Saturday, May 31, 2008

"Ron Paul Republicans!" Getcher "Ron Paul Republicans" here!

From the "Official Ron Paul Candidates" list, May 6th:

Congressman Walter Jones (NC) Primary May 6
William Lawson for Congress (NC) Primary May 6
Erich Smith for Superintendent of Instruction (NC) Primary May 6
Congressman Paul Broun (GA) Primary July 15
Congressman Jimmy Duncan (TN)
Matt Chancy Public Service Commissioner (AL)

Here's the lowdown on "Ron Paul Republicans" as of May 30th:

In response to the California Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, U.S. Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) introduced an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. ... The amendment would include the following language in the constitution: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this constitution, nor the constitution of any state, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman."

At least Broun displays more integrity than Paul himself, whose past proposals attempted to illegitimately legislatively nullify, rather than openly and honestly amend, the Constitution in order to facilitate government oppression of non-heterosexuals. Still sick, wrong and evil, but at least openly so instead of trying to play both sides of the fence and hide it under a gravy of "states rights."

I'm sick of hearing from alleged "libertarians" that Paul and Co. are somehow superior to Libertarian Party presidential and vice-presidential nominees Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root. It's not even close -- the "Ron Paul Republicans" are full steam ahead on their anti-freedom agenda in this policy area, while Barr has announced a goal of repealing his own past atrocity on the issue (the Defense of Marriage Act) and Root has come out in full support of marriage equality.

Friday, May 30, 2008

"Our splendid failure to do the impossible"

Bit of a rant/release. Take it or leave it.

Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. -- William Faulkner

And finally, there is always the possibility that we might actually get some libertarians elected. -- David F. Nolan, in his article calling for the formation of a Libertarian Party

Over the course of a mere 12 years as a Libertarian Party activist (and I say that in all seriousness -- some of the people in Nolan's Denver apartment when the party was founded, including Nolan himself, are still breaking heads for freedom), I've generally found myself caught between two camps, in and out of the party:

- Those who wonder why the hell we bother, since we're never going to win.

- The Lombardians: "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."

Every national convention, and every election night watch party, reinforces for me the vacuity of these two positions.

Being right may not be enough, but it's where everything worth doing starts. I'm not willing to give up being right just to "win," because "victory" in a cause I don't and can't support would be meaningless and perhaps even evil. Nor am I willing to accept that I never can win, because I know better. I've done it. Small victories, perhaps, but sweet ones nonetheless.

I'd bet money on my ability to win a serial killing contest, but I'm not a serial killer and don't want to be one.

On the other hand, I suspect others might well beat me in a contest to raise money for a charity (shameless plug: support AntiWar.Com!) ... but at the end of that contest, I'd have done something right and something good, regardless of whether or not I outperformed others in the same task.

The Libertarian Party may never elect a president. It may never elect a US Senator or a US Representative. It may eventually fade into history as an "unsuccessful" political entity.

I can live with that. There is value in fighting for what you believe in, regardless of the struggle's outcome (and as an aside, it's incorrect to say that the LP's history is entirely bereft of success -- but that's another story for another time).

At the LP's national convention, my candidates lost. I wish it had been otherwise.

But the defeat is not what I brought back from Denver. What I brought back is the exhilaration of four days of fighting, shoulder to shoulder, with comrades whom I love and respect, for the Right Things. What I brought back is the memory of time well-spent with old friends and new, and a renewed determination to keep fighting side by side with those same comrades until hell freezes over if necessary ... and then to fight some more on the ice if it comes to that.

The history of third party politics in America is a history of constant failure laced with the occasional -- and decisive -- victory, even if those victories often took place indirectly or at a partisan remove.

From the seeds planted by the Free Soil Party and the Liberty Party, the end of slavery grew and was eventually harvested. The Populists and the Socialists made their marks as well. These accomplishments are more obvious from the perspective of a century beyond than the accomplishments of the Libertarian Party are from so close in, but I suspect future historians will credit us with an influence we don't even credit ourselves with today.

All of us failed to match our dreams of perfection. So I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible. -- Faulkner again

I owe at least 100 Libertarians (and at least one Socialist!) a direct debt of gratitude for their work in (or pertaining to) Denver, and I'm not going to make a list here, because I know I'd miss someone. You know who you are, you know what you did ... appreciate yourselves for it, and please know how much I appreciate you for it. We lost, but we lost gloriously and splendidly.

See you on the ice.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bleg: Matching funds challenge for AntiWar.Com


I just contributed $10 to AntiWar.Com, and I'm asking those of you who value that site's contributions to the peace and freedom movements to match (or exceed!) it.

AntiWar.Com does an amazing job for not much money -- about $70k per quarter, barely a drop in the bucket compared to the budgets of any of dozens of pro-war "think tanks" or of even a single "major media" (read: War Party lapdog) operation.

In my opinion, AntiWar.Com is the most significant counterweight we have to the Bushevik/neoconservative lie machine. For ten years now, they've been doing a tough, often thankless job ... and they've done it well. Please join me in helping to ensure that they're still here, and still at it, ten years -- and ten days -- from now.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Raising the Barr, part 1: Marriage

OK, so I've said that it's up to Libertarian Party radicals to both support our party's presidential candidate and to help him make his message consistent with libertarian principles.

I've already declared my support for the Barr/Root ticket. I'll help them in any way I can. So, when I critique their presentations, please take it as constructive criticism, designed to help them be better candidates. I'm no longer trying to beat them. I'm trying to help them beat John McCain and whomever the Democrats nominate. I'm also trying to help them be the kind of candidates whom I can point admiringly upward at from my billet as a 2008 Libertarian congressional candidate.

So, let's take Bob Barr's post-nomination comment on the Defense of Marriage Act, as transcribed by David Tomlin, and get to work:

Well, I wouldn’t be too hard, too fast to talk about the Defense of Marriage Act flying the face of anybody’s platform. It simply stands for the proposition that each state is free to make up its own decision, its people are able to decide for themselves what their definition of marriage to be and no one state should force another state to adopt its definition. A very, very sound individualistic and states rights policy.

There are ways to arrive at a libertarian position on marriage that don't require Barr to sacrifice one iota of his credibility with social conservatives. In point of fact, some adjustments would increase that credibility.

Let us start from two propositions:

First, that in one respect marriage is a civil contract between two (or more) parties. Libertarians (and conservatives) generally regard contract as a private matter between the parties to it. Sure, the courts are called in to enforce contracts when they're breached, and if the contract has criminal acts among its terms of performance it's a criminal conspiracy ... but that's about the limit of legitimate public interest. The state has no business regulating the right to contract on the basis of the gender or number of parties.

Secondly, that marriage is, outside of contractual aspects that might have to be enforced by the courts at some point, a personal commitment usually expressed as a religious rite. It's a matter of freedom of speech ("I do," "I pronounce you," etc.), freedom of religion (where applicable), and freedom of association.

Instead of defending DOMA, Barr should be telling "the business of America is business"-type conservatives "I don't like the idea of government fooling around in the business of regulating terms of contract. Right now, the fooling around is by gender and number for marriage. Next week, it could be how many popsicles you can sell to one customer or what color the wrappers have to be."

