Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mending the Cracks

My editorial from the July 2008 California Freedom:

"I hope they have ambulances parked outside," joked one reform delegate at the 2008 LP national convention. I knew what he meant. Many of us were expecting long and acrimonious floor fights. Instead, the convention turned out to be surprisingly civil, despite some angry moments.

Like when those Barr delegates held an impromptu placard parade, marching past the C-SPAN cameras in the middle of Bill Redpath's speech. Anti-Barr delegates hissed and booed. Barr campaign higher-ups later blamed the parade on over-zealous delegates, acting on their own.

Presidential contender Christine Smith returned the favor during her "concession speech," lashing out at Barr. Now it was the Barr delegates' turn to hiss and boo.

At least C-SPAN viewers weren't bored.

Smith also thanked her supporters. All five of them. She'd gotten six votes on the first ballot, one presumably her own.

Rumors abounded. Some said that Barr would bus in bogus delegates. A similar rumor reportedly circulated about Kubby. Neither rumor materialized into fact.

It seems Mary Ruwart suffered a last-minute dirty trick. I'd asked Senator Mike Gravel's daughter, Lynne Moiser, to vote for Ruwart after Gravel fell from the ballot. Lynne agreed, since I'd assisted the Gravel campaign. But Lynne confided an unsettling rumor she'd heard on the floor: the Washington Post was about to break a story on the LP nominating "child pornographer" Ruwart.

That false smear was old news, based on an out-of-context quote from Ruwart's book. Both Wayne Allyn Root and Christine Smith had pounced on Ruwart months earlier, demanding she withdraw. Yet Ruwart's candidacy survived.

But Lynne was new to the LP, unfamiliar with our blogs and channels of communication. The smear was news to her.

And this Washington Post twist was entirely new. The Post "was about to break a story" about the LP nominating a child pornographer? Really? Where did that come from?

It seems someone (or a group of someones) was spreading lies on the convention floor, during the voting. Of course, by the time lies are refuted, the balloting is over.

Barr/Root won. It's no secret, they're the reformers' preference. Will radicals support this ticket in November?

Radical is a broad term (not all of us are purists), encompassing several factions, mostly supportive of each other, but with different priorities. Mine, as everyone knows, is antiwar.

I spoke with Barr before the voting. I said I'd heard that he supported war with Iran. He denied this. He said he'd lived in Iran, he knew the Iranian people, and he did not believe war was necessary.

That was good to hear.

Even better, weeks after the nomination, Barr continues to speak publicly against war with Iran. He's called for negotiations. So far, so good.

Outright Libertarians caucused after Barr/Root's victory. These gay libertarians were less than happy. While in Congress, Barr authored the Defense of Marriage Act (a position he recanted during Saturday's C-SPAN debate). Likewise, Root opposed gay marriage before he supported it.

"How can I ask my non-Libertarian gay friends to vote for Barr/Root?" lamented one OL member.

Nevertheless, OL Chair Rob Power proposed a motion to invite Barr and Root to "personally attend" future OL events. Gay libertarians are ready to support Barr/Root, provided that support is publicly reciprocated.

Still less happy are LP pagans. While in Congress, Barr urged the Pentagon to deny recognition to Wiccans. I saw several pagan delegates wearing anti-Barr buttons.

Pagans remain upset weeks after the convention. A longtime LPC Wiccan told me he may not vote LP, explaining, "I'd contacted Barr's campaign several times since the convention, asking for his current views on religious freedom. No one's responded."

While Barr/Root have offered partial loaves to peaceniks and gays, pagans remain unfed. As for the open immigration and anti-drug war radicals, from what I've seen, they consider Barr/Root less than "pure," but will mostly give the ticket a chance.

To paraphrase one radical blogger: "The reformers got everything they wanted. The president. The vice president. The platform. If the LP doesn't get votes, reformers can't blame radicals for holding them back. If the LP fails, it will be the reformers' strategy that failed."

Some troubling news: An LNC member wants the 2010 convention held in Hawaii, despite complaints that this would price out many povertarian radicals. One blogger says current round-trip air fare is $1,500 to $2,000.

