Saturday, August 30, 2008

Aphorisms for Activists

If you find yourself in possession of a silver bullet, consider it a sign that now is the time to put your hobbyhorse out of its misery. -- KN@PPSTER

Friday, August 29, 2008

Three down, 47 to go ...

OK, so we're not going to get another 47 this year, but there may still be a few more states coming up.

The Boston Tea Party's presidential slate is on the ballot in Colorado, submitted petition signatures and elector statements in Tennessee earlier this month, and submitted elector statements in Florida today.

Although I'm the national vice-presidential nominee, so far I'll only appear alongside presidential nominee Charles Jay on the ballot as such in Tennessee. I've been encouraging the BTP's state parties to run "favorite sons or daughters" in each state, so the BTP's VP slot is filled in Colorado by Dan Sallis, Jr. and in Florida by John Wayne Smith.

I suppose we could stretch this to five states: The BTP's national committee has endorsed the Libertarian Party's ticket of George Phillies and Chris Bennett in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Congratulations to the BTP on accomplishing so much, especially given its bumpy road to reorganization and reactivation earlier this year!

Too little, too late, but better than the alternatives

The press is reporting (here's a St. Louis Post-Dispatch flash) that John McCain has selected Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Like I said back in February:

There's not enough bumbo in the world to get me to pull the lever for the Republican presidential ticket, but "libertarian Republicans" need something to justify their their allegiance, and Palin on the ticket as VP fits the bill.

I'm sure Eric Dondero is greatly relieved that he no longer has to try selling Mitt Romney as a "libertarian Republican" in order to have an excuse to vote for McCain. Not that there's any such thing as a "libertarian Republican." But if there was, Palin would at least vaguely resemble the description.

However, I don't think that even Palin as a running mate is enough to give McCain a fighting chance to crawl out from under the Obama steamroller. Not after That Speech last night. On the other hand, running under McCain this time puts Palin in a good spot to seek the top slot herself in 2012. She already has more executive experience than Barack Obama -- and if she holds on to her position as governor and wins re-election, that will still be true four years from now. Of the names that have been floating around, she was far and away the best pick for McCain to make.

I'm already seeing comments from Dems that their veep nominee, Joe Biden, will "bury" her in debate. Don't bet on it. This lady has repeatedly taken on her own party's establishment in Alaska and she usally whips them like red-headed stepchildren. I rather expect that Palin will mop the floor with Joe Biden in any debate encounter. She's a scrapper -- and he's a political has-been whose foreign policy line is warmed-over Bushevism and whose demeanor ... well, let's just say there are now two used car salesman types running for vice-president.

That Speech

Now see here ... I'm not going to vote for Barack Obama. Ain't gonna happen. Not in a million years. Yellow dog before I'll vote duopoly again. And That Speech was full of premises, promises and plans I wholeheartedly disagree with.

Honestly, until tonight I considered Barack Obama ... well, not quite an empty suit, understand, but more or less a suit with nothing but an over-inflated ego filling it.

For more than a year -- starting when his nomination campaign was at its low point and others were taking bets on when his campaign would end -- I've been predicting that John McCain would win this election in a walk.

But: Oh, That Speech. Out. Of. The. Friggin'. Park.

It's going to take a miracle for the GOP's national convention to come off as anything but anti-climax, like the part of the film credits where even the diehards have satisfied their curiosity about the supporting actors and who wrote the score, and just want to get out of the damn theatre and find a good place to eat.

Tonight, I say to the American people, to Democrats and Republicans and independents across this great land — enough! This moment — this election — is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive. Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third. And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight. On November 4, we must stand up and say: "Eight is enough."

Bam. That's the campaign right there. Make no mistake about it: Barack Obama isn't running against John McCain, he's running against George W. Bush. Tonight, he finally and firmly stood McCain next to Bush and stuck an "I'm With Stupid" t-shirt on him.

This isn't just any old election. This is America deciding whether to stand the Republican Party in the corner for four or maybe eight years, or to drag it down to the principal's office, paddle its ass but good, bounce it out to the sidewalk, and stamp "EXPELLED: PERMANENT" on its file. Barring some truly bizarre and catastrophic development, there just ain't no gold stars or smiley-face stickers in the GOP's immediate future.

