Friday, March 31, 2006

"Libertarians for slave labor?"


I admit to a little residual prejudice against allegedly "libertarian" Republican politicians. Most of the alleged "libertarians" in Congress voted for the anti-libertarian war on Iraq. Of the 22 members of (real libertarian) Ron Paul's "Liberty Study Committee," only two voted with Paul as much as 60% of the time, versus 30-odd Democrats who vote with him 70% or more of the time (see Logan Ferree's scorecard over at Freedom Democrats).

Still, there are boundaries outside which I assumed that "libertarians" -- even Republican ones -- would hesitate to stray. Using slave labor to keep American wages down, for example. One of the foremost examples of congressional "libertarian Republicans" proved me wrong yesterday:

Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California, dismissed arguments made by President Bush and business leaders who say the United States needs a pool of foreign workers. He said businesses should be more creative in their efforts to find help and suggested that employers turn to the prison population to fill jobs in agriculture and elsewhere.

"Let the prisoners pick the fruits," Mr. Rohrabacher said. "We can do it without bringing in millions of foreigners."


Just to make sure that the Times wasn't pulling my leg or anything, I did a little Googling and found another quote in the Richmond Times-Dispatch (among other sources):

"The millions of young men who are prisoners in our country can pick the fruit and vegetables," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California.


Lest ye mistakenly assume that Rohrabacher had any other purpose than distorting the labor market, here's another snippet from the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin:

"We do not need more people from foreign countries coming in and taking American jobs -- even jobs in the fields," he said. "I say, let prisoners pick the fruits. Let's not bid down the wages of American workers."


Remember, somewhere between a third and half of the prisoners Rohrabacher is referring to are political prisoners, in for disagreeing with Big Brother on what substances may be bought, sold or consumed, or for failing to cough up the protection racket fee ("tax"), etc. Of course, I oppose slave labor in any case, but when we include the political dimension it becomes clear that we're talking truly Stalinist stuff here.

Call me contrarian, but I don't see how using slave labor by political prisoners to keep wages artificially low (slaves get paid less than either migrant workers or the Americans who won't do the jobs at the wages offered -- but who will raise holy hell if they have to pay more for their iceberg lettuce) is any more "libertarian" than ... than ... well, than sealing the borders to keep wages artificially high (which is why Rohrabacher says he wants to keep furriners out of "his" country). I am, however, continuing to see that if you scratch the paint on a "libertarian Republican," you'll usually find a standard-issue big-government demagogue underneath.

Addendum, minutes after post: It just occurred to me how similar this piecemeal "reform" argument is to the French situation (see the MLL's letter of solidarity on Brad Spangler's blog, especially the comment/argument section) -- at some point you have to realize that the state's "solutions" to "problems" will always raise more "problems" of their own, usually worse than the original "problems" they were purporting to address and inevitably "requiring" ever more absurd and anti-liberty "solutions" in turn.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The anti-conservatism of the Bush GO(tcha)P


"Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action." -- Auric Goldfinger, in Ian Fleming's Goldfinger


But in politics, I'd say that twice, from the same proximate source, is a trend.

In oral argument before the Supreme Court on Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (which will presumably dispose of the question of what rights, if any, the administration's Guantanamo Bay detainees are entitled to have respected), the Bush administration holds that Congress can act "inadvertantly" to give the administration something it wants but that Congress has no intention of giving it. From Dahlia Lithwick's coverage in Slate:

Clement says it's not necessary for Congress to have "consciously thought it was suspending the Writ." Perhaps the lawmakers just "stumbled on the suspension of the Writ," which would also be fine, Clement suggests.


This perked my ears, because it closely resembles the argument cobbled together by Attorney General Albert Gonzales in defense of Bush's illegal wiretap program. On the one hand:

[I]n terms of legal authorities, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act provides -- requires a court order before engaging in this kind of surveillance that I've just discussed and the President announced on Saturday, unless there is somehow -- there is -- unless otherwise authorized by statute or by Congress. That's what the law requires. Our position is, is that the authorization to use force, which was passed by the Congress in the days following September 11th, constitutes that other authorization, that other statute by Congress, to engage in this kind of signals intelligence.


But on the other (op. cit.):

We have had discussions with Congress in the past -- certain members of Congress -- as to whether or not FISA could be amended to allow us to adequately deal with this kind of threat, and we were advised that that would be difficult, if not impossible.


In other words, "we knew Congress wouldn't give us the power if they knew they were giving us the power. They didn't mean to give us the power, but they did."

This is anti-conservatism at its worst, and we need go no further than the Supreme Court itself to establish that -- specifically, the cause celebre of judicial conservatism, failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. For going on 18 years now, it's been an article of faith on the Right that Bork's philosophy is the epitome of proper jurisprudence, and that that philosophy should govern the operations of the Court.

And what, precisely, is Bork's philosophy? It's referred to as "original intent," and he applies it to both Constitution and legislative action.

Let me get one aside out of the way here: I do not agree with Bork's judicial philosophy because of one specific side note within it. He rejects what he calls a "libertarian theory of justice" which would impute to government only those powers specifically constitutionally delegated to it. Instead, he holds, in The Tempting of America, that:

In his 1905 opinion, Justice Peckham, defending liberty from what he conceived to be "a mere meddlesome interference," asked rhetorically, '[A]re we all ... at the mercy of legislative majorities?" The correct answer, where the Constitution is silent, must be "yes."


As it happens, I reject Bork's holding on this matter on the basis of his own theory of jurisprudence: Original intent. It was clearly, unambiguously and beyond any question the original intent of the framers of the Constitution -- even, and specifically, Alexander Hamilton, the biggest proponent of expansive government among them, who held that it was so self-evident that the Bill of Rights wasn't required -- that government was to exercise only the powers specifically delegated to it. In other words, the correct answer, where the Constitution is silent, is that the legislature is powerless.

But let's get back to "original intent" per se. It should be pretty clear what it comes to: The law means precisely what those who proposed and passed it intended it to mean, nothing more and nothing less.