Some suggest that if there is a Hawaii convention, povertarians hold an alternate convention. If more delegates attend the alternate than the "official" convention, it will (1) throw into question the "official" convention's legitimacy, and (2) potentially split the party.

This past convention leaves the LP not broken, but cracked. I urge the LNC not to risk breakage by holding the next convention at a location beyond the means of many loyal Libertarians.

Newly re-elected LNC rep Angela Keaton dishes "inside scoops" about the LNC at:

Angela's blog is still silent, but I hope it would be for long.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Glendale Community College Hears Antiwar Message

I introduced a Glendale Community College class to the Libertarian Party today, courtesy of instructor Denise Munro Robb.

Denise had invited all of California's third parties to come and speak. I was to speak alongside reps from the Republican and Peace and Freedom Party (the Democrats and Greens spoke yesterday). But the GOP sent no one and the expected PFP rep was a no-show. So it was just me (the Libertarian) and a student who spoke for the GOP.

I distributed much radical LP literature (mostly antiwar material) and radical pro-freedom buttons. The State Sucks was an especially popular button. Thanks, Lawrence K. Samuels, for providing the literature and buttons!

I photographed some of the class (I couldn't get all of them to fit). Denise said the class had 42 registered students. That's Denise kneeling in the photo.

I also distributed a list of LP websites, including this one. So if you're one of the students who heard me today, and you're here and have more questions, please ask away!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

U.S. Bullies Iraq's Bogus Democracy

Anyone who still thinks that the U.S. "liberated" rather than occupied Iraq, so we can force our military bases upon them, should read Jim Washburn's report in the L.A. City Beat.

Here's an excerpt:

Do you know much about the “status for forces” agreement the U.S. is trying to hammer out with – i.e. hammer upon – Iraqi lawmakers? The U.S. press hasn’t reported much on it, and what little detail they’ve provided has been entirely due to reports in Britain’s Independent newspaper by Patrick Cockburn.

While the Bush administration has been saying “it’s just routine, nothing to see here, folks, move along,” Cockburn revealed that it could well lock us into Iraq for McCain’s 100 years, with the U.S. maintaining 58 permanent bases, controlling the airspace, and able to conduct military operations and arrests without regard to the Iraqi government, while all U.S. personnel and contractors would be immune from prosecution (as apparently are the Blackwater forces who shot 19 innocent Iraqi citizens in one incident last year).

Iraqi leaders balked at this, since – as Cockburn pointed out onDemocracy Now! – it requires the ostensibly sovereign nation to relinquish every aspect of its sovereignty to its occupiers. Cockburn also broke the news that the U.S. is blackmailing Iraqi legislators, threatening to permanently withhold access to tens of billions of dollars in Iraqi funds that have been locked up in the Federal Reserve since the first Gulf War.

Again, read the entire report.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I'm Published in The Nation

Actually, my letter to the editor only made The Nation's web edition, but still, I got my libertarian points across. They even published one of my Libertarian Party titles.

My LTE was in reply to Barbara Ehrenreich's article on how "the rich" are pushing normal
folk out of desirable areas.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Marine Kills Puppy -- Americans Finally Outraged

Marine Lance Cpl. David Motari has been discharged for killing a puppy in Iraq.

Two observations:

1. War brutalizes. Without excusing his actions, it must seem bizarre to this Marine that we train him to be a lean, mean, killing machine, our media cheers the slaughter of thousands of civilians in shock and awe bombardment, our society relishes the slaughter of humans on TV in what is called a turkey shoot, -- and then we condemn a Marine for killing one tiny animal.

This lean, mean, killing machine must be wondering "Huh? What'd I do wrong? What happened?"

2. I'm disturbed that many Americans will feel greater remorse for one puppy than for the hundreds of thousands of people killed in the Iraq War.

Muslim Libertarian Outreach

Hazim Kira described the American Muslim Task Force as "an umbrella organization of all Muslim organizations in this country, focused on civil rights and elections." Their booth at the LP convention had two goals. "To create a dialog between the Libertarian and Muslim communities. And to get Muslims to become part of the Libertarian Party."

