Sunday, December 31, 2006

If I was a novelist ...

I'd be working up something like this:

First, they hang Saddam ...

... and then he comes back.

Those who followed the old fairy tales (babies murdered in Kuwait so their incubators could be sent to Baghdad, for example) before the Busheviks introduced the new, improved versions (yellowcake from Niger, dissidents thrown in shredding machines and such) will remember the "body double" bit. Saddam allegedly had a bunch of look-alikes. I've seen six mentioned, and I've seen 20 mentioned.

The number doesn't really matter too much, I guess. The key thing here is that before it became convenient to be able to "positively identify" Saddam, the fairy tale narrative included an element that made such identification highly unlikely.

To wit, most of his alleged "body doubles," who had of course been surgically treated for exact similarity of appearance and coached in Saddam-like body language, demeanor, etc., were relatives from his home town of Tikrit. They weren't just similar in appearance (supposedly several different "Saddams" spent each night in different presidential palaces to frustrate assassins). They weren't just similar in demeanor (supposedly "Saddam" would often be giving speeches in, say, Baghdad and Basra at the same time -- convenient, eh?). They were similar in DNA.

So, to put it bluntly -- if the old fairy tale narrative has any truth to it at all -- the Green Zone government and the US occupiers don't -- can't -- have the slightest idea whether or not the guy they just hanged was or was not Saddam Hussein. Granted, we've been spoon-fed a replacement set of fairy tales for the last four years or so, but I'm just saying. Maybe the real Saddam's been kicking back in Amman since 2003. Or maybe he died in 1991 and his doubles just split the duty, the money and the women up and gravy-trained for 12 more years before separately running for the hills. Who knows?

Anyway, back to the novel. What happens next week or next month when "Saddam" shows up in Tikrit, or Fallujah, or both, in uniform, beating his chest and firing a shotgun in the air?

Of course, if I was a really wicked novelist, I'd make the reappearance occur on the third day, mirroring a famous past resurrection, and bring the Busheviks in on the magic show. There's a certain segment of their constituency which interprets the Bible literally, believes that the antichrist's capital will be located in Babylon (which, as it happens, is in Iraq), and is fond of prophecy:

And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.

And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.

So Iraq's Ba'athists get a sort of off-kilter Mahdi figure to rally the Sunnis to their flag, and the GOP's Jesus Screamer faction gets one king-hell soapbox for a holy war against The Beast.

Sounds like a best-selling potboiler to me ... and hey, it's no farther out than most of the bullshit Dubyah shoveled our way as purported non-fiction to get buy-in on this fiasco in the first place.

I hope someone writes it. I'm not a novelist, of course, so I'll stick to more hopeful and realistic scenarios, such as this one:

In the White House, Crawford, wherever they are, perhaps George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are absently fingering their own necks and wondering if maybe refurbishing the Nuremberg precedent wasn't such a good idea after all.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Grapevine: In support of Politics1

The blog "grapevine" works: I hadn't made it by Politics1 in a few days, but I picked up from Gene Chapman, who got it from Conservative President 2008, that Ron Gunzberger, publisher of Politics1, is being sued.

For $5 million. By some asshat who, get this, blames Ron (among others) for the fact that he wasn't able to get himself elected governor of New York ... as a write-in candidate!

I doubt that Ron is worried. The suit, of course, is meritless, Ron's a lawyer, and it will go away. But he is pissed, and I don't blame him. He's never claimed to be "objective" -- he's a Democrat and up front about that -- but he does go out of his way to be inclusive of third party and independent candidates, even though he's under absolutely no obligation to do so. Over the years, I've had occasion to throw a bit of news at him now and again, or to offer a correction, and he's always been responsive and, to the best of his ability, accurate, even when we disagree.

The really bad part here is that he's considering shutting down Politics1. It's not that he's afraid of frivolous suits like this one; I suspect that it's that they could, if they continue, turn into an annoyance that just isn't worth it. Running a marginally profitable -- or just enjoyable -- site can become a big loser if its author has to waste half his time responding to meritless and vexatious litigation.

Politics1 is my resource of first resort for candidate information -- not just Libertarian, but general. If you agree (and if you don't, you haven't visited the site yet), let him know you support him with a blog post of your own, or with a comment at his site.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Libertarians warm up to environmental issues

I'm going to take a brief break from responding to George Phillies's delegate flier, and instead make time to applaud both George and Steve Kubby for being ahead of the gradient as Libertarian responders to environmental issues.

As recently as two years ago, it seemed that Libertarians didn't want to hear the words "global warming." It was easier just to plug our ears and scream "junk science" because that was seemingly the only alternative to accepting the statist Left's program for draconian government measures versus climate change.

Sure, most of the "libertarian" responses smacked of corporate welfare and crony "capitalism" rather than real free market solutions, but that was the flow it was easy to go with. I recall the particularly bellicose reaction at the Libertarian Party's 2004 national convention when nomination contender Aaron Russo had the gall and temerity to suggest that the answer to America's energy problems might not be another corporate welfare program in the form of handing half of Alaska over to Exxon.

The dam broke in August, 2005 when Ronald Bailey, Reason's science correspondent, proclaimed "We're all global warmers now." The science is becoming pretty damn clear ... and libertarians need to come up with real answers instead of continuing to pretend the old ones work.

Read George Phillies's position paper on energy and the environment here.

Steve Kubby's latest blog entry -- which I can confirm is also a position paper, or at least the backbone of one -- is on the same subject.

Congratulations to George and Steve for leading from the front on this one.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Getting serious, part one

I received a snail mail from George Phillies yesterday: A flier apparently targeted to likely delegates to the Libertarian Party's 2008 presidential nominating convention. I'm going to write a bit about this flier, because in my opinion it asks a lot of the right questions about what Libertarians should be seeking in a presidential candidate, and because it seems subtly aimed at skewing those questions to the disadvantage of my own preferred candidate, Steve Kubby. Some of those questions it asks explicitly, some implicitly.

The outward side of the flier, as folded for mailing (opposite the address side), reads:

Phillies 2008
The Credible Candidate
A Serious Man for Serious Times

... and thus presents us with our first implicit questions. What constitutes a -- let alone the -- "credible" candidate? And what constitutes a "serious" man?

As I've stated before, credibility as a presidential candidate and with the electorate is not something that any of the currently declared nomination-seekers possess. None of them -- not George Phillies, not Steve Kubby, not Christine Smith -- are sitting or former US Presidents, Vice-Presidents, US Senators, US Representatives, governors or victorious generals. Since 20% or so of American voters pulled the lever for Ross Perot in 1992, I'll add another category, one which also does not describe any of the current contenders: "Self-made" billionaire.

Since victorious general George Washington first ascended to the office, I am unaware of any president who did not possess one or more of the aforementioned credentials, i.e. "that which gives a title to credit or confidence," i.e. indicators of credibility.

This is not intended as an assault on George Phillies, of course. He's not alone in being a non-credible candidate. But let's not kid ourselves: No current contender for the LP's presidential nomination fits within the credibility parameters established by more than two centuries' worth of quadrennial presidential elections. On the basis of that objective fact, he cannot be considered "a" credible candidate, let alone "the" credible candidate. His credibility can only be measured subjectively and, unless someone who meets the usual tests pops up seeking the LP's nomination, the only real standard we have is one of comparison to his opponents for the nomination.

Since George Phillies has himself set up credibility as a criterion, let's do some comparisons:

- George Phillies has, according to his flier, "an international reputation in my field of science." I have no doubt that that claim is true. George Phillies would make a fine science advisor to any president.

- Steve Kubby has, according to his peers, supporters and opponents, an international reputation in his field of ... politics. He's appeared alongside Mikhail Gorbachev at the Presidio. He's negotiated, as a representative of the American Medical Marijuana Association, with Janet Reno. He's been a key figure in international litigation on the rights of refugees.

I rather suspect that George Phillies is better known in the academic physics community than Steve Kubby is in the political community ... but which type of international reputation do you think will prove more valuable in a presidential election?

- George Phillies has, according to his flier, "no scandals in my past. Open my closets: No skeletons fall out."

- Steve Kubby, according to the US government, has no scandals in his past, either. Oh, they tried to find some. While prosecuting (and persecuting) him for his use and advocacy of medical marijuana, the feds combed through his personal and political financial records, attempting to find any indiscretion or fraud -- and, finding themselves unsuccessful, dragged ridiculous accusations through open court as hopefully prejudicial innuendo ... before finding themselves soundly thrashed by the facts. Kubby was clean as a whistle, and the fleas couldn't bite him.

