Friday, February 29, 2008

(Small-"l") libertarians and the GOP ticket


I am not a "libertarian Republican." I'm a "libertarian Libertarian," and proud of it. In my opinion, the Republican Party has little to offer for libertarians, and has a nasty habit of grabbing back in power what little it does offer when campaigning.

So, I've been skeptical of the whole "libertarian Republican" take on this year's GOP presidential nomination race, especially to the extent that activists like Eric Dondero, as opposed to the Republican Liberty Caucus (which he founded, but which doesn't seem to want much to do with him any more), are laying down the line.

Brief Dondero recap: First, Rudy Giuliani was the "libertarian Republican" candidate in the race ... and he was inevitable. As Giuliani rapidly descended into irrelevance, Mitt Romney became the "best bet for libertarian Republicans."

On the RLC side, it was pretty much all about Ron Paul until it became clear that wasn't going to happen.

PhotobucketAnd John McCain? Nobody but nobody in "libertarian Republican" territory was touching him, even though he was one of two candidates (along with Paul) to have ever been rated "Libertarian" by the RLC, and even though in at least one year the RLC had rated him the "most Libertarian" US Senator. "Libertarian Republicans" didn't seem to want anything to do with him on the presidential level.

Now it seems that "libertarian Republicans," like their co-partisans on the social conservative side, are looking for things to like about John McCain (who, by the way, I predicted would be the GOP nominee last summer when his campaign was at its nadir and most people were wondering when he would throw in the towel). In particular, the "libertarian Republicans" are focusing on the VP slot and pushing Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, as the pick.

PhotobucketPalin would be a great running mate for McCain for a number of reasons. He's old, she's young. He's a grizzled Vietnam vet and POW, she's an attractive lady. He's a moderate to conservative (don't argue -- he has a lifetime ACU rating of 83 and the socialcons who are wailing and gnashing their teeth over him at the moment will have traced his bloodline all the way back to Jesus Christ himself by October), she's at least something resembling a "libertarian Republican." He's a long-time DC insider whose experience is legislative, she's governor of a small western state whose experience is executive.

There's not enough bumbo in the world to get me to pull the lever for the Republican presidential ticket, but "libertarian Republicans" need something to justify their their allegiance, and Palin on the ticket as VP fits the bill. Even those of us who won't support the GOP ticket might benefit if McCain wins: He is 72, and could conceivably die in office. Better Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the Oval Office than many of the alternatives.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

William F. Buckley, Jr., 1925-2008


Libertarian reaction to the death of William F. Buckley, Jr., is mixed. Billy Beck, among others, never had much use for Buckley. Robert Poole and Tibor R. Machan admired him for some specific reasons while acknowledging his flaws.

My own assessment of Buckley is similar to James Leroy Wilson's. As Wilson aptly puts it, Buckley was a "gateway drug." Up From Liberalism occasioned my divorce from the statist left; observing his valiant attempts to resolve the contradictions in modern conservatism convinced me it couldn't be done; and he accorded libertarian ideas a respect sans total adoption which sparked my interest and pointed me in the right direction. Buckley may not have been a libertarian -- but without Buckley I wouldn't be one either.

Also, the man could write. Unlike some who use a bunch of fifty-cent words as a way of appearing erudite while saying nothing of importance, Buckley dipped into his broad vocabulary for the opposite reason -- he often said a lot in one sentence, even if you had to go look up "nugatory" and "usufruct" to figure out what the hell he was saying.

I particularly enjoy his Blackford Oakes novels. Yes, they are Cold War stuff. Yes, they are occasionally didactic. Those things (which I don't mind anyway) aside, they're also revealing of the author's mindset. Buckley loved freedom. He hated tyranny. That much is clear. That he couldn't find a way to fight what he hated while leaving what he loved unsullied is not unusual. He tried. Millions of Americans never made the effort at all, and it was only the fact that Buckley loomed large on the American political scene which called his failure to our attention.

He died at his desk, still trying to get it right.

Root responds ...


... to my attack piece from yesterday, over at Third Party Watch.

I don't know if Root's message is intended for free re-publication; if I find that it is, or if I get permission from his campaign, I'll post it in full here. In either case, I'll be fully critiquing it in the comments thread over at TPW, if anyone is interested.

Bottom line: I stand by every factual claim and stated opinion in my original piece.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Down and dirty on Wayne Root


No messing around here: This is an attack piece. There's no other way to describe it, and I'm not going to waste time trying to convince you that it's something else. That said, the factual claims in this attack piece are properly sourced and will withstand your scrutiny. Don't believe me. Check for yourself.

If the Libertarian Party was treated as a "major party" in the mainstream media, the material below would be news. Real reporters would spend their time and their employers' money digging for the gory details. Since the LP isn't considered a "major party" by the MSM, opposition research doesn't have much chance of being effectively leaked through, say, the New York Times. If the dirty laundry is going to get aired, we have to hang it out on the line ourselves.