Instead of defending DOMA, Barr should be asking social conservatives "do you really want the government telling you how you may worship, what the content of your religious services are, whom your sacraments may serve? Right now, it's marriage. Next week, maybe Congress or your state legislature will want to speak ex cathedra on dunking versus sprinkling or settle the argument over the transubstantiation of the host. Who may commit to whom in your church should be for your church, not some politician, to decide."

"States rights" is a compelling argument to a certain audience (and let us not forget that Barr comes to us from Georgia, where that audience is a big demographic), but c'mon: States don't have rights -- people do. Leave that garbage in the bin with the Dixiecrats who last trafficked on it with any success ... and get mainstream, Congressman.

Support equal protection of the laws for all, Congressman Barr. Sustain the Full Faith and Credit clause, Congressman Barr. Show the voters that a libertarian political approach is not at odds with a conservative social approach, but rather protects freedom of speech, religion and association for everyone, conservatives included.

And here's the kicker, Congressman: You got told a lot during the Libertarian nomination process that you needed to apologize for some of your past actions. That was true, but it was framed in terms of "you have to do this to get our nomination." It actually goes beyond that.

Your most effective club as a candidate is not that you're a former Republican congressman. Can't swing a cat around here without hitting one of those. No, your big stick is being able to go to the public and say "My old party was wrong on [insert issue], and I was wrong with them. They're still wrong, but I'm not wrong any more. I've changed my mind and I've changed my ways. Now I'm right, and I'm asking you to help me fix the stuff that my party broke." That approach will get you ten times the media and ten times the support that trying to out-Republican John McCain would.

Being right is not enough. It's a start, but you have to add a good story to it for anyone to notice ... and you've got a very good story. You've got a Ronald Reagan story -- does "I didn't leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me" ring any bells?

Tell that story. Tell it right. Drive it home. Do that, and you can shift the debate, move the center, make America a better nation. We're behind you now, Congressman Barr. Time to lead.

Living it up

Steve Newton writes:

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

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

Hear, hear. But let's take this from the top.

The Libertarian Party nominated Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root for president and vice-president on Sunday. A case of redass for us radicals? Well, yeah -- we came to Denver looking for a fight, and we lost. The bruises are still fresh, but the fact remains that the nomination was legit. It was by the book. It was as accurate a reflection of the desires of the party's membership as our processes were able to produce.

So, even if I agree that we got lemons (a claim to which I decline to stipulate, dammit), I'm far more interested in making lemonade out of them than in just sitting around sucking on them for the next five months.

Look ... petulance is a tool of limited utility, and we're past the point of that utility now. Maybe Barr and Root need us, but nattering from the sidelines isn't going to convince them of that.

It's time to get with the goddamn team, folks. I guarantee you that Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root are going to lend a much more attentive ear to the lady who writes a $2300 check or the guy who volunteers to clean the bathroom at the campaign HQ than to the allegedly yellow-dog Libertarian who's still ragging on them after they've convinced a majority of LP convention delegates to vote for them.

How do we "make them live up to the principles they claim to represent?" By helping them do so.

Maybe our advice will fall on deaf ears, but I don't think so. I've been corresponding with Wayne Root ever since before he declared his candidacy, and every time I've offered him positive, sincere advice he's jumped on it. Every. Time.

I doubt I'm the only person that's true of. I mean, c'mon ... nobody slammed Root the way I did pre-nomination. If he'll listen to me, he'll listen to you, too. He'll just listen better if you're working with him instead of against him. My experience is that he wants to learn, that he's willing to listen. I had genuine doubts about his sincerity, but now that he's our VP nominee I've declared tabula rasa -- clean slate -- on that and will trust him until and unless he gives me reason not to.

There may be a little more of a "professional campaign bubble" around Congressman Barr that could insulate him from The Unwashed, but if so we're a lot more likely to pierce that bubble with a supportive attitude than with "now see here ..." And while I agree that his "conversion" has been less than complete by radical standards, my considered opinion is that to the extent it has taken place, it's been sincere.

So let's change the tone, Steve. We can't "make" Barr or Root do anything. They've already won the prize as far as the party is concerned. They've got the nomination, and if they run a big campaign its funding base will have to come from beyond our small party anyway. What do they need us for? We know what they need us for, but it's a lot easier for them to understand that they do need us if we approach them as members of the same team rather than continuing to treat them as opponents.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Could Bob Barr be our next president?

Yes, he could. Really. Here's how:

If Barr can carry any states -- even one -- in a close election, he might hold "the balance of power" in the Electoral College. It's a long shot, but not an impossibility. He'll obviously play well in Georgia (15 electoral votes). Nevada (five electoral votes), too, especially with Wayne Allyn "King of Vegas" Root on the ballot as his running mate.

I'm not going to do all kinds of weird math for you here, but let's suppose that John McCain and Barack Obama come in very close -- neither with a majority of electoral votes in pocket, and Barr standing there with the difference that makes a majority.

Naturally, heavy Republican pressure will be put on Barr's electors to go "faithless" and cast their votes for McCain. If there's no majority in the Electoral College, the decision gets kicked to Congress to make. Each state's US House delegation gets one vote, and it takes 26 to win. Care to guess which "major" party controls the most House delegations?

Pressure can be exerted in more than one direction, though. And if the (still hypothetical) Barr electors stand firm, they can dictate the result: You can have Bob Barr if you go with us, or you can get Barack Obama from the Hill. John McCain is off the table.

Long shot? Yeah -- but I bet that professional handicapper Wayne Root would give it better odds than the Libertarian Party has ever had before.

National convention notes, part 2

I rode to Denver in a van full of, as feral Confederate chihuahua Robert Stacy McCain put it, "smelly Libertarians." A good time was had by all, including pasting Phillies 2008 stickers all over Yours Truly's back while I slept, such that I unintentionally served as a walking billboard for George all across Kansas and eastern Colorado. Amazingly, we had few political arguments on the way there. Tiredness resulted in a few frayed tempers on the way back.

It's hard to describe just how hectic the convention was. On Sunday evening, Mary Ruwart took her staff out for a casual "thanks for making a fight of it" dinner at Chipotle. While ordering, it occurred to me that the only things I'd ingested since breakfast on Saturday morning were a few hospitality suite finger-food offerings and a lot of bourbon, cola and Starbucks iced white chocolate mocha latte.

Things were really getting weird by Saturday afternoon. For some reason I can't even recall, Senator Mike Gravel and I ended up snarling at each other over, of all things, the Terri Schiavo case during a "how do we stop Bob Barr" strategy meeting including several candidates and campaigns.

This was just after a meeting of all the campaigns to discuss the debate format, which we re-wrote ( the convention committee graciously adopted that re-write). Oddly enough, I found myself allied with Barr manager Russ Verney in that meeting: One of the things we incorporated in the format was a provision for 30 seconds of rebuttal by any candidate whom the moderator agreed had just been personally attacked by one of the others.

That provision was never invoked ... partially, in my opinion, because it existed. I know that when I took the format to Steve Kubby, my advice was "if you attack anyone, make it one candidate, one time, and make it count. Don't go around giving your opponents 30-second hunks of time they wouldn't otherwise get." Kubby did indeed mildly rebuke Barr on the Patriot Act, but Barr didn't exercise the rebuttal option. The debate was, by format and rules, actually a forum, and a relatively collegial one. The candidates spent their time selling their own visions instead of attacking each other.

