

Baggie + pieces of vegetation + bleary-eyed GI + moron MP = body cavity search.

All of which is just a long-winded way of saying: if I found 142 g of cannabis in my suitcase in Japan I'd just assume the position right where I was standing.

Unabashed Statist coercion has become the norm for law enforcement in America

My liberal and progressive friends often show cyber-smirks when I talk about coercive taxation or government intimidation. It occasionally feels like we live in completely different worlds.

So maybe this will help them probe what has heretofore been invisible.

Consider two favorite issues for Statists: mandatory seatbelt laws and restrictions on the private transfer of firearms.

I'm not going to discuss the laws themselves, because that's usually a waste of breath. Either you understand the issues of personal liberty or 2nd Amendment rights, or you don't. What I want to do instead is discuss the overt tactics of intimidation and fear being used to make people toe the line.

Case One: Click It or Ticket

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is in the process of spending its $7,500,000--that's $7.5 million--advertising budget on this campaign to get drivers to buckle up.

The precis on the NHTSA website makes it clear that this is consciously intended as a coercive campaign--conform or we will take your money--with very little or no emphasis on trying to convince people in a rational manner that wearing seatbelts is a good thing:

The cornerstone of NHTSA's seat belt communications program is the national Click It or Ticket May Mobilization. The primary audience continues to be men ages 18 to 34, which research shows are less likely to wear seat belts.

Day and Night, Cops are Cracking Down

Every year during this holiday period, law enforcement agencies join forces day and night, from coast-to-coast, for an enforcement blitz that delivers on our message “Click It or Ticket". The mobilization is supported by national and local paid advertising and earned media campaigns aimed at raising awareness before the blitz that ... Day or Night - Buckle Up or Pay Up.

The section on enforcement strategies makes several points clear:

1) Millions of dollars in NHTSA grants is being expended not to assist local law enforcement in fighting crime, but in paying for overtime and equipment to conduct nightly seatbelt check points.

2) The people organizing these events are quite conscious that they are walking a fine line between intimidation and outrage:

In at least two programs, nighttime vision goggles have been employed. Due to the adverse public reaction to the use of these devices experienced in one of these programs, use of nighttime vision devices such as goggles or scopes is not recommended.

The NHTSA also thoughtfully provides sample op-ed pieces to be submitted to local media over the signatures of cops apparently too tongue-tied to write their own copy, which conclude:

While seat belts have been proven to save lives, too many people still need a tough reminder to buckle up. Law enforcement is all too aware of the risks and will be out in full force buckling down on those who fail to buckle up. Wearing your seat belt costs you nothing, but the costs of NOT wearing one may be a ticket, or worse — your life. So please remember to always buckle up, both day and night. Don’t become a statistic: Click It or Ticket!

Here's the Statist/bureaucratic thought process (if such random synaptic activity can legitimately be characterized as thought):

1. We come up with a great idea of what people should do.
2 Because people are too stupid to do what's good for them, we make it illegal not to do it.
3. We stop emphasizing making rational choices and go for intimidation and coercion.
4. We look for other areas of their lives they obviously need help with.

(While I'm focusing here on the attitude of coercion, it doesn't hurt to note that the $7.5 million advertising budget for Click It or Ticket is only a fraction of the $125.4 million expended on the grants allowing local law enforcement to run those seatbelt check points. Curiously, I cannot find out what the locals do with all those fines.)

Case Two: Private gun transfers in Pennsylvania.

I heard this one over the radio, pimping

Here's the text:

It's a scenario that plays out all too often in Philadelphia:

A widow begins the sad process of going through her husband's belongings--giving away clothes, sorting through paperwork, cleaning out tools--and she comes across his guns. He kept a handgun in the house for protection. She wants it gone. A family friend offers to take it, and she happily agrees. No paperwork filed. No legal transfer takes place. It ends up on the street. The handgun is used in a fatal shooting, and it is traced back to her. Can she be arrested for illegally transferring a firearm? Pennsylvania law says, yes.

Transferring gun ownership is a simple process, but one that many people overlook. If you give or sell a handgun to someone, you must legally transfer ownership from yourself to the new owner. Pennsylvania law requires it. Without the legal transfer any crime committed wtih a gun that you gave or sold to someone can and will be traced back to you. You can be prosecuted and face legal consequences. That's not a risk worth taking.