As a candidate for the Libertarian Party's 2008 presidential nomination, Wayne Allyn Root has promoted himself as a "business mogul and entrepreneur extraordinaire." And let's face it, in the LP, that kind of image sells. Lately, Root has shifted toward a "small business" image, and that plays well with Libertarians, too.

But how accurate are either of these images? And are they based on the kind of record that the LP wants in a presidential candidate? The answer to both questions is a resounding "no."

Let's tackle the "mogul" angle first.

At this time, Root's company (W Technologies, Inc., formerly Winning Edge Technologies, Inc., formerly GWIN, Inc.) is apparently a dead stick. Here are some highlights from the company's Business Week profile:

- The company sold its operating assets in September of 2007.

- In November of 2007, the company's auditor reported to the SEC "an unqualified opinion expressing doubt that the company can continue as a going concern."

- Late last month the company defaulted on a payment due of more than $90,000 against promissory notes of more than $450,000. The profile is pessimistic: "If the Company cannot reach a restructuring of the notes, which have an outstanding balance of approximately $456,522, the Company may have to seek bankruptcy protection."

- The company's market cap of about $390k is less than the outstanding debt it's trying to restructure (is there other debt? Well, the company's best performance in the last four years has been a $1.2 million net loss, so ...). Its 52-week high stock price -- which it hit last May -- was 3 cents per share, and as of Valentine's day it stood at eight one hundredths of one cent per share.

I'd say we're waaaaaaay out of "mogul" territory here. The business is neither huge -- its market cap, if liquidated, wouldn't buy a nice house in the Bay Area -- nor successful. It's a bust.

But, it's a small bust (if we concentrate only on the profits and ignore the debt and losses), so maybe we should take Root's new "small businessman" rhetoric to heart. Ah, small business! Main Street USA! Mom and Pop and good old-fashioned American values like honesty, thrift and hard work.

Except, well, it's not really much like that. The Las Vegas Better Business Bureau lists 14 complaints versus Root's company over a period of 36 months, with only five of those complaints resolved to the BBB's satisfaction and none of them resolved to the customer's satisfaction. Among the complaints are one for "deceptive sales practices," two for "unauthorized credit card charges," and one for "unauthorized bank debits."

Scratch the cheap gold paint Root has dipped himself in, and what you find beneath doesn't look much like a "business mogul" or an "entrepreneur" or a "small businessman." It looks a lot more like a con artist -- specifically the kind known in the sports betting world as a "scamdicapper."

Unfortunately a considerable percentage of Libertarians seem to be falling for Root's latest, greatest scam: His presidential campaign. That's understandable -- we're eager to be seen as successful, and to be represented by candidates with "success" in their image profiles. But it's important to scrutinize such image profiles. The truth about Root is important -- and it's more, not less, important since he's used his alleged business success as a selling point for his candidacy.

None of the other candidates for the LP's presidential nomination make the kind of self-promotional claims that Wayne Root makes. On the other hand, the claims they do make stand up to scrutiny.

George Phillies has plausibly claimed modest wealth based on wise savings and investment decisions over the course of a successful academic career, and he's invested thousands of dollars of that honestly earned wealth in his campaign.

Steve Kubby plausibly describes his past business successes -- and in the last two years he has come out of an unjustified imprisonment with $110 to his name, worked his way through a protracted divorce proceeding, paid off his debts, paid off all fines and costs related to his probation and earned early termination of that probation, secured a residence and built back his life while continuing to fight successfully for freedom.

Those accomplishments may not be "mogul" stuff, but they're real and true accomplishments, and the candidates who claim them also have long records of dedicated activism in the Libertarian Party. They're the real thing.

It's time to wise up, folks. We can't fool the American people with a candidate like Wayne Allyn Root -- and we shouldn't fool ourselves with him either.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Stays in Vegas? Yeah, right ...


And I always thought this would be
The land of milk and honey
Oh but I come to find out
That it's all hate and money
And there's a canopy of
Greed holding me down

--"Tones of Home" by Blind Melon

OK, maybe not hate, money and greed, but at least a lack of basic good judgment coupled with a bad case of opportunism at the expense of loyalties owed.

Martin mentioned that his company is currently working on the site for BJ Lawson, a Ron Paul Republican running for Congress here. I hollered from the audience, "hey! that's my district!" Martin then said what a great candidate Lawson is and I replied, "yes, I am planning to vote for him in November over Susan Hogarth." This caused widespread and sustained laughter all across the room. More telling is that absolutely *no one* even suggested to me that it was inappropriate for our Political Director to openly state that he would vote for someone else when a Libertarian would be on his ballot in that race.