I have no doubt that George Phillies is clean, too -- as a matter of fact, he's someone I'd trust with my life, or with my young child's life. But he can't even begin to match credentials of public examination to prove that fact with Steve Kubby. Kubby's closet has already been opened, its contents swept out and examined under a microscope.

As I previously noted, "credibility" is a relative thing in LP presidential campaigns. But, given George Phillies' stature relative to at least one of his opponents, citing him as "the" credible candidate isn't ... well ... serious.

I intend to make my analysis of George's flier into a multi-part series. After all, I've so far only covered the exterior, and the first paragraph of the interior! Next time: Six questions, six answers.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Raising the Barr

As you may have heard elsewhere by now, former US Representative Bob Barr (R-GA) no longer has the "R" in front of his name. He's become a life member of the Libertarian Party and, as of last Friday, now sits as a regional representative on the Libertarian National Committee.

This development has already generated some controversy within the party. I'd be hard put to name anything that doesn't generate controversy within the party. I've participated in some "comment duels" on other blogs about the whole thing, but it's time for a bit of a summary/wrap-up:

First off, I'm glad to have Bob Barr in the LP. This may seem counter-intuitive given my self-identification as a "left libertarian," but I'm also "big tent."

In Congress, Barr was sometimes among the best, and sometimes among the worst, from a pro-liberty perspective. Since leaving Congress, his work has mainly been on the issues where he pulled strongly pro-liberty. He hasn't spent the last four years being a drug warrior or a gay-basher. He's spent the last four years working with groups like the ACLU to roll back the USA PATRIOT Act and other anti-freedom abominations.

I don't have any kind of Deep Throat source on whether Barr's views on marriage, drugs, etc., have evolved in a libertarian direction. I hope they have, and I hope he says so. To the extent they may not have, I'd rather have him in the LP working on the issues we agree on, than outside the LP working on the issues we disagree on.

Questions have already been raised as to whether Barr's affiliation with, and acceptance of a leadership position in, the LP presages a 2008 presidential campaign. This is obviously of particular interest to me, given my role as communications director for Steve Kubby's ongoing campaign.

My initial reaction is that Barr's acceptance of an LNC seat militates against a prospective candidacy. Since the LNC administers the nominating convention, party members would tend to take a dim view of an LNC member simultaneously being a candidate for the nomination. David Weigel's weekend interview with Barr seems to confirm his intent not to run:

reason: Are you going to make a Libertarian run for president?

Barr: No. I'm contemplating no runs for any office. I'm delighted to be asked to work in this capacity for the Libertarian Party, and I'm going to work on range of issues. But I'm not a candidate.

A secondary -- but important -- controversy has emerged on the matter of how Barr's appointment to the LNC was handled: In a word, badly. For more on that, see Melinda Pillsbury-Foster in Liberty For All, or Susan Hogarth at colliething.

I doubt that that sub-controversy will torpedo the accomplishment. And I very much doubt that Barr himself was involved in, or even aware of, the way things were being handled. But it's still a problem. Those who played the secrecy/ukase game on this may have felt like they were being Machiavellian and realpolitickal. In actuality, they were merely eroding their own credibility as party leaders in an attempt to avoid controversies that were bound to come up no matter how they handled things.

The LP is in an interesting and dangerous position. We stand to benefit from a GOP crackup and exodus that's beginning to happen anyway, and Bob Barr is certainly qualified to lead the charge there. The real question is just how much we should be willing to risk on that opportunity. It's certainly not unworthy of our attention and effort.

On the other hand, we have great potential to pick up support on the putative "left" as well, and we need to be careful not to let our constituencies on that side of the spectrum down. It should be a matter of the "right" swinging toward the LP, not the LP swinging toward the "right." If the price of having Bob Barr in the LP means sacrificing our support for religious, medical and marital freedom, or our opposition to foreign military adventurism, it's just not worth it. Fortunately, I don't think that any such sacrifice is even on the table.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated


About noon yesterday, I discovered that Yahoo no longer recognized my long-time userID (thomaslknapp), and that therefore my usual email address (thomaslknapp at was no longer accessible. Following that, all Yahoo "groups" that I owned -- and which had no co-owners whose Yahoo userIDs remained viable -- "disappeared" as well. This includes the newsgroup through which my "day job," Rational Review News Digest, is published.

At this point, I don't know whether Yahoo is having a bellyache and everything will come back, or whether I'm under some kind of "cyber-attack." If the latter, I have good reason to suspect that said attack is aimed at Steve Kubby's presidential campaign, as at least one other staffer is having a similar experience.

In any case: If you need to reach me, use the address publisher at rationalreview dot com.

If you're a Rational Review News Digest subscriber, don't panic -- the web edition is still up, and we have yesterday's membership roster available to upload to a replacement group (although if this is permanent, we've lost an archive of our first 1,000+ email editions). If you aren't receiving your email edition in the next few days, check this spot for instructions on how to get re-subscribed.

Finally, if you're experiencing similar Yahoo problems, drop a comment or a line -- I'd like to know what's going on here.

Thanks for your patience.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Because they can, regional edition

For the second time in five months, hundreds of thousands of households (including mine) in eastern Missouri and western Illinois have experienced multi-day blackouts -- and while I'm always ready to "rough it" for a few days when necessary, this is not a minor matter. People died for lack of electricity in July, and people died for lack of electricity this weekend.

The natural first tendency is to demand that someone "do something" about Ameren UE, the utility company that can't seem to keep the damn lights on. Maybe something does need to be "done," but I doubt that most people have a good idea of what.

Let's start from the beginning:

Yes, Ameren UE is a monopoly -- or more specifically it has a monopoly on one service: The provision of alternating current over a large, ubiquitous network of power lines in a particular region.

Ameren UE doesn't have a monopoly on electricity per se -- barring interference from one's local political hacks, one is free to install solar panels or a wind turbine or whatever and tell Ameren to keep their juice. I'm thinking about doing one or both of those things myself.

The ability to do those things (even setting aside the fact that, at the moment, they're more expensive than just paying Ameren, especially with respect to up-front investment) isn't really relevant, though. This is still not a free market. By law, no other company may purchase easements, stick some poles and lines on those easements, and go into the business of pushing alternating current over those lines to paying customers in what government has declared to be Ameren UE's domain.

I discussed the problems of faux-"privatization" with a state-oriented leftist friend of mine this weekend, while we sat around the table in my dark, unheated kitchen. Not surprisingly, we both concluded that faux-"privatization" hits customers with the worst effects of both the private and public sectors (although, as you might imagine, we differed on what to do about it).

For its part, Ameren UE wants to make a profit. Fair enough -- that's what businesses go into business to do. However, the business environment in which it seeks its profits is an artificial one.

In a real free market environment, competition is an omnipresent factor. Even if nobody is actually competing with you at the moment, someone will start competing with you the instant it looks like it can be done so profitably. You either have to beat your competitors, or perform so satisfactorily to your customers that prospective competitors don't bother to challenge you.

For government's part, in a government-conferred monopoly environment, "public utility commissions" are created to protect the customers ... but they can't do so nearly as well as real competition would. These commissions set rates and rules, but being political entities they are subject to political influence. Who carries more influence with such commissions:

- A centralized business with a single agenda and an overriding interest in those commissions' operations? Or

- A diffuse base of customers with varying agendas, most of whom usually have "utilities and utility bills" way down their lists of priorities?

Ameren UE and companies like it put a lot of money into buying political influence, and that influence is relentlessly used for the purpose of securing the company's profits. Most of Ameren UE's customers don't think much about the politics of utilities until the lights go out ... and even if they did, it would take quite an effort to put together an effective lobbying operation on behalf of those customers as a group with a common interest (especially since those customers can't bill Ameren UE for the costs of lobbying, as they bill us).

Ameren UE is free to let its infrastructure decay while it takes profits, to minimize its investment in upgrading that infrastructure, and to cut back its work force so that it has bare minimum staff in normal times and not nearly enough when a storm comes through. It's free to do so for two reasons:

- Because you and I aren't allowed to call up Ameren UE and say "screw you -- I'm switching to Acme Power and Light. Come get your meter out of the way so they can put theirs in;" and

- Because big business naturally has more influence than small customers over the governmental bodies which are supposed to pinch hit for that kind of competition.

Many "progressives" believe that the remedy to such situations is to somehow untangle government power from corporate influence, but history shows us that that's a naive expectation.

It was not customers who called for government control over utilities in the early 20th century -- it was the utilities themselves! See Jan Bellamy's "Two Utilities are Better Than One," in Reason magazine for more historical information.