Sorry to hop around so much in these "notes" articles, but frankly I still haven't had the time to fully digest what happened in Denver. One more incident for this installment:

Steve Kubby is my hero, and his stature in my eyes doubled yet again after the VP nomination contest ended. What looked like a hundred or so delegates appeared to be on the verge of a walkout, and some of them were asking Kubby to denounce the ticket from the convention stage. Kubby could have grandstanded his way out of the convention with a number of fans in tow. Instead of doing that, he gave an impassioned speech to the despondent delegates, begging them to stay and fight for their vision of the party. When he asked those who would do so to raise their hands, the response looked about 95% positive. I heard more than one person tell Kubby that they considered this the convention's finest moment, and I agree.

I've already taken a few hits -- including from long-time friends an allies -- for my own appeal for party loyalty. To those who are disappointed or angry with me, I have only this to say:

Yes, "my party right or wrong" has limits. If Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root don't run a convincingly pro-freedom campaign, that's on them and I'll act accordingly. However, my implicit agreement with the other delegates was that I'd support our caucus-expressed judgment as to which candidates WOULD most likely run such a campaign, and now that that judgment has been rendered, I'll support it until and unless I am presented with convincing evidence amassed after the fact that it was in fact a defective judgment.

Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root both have clean slates as far as I'm concerned. Their past records were taken into account in the nomination process. That process having ended, the former things are passed away and what counts is what they do from here on out. I hope that they do the right things and I'll support them to the full extent of my ability as long as that hope is proven justified. That's what I -- and everyone else who had a voice and a vote on the convention floor -- owe to them, and to our party.

National convention notes, part 1

Well, everyone, I'm home. I apologize for not blogging from the national convention, and for podcasting not nearly as much as I'd planned to.

Explanation: The hotel's Wi-Fi sucked, and I was never able to keep a connection up for more than a few minutes. I was also unwilling to cloister myself in the media room, away from the action, to use Ethernet. And the hotel seemed to have been intentionally designed to be mostly dead cell phone space. Finally, there was just too much to do.

Do? What was I doing? To some observers, it may have looked like I was mostly running around with a glass of bourbon and cola in hand, hitting on women and raising general hell. In fact, what I was doing was constantly lobbying. My job consisted mostly of talking to people about Steve Kubby and Mary Ruwart, in that order -- and lining up support for them in that order as well. When I wasn't actually on the floor, that's what I was doing.

As the convention approached, it looked increasingly unlikely that Steve Kubby would have a real shot at the presidential nomination. Still, the man is a machine. He kept working at it, hoping for a breakout in the debate (see Badnarik, Michael, 2004). I lobbied desperately to keep him in at least nominal contention ... and to position him as a VP likely if eliminated.

A word of thanks to several candidates: Mary Ruwart, George Phillies, Mike Gravel, Christine Smith. Those four candidates donated excess "tokens" to get Steve into the debate. Smith in particular took a bullet for us: When we were four tokens short of the debate threshold, she handed them to us without batting an eye. She had 36 tokens of her own at that time -- enough to secure time for nominating speeches, but not debate participation. The Kubby troops then "paid it forward" -- Michael Jingozian was within shouting distance, and we helped put him over the top. Then we went to work for Christine as well ... but we just ran out of time.

I went to Denver without a great deal of respect for Christine Smith, and she showed me that I had misunderestimated her. I was not in the hall for her post-elimination speech, which I understand many disliked, so I can't comment on that. What I can comment on is her dedication to the Libertarian Party and to keeping it a libertarian party. She proved to me that that dedication is total, and I'm ashamed I ever doubted it. THANK YOU, Christine.

Next, I'd like to dispel some rumors about Mary Ruwart as a vice-presidential prospect. I was fortunate to be there to see what happened (and to have worked on both her campaign and Steve's). Here's how it went down:

When Kubby was eliminated from the presidential contest, he strongly endorsed Dr. Ruwart. After that, she told him that if he ran for vice-president, she'd support him.

When it came down to that question, I asked Steve to call Dr. Ruwart. After all, her promise of an endorsement seemed to be reasonably predicated on the notion that she'd be endorsing him from her own position of presidential nominee. After her own elimination, the circumstances had changed, and she owed Kubby nothing on that score.

Steve never doubted Mary's offer of endorsement, but at my urging he said he'd call her -- and as he was reaching for the phone, it rang. It was Dr. Ruwart, urging him to run. She strongly believed that Steve's prominence on the issue of the drug war would make him a better "balance" for Bob Barr, and that it would also create a good media angle ("former drug warrior, former drug war POW run together"). At this point, Dr. Phillies had also asked Steve to run.

I don't believe that either Dr. Ruwart or Dr. Phillies supported Steve because they were "unwilling to serve" on a Barr ticket. I believe they both felt that Steve Kubby was just the better option for the party in these circumstances. I happen to think they were right, and I thank them for acting on their convictions. I just wish we'd been able to turn those convictions into an actual nomination.

What I saw this weekend in Denver was case after case of nominal "opponents" of my candidate putting the party's prospects before their own ambitions -- and my own candidate doing so as well. These people are heroes for freedom, and I'm always humbled in their presence.

Some other humbling stuff: I met two guys this weekend who say they read KN@PPSTER: Glenn Jacobs, a/k/a Kane, and comedian Doug Stanhope. Stanhope even bought me a drink and had his picture taken with me and Paulie Cannoli. Wicked cool.

In the not-quite-kiss-but-still-don't-tell-too-much category ... wow. I try to party credibly hearty when given the opportunity, but I can't hold a candle to my fellow Libertarians. There were wheelchairs for those overcome by my gigantor-sized bottle of Old Crow. There were buckets for vomiting in for others of similar disability. There were answer-the-door-in-nothing-but-a-bath-towel incidents (and I will never have need of Internet porn for inspiration again after one such; eternal gratitude is in order). There was booze ... lots of booze ... and other stuff as well.

More later -- I'm writing this after 13 hours in a van en route from Denver to St. Louis, so I just wanted to hit some interesting stuff. It gets even better. Out.

For those awaiting an explosive outburst ...

Sorry, fresh out of those.

The English have a saying: "My country -- right or wrong." With far more historical justification we may say: my party -- in certain concrete cases -- right or wrong ... And if the party adopts a decision which one or another of us thinks unjust, he will say: just or unjust it is my party, and I shall support the consequences of the decision to the end. -- Trotsky

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

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Announcement of candidacy

Don't panic, folks. You don't have another presidential contestant to worry about or anything.

I've served on the Libertarian Party's Judicial Committee before (from 2002-2004). This year, I'm seeking election to that committee once again. If you're a party member, I request your support. If you're a delegate, I request your vote.

Not excited? Entirely understandable. The Judicial Committee elections are almost an afterthought, coming after the "exciting stuff" -- presidential and vice-presidential nominations and LNC elections. We dispensed with electing a Judicial Committee altogether in 2000 after a quorum call and sine die adjournment of the convention in Anaheim. The world did not end.

And, frankly, I can't remember the last time the Judicial Committee had to swing into action -- I'm pretty sure it was in the late 1980s, before I joined the party. The Judicial Committee is an appellate body. It acts only when an action of the National Committee or the national convention is sent to it for review under specific rules (which you can find out more about in the bylaws).

So, if you're still reading, you probably have two questions: Why is this committee important, and why should I vote for Tom Knapp to sit on it?