On the judicial side of things, this means that courts must work to discern what those intentions were and rule accordingly. If Congress proposes, debates and passes a national speed limit of 55 mph, then unless there's evidence of a typographical error or that the members of Congress were speaking in a code which mandates that all numbers in legislative debate be doubled and have 35 added to them, it would be errant of a court to rule that they actually meant (and that the law therefore mandated) 10 mph or 80 mph or some random number between 30 and 120 mph. (N.B. No, I'm not claiming that a 55mph speed limit is constitutional, or a good idea -- I'm speaking only to the question of legislative intent)

For the executive branch, the intent of Congress has equal import: When determining whether or not Congress has conferred upon them the authority to do "X," the actors need to determine whether or not Congress intended to confer upon them the authority to do "X." If Congress didn't intend to do so, then Congress didn't do so. Period.

The arguments in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld mark at least the second time that the Bush administration has publicly attempted to turn this obvious principle on its head. Every time the Busheviks get caught breaking a law, they giggle and gleefully exclaim that they've found an unintended loophole in congressional action. That dog won't hunt under anything resembling a conservative theory of jurisprudence, and nobody leading that dog out on a leash to put on its show has any legitimate claim to the political label "conservative."

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Election 2006: Some non-preliminary thoughts


One reason I've been sporadic in blogging lately is that this is an election year, and I try to do actual politics, instead of just writing about it. This is a busy season:

- Missouri's filing period for November's partisan elections ends today. The LP is fielding 20-odd candidates (down from a high of, I believe, 42), including congressional challengers in all nine districts. Last Friday, I accompanied Tamara Millay (and our sons) to Jefferson City so she could enter the race for 2nd District, US House of Representatives. I'm just starting in on her campaign site (I actually didn't expect her to run for some reason, so I'm late getting started).

- Local/municipal non-partisan elections are next week. Last weekend, I attended a local board of alderpersons candidate's "meet and greet" (hot dogs, chips and soda, that kind of thing). My neighbor is also running, and I'll be supporting her, but both candidates are very credible (they're also both write-ins -- the incumbent pulled a surprise and didn't seek re-election). I ran into the sitting county executive, my district's state senator, and a former state senator at the event (the mayor, too), which tells you how seriously people take their local politics in my town of 700-odd residents.

- The city's board has put their measure to eliminate the elected position of city marshal (and replace it with an appointed "compliance officer") on the ballot again, and I intend to beat it again, so that's several hours of door-to-door this weekend in my city -- and I plan to work another campaign in another city as well. Then, of course, I need to work the polling place on election day.

And the election cycle is just getting started, folks. It will die down just a bare bit after next Tuesday's elections, but not for long and not much. I'm already populating Tamara's campaign calendar with county fairs, local festivals, meetings of interest, and so forth, and pushing hard to get others to buy into my "laboratory precincts" idea in the 11th State House district/2nd Congressional District (so we have a four-tier slate to promote, including our statewide candidates, which is conveniently located in an area with lots of LP activism and near where the statewide candidates live).

Election results predictions:

- The Democrats currently have four seats to the Republicans' five in the US House delegation from Missouri. It's a bit of a long shot, but I believe that that can be reversed, and that the Democrats may even be able to make it 6-3, by taking the 6th and/or 9th districts.

- Unless something in the trend I'm seeing changes dramatically, Democrat Claire McCaskill is going to beat incumbent Republican Jim Talent like a drum in November, which will be a US Senate pickup for the Democrats.

- Blood is in the water, and even some Republican analysts now think the Dems may pick up 15 or more seats in the House to get a majority. I'm still not completely sold on that idea, but it isn't out of the realm of possibility. It took the GOP awhile, but they're finally sobering up and stopping their giggling about Howard Dean. His "50-state strategy" is working -- the number of "safe" Republican districts that can act as moneybags for closer contests has gone way down.

- Libertarian Party news takes longer to spread. There's a potential winning congressional race in a state I'm not going to name right now. In Texas, 2004 LP presidential candidate Michael Badnarik has raised more than $100,000 for his congressional campaign. I don't believe that race is winnable, but Badnarik's surprised me before. I do think that he has double-digit potential there (an independent who apparently spent little or no money in that district in 2004 polled 6%). Here in Missouri, we're well-set to maintain our ballot access (2% or more in a statewide race -- our auditor candidate should easily beat that, and if the Senate race turns into a blowout, our candidate may do it there, too), and may pull ahead of the usual LP vote range a bit in some areas.

- The Progressive Party (i.e. the Greens) is petititioning for ballot access. There are pros and cons in that for the LP. I believe the pros (additional exposure of Missourians to "third party" candidates, opportunities to work together on events that pull people away from the duopoly addiction) outweigh the cons (part of the non-ideological, knee-jerk "natural third party" vote will split between them and us). If nothing else, I regard the presence of other third parties on the Missouri ballot as a good measuring stick: Until we can beat the Dems and Reps, we can try to make ourselves sharper by outpolling our "equals").

Sunday, March 26, 2006

FYI


Yes, I know I've been slacking on the bloggage. Sorry about that. It will get back to its usual frequency Real Soon Now, election season notwithstanding. This is just a "drop-in" on a notion that I think needs to be addressed (i.e. squashed) in a timely manner.

I've written a little bit about "serious" candidates lately. After seeing my name included in an informal poll circulating around the libertarian movement, I want to make clear what should be clear already: I am not a "serious" candidate. As a matter of fact, I'm not a candidate at all. To be more specific:

I am not a candidate for the Libertarian Party's 2008 presidential nomination.

I am not going to be a candidate for the Libertarian Party's 2008 presidential nomination.

Please notice the periods appended to the ends of the previous sentences.

Let me also clarify my purpose in making this statement.

I'm not making it for the purpose of releasing prospective supporters from any commitment. So far as I know, I don't have any prospective supporters to release.

I'm making it for the sake of my own reputation.

I'd have to be some truly towering combination of stupid and insane to believe that I was a viable candidate for, or had a shot at, the LP's presidential nomination, or at the presidency.