From anti-trust to the Food and Drug Administration to your local utilities, government regulation has nearly always been pushed and promoted by the entities allegedly to be reined in or controlled ... because those entities knew that it would ultimately be they who held the reins and sat at the controls, or stood over the shoulders of those who did. Regulation would not be permitted to hurt their bottom line -- rather it would enhance it by allowing them to exclude would-be competitors and thus free them from the market's tendency to force better service and lower prices.

Regulation is not a tool of self-defense for consumers -- it is a tool of monopolization for corporations. Faux-"privatization" is particularly pernicious: When the inevitable failures occur, it allows the regulators to falsely blame, and the regulated to falsely cite, the "free market."

The solution is not, as some will no doubt advocate, more government control over Ameren UE. It is less government control -- less government, period -- for Ameren UE and other anti-competitive firms to exploit and influence to their own benefit and their captive customers' detriment.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Kubby on Iraq

A letter worth reading (and feel free to pass it around!):

Dear fellow Libertarians,

Since I declared my candidacy for our party's 2008 presidential nomination back in August, one of the most frequently asked questions of me has been "where do you stand on the war in Iraq?" Some of you have found my answers unsatisfactory. I apologize. I've been thinking through a problem and haven't found an answer ... so I'm just going to bring it to you. We need to talk about it.

First, let me make my own position on the US war in Iraq crystal clear: I oppose it. I opposed it when it was proposed, I opposed it when it began, and I oppose it now. If the American people put me in the White House, I'll end it immediately with a unilateral and unconditional withdrawal of US forces from that country.

But that's the easy part. The hard part is re-uniting a country and a party that's been divided by this war, and that's the part that has to start NOW. If you haven't found my previous answers satisfactory, please understand that I've been giving a lot of thought to the hard part.

It's easy to be against the war now. A majority of Americans oppose it, and it's even possible -- although I admit that the possibility is slim -- that America will be out, or on its way out, of Iraq before the next presidential election. But it wasn't always that way. The majority supported the war at the beginning. They regarded it as necessary and proper. Opposition to the war has been the majority sentiment within the Libertarian Party from the beginning, but majority and unanimity are two different things. A number of Libertarians also regarded the war as necessary and proper.

Over the past three years, it has become increasingly obvious that the war in Iraq is a doomed project. It can't be won. It can't be salvaged. It can only be abandoned. Unfortunately, those of us who realized this at the beginning have, all too often, hanged ourselves with our own rope. We gloated. We used the issue of the war as a political bludgeon to beat our fellow Americans and our fellow Libertarians over the head with their errors.

When I say "whatever you think of the war in Iraq ..." (this seems to have been the problematic part of my previous answers), I'm not saying that all points of view on the war are or were equally defensible. What I'm saying is that it's time for Americans -- and most of all Libertarians -- to unite and move forward instead of beating each other up over past mistakes. I'm not saying that we shouldn't learn from our mistakes. Far from it. The war in Iraq validates the non-interventionist ideals which our party has long held high, and in the future we will point to it when we say "never again." But ...

I know many Americans who supported the war at the beginning but who now understand that it's a lost cause. I know many Libertarians who regarded it as necessary and proper, but who have since become persuaded otherwise. These people are GOOD Americans and REAL Libertarians. Were they mistaken? I think they were, but I don't hate them for it. We all make mistakes. We need those good Americans and real Libertarians with us now ... and we won't have them with us if we insist that they come on their knees, wearing hair shirts and vocally denouncing themselves. As Ben Franklin said, "we must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." And we must hang together as equals, not with some portion of us designated second-class citizens on the basis of an argument that is, or at least should be, over.

In the early 1970s, it became de rigueur among Democrats to "grade" each other, and especially primary candidates, on the question "when did you come out against the war in Vietnam?" That habit persisted long after the war ended, and it cost the Democratic Party dearly. I don't want the Libertarian Party to fall into the same trap. As a candidate for our party's presidential nomination, I will do my best to clearly articulate our opposition to the war in Iraq -- and to any expansion of that war to Iran, Syria or any other country -- and to offer a sound non-interventionist prescription for the future conduct of American foreign policy. What I will not do is subject my fellow Americans or my fellow Libertarians, including my opponents for the nomination, to a "just when did you get right on this issue?" litmus test.

Our party and our nation face critical challenges in the coming years. Among those challenges are disentangling ourselves from a disastrous foreign military misadventure; reclaiming our civil liberties from a White House and Congress which has spent them even more wastefully than it spends our tax dollars; securing each and every one of our rights as Americans and as free human beings; and making America once again a beacon of liberty toward which the world turns -- and to which many of the people of that world come to live in freedom and are welcomed. We must face these challenges together, as a party and nation united in purpose, not divided by past quarrels.

Let freedom grow!
Steve Kubby

You can find out more about Steve Kubby's campaign -- and support it -- at

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Semper Fi!

"We stole the Air Force's eagle, the Navy's anchor and the Army's rope. On the seventh day, God rested. We overran his perimeter and we've been running the globe ever since." -- seen on various t-shirts, etc.

Happy 231st birthday to the United States Marine Corps and to all of my brothers and sisters in arms who have served, are serving, or will serve in its ranks.

To those of you in harm's way at this very moment: Hold on. Watch each others' backs. Bring yourselves and your buddies home in one piece. As you've probably noticed, it's a royal clusterfuck back here -- but we're trying to get things straightened out for your safe return.

First to fight for right and FREEDOM
And to keep our honor clean

Thursday, November 09, 2006

An open letter to libertarian Republicans

Dear libertarian Republicans,

It's been some time since I've used the term "libertarian Republicans" without quote marks around "libertarian," but Tuesday's election results opened a window of opportunity for reconciliation between the libertarian movement and its errant Republican offshoot -- a window that I hope both sides will hold open and use for the purpose of friendly communication and mutual support. For now, at least, I'm removing the quote marks, in the hope that libertarian Republicans will re-evaluate their priorities, place principle before party, and exploit the golden opportunity which the 2006 elections have placed before them.

Most of you, I suspect, are less than happy with what transpired on Tuesday. You shouldn't be. Yes, the Republican Party took a beating -- a beating it deserved in spades. But if you look at the results, what Americans rejected was NOT the residual libertarian strain in Republican thought, but the corruption and statism recently displayed in Republican action.

To put a finer point on it, libertarian Republican casualties on Tuesday were the exception, not the rule. Toby Nixon, Ken Lindell and others were taken down by stray shots; they were not the ones in the voters' sights.

Ron Paul handily won re-election versus an NRA-endorsed opponent.

At least two known friends of libertarianism in the GOP -- Butch Otter in Idaho and Sarah Palin in Alaska -- are now governors-elect of their states.

Of 12 states with initiatives on the ballot to rein in government abuse of eminent domain, nine passed them.

Anti-war-on-drugs measures passed in numerous localities, and although they failed at the state level, they garnered considerable support (and who, ten years ago, would have dared dream that they'd make the ballot, let alone command the votes of double-digit percentages of the electorate)?

What did libertarian Republicans lose on Tuesday?

You lost some "friends" who had exploited the libertarian label but who never deserved it. J.D. Hayworth in Arizona. George Allen in Virginia. Jim Talent in Missouri. In losing them, you lost ... baggage. These were folks you never should have been in bed with in the first place -- and in your hearts you know I'm right. Know-Nothingism, Mrs. Grundyism, crony "capitalism" and jingoism may make for a nice wave to ride in the short term, but the undertow's a bitch when that wave collapses. Thank your lucky stars that for the most part those who got sucked under were the ones who deserved it -- and that they didn't take the whole libertarian Republican movement down with them.

Right now, libertarian Republicans are the only faction in the GOP left standing. Everyone else has been drowned in the deluge or is still cowering on the beach, coughing up water and trying to figure out what the hell hit them. You guys are the only ones left with any credibility, any muscle, any ideas that resonate with the public. If the Republican Party has a future, YOU ARE IT.

I'd like to talk to you about the Libertarian Party for a minute. No, I'm not going to ask you to desert the GOP for the LP -- some of you may do exactly that, and you'll be welcomed with open arms if you do, but I'm going to take it as given that you're not ready to give up on the Republican Party, at least yet. And I'm going to tell you how the LP has made your position more tenable -- how Libertarian candidates put you in the catbird seat.

Get set for the whining to start, guys, because it's coming. Your fellow Republicans are looking for people to blame, and in the next week or so they're going to find two scapegoats: Frank Gilmour of Missouri and Stan Jones of Montana. Both of these gentlemen ran for US Senate on the Libertarian Party's ticket. Both of them lost -- and both of them garnered more votes than their Republican opponents (Jim Talent and Conrad Burns) lost by.