This is not only coercive and intimidating (take that, you thoughtless widows!), but misleading as to the actual requirements of the law, as Dave Markowitz of The Firing Line points out:

This morning, I caught a commercial on WMMR promoting an apparently-new website, I thought to myself, "Cool, someone is running an ad for FFL transfer services on 'MMR!" Such services are often used by gunnies purchasing firearms from out-of-state, since such transfers must go through a licensee per Federal law. When I checked it after getting into the office I was disgusted to find that it's a site to promote transfer of guns through licensed dealers, as opposed to private party sales. The whois data shows the registrant for the domain as Commonwealth Media Services, which is a state entity.

What I find troubling about it is that it promotes transfers through FFLs, and makes it seem that any face-to-face private sale is illegal in PA. That is not the case. Private transfers of rifles and shotguns between PA residents is perfectly legal, only handgun sales, NFA transfers, and transactions with out of state residents must go through an FFL. The only reference to private rifle/shotgun sales being actually legal is buried on the Q&A page.

What makes this misleading is that in Pennsylvania, only "firearms" must be transferred through an FFL, per 18 Pa. Con. Stat. Sec. 6111. In PA, the definition of a firearm is this:

"Any pistol or revolver with a barrel length less than 15 inches, any shotgun with a barrel length less than 18 inches or any rifle with a barrel length less than 16 inches, or any pistol, revolver, rifle or shotgun with an overall length of less than 26 inches. The barrel length of a firearm shall be determined by measuring from the muzzle of the barrel to the face of the closed action, bolt or cylinder, whichever is applicable."

See 18 Pa. Consolidated Statutes Sec. 6102.

The statutory definition of firearms specifically does not include most guns which do not fall under the restrictions of the Federal National Firearms Act of 1934. In other words, the vast majority of rifles and shotguns in private possession are not "firearms" for the purpose of this law. For example, the hypothetical hunting rifle and shotgun described on's Home page generally do not meet the legal definition of a "firearm" in Pennsylvania.

So why the dissimulation? clearly reflects the Philly-centric antigun bias. By fooling people into thinking that private party transfers of any gun are illegal in PA, they are looking to create a paper trail. All gun transfers which go through a licensed dealer first require the transferee to pass a background check conducted in Harrisburg by the Pennsylvania State Police. As you may be aware, a few years ago they were sued for creating an illegal registry of gun owners. As it turned out, the State Police won their case when the court ruled that the records which they were compiling did not meet the statutory definition of an illegal database. Nevertheless, it is still a de facto database of gun owners in Pennsylvania. And we know that historically, gun registration has lead to confiscation in Germany, Britain, and closer to home in New York and New Jersey.

This stinks on ice and they need to be called on it.

That doesn't need much addition, except to point out that you have to pay a fee to the firearms dealer to give away your handgun, and Pennsylvania law permits them to charge anything they damn well please for this "service."

Here's the point: Even if I accept (for sake of argument) that our society needs laws to force people to wear seat belts and regulate private gun transfers, the methods by which the government pursues enforcement should be just as chilling to American citizens as the thought that Dubya and Dick Cheney are listening to your phone calls or reading your emails.

From an ethical standpoint, why is the Attorney General of PA misleading people about the details of the gun transfer law with scary anecdotes any different from Dubya and his cronies misleading people about terrorist threats?

Why is spending $125.4 million in taxpayer dollars justifiable to pursue a victimless "crime" at the expense of police time and effort that could actually be spent protecting people from murderers, rapists, and thieves?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

And my conscience checks in. . . .

. . . which is a good thing, because it's literate, impassioned, and carefully critical without being cynical.

Waldo has functioned, on and off, as a part of my conscience for over thirty years. Sometimes when he did not even know he was doing so (I do remember Mitch P. and the injustice too few people--including myself--were willing to see.)

So, as I contemplate what a Libertarian does when confronted with a Barr/Root candidacy, I have to take this argument into account:

But if I were a card-carrying Libertarian, I'd be majorly pissed at the idea of my party being led by the likes of Bob Barr.

For one thing, I'd be upset that a party would nominate a man who by his own admission was wrong about most of the great issues of his time in Congress. He was for the Patriot Act; now he's against it. Munger says, well, politics is about the art of the possible. You have to make compromises. Which is true. But the compromises that brought Barr around weren't substantive; they were to add sunset clauses. But a good law and order prosecutor like Barr had knew (a) the Patriot Act was just a Christmas tree of civil liberties-trashing law enforcement wish lists that had been kicking around for years; and (b) laws are almost never sunsetted, certainly not when they were adopted with the emotional head of vengeance that attended the Patriot Act's passage. It was a sure as the title on the bill that just as RICO went from being a gangland prosecution act to one for suing abortion protesters, the provisions of the Patriot Act ended up being used to bring down a governor with a taste for high-priced whores.

