Sunday, October 25, 2009

Collinsville, Illinois is Decadent and Depraved

This post started with a "Collinsville, Illinois" dateline, and as a basic five-point news update, but in the middle of things I decided to get back to what was going on and write it up later. From a blogging standpoint, there wasn't anything of the "I've got to tell everyone right friggin' now" variety going on, so hanging around the hotel's business center scaring the office supply salesmen didn't seem to be the best use of my time.

Five-point lede: The Libertarian Party of Illinois convened this weekend at the Collinsville Doubletree Inn for its annual business meeting w/surrounding activities.

The weekend's events opened with a Friday night cocktail reception and the business meeting portion of the convention takes place today; I attended the Saturday portion -- the transition period between "social time" and "getting business done." This included breakout sessions of an educational nature for party activists, a forum for the LPI's 2010 candidates for public office, etc. That's the basic story, the summation of which is "and a good time was had by all."

If I'd written this up earlier, either during the festivities or before sleeping off a 30-hour or so "day," it might have had a more gonzo feel to it. Eight hours of sleep makes a big difference, though, so I won't belabor the experience of getting there, other than to mention that due to conflicting family travel plans and tragic misinterpretations of public transit schedules it ended up entailing a ten-mile walk (don't even try to top me on "shoeleather reporting," Stacy -- I covered that ten miles in 2.5 hours in dress shoes and carrying a duffel bag stuffed full of crap including a hardcover edition of Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon) and an ass-over-teakettle, hand-disfiguring encounter with a government-installed barbed wire fence. My survival skills triumphed, with a little help from Jim Beam and Whitecastle.

But enough of the whole fear and loathing angle -- back to the convention: It's always good to hook up with old friends and meet with new ones. My rough count of attendance at the convention was 50 or so, and if I tried to name everyone I'd miss someone, so -- if your name isn't here, it's because I didn't catch it in its entirety (the aforementioned barbed wire incident made jotting down notes, always a problem for me, even more so).

The out-of-staters rate first mention:

Ken Krawchuk was scheduled to give the post-lunch talk, which I missed, but he and his lovely wife Roberta were pressed into additional service when one of the presenters had to cancel. I attended that workshop, which was on Toastmasters as a tool for improving one's public speaking skills. It just so happens that the two of them are long time members of that organization and run a Libertarian Toastmasters group in Pennsyvlania. They improvised, adapted, put on a great presentation (including a "prepared" -- on short notice -- talk by Dave Brady about John Dillinger and constitutional rights), and persuaded at least one attendee (me) to further explore the subject. And, of course, Ken and "Bert" are just great people to have around. They liven up any gathering they're at.

Sharon Harris of Advocates for Self-Government gave a great post-banquet talk about passion in advocacy, centering it around the life of William Wilberforce, who saw his decades-long struggle to abolish slavery in England succeed mere days before his own death. It's always a pleasure to hear Sharon speak -- I hadn't run into her since, I think, 2004 at the Tennessee Libertarians' convention in Chattanooga -- and I was glad to get a minute or two to catch up with her personally as well.

Darla Maloney, the Missouri Libertarian Party's former vice-chair, attended the Saturday banquet. Hadn't seen her in almost a year, which isn't nearly often enough.

It being the Illinois convention, the place was of course absolutely crawling with Illinoisans.

Chris and Yvonne Bennett were accompanied down from Springfield by their children Brandon and Charity. Usually, this means that my own kids hook up with them for mischief, but alas Daniel and Liam were with their mom at a wedding elsewhere in Illinois that day, so I got to do so in their stead.

Ken Prazak, host of Freedom Rings Radio, had a vendor table and also served as auctioneer for the Saturday night fundraiser. I don't plug Ken's show often enough, so I'll do so now. It's almost certainly one of the longest-running libertarian talk shows on "real" radio. He's been broadcasting continuously since 1997. It's also one of the best. Catch it online or on the air from WRMN 1410 AM, Elgin, IL, on Monday morning from 9-10am Central.

The LPI will formally select its 2010 candidates for public office today, and the likely suspects speechified and took questions at a Saturday forum: Lex Green for Governor, Ed Rutledge for Lieutenant Governor, Michael Labno for US Senate, Julie Fox for Comptroller, and -- note deficiency here, but I think Dave Davies is the name of the Secretary of State candidate. It looks like a fine crop -- as chair of the Missouri LP's candidate recruitment committee, I wish we were as ahead of the curve as LPI in getting statewide candidates out on the stump so early.

LPI has a real opportunity to make a dent next year, especially with Julie's campaign for Comptroller. She's eminently qualified (CPA since 1995 and working as a controller for more than a decade), personable, attractive and ready to come out of the gate for this race at a hard run. The Green Party's Rich Whitney polled 10% for Governor of Illinois in 2006, and the stature of the "major parties" has taken further hits since then with the indictment of former Governor Rod Blagojevich, etc.


The LPI also has a difficult ballot access hurdle to get over between March and June of next year, and given the national LP's precarious financial situation, they can't expect as much assistance from LPHQ as they otherwise might. So the slack has to be taken up from elsewhere. Being right across the river and all, I'm going to try to get together some volunteers to go help petition in the "Metro East" area. If you're able to spend some time in Illinois working for liberty, please do so. If not, a check with several zeroes (and at least one other number) on it wouldn't hurt.

Jan Stover of The Mothers Institute and Mothers for Liberty is, as always, hard at work. Mothers for Liberty magazine is currently in transition to a new title and format as Libertarian Woman.

I also finally got to meet Mike Theodore, a young Libertarian who's about to graduate from high school and whom I expect to make a big impression on the wider world soon after. He's currently working to establish an active Outright Libertarians presence in Illinois. He has a deep love of (and an encyclopedic knowledge of) history, and we had several interesting conversations about Andrew Jackson, etc. during the day.

Perhaps my most interesting conversation of the day took place after the formal events were wound up, sometime around midnight as I waited outside the hotel for the rest of the family to swoop by on their way home from the wedding and pick me up. The hotel doesn't sell cigarettes, the nearest store that does is far enough away that nobody with much booze in them would want to walk it, and there were several wedding parties taking place at the venue. You do the math -- it was only a matter of time before a gang of inebriated groomsmen would saunter over to bum a smoke.

I didn't catch their names, but as soon as they asked what I was doing and the word "libertarian" came out of my mouth, the yells of "Ron Paul!" started. They were big fans (enough so that they brought up Rand Paul, and the Fed, not just Ron Paul's name), and oddly enough they didn't think of him as a Republican at all, or particularly think that he should be running as one (music to the ears of someone like me who has been pessimistically thinking of Paul's GOP affiliation as defining). When I told them the LPI events would be continuing today, they said they'd be checking it out. At least a couple of them were from the Missouri side of the Father of Waters, so LPMO might even get a new activist or two out of that conversation.

So anyway -- good time, good convention, sorry to those whose names got left out of the recounting but shouldn't have. Thanks to LPI for putting on a great event.

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