Your wounded friends are going to tell you that those damn Libertarians cost the GOP control of the US Senate. To the extent that I can speak for the LP (which is minimal), I'll answer that accusation: You're right. We did cost the GOP control of the US Senate. Now, do you want to straighten up, fly right and start earning those votes back, or do you want to wander in the desert for another 40 years like you did from the 1950s to the 1990s -- if you survive, which is unlikely? Those are the two choices the GOP has. There are no others. Blaming the LP for the GOP's failures may feel good, but it isn't going to accomplish anything productive.

Like I said, libertarian Republicans, this moment is YOURS. What are you going to do with it?

If you walk away from the GOP, it will circle the drain for awhile before disappearing into the sewer of history, and the Libertarian Party will be left with the challenge of trying to become America's second political party. I can think of worse things, but I doubt that your minds are turned in that direction.

If you continue to give the anti-libertarian elements in your party the support that they've never deserved, that they've never earned and that they've continually betrayed, you'll go down with them. I sincerely hope you won't do that. Your movement needs you more than you need your party.

The third alternative is to GO ON THE OFFENSIVE. There's never been a more opportune time to do so. A libertarian takeover of leadership within the GOP is the only thing that can possibly save it. Yes, your party will take some more losses in 2008. That's inevitable. But you can minimize those losses, hold the line in 2010, and lead a Republican resurgence in 2012 and beyond.

Mind you, I'm not talking about signing on with placeholders and fakes like Pence and Shadegg until the old "Play for K Street" crowd gets itself reorganized. I'm talking about a full-court press to take over the congressional minority leadership with the most libertarian Republicans you can find. House Minority Leader Ron Paul. House Minority Whip David Dreier. Senate Minority Leader Judd Gregg. Insert your own names, but make sure that you're sponsoring a real revolution, not just new wallpaper.

In the past, libertarian Republicans have freely applied the carrot, but hardly ever the stick. You've stuck with a party that has betrayed you time and again. Sometimes you've kept your silence; sometimes you've even cooperated in the charade. On Tuesday, the American people -- with a little help from the Libertarian Party in places -- applied the stick, hard. Are you going to whine and rub your asses ... or are you going to make the most of the opportunity?

For liberty,
Tom Knapp

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Did it to Julia

I'm usually one of the first 3 or 4 voters at my polling place. This morning, I arrived 15 minutes before it opened, and was still voter #12. By the time I got out of there, the line going in was getting fairly long. Looks like it may be a record turnout day.

Then again, it could be due to the delays. Missouri outlawed "straight ticket" voting last year. All over the state, half-blind oldsters who are used to just looking for the picture of the donkey or the elephant, punching their ticket and getting the hell out of there are now having to laboriously um, read their ballots. I don't really see it making a difference in terms of an informed electorate, etc. It's just another annoyance.

Also, we've got the touch screen machines now -- that's slowing down voters and election workers both. Something about them feels ... sinister. In theory, you can request a paper punch card ballot instead, but those didn't arrive at my polling place until about the time I finished casting my votes on the touch screens.

Frank Gilmour for Senate, Charles Baum for State Auditor, Robb Cunningham for US House, Ted Brown for County Executive. Since those guys are all Libertarians and friends of mine, those votes were easy.

The votes for State Senator, State Representative and County Council were easy, too: The only candidate for each seat was the Democratic Party's nominee. And to be honest, we could do worse than Rita Days, Esther Haywood and Hazel Erby. Any Republican district in the state does so on a routine basis.

I wouldn't have felt bad voting for Lacy Clay for Congress, either, if he hadn't had a Libertarian opponent. He voted against the war on Iraq, against the Enabling Military Commissions Act, and against making the Anti-American Gestapo USA PATRIOT Act permanent. He opposes amending the US Constitution to make discrimination against homosexuals the Supreme Law of the Land -- and his response to my constituent inquiry on that issue was not pro forma. He's not good on every issue, but he's good on most of the ones I care about lately.

After that, it was "no" right down the line on the question of retaining various judges in office, and that was it. I made one mistake (almost let one of those judges creep back in with my support!), the touch screen let me correct it and then chattered a bunch of stuff on the "paper trail" tape, and I was done.

If you haven't voted yet, read Jim Henley's Election Day article before you go. Remember: A vote for a Republican, at least 99% of the time, is a vote against America.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

No apologies necessary

Every time I turn around, someone's opining that John Kerry "owes everyone who's ever served in the military an apology." I don't presume to speak for "everyone who's ever served in the military," but I can speak for myself, so I will.

As a veteran of the 1991 war (Marine Corps -- infantry), I don't desire an apology from Senator Kerry. I didn't find what he said offensive. The line as it was allegedly intended to be delivered would have been better, but what he actually said worked okay.

I do, however, have something to ask of the Democrats who are running for cover: Stop. Please. Show some goddamn backbone, for the love of Harry Truman. If you want a party line to cling to, try this one on for size:

"We'll gladly apologize for John Kerry blowing a line in a speech -- just as soon as we've heard George W. Bush's apology for the nearly 3,000 American deaths, the tens of thousands of American injuries and maimings, and the virtual disintegration of the US armed forces caused by his military incompetence, moral bankruptcy, and treasonous abuse of executive power."

Some campaign notes

[Note: This is not an official communication from the Steve Kubby for President campaign. Yes, I'm working with that campaign. Yes, this is most definitely pro-Kubby propaganda. But it's just me talking here. The candidate hasn't authorized or approved of anything I say here - TLK]

Two years out from the 2008 election, the campaign for the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination is in full swing. As most of you know, I've endorsed Steve Kubby for that nomination; as I may or may not have mentioned here yet, I'm now working as a volunteer on his campaign. Time for an update on what's going on and a little more of my hypnotically persuasive argument about why Kubby deserves your support. But first, a disclaimer:

There are a number of candidates for the nomination. Don't let me choose yours for you. Check them all out. See what they're doing. Think long and hard about who would best represent your party versus the candidates the duopoly puts up. For a reasonably comprehensive and regularly updated list of declared and prospective contenders, point your browser at Politics1.

I endorsed Steve Kubby on the basis of several key factors: Personal charisma. A firm grasp of libertarian ideas and how they might be translated into public policy. Political experience and success. Life history and "credentials." Name recognition. Roots in constituencies outside the LP. What I didn't have to go on was personal acquaintance. I'd met Steve once and heard him speak once (at the LP's national convention in 2000); we'd briefly corresponded a few times, but that correspondence was not about a prospective presidential campaign.

Since endorsing Steve, I've had the chance to talk with him a number of times and begin working with him to make his campaign a success ... and I have to say that I'm more impressed than ever.

As I write this, Steve is on the ground in Colorado, where he'll be campaigning with SAFER for the passage of Amendment 44 (a marijuana legalization proposition), as well as with Daniel Ong, the LP's candidate for Colorado University Board of Regents, and possibly other candidates. The schedule is in continuous flux, but it looks like he'll be in Denver and Aurora today, and probably Fort Collins and possibly Boulder tomorrow.

One reason for telling you this is simple promotion of the fact that we have a candidate who's out there already ... who's campaigning to voters, not just inside the LP ... and who's already reaching out to constituencies beyond the existing LP base. But there's another reason:

This campaign is just getting started, and money's not exactly rolling in yet. When the possibility of doing something productive in Colorado came up, there just wasn't money to make it happen. Many candidates would have said, "no problem -- we'll get there sooner or later. Let's wait until the fundraising takes off."

Not Steve Kubby. After he had looked over the situation and decided that he might be able to contribute to a win for freedom, he said "I'm going. If the money's not there, let's figure out how to get it there."

I roughed in a budget. I set a fundraising goal, and we started contacting prospective donors. An angel donor came through for us in a big way, but we still stalled at half the rough budget. This is where some candidates would have balked and decided to write the thing off.

Not Steve. The money was now there for airfare and for gas for a campaign volunteer to drive him around -- so he booked the flight and told Kristen Peskuski when he'd be arriving so she could pick him up and get him into the fray. He's wading into said fray at this very moment.

Listen now, because this is important. There are different kinds of candidates. There are different kinds of campaigns. Some candidates seize opportunities; other candidates wait for opportunies to seize them. I had no doubts about which kind of candidate Steve Kubby would be, but it's energizing to see my judgment confirmed so early in this campaign.

Steve is the kind of candidate who doesn't mind sleeping on an activist's couch instead of in a comfy hotel bed (as a matter of fact, he prefers it!). He's the kind of candidate who does the difficult jobs instead of waiting and hoping that they'll get easier. Like Vincent, Ethan Hawke's character in Gattaca, who beats his brother in a desperate swim for an ocean buoy: "You want to know how I did it Anton? I never saved anything for the swim back."