Barr says he was wrong about the war on drugs, too. He opposed allowing the District of Columbia to even study the medical use of marijuana; now he's at one with the 411 crowd and decries the tens of thousands in prison for drug offenses. It would be interesting to see how many his office put away when he was a US Attorney in Georgia.

Barr says he was wrong about Don't Ask Don't Tell, too.

And Barr says he was wrong about the Defense of Marriage Act, with managing the impeachment of President Clinton, his signature legislative achievement. It doesn't outlaw gay marriage, he said at the time; but by writing it so that it withheld Federal tax, welfare, pension, health, immigration and survivors' benefits, Barr essentially gutted the meaning of the institution he valued so much he availed himself of it three times, then sent it up to serial adulterer Bill Clinton to sign into law. He's still against marriage equality, and any rights the Constitution might protect: "I opposed then, and continue to oppose, same-sex marriage, or the designation of gays as a constitutionally protected minority class," he wrote in The Wall Street Journal last year.

At the time, Barr said he just introduced it because a constituent was concerned about the issue, just as he sought to ban witchcraft in the Army in the name of constituent service ("In Washington, particularly in the area of holding our leaders accountable, one of the great figures is Robert E. Lee. We try to keep in mind the standards of General Lee. There is more to our Southern heritage than whether the economy is running well,'' Mr. Barr, a native of Iowa City and graduate of the University of Southern California whose mother, an Ayn Randian, used to denounce him as a liberal). He denounced the Environmental Protection Agency ("Barr blasts E.P.A. for Promoting Homosexual Behavior") for extending family leave policies to partnered gay employees. In a 1998 New York Times interview at an airport, the story recounts, "There was one bit of good news. Glancing at a newspaper, Mr. Barr said, ''Hey! They canceled 'Ellen.' '' Mrs. Barr said: ''It wasn't as funny after she made her announcement.'' During floor debate over his bill, Bar thundered, "the flames of hedonism, the flames of narcissism, the flames of self-centered morality are licking at the very foundation of our society, the family unit."

"America is not ready to change its definition of marriage," the bill's author, Representative Bob Barr, a freshman Republican from Georgia, said at a news conference after the bill had passed. "America will not be the first country in the world that throws the concept of marriage out the window and for the very first time in the history of civilization says that homosexual marriages are as important as, and rise to the level of the legal and moral equivalency of, heterosexual marriage." He ran for re-election on it: "On radio programs and before volunteers, he hammered away on his major bill, the Defense of Marriage Act, which would deny Federal recognition to marriages between homosexuals. ''The legal institution of marriage,'' he said, ''is under direct assault by homosexual extremists.''

Yet Barr declared a prenomination conversion on repealing part of DOMA (essentially adopting the position of Hillary Clinton) after a meeting with some gay libertarians, not two weeks after Outright Libertarians restated their support for another candidate and faulted Barr's "evolution" on gay rights issues for being slow at best. There's nothing on his campaign website, for example, about either what he used to think or what he claims to think now on gay rights. Can states glory in federalism by adopting marriage equality and still see their citizens denied all the benefits federal law confers? Who were those Libertarians who moved Barr, and just how far has his change of mind led him? No one seems to be talking in public. Barr's not, and we're betting on the campaign trail he will make the she-Clinton's Coolidge-like silences on gay rights seem like Wayne Allyn Root selling vacuum cleaners door to door.

The Libertarian Party's convention delegates seemed willing to mortgage their party's soul for the prospect of a few extra points in the November polls and future promises of goodwill. The question will be, can they get it back by 2012?

I also have to note the willingness of people to hear what they most want and need to hear. Outright Libertarians is running this comment above a Barr clip [and the post is credited to Brian Miller, a Libertarian I respect every bit as much as Thomas Knapp or Michael Munger]:

Libertarian Presidential Nominee Bob Barr described the Defense of Marriage Act as a "mistake" and decried how it is used to "club down the rights of law abiding citizens." The former Congressman, during his nomination speech, made an impassioned commitment to repeal the law.