Will he be a good president? I'm not the guy to ask -- I don't think we've had a really good president since at least, oh, Grover Cleveland ... if ever.

Will we get good government from Obama? If we do, it will be the first time in history that said mythical creature has been observed, in the wild or in captivity.

Will the Democrats do a better job than the Republicans? It's tempting to assume that they couldn't do a worse job ... but if politics throughout history has proven nothing else, it has proven that things can always get worse, and frequently do.

I do think we'll get a genuine commitment to "America" ... at least in the way that Barack Obama understands that word as idea. His understanding is defective, but does include some truths. That's not enough to make me a Democrat. It's not enough to get me to vote for him. However, it is enough to make me hopeful that some small diamonds may yet be hauled out of the pit of Democratic ideas.

Monday, August 25, 2008

In search of a debatable proposition

I can't decide whether I should be amused or distressed. It's rather a bit of a toss-up, and I guess it really depends on whether the "Libertarian" "Defense" Caucus has chosen to dedicate 50% of its site content to slagging me because they regard little ol' me as a much bigger threat to their agenda than I plausibly am, or whether the they consider their stated principles to be so well- and fully-implemented that all they have left to do is play the dozens with hecklers.

The whole thing started with my assertion that former US Senator Mike Gravel's call for public harassment of a bad government actor is not, as the LDC puts it, "beyond the pale, certainly unlibertarian and possibly illegal." From there, it has escalated into full-scale symphonic whining on some LDC members' part that I refuse to "debate" them.

In point of fact, I've agreed to debate several times, and even offered to do so against the only LDC member who's likely to land a punch on me. All I've asked for is a debatable proposition, i.e. one that I disagree with and that is specific enough to meaningfully argue for or against. What's been proffered instead is a string of propositions which I don't necessarily disagree with. If I don't necessarily disagree with something, I'm hard put to debate it other than for narcissistic purposes. But, of course, the offered propositions carefully exclude issues on which the LDC and I dis-agree, followed by trumpet blasts and false innuendo to the effect that I actually agree with LDC's agenda and don't know it.

Gordian Knot time. I hereby offer the following propositions, and invite anyone and everyone, LDC members included, to debate said propositions in the comments to this post or in some other suitable forum.

First two propositions:

Resolved, that the invasion and subsequent occupation of Afghanistan as implemented by the US government have failed in their objectives if those objectives included liquidation, or even significant long-term degradation of, the Command, Control, Communications and Information functions, or the effectiveness of the operators in conducting terror attacks, of the terrorist organization al Qaeda.

Resolved, that the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq as implemented by the US government have allowed al Qaeda to more than make good on any short-term degradation of its C3I functions and operational efficacy which might have occurred as a result of the Afghanistan invasion and occupation.

Secondary, nominally dependent propositions:

Resolved, that the primary effect of the alleged ongoing "war on terrorism," as launched and promoted by the Bush administration and embraced by the LDC, has not been significant progress toward the defeat of terrorism, but rather the maintenance of either the existence or the appearance of a significant existential threat to the United States which masks and/or purports to justify a massive transfer of wealth from the pockets of taxpayers to the bottom lines of corporations which support the American political status quo with campaign contributions, sweetheart post-government sinecures for cooperative public officials, etc. and other forms of bribery.

Resolved, that a secondary effect of the alleged ongoing "war on terrorism," as launched and promoted by the Bush administration and embraced by the LDC, is an expansion of the size, scope and power of the US government versus its own citizens which entrenches a kleptocratic status quo and shatters constitutional constraints versus violations of civil liberties.

Tertiary, nominally dependent proposition:

Resolved, contra the LDC's claim in its (exceedingly poorly written) Statement of Principles that "a global war on terrorism exists," that "the global war on terrorism" actually constitutes -- whether by design or through poor implementation -- unremitting economic and physical war on the American people by the very government which claims as its raison d'etre the mission of securing their rights.

I await the replies of the LDC debaters as to whether or not they are interested in debating any of these propositions, or in offering debatable propositions of their own.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Could someone please light a match?

Match for my donation to AntiWar.Com, that is? They're conducting their quarterly fundraiser, and it's not looking so good at the moment.