Stressing that Muslims are not monolithic, Kira said that different planks of the LP platform appeal to different Muslims, including economic freedom, foreign policy, less government, separation of church and state, and "especially civil rights."

Do some Muslims agree with the entire LP platform? "Absolutely, yes," said Kira.

One California Muslim, Maad Abu-Ghazaleh, ran for Congress on the Libertarian ticket in 2002 against Democrat Tom Lantos. Abu-Ghazaleh got 7% of the vote. The Republican got 25%.

The AMTF is non-partisan and encourages Muslims to participate in the political process, whether as a Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian, or whatever party best represents an individual Muslim's principles.

Kira added, "There is a verse in the tradition of The Prophet that says, 'Follow the law of the country that you are in.' We want Muslims to be part of every party. [This booth] is our attempt to get them to know what the LP stands for."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sherman Ball, the Bob Barr body artist

Most Bob Barr delegates were identifiable from their dark suits and cowboy hats. At least, that's how it seemed to non-Barr delegates.

One notable exception was Sherman Ball, who is perhaps unique in being the only delegate at any LP convention ever to sport a more colorful appearance than Starchild.

"I was wondering who he was," said Ball of Starchild, while telling me his own story.

Ball was discharged from the U.S. Air Force with the rank of captain in 1972. He was active in the early years of the LPC, then left. He only recently rejoined, inspired by Ron Paul and Bob Barr.

Explaining his support for Barr, Ball said, "I want to do some damage to the Republican or the Democrat party. The one-party system we got now is basically statist. We have a chance with Bob Barr to bloody at least one of the parties, and get ourselves established as a real party. He has national name recognition. He's been a member of the Libertarian National Committee for a couple of years.

"Almost everything is haywire in this country. The increasing regulations. The phony climate change thing, which mankind has nothing to do with. It does it by itself. The sun is responsible. The orbit of the Earth. We have no control over it. McCain has proposed an agenda to control every aspect of our lives in the name of this mythical, man-caused global warming."

Ball wears a Sumerian Libertarian t-shirt because, he says, "all of our Western civilization came out of Sumeria," making it the birthplace of liberty.

Regarding his piercings and tattoos, does he prefer to be called a body artist, or a member of the body alteration community, or what?

Ball laughs. "I'm just who I am. I don't have any group."

Friday, June 06, 2008

Both. And Neither.

Here's my From the Editor column in the June 2008 issue of California Freedom. I finished the issue before leaving for the convention, over two weeks ago, so it should be in mailboxes by now. It's not in mine. Don't know why.

It's also still not up on the LPC website, so I put it up on mine.

Here's the editorial itself:

In 1977, a high school buddy and I entered the West 38th Street headquarters of the Free Libertarian Party (as the NY affiliate was then called). I was visiting all the third parties that year, my curiosity piqued by the citywide elections. The FLP's office was occupied by some half dozen middle-aged white guys (some things never change), sitting around a table, drinking coffee and shooting the breeze.

Knowing nothing about the LP, I tried to understand it by first locating it on the political spectrum. I asked these guys: "Are you left-wing or right-wing?"

"Weeeeell...," one of the men pondered. "We're both. And neither."

In over thirty years, I've yet to hear a better reply to that hoary question. Those few words sum it all up.

We are both. And neither.

Consider this issue of California Freedom, which features both CodePink and the American Enterprise Institute. Antiwar socialists and pro-war neoconservatives, respectively. Where else can you find that?

Yet it's not so strange. Most libertarians are antiwar, as is CodePink's Hanan Shawar [page 1]. Most libertarians disbelieve in a manmade global warming crisis, as does the AEI's Kenneth P. Green [page 5]. Where libertarians find common ground with other political groups, Left or Right, it makes sense to cooperate--provided we never forget or compromise our own principles.

Of course, some libertarians support the war. And some libertarians not only believe in manmade global warming, they think government should do something about it. Not just "left-libertarians"--I've met a pro-war "eco-libertarian" who thinks so.

I've often said, there are more factions in the LP than actual members.

