Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"The Man" Doesn't Worry About the Libertarian Party

Here's a story I was told by several longtime (decades long) Los Angeles LP members over the years. Whether it’s a true story or apocryphal, I don't know. Does anyone? It’s now told as a joke, with possibly some tenuous connection to truth.

I first heard it before 9/11. It’s supposed to have occurred in the LP’s “early days,” in the post-1960s student rebellion era. Maybe the 1970s?

Here’s how it goes:

One day, the LAPD sent a police intelligence officer to one of the LP’s many Los Angeles supper clubs. His assignment was to infiltrate the LP, and see if it was planning terrorist or revolutionary activities.

When the police officer returned to LAPD headquarters, his captain asked him, “Well, how did it go? Did you infiltrate the LP?”

“I guess so,” the officer replied. “They elected me Chair.”

The point of this apocrypha is that the LP is not worth infiltrating, and that the authorities have long since figured that out. We do everything in the open, and most of what we do is complaining. Ineffectual complaining. Like on this blog of mine.

So, does this joke have any contemporary relevance? Yes, in that some LP members (e.g., LP presidential candidate Robert Milnes) still fantasize that the FBI, CIA, or whoever, wants to infiltrate or sabotage the LP.

Nonsense! The LP isn't worth the effort, and the "The Man" knows it.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Wayne Allyn Root Supports Foreign Aid

Wayne Allyn Root now realizes that to get the LP presidential nomination (something his ego seems to want very badly), he must please the LP's majority non-interventionist faction.

Root's problem is that, while his core belief seems to be self-promotion, he does seem to be a sincere interventionist. His early statements were extensive and consistent on that point; a worldwide "war on terror" sounded close to his heart.

Before running in the LP, Root endorsed
McCain/Lieberman for 2008
. Even in 2007, after announcing his LP bid, Root was a supporter of war. ("Iraq was the wrong war, Iran is the right war," he'd said in 2007. (In February 2008 he told me that what he'd really said was that "Iran might be the right war," but that he no longer supported that position.)

Root's "official" positions keep "evolving" ever closer to classic libertarian non-interventionism. But is he sincere? His evolution is suspiciously quick and convenient.

And even now, he can't let go of his support for foreign aid.

I checked his website a few weeks ago, and found: "Drastically reduced foreign aid -- stop funding countries that aren't our friends -- utilize the carrot vs. stick."

So he still wants to fund "our friends." (Why don't our friends ever fund us?) Root still doesn't get it. "Carrot vs. stick" is intervention. Demopublicans have used carrots and sticks for over a century. They only disagree on who's currently a friend, who's an enemy.

And in an April 28 press release, Root wrote: We must rapidly and dramatically reduce foreign aid and U.S. military bases around the world. In particular, it is time to end our defense of wealthy countries such as Japan, South Korea and the nations of Western Europe.

Again, he wants to "drastically reduce" foreign aid, but not eliminate it.

He also writes: "Let’s start by eliminating financial support to dictators, with the ultimate goal of cutting foreign aid to a bare minimum everywhere and only if absolutely required for national defense.

Why "start" anywhere? Why an "ultimate goal"? Foreign aid is not something that can only be achieved in increments. One can eliminate all of it, with one stroke of the legislative, or presidential veto, pen.

Why does Root not support an immediate end of all foreign aid, to all nations, rich and poor, "friend" and foe?

Not only is foreign aid an aggression on U.S. taxpayers (who are forced to pay it), but a true libertarian understands that welfare is crippling and corrupting. Thus, foreign aid is crippling and corrupting to nations -- all nations -- friends and foes alike.

Does Root wish to cripple and corrupt "our friends"? Or does Root not believe in the libertarian principle that welfare is crippling in corrupting?

Furthermore, if a foreign nation is truly our friend, surely they'll continue to be so if we stop paying them? What sort of friend is it that always demands a handout every time you see him?

Certainly Japan and South Korea, Western Europe and Israel (not on Root's list), are all wealthy nations. All have money to burn -- as evidenced by their socialist economies. (More so in Western Europe and Israel, but even Japan and South Korea have domestic government spending -- who doesn't?)

Military foreign aid is a form of foreign economic subsidy, since U.S. military aid allows foreign nations to divert their own "defense money" to "social services." Thus, eliminating military foreign aid would not endanger any of "our friends." It would simply require them to divert their domestic spending to their own militaries.

