Category Archives: Democracy

The Basic Premise Behind Campaign Finance Laws

A great deal of ink (or film, or bits) has been expended this election cycle, primarily on the far left (though some on the right… particularly with the more populist factions), decrying the actions of “independent” political action committees, superPACs, and “issue advocacy groups”; as somehow corrupt, evil, anti-democratic etc..

The rhetoric on the left, is that the “citizens united” decision has basically given “shadowy actors” like say, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers, effectively a blank check to “buy elections”.

Of course, the idea that we need to “get the money out of politics” has been a political meme for approximately as long as politics has existed…

… and to a degree, there is a point there. ACTUAL political corruption, in the sense of directly buying influence or buying votes; is certainly something we need to combat as much as possible.

We’ll never eliminate it of course, humans have an endless capacity for venality, greed, and self interest. That’s just the way it is…

Frankly, the only way to get money out of politics; is to get politics out of money.

By which I mean, that so long as politics has an impact on my business and my life (and it always will); if I have money, I’m going to have a strong incentive to spend it, to make the political process work to my advantage… Or even just to hurt me less.

And that’s the way it SHOULD be… I SHOULD be able to spend my money to reduce the harm that government does to me, or to try to make government come out to my advantage; so long as I am not actually bribing a legislator to vote the way I want, committing fraud etc…

There’s a simple way of combating this; and that’s reducing the power of government to impact the individual, such that they no longer have any incentive (or really, so that their incentive is lower… since you’ll never get that little political interference) to spend their money in that way.

But that’s not what these folks are decrying from the hilltops.

What they are screaming about, is essentially free speech they don’t like.

Make no mistake, money IS speech. If you don’t have money, you can’t buy media air time. If you can’t buy media air time, then you can say whatever you want, but you’ll be speaking to an empty room.

One of the basic principles of free speech, is that you have the right to say whatever you like (short of libel, slander, fraud, or incitement to crime); so long as you are not infringing on others rights by doing so.

Another one of those basic principles is that you have the right to say it… But I don’t have to listen to it, and you don’t have the right to make me.

It’s up to me, to decide who and what I listen to, and to use my own judgement and experience in doing so.

So, you may not like what these people are saying; but so long as media companies are willing to sell them airtime, you have no right to restrict that. By attempting to do so, you are attempting to regulate free speech (conversely, you also have no right to force those media companies to sell time to opposing viewpoints; another leftist canard about “fairness”).

Makes sense right?

Well, it does to me… and to the supreme court; and when it’s causes that leftists agree with they’re perfectly OK with it.

The REAL argument, comes down to this:

“We can’t allow these bad evil people and groups to speak, because although I’m smart enough to know the difference between lies and truth, the general population are too stupid to do so”

So, rather than actually convince the people of their own side of the argument, they seek to prevent the other side from even speaking.

It’s entirely consistent with the historical leftist narrative that the “proletariat is fooled by the comfortable goods of the bourgeoisie and the lies of the ruling class” etc… etc…

Their basic premise here being that if the people could only hear and understand the truth, that the leftists ideas would be universally acclaimed as true and necessary, and immediately put into place (with the leftist elites themselves in charge of course… after all, who better to lead than those who understand the ideas the best).

They can’t accept the idea that maybe people don’t WANT more government, with more power over everyone’s lives and businesses… Because that would go entirely against the ideas they have based their entire lives and identities on; and that simply can’t be possible.

…but that’s another argument entirely.

Oh and I should note that there is a “right wing” authoritarian narrative that is nearly identical in principle, that the people are too stupid, lazy, corrupt etc… To be trusted to make their own MORAL decisions; and that the force of government must be used to make people “do the right thing”. That’s equally as bad; it’s just not what we’re talking about right now.

Now… I hate these ads as much as everyone else… But not because I decry “those fools actually believe these foul lies” (though they may be foul lies, and “the people” may believe them); simply because they’re REALLY IRRITATING.

If the people actually are so stupid that they believe “foul lies”; and the other side isn’t smart enough, or doesn’t have a good enough argument to convince them otherwise…

Well, so be it.

That’s the problem with a democratic representative republic. You have to live with the representatives the electorate choose, and the things they vote for.

It’s also why it’s so critical that we have a strictly limited government of enumerated powers only… Or rather, that we return to that; as we haven’t actually had such a government since 1861.

Our government was intended to provide protection against the tyranny of the majority… Unfortunately from the first day that government was put in place, people with “good ideas” have attempted to (often successfully) use the force of government, to have those ideas implemented, without regard to the legitimate powers of government, the desire of the people, or the rights of those being governed.