To the extent that fellow libertarians might see my name included in the aforementioned poll, it would be reasonable for them to assume that I was included for a reason, i.e. that I'd expressed some interest or intention with respect to a 2008 presidential candidacy. I haven't, and I won't.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

This and that


We made it out for the anti-war demonstration in St. Louis today. I was surprised that the attendance was as high as it turned out to be (my rough guess is 1,500-2,000 people at its height). I wasn't surprised (although I was, as usual, disappointed) at the fairly depressed atmosphere, or at the usual opportunism.

Three years into the war on Iraq, public opinion is firmly on the anti-war side, but the anti-war "movement" as such doesn't really exist. It's just a hodge-podge of various groups which seem to constantly be looking for an angle to get their other pet issues in front of others under the "anti-war" rubric. Not that I can blame them, but there's a degree beyond which it damages the ability of the "movement" to solicit the active participation of Americans who want the troops home, but aren't interested in (insert pet issue -- saving Medicaid, ending the death penalty, fighting global warming, whatever -- here).

It's hard to blame them, of course: In politics, you figure out where the public is going and, if it's a direction you like, you jump in front of them and try to "lead" them not only in that direction, but in other directions you favor. The thing about opposing the war on Iraq, though, is that it cuts across a lot of lines dividing mutually exclusive political orientations. Most anti-war Americans (which means most Americans) aren't going to allow their anti-war convictions to be directed on other issues. The anti-war movement has to be an anti-war movement and nothing else if it wants to gain momentum instead of losing it. And doing so is more important now than ever. You get to pitch your other issues positions after you've offered the anti-war majority an avenue through which to achieve their specific shared goal.

Not all opportunism is bad, either. At the demonstration, I ran into an old friend circulating petitions to put one of the two genuinely anti-Iraq-war parties in Missouri on the ballot (the Progressive Party, Missouri affiliate of the Greens -- the other genuinely anti-Iraq-war party, mine, already has ballot access covered in this state). I signed the petition, and will be circulating it as well -- the more on the ballot, the merrier, especially when they're right about the key public policy issue of the day.

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Finally got all the bloggers who supported my AntiWar.Com fundraising drive and the Paper Chase for Daniel's Art Class blogrolled. Sorry it took so long. I don't know if I ever made a "final final report" on the Paper Chase: The paper arrived, I delivered it, and Mrs. Schmutz was thrilled. Turns out that the price I got on it was about half of what she "pays" through her school budget line (if the order is filled at all), so we made a considerable dent in her supply needs for the remainder of the year.

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It's been a long couple of weeks -- sorry for the relative infrequency of my blog posts here. In the past two weeks, I've rejoined the Missouri Libertarian Party, accepted appointment to its executive committee, participated in bringing a (hopefully) swift and successful end to our semi-annual "weirdo on the ballot" emergency, and spent considerable time addressing the fallout from that situation (including with the weirdo's supporters, who are not exactly the easiest group to communicate productively with). I'm also preparing for a major site launch, continuing to write for BlogCritics (here's my latest review), and loads of other things not worth mentioning here (except for Michael Pakko's annual St. Urho's Day party, which was a great time). I'm hoping to be back in the swing of things here at Kn@ppster this week.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Another side of seriousness


In my last article on realpolitik, I defined "serious" candidates along the axis of activity and effort rather than character and presentation. At that time, I declined to discuss the weirdo/nutjob factor, figuring that a good showcase opportunity would come along soon enough. It was a short wait.

On this side of seriousness, there are several factors to look at:

- If someone wants to represent a political party as its candidate, it only makes sense that he or she (I'll use "he" from here on out to refer to candidates of both genders) should know what that party stands for -- and that that party should look at prospective candidates for agreement with the party's agenda, at least on broad principles and major policy items.

- If someone wants to represent a political party as its candidate, it only makes sense that he should bring things to the campaign that are advantageous to himself and to the party -- that make him an attractive candidate to the voters and an asset to the party he's chosen to affiliate with. It also makes sense that the party should look at prospective candidates and judge whether or not they reflect the image that the party wants to project.

While I find the "white nationalism" of Glenn Miller extremely disagreeable, I didn't really have to reach that issue to conclude that he was not the kind of candidate the Missouri Libertarian Party wanted on its ballot:

- He had no idea of what the party stands for. The best he could come up with by way of description, prior to attempting to hijack our ballot line, was that we have an "anything goes" platform, which he interpreted as meaning that we should welcome him with open arms if we weren't hypocrites. It wouldn't have been difficult for him to hit Google and find out what L/libertarians believe in, but he apparently couldn't be bothered to do so.

- He had no idea that the image he wants to project is wildly incompatible with the image that we want to project. The nutshell version that finally seemed to get through to him was when I pointed out that he was running on an "anti-Jewish" platform ... and that he was attempting to do so on the ticket of the party whose 1972 vice-presidential candidate, Toni Nathan, was the first Jew (and the first woman) to receive an electoral vote in a US presidential election.

- He seemed to have no idea that, as a candidate, he offers the party no advantage. Nor, for that matter, did he seem to care -- he comes off as nothing more or less than a political welfare queen who thinks that it's our job to provide him with something he'd otherwise have to work to get for himself.

For someone whose entire philosophy is based on the hypothesis that mutually exclusive "racial" groups exist and are locked in eternal struggle with each other for control of earth, Miller seems to have a really hard time grokking the notion that mutually exclusive political groups also exist, that they too are locked in struggle against each other, and that his enemies don't owe him the use of their resources to their own disadvantage.

There is, of course, the weirdo/nutjob factor, which shouldn't be minimized. Miller is bizarre in terms of both ideas and behavior. If you want to see how bizarre (and if you have a strong stomach), check out his online hangouts: His campaign site, the site of his "party" (since he has one of his own, what need does he have to hijack ours?), or the forum he posts frequently on (I participate in threads here and here if you're interested in libertarian v. "white nationalist" cage matches and such).