Now take a look at the clip:

But here's the problem, as Less Antman [another credible Libertarian] points out in a comment on Last Free Voice:

I want to be fair, but Barr has been carefully wording his comments on DOMA to refer to SOME provisions of it, not IT, and he has so far failed to unequivocally state that DOMA should be repealed. Keep an open mind, folks, but keep pressuring him for an explicit repeal, or else plan to write off the LGBT community and the people who care about them (which thankfully is a population far, far, far larger than just the number of LGBT).

I have many gay couples as clients in my financial advisory practice who have lost and will lose tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to gift, estate, and income taxes because of the refusal of the federal government to acknowledge same sex marriages. It isn’t enough to let each state determine its state treatment of gay marriage when it affects so many federal treatments of gay marriage.

DOMA should be repealed, and we should continue to pressure Barr until he removes the Clintonesque wording of his answer. For those who believe Barr’s journey toward consistent libertarianism is incomplete, there’s no reason to think he can’t grow between now and September, which will be a critical month (once the Republican convention is over, many Ron Paul r3VOLutionaries will take a look at Barr and determine if they think he is r3VOLutionary enough).

In a year wherein I have already found myself unable to support the candidates from the two major parties, I think I'm going to have to lower the bar significantly just to find a reason even to go into a voting booth this November.

So here's my challenge to Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root: as an opener, if you want this Libertarian's support, I need to see an an unambiguous campaign statement that marriage, same-sex or otherwise, is not for the State or Federal government to recognize or legitimize as per the Libertarian Party platform.

If they can't do that, they might grudgingly get my vote in a lesser-of-three-evils sense (although I am a long way even from that), but what they won't get is any activity on my part to help sell or support this ticket.

I'm not leaving the Libertarian Party. I intend to stay inside and work for positive change, and to keep building a party in Delaware.

But I will not check my principles at the door to do it.

This is my challenge to Michael Munger, Thomas Knapp, Brian Miller, Less Antman, and all the others--from Mary Ruwart to Mike Jingozian and George Phillies:

We've got Barr/Root now, so let's take a shot at making them live up to the principles they claim to represent.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Michael Munger and one answer to my dilemma--UPDATED: The Kn@ppster chimes in

Michael Munger is the Libertarian candidate running for Governor in North Carolina. He's polling around 4%. He's also the Chair of the Department of Political Science at Duke University. His regular blog (which I've just added to the blogroll on the left) is Kids Prefer Cheese.

Munger is a gentleman and a team player. It is fairly obvious if you read his positions on same-sex marriage, victimless crimes, and corporate welfare, that Michael and the new Richard Viguerie-Shane Corey-Bob Barr-Wayne Allyn Root party line is not necessarily his brand of Libertarianism.

Yet when Michael shared the keynote speech honors with Viguerie at the convention--even though I noted he gave quite a different type of speech--he went out of his way to say positive things about Viguerie after the fact.

Likewise, in the aftermath of the Bob Barr nomination, Michael published For Those Upset About Bob Barr, which is brief enough to quote in its entirety:

For those upset about the Bob Barr nomination, two things:

1. It was not that implausible. His responses in the debate helped him a lot.
2. And on the merits, check this. You may or may not find it helpful. But the "he voted for the Patriot Act" claim just isn't right. Or, at least, it's more complex.

In fact, now that I think about it, it's the heart of the matter. Bob Barr opposed the Patriot Act. He tried to compromise, and agreed to vote "yes" on the Patriot Act, in order to get some improvements in a bill that was going to pass anyway. Now, one can say that that was a mistake. In fact, it was. But it is not the same as "voted for the Patriot Act."

The problem with having a candidate who has actually held elective office is that it is likely the person has had to make some actual policy decisions. Whatever else are the merits of the Barr nomination, we are going to have to decide if we want to have some Libertarians who are actually IN office, or if we are just going to continue to be proud of our irrelevance. 'Cause we have a lot to be proud of.

I didn't vote for Bob Barr. I supported Mary Ruwart. But I'm glad Bob's the nominee, and I have already contributed to his campaign. I urge you to do the same.

I don't know if I can be as much of a good soldier as Michael Munger, but then I'm not running for governor and thinking that a well-known national ticket might be worth another 1-2 % and a chance to establish the Libertarian Party of North Carolina firmly into the state's political mix.