The left are perfectly willing to crow about how great democracy is… until the people refuse to vote for what they want; at which point they try to get the courts to make the people do what they want anyway.

Because, as we all know, when it comes to leftist causes, they are all “moral imperatives”…

Or as a very smart man put it once “The ends justify the means”.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

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Resistance is Not Always Futile

There’s no question that the 2012 campaign has been full of disappointments for those of us who want less government, more liberty, and more prosperity in our lives. Very clearly, the game is rigged in large part due to the establishment media, powerful special interest groups, and the political parties themselves. It’s very easy to become disillusioned by the entire process and sometimes it’s tempting to give up and say “to hell with it!”

But rather than bring down you readers out there (as I often do), I want to share something very inspiring with you from Cato’s David Boaz (below). In Boaz’s lecture, he explains how everyday heroism hastened the demise of the Soviet Union. We libertarians complain – often with good reason, about how difficult it is for our voices to be heard in the two party system. For all practical purposes, the U.S.S.R. had only one political party and dissent was strongly discouraged…to put it mildly.

Yet somehow, ordinary people were able to rise up, demand the liberties we all too often take for granted, and prevailed! How did they do it? What can we learn from how these ordinary people brought down the Evil Empire, and more importantly, how can we apply these lessons here in the US?

Delegates at the Democratic Convention: “We all belong to the government”

During the 2008 campaign I wrote a post about the real reason why Barack Obama would be dangerous for our country. These reasons had nothing to do with a long-form birth certificate or that he was some sort of Muslim Manchurian candidate intent on destroying our country from the inside. Now that Obama has an actual record to defend, there isn’t any real need to watch Dinesh D’Souza’s movie “2016” to discover why he holds the big government anti-capitalistic/big government/anti-liberty policies and views (the important thing is recognizing that he is trying to make them law of the land, the origin is irrelevant).

Actually, I think Obama’s views are well within the mainstream of the Democratic Party. Take this video for example where the interviewer asked what rank-and-file delegates to the 2012 Democratic Convention thought about a video that was played at the convention that argues “we all belong to the government.”

I don’t have to tell readers here how dangerous this mindset is. This is a philosophy that goes well beyond Barack Obama and his alleged pro-communist and anti-colonialist views. The Democrats may have taken “god” out of their party platform but it seems very apparent to me that it is very much a religious document replacing one god with another (i.e. government). And just like in 2008, Barack Obama, the Chosen One, is their messiah.

Ron Paul Will Never Be President But He HAS Made a Difference

Those who support the establishment of the Republican Party tend to be irritated that Ron Paul’s supporters kept trying to put his name up for nomination against Mitt Romney at the convention in Tampa even though Paul had no realistic chance of winning. Even very early in the campaign, establishment whores such as Hugh Hewitt were arguing that Ron Paul along with Herman Cain and Gary Johnson should be “exiled” from the debates because they didn’t have “a prayer of winning” the nomination. But are political campaigns, especially presidential campaigns, only about winning the nomination and ultimately, the presidency?

As someone who supported Ron Paul in the primary, I believed his winning the nomination would be the greatest upset in political history to say nothing about becoming the next president. When Terry Moran asked Paul the question: “When you lay your head on your pillow at night, do you see yourself in the Oval Office?” Paul replied “not really.” This is not a typical response of someone who is making a serious run for president.

This isn’t to say in any way that Ron Paul was not making a serious run for president, I think he was. Paul made three unsuccessful runs for the presidency but has succeeded in changing the political conversation. He advanced the ball in ways that he otherwise would not have had he not made these runs for the White House.

The most obvious example of how Paul has changed the political debate would be his call for a full audit of the Federal Reserve. As recently as 2006, the following was written about the Federal Reserve in a book by Richard Brookhiser entitled What Would the Founders Do (Our Questions, Their Answers)*

Everyone likes the Federal Reserve System these days, partly because it seems to work so well. (Not one person in a thousand ever thinks of it, a rough definition of working well.) But suspicion of public banks could revive at any time, for the same reasons that many of the founders were suspicious of them — most people (the founders included) do not understand banks or banking, and some bankers are in fact crooks. (p.92)

Back when this paragraph was written, I don’t think the Federal Reserve was even on my radar and I don’t think I was alone. Maybe the Fed isn’t the top issue for the average voter even now but I do think it’s safe to say more people are skeptical of the Fed especially in the era of bailouts and quantitative easing (i.e. printing money out of thin air). The mere mention of Ben Bernake or the Fed, especially at Ron Paul or liberty oriented rallies bring about boos and chants of “End the Fed!” “End the Fed!” This in of itself isn’t that big of a deal; these are true believers. What is a big deal, however; is that language to audit the Fed has made its way into the 2012 Republican Party Platform. Even more importantly, Paul’s Audit the Fed bill passed the House by an overwhelming 327-98 vote margin. Every single Republican but one supported the legislation along with 89 Democrats.