That's Sean Haugh, national political director of the Libertarian Party, recounting his experiences at last weekend's Libertarian State Leadership Alliance conference in Las Vegas in a message to the North Carolina LP's online discussion list (subscription required to view).

Errrrrr .... what's wrong with this picture, folks?

Imagine, if you will, Coke's marketing director showing up at an industry conference and jumping up when Pepsi is mentioned to yell "yeah, baby! I'll have a Pepsi, not that crap my own company bottles!" How long do you think he'd remain Coke's marketing director?

In the last three months, the Libertarian National Committee has endorsed a Republican presidential candidate "invited" a Republican presidential candidate to seek the LP's presidential nomination, LPHQ has sent out fundraisers in the guise of petitions to that Republican candidate to do so, and now the LP's national political director publicly proclaims his intention to vote Republican rather than Libertarian down-ticket as well.

In an email exchange on this, Mr. Haugh says that he stands by his comments, and doubly so to me, because he, um, "refuses[s] to coddle people who deliberately damage the party." After three days of non-response from LPHQ (executive director Shane Cory was privy to this correspondence), I have to assume that the LP sets a lower coddling threshold for its political director than he sets for everyone else.

Cross-posted at Third Party Watch

Monday, February 18, 2008

Oops, she did it again ...


... tried to retain a lawyer to represent her interests, that is.

I'm not a huge Britney Spears fan (just not really my kind of music) and I don't really follow the gossip columns and such, but something doesn't smell right.

Since finding herself and her assets placed in "conservatorship" to her father at the end of January, Spears has twice attempted to retain legal counsel.

In the first instance, when she hired Adam Streisand to represent her versus the conservatorship, the court ruled that she wasn't competent to choose her own lawyer.

Now she's trying to move the whole affair to the federal courts as a civil rights matter through attorney Jon Eardley. "Experts" think it unlikely that the case will be accepted at the federal level.

What bugs me here is the circularity of it all: A court places her in conservatorship, then leaves the conservator in control of whether or not she can seek legal assistance versus that conservator's power over her.

Presumably Streisand and Eardley are both qualified to represent clients, at least as far as the State of California is concerned. After all, in order to be practicing law they must have passed their bar exams and gained state licensure, right?

Seems to me that answers the "competent to retain counsel" question right there. She didn't grab a bag lady off the street, scribble a "Britney Spears School of Law" degree on a napkin, and head off to court with her new lawyer and a grocery cart in tow. She's two for two on selecting legally qualified counsel. Why isn't she entitled to her day in court with someone in her corner to argue that her interests and the conservatorship aren't necessarily compatible? How can the conservator be trusted to choose someone to properly represent his ward versus himself?

Just doesn't seem right. Matter of fact, it sounds an awful lot like a Golden Goose Gitmo. I know that at least a couple of attorneys and/or law students read KN@PPSTER. Hopefully they'll chip in with their (non-billable!) opinions.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Barr-barians at the gate?


Last April, I wrote:

When asked if he would consider running for president himself, [Bob Barr's] answer was, and I quote: "Next question, please." If you think that means what I think you probably think that means, I think that you and I are probably thinking it means the same thing. I would not cross Barr off the list of potential candidates.


As Ron Paul's Republican presidential campaign gained momentum -- within the Libertarian Party if not so much within the GOP -- the possibility seemed more and more remote. Barr introduced the resolution last December in which the Libertarian National Committee endorsed Paul "invited" Paul to seek the LP's nomination. I heard somewhere (but dammit, I can't remember where) that Barr had specifically committed to not running as a condition of being selected keynote speaker for the party's upcoming national convention in Denver. A Barr candidacy (unless perhaps it was a VP candidacy with Paul) just didn't seem to be in the cards.

Over the last few days, things have been changing pretty quickly:

- Romney pulled out of the GOP race (and allegedly some of his supporters started dropping Barr's name as a third party "versus McCain" possibility).

- Barr, to much applause, introduced Ron Paul at CPAC, the premier annual conservative event.

- Paul conceded the GOP nomination in substance if not in form.

- An allegedly spontaneous "draft Barr" buzz generator kicked from zero into high gear (for examples, see this article and this one at Third Party Watch, this blog entry a LewRockwell.Com, and James Leroy Wilson's latest at Partial Observer).

What comes next?

Well, there's an LP presidential candidate debate scheduled this weekend in Las Vegas at a Libertarian State Leadership Alliance conference. The Libertarian National Committee, on which Barr serves, is scheduled to meet at the end of that event [event schedule in PDF]. If he wants to "answer the call," he's perfectly set up to do so before an audience of Libertarians from around the nation. I don't think that this is mere coincidence -- I think the "draft" effort was timed to encourage it (whether with or without his prior knowledge, I can't say).