Yet he is right about this: real office holders have to deal with real politics and real decisions. They're going to make compromises and be faced with situations that ideology alone won't resolve. That's one of the reasons it's always so tough for Senators to run for President (this year, with Senators squaring off, will be an exception) because their records are filled with votes and compromises that are hard to explain later. Politics (unlike ideology) is always the art of the possible.

I want to listen to a Libertarian I respect, like Michael Munger, and the addition of Mike Jongozian as LP Vice-Chair, along with Mary Ruwart and Lee Wrights to the Libertarian National Committee, gives me hope that the disparate elements of my party are going to try to find a way to live and even campaign together.

None of which says I'm going to support Barr/Root. But in deference to Michael Munger, George Phillies, and a lot of people I respect, I'm going to give a lot of thought to my course of action in the general election.

Comments, as always, are welcome.

Thomas Knapp, the Kn@ppster, another prominent Libertarian whose opinion I value, has provided his own take on the situation (he supported Kubby and then Ruwart at the convention):

The Libertarian Party has selected its 2008 presidential ticket. It's no secret that that ticket does not consist of the candidates I had hoped it would include ... but that's not worth belaboring. The party's national convention is a caucus in form, and one of the rules of the caucus is that those who choose to participate implicitly agree to support the results. I participated, and I will keep that implicit agreement. I congratulate Congressman Barr and Mr. Root, and pledge to support their candidacy as best I can. I sincerely hope that my fellow Libertarians will do likewise.

Perhaps. I remain unconvinced as yet that Barr and Root will not go neo-con lite; the next two weeks should tell us about the major issues that concern Libertarians.

Put it this way: they've got a lot of people inside the party to win over, before they start prospecting elsewhere.

PFC Desmond Doss: What Memorial Day means to me

Unfortunately, politics doesn't get suspended on Memorial Day, but that is what it is.

Here's what Memorial Day means to me, as an American citizen and as a former Medic in the US Army: the story of PFC Desmond Doss at Okinawa.

Doss pass away two years ago; this is taken from his extended obituary on the Adventist News Network:

Desmond T. Doss, Sr., who braved ridicule to serve in World War II as a U.S. Army medic without carrying a gun, and who labored on a Sabbath, May 5, 1945, to rescue 75 wounded soldiers pinned down by enemy gunfire on the island of Okinawa, died March 23 at his residence in Piedmont, Alabama. Doss, the only conscientious objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor during World War II, was 87 years of age.

Desmond T. Doss, Sr., who braved ridicule to serve in World War II as a U.S. Army medic without carrying a gun, and who labored on a Sabbath, May 5, 1945, to rescue 75 wounded soldiers pinned down by enemy gunfire on the island of Okinawa, died March 23 at his residence in Piedmont, Alabama. Doss, the only conscientious objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor during World War II, was 87 years of age.

It is reported that Doss, a quiet, unassuming man, never liked being called a "conscientious objector," preferring "conscientious cooperator" instead. Instead of accepting a deferment from the military draft, Doss voluntarily joined the U.S. Army, but never took up arms. Assigned to the 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division, as a company medic he was often harassed and ridiculed for his beliefs. Raised a Seventh-day Adventist, Doss did not believe in using a gun or killing because of the sixth commandment which states, "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13). Doss was a patriot however, and believed in serving his country.

According to his Medal of Honor citation, time after time, Doss' fellow soldiers witnessed how unafraid he was for his own safety. He was always willing to go after a wounded comrade, no matter how great the danger. During the May 5, 1945, battle in Okinawa, Doss refused to take cover from enemy fire as he rescued 75 wounded soldiers, carrying them one-by-one and lowering them over the edge of the 400-foot Maeda Escarpment. He did not stop until he had brought everyone to safety nearly 12 hours later. Doss would later credit knot-tying skills learned in an Adventist youth group, the Pathfinders, with helping him accomplish the rescue.

Despite that day being a Sabbath, or Saturday, Doss understood Jesus' injunction that it was fitting to "do good" on the holy day by saving lives.

According to media reports, when U.S. President Harry Truman gave Doss his medal, Truman told him, "I'm proud of you; you really deserve this. I consider this [medal] a greater honor than being President."

Doss' exemplary devotion to God and his country received nationwide acclaim. On July 4, 2004, a statue of Doss was placed in the National Museum of Patriotism in Atlanta, Ga., along with statues of Dr. Martin Luther King, President Jimmy Carter, and retired Marine Corps General Gray Davis, also a Medal of Honor recipient. Also in 2004, a feature-length documentary called "The Conscientious Objector," telling Doss' story of faith, heroism, and bravery was released. A feature movie describing Doss' story is also being planned.