The bill wasn’t brought to a vote in the Senate but pressure will mount on Harry Reid if the Democrats maintain control to schedule a vote. If the Republicans take the Senate, a vote is even more likely to happen and Audit the Fed would be more likely to pass. If it gets to the president’s desk, the president – be it Obama or Romney will sign the bill, I believe.

A bipartisan bill authored by Ron Paul – who would have thought?

Ron Paul, one man who prior to the 2008 campaign wasn’t a household name, has changed the conversation within the G.O.P. concerning the Fed, spending, constitutional government, taxation, and civil liberties. Though his delegates were mistreated in Tampa, the RNC saw fit to at least try to mollify them with this tribute to the congressman’s career.

Missing from the tribute video was Paul’s anti-war/anti-interventionist views that he has espoused throughout his political career. Paul challenged people to do their own research concerning American foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East. He openly challenged the notion that policing the world trying to “make the world safe for democracy” and nation building was in America’s national security interest. Though the Neocons and war hawks are still firmly in control of the G.O.P., more voices in the party are challenging the prevailing view and cautioning Americans about blowback – a term invented by the C.I.A. but popularized by the Texas congressman.

Most important of all, Ron Paul is leaving a legacy behind him as he retires from congress. What will become of the rEVOLution in his absence? A small but growing number of individuals are being elected to the House and the Senate who share many of Paul’s small government/pro-liberty views. Ron Paul’s son Sen. Rand Paul along with Sen. Mike Lee, Sen. Mark Kirk, Rep. Justin Amash among others will lead the movement into the future. If the Paul activists continue to fight the establishment from inside** the G.O.P., there is at least a chance that the party will actually live up to its more small government ideals it purports to stand for.

*Basic Books, New York.

**While I understand why some Paul supporters might be tempted to leave the party due to how they have been treated by the party establishment, I would advise against this. The G.O.P. is ripe for a hostile takeover BUT the establishment isn’t going to give up control so easy. If you drop out, you are allowing them to win; this is precisely what they want you to do. Don’t give them the satisfaction. Focus on the Senate, House, and races at the state and local levels and vote your conscience for president (the wonderful thing about voting is that you don’t have to tell anyone who you voted for). After this election, regroup and continue to fight for liberty.

Gov. Gary Johnson Speaks at Paul-Fest to Woo Disaffected Ron Paul Supporters

Over the weekend, former New Mexico governor and current Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson spoke to a mostly supportive crowd at Paul-Fest. Johnson praised Rep. Ron Paul for everything he had done for the liberty movement and pointed out their many areas of agreement as he asked for Paul’s supporters to vote for the Libertarian ticket. Johnson also made reference to the “exclusionary process” that is the Republican Party’s nomination process. Ron Paul had qualified to have his name considered for nomination at the convention and an opportunity to speak at the convention but the RNC had changed its own rules, to prevent any challenge to Mitt Romney’s nomination to give the impression to those watching at home that the G.O.P was united behind Romney. Gov. Johnson was also a victim of this process as he was only allowed to participate in two of the televised debates when he was running for the G.O.P. nomination.

The Johnson campaign has already cut a new ad – “Gary Johnson – Ron Paul REVOLUTIONARY” using the same lines from the speech.

I think Gov. Johnson makes a persuasive case. If you are a Ron Paul supporter, what better way is left to give the middle finger to the establishment than to vote for Gary Johnson?

Liberty > Democracy

Far too often, people use the terms “liberty” and “democracy” as if they were interchangeable. President Woodrow Wilson justified intervention in other countries to “make the world safe for democracy.” Most if not all of the presidents who have followed have made similar arguments as an excuse to place military bases on every continent. Democracy in of itself is no guarantee that the people will live in a free society.

One thing that drives me nuts is this notion that everything needs to be “put up for a vote” whenever the item in question is not at all the business of the would-be voters. Sometimes communities have meetings to decide if the people should “allow” a Wal-Mart to be built. Those who oppose the building of a Wal-Mart in their community argue such things as Wal-Mart won’t allow their workers to unionize*, Wal-Mart will drive out existing businesses, and Wal-Mart imports too much of their “cheap,” “inferior” products from China rather than American products. These might be valid reasons for you to decide not to shop at Wal-Mart but what makes you think you have the right to deny me that choice by holding a vote?

