Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More on left v. right

James Leroy Wilson on what he perceives as his rejection by the left-libertarian movement:

So "left-libertarianism" is whatever those who find affinity with the Right don't like about some libertarians with whom they disagree. Of course, the same goes the other way. Left-libertarians can sneer as "conservative" anyone whose radicalism manifests itself in different ways. If I'm not "really" a left-libertarianism [sic], it's because my own priorities may be different, even if my same basic commitment to equal rights is the same.

I'm not going to express an opinion on whether or not Wilson is personally a "left-libertarian," and I do recommend his article for some of the salient points it makes, but I'm going to take yet another stab at this whole "left versus right" in libertarianism thing.

"Left" (libertarian or otherwise) goals are generally framed in terms of transformation of society into something new and different in the future. The past is, for the most part, rejected. Apparently neither Diderot nor Meslier was responsible for the exact quote "man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest," but whoever said it, it's a fair (if harsh) summation of the "left" approach to the forms of the past.

"Right" (libertarian or otherwise) goals are generally framed in terms of anchoring the existing society to particular norms of the present or recollected (accurately or otherwise) past. The past is -- or at least particular fragments of the past are -- effectively worshiped. The "right" of the past only grudgingly gave up monarchy and most "rightists" -- even libertarian ones -- still look to religion (or at least the institution of the church) as a natural cornerstone of the society they're trying to build (or re-build).

Of course, both of these approaches have obvious defects. Forgetting the lessons of the past is convenient to the "left" methodology; rejecting out of hand any proposal which isn't tethered to some specific past condition is convenient to the "right" methodology.

For me, the dispositive argument in favor of the "left" approach is that there is no past libertarian societal model to return to. The next libertarian society will be the first libertarian society. That's not to say that no past or present conditions (for example, absence of state licensing for marriage) will be re-created in a future libertarian society. But any such re-creation of conditions will be incidental -- those re-created conditions will exist in a new context.

I'm as prone as anyone to cite past conditions ("prior to the 1830s, there were no government marriage licenses in the US;" "in 1893, a six-year-old could drop in at the local apothecary and pick up a bag of morphine for mom, no law against it") as evidence that current state impositions are not and never were necessary ... but that's a weak form of argument. According to US News & World Report, there were only ten miles of paved road in the US as of 1900; would eliminating paved roads today make us freer? I don't see how it would. The lessons of the past are limited.

Wilson again:

I think the left-libertarian agenda may be too closely perceived as a war against "traditional conservatism" and the "Christian Right" and whatever it may stand for. I myself loathe what has passed for the Christian Right and what it stands for. But the enemy is not any real or imagined mystic or bigot. The enemy is The State.

But the state has a particular history, and exists in the context of that history. If it's a tree, it's a big oak deeply rooted in particular soil. The "right" approach is a considered pruning of the tree or, at the libertarian extreme, cutting it low on the trunk and leaving the stump and roots. The "left" approach is removal -- "root and branch" as the saying goes -- and replacement with something entirely new. You can't remove the roots without disturbing the soil around them.

Friday, December 26, 2008

On "leadership"

Over the past few months I've observed the state of disintegration into which the Libertarian Party has fallen (for the latest on that, see Brian Miller's piece at Delaware Libertarian), and have also had discussions with activists who wonder why the Boston Tea Party's national committee isn't more proactive.

It is my considered opinion that libertarians of both parties (or either, or neither) would do well to take their cue on the subject of "leadership" from America's socialists of the early 20th century, in particular Eugene V. Debs:

I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the Promised Land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition.

When it comes to political activism, committees (especially national committees) are best structured as gateways, not gatekeepers -- central planning is much more likely to manifest itself as obstructionism than as facilitation.

Stop waiting for "leaders" to tell you what to do. This whole "leader/follower" thing is ass-backward. Political committees shouldn't be leaders that you follow, they should be tools that you use ... when, and only when, they're the right tools for the job.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Happy Bill of Rights Day

In 1794, President George Washington declared martial law and led federal troops into Pennsylvania to suppress and arrest farmers on charges of, among other things, "assisting and abetting in setting up a seditious pole" -- to be precise, a liberty pole.

In 1798, President John Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts, resulting in the arrest of 25 Americans (mostly newspaper editors) for publishing material in opposition to the Federalist party's rule.

In 1807, President Thomas Jefferson had his former vice-president, Aaron Burr, detained by the military, then claimed "executive privilege" versus subpoena in Burr's trial for treason.

Broken from the beginning, it would seem. Government power has always been defined in action as "what we want -- and think we can get away with." And it probably always will be.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"It is the farewell kiss, you dog"

Not quite as over the top as puking in the Japanese prime minister's lap, but it's nice to see Baby Bush going out on an appropriately buffoonish note. Filing him under "really bad jokes" instead of "really evil dudes" is how the healing begins.

Monday, December 08, 2008

D+2: Situation Report

That's about the size of it as far as I'm concerned ... but damned if I can say for sure whether Keaton is Marat in the bathtub or Corday beneath the guillotine, or which betwixt LNC and AntiWar.Com is the Mountain and which the Girondists, or whether it really matters who is whom in the big picture.

Angela Keaton has resigned from the Libertarian National Committee -- here's why.

Can't say I blame her -- if I had to choose between AntiWar.Com and the Libertarian National Committee, AntiWar.Com would have me six days a week and a double shift on Sunday.

On the other hand, if this had to be, I wish it had come after a clear-cut victory, a complete rout of Starr and Co., instead of after an indecisive battle in which the enemy was allowed to retreat from the field in good order and in shape to come back later.

I guess it pretty much comes down to a difference of opinion on the subject whether or not the Libertarian Party (as a national organization) is worth further salvage attempts. As tempting as it is to just offer the state LPs a new umbrella and let the LNC finally get a firm grip on the "flush" handle it's been pulling so persistently at from down in the bowl, I'm loath to abandon the other LNC members who've been trying to set things right.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

D+1: Situation report

I had tentatively planned on liveblogging yesterday's Libertarian National Committee proceedings, but didn't. Here's IPR's thread, including direct transcriptions of Twitter streams from both people at the meeting (including Michael Seebeck and Angela Keaton herself) and remote observers (including me).

Recap from bottom line perspective: We got a win by decision with an all but actually scheduled rematch ... when we deserved, and should have had, a win by knockout.

Given that five of the LNC's 17 members had voted to remove the witch trial of Angela Keaton from the agenda at the beginning of the meeting, and that only six votes would be needed to defeat the motion to suspend her later, the Starr clique was in trouble from the start.

Substitute Grand Inquisitor (None of the Starr clique's principals were going to personally expose themselves on a project as speculative as this one) Stewart Flood's presentation of "charges" and "evidence" against Ms. Keaton came off as the clown show it was. Accounts from on the spot describe open laughter from the audience and a public near-nervous-breakdown on the part of Flood himself.

Keaton acquitted herself quite well, speaking in her own defense, according to the descriptions I received. She denied the LNC's authority to dictate what opinions she would express or how she would express them, or to abuse "executive session" with impunity for the purpose of facilitating the Starr clique's attacks on her. Wish I could have been there to see and hear it.

Seeing that a vote to suspend on the "charges" and "evidence" as a whole clearly wouldn't pass, another clique lackey, Dan Karlan, attempted to divide the matter into 11 separate questions, hoping for enough votes on any one of those questions to achieve the goal of suspending Keaton. Apparently that was a little too openly Vyshinskyist even for Keaton's opponents.

We had them on the ropes. An up-or-down vote on suspension would have failed and the matter would have been closed with the Starr clique prostrate and bleeding on the mat ... and then Michael Jingozian jumped in and (incidentally? Intentionally? I don't know) saved the clique's bacon with a substitute notion (which passed) to refer the matter to a committee.

There are now two future possibilities: The thing will be allowed to die in the dark, reducing its negative impact on the clique's image, or it will be brought back at some point when the clique thinks it has the votes to win on a suspension resolution. Either way, the clique managed to get out of a broken-jaw-and-concussion situation with no more than a broken nose and black eye.


Keaton's still playing it smart. She's already issued a one-sentence statement: "I will under no circumstances submit to any committee investigation." If these bastards want to take her down, she's going to do everything she can to force them to throw their punches in public for all to see. But this thing is still not over.

Next steps:

- The executive committees of at least three state Libertarian Parties in the region represented on the LNC by Stewart Flood passed "yo, LNC, knock that shit off" resolutions before this weekend's meeting. Since their own regional rep ignored their clearly stated positions, they should now act to remove him and replace him with a representative who, um, represents them.

- States in the region represented by Dan "let's divide the question until we get the outcome we want" Karlan should also consider finding new representation on the LNC.