The Judicial Committee is important because it functions as the LP's "Supreme Court." Its job is to review actions of the national committee on appeal by a percentage of the party's membership (for regular actions), or by suspended committee members or disaffiliated state parties. It may also be called upon to review actions of the national convention as they relate to the Statement of Principles (and can be overruled by that convention in its findings). It's to the party's credit that the Judicial Committee is so seldom called into action -- but it's a necessary party institution.

As to why I am qualified, well, I meet the bylaws qualifications (I'm a party member). Beyond that, I pledge that if a matter is brought before the committee for review, I will adhere to a "strict constructionist" interpretation of the bylaws: They say what they mean and they mean what they say. If overwhelming evidence that an "original intent" trumps my own "strict construction," I'll give that evidence due consideration. I will vote in accordance with that "strict construction," as possibly modified by evidence of "original intent," and I will do so without regard to whether or not my vote gores anyone's ideological ox -- my own included. Finally, I will recuse myself from any appeal to the Judicial Committee which represents a personal conflict of interest.

I believe that service on the Judicial Committee requires personal honesty, respect for truth and fact, and a willingness to apply the party's rules impartially. I leave it to the delegates to judge whether or not I possess those qualities in sufficient measure to properly discharge the duties I'm asking to be given.

[Addenda Q&A: What moved me to run? I was asked by a couple of party members whose views I respect to seek party office, and this is one I'm comfortable with. Always happe to be of service. What effect might my election have on the outcome of this national convention? None whatsoever -- the new Judicial Committee takes office at that convention's close - TLK]

Introducing IPR

Third Party Watch is ... dead? Well, not exactly, but under new management and apparently at least temporarily in harness to Bob Barr's presidential campaign and the Libertarian Reform Caucus. So call it dazed, or stunned, or just maybe undead and coming to eat your brain.

So: Long live Independent Political Report! I've been asked to write there, and expect to do so. Hopefully IPR will fill the niche that TPW seems to be vacating as a place for diverse (as opposed to unbiased) coverage of alternative political parties.

Resist much!

It started off as a silly little conspiracy theory -- too far-fetched to take seriously, almost (but not quite) too silly to discuss publicly even in the age of Art Bell and Alex Jones.

But it bugged me, and I said so. And, over the last week or so, it's gone from far-fetched conspiracy theory to all-but-proven fact:

The Libertarian Party is under attack. Its 2008 presidential nomination is the target of a "hostile takeover" bid by social conservatives, fronted by a former congressman of that persuasion and honchoed by two past practitioners of the art of the party raid, Richard Viguerie and Russ Verney.

How organized is the takeover plot? How deeply are its claws already buried in the Libertarian Party? I don't know.

I do know that one of its principals, Viguerie, was inserted as the convention's keynote speaker when Barr himself withdrew pursuant to setting up his presidential exploratory committee.

I do know that Viguerie bought the premier "third party news site" on the Internet over the weekend and the the new management immediately memory-holed an article (by me) casting Barr in a negative light vis a vis an article which appeared above the fold in Sunday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In fairness, TPW seems to still be giving other candidates fair coverage, although it has given a different spin to the AJC article.

I do know that Viguerie has hired -- and appointed as interim editor of TPW -- the former executive director of the party, who resigned shortly after using his party position to boost a smear campaign against one of Barr's opponents, Mary Ruwart with an official LP press release calling for expanded (!) federal government powers (a release which seems to have now been memory-holed from both the LP site and Viguerie's new, improved Third Party Watch).

I do know I've received forwards of emails soliciting ringers to meet in Columbus, OH for a bus ride to Denver to support Barr -- arriving immediately before the presidential nomination vote and leaving immediately after.

In my opinion, this effort is highly organized, enjoys support within the LP's national office and national committee, and has been in motion for some time. No telling what surprises await in Denver.

It can, however, be derailed.


Regardless of whom you support for the presidential nomination -- including Barr -- if you are an alternate to the convention for your state, I encourage you to confer with other state delegations and, if they are amenable, take a seat as a full delegate with them. I further encourage you to do whatever it takes to close your delegation to packing by last-minute ringers for any candidate.

Regardless of whom you support for the presidential nomination -- including Barr -- I urge you to carefully consider how you handle your delegate tokens, which determine who gets to participate in the Saturday evening candidate debate. In order to participate in the debate, each candidate must collect tokens representing a number of delegates equal to 10% of those who voted in the last presidential nomination contest. That means about 80 tokens.

It is in the party's interest that all the "serious" candidates (in alphabetical order, that list, in my opinion, consists of Bob Barr, Mike Gravel, Steve Kubby, George Phillies, Wayne Allyn Root and Mary Ruwart) receive the opportunity to present their messages, make their arguments, and demonstrate their ability to debate the issues. Before you hand over that token, ask how many tokens the candidate has already collected. If your candidate is already over the threshold, do the party a service and help make sure that the others make it as well.

The Libertarian Party could survive a Barr nomination. There are reasonable arguments that it would even benefit from one. That it could survive a complete takeover of its infrastructure by an outside political bloc is much less certain.

Regardless of whom you support for the nomination, please join with your fellow Libertarians in preserving the party as "a libertarian political entity separate and distinct from all other political parties or movements."

Regardless of whom you support for the nomination, insist that it be a nomination -- not a coronation.

The thousands of LP members and millions of Americans whose interests we go to Denver to represent deserve nothing less.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Knowhutimean, Verney?

Over at The Atlantic Monthly, Marc Ambinder reproduces Russ Verney's "Barr Strategy Memo," a fundraiser I also received by email earlier today.

The interesting part is Verney's timeline on Ross Perot's 1992 campaign, linked with Verney's assessment that "I believe Congressman Bob Barr has the same potential."

early October: 7% in national surveys
Mid October: wins televised Presidential debate
late October: 12% in national surveys
election day: captures 19% of national vote

Problem is -- as Verney almost certainly knows -- that Perot's 1992 and 1996 performances brought about a change. The "big debates" are now controlled by a bi-partisan (not "non-partisan" -- it's strictly a duopoly preservation tool) Commission on Presidential Debates, and that commission has different standards:

The CPD's third criterion requires that the candidate have a level of support of at least 15% (fifteen percent) of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations' most recent publicly reported results at the time of the determination.

If Barr performs to Verney's assessment of his potential, he almost certainly won't be invited to debate his major party opponents, even if -- as seems unlikely -- he's able to secure the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination.

Press-TO Change-O

In earlier posts, I alluded to my plans to blog on the Libertarian Party's national convention at Third Party Watch.

With TPW under new management, I am apparently posterata non grata there, and I received notice this morning that that new management had withdrawn its request to LPHQ for press credentials for myself and two other bloggers, Pauli Cannoli and Michelle Shinghal.

Let me make it clear: This was not LPHQ denying the credentials (as it did, for whatever reason, with Last Free Voice blogger GE Smith), it was the publication which I had previously been affiliated with ending that affiliation (at least for purposes of convention coverage, and I don't anticipate writing there any more except as a commenter).

As a matter of fact, Andrew Davis at LPHQ promptly honored my request for press credentials on my own hook as publisher of Rational Review, which reaches thousands of LP and libertarian movement readers through its daily newsletter and its ISIL rebrand, Freedom News Daily.

So, I'm not complaining. The press credentials were secondary anyway -- I'm not looking to raid banquets without buying a package or anything, I just want access to press events and the media room so I can get the job done.