A foreign nation that's a true friend would understand that the U.S. has its own serious economic problems, and would stop demanding handouts. A foreign nation with integrity would want to stand on its own feet, and pay its own way. A foreign nation that was wise would understand that it was in their own interests to do so. And a true libertarian would understand all of the above. And say so. And mean it.

I suggest that all Libertarian presidential candidates be required to sign a pledge: I support the immediate and complete elimination of all foreign aid, to all nations, no exceptions.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

How Pragmatarians "Grow the Party"

One day Satan went up to a Republican and said, "I want to buy your immortal soul. How much will you sell it for?"

"Gosh, you're asking a lot!" said the Republican. "But I guess I call sell my soul. Only, I don't sell cheap. Let's see. Two years ago, I ran for State Assembly and lost. This coming November, I want to win that State Assembly race. I want to hold my seat for ten years. Then I want to be elected governor, then re-elected. Then I want to be elected President, and hold that for two terms. And when I retire, I want a minimum $10 million a year from consulting fees and corporate lobbying, all of it legally secure from the IRS, thanks to my tax attorneys."

Satan said, "Done!"

Then Satan went up to a Democrat and said, "I want to buy your immortal soul. How much will you sell it for?"

"Wow, that's pretty greedy of you!" said the Democrat. "But I suppose I can sell my soul. However, I drive a hard bargain. Let me think. Two years ago, I ran for Congress and lost. This November, I want to win that Congressional seat. I want to remain in Congress for ten years. Then I want to be elected to the Senate, then re-elected. Then I want to be appointed Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. And I want at least $10 million a year on the side from speaking fees and book deals, none of it subject to ethics or conflicts of interest probes."

Satan said, "Done!"

Then Satan went up to a Libertarian and said, "I want to buy your immortal soul. How much will you sell it for?"

"Man, you're asking for everything!" said the Libertarian. "But, yeah, I'll sell you my soul. Only, it's gonna cost you big time. Let me see. Two years ago, I ran for a seat on the Fifth District Sewage & Drainage Board. I only got 1% of the vote. This November, when I run again, I want 2%."


You liked my joke? I thought it up after I sent an email off to a purist, in which I'd said:

Demopublicans sell their souls to win wealth, power, and glory. Libertarians sell their souls so they'll lose, but with an extra 0.5% in their vote totals.

And it's true. Some Libertarians will sell out all their principles, just so they can lose by a slightly higher vote total.

Or as Parker Posey said in Clockwatchers: "Isn't it a shame when friends betray friends? And for what?!"

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Wayne Allyn Root Rewrites His McCain Endorsement

Thomas M. Knapp writes an informative article about Wayne Allyn Root's latest attempt to rewrite his past.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Why Neocons Fear an Antiwar Right

The goal of many "pro-war libertarians" is, I believe, not to build the LP, but to neutralize it as serious competition to the GOP.

Even more than they hate the antiwar Left, the Neocons fear a strong “antiwar right,” which is how an antiwar LP would be perceived.

We live in a polarized nation. People think there’s only “Left” and “Right.” Many people pick their team and support—dittohead fashion—the position their “team leaders” dictate.

So long as “anti Iraq War” is associated solely with the Left, the Neocons can rely on a solid base of support from voters identifying themselves as Right.

But an “antiwar Right” would confuse Rightist voters. They’d say, “Gee, I’m right-wing, so how do I go on this Iraq War issue? I thought only Leftist America-haters opposed the war. But now I see that people on ‘my team’ oppose it too! Maybe I should take a closer look into this issue…”

The quickest, most effective way to end this war, and prevent future wars, is a broad "Left/Center/Right" single-issue coalition against the war.

Unfortunately, some (thankfully, not all) antiwar progressives want to "own" the antiwar issue. They wish to use the peace movement to attract supporters to other progressives issues. And so they'd rather Rightists not show up at antiwar events.

Those progressives who wish to "own" the antiwar issue are thus aiding Neocons -- who also want progressives to "own" the antiwar issue.

However, those who put the cause of peace first, will seek coalitions with like-minded peaceniks, so as to build a broad "Left/Center/Right" peace coalition -- the Neocon's worst nightmare.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Uniting for Peace and Liberty

Here is my editorial, which appears in the April 2008 issue of California Freedom: On March 21st, I participated in an antiwar discussion panel at Santa Monica's Track 16 art gallery. I was there as a contributing writer to Cost of Freedom, an anthology of antiwar activism [California Freedom, February 2008]. With me on the panel was Michael Palecek, one of the book's editors, and two of the other 75 or so contributers, poet Rex Butters and artist Elena Siff Erenberg. 