My summary judgment of Mr. Miller is that Libertarians are very fortunate to have him shilling for other ideas rather than for ours, and that we would have been stump-stupid to acquiesce in his attempt to adopt our ballot line as a flag of convenience. Of course, he is not the first enemy of liberty to attempt that, nor will he be the last.

The Libertarian Party is in a very dangerous phase of its existence: Large enough to present a juicy target for hijackers, small enough that it sometimes has difficulty defending itself against them. Fortunately, Mr. Miller's competence doesn't rise to the level of his ambition, and fending him off has not been, and is not likely to become, a difficult task ... but there will be others like him. Some of them will be smoother. Some of them will be smarter. Our best defense against them is to become more successful, more quickly, and even that doesn't confer any kind of real "immunity" (ask the Republicans about David Duke, who was elected to Louisiana's state legislature on their ticket, ran for Senate on their ticket and, last time I heard, still served as a GOP committeeman). Eternal vigilance, as Jefferson said, is the price of liberty.

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Burghard: Born again hard!


Awhile back, I wrote a piece on Duane Burghard's campaign for the US House of Representatives (Missouri, 9th District), which some readers (notably the candidate himself) felt went a bit hard on that campaign (and the candidate).

It would be irresponsible not to come back and note the significant advances Burghard's campaign has made since that time, so I'm going to do that here. It would also be irresponsible to claim that my earlier article was in any way responsible for those advances, so let me make it clear up front: As far as I can tell, I had nothing to do with it. The campaign was obviously in "holding pattern" for good reasons, and the plans for its aggressive "real" launch were obviously already well in process before I put in my two cents' worth.

Burghard's revamped campaign web site is beginning to take shape, and it looks great. The "contact" section isn't just a phone number -- there are email links and a web form. The "get involved" form seems to have some problems (I see a bunch of HTML garbage when I go there -- may be a browser compatibility issue), but when it gets fixed it will, indeed, gather the appropriate information and hopefully help Burghard build a substantial volunteer base.

The site's coming together ... and more importantly, we're seeing an active candidate who's obviously running to win! I count 13 events, in 11 different cities, scheduled for the next 17 days on the site campaign calendar. If Burghard loses the race, it won't be because he isn't reaching out to voters and campaigning district-wide.

This is the kind of oomph the Democratic Party is going to need from its candidates, even -- nay, especially -- in districts where multi-term Republicans hold the the big advantages in money and incumbency. It's the kind of campaign that, however hard the slog, may just have a chance of knocking the king off the hill. And, win or lose, it's the kind of campaign that keeps Republican incumbent money in-district instead of letting it wander off to defend weaker Republican incumbents or to allow Republicans to out-spend Democrats in contests for open seats.

Perfect? No, at least not yet. I note that Burghard still has nothing on his site about the One Big Issue (national security in general, and the war on Iraq specifically), and that's going to have to be addressed. But I do congratulate him on a helluva start toward making this race competitive. My recent return to the Libertarian Party and acceptance of party office precludes an endorsement (not that he needs mine), but I do offer Duane Burghard my salute and my best wishes.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

As the Miller told his tale


Interesting situation here in Missouri. Keith's laid out some of the details, but I've been following things myself. Some thoughts:

For more than 100 years, American political parties picked their own candidates -- and they picked them using whatever methods they wanted to use. Matter of fact, the government didn't even print election ballots: When you voted, you either wrote your own ballot or, if you wanted to vote "straight ticket," took one printed by one of the parties. There were no "ballot access" laws. There were no laws to force parties to let non-members run for office on their tickets, or to let non-members decide who would run on their tickets.

That's the way it ought to be -- and the way it would still be if the Democratic and Republican parties hadn't had the pants scared off of them by various third parties and decided to "protect the public" from having real choices with ballot access laws that, in some states, are more restrictive than Iran's.

Anyway, in 1992, the Libertarian Party made it over those hurdles in Missouri and, ever since, has been an "established" political party with "automatic" ballot access. Since that time, our understanding of the ballot access laws has been that anyone can run for the Libertarian Party's nomination to any office in a "public" primary, and that we have to accept them, and to accept the primary's results. Thus, we've had real libertarians run (sometimes expensive, and sometimes losing) primary campaigns to keep assorted racist morons, convicted violent criminals, etc., off our ballot line.

Last week, we found out that we were apparently wrong: The Democratic Party returned the filing fee paid by the candidate mentioned above, and said they weren't interested in having him on their ballot line. After that it gets a little fuzzy, but it looks like the GOP did the same thing. So, he's filed to contest the Libertarian Party's primary ... and tonight, the state executive committee will take up the matter.

If the Democrats' interpretation of the law is correct, then we've wasted time and money in the past, and I'm glad to see that we have the option of no longer doing so. Glenn Miller is obviously not a partisan Libertarian -- he's apparently tried to file for office twice in the last week on other parties' tickets, and he maintains a web site for yet another party of his own. He's just making up his partisan affiliation as he goes along, and neither the parties involved, nor the public, are well-served by enabling his fictionalization of that affiliation -- only he is, and it's not our job to feed his appetite for self-aggrandizement at everyone else's expense.

If Miller wants to run for Congress, he's free to do so. Let his "White Patriot Party," or himself as an individual, meet the (admittedly bogus) ballot access laws (by gathering signatures) just like everyone else, instead of trying to hijack the efforts, and the ballot lines, of others who want nothing to do with him.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Prepare to reap the Dubai whirlwind


Thanks, guys. Really. 70% of America yawned, stretched and decided it was opposed to Dubai Ports World operating six ports on America's east coast -- despite the fact that "security concerns" were just so much hot air. And congressional demagogues -- of both parties -- seem to have cashed in on that knee-jerk opposition and squelched the deal.

You asked for it, you got it. Now, let's look at what you got (hat tip to Jeff Blanco for pointing out this instructive article):

- Last year, the Emirates Group -- UAE's airline -- ordered $9.7 billion (that's "billion" with a "b") worth of aircraft from Boeing, a US company. The key word here is "ordered." 42 Boeing 777s take awhile to deliver.