Four days into what should be a one-week drive, they're at less than 1/3 of goal (about where my own publication is in its less ambitious fundraiser, as it happens).

I'm not a wealthy guy, but I send AntiWar.Com $5 a month and consider it a fantastic investment. The Russia-Georgia war of the last week or so is just the latest example of AWC shedding merciless light on a situation when all we've received from the US "mainstream media" is a straight feed of the War Party's line. Let's help them keep delivering the truth.

N.B. If you sign on as a monthly AWC pledger, feel free to join the web ring I've created just for people like you.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Faux libertarians throw rocks at Gravel

Suppose you knew that a man was a thug, responsible for the abduction of at least one, perhaps many, innocents. And suppose you publicly advocated calling attention to this man's evil deeds -- following him around, denouncing him, mocking him, urging civil society to shun him, and agitating for his removal from a position of authority which he has abused.

Most libertarians would not only defend your right to engage in such public advocacy, but laud you for seeking redress versus the thug in that manner rather than invoking the same kind of force with which the thug has previously achieved his goals.

But if your name is Mike Gravel, and if the thug in question is Assistant US Attorney Gordon Kromberg, and if his best-known victim is an Arab, the "Libertarian" "Defense" Caucus will describe your advocacy as "beyond the pale, certainly unlibertarian and possibly illegal."

It's difficult not to think of that "beyond the pale" as a bit of a Freudian slip, pales being political districts beyond or into which disapproved groups were forbidden to travel. The "Libertarian" "Defense" Caucus has created its own pale -- a conceptual rather than geographical one, true, but its obvious purpose is the same as that of Imperial Russia's Pale of Settlement: To isolate members of a particular Semitic ethnic group for purposes of persecution and pogrom.

The "Libertarian" "Defense" Caucus is neither libertarian nor supportive of defense. They're an authoritarian pro-aggression cabal (fortunately a relatively insignificant one) dedicated to false advertising in support of the managerial warfare state. Whatever his faults (and yes, he has some big ones) Senator Gravel is more libertarian on his worst day than this organization is on its best.

Friday, August 08, 2008

But on the bright side ...

After a disappointing primary night, I'm back on the horse ... and things are actually looking pretty good!

I expected the Democrats to field a strong candidate and really contest Missouri's 2nd US House district for the first time in eight years. That pretty much narrowed my job down to going after entrenched incumbent Republican Todd Akin from the usual "Libertarians are kind of right-wingers" angle and trying to beat him down enough to make the race competitive.

I wasn't very comfortable with that job description. "Left-libertarian" is a self-description I take seriously, and I kept finding myself coming at this thing from that direction no matter how hard I tried to fit into the conventional wisdom mold. I mean, c'mon: I support impeachment. My campaign is carbon-neutral. I support marriage equality. I support unconditional withdrawal from Iraq. My tax cut proposals are "bottom-up," not "trickle-down." I can't imagine that I've been breaking loose many Republican votes.

The Democrats surprised me -- they nominated Bill Haas. He's a "political solution in Iraq" fence-sitter and an "America must defend Israel" interventionist. He's not sure whether he supports marriage equality or wants the government to inspect flies and look up skirts. Also ... well ... some of Haas's co-partisans seem to think he's insane.

Not having met the man, I can't testify as to his mental status, but I'm just sayin'. Third party candidates almost automatically get pigeonholed as marginal. It can't hurt my vote totals to have one or both of the major party candidates perceived as even more far out, and not in good ways, than the Libertarian in the race.

Much to my surprise, I appear to be the candidate of the principled Left in this election. Not at all what I expected, but definitely what I'm most comfortable with.

Even more surprisingly, I also seem to be a strong contender for the "Least Likely to be Arrested While Running Down the Street Screaming 'Wildman! Wildman! Wildman!' Naked (Except for Wearing Someone Else's Head as a Hat)" nod.

As the first order of post-primary business, I have challenged my opponents to a series of six debates. I'm willing to add a seventh "Competitive Rorschach Inkblot Test" event if anyone's interested.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Congressional campaign update: Back to the drawing board

[Cross-posted from my campaign web site - TLK]

The conventional wisdom says that politicians should never admit failure. We should drag our feet, try to put the best spin on things, and then issue a grudging "mistakes were made" and blame our opponents if the matter becomes controversial and can't be ignored.