Here's what you can expect to see (and hear) from me as a reporter at the convention:

- "The LP National Convention is Decadent and Depraved" -- periodic podcasts from the convention.

- As convenient, blogging or liveblogging here on KN@PPSTER.

- As also convenient, cross-posting of that blogging/liveblogging at Rational Review.

- Subsequent "hot washup" articles here, or at Rational Review, or elsewhere (which will, most likely, be blurbed and linked in Rational Review News Digest).

Tune in. This convention promises to be some kind of bastard hybrid of 9/11 and The Thrilla in Manila. And maybe pole dancing during the intermissions.

AJC columnists slam Barr on PAC practices

[Note: I wrote this post for Third Party Watch earlier this morning. I posted it, and it was almost immediately removed to "draft" status, while I was still working some of the kinks out, and my posting privileges were moderated to keep me from putting it back up. As it happened, TPW had been sold to Bob Barr's campaign finance guru, Richard Viguerie, effective this morning. Whether the transition in general, or the content of the article, were at issue I still don't know - KN@PPSTER]

Darth Barr: I find your lack of faith ... disturbingIn Sunday's edition (or at least the web edition) of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, columnists Cameron McWhirter and Megan Clarke take aim at Libertarian Party presidential nomination candidate Bob Barr -- specifically at the fundraising and spending practices of his PAC, The Bob Barr Leadership Fund. Here's the full article. High points:

The Bob Barr Leadership Fund, [Barr] wrote, has played a "tremendous role" in helping conservative Republicans defeat liberal congressmen. Since 2003, Barr's PAC has raised $4.3 million with similar mailings.

But only a small portion of that money has made its way to Republican campaigns.

In the last five years the fund has given $125,200 -- about three cents of every dollar raised -- to federal candidates and other campaign committees, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found in a review of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Another $81,875 went to state and local campaigns.

McWhirter and Clarke also note that Barr's Libertarian campaign isn't mentioned in the fundraising letter around which the column centers. PAC treasurer Paul Kilgore responds to that concern: The letter was "in production well before the decision to form an exploratory committee was reached."

As for Barr, he seems less than inclined to discuss the PAC's operations:

"I won't be cross-examined" about the fund's finances, he said. ... "Fine, it doesn't operate the way other PACs operate," he said. "Next question."

The Libertarian Party's national convention, where Barr can also expect to face pointed questions about his PAC's activities, opens later this week in Denver.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Preppin': The LP National Convention is Decadent and Depraved

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world ...

So, like, what's the down side here?

And what rough beast slouches toward Denver? Oh, yeah, that would be moi.

But theriouthly, folkth ... Looks like I'll be tagging on with a van full of Bob Barr supporters coming through St. Louis from Atlanta early on Thursday morning, and arriving in Denver some time Thursday evening. Should be an interesting ride. I'm planning at least one in-transit straw poll and podcast, of course.

In the meantime, I'm catching up on last minute campaign work, tentatively beginning my travel packing, that sort of thing.

Most of all, right now, I'm trying to break myself of the natural tendency to see this convention as Ragnarok, Armageddon, Stalingrad on steroids. It always feels that way going in, but somehow when it's all said and done, the party is still there and there's still work to do.

Nonetheless, the hardening of attitudes proceeds apace ... and frankly things aren't looking so good for Bob Barr.

It's not the ideological problems -- hell, everyone knew those would be there -- but rather his strategic positioning. PAC contributions to Republican, not Libertarian, candidates. Saying -- like it's a good thing -- that his candidacy will be good for down-ticket Republican, not Libertarian, candidates. Appealing to the "true conservative" vote rather than the "pro-freedom" vote.

Ideology is always a struggle for Libertarians. Partisan loyalty, not so much. Some of us will occasionally break ranks to support a candidate of another party if the pitch is good enough, but when it comes to our own candidates, we expect them to support the party at least as much as they're asking the party to support them. And Barr's line is "no ... I'm just here to use you."

The big mistake here (a mistake Barr wouldn't be making if he was listening to Steve Gordon, who's been down this road) is believing that the LP's presidential nomination can be won solely on the basis of external jazz (big name, big money, big media, etc.).

The people whom Barr has to convince -- a few hundred, a thousand or so at most, delegates in a room in Denver, Colorado -- chew candidates who take that approach up and spit them out on a regular basis in favor of candidates they're comfortable with and consider reliably Libertarian.

That's a tough nut for Barr to crack in the first place, given his pre-history with the LP. If you've seen the party's 2002 anti-Barr commercial (RealVideo format) and you have dry eyes after medical marijuana patient Cheryl Miller asks "why would you want to do that to me, Bob?" you're not a human being I care to know. Top that with his continued Republican flirtations, his evasiveness on core issues, etc., and I don't see how his candidacy is anything but on life support.

In my view, the main thing Barr is accomplishing right now (and I'm grateful for it) is stealng Wayne Allyn Root's thunder. That means that Mary Ruwart and Steve Kubby have an opening to appeal to the delegates not just on ideology but as party stalwarts versus takeover artists.

If we can beat Barr, we can beat Root.

And right now it looks to me like we can beat Barr.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Digression: My presidential endorsement(s)

It will come as no surprise to regular readers of KN@PPSTER that I heartily endorse Steve Kubby's candidacy for the Libertarian Party's 2008 presidential nomination.

It may come as a bit of a surprise, but not a big one, that I also endorse Dr. Mary Ruwart's candidacy for the same nomination.

I've worked with Steve on his campaign since near its beginning, and my belief that he's the ideal candidate to carry our party's banner into the general election has only grown stronger over that time.

Even setting aside the fact that he and I agree on most policy issues, Steve is possessed of the one quality that I believe, more than anything, the party requires: He's a fighter for freedom. He's gone out there and struggled for liberty. He's put his own freedom, his own health, his own life on the line for ours. And as a result, many Americans are more free than they were before.

I do not state this lightly: Steve Kubby is the Eugene Debs, the Nelson Mandela and the Martin Luther King, Jr. of the Libertarian Party, all rolled into one. I believe that we should both honor and burden him with the nomination, because I believe that he is deserving of the honor, and because I know -- because he has proven -- that he can carry the burden.

As a delegate to the national convention, I will proudly vote for Steve Kubby on every ballot until he is either nominated or eliminated. And, should the latter occur, I will consider myself the first member of "Draft Kubby for Vice-President," regardless of whom the presidential nominee is. There is no potential LP presidential ticket that would not be stronger with him on it.

Can he win the nomination? In my opinion, it is still possible. To quote Kubby himself, in response to a journalist's inquiry on his strategy:

Some of the other candidates are counting on media coverage and money to carry the day in Denver. They hope to win on the IMAGE they've generated: "I'm famous. I'm successful. Lots of people might vote for me."

My goal is to get into the candidate debate -- there are minimum support levels required for that, and I believe I will meet them -- and to win on SUBSTANCE. I believe I can show the delegates that my candidacy best represents the party we all belong to, the goals we want to achieve, the message we're trying to get in front of America. That's my "Hail Mary" play. Some of the other candidates will be campaigning on how far down the field they might be able to move the ball. I'll be campaigning on the fact that I'm the guy who's taking the ball in the RIGHT DIRECTION. I believe the delegates will respond strongly to that message.

'nuf said.