This early in the race, with no scientific polling and insufficient data to make valid comparisons, it's impossible to tell who's "ahead" or "behind." But in my opinion, Steve Kubby is leading in the most important way: From the front.

If you agree, there are all kinds of ways to support Steve's campaign. The most obvious is with a financial contribution -- you can do that here.

In terms of "Internet buzz," a few minutes of your time can make a big difference:

- Vote for Steve (or the candidate of your choice) in the straw polls at The Next Prez. The polls are in the right sidebar. Steve won last month's LP nomination poll, and appears this month in both that poll and the "overall" poll versus the most popular candidates from other parties. He debuted on The Next Prez's "top five third party candidates" list in October at number 5 and moved up to number 4 last week.

- If you're a MySpace member, visit Steve's profile and add him as a "friend." We also have a MySpace Group for the campaign. Sign up!

- Several LP candidates for various offices have done well in the "My Rockin' Profile Awards" in past months; we're just getting started there. You can vote for Steve up to once an hour.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Legislatosaurus Rex?

There's been plenty of hype -- some of it justified, some a little over the top -- about the prospects of Libertarian congressional candidates this years. The lion's share of that hype has gone to Texas and the campaigns of Michael Badnarik and Bob Smither. The attention is justified, based on Badnarik's warchest and Smither's status as the only non-Democrat on the ballot in a heavily Republican district.

Of course, I'm skeptical. The latest polls I've seen show both candidates in single digits (granted, the last Badnarik poll was awhile back). I think they'll do better than their polling numbers would predict, but I'm not convinced that a victory is in the offing. I hope they both prove me wrong. Either way, I believe we'll see a number of "balance of power" showings in which the LP's candidate has a significant impact on outcome. Those may include US Senate candidates Frank Gilmour in Missouri and Bruce Guthrie in Washington.

The more likely prospect for outright victory is that Libertarians will be elected to state legislatures in two or three states: New Hampshire, Vermont and, just possibly, Indiana.

In Vermont, five "fusion" candidates (Benjamin Todd, Jeff Manney, Bob Wolffe, David Atkinson and Hardy Machia) won their districts' Republican primaries to run on both the GOP and LP tickets. There's a good chance that some or all of them will be elected to office.

New Hampshire has been the site of "fusion" victories in the past, and a number of LP candidates are seeking legislative seats there this year as well. Notably, state LP chair John Babiarz is running as a Democrat. The trend there seems to be away from fusion per se and toward seeking major party nominations. That hasn't been a reliable way of winning office in the past, but it sometimes works and in particular areas it may be key (not just for state races -- Frank Gonzalez ran as a Libertarian for Congress from Florida in 2004, and is the Democratic nominee in that same district this time around).

And in Indiana, Rex Bell is apparently polling in the 30%+ range, slightly behind the Republican incumbent and slightly ahead of the Democratic candidate for a legislative seat. I haven't seen any hard information on the poll's methodology and such, but if it's accurate the Indiana LP may finally see its years of hard work pay off.

Best of luck to these candidates, some of whom are personal friends. I'll be thrilled and surprised if we elect a congresscritter this year, but I'm actually confident that we'll see some Libertarians in the statehouse.

Update/Correx -- Thanks to Seth Cohn for two factual corrections: 1) The trend in New Hampshire isn't just "away" from fusion, it's off it altogether as the New Hampshire LP isn't on the ballot. 2) John Babiarz lost his Democratic primary, but a number of other Granite State Libertarians made the election cut, including Don Gorman (see here for a list of 132 candidates endorsed by the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance). Also thanks to Seth for this analysis contesting the notion that Bob Smither is really polling in single digits. FWIW, I predict that both Smither and Badnarik will do better than 10%, polling or not (partly because I think they'll get out a higher percentage of their voters).

Friday, October 13, 2006

Win one for the GOPer

It's not very often lately that you'll hear me saying nice things about "libertarian Republican" politicians, mostly because such creatures are much more rare than Republican Liberty Caucus types would have us believe. As a matter of fact, if the "libertarian Republican candidate" ever existed as a species per se, I'd say it's just about at the point of extinction.

However ... there are one or two Republican politicians who proudly own, and try hard not to shame, the name "libertarian" -- not just when it's convenient, but when they're being slammed for it and when their enemies are using it against them. One of them is US Representative Ron Paul. Another is Michigan's Leon Drolet.

After several terms in the state legislature, Drolet is seeking election to the Macomb County commission (on which he served before going to the legislature). The Detroit Free Press says that he's "notably hostile to government programs" and that his "ideas are often impractical or extreme, like privatizing or selling the public library." I'd be hard put to come up with a better endorsement than the Free Press's characterization.

If you're looking for a "libertarian Republican" to support, head on over to Leon's web site. He's in a tough fight, and your $10 or $20 could make the difference.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Pickin' and grinnin'

If you're a gambler, don't bet the ranch on my election predictions. I'm not, to put it daintily, the most accurate political prognosticator. But I make my calls every election and live with those calls, win or lose. This article is a slightly revised version of a post to an Internet discussion group. The only substantive revision is that I had previously listed Missouri's US Senate race as "iffy" -- I've since moved it solidly into the "Democratic pickup" column. So, here we go:

I don't think the Dems will take the Senate, but it's just barely possible.

Solid Democrat gains:

- Casey over Santorum in Pennsylvania
- Tester over Burns in Montana
- Brown over DeWine in Ohio
- McCaskill over Talent in Missouri

Possible, but iffy:

- Webb over Allen in Virginia
- Whitehouse over Chafee in Rhode Island

I don't foresee any GOP pickups. The most likely one is in New Jersey, but I think that Democratic incumbent Menendez will beat GOP candidate Keane. I also think Lieberman will win as a faux-Independent in Connecticut.

The current Senate is 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats and an Independent.

If the Democrats get those four likely seats, the GOP doesn't pick up New Jersey and Lieberman is elected, it will be:

51 Republicans, 47 Democrats and 2 Independents.

The Democrats would have to win both "iffy" seats to reduce the GOP to 49, and they'd then have 49 as well, although Sanders and Lieberman will presumably caucus with the Democrats for leadership elections and such. I don't see that happening. I'm tentatively picking Webb to win in Virginia, but I think Chafee will hold on in Rhode Island. So, final:

50 Republicans, 48 Democrats, 2 Independents.

In the House, I predict that the Democrats will pick up 16 seats -- 15 from Republicans plus Vermont District 1, which Independent Bernie Sanders is leaving for the Senate. Once again, I don't foresee the GOP picking up any seats it didn't already have.

Predictions for Dem pickups:

- Giffords beats Graf in Arizona District 8
- Perlmutter beats O'Donnell in Colorado 7
- Courtney beats Simmons in Connecticut 2
- UPSET -- Farrell beats Shays in Connecticut 4
- Donnelly, Ellsworth and Hill beat Chocola, Hostettler and Sodrel in Indiana 2,8 and 9
- Braley beats Whalen in Iowa 1
- Shuler beats Taylor in North Carolina 11
- Space beats Padgett in Ohio 18
- Murphy beats Gerlach in Pennsylvania 6
- Lampson beats the hyphenated lady (and Bob Smither) in Texas 22
- And, of course, that Vermont seat -- Welch beats Rainville in Vermont 1

That leaves three seats to meet my prediction. I think Tammy Duckworth will upset Roskam in Illinois 6. That's one. I think Kilroy will unseat Price in Ohio 15. That's two. And I think at least one more seat will be an upset Democrat gain ... it might be one of a couple of close Kentucky races, or Florida 22. There's at least one close-to-tossup in New Mexico, but with the LP excluded, the GOP may gain. There's another race in Minnesota that's a possible (Wetterling v. Bachmann in the 6th district).

That's my prediction, but I have a disturbing sense that it's probably wrong. I have a gut feeling that one of two things will happen: Either the GOP will hold on by the skin of its teeth, or the Democrats will break out even bigger than I'm predicting (i.e. a number of those possibles I listed, instead of just one or two, will go Democrat, and maybe even some others that didn't look likely at all).

Friday, October 06, 2006

First Look 2008: Series End

I doubt that my endorsement carries a great deal of weight, and to the extent that it carries any at all, it would be silly to assume that that weight is all positive. Furthermore, I had intended to refrain from actively involving myself in a presidential campaign for some time yet. It's still early, and I'd hoped to be more chronicler than participant until some time next year.