Well, screw the conventional wisdom.

I articulated specific, quantifiable goals for the primary election phase of this campaign. Supporters wrote checks to help me achieve those goals. And I failed to do so. It's that simple.

So, as you read the details, please take this to heart: I'm not going to spin. I'm not going to offer excuses. At the end of the day, those goals weren't met, and at the end of the day only one person -- me, the candidate -- can be responsible for the fact that they weren't met. All the rest is trying to figure out why, and what direction to take moving forward.

Now, to the ugly numbers:

My goal was to double -- and hopefully quadruple -- participation in the LP primary over that in the last election.

In 2006, the LP's candidate for US Representative in Missouri's 2nd District received 215 votes of 70,798 total votes cast -- 0.3%.

Yesterday, I received 211 votes of 76,297 total votes cast -- 0.27%.

There's no way to get lipstick on this pig. Not only did I poll fewer votes, I polled a lower percentage of the vote.

Some other statistics and musings

- Compared to the last primary in a presidential election year (2004), my vote percentage was the same as the LP candidate's that year (0.27%).

- Compared to other LP congressional candidates in Missouri, I polled in the middle -- of six LP congressional candidates in Missouri, I had the third highest percentage.

- Statewide, LP primary turnout (based on the highest statewide candidate vote) this year was down 56% from the 2004 primary ... but up by about 2% from 2006. So I underperformed versus the general trend as well.

Why did I under-perform and fail to meet my goals?

Once again, let me first take personal responsibility: Some of the things I intended to get done, I didn't.

I planned to get signs in front of polling places, and didn't due to a family schedule conflict.

I planned to hang every last postcard and brochure in my possession on doors or cars. I didn't get all of them out. Most of them, but not all of them.

Here's what I did do in the last week to maximize my votes:

- I mailed GOTV postcards to about 300 individuals, almost all of them identified as dues-paying LP members or dues-lapsed LP members, and almost all of the rest people who had contacted the LP at one time or another (a very few were sent to officials of another party -- I was hoping to provoke a response by making them think every voter in the district was receiving the mailing).

- I did a neighborhood lit drop of another 400 or so postcards and general party brochures in an area that I had identified as likely open to a Libertarian candidacy, and where I had previously attended events and sought community interaction.

- I recorded a GOTV message and purchased "robo-calls" to 265 phone numbers (excluding unanswered/busy/disconnected numbers) associated with LP contacts in the district.

First conclusion:

Either none of these things worked, or LP voter turnout was "naturally" far more depressed in this district than in others. I don't think the latter is a supportable conclusion. The approach I took just didn't work.

Second conclusion:

The fact that none of these things worked demonstrates either that I'm an inferior candidate as compared to other LP candidates and would "naturally" have polled even fewer votes without these efforts; or that I'm a stellar candidate but the techniques not only don't work but in general but actually hurt; or that I'm a candidate of about the same quality as other LP candidates and that these techniques were ineffective on the small scale with which I was able to deploy them.

I can't exclude the first possibility. Maybe I'm just not very attractive as a candidate for public office.

Since the techniques in question have been demonstrated time and time again over the years to work for other candidates, especially major party ones, I have to swallow my pride and assume that no, I'm not an especially great candidate plagued by an unavailability of useful promotional tools.

That leaves the third possibility. Perhaps a 300-piece mailing, a 265-call GOTV phone effort, and a 500-piece lit drop are just drops in the bucket which can't be expected to have a significant effect (although when the full results are in, you can bet I'll be analyzing precincts to see if the targeted areas produced better results than background).

There's a fourth possibility, of course: Perhaps the quality of our party's approach this year has depressed LP primary turnout in general, while my "dissident" status in the party alienated LP regulars, sticking me with a double whammy at the polls that negated my efforts. That's not a conclusion which sufficient data is available to support or disprove yet. I'm only bringing it out to show that I'm aware of the possibility, not to argue for its likelihood.

Where do we go from here?

Short answer: I'm not sure yet.