- Now's the time for good candidates for Chair, Secretary and Treasurer to make some hay. Kick your opponents when they're down. Really. As Heinlein pointed out, if you won't kick them when they're down, no point in kicking them when they're up (and they will get back up). Yes, it's a year-and-a-half until the next LNC election ... let the early birds help the LP rid itself of the worms.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

D-Day: Brief notes, part 1

Later this morning (8am Pacific), the Libertarian National Committee will begin its San Diego meeting. A few hours later, the agenda for that meeting, as currently publicly known, will lead into discussion of "Discipline of Angela Keaton."

Here's a link to one of a number of articles on the matter. Of specific interest is that article's linked list of other articles, and its links to the "complaint" and "evidence" documents.

Michael Seebeck will be covering the meeting by live video and Twitter -- here's the page for both.

So far I've been unable to get the "evidence" document to download correctly -- still working on that. Since I can't evaluate it myself, I have to rely on others, and Steve Newton of Delaware Libertarian is one of the most reliable guys I know when it comes to getting facts straight. Here's his take.

My own "big picture" take is largely independent of both the charges and the evidence anyway, because I don't consider either especially relevant. In my opinion, none of this is, from the point of view of Keaton's persecutors, about what Angela Keaton is accused of doing, about whether or not she did it, or about whether or not doing it is just cause for suspension. Nor is it especially ideological, unless "power for power's sake" and "big fish/small pond" are ideologies.

Rather, it is about the desire of an internal clique to have its way with the LNC and the LP; to distract attention from its piss-poor management of the party's resources and the failures of its marquee project, the 2008 LP presidential campaign; to remove an obstacle to its total control of those resources and its influence over future campaigns; and, last but not least, to make a convincing demonstration of its power in hopes of bringing other stubborn LNC members to heel and demoralizing its opposition among the membership.

Folks: Never negotiate with terrorists, and definitely don't let terrorists get away with pretending that they're anything but terrorists.

They're either going to remove Angela Keaton, or they aren't.

They've either got the stones to commit the political equivalent of murder in broad daylight or they don't.

Either way, don't make this easier for them by pretending with them that that's not what they're threatening to do. And if they do it, don't empower them versus additional victims by helping them whitewash what they did.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Multiple freedom parties?

Brian Holtz says the idea is dumb, and offers nine reasons why. Here are my responses to those reasons:

Having multiple liberty-oriented choices tells voters that libertarianism is too incoherent to be worth understanding.

Depending on how a single party presents its message or otherwise comports itself in the electoral arena, it could very well tell voters exactly the same thing. And in that case a second party of the same type could be the antidote by presenting a coherent message/comportment where the first one has failed to do so.

Of course, coherence in message, comportment, etc. are subjective evaluations. In the judgment of some, the Libertarian Party failed on coherence of message in 2006 when it deleted 3/4 of its platform (leading to the creation of the Boston Tea Party) and on comportment in 2008 when it nominated a recently-Republican presidential slate topped by a "true conservative" (leading to the Boston Tea Party's decision to run a presidential slate of its own).

Having multiple liberty-oriented choices tells voters that the freedom movement is too poorly organized to be worth supporting.

Only if by "organized" one means "operated under strict discipline from a central headquarters." If by "organized" one means "constructed for efficient operations," then the newer of the two US freedom parties excelled the older in this election cycle.

The Boston Tea Party decided to run a presidential slate in late May. Less than a month after that, it had nominated that slate and placed it on the ballot in Colorado. Within another sixty days, it had placed that slate on the ballot in Florida and Tennessee. By election day, it had procured non-trivial media coverage (including but not limited to a Fox News Sunday interview, an Associated Press feature and the cover story of a large city weekly) for that slate.

To put a finer point on it, in five months the BTP re-created in principle, although not to scale, the organizational prowess which the LP had spent nearly four decades building and which it allowed to disintegrate in 2008, flubbing ballot access through organizational incompetence in no fewer than four states.

To put an even finer point on it, had the LP been the lone freedom party in this election cycle, the freedom movement would have had no example of proper organization to show voters, but only an example of poor organization.

Having multiple liberty-oriented choices vastly increases the cognitive/investigative burden imposed on a voter asked to cast her single vote for liberty.

This claim relies on an unsupported assumption: That the voter in question recognizes an "investigative burden" at all. Many voters don't, either because they are fully vested in the "major party" contest through a long process of indoctrination and are simply not interested in alternatives, or because they consider it the parties' job to reach them, not their job to investigate the parties.

In the latter case, it is not obvious that multiple freedom parties are a detriment.

For one thing, a donor dollar or volunteer hour is not necessarily fungible between freedom parties -- it may be that that dollar or hour would never be made available to Freedom Party A, even if Freedom Party B did not exist.

For another, not all investments are equal, and if Freedom Party B makes different investments of the dollars and hours made available to it than Freedom Party A would have, it may be heard of, investigated and supported by voters who never hear of Freedom Party A, and wouldn't even if Freedom Party A had that same dollar or hour at its disposal.

Having multiple liberty-oriented choices tells politicians that pro-freedom voters are far from being a coherent caucus whose votes can be earned (e.g. by the party not running an opposing candidate).

Even if were that case that pro-freedom voters are a coherent caucus in that sense (and the evidence says we're not), that's not necessarily the message. Voters who are willing to move between parties at all have various reasons for doing so. If two pro-gun parties run candidates against an anti-gun candidate of another party, this still sends the message to the anti-gun candidate's party that there are votes possibly available to it if it runs a pro-gun candidate next time. If there's a difference, it's a difference in impression of just how many of those votes are actually available, and how many of them are committed to one of those other parties regardless.

Getting liberty-oriented candidates on the ballot requires a threshold amount of signatures/fees.

Once again, this assumes some kind of internal movement fungibility of funds and support -- that if Party B did not exist, its donors and petition signers would automatically make their money and signatures available to Party A. That's simply not the case, at least not universally.

It also assumes a scarcity that's not necessarily present in all jurisdictions. In some jurisdictions, a voter may sign only one candidate/party ballot access petition. In other jurisdictions, no such limits exist.

Getting a liberty-oriented party ballot-qualified requires a threshold amount of voter registration and/or votes in statewide races.

I'll stipulate to this one with reservations.

Yes, it may be that the existence of two freedom parties will, in some jurisdictions, damage the ability of either of those freedom parties to achieve/maintain ballot access.

On the other hand, if there are significant differences of opinion between Freedom Party A and Freedom Party B, I don't see how it's the obligation of one to dissolve for the purpose of facilitating ballot access for the other, any more than it's the obligation of an anti-freedom party (for example, the GOP) to dissolve just so that there are more registrants/voters available to a freedom party.

American elections generally do not allow fusion voting.

That's true -- but it doesn't seem like a good argument against multiple freedom parties. Quite the opposite in fact.

Seeking fusion opportunities where they don't currently exist is a matter of building larger numbers of voters who demand it and activists who are willing to participate in initiative/referendum or legislative lobbying efforts to make it possible.

Generally, two organizations of the same type will boast a larger total membership than a single such organization would have. In the case of the two US freedom parties, there are some LP members who would not be members of the BTP even if the LP didn't exist, and vice versa. If one of those two parties went out of existence, the size of the organized political wing of the freedom movement would decrease, not increase, because some of the members of each organization are not interested in being involved in the other. That means fewer voters organized in support of fusion and fewer activists to make the effort to get fusion.

American elections do not allow approval voting, but instead uses plurality voting.

True (in most cases), but the situation is no different between freedom parties than it is between other types of parties.

Politics is a contest. If Freedom Party A is frustrated in its quest for electoral victory by the existence of a resolute Freedom Party B voter bloc, then its remedy is convince Freedom Party B's voters that Freedom Party A offers them a better package than Freedom Party B.

And let's face facts -- in the current circumstance, Freedom Party B (the Boston Tea Party) is not standing between Freedom Party A (the Libertarian Party) and victory. Even in the states where the BTP presidential slate made the ballot this year, its vote total did not prevent the LP's presidential slate from carrying those states.

Duverger’s Law suggests the natural tactical response of voters to plurality voting is to gather into two parties straddling the political center along its major axis, or into one party for each natural cluster of voters in the political space.

I'm glad Holtz brought up Duverger's Law so that I didn't have to. It's the single best argument for multiple freedom parties. Since the effect of plurality voting is to create two groups of voters straddling the center, and since the center is not pro-freedom, the center needs to be moved.

It's going to take a radical party to move the center in a pro-freedom direction, but that radical party is unlikely to become a home for the more moderate voters straddling that new center. Therefore at least two parties (one radical, one more moderate) and possibly three (if the center is moved far enough) will be required. Historically, for example, see the emergence of the (moderate) Republican Party after the heavy lifting was done by the radical (Free Soil, Liberty, etc.) parties; or the more social-democratic-leaning (moderate) Democratic Party under pressure from the (radical) socialist parties.