But ... I'm beyond the point where I can honestly posture myself as an objective observer. Early as it is, and even knowing that the field of aspirants to the Libertarian Party's 2008 presidential nomination may grow, I've settled on a candidate to support. Please don't think of this as an announcement/endorsement so much as a notification that from here on out, where the nomination is concerned, I'm no longer engaged in analysis and journalism, but rather in support and propaganda. The "First Look" series ends now.

Order Kubby 2008 buttons from RadicalButtons.ComSo: Why do I support Steve Kubby for the LP's 2008 presidential nomination and for election to the presidency of the United States? I've offered a few reasons elsewhere. I'd like to add a few more to the list (but first, to mention that you can order Kubby 2008 buttons like the one pictured on the left at Carol Moore's site):

- Taking solid libertarian positions on the issues isn't everything -- but it's the first thing. Steve Kubby isn't the only candidate I expect to see campaigning on a truly libertarian platform, but he's one of them.

- Past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future success ... but that's the smart way to bet. Steve Kubby is not the only candidate who has previously engaged in credible political efforts, but his record on that point does stand out from the field both externally (as one of the leading activists in putting Proposition 215 in California over the top) and internally (among the announced candidates, he has received a higher percentage of the vote in internal LP elections at national conventions than any of the others).

- It's inevitable that Steve Kubby will initially be painted as a "single issue candidate." As you'll soon see, he isn't ... but even though the accusation is and will remain incorrect, it is also useful. In a tight 2008 election to which other issues are central, it's very possible that a Kubby candidacy will finally break the duopoly logjam on the drug war and that we'll see one or both of the "major party" candidates trying to outflank us by coming out in favor of medical marijuana ... and maybe even more than that (industrial hemp, reining in the FDA on supplement/treatment issues, etc.) in search of those last few "marginal" votes.

- If the LP has a future, that future lies in appealing to a number of huge unrepresented constituencies ... on the Left. We've given the Right its shot and then some. It's time to admit to ourselves that that approach has failed. Those Republicans who were going to defect to the LP have already done so, and those who remain in the GOP -- "libertarian" Republicans included -- have amply demonstrated that party loyalty trumps their interest in liberty. It's time to go after the anti-war, anti-drug-war, pro-immigration thirty-somethings who have (sensibly) never trusted the Right and who have voted Democrat as "the lesser evil" (if they've voted at all!) for the last 16 years while the LP has positioned itself as "to the Right of the GOP." Steve Kubby is not the only candidate who can appeal to these voters (George Phillies is an ACLU leader, and Christine Smith is obviously sensitive to Left appeal -- witness her admiration for Gore Vidal), but I believe that Kubby will have the most cachet with that demographic.

- The LP presidential campaigns have become serious very early in this election cycle, and that's a good thing (for which George Phillies deserves much of the credit). I want to see the LP's presidential candidate get a good "running start" and as a matter of fact, I hope that the Libertarian National Committee schedules the presidential nominating convention for the earliest possible time under the bylaws (I believe that would be the autumn of 2007) so that the LP has a nominee campaigning as the nominee for a full year and then some instead of just a few months. In my opinion, Steve Kubby is the only candidate who has a chance of building the kind of momentum which could withstand a "late entry" candidacy by The Evil One or some similar "same old Right-Wing-Lite" candidate who would piss away yet another opportunity to build a bigger, better, more successful and more relevant LP.

Since I'm in propaganda mode, I haven't really covered the down side of the Kubby candidacy. Frankly, I don't know if there's a down side to cover (I'm sure one or more commenters will believe there is, and will be happy to explain). It's too early to tell what kind of campaign organization he'll put together, whether he's got a good fundraising strategy in place, etc. And that's probably the ultimate reason I've decided to sign on as a supporter of, and volunteer for, Kubby's campaign ... this is too important to not get started on now.

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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Same old song and dance

The St. Louis Oracle is a pretty smart guy. Here's his take on the Talent-McCaskill LoveFest. I agree with about 90% of that take.

"Major party" candidates simply hate the prospect of confronting "third party" candidates. While the major party guys are angling for the center, third party opponents threaten them on their flanks by taking on the issues which may not drive the mass of voters, but which can swing an all-important 1-2% in or out of play.

In the 2002 contest to fill this same Senate seat*, Libertarian Tamara Millay and Green Daniel "digger" Romano polled a combined 1.6%; Talent won that election versus Jean Carnahan by an uncomfortably close 1.3%. Some supporters of both "major party" candidates blamed Millay and digger for that close outcome:

Some Democrats said that all of digger's votes and most of Millay's came "out of Carnahan's pocket" on the issue of invading Iraq (Carnahan voted for the war; Millay and Romano ran strongly against it).

Some Republicans said that Talent's margin of victory would have been far more comfortable had Millay not taken him to task over his anti-gun-rights record as a US Representative.

Both of these claims are a bit of a stretch, but neither is wholly implausible.

In the usual course of things, the "major party" candidates position themselves slightly to either side of the imagined "center." They believe that if they take strong stands further out on the "political fringe," they'll lose two center votes for every fringe vote they gain. So, they don't want to talk about those issues. As a matter of fact, they want so badly not to talk about those issues that they collude with their major party opponents to keep the third party candidates as far out of the public eye as possible.

Jim Talent and Claire McCaskill don't want Frank Gilmour or Lydia Lewis on the stage with them because it would force them to confront issues that need to be confronted.

- Talent toes the Bushevik line on Iraq and doesn't want anyone publicly pointing out the utter failure of that line. McCaskill is playing the centrist Democrat "we could manage the war better" card, and doesn't want anyone showing her up as spineless by taking a real anti-war stand on the stage with her.

- Talent backed the largest expansion of federal entitlements since LBJ (the Medicare prescription drug coverage program). He doesn't want Frank Gilmour pointing that out from his right. McCaskill doesn't want Lydia Lewis coming at her from her left on healthcare and entitlements by proposing universal "single-payer" health care.

And so on, and so forth. Major party candidates are cowards. They don't want to take stands that might cost them votes, but they don't want to be publicly outed as the walking blobs of Silly Putty they are, either. So, they erect difficult ballot access barriers to keep third party candidates out altogether, and when that fails they collude with their fellow Silly Puttians to, as best possible, exclude their third party opponents from the public discussion.

I'd like to briefly take the Oracle to task on the 10% of his column I disagree with:

Progressives clearly need a party of their own, and the Progressive Party is here to answer the call. The Libertarian Party might make a similar case for itself on the right, but I’ll let them speak for themselves.

Of all people, the Oracle should know that libertarians are not "on the right" per se. Some of our candidates have a more "right" orientation, some are more "leftish," but overall we have more in common with "progressives" than we do with "conservatives" or "liberals." As a matter of fact, the raw material for a "popular front" strategy including libertarians and progressives has been there all along and becomes more attractive and pertinent every day:

- Libertarians and progressives have long been natural allies versus US foreign policy, and much more so since September 11th, 2001.

- Libertarians and progressives have long been natural allies versus the "war on drugs."

- Libertarians and progressives have long been natural allies versus corporate welfare and corporate dominance of government.

- Libertarians and progressives have long been natural allies versus Know-Nothing anti-immigration schemes.

- Libertarians and progressives should be natural allies versus a national energy paradigm which relies on heavily subsidized, largely imported, polluting/high-greenhouse-emission, non-renewable fuels.

We certainly have our differences, but those differences have been moving away from our own mutual "centers" and toward the fringes. In another post -- or possibly in a dialogue with the Oracle himself -- I'm going to have to talk about the role of cases like Monsanto versus Percy Schmeisser in moving libertarians away from a naive trust in the ethics of corporate America, and progressives toward a new appreciation for property rights.

While I do not support the LP presidential candidacy of Robert Milnes (for one thing, I'm not supporting any candidate yet), I do think that his proposal for a "Progressive Alliance" has merit and needs to be explored. I suspect the Oracle at least partially agrees. He and I both did what we could to bring Libertarians and Greens together in 2002 (with some success, I think), and America's political situation continues to move in directions which make such an alliance attractive.

* Yes, I know Senate terms are six years. In 2000, Missouri governor Mel Carnahan was killed in a plane crash just before the election. His widow, Jean Carnahan, was appointed as his temporary replacement for two years, with the final four years of the term conferred in a special election in 2002.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Book Review: Middle America is upper class

Middle America
by Anthony F. Lewis
Booksurge Publishing, 2006

$17.99 from Amazon.Com

Middle America is Anthony F. Lewis's second novel (I reviewed his debut, The Third Revolution, in two parts here and here). Let me effuse in brief: The prologue is well worth the book's cover price, and it's all gravy after that.