Longer answer: I'm going to take a few days to assess the results in more detail.

I'm going to find out if I did better in the areas I targeted than I did in the general vote. If so, then I'll know that I need to do more of what I've been doing. If not, then I'll know that I need to do different things than I've been doing.

Once I've figured that out, then I'll lay out a general election campaign plan and ask my supporters and contributors to support and contribute to it.

Speaking of which, I've saved the most important part for last: I want to thank each of you who wrote a check, helped distribute literature, sent me a note of encouragement, or in any other way made the first part of this campaign a rewarding and enjoyable experience for me as a candidate. Most particularly, I want to thank my campaign treasurer, Paula Benski, who has kept the numbers straight and put up with yard signs being stacked on her back porch after a mis-delivery.

I also want to apologize once again to each of you for not bringing you the results I had hoped for and, frankly, expected. All the foregoing analysis notwithstanding, it still comes back to the candidate. I'm the guy who's out on the hustings and making the decisions, and if I'm not doing well, the blame has to finally rest with me.

Yours in liberty,
Tom Knapp
Libertarian for US Representative

Monday, August 04, 2008

About Kevin Craig

Well, it was going to happen sooner or later. And now that it has, I guess it's incumbent upon at least one Missouri Libertarian Party member / candidate / official / whatever to set the record straight:

The libertarian blogosphere has noticed Kevin Craig. Specifically, both CLS of Classically Liberal and Steve Newton of Delaware Libertarian have written posts on his candidacy and his ... unusual ... beliefs.

First, three disclaimers:

- Not only do I not share Kevin Craig's religious beliefs, I believe that his use of them in his campaigns for public office are both bad strategy per se and potentially damaging to the Libertarian Party.

- I do, however, like Kevin Craig. He's a reader, and occasional commenter, on this blog. He seems like a personable individual. He seems to be inclined to be helpful when possible (for example, correcting my directions to readers on the location of a great Greek restaurant, and offering to webcast a controversial MOLP executive committee conference call). Batshit insane as regards the gospel, IMO, but not a bad egg as a person.

- And finally, it is my belief that Kevin Craig is, indeed, a libertarian. Specifically, he's a Rothbardian "anarcho-capitalist" if I am not much mistaken. And among the opinions on religion as it applies to politics that you'll find on his campaign web site is this one: "True religion cannot be advanced through the use of government coercion, confiscation of property, or deprivation of life or liberty." Unlike Sonny Landham, whom both bloggers have compared him to, I have no reason to believe that Craig advocates the use of a tax-funded military to conduct a war of genocide so that we can steal other people's oil.

Now that those points have been covered, I'm just going to offer a few clarifications regarding the situation as it has been covered by those blogs I mention above.

First, according to CLS, "the Libertarian Party of Missouri is letting [Craig run a 'religious revival meeting' as opposed to a political campaign]." According to Newton, "several of the LP state parties [including, the context indicates, Missouri's] have gone so far afield to find candidates that they've recruited pure whackjobs ..."

Those statements reflect a hopefully correctable ignorance ("lack of knowledge").

The Missouri LP isn't "letting" Craig run for office. Under Missouri's election laws, any constitutionally qualified individual can pay a "filing fee" and run in any established party's primary. If that person wins the primary (and any voter can take any party's ballot in it), he or she becomes that party's candidate. The MOLP has no say in the matter (under the law, anyway -- more on that below).

Nor, to the best of my knowledge, did anyone in the Missouri LP "recruit" Kevin Craig to run for any office. He moved to Missouri from California, where he had previously been an LP candidate, and apparently decided on his own to continue said avocation.

Finally, to my certain knowledge, attempts were made by at least one Missouri Libertarian (me) to recruit a candidate other than Craig to run in the primary for Missouri's 7th District seat in the US House of Representatives this year. Those attempts were unsuccessful, but they were made -- I approached at least two LP activists, to my recollection, about running. They both declined.

Moving on ... the Missouri LP's executive committee is not empowered to make negative statements about Libertarian candidates. Such statements would constitute "censure" or "disavowal," and those kinds of actions require a super-majority vote of the party's state committee, which usually meets only once a year. The executive committee is only permitted, per its bylaws, to take actions which the state committee could take on a simple majority vote.