Next weekend, the largest state LP, California's, holds its 2008 state convention in San Diego. Barr isn't on the list of scheduled speakers, but I doubt they'd deny him speaking time to announce his candidacy, or deny him entrance to the candidate debate if he had already announced. Of course, Barr is scheduled to be in Missouri that Sunday for a local LP caucus event in St. Louis, but that's what airplanes are for. It would be his third visit to Missouri in a year, so if he had to cancel I doubt he'd be tarred and feathered, especially if the cancellation was accompanied by notice of his intent to attend the state convention as a presidential candidate.

The LP in Barr's home state of Georgia (which I'm pretty sure is still the nation's second largest state LP) holds its convention on March 1st. Another good announcement venue.

I'm not going to bet the ranch on a Bob Barr "due to popular demand" announcement, but if Wayne Root was making book I'd probably risk a few bucks on it. Barr has three perfect venues in which to announce over the next three weekends, and the first one makes the most sense: The LSLA conference brings together a national cross-section of LP wigs and wags, and he'd be better off attending the two biggest state LP conventions as a declared candidate rather than as a prospective one.

I guess we'll see. I can't say I'm ecstatic over the possibility, as I already have a strong candidate preference, but I think I could work up a bit more enthusiasm for this Republican-turned-Libertarian than I was able to muster for that other guy, the Libertarian-turned-Republican.

Apropos of an interesting situation ...


... which I'll not go into the gory details of, except that it involves certain "leaders" of a fine libertarian organization besmirching that organization's reputation by defaming (and, where they have the power to do so, muzzling) anyone who disagrees with them on anything. Based on the latest email tirade I've received on the matter [1], the matter seems to have been aggravated by a bizarre case of mistaken identity.

For the record:

- My name is not Brian Holtz. That would be this guy. My name is Tom Knapp. Mr. Holtz lives in California. I live in Missouri. While I'm not morally outraged or anything by the mixup, I'm not him and he's not me.

- I am neither a member of, nor an alternate to, the Libertarian Party's 2008 platform committee. Mr. Holtz is.

- I played no role in "gutting the Platform and making it so general that it effectively stands for nothing." I have never served on the LP's platform committee, nor was I a delegate to the 2006 LP national convention at which the platform was gutted, nor did I support that gutting. As a matter of fact, I am on record in numerous instances as having vehemently opposed it.

- Mr. Holtz is not a staff member of Kubby for President [2]. I am.

- I never sign my emails "Brian Holtz (speaking only for himself)" then follow that with "Chair, Directional Principles subcommittee, 2008 LP Platform Committee," for the perfectly good reasons that a) my name is not Brian Holtz and b) I'm not the chair of the Direction Principles subcommittee, 2008 LP Platform Committee." Just to make this perfectly clear, I also never sign emails which are not part of my work for Kubby for President as "Thomas L. Knapp (speaking only for himself)" then follow that with "Communications Director, Kubby for President."

This case of mistaken identity, which only came to my attention earlier this morning, does explain a lot. But it excuses nothing.

Selah.

Notes

1. The correspondent in question has asked (demanded and threatened, actually) that his emails be considered private/personal, even though he is putatively acting on behalf of a membership organization. Since I never, in the normal course of things, publish the content of not-specifically-public emails anyway, I'm happy to honor that request, even to the extent of letting it trump my natural tendency to revolt against arrogant demands. None of the putatively private emails pursuant to these "leaders'" ongoing temper tantrums will be published by me unless those "leaders" themselves blatantly publicly falsify the content of said emails.

2. That's not to say that Mr. Holtz has not been helpful to the Kubby campaign. I have found that he is quite generous with advice and criticism, and have occasionally sought his opinion on various subjects, including the campaign. I rather suspect that he has interacted with other campaigns as well. To the best of my knowledge he has not publicly endorsed any candidate for the LP's 2008 presidential nomination, nor has he privately -- to me, at least -- endorsed Kubby.

Monday, February 11, 2008

An open letter from Steve Kubby


The whole thing is available at Kubby's campaign web site, but here's a key portion to whet your appetite:

As you are probably aware, I endorsed Dr. Paul's GOP presidential campaign, and promised to end my own Libertarian presidential candidacy if that campaign was successful. Many of you disagreed with that decision for various reasons -- reasons which I understand and sympathize with.

Be that as it may, I felt compelled to back the play of the vast majority of my fellow libertarians and Libertarians who, like me, saw in Dr. Paul's campaign a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to advance freedom. While I certainly have my disagreements with Dr. Paul, I saw no point in putting myself forward as willing to split "the freedom vote" in the face of such an opportunity. I do not regret my endorsement of Ron Paul. I congratulate him on a hard-fought campaign which introduced hundreds of thousands of Americans to our ideas, and energized tens of thousands of new activists for liberty. I wish him the best as he returns to Congress and continues to fight for our freedom.