Ironically, Terry Benedict, who produced the documentary and who will work on the feature film, was receiving a communication Bridge Award from the Seventh-day Adventist Church at the time news of Doss' passing arrived.

"I saw Desmond about [ten days] ago," Benedict told ANN. "We had a nice chat; he was in good spirits. His story was told on film, and it went far, far beyond what Desmond had ever imagined."

In and around Washington, D.C., tributes to Doss emerged.

"There are probably few who appreciated life and freedom more than he did," Major Sheldon Smith, a spokesman for the United States Army, said in a statement. "Private First Class Desmond T. Doss was an American Hero in the truest sense -- one each of us should not hesitate to emulate."

According to Pastor Don Schneider, president of the Adventist Church in North America, Doss "is considered to be a role model - especially to many of our members. His decision to not bear arms in the most dangerous of times was a courageous and heroic decision that has in turn affected many lives. We are proud to have had Desmond as a member of our Church."

Doss' survivors include his wife Frances, his son, Desmond T. Doss, Jr., and his brother, Harold Doss. He was preceded in death by his first wife Dorothy Schutte and his sister, Audrey Millner.

Read Doss' brief, humble account of Miracle Day here.

Or just watch this.

The High Tide

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Barr routs Ruwart; Root cuts himself in for a share of the spoils; am I left homeless?

Perhaps John McCain and I, for once, share the same nightmare: Bob Barr at the head of the Libertarian ticket.

It was fairly evident by the third of six ballots that the far more conservative branch of the party (split between Barr and Wayne Allyn Root) had the votes to prevail. After two ballots with the lead tied between Barr and Mary Ruwart, the fifth ballot gave Ruwart an ephemeral three-vote lead, while eliminating Root from contention.

Root then strode to the microphone and threw his support to Barr in exchange for the vice-presidential nomination.

That was pretty much all she wrote. Ruwart could not even make herself say she'd support Barr in her concession speech. Instead, she later nominated Steve Kubby for VP in order to balance the ticket. The strategy might have worked, except that at least a couple dozen delegates had left the floor in disgust, and their votes would have made the difference.

So now the Libertarian Party, in its new incarnation as the plaything for Richard Viguerie, Bob Barr, Shane Corey, Steve Gordon, and Wayne Allyn Root, is poised to enter the presidential lists, with the Barr folks trumpeting loudly the Rasmussen polling that already gives him 6% nationwide.

In some key states--Nevada and Georgia come to mind--Barr/Root arguably has the chance to throw the state from McCain to Obama, just as Ralph Nader might tilt Michigan the other way.

Meanwhile, I'm left wondering who to support and where to go in the general election. I am not leaving the Libertarian Party. The Libertarian Party of Delaware is just beginning to find its feet, and we've got a lot of work to do.

My own preferred candidate, Dr George Phillies, is out. McCain favors preemptive war. Obama is for increasing the defense budget and the size of the military, while simultaneously creating massive new social programs. Barr has a history of police-state, anti-gay, pro-war on drugs legislation and a cheesy mustache. Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party is strongly anti-abortion. Cynthia McKinney for the Greens is--to put it mildly--a loon, and Ralph Nader is a gadfly rather than a candidate.

Obviously I am going about this the wrong way. So let's backtrack:

Here are my three most important issues:

1) Foreign policy/defense: I want American imperialism rolled back and American interventionism halted, as the same time we begin to pull free from the military/industrial complex by slashing the budgets for defense and homeland security to reasonable levels.

2) Civil libertarian issues: I want to see gay marriage legalized; drugs decriminalized; Real ID abolished; the Patriot Act gutted; and immigrants viewed as human beings. I want intrusive government the hell out of my life.

3) Fiscal sanity: I want a government that stops growing and taking an ever-expanding bite out of my paycheck; I want to see wasteful programs cut, and to have Congress faced with the same sort of imperative the Delaware General Assembly had to face this year: balancing the budget.

So you tell me: if that's what I want, who is my best candidate?

Chile assumes leadership of UNASUR- Viva Chile!!!

These folks know something about peaceful commerce.....we could learn a valuable lesson here if we choose to do so. Aside from have the two prettiest presidents in the world, Argentina and Chile are doing some magnificent work in social and peaceful development in agricultural development and in foreign affairs.