I'd been asked to MC the event, and I kept the conversation flowing between the panelists and the audience. Palecek described his experiences as a "federal prisoner for peace," having been imprisoned several times in the 1980s for trespassing onto military bases during his protests. His story drew one of the loudest round of applauses from the audience, matched only by the applause for the anti-Bush/antiwar poem read by Butters. Erenberg lamented that, because few people today visit galleries, antiwar artists have limited influence. Nevertheless, her artwork may be seen at ElenaMarySiff.com

Whatever its faults, the Nolan Chart demonstrates the error of dividing people into only two political camps. Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich are closer to each other on war and civil liberties than either is to Clinton or McCain. Palecek was the Democratic Party's candidate for Iowa's 5th Congressional District in 2000. After the panel discussion, an audience member introduced himself and his lady friend to me as "huge Ron Paul fans." This young man also thanked me for quoting from Randolph's Bourne's "War is the health of the state" essay. Some libertarians wish the LP would ignore the war and focus on economic issues -- "Things we all agree on." -- but war is an economic issue.

Anarchist playwright Ben Pleasants [California Freedom, October 2007] spoke from the audience about how the war is "bankrupting" this country, and discussion turned to whether the U.S. was headed for inevitable economic collapse due to the extravagant borrowing and spending to fund our endless wars. The panel discussion was followed by a social mixer.

Two women expressed curiosity over my Porcupeace button, asking if it was "the Libertarian mascot." I explained that the Porcupeace combined the twin principles of self-defense and non-aggression. The porcupine was no predator, but it would defend itself if attacked. I'd stacked free Porcupeace buttons (and other antiwar/antistate/anti-IRS, anti-Drug War, etc. buttons) on a table alongside antiwar flyers courtesy of Lawrence K. Samuels (thanks, Lawrence!). The flyers bore the Porcupeace sign, the websites for Libertarians for Peace and the state and national LP, and LPC membership forms. One woman loved the buttons, and took one of every flyer. "You've inspired me to become a libertarian!" she said. Yet to attract and keep people like her, and the young couple who love Ron Paul, the LP must be loudly pro-peace and pro-civil liberties.

Threats to both peace and civil liberties were addressed at Track 16 and in Cost of Freedom. It's this appreciation for peace and liberty that united the people at Track 16. The enemy are not ordinary Americans who disagree on some issues, but growing state power, which is inevitably misused and abused.  Cost of Freedom co-editor Whitney Trettien, an MIT graduate student and Green Party activist, had earlier expressed surprise to me that any libertarians supported the war. Every libertarian she'd met opposed it. A hopeful sign. Cost of Freedom is an inspiring book, a celebration of those with the courage and ideals to protest against statist lies and aggression.

Although I'm a contributing writer, I received only a contributor's copy; no monetary pay or royalties. I'm told that "a portion of the proceeds from the sales of the book is set aside to supplement funds for the work of national peace and antiwar organizations."


If you wish to see the entire April issue of California Freedom, click here.

Libertarians Are a Social Club

Most libertarians, of every faction, belong to our party for some combination of personal reasons (friends, socializing, validation, affirmation, etc.). The LP is more like a lodge or a social club (like the Elks or Kiwanas) than a political party.

This mindset is true of all factions, of Reformers and Radicals, and all others. It's certainly true of those who complain the loudest that "we're a political party, not a social club or debating society."

Yes, even those who insist that we're a political party are here mainly for personal reasons.

I base this opinion on my thirty years of observing the LP. And many Libertarians agree with me, often making the same observation themselves, unprompted.

Others (those of little introspection and self-knowledge) insist that this is not true of themselves. That's what happens when you have poor introspection skills.

This is why I ignore threats by Libertarians of "bolting the party." For thirty years, I've heard Libertarians insist that they'll bolt the party if this or that happens. Yet almost no one follows through on their threats. Why?

Because we are a social club (a salon or book discussion group, of sorts), that runs candidates on the side. And few people will leave our cozy fraternity, with its discussion groups and conventions suites and supper clubs, just because of what the platform says, or who our candidates are.

I myself won't vote for an LP candidate who was pro-war. I am passionately antiwar. Yet I won't leave our LP club over the issue. If the LP ever turned pro-war, I'd oppose the LP at the ballot box, yet I'd still socialize at LP events.

Just as today, many pro-war Libertarians continue to socialize in our majority antiwar party. They may support the war, but they won't leave our antiwar club over the issue.

Almost every longtime party member knows that we're primarily a social club, but some won't admit it -- even to themselves.