Now, there is a twist here. I'll try to make it as simple as possible to understand.

Back in 2006, Missouri's Secretary of State got it into her head somehow that she's permitted to re-write the state's election laws at will (apparently that's a common misconception -- a US District Court in Ohio recently had to disabuse another Secretary of State of the notion). Specifically, she decided that even though the law only requires that filing fees be "paid," she would personally require that they be "accepted" by the political parties to whom they were made out (yes, you read that right -- filing fees in Missouri are converted into contributions to the political parties on whose tickets the candidates are running).

The Secretary of State presumably reached this conclusion because it was convenient for her party (the Democratic Party), which wanted to reject the candidacy of a neo-Nazi in its own primary for, you guessed it, Missouri's 7th District US House seat. That neo-Nazi then attempted to file on the LP's ticket, and we (to my everlasting regret, I supported the action) took advantage of the Secretary of State's lawlessness to keep that neo-Nazi from running against ... wait for it ... Kevin Craig! ... in the primary.

The chicken of our connivance in crime with the Secretary of State has since come home to roost. This year, the MOLP's executive committee revolted against not only Missouri's election laws, and not only against its own party's bylaws, but against the explicit instructions of its superior body, the state committee, and "refused the filing fee" of the party's best-performing candidate in a three-way race in 2006 (Chief Wana Dubie, who ran for State Senate that year) when he tried to enter our party's gubernatorial primary. That abomination took place over my strenuous objection. I've learned my lesson, albeit obviously too late -- the genie is out of the botle and the MOLP exec comm appears to have re-envisioned itself as the Unquestionable All-Being Supreme Master of Time, Space and Dimension.

Frankly, I was surprised that Kevin Craig didn't get the same ax that Chief Wana Dubie did. Some members of the executive committee were visibly drooling over the possibility that they'd get to pull the same scam on a two-time prior LP gubernatorial nominee for the effrontery of having shown up at a 2004 candidate forum in a Hawaiian shirt ... but he foiled them by not filing this time. Damn the bad luck. And, for whatever reason, they ignored Craig.

So, as you can see, the situation is a bit more complex than either CLS or Steve Newton credited it with being. Kevin Craig was not recruited -- he recruited himself. His primary candidacy was not universally unopposed -- I tried to recruit a primary opponent. The MOLP did not "let" Craig have its ballot line -- legally, the MOLP has zero control over who gets its ballot line. And the MOLP executive committee's silence on the matter is a simple function of its bylaws, by which it occasionally (if seemingly randomly) deigns to abide.


Saturday, August 02, 2008

A literary pre-recommendation

There are probably four or five authors on the face of this earth whose books I'm willing to recommend without having first read them. One of those authors is Larry Beinhart. I just had a note from him (how's that for name-dropping, guys? I'm special, nyah, nyah ... but okay, it may have been a form letter) letting me know that his new novel, Salvation Boulevard, hits the stores in September. Here's a "fair use," and therefore partial, synopsis from Publishers Weekly:

When Ahmad Nazami, a Muslim scholarship student at the University of the Southwest, confesses under duress to the murder of Nathaniel MacLeod, an atheist philosophy professor, PI Carl Van Wagener, a born-again Christian, agrees to help Manny Goldfarb, a celebrated Jewish defense lawyer, prove Nazami's innocence.

Beinhart writes a great political thriller. He writes a great mystery. He does a solid "industry insider" story. He can write in first person, present tense without putting me to sleep, and he blurs the fiction/fact line in a way that leaves the reader (this reader, anyway) ... wondering. The obvious example of all these claims is American Hero (and if you've seen "Wag the Dog," don't try to conflate -- you need to read the book). His overtly non-fictional non-fiction is cool, too. I've read all of his published novels, and am entirely comfortable telling you -- with it sight unseen -- that you'll enjoy this one.

So: Ask your local bookstore to stock Salvation Boulevard. Or if you're a lazy Internet junkie, you can pre-order it online instead. Here, I'll help. And no, I'm not being paid or otherwise bribed to post this (although I'll make a few pennies if you click through to buy from Amazon). I just love a good story, Beinhart tells one, and I like to share.