Chile's Bachelet assumes rotating presidency of UNASUR

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, instead of Colombia's Alvaro Uribe, accepted the rotating presidency of the Union of South-American nations (UNASUR) in Brasilia on Friday.

Bachelet received this nomination from Bolivian President Evo Morales, who actually should pass the presidency to Uribe, but the latter declined, because of the conflict between his country, Ecuador and Venezuela, caused by the Colombian attack against a FARC camp in Ecuador.

After having accepted her functions, Bachelet said before her South-American counterparts that she would seek the consensus and use all the possible energy to put onto right way the South-American unity.

She also said that the UNASUR gave to the South America the chance to gain a more strong voice on the international scene.

Leaders of 12 South-American countries signed in Brasilia Friday morning the treaty to set up the South-American Union of Nations (UNASUR).

Only Uruguay was represented by its vice-president Rodolfo Nin Novoa, all other heads of state were present in Brasilia.

The UNASUR is formed by Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Equator, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela and Surname.

The principal objects of the UNASUR intent to strengthen the political dialogue between states members and the regional integration, especially in the areas of economy, finances, social development and culture.

John McCain Throws Another Pastor Under the Bus

As eloquently reported by our left leaning friends, the ever sexually open John McCain has rejected the endorsement of or Torquemada after it was discovered that Torquemada could torture and sexually humiliate his enemies better than Mr. McCain could.

Our republican friends, sinking to a new low, are offering us torture via the Hillary Nutcracker...

I once heard it said that "George Santayana had an irrational faith in reason" I have an irrational faith in the power of pastors and their monkish wizards to rule through and validate torture and violence, well that and right wing nutjob radio hosts.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Steve Kubby wins Libertarian Presidential debate!

You should know that I still support Dr George Phillies for the nomination, and that I think he did a credible job tonight, but hands down the biggest winner in this debate was Steve Kubby.

I have to call them the way I see them.

Why? I'll give you three reasons.

1) Style: Kubby looked and sounded passionate, came across as witty but on point, and appeared in command of virtually every question.

2) Substance: Kubby did not waffle; on gay marriage he asked who had empowered the government to look up people's dresses and pants to decide who got to get married. In two hours he shed the single dimensionality of a marijuana-only-single-issue campaigner and established himself as a man with credible answers to the questions people care about.

3) Class: At the end of the debate C-SPAN's cameras caught Kubby walking over to shake hands with Bob Barr a second time. He said (paraphrasing as closely as possible): Thank you for your answers tonight. I had some doubts coming in here as to whether you had really become a Libertarian and you addressed them all. He did not know he was on camera.

That having been said, here's my rundown of the other candidate performances tonight. I was joined by my twelve-year-old political junkie daughter (who did not fall asleep until 10:45). Hers are the comments in bold.

Bob Barr: Looks like the actor who plays Barty Crouch in the Harry Potter movies. He should shave that mustache. Sorry, Daddy, yours looks OK. Contrary to Kubby's response, I thought Barr spent most of the night ducking questions. Like a good mainstream politician he ducked specific answers to the question of repealing Federal gun laws, to the question of ending the war on drugs, to the question of gay marriage, and to the question American military intervention. His speaking style gives wooden a bad name.

Mike Gravel: How old is this guy, anyway? Will he make it to November? Isn't John McCain that old, too? Does he ever say anything? Gravel is good on foreign policy, and likes to chant, "Freedom, freedom, freedom!" But he couldn't quite paper over his support for universal health care, the Fair Tax, or mandating little if any change on public education--all sensitive topics with most Libertarians.

George Phillies: He reminds me of my social studies teacher. I think he's probably smarter than anyone else in the room, but who is he going to get to listen to him? Dr Phillies nailed some questions (such as gay marriage, selecting Libertarian judges and ending American interventionism), but lost his audience with the details in others. His job tonight was to position himself as the compromise candidate (which he frankly admitted), and I thought he accomplished some of that. But if he was looking for a breakthrough to bring him up beyond about 10-15% on the first ballot, I don't think he achieved it.

Mike Jingozian: What's up with his eyes? At least he admitted when he didn't know the answer. I kind of like him. I thought his performance as solid, but--as Simon too often says on American Idol--forgettable. I don't think anybody will remember a single answer beyond midnight (it's 11:29 as I write this, and they are already tough to recall).