- Dubai established a $15 billion aerospace consortium last year, and part of their plan is to buy 50 more aircraft over the next four years. The main competitors for those orders are Boeing ... and the French company Airbus.

Like I said, the key word is "ordered" (or, in the second instance, "orders"). The gaggle of xenophobic fucktards in Congress has just asserted its authority to unilaterally veto and/or void international contracts involving the UAE. Presumably the emirs over there will regard themselves as having at least as much authority over such contracts.

I live in St. Louis, where Boeing is a major employer. I wonder how many people in my area are going to end up sitting on the couch and waiting for the unemployment check to arrive because of this fiasco. And I wonder who they're going to blame.

- And, of course, the US Navy docked about 650 ships in the UAE last year. I wonder how many they'll be allowed to dock next year? After all, if we don't trust the UAE in our ports, why should they trust us in theirs? I wonder how much more it will cost the US to re-route its naval traffic to other destinations. I wonder just how interested in giving the US basing rights on one shore of the Strait of Hormuz the UAE will be if the idiots in Washington do, in fact, decide to take on Iran across the water?

That may be one up side, of course -- the US would have had a hell of a time fighting Iraq in 1991 or 2003 without Dubai's support, and losing that support would likely be catastrophic to planning for any Iran campaign. So there's that, anyway.

Another up side -- although the congressvermin aren't likely to see it that way, and although we're all likely to feel it in the pocketbook -- is that putting the kibosh on the port deal may also make it harder for LBJ, Jr. and his big-spending Republican friends in Congress to borrow money. Guess who invests a lot of dough in US Treasury bonds? Guess who may want to re-think their investment in a country that doesn't want to do business with them?

I'm just scratching the surface here. There's no telling how much UAE money is going into American pockets right now ... or how much of it is going to stop going into American pockets in the future. Of course, if they'd listened to me in the first place, things wouldn't have turned out this way, would they?

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

But seriously, folks


I love it when one of the guys over at Hit and Run links to something I've written -- traffic goes through the roof, and so does useful input.

Among the useful inputs this time were some comments that made it clear I need to discuss the concept of the "serious candidate" in the context of Libertarian Party campaigns.

There are, of course, different kinds of "candidate seriousness." For example, candidates who wear suits, chew with their mouths closed at press luncheons, and speak in complete sentences versus candidates who wear red contact lenses, rave about the Federal Reserve being run by alien robots, and deliver a credible impression of Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

That's not the kind of seriousness I'm worried about, because I think most of us recognize the distinction and act as best we can to promote the one versus the other (for example, I now eschew running for office myself, because there's just no getting around the fact that I'm weird -- I work the back office, where I can be useful, instead now).

When I talk about "serious" candidates, I'm referring to a distinction between candidates who run real campaigns and candidates do not.

Most Libertarian Parties around the US run a lot of "paper" candidates -- people who are willing to pay the filing fee and perhaps do a candidate interview/forum or two, but who have no intention of letting their lives revolve around politics 24/7 for months on end. I don't have anything against "paper" candidates, and they can be useful in some ways (making it look like the Libertarians are running a "full slate," conditioning voters to seeing Libertarian candidates on their ballots, etc.). However, "paper" candidacies are never going to deliver serious numbers of elected Libertarians, or even move us toward that goal.

A "serious" candidate may or may not be running in a winnable race, but he or she is running in a race where it seems possible to accomplish something worthwhile -- preserve the party's ballot access, bring voter pressure on one or both "major" party candidates to move in a libertarian direction on one or more issues, or whatever.

A "serious" candidate is willing to set goals, figure out what it will take to possibly accomplish those goals, and do those things.

In other words, a "serious" candidate is willing to knock on doors, shake hands at the county fair, ask for votes, recruit and utilize volunteers, raise funds, advertise, make himself or herself very accessible to the media (they work on their terms, not ours), communicate politely with interest groups, complete and return questionnaires, and generally "run to win" whether it is possible to win or not.

A serious candidate may or may not run "full-time" -- taking a sabbatical from the day job or whatever -- but he or she will evaluate the time commitment required to achieve the campaign's goals, make that commitment and deliver on it.

Not every "serious" candidate will be a winning candidate ... but few, if any, "non-serious" candidates will be.

For my "laboratory precincts" proposal (see link above), "serious" candidates are required. A "paper" candidate, by definition, is someone who won't be walking precincts, showing up at supporter coffees, or working the polling place on Election Day. I'm interested in what it takes to make the transition from "serious" candidate to "winning" candidate on the Libertarian ballot line; that transition is a transition, and the "laboratory precincts" experiment is intended to help map the route.

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Let's call the whole thing off


No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. -- US Constitution, Amendment 14, Section 3


Related items:

Senate vote for Patriot Act: 89-10

House vote for Patriot Act: 280-138

Looks like we're light by 369 congresscritters altogether, and far short of a quorum in both houses of Congress. The legislative branch of the US government has effectively liquidated itself.

Cool.

The executive branch is a little more problematic. After President Bush resigns his office with the act of signing the damn thing, his successor won't have a Congress to appropriate money for his departments' operations. President Cheney can look forward to a lot of spare time for fishing and hunti ... fishing. Let's stick to fishing, m'kay? He can fly back to Washington every so often (as long as the credit card for gassing up Air Force One holds out, anyway) to lay off people as the accounts deplete. I suggest getting the troops home ASAP, though -- they are going to be Grade A pissed if they have to hitchhike back after the money runs out.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Some thoughts on "laboratory precincts"


In the past, I've tried to do a little data collection on what worked, what didn't work, and how well, in Libertarian Party campaigns. This year, I'd like to extend those activities and try to develop a real picture of how the LP can improve its electoral performance. Here's what I have in mind:

Here in St. Louis County, Missouri, we have a number of overlapping districts -- US House, State Senate, State Representative, County Council, etc. We also have statewide races for State Auditor and US Senate.