Ultimately, I think the best case for multiple freedom parties is that a party with an uncontested monopoly in a political niche is a recipe for inefficiency and inefficacy. The monopoly party settles into a comfort zone and starts to lean less toward effective external action and more toward distributing what small bounties it collects from the movement around it as internal patronage. That's been the history of the Libertarian Party since at least the early 1990s and possibly earlier. Competition tends to either destroy such a monopoly party or else focus that party on excelling its upstart competitors in the areas that matter.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Credit where credit is due

Earlier today, I sent a concise, polite note to several LNC members -- my regional's representative (Julie Fox), regional alternate (Jake Porter), and the at-large representatives (Dr. Mary Ruwart, R. Lee Wrights, Admiral Michael Colley, Pat Dixon and Angela Keaton), concerning the agenda item on "Discipline of Angela Keaton" scheduled for this weekend's LNC meeting.

As of only a few hours later, I've received email and/or phone responses -- all of them polite and positive -- from each of the aforementioned except for two. One of those two is Admiral Colley, whose email address I got wrong the first time and to whom I just re-sent the original message. The other is Ms. Keaton herself, with whom I often correspond, whom I have always found responsive, and whom I suspect correctly took the message as a "courtesy cc" since she's already well aware of my opinions on the issue in question.

Why mention it? Because I've seen a number of complaints over the years concerning non-responsiveness on the part of LNC members to party members' inquiries. If we're going to complain when they get it wrong (and we should!), we ought to also take similar notice when they get it right.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thinking out loud

The more I study the problem of the managerial state and attempt to envision a workable libertarian populist strategy to combat it, the more apparent it becomes to me that the "paleo" approach's failure is one of relevance.

Much of the "paleo" critique of the managerial state (or the national security state, or the warfare-welfare state, or whatever you want to call it) is spot-on. Yes, New Dealism had much in common with the Soviet communism and European fascism which were emerging at the same time (they were all, as Burnham pointed out, managerial ideologies). Yes, Burnham and Buckley took the bulk of the "conservative" movement into the managerial fold under cover of "Cold War necessity."

History, however, does not run backward. "Paleo" invocation of the 1930s "Old Right" is about as useful versus the ideology that displaced it as "Free Silver" or "54-40 or Fight." The Old Right was soundly whipped in the thirties, and every post-war attempt at its revival, from Taft to Paul, has proven a spectacular failure.

"Conservatism" -- of the "paleo" variety or any other -- is not the antidote to managerialism.

"Mainstream" conservatism's central goal is preservation of the existing social order ... and that social order is now nearly fully under the managerial thumb, thanks in no small part to the ministrations of the Buckleyites themselves.

"Paleo" conservatism's central goal is return to a social order which the New Deal and subsequent societal convulsions (the civil rights movement, the counterculture demeanor of the Vietnam-era anti-war movement, etc.) demolished as thoroughly as the Enola Gay's little egg demolished Hiroshima. We're no more likely to return to that social order than the Romanovs or Hohenzollerns are to reclaim their thrones.

No movement can hope to win a race into the future with one foot staked firmly to the ground of seven decades past.

That's not to say there are no timeless principles. There are. But a successful freedom movement, its populist strategy included, will be forward, not backward, looking. Or, to put it a different way, it will be "Left," rather than "Right," in orientation.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

LNC to honor Keaton?

It's amazing what a difference a few months can make!

Back in September, the Libertarian National Committee devoted much of its meeting in DC to the object of punishing Angela Keaton for the crime of having reported to the party's membership on the committee's activities.

Now, I see that a 30-minute agenda item on "Discipline of Angela Keaton" is in place for their December meeting in San Diego.

The only reasonable assumption on this item is that it marks a complete turnaround, and that the 30 minutes will encompass a short reception, and perhaps presentation of some kind of plaque or trophy to Angela, in recognition of her exemplary self-discipline in the face of extreme provocation. And this, of course, I heartily applaud.

Then again, it's never safe to make reasonable assumptions where the LNC is concerned -- so I suggest that those LP members who plan to attend the meeting also plan for an alternate activity of that sort, with hors d'ouvres, award certificate presentation, etc., to take place in the hallway or other convenient venue during the agenda item should reasonable assumptions about that agenda item prove unsound.

Unless, that is, you're really keen to see yet another off-Broadway Sullentrup & Starr production of Joan of Lorraine (as re-scripted by Jean Paul Sartre).

E-nd of an e-ra

Well, folks, put a fork in e-gold -- it's done, at least as a real alternative to government funny money.

My impression -- it could be wrong, but it's my real impression -- is that e-gold's principals did the best they could to protect their customers' privacy against the "Homeland Security" juggernaut. I doubt that pleading "not guilty" would have done much for that cause. I'm glad they avoided prison. I hope their persecutors don't.

I can't claim to have been one of e-gold's "big customers." I established my account some time in the late 1990s, and I don't recall that it ever had more than a few hundred Federal Reserve Notes worth of metals in it, or that more than at most a couple of thousand flowed through it altogether. Most of the inflow was contributions to Rational Review News Digest, or pay for the occasional odd job from the occasional odd duck. The outflow was mostly out-exchange to FRNs, with small amounts played at an online casino (before the evil bastards in DC put a stop to that), or the occasional Amazon order via BananaGold, etc.

To put it a different way, I didn't use the thing for "narco-terrorism" or any such boogeyman activities. Apart from a few scammer parasites, I doubt that it was used to any great degree for criminal activity -- "laundering drug money" or "facilitating trade in child pornography" or whatever. The state of tech and inter-governmental collusion being what it was, e-gold was never as "anonymous" as a stack of the US government's own fiat currency placed in one hand by another. Those charges weren't a cause of action, they were an excuse to extend the view of the surveillance state.

You can't "close" an e-gold account, apparently, but now my account is my former account -- I've changed all the information I could to "decline to state," blocked the varieties of deposits the control panel would let me block (spends from "blocked accounts" and "US persons"), and changed the password to some random weirdness that I've already forgotten. Accountholder [number elided] has left the burning building.

If the fedgoons want to steal the $2.37 worth of metal in my former account from e-gold, to which I hereby formally convey that metal, I hope they choke on the mediocre cup of coffee they can buy with it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A recipe for civil disobedience

Ingredient #1: Motive (law which is both inherently immoral and in violation of the US Constitution's freedom of religion, full faith and credit and equal protection clauses).

1. It is the public policy of this state to recognize marriage only between a man and a woman.

2. Any purported marriage not between a man and a woman is invalid.

3. No recorder shall issue a marriage license, except to a man and a woman.

4. A marriage between persons of the same sex will not be recognized for any purpose in this state even when valid where contracted.

Revised Statutes of Missouri, 451.022

Ingredient #2: Opportunity.

Marriages may be solemnized by any clergyman, either active or retired, who is in good standing with any church or synagogue in this state.

Revised Statutes of Missouri, 451.100

Ingredient #3: Penalty.

Every person who shall solemnize any marriage, having knowledge of any fact which renders such marriage unlawful or criminal in either of the parties under any law of this state ... shall, on conviction, be adjudged guilty of a class C misdemeanor.

Revised Statutes of Missouri, 451.115

Any person who shall solemnize any marriage wherein the parties have not obtained a license, as provided by this chapter, or shall fail to keep a record of the solemnization of any marriage, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall be fined not exceeding five hundred dollars, and in addition shall be subject to a civil action by the parent, conservator or other person having care or custody of the person so married ...

Revised Statutes of Missouri, 451.120

The authorized terms of imprisonment, including both prison and conditional release terms, are .... For a class C misdemeanor, a term not to exceed fifteen days.

Revised Statutes of Missouri, 558.011.1

The "opportunity" portion is incomplete, of course -- I'd have to find a same-sex couple who are interested in being married and who are willing to apply for (and be denied) a license and then go ahead with the wedding anyway (which would subject them to the penalties of an unspecified class of misdemeanor per RSMo 451.040). I'm not ready to do that yet, so sorry, Law Enforcement Charlie, no "overt act" has yet occurred. I'm just musing here.

Hmmm ... RSMo 451.040 also provides that "no marriage shall be deemed or adjudged invalid, nor shall the validity be in any way affected for want of authority in any person so solemnizing the marriage pursuant to section 451.100, if consummated with the full belief on the part of the persons, so married, or either of them, that they were lawfully joined in marriage." Since Missouri's ban on same-sex marriage is repugnant to the Constitution on multiple counts, it is, per Madison v. Marbury, void. Is that a get out of jail free card? Or maybe even a loophole that a same-sex marriage truck could be driven through?

I could probably clear 15 days on my calendar for stir in, say, late 2009. I may just have to do that ... but I hope that I'm not the only one thinking along these lines.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ghost story

If any man has a ghost
Bourne has a ghost,
a tiny twisted unscared ghost in a black cloak
hopping along the grimy old brick and brownstone streets still left in downtown New York,
crying out in a shrill soundless giggle;
War is the health of the state.