Middle America takes up four years after The Third Revolution. Governor Ben Kane, who led several states out of the union in a freedom-driven secession movement, is now former Governor Ben Kane -- back in the restaurant business but with an eye always on, and an involuntary finger always in, politics. Middle America has lived through four years of explosive economic growth: A burgeoning tourist industry based on activities prohibited or tightly regulated in the Old USA has taken root, and freeing and reinvigorating the North American bison herds (instead of relying on federal subsidies for ailing beef operations) provides both a cultural rallying point and another economic stimulus.

All, of course, is not well. Something fishy's going on at Middle America's largest tourist trap, and a presidential race in the Old USA turns on the issue of Kane's secession and its impact. These two elements are the framework on which Lewis hangs his plot, bringing back his original cast of characters (with additions) to take on Some Big Questions.

No spoilers here: I'm more interested in talking about Lewis's obvious growth as a writer between the two books. The Third Revolution is competently written by any measure, but mainly carried along by its plot -- a plot which really only appeals to a small niche audience (fans of libertarian secession fiction). Middle America is a buffalo of a different color (speaking of which, there's one of those in the book). It's beautifully rendered, the characters come to life, and Lewis's vision seems much more tightly integrated into rational speculation about future technological developments and a realistic appraisal of how real people (and politicians) act under a given set of circumstances.

Lewis's portrayal of a tourist Mecca ("Shining City") in a libertarian enclave surrounded by "victimless crime" regimes is particularly striking. This is one area in which many fine authors fall short when it comes to achieving suspension of disbelief in the reader's mind ... but Lewis hits the nail on the head. Shining City -- and the reaction to it both in Middle America and the Old USA -- strikes me as utterly believable.

Moreover, both that portrayal and the story in general strike me as something which a non-libertarian (or someone not even especially interested in politics per se) could curl up with and enjoy, which is indeed a rarity among novels with libertarian themes.

As always, I have my little complaints, but little they are. The love story which sprouted in the first novel gets more believable, but only marginally so. I can live with that (if Lewis has male-female relationships figured out he's way ahead of most of us, right?). There's still a slight tilt toward the "Republicans are more open to libertarian ideas than Democrats" notion which prevailed in The Third Revolution, but that tilt is much less pronounced and Lewis does give the Left its due where the situation calls for it. The one thing I probably can't forgive is his retirement of Joe Adams's 1972 Norton Commando. That one hurt.

I've read a number of good books lately; Middle America is probably the best thing I've read this year. Lewis is going to regret this when his inbox begins filling up with my emails demanding the next installment.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The same thing we do every night, Pinky ...

On first pass, I didn't find MySpace very interesting or potentially useful. Chalk it up to lack of vision. As I noticed more and more candidates (for the presidency and other offices) creating MySpace presences, I decided I might as well give it a chance. And, all in all, it's pretty cool. Check out my little corner of MySpace and do the "add friend" routine if you like.

I probably won't be blogging there much unless I decide to use it as the launching pad for "What The F**k Is WRONG With You People 2012." Nothing wrong with an early start, I guess, and it might alleviate the itch I keep having to start working for one 2008 presidential contender or another so early.

And yes, I'll be back with substantive blog content Real Soon Now. You know how it is.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

"This discussion is now closed"

Um, no. Not by a damn sight. Of all people, I expect Stephen VanDyke to know better than to think a blogosphere debate can -- or should -- be shut down, especially when threats of defamation suits are being thrown around.

The short version: Some people have waxed rather critical of Michael Badnarik's congressional campaign and, more specifically, of his campaign manager, Allen Hacker.

For several months, I've held my peace on the matter, figuring that it's better to feed out rope and let someone either hang himself or make sail than to string him up from the start. But those threats are pretty much like a red cloth in a bull ring for me, so I lost my temper and went on record: I think that Badnarik's campaign is a $400,000 bust, that he'll be extremely lucky to break 10%, and that that situation results from either incompetence (most likely) or malfeasance (less likely but possible) on Mr. Hacker's part.

I may be wrong -- I hope I'm wrong, because Michael is one of the hardest-working candidates the Libertarian Party has ever been privileged to have on its ticket for any office, and he's a genuinely good guy. And if I'm wrong, I'll apologize to (and try to learn from) Mr. Hacker.

But: When you start cracking out litigation threats in order to shut down discussion, you're wrong. And if the people you're threatening knuckle under (or if it even looks like they're knuckling under -- I suppose SVD may have just become bored with the discussion or wanted to conserve bandwidth, but it looks like he caved and looks count), it's only fitting that someone else should make sure you don't benefit from them having done so.

This discussion is now open.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ground floor opportunity!

Build a better franchise operation and the suckers world will beat a path to your door, right? Well, I've been researching the field with an eye toward important factors like net profit after operations costs, customer retention, etc., and I think I've found it. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you


No longer must you be an Indian ascetic, a Korean huckster or a paranoid schizophrenic who thinks he's Jesus to experience the benefits of cult leadership. We're talking turnkey operation here, folks!

- No mass suicides or murder sprees required -- as a matter of fact, they're prohibited in the Franchise Policy Manual. My intensive research has revealed that killing the customers or getting the operation's executives incarcerated for life has a long-term negative effect on the revenue stream. Your cult's activities will include non-cyanide-laced punch and aggressive paintball-based rituals to help you get the group tension out without the bother of police involvement or last wills and testaments.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Staying the course

Because, you know, victory is right around the corner:

"Iraqi security forces will dig trenches around Baghdad and set up checkpoints along all roads leading into the city to reduce some of the violence plaguing the capital, the Interior Ministry said Friday. To help halt that bloodshed, more U.S. troops have been shifted to Baghdad from the insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, a senior U.S. commander said. ... The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, told the Security Council on Thursday that the average number of weekly attacks increased 15 percent and Iraqi casualties increased by 51 percent, compared with the previous three months." -- Associated Press

There used to be a word for this kind of thing, but it's curiously missing in action, both from the AP story and, so far as I can tell, from official statements:

siege, n. the action of an armed force that surrounds a fortified place and isolates it while continuing to attack [syn: besieging, beleaguering, military blockade] -- WordNet

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

How about a nice hot cup of Throw The Bums Out?

I've known Eric Dondero for several years -- and we're often on opposite sides of some very big issues. But I want to make one thing clear from the very beginning: If anyone says that Eric Dondero "tricks" people into signing petitions, I say they're lying. Period.

Furthermore, if anyone says that Americans for Limited Government and the groups they're working with are "tricking" people into signing petitions, I say they're lying, too.

I'm not saying this because I like Eric Dondero (although in person he's a good sort -- we did lunch awhile back when he was in St. Louis) or Americans for Limited Government (I do, even if they're a bit more, um, Republican in demeanor than I prefer). This isn't rocket science, folks. Challenging petitions has become as much an industry as collecting signatures on them is. Groups like ALG don't shell out the kind of money they're shelling out just to have their petitions rejected for shady gathering practices. And paid petitioners like Eric Dondero know that if they get caught playing games that do get signatures rejected, they'll be looking for a new line of work. Word travels fast.

I've watched Dondero pump himself up for a petition campaign more than once. If it's a questionable campaign -- like, for example, Joe Lieberman's "independent" bid, for which he also gathered signatures -- it's almost comical. Eric works himself into a lather making himself believe in the cause ... because he knows that when he gets out on the street, he has to be contagiously sincere. He can't fake it, and he can't lie. He has to be able to walk up to a voter, lay it all out honestly, and walk away with a valid signature.

What people ought to be concerned about is not Eric Dondero's signature gathering technique, but the fact that corrupt bureaucrats and lapdog judges are pulling out all stops in a concerted effort to disenfranchise voters in Missouri, Montana and elsewhere. Challenging the signatures is just another maneuver in their campaign to make sure that democracy doesn't get too, well, democratic.

Around the country, Americans for Limited Government and associated state groups have been promoting two big initiatives:

One would limit the use of eminent domain (read: property theft by government) to real "public use" instead of allowing government to take your house and give it to Wal-Mart or the New York Nets. Coming on the heels of the Supreme Court's Kelo decision, that one sells like hotcakes. I'm surprised Dondero hasn't been injured by people trying to climb over him to sign it.

The other one would limit state government spending by requiring a public vote on increases above a given threshold. Once again, a slam-dunk. Most people trust themselves more than they trust their legislators, and think that having reasonable veto power over government growth is a pretty good idea.

Naturally, the politicians are beside themselves, and sparing no expense or effort in their campaign to save democracy from the people.