Now that Dr. Paul has himself acknowledged that he will not be the Republican nominee for president, it's time for those Libertarians who supported him to turn our attention 100% back to our own party.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lingospotting


You may or may not have noticed it yet, but I've installed a Lingospot script on Kn@ppster. It's a pretty interesting gadget -- it picks out keywords and highlights them as links. When the reader mouses over those links, it pops up a balloon showing:

- Other material on those keywords at this blog.

- Wikipedia information on the keyword.

- Books related to the keyword.

- Keyword-related content on other blogs.

That last is my main reason for actually posting an article on the whole thing. The "other blogs" function is a reciprocal blogroll thing, and the blogroll in question is Lingospot-specific -- being included in my extensive blogrolls over in the sidebar won't cut it. If you'd like to be included, drop me a line at kubby dot communications at gmail dot com, and I'll send you an invite. This wouldn't require you to run the Lingospot bubbles on your own site, but it would require you to register an RSS feed with Lingospot. Of course, if you want to go whole hog and run those bubbles yourself, sign up and then send me a blogroll invite at the same address.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The 5% strikes back


Over the last couple of months, I've been putting the chance of Ron Paul switching party tracks and running for president as a Libertarian at 95% and up. Turns out the 5% bet was the better one:

I am committed to fighting for our ideas within the Republican party, so there will be no third party run. I do not denigrate third parties -- just the opposite, and I have long worked to remove the ballot-access restrictions on them. But I am a Republican, and I will remain a Republican.


I was wrong -- and I'm glad I was wrong.

Hopefully the Libertarian Party will get back to its abandoned business now. Paul's GOP campaign set us back the better part of a year. I'm not blaming him for that -- I'm blaming us -- but we've got a lot of ground to make up if we want to get into the 2008 presidential fight at even our usual level of inefficacy, let alone in a truly effective fashion for once.

As always, I'll flog my preferred candidate first: Steve Kubby is the obvious choice for the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination if we're serious about being a political party.

If you're not serious (or if you disagree with my judgment as to what constitutes seriousness), the LP's official site maintains a list of all known declared candidates here.

Pick a candidate. Write a check. Get to work.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Because they can (but sometimes it turns ugly)


Let's get one thing straight, right from the beginning: I'm not going to defend the actions of Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton.

Thornton summarily executed five individuals. At least three of those individuals were, so far as I know, unarmed, and the two armed individuals he killed -- police officers -- were not killed in immediate self-defense, but rather in an obviously premeditated attack. Additionally, he critically wounded a fourth, probably unarmed individual, wounded a journalist who likely had no dog in the fight between Thornton and those Thornton was after, and recklessly endangered numerous other individuals with whom, so far as I know, he had no complaint at all.

It was wrong. Period. Thornton is not a hero. That, however, does not prove his rampage utterly devoid of lessons which desperately need learning.

Every time I attend a city council meeting -- anywhere -- I'm reminded of a scene from the loose Hunter S. Thompson biopic Where The Buffalo Roam in which actor Peter Boyle, cast as Carl Lazlo, Esquire, walks into a restaurant waving a knife and wearing a Richard Nixon mask. When the cashier remonstrates with him, he pulls a double take, points the knife at her, and says: "I'm the President of the United States and I can do anything I want."

Over the years, that attitude has become increasingly typical of local government:

We have shiny badges -- we won elections, or were appointed by those who won elections. We will tell you how to live. If you don't bow, scrape and conform (or, worse yet, if you fail to notice and genuflect before our !authorita!) we'll make you pay. If you complain, we'll make you pay more. If you protest, we'll have you arrested. If you resist, our boyos will gun you down like a dog and we'll call them heroes for it.

I was not terribly surprised to learn that something like this attitude was to be found very much on display in Kirkwood prior to Thorton's actions:

Charles Thornton left town for three days. Owning his own construction business, he had 7 vehicles which he parked in the area around his home. He received no complaints about the vehicles in the past, but when he returned from his three day trip, he found 21 parking tickets (one on each vehicle for each day he was gone). He felt he was being targeted for no real reason. He'd caused no harm to anyone. If his vehicles caused a problem, couldn't they have simply mentioned it to him without hundreds of dollars worth of tickets? Well, the Kirkwood Police had found an easy target to bring in some revenue, and they took advantage of the situation. Following this, the Kirkwood police found reasons to give Thornton over 150 citations .... He started attending City Council meetings .... He called the attitude of the City Council a "plantation mentality," and for that he was removed from a meeting. Eventually was arrested twice for speaking out, and a court order barred him from speaking in future Council meetings. He sued the City of Kirkwood, with the claim that his first amendment right to free speech was being violated. A federal judge threw out the case in late January.


As I've already clearly stated -- and as some commenters will no doubt ignore -- no, I don't think for a moment that this justifies Thornton's actions.