Now, to Dr. Ruwart. Yes, I also endorse her candidacy; if Kubby is eliminated, I will vote for her on subsequent ballots until she, too, is either nominated or eliminated. By way of disclosure, I have also played a minor role in Dr. Ruwart's campaign (with the full knowledge and consent of Steve Kubby).

Dr. Ruwart is a long-time party activist who has demonstrated, over and over, her absolute commitment to the Libertarian Party and to the freedom movement. She's an exemplary communicator of a consistent libertarian message. I don't mean that I agree with her on every jot and tittle of libertarian theory or the implications thereof. I don't have to -- it's enough for me to know that she values freedom as the highest political goal and that she will not be turned aside in her pursuit of that goal.

Instead of quoting Dr. Ruwart, I'll quote an historical figure whom she, to my mind, greatly resembles in effect, if not always in tone: William Lloyd Garrison.

On this subject [slavery], I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; -- but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest -- I will not equivocate -- I will not excuse -- I will not retreat a single inch -- AND I WILL BE HEARD.

Tone, of course, being relevant, it should be noted that Dr. Ruwart is sometimes called "the Libertarian Party's sweetheart," for good reason. Her approach is one of seeking common ground and persuading those around her to come together on that ground. She takes that approach both in and out of the party, and as a communications approach it strikes me as highly effective. Unlike Garrison, who thundered, she communicates in dulcet tones ... but like Garrison, she stands fast on the rock of principle and will not be moved.

Kubby is an uncompromising fighter. Ruwart is an equally uncompromising ... conciliator ... if that makes any sense. She does not sacrifice principle, but she advocates it in a way that seeks to "overcom[e] animosity or hostility."

While I am of the strong opinion that the LP needs a fighter, I'm of the even stronger opinion that the LP needs an uncompromising standard-bearer. Kubby and Ruwart both fit that bill, and so I am comfortable supporting both of them.

The ideal LP ticket, in my opinion, is a Kubby/Ruwart ticket. A Ruwart/Kubby ticket would be nearly as good. If for some reason neither of them receives the presidential nomination, then my order of preference for the vice-presidential nomination is the same -- Kubby for VP, or failing that, Dr. Ruwart, assuming that either one will accept. They've both earned our support, they both deserve our support, and it is in the Libertarian Party's best interests, both short-term and long-term, that they receive our support.

Yours in liberty,
Thomas L. Knapp
Delegate from Missouri

Open letter to the Boston Tea Party national committee

Dear members of the Boston Tea Party's national committee,

It warms my heart to see the BTP chartering affiliates and engaging in real activity once again. Congratulations to chair Jim Davidson on his efforts, and I look forward to meeting all of you in Denver.

It is that meeting, and the motion passed by the national committee pursuant to that meeting, which occasions this letter.

The motion, offered by Dr. Stevens on May 11th and carried on May 13th, reads as follows:

that a meeting of the National Committee of the Boston Tea Party be held on Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 6:30 p.m. at The Buckhorn Exchange in Denver, Colorado (Denver's Oldest Restaurant located at 1000 Osage Street; 303-534-9505;; that all BTP members be invited to observe the proceedings; that all LP Presidential & Vice-Presidential Candidates be invited to seek the BTP Presidential & Vice-Presidential nomination, as well as other individuals invited by other National Committee members; and that the bylaws of the Boston Tea Party be suspended to enable the National Committee to select the Presidential & Vice-Presidential nominees of the Boston Tea Party and to conduct such other business as it deems necessary and appropriate to ensure the future of the Boston Tea Party.

I do not object to a "meatspace" meeting of the national committee. The bylaws provide for it insofar as they only specify that meetings shall be conducted via Internet "in the usual course of things." This clearly allows for the committee to occasionally, for good reason, do otherwise -- and the Libertarian Party's national convention seems like exactly the kind of occasion I had in mind when I wrote those bylaws.

However, the national committee has no legitimate authority to suspend or abrogate the party's bylaws. Nor does it have the authority to select presidential and vice-presidential candidates for the party. Those actions can only be undertaken by the membership in national convention. By blowing the organization of the 2008 national convention per the bylaws, which require it to open no later than Memorial Day and to be preceded by a number of specific actions, some of which were not undertaken by their respective deadlines, we (I sat on the national committee at the time some of this happened) deprived the membership of the ability to exercise its power. Following that screwup with a usurpation of the members' authority is not a solution.

When I founded the Boston Tea Party and wrote its bylaws, I did so on the specific premise that I was setting up an organization based on full member participation of a type which has only become possible on a national scale in the last few years thanks to near-universal Internet access. The portions of the motion above relating to suspension of the bylaws and nomination of a presidential slate by the national committee are not merely in conflict with the bylaws -- they are in conflict with one of the core values of the Boston Tea Party as intended by me and as ratified by the membership at its 2006 convention.

Therefore, I respectfully request that the national committee refrain from following through on those portions of the motion, and give notice that if those portions are acted upon, I will exercise my right as a member, in concert with other members under Article 9, Section H of the bylaws, to overturn the committee's actions.

I would be proud to see the national committee -- speaking for, and ONLY for, itself rather than for the membership -- endorse the Libertarian Party's presidential slate. Of all the likely nominees, even the least "purist libertarian" example, Bob Barr, clearly endorses, at least implicitly, the Boston Tea Party's platform. As a matter of fact, Barr has specifically publicly quoted the affirmative portion of that platform in several articles and interviews, stating that he supports "reducing the size, scope and power of government." The other likely nominees -- Dr. Mary Ruwart, Steve Kubby and even Wayne Allyn Root -- are also running on campaign platforms which clearly fall within the scope of the BTP's. I would even suggest that the national committee consider organizing an "emergency" convention for the summer in order to ask the membership to add the party's endorsement to the national committee's and perhaps get the party back on track as a mass-participation organization.

In extremis, if the members of the state affiliates simply cannot support the LP's ticket, then they're free to nominate their own presidential slates, individually or in collusion. In doing so they would not be in conflict with the bylaws requirement that they endorse the slate nominated by the national convention, since there is not and cannot be any such slate. So long as they don't claim that their slate or slates represent the national BTP, they're well within their rights to go that way.

Thanks again to all of you on the national committee for your efforts to rebuild the Boston Tea Party. I wish you every success and look forward to meeting you in Denver.

Yours in liberty,
Thomas L. Knapp
Founder, Boston Tea Party

Podcast HQ: The LP National Convention is Decadent and Depraved

Powered by Gcast and Old Crow

Bookmark this post, or keep an eye on the sidebar (miniplayer there), for periodic podcasting direct from the Libertarian Party's national convention in Denver Colorado, May 22-26, 2008.

I'm not sure how much computer/Internet access I'll have in Denver, or when it will be convenient to take advantage of that access. But I can podcast straight from my cell phone ... so I will. If I'm near a computer, I'll try to label the podcasts promptly. If I'm not, they may be labeled things like "phone call, 6:37pm, May 23rd" for awhile. I expect most of the 'casts to range from 1-5 minutes ... quick whiskey-driven updates on the events ... but you never know. I may work some full-blown candidate interviews and such in there.

If you'd like to run the 'casts on your own site or blog, mi podcast es su podcast. You can grab (color-size-characteristic configurable) code at the Gcast page for the thing. Just plug it in and you're golden.

Subscribe Free for future posts  Add this player to my Page

Digression: My platform endorsement

At its national convention next week, the Libertarian Party will consider changes to its platform, and that process promises to be contentious.