This year, I'd like to pick a State House district with a "serious" (i.e. not just paper) LP candidate, located within a State Senate district with a "serious" LP candidate, located within a US House district with a "serious" LP candidate. "Serious," of course, being relative, but I'm talking about candidates who are willing to spend some time and burn some shoeleather.

Then I'd like to map out that State House district by precinct and designate different precincts for different activities:

- A "control" precinct in which no substantial campaign activities would occur (i.e. the voters might see newspaper or other media coverage, but it would for all intents and purposes be the equivalent of a "paper" campaign precinct).

- A precinct in which each voter household receives a door knock/literature drop.

- A precinct in which each voter household receives a door knock/literature drop; and in which the LP's State House, State Senate, County Executive, State Auditor, US House and US Senate candidates (instead of just whatever volunteers we can field) participate in either a second door knock or a precinct activity (i.e. a "meet the candidates" picnic, coffees at supporters' homes to which the neighborhood is invited, etc.).

- A precinct in which each voter household receives a door knock/literature drop; in which the LP's State House, State Senate, County Executive, State Auditor, US House and US Senate candidates (instead of just whatever volunteers we can field) participate in either a second door knock or a precinct activity (i.e. a "meet the candidates" picnic, coffees at supporters' homes to which the neighborhood is invited, etc.).; in which a "Get Out The Vote" calling or postcard operation is run; and in which the polling places are staffed from open to close by candidates and/or party volunteers with literature and signs.

The point being, of course, to look at the party's candidate vote percentages in the control precinct versus the other three precincts and see if these activities make a real difference for us yet.

Naturally, if the candidate carries one or more of those non-"control" precincts, I'll want to try to repeat the experiment in 2008 using the most efficacious combination of methods in ALL of a district's precincts. But even if we don't carry a plurality, the experiment will still be useful for various things. Things like:

"Well, Representative Snoot, you may have noticed that our candidate got 20% in Precinct B last time around, and that most of that 20% seems to have come directly out of your hide. You barely scraped through. So, would you like to vote no on that "death penalty for marijuana users" bill, or would you like for us to do what we did in Precinct B again ... only this time, in every precinct you carried last time?"

Or:

"Yeah, Representative Snoot, you made it ... barely. Old Joe gave you a scare, didn't he? Hey, did you know that Joe's very interested in education? I hear there's an opening on the state's Board of Education. I bet if the governor saw fit to appoint Joe to fill that vacancy, he'd be just too durn busy to run against you next time. What's that? You're golfing with the governor this weekend? What a coincidence!"

Stuff like that there.

BLL Session


Five more Blogosphere of the Libertarian Left sites, five more interesting posts:

- Diane Warth updates on the continuously brewing Iran "situation" at karmalised.

I confess to a bit of mental blockage on the prospect of war with Iran. It's just really, really hard to believe that Bush is that insane or that the neocons are that stupid. Hint: The US has so far failed to pacify either Afghanistan or Iraq, each of which has 1/3 the population of Iran; each of which had, even prior to the US invasions, a fairly primitive military compared to Iran's; and each of which will become additional fronts for Iran in the event of war.

There's just no upside anywhere to courting open conflict with Iran. The Iranians would likely have tacit, perhaps even open, support from Russia. The US has just rewarded a rogue nuclear state (India) with a nuclear agreement, so it's going to be hard to make the case for bullying a state which, so far as anyone can determine, has at least nominally honored its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (Iran).

If the US invades Iran, the US will lose -- probably far more spectacularly than it has lost in Iraq and is losing in Afghanistan. If the US bombs Iran without invading, there will be retaliatory strikes of one form or another, and those strikes will be seen as justified just about everywhere outside of the US itself.

The only rationale for attacking Iran that makes any sense at all is to keep the American public focused on an external enemy rather than giving it leisure to notice, and possibly turn on, the internal enemy (our political class). Which, now that I think about it, resolves my doubts about whether or not it's likely to happen. BOHICA.

- Kevin Carson continues pounding on Who Moved My Cheese? over at the Mutualist Blog.

I've never read the book, because when it was first becoming all the rage I was a union factory worker. Instead of reading the book, I got to sit through a bunch of "team meetings" during which the fresh-faced MBAs whom the company I worked for were trying to make feel better after setting them to ride herd on us assembly-line drudges raved about it and stumbled through PowerPoint presentations about it and threatened us with pop quizzes about it.

The end result was pretty much what one would expect: The fresh-faced MBAs felt important and knowledgeable for a few minutes. Then, for about the next month, every half hour or so, some wit (occasionally me) would look around like he was confused and then yell "Hey! Who the f^&% moved my f^&%ing cheese?!?" And we'd all laugh. And the fresh-faced MBA would turn into a red-faced MBA and storm off to check the color of his parachute or something. A month later, it was "JIT" ("Just In Time") shipping, which was even more fun. "Hey, Charlie, where are the pallets?" "Hey, we're on JIT -- they didn't arrive. Just In Time for a break!"

- Upaya's MDM holds forth on dialectical libertarianism and the prospect of a "left-libertarian unification." This one is way meaty -- the kind of thing that makes me want to shut the puter down, reach three feet to my right and grab my copy of Dr. Chris Matthew Sciabarra's Total Freedom for some more mind-diving. But I know that if I do that, I'll get off the realpolitik track I'm grooving in right now, so I'll stoically deny myself, take a cold shower, and if necessary re-read this gem from Murray Rothbard, which gives lie to the notion that we anarchists are the obstacle to a political Libertarian Party.

- Eugene Plawiuk at La Revue Gauche is amazed at what an Oscar or three can do for an anti-gay, anti-union, anti- ... well, pretty much anti-everything mindset. I haven't been able to get excited about Brokeback Mountain (although I'm sure I'll watch it some time), so I'm glad someone provided something thoughtful I could link to about it.

- The blog formerly known as Freedom is Free seems to have been retitled: This Blog is a Pipe Bomb. It works. After Matthew Bryan's latest rant on the Evil Bushevik Menace, I feel like I should have a cigarette, put my clothes back on and go buy the author flowers or something. Way good. I have to believe that "jug-eared kaiser boy" and "scarlet-naped, Faux-News-dupe-monkeys" will eventually work their way into the American vocabulary.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Open the pod bay doors, HAL


Got back from the Missouri Libertarian Party's convention last night, and I'm sober (actually, I was sober before driving back), so perhaps I can write a little more coherently about what went on there and what I've done and am doing.