John Dos Passos

Dos Passos didn't live to see that ghost truly fill its lungs with air and issue the cry in a voice loud enough to reach the world. That didn't happen until 1995 with the founding of AntiWar.Com.

Sadly, two weeks into its quarterly fundraiser, AntiWar.Com is still far short of reaching the $70,000 goal. The danger that the shade of Randolph Bourne will shrink to its former size and power -- formidable still, but for all practical intents and purposes voiceless -- is very real.

In the past, I've explained at length why I support AntiWar.Com and why I think you should, too: AntiWar.Com is hands down the most bully pulpit, the loudest bullhorn, the strongest and most consistent voice of the libertarian movement on issues of US foreign and military policy.

Hundreds of thousands of web readers rely on AntiWar.Com for the news and analysis the pro-war American media ignores.

AntiWar.Com's radio programs bring voices of reason to airwaves typically dominated by the War Party's shills.

AntiWar.Com's speakers bureau gives non-interventionists a voice and a presence on campuses and at conferences in the US and around the world.

AntiWar.Com's intern program trains and prepares the next generation of non-interventionist communicators and activists to carry on the struggle.

AntiWar.Com doesn't even try to compete with the War Party's front organizations on a budgetary basis. Their annual fundraising goal is less than what the US government spends on the Iraq war every seventy seconds, and it's not even a blip on the radar compared to the tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money shoveled at the neoconservatives' Fannie Mae (the "National Endowment for Democracy") every year.

AntiWar.Com does an awful lot of good stuff with very little money -- and if it's going to keep doing those things, YOU are going to have to help. Let's keep this voice of freedom alive and strong.

Dammit, folks, I just talked myself into sending another $10. Hopefully I've talked you into doing the same.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Same as the old boss, part 2: Civil liberties

When speaking with libertarians who supported Barack Obama for president, I've generally heard two arguments:

First, that the Republican Party needed to be soundly spanked for its misrule. Check -- that certainly got done.

Secondly, that while the GOP and the Democrats have become virtually indistinguishable when it comes to economic policy (the only difference being that the Republicans "borrow and spend" while the Democrats "tax and spend"), Obama is likely to roll back the Republican war on civil liberties. So far, not so good.

Two key leaked/announced/prospective appointments -- Eric Holder for Attorney General and Janet Napolitano to head the Department of Homeland Security -- paint an ugly picture of our likely future. Obama seems far more likely to hitch the anti-freedom agenda of the Clinton administration to the rogue wagon of Bush "unitary executive" doctrine than to substantially change the US government's approach to habeas corpus, detention without trial, torture and illegal wiretaps. And on the "it may get even worse" side of the ledger, scratch in the War on Drugs, immigration and the Second Amendment.

The matter of the War on Drugs is particularly saddening, because the indicators were there for anyone who cared to look. Obama supported bogus "anti-meth" legislation in the US Senate. Among his promises as a presidential candidate was the establishment of a new DEA office in New Orleans. And he picked Joe Biden, author of the noxious RAVE Act, as his running mate. Sure, he made some weak gestures in the direction of easing up on medical marijuana (arresting doctors and patients would "not be one of [his] highest priorities") ... but he didn't go out on any limbs.

There's no reason to be surprised, therefore, that he'd pick an advocate of tougher marijuana sentencing and returning to "mandatory minimums" for the AG slot.

As for immigration, well, Napolitano is the Arizona governor who signed legislation requiring all Arizona business owners to work as uncompensated Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. If she takes the DHS post, it's probably because she wants to get the hell out of the American southwest before her handiwork finishes the job of collapsing its economy.

Holder and Napolitano are both gun-grabbers -- Napolitano less so from necessity, given her state, but the tendency is pronounced enough to notice. For example, she vetoed a bill which would have ended prosecution of citizens who displayed (not fired, just displayed) a firearm in self-defense. Holder is more brazen -- he even signed an amicus brief in support of the draconian DC gun ban overturned earlier this year in DC v. Heller.

I suspect we'll see some cosmetic changes in the "war on terror" component of the overall anti-freedom package. Gitmo may be closed ... but its abductees will find themselves trapped in some new kangaroo court maze rather than being released or charged in the regular US criminal system with the full panoply of constitutional protections. Torture will be roundly condemned (and the CIA will continue it while moving it deeper into black bag territory). Instead of just asserting the authority to declare anyone an "enemy combatant," Obama may well seek unconstitutional "preventive detention" authority from Congress.

Real change? Unlikely. As a matter of fact, America versus its government is in a position not unlike that of an animal trapped in the embrace of a boa constrictor. The desire to breathe a sigh of relief after this election is entirely natural ... but remember, the snake is going to clamp down tighter when that happens, and the process will repeat until the victim suffocates.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Same as the old boss, part 1: Foreign policy

My initial intention following the election was to give president-elect Barack Obama the traditional "honeymoon" period -- waiting at least until his inauguration, and possibly even until the usual "first 100 days" agenda had floated or foundered, before starting to slice and dice his approach to the presidency. As it turns out, the transition period is chock full of clues as to what Obama's presidency will look like, especially with respect to foreign policy, so there's no reason not to get started.

Summary: Obama's foreign policy approach will likely come to nothing more or less than a matter of sticking blue helmets and the word "humanitarian" on his immediate predecessor's way of doing things. Or, to put it a different way, his foreign policy will likely feature the Clinton administration's trappings and the Bush administration's ... vigor.

This was fairly predictable from the start. Remember, Obama campaigned for US Senate in 2004 on an anti-war platform, then turned on a dime and voted in the Senate to continue the war every time he was given an opportunity to do so. His presidential campaign once again launched on an anti-war note, but he didn't even make it through the Democratic primaries before discarding that position again.

Even when nominally condemning the war on Iraq, he's never taken a non-interventionist line in any case. He's just promised to to be a better manager of America's bayonet-point outreach programs, while suggesting that he'll try to save the failed occupation of Afghanistan, extend that occupation into Pakistan, and maintain or increase the US belligerence quotient versus Iran and Russia.

If you're surprised to see Obama tap Israel-Firster Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, float Madeline Al ... er, Henry Kissi ... er, Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State, or leak the possibility of keeping Robert Gates on at the Pentagon, you haven't been paying attention for the last year or so.

As for Iraq, the Busheviks are already in the process of tying Obama's hands and striking the first major blow of Election 2012 by pushing to conclude their "Status of Forces Agreement" with Baghdad before his inauguration. If they succeed in getting that agreement through Iraq's parliament, he's in a no-win situation: The Republicans take credit for anything good that comes of it, Obama takes the blame for anything bad that happens. Personally I think he'll screw it up SOFA or no SOFA, but I have to give the Republicans credit for a good game of "pin the blame on the Democrat."

The only possible clean path out of the Iraq quagmire for Obama is bold action -- announce an immediate US withdrawal on January 20th, carry out that withdrawal, and hope the civil war in Iraq (inevitable no matter when the US withdraws, but likely worse the longer it stays) plays itself out before his first term ends. It doesn't look like that's going to happen. His cabinet picks indicate that he's already preparing to fold his "change" hand on foreign policy, and his campaign statements on Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Russia indicate that that hand was a garbage bluff in the first place.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Parting thoughts on the Barr campaign

Brian Doherty asks "Where Did the Libertarian Party Go Wrong?" over at Reason. It's not the first post-election critique of Bob Barr's presidential campaign, nor will it be the last, but it's an interesting one, and since it quotes me, I think I'll go ahead and set my own thoughts down at greater length.

First, the quote: "In terms of vote totals, his failures put him firmly in the LP 'usual' pack. In terms of effect on the Libertarian Party, he probably set us back 20 years."

I have to say that I'm already mellowing a bit from that initial take. How far the Barr campaign sets back the LP doesn't have to be a function of the Barr campaign -- the rest of us have something to say about it too. We can allow 2008 to cast a long shadow, or we can break in a different direction and leave 2008 behind.

For that matter, in terms of performance at the polls, Barr was not really a failure by LP standards. In terms of percentage of the vote, he performed in the middle of the LP presidential pack (4th place of 10 campaigns).

There was also a strategic decision on the campaign's part to target "battleground" states in an attempt to "change" the election outcome, rather than to go after the "low-hanging fruit" of more votes in "safe" Democrat or Republican states where the voters wouldn't be as worried about "costing" one major party or the other the election. That's something I can't fault the Barr campaign for. It was a judgment call they had to make. Michael Badnarik's 2004 campaign made the same call in the same way, targeting New Mexico, Nevada and Wisconsin as potential "spoiler" opportunities. If 2008 hadn't turned into a blowout, there was every chance that the Barr campaign's strategy would have worked.

Some observers -- among them, I believe, Ballot Access News publisher Richard Winger -- believe that the LP and third parties in general will benefit in the long run from the Barr campaign's ballot access litigation. If so, that's a good thing and Barr should receive credit for it.