I'm writing this on May 10th, before the Denver national convention. By the time you have a paper copy of this issue in your hands, you'll likely know who is our presidential candidate. Conventional wisdom on the libertarian blogosphere and supper club circuit says that, of the over dozen LP contenders, only six have a real chance of winning: Bob Barr, Mike Gravel, George Phillies, Steve Kubby, Wayne Allyn Root, and Mary Ruwart.

Conventional wisdom adds that, of the Likely Six, the Most Likely Three are Barr, Root, and Ruwart.

It will be interesting to see if there are any upsets. In 2004, Gary Nolan and Arron Russo were the Most Likely Two. The winner was Michael Badnarik.

Conventional wisdom (which is very talkative) also says that on the libertarian spectrum (as opposed to the traditional left/right spectrum), Barr and Root are preferred by the LP's reformer/pragmatarian wing, Kubby and Ruwart are favored by the radical/purist wing, and Phillies and Gravel are the "libertarian moderates" occupying some space between the pragmatist vs. purist extremes.

I don't yet know how I'll vote at the convention. As of today, I plan to cast my token for Mike Gravel.

You see, each delegate will receive a token, to cast for the candidate he or she would like to see participate in Saturday's presidential debate, to be broadcast on C-SPAN. A candidate must collect tokens from at least 10% of the delegates to be included in that debate.

This doesn't mean I'll vote for Gravel on the following Sunday, when we select our presidential candidate. I may. Maybe not. But I'd like to hear more from this antiwar former Democrat, and I figure Ruwart won't need my token, so Gravel gets it. As of today.

Of course, Kubby or Phillies (or even Ruwart) may yet persuade me to surrender my token. We'll see.

This issue of California Freedom marks my one-year anniversary as editor. June 2007 was my first. Although everyone's welcome to submit, much of the material in this issue comes from the usual suspects. It seems not an issue goes by without Lawrence K. Samuels reporting on his activism--no wonder he won a Bray Award! Laura G. Brown's back with another film review. And we've two articles from Albert J. Segalla. Barbara "Joy" Waymire is a newcomer, but she'll likely remain a presence for many issues to come.

The July issue should contain many articles and photos about the Denver convention -- but only if you provide them!


And in case you're wondering, I did give my token to Mike Gravel. I also voted for Gravel on the first three ballots.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Is Israel an "Official" U.S. Ally?

Whether one thinks that Israel is a good or bad ally of the U.S., I'd always assumed that it was an "official" ally of the U.S.

Then I read this in The Nation's comments section:

"Israel is not an ally of the US. All the US candidates know that there is no alliance treaty between the 2 countries, because when LBJ offered a treaty to Israel after the 6 Day war in '67, Israel refused. Why? Every alliance treaty requires that signatories define precisely the borders of their country and bind themselves to notifying all other signatories of any military action about to be taken against a 3rd nation. Israel still finds these traditional alliance requirements unacceptable, hence no alliance treaty exists between Israel & the US."

Is this true? Does anyone know?

It'd be pretty astonishing if, after all these years of hearing that Israel is "America's greatest ally," that Israel is not technically an ally at all.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Why Not Obama/Paul?

For Vice President, Barack Obama should pick ... Ron Paul.

Like Obama, Paul has a devoted following among the young, antiwar, and change-oriented. I know of one young, female Paul libertarian who's already supporting Obama.

Many antiwar Libertarians are unhappy with the LP ticket. They would enthusiastically support Obama/Paul.

We hear about "Obama Republicans." Paul would bring more Republicans to Obama.

Clinton Democrats are threatening to shift to McCain. Obama needs Paul Libertarians and Republicans to cancel out unhappy Clinton fans.

Paul is a team player. He's spent his life working cordially with people he disagrees with (virtually everyone in Washington). I've read that Paul admires Obama. Paul would be a respectful Number Two (unlike Clinton).

Paul is in his seventies. He would not plot behind Obama, planning his next presidential run.

Obama/Paul would overturn paradigms and unite the country. Black and white, Democrat and Republican, progressive and libertarian, will enthusiastically support Obama/Paul. McCain and Clinton will be history.