First and foremost, it was a great time. It was great to see a number of old LP and non-LP friends, and to meet some new ones.

As far as the convention business itself is concerned, that falls into three parts: The business aspects, the party public relations aspects, and my own involvement/that involvement's consequences. For those of you who aren't interested in the boring minutiae of Libertarian Party politics, class dismissed. This is just that kind of post -- I do need to write it and put it up, but don't feel obligated to read it.


The business aspects

The state committee dealt with several bylaws and platform items, none of which were especially controversial:

A new definition of "voting member" was settled upon which, so far as I can tell, had the effect of putting and/or keeping the state party in conformity with state election law and allowing it to extend voting membership to more individuals who would not automatically be entitled to such membership under that law (i.e. candidates for office and donors to the party can now be "voting members" with a voice on the convention floor). Platform planks on smoking bans, eminent domain and Tax Increment Financing (and possibly some others) were added or modified. These things will all come out in the minutes, of course.

One potentially controversial item was amending last year's convention minutes and adopting them. Since the amendment in question involved removing a personal and rather charged reference to myself in what was supposed to be a non-biased record of the proceedings, I was happy that this matter went without argument or recrimination (I believe I and others have told most of that story elsewhere).

The only really controversial item on the agenda was a resolution on repeal of the national party's "oath" -- the membership criterion in Article Seven, Section 1 of its bylaws requiring certification that one opposes the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals. The resolution, as authored by Lloyd Sloan, would have sanctioned any Missouri delegate to the national convention who voted to retain the "oath" if the question came to the floor, said sanction being removal from the delegation.

Mr. Sloan is not a member of the state committee. He is, however, a long-time libertarian, LP activist, supporter of LP candidates and former Missouri LP chair. He drove 400 miles round trip to offer the resolution, and then left while the state committee considered it. I agreed with the resolution's intent, and I also believe that someone with Mr. Sloan's history who makes the effort he made deserves to have his efforts honored by due consideration of his proposals. I therefore moved the substance of his proposed resolution and rejected "friendly" amendments in order to get the resolution the up-or-down vote it deserved (after thrashing through one problem in it, that being its possible conflict with the national convention rules on "unit voting"). It was voted down; that vote took the form of an "unfriendly" amendment which changed it from an enforceable/punitive act to a "sense of the committee" that the "oath" requirement should be removed.

I wish that a way could have been found to guarantee delivery of a unanimous anti-"oath" delegation to the national convention, but the final result was certainly better than nothing. The MOLP is on record against the "oath," and the resolution also requires its own promulgation to the chairs of other state parties, etc. Hopefully, this will increase the momentum of the anti-"oath" movement in Portland.

After that, the committee caucused to choose Executive Committee represenatives by congressional district; selected delegates to the national convention; provided for the addition of more delegates between now and the convention; and adjourned.


The party public relations aspects

I consider the convention a victory in the PR area, as I wrote in my inebriated post from the convention. I don't know what the attendance numbers were, but I do know that the inexpensive packages, combined with an all-day "film festival," brought in people whom I've never seen at LP events before. If the state convention is going to go beyond a simple business meeting -- and in Missouri it always has -- then I heartily approve of using it to reach out to the public.

The convention confirmed my belief, aroused by the great attendance at the St. Louis area "caucus" the weekend before, that this is going to be a good year for the LP. We're reaching people we haven't effectively reached before, and we're going to pick up new activists, new voters and a higher media profile as a result -- probably over the short term, and certainly over the long term.


My involvement/That involvement's consequences

Prior to the opening of the state committee meeting, I accepted appointment to fill a vacancy on that committee (from the 14th State Senate District). During the caucus, I accepted appointment to the party's state executive committee (from the 1st Congressional District).

These two appointments/acceptances have consequences and require explanations.

First of all, as I mentioned in the previous post, the bylaws of the union to which I belong(ed) prohibit members from holding political party office. I'll be seeking a withdrawal card from the union.

Secondly, I can't in good conscience (and probably not in accordance with the LP's bylaws) serve on the governing body of both the Missouri LP and the Missouri Democratic Freedom Caucus. Dual membership is one thing -- committee service creates conflict of interest problems. Therefore, I have resigned from the interim steering committee of MO-DFC and can no longer be a member of both the Libertarian and Democratic parties. I still support DFC's goals, and will still do whatever I can to advance those goals so long as it doesn't require me to work against the LP's interests.

There is, of course, "back story" to all of this, some of which I've previously alluded to. Instead of rehashing that back story, I'm going to simply link to, and heartily second, a speech from last year's state convention which alludes to it.

It's good to be back home.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Not as think as you drunk I am


For all intents and purposes, the Missouri Libertarian Party's state convention is now over. I've been in Springfield, Missouri for the last 36 hours or so, only two of which have been given to sleep, and I'm at least moderately inebriated right now, but let's do a quick recap:

Key point of improvement: I was not arrested. Nobody had to bail me out of jail. These are very good things for which I am grateful.

Highlights:

- The state committee passed a resolution calling for repeal of the national party's "oath" requirement for membership. Thanks to Lloyd Sloan for forcing this issue.

- The Missouri LP met a number of people whom it's never had real contact with before, due to its convention strategy: Low-cost attendance packages, including a $10, all-day "film festival." The most expensive package was $65, and that included a couple of meals. It's neat to see real outreach occurring in the context of "official" party events. I'm reasonably confident that the party will gain some new activists out of this approach.

- It was just nice to be back in Springfield, where I lived for a number of years and where I first became involved in the LP. I got to hang out with a number of old friends, LP (especially Keith Rodgers and Doug Burleson, and as always Greg and Wendy Terry, even though Greg and Wendy are near-Kansas Citians now) and non-LP (the Curbstone Critic). I also had real cashew chicken, which I've missed while living in the hinterlands.