On the other hand, nothing justified the actions of the police and the public officials of Kirkwood, either. The big difference, apart from degree, was that they thought their shiny badges endowed them with impunity and immunity ... a point on which, as they learned in the last moments of their lives, they were very much mistaken.

Carl Drega. Marvin Heemeyer. Ronald "Bo" Ward. Charles "Cookie" Thornton. Look'em up. Isolated incidents, every one of them different in detail, every one of them tragic, every one of them crying out "learn from this, dammit."

I won't hold my breath. The sense of entitlement to rule is pervasive at the local level. City councils across the country routinely drive entrepeneurs out of business for no better reason than that they find enterprise offensive until it gets big enough to pad their !authorita! budgets. They don't think twice about telling homeowners how many holes per square inch their window screens must have, or what colors they may paint their houses (after curtsying and paying a fee for a permit, of course), because they can.

They have shiny badges, after all. They won elections, or they won the favor of those who won elections. They aren't going to give up their addiction to unquestioned authority easily. Some of them will give up their lives rather than give up that addiction. And some of them will find takers for that offer when they meet their own Charles Thorntons.

A final word or three on guns:

- No, this incident doesn't make a case for "gun control." A man who is willing to sacrifice his life in order to illegally kill five people isn't going to think twice about getting a gun just because you have a law against it. He's probably not going to worry too much about being double-parked in front of his killing ground, either. Get over it. There are more than 200 million guns in the US, and anyone with moderate skill and relatively common machine tools can make one if he can't buy one. Think you can get them all? Molon labe.

- Thanks to to a legal and cultural environment which discourages possession of the means of self-defense, there were precisely two individuals in any position to defend those attending Thursday's council meeting. Those two individuals -- police officers -- were the first two shot, after which the rest of the victims and prospective victims were reduced to throwing, or hiding under, chairs. "Gun control" in theory is victim disarmament in practice.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Ron Paul: Is the switch in play?


Over at Third Party Watch, Steve Gordon notes a sudden change of line from the Ron Paul R3VOLution crowd: From urging Libertarians to re-register as Republicans and support Paul in the GOP primaries, to urging Paul to run for the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination.

All this accompanied, of course, by the cry that the GOP bid was doomed from the start anyway, and by a return to the old LRC line on "red state fascism" and the fundamental unfitness of the Republican Party as a vehicle for liberty -- i.e. pretty much the same things I've been telling you for the last year. The folks in Auburn continue to chase after the changing line like American socialists circa 1936-41 trying to keep up with Uncle Joe's constantly shifting disposition.

As of early this year, I estimated the chance of Paul eventually throwing in for the LP's nomination at 95%, based on the refusal of the candidate and the official campaign to rule that out (an easy thing to do if you really have "no intention" of running third party). Recently I've doubted my own prediction, largely because the official campaign continues to talk like it's looking forward to a convention fight.

However, the people raising the LP flag aren't just your average bears -- they're people with real Paul connections and affiliations, posting at sites with juice. Eric Garris and Anthony Gregory are on it at LewRockwell.Com. Justin Raimondo floats the balloon at AntiWar.Com.

I'd say we're still holding at 95%, or maybe even rising a bit. This doesn't look like a random assortment of spontaneous pleas, it looks like an orchestrated part of what has been planned as a likely bait and switch from the start (bait: Run as a Republican, raise shitloads of money, hope you win but keep your options open; switch: When you lose, take the money and jump your small-fish-in-a-big-pond ass over to a smaller, more congenial pond -- "by popular demand").

Developing ... maybe.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Trash Tom Time


This is my 905th post to KN@PPSTER. Of the 905 posts, 904 of them have been open to commenting of any variety except blatant spam (e.g. "Nice blog! Cheap viagra 4 u!").

To the best of my recollection, I have deleted precisely three comments in the four years of this blog's existence, all of them on post 904:

- A comment from an opposing campaign operative making a factual claim I could not and cannot verify or disprove;

- a whine from a former friend with a bad case of megalomania, who now believes that disagreeing with him constitutes "unethical mudslinging;" and

- a question as to what had happened to the previous two comments.

I thought about apologizing for closing comments on post #904, but I have nothing to apologize for -- this is my blog, and I wrote post #904 with a specific purpose to which open commenting ran counter (now that that purpose has been achieved, commenting on it is open again). If you don't like the way I run my blog, go comment elsewhere, or get your own damn blog.

Recognizing that there's a certain population -- of at least one and perhaps more -- out there who feel it necessary to focus their lives and efforts on umbrage-taking, I'm opening comments on this post for that specific purpose. Feel free to whine, call me names, throw yourself on the virtual floor and pound it with your fists, etc. If you make an ass of yourself, I'll feel free to point and laugh. If you say something legally actionable (e.g. "Tom Knapp has sex with sheep"), I won't promise not to legally act (and hey, I thought that sheep was 18!), but I have no plans to delete comments. Have at.