The failure from a Libertarian Party standpoint, in my view, is that Barr didn't run a libertarian campaign. If the GOP nominated Barbara Boxer for president, or the Democrats picked Tom DeLay, the "base" of either party would consider that presidential campaign a failure regardless of how many votes the candidate picked up. Barr was a mismatch for the LP. He ran as a Dixiecrat "states rights" conservative, and in doing so he at least partially and temporarily re-branded the LP away from libertarianism and toward his own ideology to some as yet unknown extent.

Coke does not give its "salesman of the year" award to the guy who moves the most cases of Pepsi. The Pope does not canonize the woman who converts the most people to Buddhism. The LP's designated sales manager for this year went out and sold something other than the LP's product. That's a failure in itself, and a failure to the extent that it creates an ongoing public misperception as to what the LP's product is.

Now, back to those vote totals: Was 510,000 votes a "failure?" Above, I say that it wasn't ... by LP standards. But those aren't the only applicable standards.

The standard set by Barr campaign manager Russ Verney from the stage at the LP's 2008 national convention was raising $40 million and winning the election. I doubt that very many people believed it was really going to happen (or that Verney believed it himself), but when you hype numbers, you can expect those numbers to come back to haunt you.

At least as late as October (and possibly later), Barr running mate Wayne Allyn Root confidently predicted "1-3 million votes." He did so on October 5th in the New York Times. That's a hard number, and Root is a Las Vegas oddsmaker.

"Libertarian" Republican and sometimes Barr/Root booster Eric Dondero's predictions swung wildly around numbers he cherry-picked from polls (while ignoring the history of actual LP vote totals on election day versus earlier poll numbers), but in August he hedged his bet to the low side and set a standard for "success" --

[T]he media is completely ignoring the Libertarian yard stick for success: Beating Ed Clark. Libertarian Ed Clark's campaign received 922,000 votes in 1980, 1.1%. It is the all-time benchmark for success for Libertarian Presidential campaigns. ... The magic number for success for Bob Barr for President remains -- 922,001.

Of course today, Dondero is in full-out backtrack mode, decrying the Doherty article and bitterly bitching that people should acknowledge the "success" of a campaign which fell far short of his own stated standard.

One of the curious elements of Dondero's argument is that percentages are irrelevant -- only raw vote totals matter. I disagree. Two votes is more than one vote, but whether or not two votes are better than one vote depends on how many people are voting. One vote out of two is damn good. Two votes out of two million isn't.

In 1996, Harry Browne received 485,798 votes out of 96.2 million total votes cast.

In 2008, Bob Barr received about 510,000 votes out of 126.7 million votes cast.

Thirty million more voters, but only 24 thousand more votes. It's impossible to believably spin that into any kind of great "success."

A stray note on competence:

It's impossible to tell how things might have come out had the Barr campaign been competently managed ... but it's reasonable to think, on the basis of casual observation, that it wasn't. Needless ballot access problems, message ranging from "true conservative" to downright incoherence, five figures on an air conditioner for an office that was leased for five months, $18,000 in limo bills ... the organization appeared dysfunctional.

Mike Ferguson is one of the most competent individuals I know. I say that because it's true -- nobody's going to mistake us for best buddies. Given an environment of general competence, I suspect Ferguson would have been a very effective campaign operative, boosting Barr's vote total everywhere he went. Instead, he seemed to get stuck spending most of the campaign hauling ass around the country and trying to unscrew other people's screwups (for example, the West Virginia ballot access debacle).

As early as the LP's Denver convention in June, I observed that Steve Gordon seemed to have already been moved to the campaign's sidelines once Russ Verney took over as manager. Gordon denied it, but the impression remained. Frankly, I suspect that Gordon would have been a better pick for campaign manager than Verney, whose main claim to fame is that he managed to bring Ross Perot -- a wildly popular public figure with effectively unlimited campaign funds and who at one point was polling toward victory -- in at 20% in 1992. Gordon has the requisite nuts and bolts skills, and he was better positioned than Verney to get the LP's supporters in the mood to work for the campaign's success from the very beginning. Even setting aside later events, Verney's presence at the nominating convention probably cost Barr votes, and cooled reception toward his nomination, by bolstering the campaign's outsider/"Darth Vader" image.

But I could be wrong on those things. It's happened before.

Hopefully, in 2012 Libertarians will think their presidential nomination selection through from the ground up -- starting with the message they want to convey and then looking at which candidate conveys that message most effectively. Nothing wrong with hitching one's wagon to a star, but only if the star is going to pull that wagon in the direction you want to go.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

File under "long memory"

I'm not an eBay addict. I buy through eBay or Half.Com a few times a year, usually relatively small items (books or the obsolete video game stuff that my 7-year-old is obsessed with). And the experience is almost always great. Earlier this month, I bought a Sega Dreamcast as an early Christmas present for said 7-year-old. The item didn't arrive exactly as advertised (a missing controller), but the seller took near-instant action to correct that.

I've had precisely one bad experience buying things this way, and coming up on the two-year anniversary of that experience, I figure it's a good time to put in a bad word for the seller just as the holiday season cranks up.

The item was was a mere $14.99 -- $20 and change with shipping, etc. It was an "E-Reader," a device that hooks up to the old original Nintendo GameBoy and allows games to be scanned in from cards. Kind of neat if you're a (then) 5-year-old GameBoy addict. I had purchased from the seller before. I had received the items promptly and in the advertised condition, and had left positive feedback. So I was confident in buying from them again.

It never arrived. After the "expect no later than" date, I contacted the seller. I received no response. After 10 days, I posted negative feedback on the transaction. The seller's response? They posted negative feedback on me -- although I had paid for the item promptly, waited through the entire likely receipt period, contacted them, and given them time to respond. They then proposed that they'd withdraw their negative feedback if I'd withdraw mine. No offer to actually deliver the item they'd sold me or anything like that -- just "we'll stop lying about you if you stop telling the truth about us."

I don't negotiate with terrorists. And while nearly 99% of these guys' feedback was positive, when I dug through their negative feedback I found several other such incidents.

These guys ripped me off for twenty bucks. Actually, they ripped a five-year-old kid off for twenty bucks of his Christmas money and the enjoyment of something he reasonably expected to get for it, but I reimbursed him.

So, by way of what comes around goes around: If you're doing your holiday shopping at eBay or Half.Com, I advise you to avoid bidding on or buying items from egameuniverse.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Spare some change (we can believe in)?

In the first three days of its quarterly fundraising drive, AntiWar.Com raised $11,913. The math on that daily average comes to an eventual $27,797 for the week -- less than 40% of their $70,000 quarterly goal.

Yes, I know we just had a presidential election. Yes, I know the Democrats will take over the White House in January. Yes, I know they increased their majority in Congress.

I also know that Barack Obama campaigned against the war on Iraq in 2004 when he was running for US Senate; that he then voted to continue funding that war at every opportunity once he was elected; that he threw the anti-war movement under the bus every time it became an issue in his presidential campaign; and that the Democratic majority America elected to end the war in 2006 hasn't made so much as one single, solitary serious attempt to do so.

I can't help but notice that Obama has been firm in refusing to take aggression against Iran "off the table;" that despite many opportunities to do so to his own political profit, he's declined to put a less generally interventionist US foreign policy on that "table;" and that so far his announced and leaked administration picks look like the casting call for a remake of "Dr. Strangelove."

Oh, and I also recall that Democratic presidents presided over, and Democratic congressional majorities supported, all or most of the US involvements in WWI, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, as well as many of the "brushfire wars" in between those larger conflagrations.

If you think last week's election made AntiWar.Com superfluous, you've got another think coming. US interventions in the Obama era may feature blue helmets and wear out the word "humanitarian" in their propaganda, but try as I might I can't find any reason to believe we'll see any real, significant changes.

The War Party did a bang-up job of stacking the deck in this election, and AntiWar.Com is one of the few aces the sanity movement still holds in its hand. If we let it fold, we might as well fold, too.

Let me put the kind of money AntiWar.Com asks for in perspective for you:

AntiWar.Com's fundraising goal is $280,000 per year.

The US Department of Defense spends $238,425 on the war on Iraq per minute.

Like most of my readers, I'm not made of money -- but I send AntiWar.Com $5 a month every month, and I try to pry loose a few more dollars to throw at them come fundraiser time. Pretty please with sugar on top, do the same.

Note: No, I don't work for AntiWar.Com. Or, rather, I've done a wee little bit of work for AntiWar.Com, and I've always declined to accept payment for that work -- both because I want to help them, and because I want to be able to honestly tell you I'm not feathering my own nest when I urge you to help them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Announcement of candidacy

Fellow libertarians,

I initially planned to announce my 2012 candidacy for the presidency of the United States on April 6th, 2009, from the steps of the Old St. Louis Courthouse (history buffs shouldn't have too much trouble figuring out why), and I still intend to conduct a campaign event of some kind at that time and in that place.