Mixed bag:

- I wish Phil Horras had been around.

- I got cornered into getting involved again, which has ramifications. For one thing, I'm going to have to request a withdrawal card from my union, which forbids its members to hold office in political parties. I now do, ergo I have to do the right thing vis a vis the union.

Guys: I am friggin' hammered, and don't know if the above is even coherent. This post may be one of those exceptions to the "don't go back and edit" rule. But, bottom line: It's been a good convention, and I'm happy to be back home in more than one way.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Fellow libertarian blogger hospitalized


Tim West, proprietor of Liberty For Sale, is (as of the last I read) in hospital. When I find out more, I'll post it. In the meantime, if you believe in the efficacy of prayer, good thoughts, etc., please direct same in his direction. If aid of a more material sort is called for, I'll pass the word when I get it. Tim and I pick at each other quite a bit, but he's a dedicated libertarian and an overall mensch.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Harry Browne, 1933-2006


Harry Browne was the first presidential candidate I actually felt good about voting for -- the first one who wasn't just a "lesser evil," and the first one who didn't leave me worried that I'd regret having supported him if he actually won.

I worked for Harry's opponents (Rick Tompkins and Don Gorman) in the 1996 and 2000 Libertarian Party presidential nomination races, but once the party had decided, I still believed that we had not only the best, but the only acceptable, candidate on the ballot in November.

I'm sure that Libertarians from further back felt the same way about Ed Clark or Andre Marrou, and that newer Libertarians experienced the same thrill when pulling the lever for Michael Badnarik. But I joined the party in 1996, so for me the first great presidential candidate will always be Harry Browne.

As often as we were on opposite sides of contests and controversies within the party, it was simply impossible not to like Harry. As often as I disagreed with him on strategy, it was impossible not to admire his gift for communicating libertarian ideas in a reasonable, friendly, engaging way. I know a number of party members who got politically active after reading his Why Government Doesn't Work and/or The Great Libertarian Offer, not to mention a boatload of Old Guard libertarians who cut their teeth on How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World.

Harry wasn't afraid to be right when the public was wrong or the party was divided.

He kept the LP right on the drug war before the medical marijuana dominoes began to fall, state by state and his position became "mainstream."

When he suggested during his 2000 campaign that bounties on leaders of "rogue states" were preferable to war, he was roundly ridiculed, even by many of his own party. But in early 2001, without irony or even acknowledgement, Republican congressman Bob Barr introduced a bill precisely matching Harry's prescription.

After his presidential candidacies and after 9/11, he was a leader among libertarians in principled opposition to US military adventurism, even while the vast majority of Americans screamed for the blood they are now trying in vain to wash from their hands.

In 1998, the Curbstone Critic and I were privileged to escort Harry and his lovely wife Pamela from the Springfield, Missouri airport to the state LP's convention in Branson. The Critic -- who, due mostly to his acquaintance with me, regards libertarians as a bunch of harebrained, drug-addled anarcho-hippies -- seemed charmed, although he didn't experience a political epiphany or anything of the sort (the only specifics of conversation I recall are Harry's comments on the 17th Amendment and The Critic's lecture on the geology of the Marshfield Plateau as we drove over it).

At other times, the opportunity came up to converse with Harry for a few minutes over a drink or between events at LP functions. He was always gracious. He always remembered me -- and, as far as I could tell, everyone else he'd ever met. When I stood in for candidate Aaron Russo as a guest on Harry's radio show during the 2004 nomination race, he tore me and my candidate apart ... without ever once speaking rudely or in an accusatory manner. It was always hard to go up against Harry, even when he was wrong. The raft of righteous zeal always seemed to break apart on the reef of his congenial manner, to the frustration of his detractors.

The last time I saw Harry was in Atlanta in 2004, at the Libertarian Party's national convention. He was signing copies of his latest book, Liberty A-Z: 872 Libertarian Sound Bytes You Can Use Right Now. He greeted me by name and shook my hand. The following year, he took over as president of Free Market News Network, with which I'm proud to be affiliated as a contributing editor

Harry Browne died yesterday. He was 72.

Some asides


A good year for the Libertarian Party?

Could be. I attended a local party event (billed as the "St. Louis Area Libertarian Party Caucus," even though it wasn't strictly speaking, a "caucus") last weekend, and people were out in force. At one point -- after some people had already left, or at least adjourned to the bar -- I counted 49 in the room. A more realistic total count would probably be 60-65.

Those of you who work in real politics know that 50+ people don't normally show up for political meetings unless there's a "big name" heading the promo fliers. I once attended a "town hall" in a city of 75,000. It had been promoted by the local newspaper, three TV stations and several radio stations for a solid month. Total attendance? About 75, and the bulk of those were candidates and their entourages. You're lucky to get ten people out for anything that's not a multi-organization street protest or a celebrity speech.

This LP event was emceed by Lloyd Sloan, a local talk radio host, and attended by Tim Lee, late of the Cato Institute and now affiliated with a startup tank called the Show Me Institute, but I don't think their presence accounts for the draw.

It's an election year. There's GOP blood in the water. Hopefully, this high attendance means that LPers are starting to accept the need to be sharks. I guess we'll see. I'm attending the Missouri LP's state convention this weekend and hope to see the same activist spirit animating things.


The paper chase

The paper arrived Tuesday afternoon. I'll be running it over to the school today, and I'll let Mrs. Schmutz know who her class's benefactors are. With your contributions and mine, we purchased 650 sheets of good 12x18 art paper for the youngsters. Thanks for helping.


In search of ...

Awhile back, Stephen VanDyke had a groan over one of my post titles. Now Kn@ppster is the top Google result for searches on the phrase in that title -- ahead of the evil hate-mongering sites most associated with the phrase, even -- and is getting 5-10 site visits a day from people who want to dress up in sheets and hoods. Kinda scary. I doubt that even the high-powered jolt of anti-nonsense they find here will cure them, but I guess it's worth a try.

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