Monday, February 04, 2008

My Super Duper Tuesday endorsement


Registered Libertarians in California, and all voters in Missouri (open primary -- you decide what party you're in when you pick up that party's primary ballot), are eligible to vote their preference for the Libertarian Party's 2008 presidential candidate tomorrow.

No one should be surprised by my endorsement of Steve Kubby for that nomination (I'm a member of his campaign staff). However, it's worth elaborating upon:

To put it as simply as possible, not only is Kubby the best of the declared candidates for the LP's presidential nomination, he's the only remotely credible candidate on the list.

Kubby's policy positions are better than those of the other candidates

Kubby's not anti-immigration-freedom like George Phillies or Wayne Allyn Root.

Kubby isn't a trade protectionist like Phillies, nor is he pro-war like Root.

While Christine Smith has attempted to play the "libertarian purity" card (and the "consistency" card!), the fact is that her policy positions have changed even in the midstream of her campaign. I'm willing to believe that she's sincere rather than merely pandering, but I prefer a candidate who chose the right ground in the first place and has publicly stood that ground for, verifiably, more than a decade now. Some of Smith's policy positions also smack of dissociation from reality. Kubby is the most libertarian of the candidates in his policy positions. He's also the most consistent and the most practical.

Kubby has real political name recognition

Not huge political name recognition, but real political name recognition. He played a key role in starting America's "compassionate use" (medical marijuana) revolution, which has now spread to 12 states. His show trial for having done so, his exile to Canada, and his return to the US and near-death in detention before being released received significant media coverage. At the very moment I'm writing this, he should be en route home from San Francisco, having shared a press conference stage earlier today with a state senator and several city supervisors to protest the latest round of federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in California.

None of the other candidates come close.

Wayne Allyn Root does have some name recognition -- just not political name recognition. Until recently, his name recognition has been due to his business background: He sells football picks to gullible sports gamblers, and he does so using infomercials. When transferred to the political arena, his recognition manifests itself ... well ... sort of like this, from the New York Post:

Shame on the Discovery Channel for selling infomercial time to self-promoting blowhard, Libertarian Party presidential candidate and longtime braggart, liar and sports scamdicapper Wayne Allyn Root ...


Er ... next.

George Phillies has been building political name recognition, of the "novelty human interest" variety, by issuing a constant flood of "news" releases sans any actual, um, news ("Phillies opposes the war!" "Phillies campaign promotes National Mobilization Facilitator to National Facilitization Mobilizer!"). His strategy of "campaign by snarky grandiose pronouncement" pays off for him in the short term -- he even picked up the endorsement of a Missouri newspaper:

Not a "mainstream" candidate, Phillies took a little more research.


Sigh ... if only they'd actually done the research instead of just mentioning it. I'm torn between suspecting that the Rolla Daily News has a fetish for physicists (Rolla is home to the University of Missouri campus most associated with the sciences) and fearing that they just want an LP candidate they can make fun of for a week in June and then easily ignore (they can ignore all of them -- Phillies and Root are the easiest to mock first, though).

Christine Smith's claim to fame is having authored a book on "the spirituality of John Denver." Well ... Kubby's written two books. George Phillies pumps out a couple of books a year. Wayne Root wrote an aptly titled book: Millionaire Republican. None of them are famous authors. I suspect Kubby's books have sold as well as, or better than, any of the others.

Anyway, I've given you the links to the major candidates and a couple of key points ... but there's more to due diligence than letting a campaign operative tell you who to vote for. Check these people out. Hell, check out the minor candidates, too. You can find a reasonably comprehensive list here.

Inform yourself. Voting for Kubby will follow from that pretty much automatically.

[Update: I've never before deleted, or even edited, non-spam comments on this blog. In this particular case I've made an exception. Comments on this post (ANY comments on this post) will be deleted as soon as I notice them. As it happens, the two comments deleted as of this update were from operatives of another campaign. One of them makes an implied claim that I can neither verify nor disprove (for lack of a working soundcard at the moment); I've edited this post so that that claim is not at specific issue. The other is from a guy who got caught in several flagrant public lies awhile back and apparently remains angry over the thrashing he took for them; he accuses me elsewhere of, wouldn't you know it, "slinging mud." Since I'm not giving my endorsed candidate's opponents comment space on this post to slam him, I'm going to be even-handed and delete "I love Kubby too" comments as well - TLK]

[Second update: At least one individual took umbrage at my decision to not accept comments on that post. Since taking umbrage over pretty much everything seems to be that individual's avocation, I'm not especially worried about it. BUT ... now that the point of the post, which was to make an election endorsement, has been accomplished, comments are welcome again. I'll also be posting a new article/thread specifically dedicated to umbrage-taking for your edification, or at least gratification - TLK]

Friday, February 01, 2008

Train kept a-rollin', part 1 of ???