Mary Ruwart: What's she want to be? Hillary Clinton? She keeps saying she should get it because she's a woman. She needs to get over it. If Kubby was the big winner, Ruwart was probably the big loser. Ruwart's big claim is that she has the expertise and the experience to explain liberty and Libertarian concepts to the general public. If that's true, it wasn't in evidence tonight. Her answers were stumbling, rambling, almost incoherent at times. Unless it all sounded different in the hall, I'd expect some movement among the radical ranks from Ruwart to Kubby after this.

Wayne Allyn Root: Either his tie is too big or his head's too small. If he home schools his children I feel sorry for them. Actually, I thought Root ran a distant second to Kubby tonight. He was a bit too over-the-top in his unrelenting enthusiasm, but his answers were good, and he dispelled a lot of the one dimensionality previously attributed to him. If he and Barr are the two wrestling for the so-called neo-con wing of the Libertarian Party, I came away with the feeling I could live with him a lot better than I could live with Barr.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Notes from the LP Convention: Viguerie in wrong decade; Munger shines; Delaware's Paul Thompson checks in

Thanks to Waldo (whose browser is apparently waterproof and can function in the bath tub), I have a link to Richard Viguerie's keynote address to the Libertarian Convention, and I've also managed to find the first few minutes of North Carolina gubernatorial candidate Michael Munger's co-keynote address at his Kids Prefer Cheese.

I have to agree with Waldo on Viguerie: "a speech straight out of the 1950s. All it lacked was Communists and the Negro Problem."

Nothing in Viguerie's speech touched a single Libertarian value that is not subsumed in Conservatism. No mention of the folly of the war on drugs, government regulation of private relationships, no discussion about shrinking the government or getting it out of our lives.

Senator Taft would have been very, very proud of you, Richard.

In the other hand, Michael Munger's speech actually addressed Libertarian issues (at least in its first three minutes):

This administration in Washington is a really great recruiter for our party. Everywhere I go, people are disgusted.

They glance around, to make sure no one is listening, and then tell me, “You know, I never considered voting Libertarian before. But when I see the Patriot Act, when I see the casualties in the war in Iraq and the war on drugs, then I start to think Libertarian.”

The government is not providing the basic services that our more optimistic fellow citizens have come to expect. When I talk to people in the cities, Latinos and African-Americans, people who send their children to schools that look like war zones, schools that may be the single most disastrous examples of the failure of statist social engineering, I hear it: “I’m starting to think Libertarian.”

Of course, some folks also ask me, “Why don’t Libertarians care about real people? The Democrats and Republicans are interested in real people.”

I answer, yes, Democrats and Republicans are interested in real people. And fleas are interested in real dogs. We don’t elect them dog-catcher, though.

Why would you think that if I care about you, I should want to run your life? Or, if I don’t want to run you life, why would you think I don’t care?

As I said, this year is a great opportunity for Libertarians, for an alternative.

Of course, you can guess which candidate managed to get his speech covered on C-SPAN.

Further note: Paul Thompson, our Delaware delegate to the convention has checked in via email. This is a conflation of two brief reports:

Hello, Delaware Libertarians! I have arrived at the Sheraton formerly known as Adams Mark in Denver, and registered and obtained my credentials as your delegate to the LP National Convention. I am just beginning to get acclimated to the convention site, finding my way around.

Already a disappointment; I came here expecting to see a coordinated group effort to take a block of delegates to the Rockies game tomorrow. Apparently the convention program has no direct role in any effort to get to that game. I'll keep trying but it looks doubtful.

Also, the computer access from here is at the hotel Business Center, with its three computers. Of course I'm on one of them now, but how adequate this will be throughout a convention full of delegates that include our overrepresentation of computer geeks, we'll have to see. Anyway, I will report later on during the convention as availability allows....

We are mostly through the Bylaws part of Convention business. it looks like a contentious convention. Whether a pessimistic prediction David Nolan made yesterday that this could be as divisive as 1983, we'll see....

A brief update now, before I get back to the floor.

The cyber cafe now has five computers, so access is a little better. Also, at least one risk of a civil war here has been averted, in the platform fight. I am happy to be on the generally prevailing side of this, but much happier that the opponents didn't go into all out war mode and then "our side" stopped short of some things I thought would be piling on. More about this after I get home, if any are interested.

Paul's reference to the platform fight is covered in a post at Third Party Watch, regarding the fact that the group behind the minority report essentially gave up after losing the first two or three votes.

We'll have more from Paul as he checks in.

I'm off now to watch the candidates debate on C-SPAN.