In 2006, a combination of an organized "reform" effort, low convention participation and numerous other factors resulted in a platform that looked like a meat axe had been taken to it.

This year, there are several proposals for a "one swell foop" remaking of the platform instead of piecemeal tweaks.

- The Restoration Caucus advocates reverting to the 2004 platform as a starting point for any further work.

- The party's platform committee report offers a draft put together almost entirely from past platforms, consolidated and streamlined. Instead of linking to the committee's PDF, here's an HTML version that's color-coded to show what parts which came from which past platform.

- A platform committee minority report -- Destination Liberty -- offers a platform that follows from the Restoration Caucus proposal, i.e. it is based on the 2004 platform.

I offered my own proposal early on -- The World's Smallest Political Platform -- but it hasn't generated any great level of support, and I don't plan any attempt to move its adoption in Denver.

It is my intention to support the platform committee majority's proposal as a voting delegate, and I encourage others to do so. Here's why:

- Yes, the 2006 platform process was a debacle, but the 2004 platform was bloated, poorly formatted and did need streamlining. A step backward is not a step forward. Better to plunge ahead than to mess around with "do overs."

- Destination Liberty fails for me on two grounds. First, it retains the truly awful 2004 formatting style of "issue, principles, solutions, transitional actions." Secondly, Destination Liberty had its genesis in the Restoration Caucus's efforts ... and I believe that a number of Libertarian activists signed the petition to "Restore '04!" under the impression that "Restoring 04!" was that effort's single goal, with any subsequent changes being left to others. I believe those activists were poorly used to the extent that their names have been subsequently associated with a second, different proposal than the one they thought they were signing on to support.

- No, I do not agree with everything in the platform committee's offering, and I'll be glad to hash through those disagreements (role of government, military and intelligence, immigration, etc.) in comments with anyone who cares to discuss them. However, it is far superior in formatting, covers most of the issues I want to see covered if we're going to have an issues-oriented rather than directional platform, and while it doesn't meet my raving anarchist exacting specifications on several issues, it does consistently call for "less government."

I'm big-tent. I'm in this for the long haul. I'm willing to wait for the opportunity to amend. I support the party's committee processes and prefer to work through them as opposed to through dissenting blocs whenever possible (not that I won't do the latter when necessary). And in this case I believe that the platform committee process has produced an offering superior to competing offerings. For all those reasons, I support -- and urge other delegates to support -- adoption of the platform committee's draft in toto (update: See addendum/erratum below).

[addendum/erratum] -- I almost forgot, and it would have been quite embarrassing to have done so: I do not support any changes, including the platform committee's proposals, to the party's Statement of Principles. In referring to the "platform" and to any draft offerings, I mean to refer to those draft offerings on the platform proper, not on the Statement of Principles, a document which I consider a prologue to, rather than part of, the platform. I also oppose any parliamentary trickery intended to get around the 7/8th voting requirement for amending the SoP.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Barr's line in the sand

The Boston Globe seems to be the only MSM outfit featuring this gem from Bob Barr's presidential campaign announcement press conference today (hat tip to Crazy for Liberty):

In a news conference, Barr said "only a fool" would specify a date and timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. But he said it's "extremely important" and in the best interest of national defense to draw down dramatically the US troop presence in Iraq and decrease the military and political footprint in Iraq.

There are only two reasonably likely outcomes in Iraq: An orderly withdrawal on an announced timetable, or a "last helicopter out of Saigon as the embassy is overrun" scenario. Barr has now publicly positioned himself -- and, if he receives its presidential nomination, the Libertarian Party -- in support of the latter.

As for the third possible outcome, "victory" in Iraq, well, I don't think that is possible ... but just to accommodate any hawkish readers, if it is, it won't be achieved by Barr's proposal to "draw down dramatically the US troop presence in Iraq." It would require a much larger, and much longer, "surge." So Barr's not appealing to the "victory" crowd either.

I just don't see what voter bloc Barr thinks he can appeal to with a "don't withdraw, but draw down" Iraq plank. The hawks aren't going to buy it; and neither are the majority of Americans who favor withdrawal; nor especially are the Ron Paul voters who will be looking for a candidate to support after the GOP's national convention. Whom, exactly, does a weak-sister version of McCain's "100 years in Iraq" nonsense make Barr look good to?

I started off reserving judgment, and willing to be enthusiastic about a Barr candidacy if at all possible. But as the negatives -- especially the conflict of interest inherent in his continuing financial support of Republican candidates, including the loathsome chickenhawk Saxby Chambliss, while sitting on the Libertarian National Committee -- mounted, so did my skepticism.

Still, until today I held out hope that if he announced, Barr would hit hard with a strong Libertarian policy platform -- a "road to Damascus" turnaround story that would position him, and the party, as a real alternative this November.

Instead, he came out with yet another round of timid, milquetoast policy pronouncements guaranteed to enthuse nobody who hasn't already bought in to his candidacy on the basis of his personal stature. With apologies to Aaron Tippin: Instead of standing for something, Barr seems to be betting that the Libertarian Party will fall for anything.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Definitions for Dondero: "Islamo-Fascism"

[Note: In discussion and debate with Eric Dondero, I frequently find myself forced to repeat certain explanations of the obvious. This new, occasional feature at KN@PPSTER is intended to reduce the labor involved in that process by allowing me to simply link to said explanations rather than laboriously typing them into blog comments and such - TLK]

The highest value of Islamic theocrats is God.

The highest value of fascists is the state.

The central tenet of Islamic theocratic political movements is that the state must be subservient to God.

The central tenet of fascist political movements is that the state is God.

Therefore, there is no such thing -- by definition there can be no such thing -- as "Islamo-Fascism."

Debating US foreign policy with someone who quacks about "Islamo-Fascism" is like debating pool cleaning techniques with someone who babbles about the magic fairies who live in his pool's pump system and are ejected into the pool when the pump is turned on. He's either ignorant of the nature of what he's seeing come out of the pump, or he's bullshitting you, or he's barking mad. None of those conditions are conducive to meaningful discussion or debate, and you are therefore best off seeking another interlocutor -- one who chooses to inhabit, and is capable of living in, the real world instead of an imagined or manufactured alternative universe.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Prologue: The LP National Convention is Decadent and Depraved

... or at least it will be. I'm going to Denver, folks.

St. Louis. Shit. I'm still only in St.Louis.

Every time I think I'm going to wake up back in the delegate business session. When I was home after my first convention, it was worse. I'd wake up and there'd be nothing ...

I hardly said a word to my wife until I said yes to managing her US Senate campaign. When I was here I wanted to be there. When I was there, all I could think of was getting back into the smoke-filled rooms. I've been here for four years now. Waiting for a floor fight, getting softer. Every minute I stay in this room I get weaker. And every minute Wayne Allyn Root squats in his Las Vegas mansion he gets stronger. Each time I look around the walls move in a little tighter.

Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a presidential campaign, and for my sins they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service.

In consequence whereof I have once again shaved my head. I may be a congressional candidate, but right now it's time to go to war. Hair grows back.

I wasn't planning to go, but at the last minute some people who really want me there managed to come up with the minimal amount of juice to make it happen. After talking with Tamara, I decided that I just couldn't miss this. If I go and my side loses, well, I go and my side loses ... but if I didn't go and my side lost, I'd spend the rest of my life wondering if I could have made a difference.