The whole "freedom train" analogy bugs Rad Geek, who offers some pretty convincing arguments (and follows up later). Pay particular attention to the comments -- they're chock full of definitional argumentation goodness.

I've been intending to respond myself, but the whole thing is like a can of worms inside a can of worms inside a ... well, like that. I may try to put all of this into a rigorously systematic format another time, but for now I'm just going to cover a few points, offer a few disorganized observations and counter-arguments, and see where things go.

First, the best distillation of Rad Geek's problems with the whole train analogy that I can come up with, for those who are too lazy or disinterested to read the whole thing (although I'm not sure why I should bother, since that probably means you're too lazy or disinterested to read this whole thing either):

The image of political factions hopping onto a train, and getting off at different stations, might work well enough if you’re talking about factions within a party all of whom agree on the legitimacy of an electoral process. ... But does the same image work for the relationship between minarchists and anarchists? I don’t think it does. ... Once you’ve reached minarchism, you’re at the end of the line, as far as a process of reform through electoral politics goes. ... what will happen on this ride is that once the train pulls into the minarchy station, the minarchists will get off the train -- and then they will try to block the tracks and threaten to open fire on the rest of us if we try to take the train any further towards the end of the line.


Some counter-arguments:

- Rad Geek is undoubtedly correct in predicting that the recently disembarked minarchists will block the tracks and threaten to open fire on the anarchists. What he leaves out is that when the train arrives at Minarchist Station, it will have done so by running through gauntlets of fire and over track-blockers the whole way. Yes, I realize that there's a qualitative difference between electoral progress toward a smaller, less powerful state and complete anarchist secession from that process. However, the threat of coercion isn't that qualitative difference. Threatened coercion by the statists (coup, revolution, mobilization of force on behalf of an actual or claimed electoral majority) is just as inherent in the former as it is in the latter.

- The potential of the "passenger car" on the train as a recruitment venue is worthy of consideration. Once again, I acknowledge the qualitative difference between minarchism (which stresses minimization of state coercion) and anarchism (which stresses abolition of state coercion by the simple expedient of abolishing the state itself). However, it seems to me that the minarchist is available for persuasion to anarchism to the extent that he distrusts the state. Persuasion is enabled by fraternization (for an historical example, see the defection of elements of the Russian Army and Navy to the side of the Soviets in 1917, largely due to the appeals of Red agitators in the ranks). Through fraternization with anarchists on the "freedom train" it is quite possible that many minarchists will have long since ceased to be minarchists by the time the train reaches the station they had originally considered their destination.

- To belabor and confuse the analogy, let's think of the train in a different way for a moment: Instead of passengers, let's think of the minarchists and anarchists as fuel. As the train hurtles down the tracks away from the total state and toward the minimal state, it gains speed -- and momentum -- so long as it has fuel to keep its engine turning over. I don't consider it impossible that the train will simply keep on going right past Minarchist Station ... but there has to be enough fuel to keep it accelerating in that direction.

- Now, to part of what Rad Geek really seems to be getting at: Perhaps the tracks just don't run to anarchotopia. Maybe they stop at minarchotopia. Maybe you can't get there from here by train. Okay, I can buy that. But I bet minarchotopia is a lot closer to anarchotopia than the total state is. I bet the fences that separate the two are lower and more easily clambered over or trampled.

To put that last a different way, it occurs to me that any approach to the abolition of the state and the establishment of a non-state society is going to involve a qualitative break with an existing system:

- The "freedom train" model follows a reformist progression as far as it will go, then makes the break versus a minimal state, probably of largely at least semi-sympathetic composition.

- The agorist model follows a counter-economic progression as far as it will go, then makes the break versus a weakened state, probably composed of a populace long since largely economically dissociated from that state.

- The Hegelian model follows a "let it get bad enough and wait -- in preparedness -- for the explosion" progression -- it lets the break happen on its own "under the weight of its own contradictions" timetable, then tries to keep the state from putting itself back together.

I find the third of these models the least attractive -- and the first two eminently compatible. Rad Geek seems to see it as an either-or proposition: Either anarchists work with minarchists, accepting the limitations inherent in doing so, or anarchists follow their own agenda and eschew cooperation with minarchists.

I don't see the either-or-ness of it. Any two anarchists can each take either one of those approaches. One anarchist can take both approaches at different times and in different contexts, as long as he's attentive to potential conflicts of party/organizational disciplines (for example, IWW membership and internal political party office or incompatible -- when I went back to the latter, I resigned the former).

Anyway, enough discussion fodder for now.

No, wait ... one more thing:

I've found it useful, and am cultivating the habit in myself, of differentiating between "government" and "the state." They aren't the same thing; anarchist oppose the latter, not necessarily the former. We can discuss why in comments, or perhaps in another post later on.

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