Here in Missouri, the legislature horribly mangled a bill on eminent domain before passing it, inserting loopholes big enough to drive a truck through so that they and their fellow politicians will still be able to sell your land to the biggest campaign contributor highest bidder whether you like it or not.

Then, when ALG and friends tried to take the issue to the people, the gloves came off: State Auditor Claire McCaskill (intentionally in my opinion) blew the "financial impact statement" that her office is required to add to initiative petitions. This, among other items of legerdemain and litigation, allowed Secretary of State Robin Carnahan to reject the petitions. Her job allegedly involves facilitating democracy. She chose instead to thwart it.

Nauseating. No other way to put it. And it looks like Montana has a bad case of ... hell, what else can we call it but "swine flu?" ... too.

As much as I want to see US Senator Jim Talent sent packing this November, Claire McCaskill has proven herself unfit to replace him, or for that matter to continue for one more minute in any office of public trust. Of course, I'm voting for Frank Gilmour for US Senate and Charles Baum for State Auditor anyway, but it's still disconcerting to see how willing McCaskill and Carnahan are to risk their own -- and their party's -- fortunes for unworthy goals like protecting graft and suppressing elections.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

I am a bitter dead-ender

Harvey says the war is over ... but I'm not buying. He offers alternative outlets for the rage, venom and link love, but it's too late -- I've gone Asiatic. I will continue to make up vicious lies about Glenn Reynolds until the guys with hoods and electrodes and stuff come to drag me off to Gitmo.

This is my blog.

There are many like it, but this one is mine.

My blog is my best soapbox. It is my life pretty important to me.

I must master it as I must master my life bate.

Without me, my blog is useless.

Without my blog, I am useless still pretty cool if you like hard-drinking, womanizing malcontents.

I must fire my polemic true.

I must be more persuasive than my enemy who is trying to pwn me.

I must pwn him before he pwns me. I will ...

My blog and myself know that what counts in war is not the post count we rack up, the number of obscenities we can work in without scaring away advertisers, or the level of transcendent snark we achieve.

We know it is the hits that count. We will get hits ...

[Ye gads, this is getting old, my little voice says (my little voice always calls me "Isabelle"). Cut to the chase! Okay ...]

My blog and myself are the defenders of my street cred.

We are the masters of our enemy.

We are the saviors of my alloted bandwidth.

So be it, until there is no enemy, but GLENN REYNOLDS HAS BEN PWNED.


Review: The Third Terrorist, part one

I've finished reading Jayna Davis's The Third Terrorist. Now I'll begin to take it apart. I suspect I'll do this across several posts.

I'm not going to tell you I don't recommend the book, because I really do -- just not for the reasons that it was recommended to me.

I can't recommend it for the quality of writing, because the prose makes purple look beige. Davis can't resist having her alleged terrorists pause in the course of every alleged evil deed to "glower" at people or stare at them in "cold rage." Every datum, however pedestrian, is presented as Sherlock Jayna Davis Holmes, skinning the Speckled Band and stuffing it to hand out like a carnival prize. The book reads like one of those cheap thrillers you pick up at the airport when they're out of Grisham paperbacks ... and I shouldn't have to point out that a problem with suspension of disbelief in a non-fiction work is a bigger problem than it would be with a potboiler.

Of course, writing skill isn't everything. The book is allegedly non-fiction, so the real test of its quality is the strength of Davis's evidence and arguments. As to her theory -- that the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was carried out not just by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, but by a larger conspiracy backed by Iraq and/or al Qaeda -- whether or not it's correct I just can't say. Some pieces seem to raise real suspicions. On other fronts, the story tends to unravel upon examination -- and I've only just begun. For example:

Davis pseudonymizes most of her witnesses and many of her suspects, but a little web research quickly unmasks one of them ... and calls into question whether or not Davis observes the line between legitimate revelation and fact-challenged hyperbole.

To wit: Dr. Samir Khalil and Samara Properties are pseudonymized in the book as "Dr. Anwar Abdul" and "Salman Properties" (in a not very subtle attempt to forge a connection in the reader's mind between the latter and the Salman Pak camp in Iraq).

On page 67 of the paperback edition, Davis breathlessly informs us that

Dr. Abdul was paroled from prison [on an insurance fraud conviction] not long after the Gulf War ended. He immediately resumed operating his rental empire, but continued to run his business sub rosa. Scouring the company registrations with the Oklahoma Secretary of State, the Southwestern Bell phone book, and directory assistance, I found no official record of Salman Properties.

Now, the Internet is much more convenient, accessible and information-rich than it used to be, and it's always possible that things have changed, but it only took me a couple of minutes to find an "official record" of Samara Properties -- from the county assessor's office (a pretty obvious place to look when investigating a property management firm).

A few more minutes, and I had confirmation on my screen of an incorporation by Dr. Samir Khalil ... of Dr. Samir Khalil ... with the Secretary of State.

Since Davis doesn't bother to mention that Dr. Khalil went "legit" later (and her narrative runs up to 2005), either she wants us to believe that he's still operating, as she puts it, sub rosa or else she's hyping the story up beyond what the facts warrant with her claim that he was doing so in the first place (or, perhaps, she's just possessed of poor research and investigation skills). I'm not a lawyer, but it looks like the most Dr. Khalil could really be accused of here is neglecting to file a fictitious business name registration form, if even that.

And, frankly, her depiction doesn't hang together very well with her other descriptions of the company. On page 45, she describes it as a "multi-million dollar property management company" with "hundreds" of rental homes in play. She has her (pseudonymized) witnesses portray Khalil as disposing of large amounts of money (presumably in at least occasional support of a terror operation), buying cars for the Iraqi employees whom Davis believes were part of the team behind the Oklahoma City bombing and so forth. Then she turns around and tries to put the business and its owner on the shadowy fringe of the underground economy. Sorry -- it's one or the other.

A more disturbing alternative is the possibility that Davis intentionally obscured the man's identity and wrote off his business as "off the books" in order to keep a piece of information out of the narrative -- a fact which might call her case into question.

A major theme of the book is that Davis's prime suspect, Hussain al-Hussaini, can't satisfactorily (as Davis sees it) account for his whereabouts between 9 am and 10 am on the morning of the bombing. One of Davis's pseudonymized witnesses, "Larry Monroe," offers three different accounts of al-Hussaini's whereabouts (even though Davis publicly insists that none of her witnesses have ever changed "so much as a word" of their testimonies). The first is that al-Hussaini was nowhere to be seen on a job site that morning before 10 am. The second is that he was at one of Khalil's rental properties. The third is that "Monroe" doesn't know where he was.

In any case, two rental properties eventually enter the narrative as possible alibi sites -- a rental house on NW 31st Street, and another on NW 37th Street. To the best of my recollection, nowhere in The Third Terrorist does Davis mention the location of Samara Properties -- even though she recounts several visits to its office by herself and others, and even though she also produces accounts of the alleged getaway vehicle being parked outside that office before the bombing to strengthen the alleged connection.

Samara Properties is (at least now) located on NW 32nd Street in Oklahoma City -- smack in between the two alibi sites. Where was it located in 1995? If it hasn't moved, then that raises the possibility that al-Hussaini was at one or both of the rental properties in question, and at the office in between, getting his job assignments. Is that why Davis didn't mention its location? And is it possible that she obscured the record with respect to the business's legal status in order to keep that information out of the reader's sight and mind?

I used to work this kind of job myself -- and no, I wouldn't be able to reconstruct a coherent account of my travels back and forth between the office and various job sites on any given morning on demand. The fact that al-Hussaini can't convincingly (to Davis) do so is offered, over and over, as a major component of Davis's indictment of him.

Curiously, although Davis repeatedly portrays Khalil as a stateless Palestinian Arab, she slips once and casually mentions that he does, in fact, have a nationality. It's right there on his passport. Iraqi? Saudi? No ... he's an, um, Israeli. Understandably, she doesn't follow that thread anywhere. She's already picked her target -- Iraq -- and nothing is going to drag it out of her sights.

I could go on -- and I will -- but this post is getting a little long, so I'll take up the topic again later. For now, suffice it to say that The Third Terrorist is flawed as a work of fact from the very first page of the foreward, on which attorney David P. Schippers (of Clinton impeachment fame) mentions that he immediately suspected Middle Eastern involvement in the OKC bombing because its method conformed to that of the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia -- an attack which hadn't occurred yet and which still lay a year in the future. And it just goes downhill from there.

I do, however, recommend the book. I wouldn't recommend it as a factual account of the OKC bombing, but it's top-shelf conspiracy theory, and conspiracy theory is great fun.

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