I see, however, that others are already lining up with formal announcements or at least clear indications of their own intent ... and when a fight's brewing, I prefer to get in early.

It is therefore my distinct pleasure to announce that I will seek the 2012 presidential nominations of the Libertarian Party and the Boston Tea Party.

Why run for president -- and why, especially, for the presidential nominations of two parties which together usually account for less than one percent of the popular vote in presidential elections?

I could give you lots of reasons, but I'm going to stick with three for the moment: There are some hard truths that need to be told, I'm interested in telling them, and they're most effectively told from a bully pulpit.

Among those those hard truths are that the political wing of the libertarian movement will never make substantial progress toward its goals so long as it clings to the apron strings of the failed movements and parties of the past, remains in orbit around the present political "center," or falls prey to cargo-cultish notions of what constitutes "serious" politics.

If we want a libertarian future, we must create that future, not hope that our political opponents drag us along to it. They won't. They're not going in the direction we want to go in, they have no desire to go in the direction we want to go in, and to the extent that they're interested in us at all, they regard us either as fuel to be consumed or ballast to be dumped overboard at the earliest opportunity. I don't blame them. We haven't yet given them reason to regard us as a true threat to their power. It's time to change that.

As my friend and mentor L. Neil Smith once observed, "great men don't move to the center, they move the center." It's a big center, folks. Moving it will require a long lever, with us at the far end. I don't claim to be a great man ... but I hope to be part of a great movement, and to help that movement get further out on the lever and put some weight on it.

Insofar as cargo-cultism and "seriousness" are concerned, rest assured that I have nothing against suits and ties, friendly media interviews and the other requirements of realpolitick. What I do oppose is the absurd notion that waving around "mainstreamism" like some kind of voodoo fetish will magically boost us to competitive stature versus our older, more established opponents. It won't.

The future of the libertarian movement, if it is has one, requires a principled populist approach rooted in class theory. Not the theory of the socialists (labor versus capital) or of the liberals and conservatives (ad hoc identity politics adjusted to appeal to society's phobias du jour), but rather the theory of the productive class (those who make their living through work and voluntary exchange and cooperation) versus the political class (those who siphon off as much of that productive activity as they can get away with, using the coercive apparatus of the state, for their own ends).

For these reasons, the first phase of my campaign will largely be internal to the parties and the movement; as we move on, it will become more outwardly focused, of course, but first things first.

My fundamental goal in seeking the nominations of the LP and the BTP is not to achieve those nominations or to be elected President of the United States. It is to help the libertarian movement outfit itself for a journey yet to begin -- a journey which that movement has stood stock still at the starting point of for nearly four decades now. If I achieve that goal, the nominations and the election results are of secondary importance, as I'm certain others are at least as qualified as I am to march at the front of the column. If I do not achieve those goals, then the nominations and the election results will resemble John Nance Garner's description of the importance of the Vice Presidency of the United States: "Not worth a bucket of warm spit."

I look forward to an exciting campaign, and I humbly request the support of all who value the future of freedom.

Yours in liberty,
Thomas L. Knapp

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Everybody's got one, and they all stink

Excuses, that is.

Brian Holtz's is the argument that "public goods" and "the free rider problem" trump the basic standard of civilized conduct -- non-coercion.

He unpacks it thusly:

Excludability is the ability of producers to detect and prevent uncompensating consumption of their products. Rivalry is the inability of multiple consumers to consume the same good. A public good is defined as a non-rival non-excludable good, such as national defense. Because public goods are not excludable, they get under-produced. The pricing system cannot force consumers to reveal their demand for purely non-excludable goods, and so cannot force producers to meet that demand.

This, per Holtz (and as originally argued by Samuelson), leads to a "free rider" problem (since non-excludability means that one can consume the good without paying for it), and thus to "market failure," justifying the classification of whatever it is we're talking about as a "public good" and, if Mr. Holtz deems it a necessary good, excusing the use of coercive taxation to make everyone -- those who want it and are willing to pay for it, those who want it and aren't willing to pay for it, and those who just don't want it -- cough up "their fair share."

Except, of course, that that's bullshit. Here's why:

- "Under-" (or "over-") production is a subjective evaluation. "Under-production" means "not as much of this stuff is being produced as Brian Holtz believes needs to be produced."

Note that I'm stipulating to Mr. Holtz's honesty here -- he's not just trying to get everyone else to pay for something he alone wants, but rather something he genuinely believes everyone needs and is willing to pay "his fair share" of himself. But that's a subjective evaluation, too. Brian Holtz thinks that everyone needs "national defense." Maybe I think that everyone needs "on-call Swedish massage." I have yet to see the stone tablets upon which the "everyone needsness" of either hath been divinely chiseled.

- There are all kinds of non-rivalrous, non-excludable goods. Take a billboard advertisement, for example. It's non-excludable and non-rivalrous -- the company (Store X) that puts out the ad can't stop anyone passing by from looking at it (nor would they want to!); and no matter how many people look at it, there's no less of it to look at. If the billboard shows a nice pair of tennis shoes, and some of the people who look at it go buy those shoes at Store Y instead of Store X, that makes Store Y a "free rider" -- they got the benefit of the billboard's existence, but they didn't pay for its production or deployment. Does Mr. Holtz propose that tennis shoe billboard advertisements be deemed a "public good" and that Stores A through Z (or maybe all tennis shoe manufacturers, or all potential customers) be taxed to provide for production of said advertisements?

Non-excludability and non-rivalrousness do indeed exist, but they aren't magic wands that make coercion to subsidize production of a good necessary or justifiable. The very minimum additional factors required would be objective criteria for establishing a) what is needed and b) how much of it is needed. Absent those two factors, non-excludability and non-rivalrousness are nothing more than overhead production costs that Mr. Holtz doesn't want to pay all by himself. Which is fine -- until he decides to make everyone else go in with him on them at gunpoint.

And then there's the hangover

No, I didn't get drunk (well, maybe a little drunk, but not lampshade-wearing drunk or even close) ... but by the time election day was nominally over, I was ready for an extended period of sleep. So I got some.

My congressional campaign didn't exactly burn the district down, but I'm not crying, either. My 2.3% is the highest "third party" vote (single or combined) since Missouri's Secretary of State started putting election results on the Internet in 1996, and I made out even better on raw vote totals -- 8,576 of'em, 22% more than the closest previous total (6,695 votes in 2000 for the Libertarian, Green and Reform Party candidates combined).

On the presidential side, it doesn't look like the Boston Tea Party's ticket will bust past the Libertarian Party's first-time results from 1972 as I had hoped. Not crying over that, either -- there's a lot of overlap between our niche and the LP's niche, and they have a 36-year head start on us in the competition for that niche. We didn't do poorly enough for me to be disappointed, and I'm enormously flattered to have received more than 1,000 votes for the vice-presidency of the United States from the people of my birth state, Tennessee. I'm also looking forward seeing a bigger, better BTP bring the message of freedom to more people, in more states, in the future.

As for the LP's presidential ticket, well, Bob Barr appears to have edged out Harry Browne's 1996 campaign for the second best raw vote total in party history, but to have somewhat underperformed Harry for percentage. As David Nolan put it, "[t]he Libertarian ticket would most likely have gotten a very similar vote total with Root, Ruwart or Kubby as the nominee." And, as Nolan was too polite to say, the urge to take a long shower after voting wouldn't have been so intense if we had nominated Kubby or Ruwart.

Personally, I wasn't able to bring myself to vote for Barr/Root. I did try to talk myself into it, but the whole idea just seemed immoral. The alternatives on the ballot in Missouri were McCain (not), Obama (not), Nader (not) and Baldwin (NOTNOTNOT). I finally settled on (drum roll, please) ... the Green Party's write-in ticket of Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente.

McKinney's record in Congress included voting with Ron Paul 80% of the time (more than any Republican) on key civil liberties issues as identified by Freedom Democrats in a vote study some years ago. Libertarian? No ... but more so than the other available options. Also, casting a write-in vote struck me as the most ostentatious way to reject the duopoly. I joined 957 other Missourians who also wrote in McKinney/Clemente.

So now the fun begins.

As everyone keeps pointing out, president-elect Barack Obama is a "transformational figure," by which I assume they do not mean that he can turn himself into a truck or an airplane or whatever and fly off to fight evil robots invading from space (although it wouldn't surprise me to learn that some people do, in fact, believe that as well).

The thing with "transformational figures" is that they produce transformations. And the thing with transformations is that they tend to be unpredictable, both in detail and with respect to their effects on "the big picture."

I expect we're in for a wild ride, folks. At the moment, I haven't slightest idea where that ride will end, but I seatbelts and crash helmets are definitely in order.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

My Senate predictions

Short version: The Democrats pick up eight seats.