I'm going solo -- not enough money to make it into a family vacation -- and I'm traveling light. So light, in fact, that I need a ride. I can pony up an eminently reasonable amount for gas and such and I'm willing to accomodate your schedule [1]. If you're traveling from or through St. Louis for the convention and want to cut your gas costs, drop me a line at kubby dot communications at gmail dot com. I want to have the transportation details firmed up by the 15th if possible.

In Denver, I'll naturally be working for a couple of fine candidates for presidential nominations, LNC and such.

I'll also be serving as a delegate from Missouri, and as press from Third Party Watch (you'll probably see some liveblogging from me and the rest of the TPW crew).

In between all that, I hope to put in some time at the ISIL/Laissez Faire Books booth and the LP Radical Caucus booth.

And, of course, eating, drinking and making babies merry with old and new friends.

I also do weddings. No, really, I do. I'm an ordained minister (and a Litterarum Doctor -- I do linguistic appendectomies). If you're thinking about getting married and want to do it in Denver, let me know and I'll be happy to hitch you. My fee ranges from "here, have a mint julep" to "here, have a love offering." If I know in advance, I can order a nice marriage certificate, etc. to round out the ceremony (gummint licenses and such are on you, if you feel you need them).

Speaking of which, the rare bleg:

I've got the bare bones covered. I can make some driver very much less unhappy about gas expenses. I have crash space arranged. I have a few bucks for burgers. But I'm always happy to drink Maker's Mark instead of Kentucky Tavern, if you know what I mean. Throw me a few bucks and let me know how I can reciprocate. Rough sex? Give your regards to [insert name of prominent Libertarian here] in Denver? Try to get an answer to your question from the candidate who's been avoiding you? Publicly laud/link you for your generosity? I'm sure we can work something out.

The fat's in the fire, Bubba. Time to strap on the old athletic supporter and get in the game. See you there.


1. My preferred schedule is to leave late Wednesday (May 21st) or early Thursday (May 22nd), and to arrive back in St. Louis no later than late the following Tuesday (May 27th). I try to be a good travel partner. I smoke, but if you don't I won't do so in the car, and I'll try not to smell like smoke when I get in it. I won't load up on beans and garlicky food before we leave, and I'll try not to bitch too much about the long drive through Kansas. If necessary, I'll even listen to your Don Henley tape for several hours without complaint before asking if we can put in some Grateful Dead.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Clinton, McCain don't go far enough

Hillary Clinton and John McCain have both taken some flak over their suggestion that the federal tax on gasoline be given a "holiday" -- i.e. not collected -- between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Isn't it funny how no scheme is too outlandish until it might in any way, shape, manner or form reduce government revenues, at which point it instantly becomes "unserious?" Of all the entities in society -- my family, your family, the grocery store down the street, the multi-national corporation down the road -- government is the only one that is untouchable and must never be required to pare back its planned spending or tighten its belt in any way. Suggest taxing salaries in excess of $200k at 100% and you're in the mainstream. Suggest cutting the federal budget by a nickel and you're some kind of lunatic.

That's not to say I support the McCain/Clinton scheme. I don't think it goes nearly far enough. I favor Steve Kubby's proposal -- a "holiday" on the whole federal income tax from now through the end of 2008. Now that's a friggin' tax holiday! I can hear the blood vessels breaking loose in Nancy Pelosi's brain all the way over here in St. Louis.

Excerpt and notes: Cargo Cult Libertarians

This is part of an article I wrote some years ago, the rest of which is trapped in the bowels of a mySQL database that used to run an obsolete version of one of my sites. I'm posting it here because I intend to refer to it in comments elsewhere.


The cargo cults are religions (or something resembling religions) which took root in South Pacific Islands after WWII. Observing that Westerners had such amenities as refrigerators, air conditioners, etc., and that Westerners were brought shiny new things by airplanes, the cargo cultists hypothesized a connection. They built elaborate replicas of technological devices -- refrigerators of wood and bamboo which looked exactly like the Kenmore[TM] in your kitchen, in the hopes that, if they looked and acted enough like Westerners, the airplanes would arrive with shiny new stuff for them. Yes, this is an over-simplification, but it'll do for the point I’m trying to make.

Cargo Cult Libertarians observe that successful Republican and Democrat politicans wear suits and power ties, that successful Republican and Democrat politicians exude confidence, that successful Republican and Democrat politicians shy from the radical, and that successful Republican and Democrat politicians take a smooth, milquetoast, middle of the road, "well, Bob" approach in media interviews.

From this, they hypothesize that if they, as Libertarians, wear suits and power ties, exude confidence, shy from the radical, and take a smooth, milquetoast, middle of the road, "well, Bob" approach in media interviews and public appearances, that they will magically become successful Libertarian politicians.

Needless to say, it doesn't work that way. Voters who want cuddly, well-dressed, moderate, confidence-exuding, "well Bob" politicians already have them. We call them Republicans and Democrats. The LP's future, if it has one, lies precisely with those Americans who sense a need for a radical, in your face, "well, Bob, fuck the conventional wisdom" alternative.


While I still think the above is solid, I also believe I drew some erroneous conclusions from it at the time. To clarify: I don't have anything against suits, power ties, confidence or smooth rhetorical delivery per se.

What I do have a problem with is the idea that any of those things trump, or can be usefully substituted for, libertarianism in a libertarian campaign.

I don't believe that libertarian ideas can only succeed if they're disguised and smuggled in rather than openly advocated. I don't believe that libertarian ideas can be implemented in the real world by jettisoning them at the first hint of controversy.

And I sure as hell don't believe that the Libertarian Party should submit to extortion on the part of Cargo Cultists whose main threat is "if you don't ditch your libertarian presidential candidates and nominate a Cargo Cultist, we'll .... TALK ABOUT LIBERTARIANISM!" Just because Cargo Cultists find libertarianism embarrassing and controversial, that doesn't mean that the rest of us do too.

Now, granted, my strong preference this year is to run a "mainstream" campaign for Congress, focusing on issues that American voters care about and that large numbers of American voters tend toward the libertarian side of: Ending the war on Iraq, cutting taxes, repealing the USA PATRIOT ACT, ending marriage apartheid, etc. Not non-libertarian ideas, but rather the libertarian ideas that are most likely to elicit a positive response. Leading with your most timely and popular positions just makes sense.

But ... I don't negotiate with terrorists. When the Cargo Cultists tell me that if my party doesn't nominate one of their ilk for president they'll spend the summer and fall hyping the issues they find embarrassing, my reaction is simple: Go for it, and right back at ya.

To put it a different way:

- If the Libertarian Party nominates a libertarian (Steve Kubby or Mary Ruwart, for example) for president, I'll happily spend the summer and fall campaigning on ending the war on Iraq, cutting taxes, repealing the USA PATRIOT ACT, ending marriage apartheid, etc., exactly as I expect that presidential candidate will.

- If, on the other hand, the Libertarian Party nominates one of the Cargo Cultists' preferred candidates [bolded material edited after initial publication] (Wayne Allyn Root or Bob Barr, for example) for president, I may just forego my own campaign aspirations and instead spend my time promoting the presidential campaign ... by circulating brochures featuring private ownership of nukes and legal heroin for six-year-olds.

Go ahead. Try me.