Which seats? Well, five of them are pretty obvious, two are less obvious, one is a stretch.

I may tell you which ones are which before the polls close on Tuesday, or I may not ... if you really think you need to know right now, you can read all about it in the third issue of KN@PPSTER: The Newsletter. If you're a subscriber, that is.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Just thought I'd go ahead and get ahead of the MSM curve there, since I'll be out next Tuesday evening.

When a Democratic presidential candidate schedules an event in Springfield, Missouri the weekend before the election and brings his wife in to do it with him instead of keeping her on the trail elsewhere, there's only one reasonable conclusion: He's got this thing nailed down solid, and now he's going for "mandate" numbers in the Electoral College.

I grew up not too far northeast of Springfield, and my understanding is that my uncle (and my second cousin -- we share a border with Arkansas, see?)1 was the first Democrat to be elected to county commission in our county (Laclede) since before the War Between the States (that was back in the late 70s or early 80s -- he only lasted one term). Occasionally a Democratic candidate for public office will take Springfield itself, but it's just a dot in the red sea of southern Missouri.

If Obama thinks he can pick up Missouri by campaigning in Roy Blunt's back yard, he's either stupid or he knows to a dead certainty that he's got the election in the bag. And Obama's not stupid.

If McCain manages to turn out the Diebold vote or something, maybe a printout of this blog will be in the running for use in the obligatory Harry Truman re-enactment. But I just don't see that happening. Missouri and North Carolina as tossups are hard evidence that the GOP is royally screwed for next Tuesday.

1. It's not as kinky as it sounds. My dad's cousin married my mom's sister, so it's not like I'm my own grandpa or anything.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Some thoughts on the Boston Tea Party

As the founder and 2008 national vice-presidential nominee of the Boston Tea Party, that party is naturally on my mind a lot, especially as it wraps up its second biennial national convention and nears its first presidential election. And, also naturally, I find myself saying various things about it to various people (including, as of a few minutes ago, a reporter for the Associated Press).

Some of the points I'm trying to make keep coming up, so they seem worth writing down in one place ... like maybe here.

When I founded the BTP, I held out hope that it would, sooner or later, merge back into the Libertarian Party as an internal caucus. That's obviously not going to happen. With the nomination of its own presidential slate and the placement of that slate on several state ballots, our split from the LP at the national organizational level is complete. The split also proceeds apace at the state level as we recognize new affiliates which are likely to seek their own ballot access in 2010 and beyond.

Where that split is concerned, I once viewed it with trepidation, but that view has now changed to one of hope. The LP had a 36-year virtual monopoly and head start on cornering the libertarian political niche in America -- yet the BTP appears to be doing better coming into that competitive niche for the first time than the LP did when the niche was effectively uncontested.

We have more members than the LP did as of its first presidential election. We're on the ballot in more states than the LP was as of its first presidential election. I expect that our presidential slate will outpoll the LP's first presidential slate.

The LP appears to be unable to expand the American libertarian political niche against its major party opposition, or to defend its monopoly on that niche versus newcomers.

Enter Darwin. Personally, I expect that the next major stage of the Boston Tea Party's growth will include several state Libertarian Parties disaffiliating from the Libertarian National Committee and re-affiliating under the BTP umbrella.

The obvious cause to point to for the current situation -- up-and-coming BTP, LP teetering on the edge of the dustbin of history -- is the descent of the LP as a national organization into cargo-cultism. The nomination of the 2008 Libertarian Party Barr-Root ticket represented a final triumph of image over substance, and now we're watching that image crumble to dust under the wind of apathy. Image can't survive or thrive on its own. Without substance, it is dead.

Beyond the obvious, however, the BTP has its own reasons for optimism. We are a "principled populist" party, not just in rhetoric but in action. Just as we oppose the rule of "power elites" (in libertarian class theory, the political class) in the world at large, we deny those elites the ability to run our own party.

We are an activist-powered party -- our national committee is constrained by our bylaws from becoming a money sink, and therefore from becoming a central planning board. If something gets done, it's because our members want it to be done and go out and do it. Ernie Hancock, your new party is calling -- your approach failed in the LP because the Politburo/Commissar structure had already taken firm root before you tried so valiantly to shatter it.

We are a genuine mass-participation party. If you want to be involved, you don't have to travel hundreds of miles, shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars, and miss a week of work every time there's a convention. You don't have to send a representative and hope that representative actually represents you. If you're a member of our party, you can take part in its business activities via any Internet connection.

Finally, we're a consistently "smaller-government" party. Our platform isn't going to be cut by 3/4th at one convention and completely re-built at the next like the LP's has. It's perpetual and unmodifiable:

"The Boston Tea Party supports reducing the size, scope and power of government at all levels and on all issues, and opposes increasing the size, scope and power of government at any level, for any purpose."

Until and unless the state is completely eliminated, we will always be the party agitating to make it smaller tomorrow than it is today. That's the standard the national LP is going to have to meet if it wants to recapture its place of primacy in the freedom movement ... and I no longer believe that it can, or will, or even wants to, meet that standard.

I realize that many fellow libertarians whom I know and respect will continue to cling to the LP for some time ... and that's okay. I continue to work in my state LP and plan to do so for at least awhile longer. Breaking up is hard to do. I urge those libertarians remaining in the LP to think of the BTP as an ally, not an enemy. Our existence is an incentive to the LP to become better at what it does, and to think harder about what it wants to do. If it responds negatively to that incentive (as I believe it will continue to do), at least it no longer holds the claim over your head that "you have no place else to go." Because now you do.

[Cross-posted at the Boston Tea Party web site and Last Free Voice]

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A note to the Belleville, Illinois city council

Dear Belleville City Council,

Is there anything on this planet -- any aspect of the lives of those who elected you -- that you people recognize as not in dire need of your gunpoint-enforced ministrations?

Never mind. I didn't think so.

Recommendations, short version: Extract crania from recta. Please. That's gotta hurt. It may not hurt you, but it's sure as hell hurting your city.

Recommendations, longer notes:

- Who gets to define "special needs child" for purposes of trick-or-treating? If they're trick-or-treating, they're not at school, so forget IEPs. Will Belleville be setting up a special board to determine whether or not each individual Little Johnny or Jenny is sufficiently cognitively differently abled to qualify?

- What idiot told you that the age of someone who might decide to knock on a neighbor's door and ask for candy on any given night, or the time at which he or she might elect to do so (provided it does not disturb the peace, which I bet you already have laws to address) is any of your business? And why did you believe that idiot?

- I have to surmise, at first glance, that that same idiot is the one who told you that whether or not people suspected of no crime might choose to wear masks is also your -- or "law enforcement's" -- business. I'm tempted to pop over to Belleville for Guy Fawkes Day to contest that proposition.

- There's a reason they're called "ex-convicts." It means they've served their sentences and that at present there's no probable cause to suspect they are involved in criminal acts -- because if there was probable cause, they'd be in jail awaiting arraignment, or out on bail under restrictions imposed on a case by case basis by a judge, right?

- Mayor Eckert: If you feel that you need to go the extra mile to protect the children, knock yourself out. Better yet, try going 6,600 miles -- your approach to governance seems better suited to Pyongyang than to Belleville.

- Since when did "scared" become a legitimate excuse for making up silly rules? If someone's five-year-old reports to the city council that he's scared of monsters under his bed, will you ... whoa, I'm going to stop right there before you have a chance to get all hopped up for a long ordinance-writing session.

I mean ... Jebus ... don't you people have anything better to do?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

And the winner was ...

Well, Obama, but not in a knockout or anything. All he had to do was keep his cool. He did. McCain had to get Obama by the throat and strangle him (metaphorically speaking, of course). He didn't.

One of the Fox analysts (I think it was either Bill Kristol or Fred Barnes from The Weekly Standard) pretty much nailed it: It looked like a tennis match with McCain running all over the court to whack at the ball while Obama just kind of stood at the baseline and nailed it every time, no biggie. It's not that McCain had a lot of misses, it's that he had to work so hard to do what came off as easy for Obama. Obama looked and acted more ... presidential.

McCain kept looping back to the already shopworn Joe the Plumber schtick. He might have been better off riffing on his one real zinger: "I'm not George Bush. If you wanted to run against him, you should have run four years ago." But he wasn't able to press that one home, and Obama pinned the Bush tail right back on him with ease.

The Ayers thing was anticlimactic. McCain didn't manage to attach any sense of urgency to it, and Obama easily torpedoed it with cool and calm rather than with my suggested impassioned retort.

A real smaller-government candidate might have been able to land some blows on Obama, but McCain isn't a real smaller-government candidate and he doesn't convincingly play one on TV. His "maverick" streak goes more in the McCain-Feingold, McCain-Lieberman, etc. direction.

On the subject of VPs: Both of them agreed that Biden is a pretty well-qualified candidate. Both of them (Obama presumably to be polite when it cost him nothing to do so, McCain presumably because he didn't want to get laughed off the stage) smoothed right past the same question on Palin.

McCain is just outclassed. It's not that his policy positions or attitudes toward government are particularly better or worse than Obama's. They aren't. It's that McCain has huge handicaps (his age, his running mate, the Bush administration hanging around his neck like an albatross), while Obama is young, self-assured, and in the enviable position of running against eight years of misrule by McCain's party. I can't even imagine how much it must suck to be a Republican this year.

What Obama should say ...

... if McCain plays the Ayers card.

Senator McCain, I was eight years old when the Weather Underground became active. I was never involved in it. I never supported its activities. I later befriended a man who had once been a leader of that organization -- a man who had killed no one, a man who had turned himself in to the police, made amends, and become a peaceful member of his community right about the time I graduated from high school.

You were closer to sixty-eight years old when you began your active support for arming and funding the Kosovo Liberation Army, an al Qaeda connected terrorist organization responsible for hundreds, possibly thousands, of murders and kidnappings in the former Yugoslavia, and implicated in a plot to attack Fort Dix, right here on US soil. Your active support for those terrorists -- and their reciprocal support for you in the form of contributions to your campaigns, routed through their US front organization, the Albanian American Civic League -- continues to this very day.

Senator, I regret to inform you that you lack the moral stature to lecture me, or anyone else, on the subject of palling around with terrorists.

McCain has said he'd rather lose an election than lose a war. Well, he's going to lose an election. Tonight is really more about whether or not he flushes his personal dignity down the same toilet as his presidential prospects.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Might not want to throw out that tinfoil hat just yet ...

MSNBC reports:

The U.S. Army is developing a technology known as synthetic telepathy that would allow someone to create email or voice mail and send it by thought alone. The concept is based on reading electrical activity in the brain using an electroencephalograph, or EEG.

Of course, this has been staple science fiction stuff for a long time, and it would be silly to expect it to never move into actual R&D. I have to admit that I've long looked forward to a brain-implantable, mentally-controllable computer myself (and desperately hoping that Micro$haft won't be the OS leader -- "Blue Visual Field of Death," anyone?).

To get the down side, add "remotely" ahead of "reading" in the quote above. Think Van Eck phreaking, organic style. And once the channel is open, who knows but what it might not run two ways?

When (if?) this pans out, the very least we can expect is a new machine in the airport security line -- TSA will naturally be interested in who's thinking "don't look in my shoes don't look in my shoes oh Jebus did I leave the detonator on the bedside table back at the hotel?"

Depending on the limits of equipment -- reception, sensitivity, etc. -- the possibilities for political and industrial espionage are of obvious concern as well. Will we soon see presidents and CEOs wearing metal-mesh hairnets everywhere they go? Will presidential candidates run ads featuring their opponents' innermost thoughts?

And then of course there's what we don't know: How far along is this, really? If they're showing us this much that they're developing, what aren't they showing us that they already have?

Photo by Liam P. Millay

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bring it on!

Tune in next Friday, October 17th, at 9pm Eastern. As the nominee of the Boston Tea Party, I'll be debating other vice-presidential candidates on Restore the Republic Radio, an Internet broadcast outfit recently created by the merger of Revolution Broadcasting (a Ron Paul R3VOLution phenomenon) and Aaron Russo's Restore the Republic.

Confirmed participants so far include myself, Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party, and Wayne Allyn Root of the Libertarian Party. That list will likely grow, and I'll try to keep it updated.

Thanks to RtRR for creating this opportunity. They sponsored a presidential candidate debate this last Thursday. That debate included Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party, Charles Jay of the Boston Tea Party, Brian Moore of the Socialist Party USA, a representative of independent candidate Ralph Nader, Frank McEnulty of the New American Independent Party, and independent candidate Steve Allen. You can grab MP3s of that debate (it's split into three files) here.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Terror, firmer

Wikipedia on terrorism:

Most common definitions of terrorism include only those acts which are intended to create fear (terror), are perpetrated for an ideological goal (as opposed to a lone attack), and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants.

Wikipedia quoting author Dan Berger on the Weather Underground:

[T]he group purposefully and successfully avoided injuring anyone, not just civilians but armed enforcers of the government.

Wikipedia on the Kosovo Liberation Army:

The exact number of victims of the KLA is not known. According to a Serbian government report, from January 1, 1998 to June 10, 1999 the KLA killed 988 people and kidnapped 287; in the period from June 10, 1999 to November 11, 2001, when NATO took control in Kosovo, 847 were reported to have been killed and 1,154 kidnapped. This comprised both civilians and security force personnel: of those killed in the first period, 335 were civilians, 351 soldiers, 230 police and 72 were unidentified; by nationality, 87 of killed civilians were Serbs, 230 Albanians, and 18 of other nationalities. Following the withdrawal of Serbian and Yugoslav security forces from Kosovo in June 1999, all casualties were civilians, the vast majority being Serbs. According to Human Rights Watch, as "many as one thousand Serbs and Roma have been murdered or have gone missing since June 12, 1999."

Historical timeline document of the Albanian American Civic League:

- February 1998: "The Civic League issues a public declaration, 'In Defense of the Albanian National Cause,' in which it announces its support for the Kosova Liberation Army ..."

- March 1998: "[T]he Civic League holds the first rally on Capitol Hill in support of the Kosova Liberation Army."

Guess who contributed $5,000 to John McCain?

Hint: Try Googling the phrase "he did everything we asked of him, including arming the KLA."

Barack Obama used to hang out with a an old sixties lefty who killed no one. John McCain still pals around with the Balkans chapter of al Qaeda. Glass houses, stones, etc.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

In celebration of the new kumari!

Frankly, though, it sounds to me like the girl is getting gypped. Shouldn't living goddesses be able to strike their enemies dead with a thought, command vast armies to invade neighboring countries, get tickets to Les Miz, that kind of thing? And what's up with the losing deity status when puberty hits thing? I'm just sayin' ...

So, I tell them I'm a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald ... striking. So, I'm on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one -- big hitter, the Lama -- long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga ... gunga, gunga-galunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness." So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

The key word is "principled"

The Libertarian Party Radical Caucus's Key Point #3:

Principled Populism -- The Libertarian Party should be a mass-participation party operating in the electoral arena and elsewhere, devoted to consistent libertarian principle, and committed to liberty and justice for all. The Libertarian Party should trust in and rely on individuals to welcome a program of liberty and justice and should always aim to convince people of the soundness of libertarian principles. Simply repeating our basic principles and not proposing transition measures is ineffective in the short run because only a small part of the populace is interested in liberty in the abstract, and hiding or abandoning our principled positions is ineffective in the long run because it fails to sustain us as a movement and attract and retain new Libertarians.

As the economic crisis continues to develop in a way that calls for -- nay, demands -- a "principled populist" approach, it's worth pausing for a moment to mourn the monstrous screwups of the last year or so with respect to the premise.

First the Paul campaign got publicly pantsed over Paul's previous Rothbard/Rockwell-inspired attempts to hook into the "populist" racist right.

Then the Libertarian Party nominated Bob Barr, a candidate whose admirers, for the love of Pete, are now tagging him with a "populist" label ... and attaching the other end of that label to George Wallace.

Principled populism pits the productive class against the political class, the awakening masses against the power elites -- not the white middle class against the black underclass or some mythical proud parochialism against some equally mythical indiscrete cosmopolitanism.

To put it a different way, any "principled populism" of a libertarian variety is going to have to weigh on the left, not the right, side of the political dichotomy as traditionally understood if it's going to be successful or if success is even to be a meaningful term with respect to libertarian goals.

The mission of the libertarian movement is not to make the world safe for a return to Jim Crow or the maintenance of marriage apartheid by shilling for "states' rights."

The mission of the libertarian movement is to win freedom for people. In America, that means from sea to shining sea, brother ... and for those of you who want to export it, more power to you once we have it to export. You'll know we're there when you buy the bayonets you're so eager to see the revolution carried abroad on with a voluntary subscription check instead of a mandatory tax return.

Make no mistake about it: The economic defecation is in a state of intersection with the oscillating political blades. We've already seen how "right-wing populism" fares against New Dealism. "Right-wing populism" = fail. The only way -- if there is one -- to beat Franklin Delano OBushma in the upcoming fight will be to hit him, and hard, from the left.

On the political side, key tactics might include things like agitating for repudiation of US government debt to other governments and central banks (as well as banning deficit spending), revoking corporate "personhood" and state-granted liability evasion, etc. On the anti-political side, cultivating the emergence of gray and black markets, barter and alternative currency schemes, etc. can loosen the political class's grip on the economy's throat.

It's time and past time for libertarians to seize the populist hammer -- we're the only ones rightly entitled to wield it in any case -- from the Dixiecrat pretenders and start smashing the state with it.