Perhaps a less sympathetic target to some here in Colorado are the medical marijuana dispensaries. These dispensary owners set up shop and followed the existing rules but in the back of their mind they know that community activists can shut them down if they can gather enough signatures to force a vote**.

Then there are those who believe in wealth redistribution. The “rich” need to pay more taxes to benefit the “less fortunate” we are told.

What about economic liberty? Is economic liberty somehow a lesser liberty than any other liberty? The people from Learn Liberty argue that economic liberty is of more value to the individual than any right to vote. There are just some freedoms that ought not be voted away.

*This is more of a selling point for me.
**I’ve yet to hear of a vote to shut down a Walgreens because its within 1000 feet of a school even though they dispense drugs that are many times more dangerous than marijuana.

Additional Thoughts & Further Reading:
Brad reminded me of a great post he wrote nearly 6 years ago along the same lines entitled: Libertarianism and Democracy. After re-reading my post, I realized that I might have left the impression that democracy is of no value to those who value individual liberty. Brad does a much better job explaining that “liberty is an end, democracy is a means to an end.”

In truth, democracy is often better for making decisions than monarchy, or aristocracy. After all, what can empower people more than to allow them to have a hand in making their own decisions? The key is that democracy can be used in ways that don’t reduce liberty, but it can also be used in ways that do.

So it’s not really democracy that libertarians fear, it is force. The sentiment that elicits anti-democratic quotes, though, is the fear that democracy will marshal government to impose force that destroys our liberty.

I think the important thing that people need to recognize is that there are limits to what a government should have the power to do even if the process is a democratic one. What are the limits? Simply the recognition that the individual has the natural rights of life, liberty, and property that cannot be taken away provided that s/he does not infringe on the same rights of another.

Recovered from the Memory Hole: Sen. Obama Opposed to the Individual Mandate in ‘08

“If a mandate was the solution, we could try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody buy a house. The reason they don’t have a house is they don’t have the money.” – Sen. Barack Obama during the 2008 Democrat Primary.

A long, long, time ago, way back during the 2008 primaries, then Sen. Barack Obama attacked then Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. John Edwards for the mandate provisions of their respective healthcare plans. Sen. Obama went on to explain how the RomneyCare mandates were not helping indigents in Massachusetts acquire the healthcare they needed leaving some without health insurance and paying the fine.

Fast forward to the present: President Barack Obama’s signature legislation, the so-called Affordable Care Act (A.K.A. ObamaCare, modeled after RomneyCare) is upheld by the Supreme Court, the main question being whether or not the federal government can force mandate individuals to purchase a product. Meanwhile on the Republican side, with about a dozen or so candidates to choose from in the course of the 2012 campaign, Gov. Mitt Romney will be the G.O.P. nominee who pledges to repeal ObamaCare if he is elected the next President of the United States. Mitt Romney, the man behind the very policy that Obama criticized and now embraces at the federal level.

Now isn’t politics fun!

Doug Stanhope – Liberty (Re) Defined

Brad has posted a version of this comedy routine by Doug Stanhope before. This version has been edited to include images and video by Fr33 Agent Beau Davis with a more honest than the traditional “pledge of allegiance” at the close.

I thought that since today happens to be Flag Day, this video would be an important reminder about the true meaning of liberty albeit with an (at times) crude, comedic delivery. True liberty has nothing to do with a flag*, much less worship for the government for which it stands.

WARNING: some of the material in the video will be offensive as hell to some of you. Enjoy!

Related: The Un-American Pledge of Allegiance

*Of course the flag can mean different things to different people. I think it’s one thing to show appreciation for the flag with its original intended meaning by the founders and quite another to “pledge allegiance” to its government regardless of how hostile to freedom the government becomes. I seriously doubt that Thomas Jefferson (who advocated separating political bonds with any government that becomes hostile to the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence BTW) or other founders would have ever pledged allegiance to the flag of the federal government.

Rasmussen Poll: 61% of 500 Likely Voters in Colorado Support Regulating Marijuana Like Alcohol (Amendment 64)

This is one of the most encouraging polls I’ve seen in a long time. Honestly, I didn’t think that Amendment 64 [full text here] would have much chance of being approved by the voters, especially since a similar measure, Prop 19 failed in California in 2010. The Huffington Post reports:

The survey of 500 of likely voters in Colorado conducted on June 6, 2012 shows sixty-one percent are in favor legalizing marijuana if it is regulated the way that alcohol and cigarettes are currently regulated.

[…]

That is the highest percentage of Colorado voter support that any marijuana legalization poll has shown to date. In December of 2011, a similar poll from Public Policy Polling showed only 49 percent in favor of general legalization of marijuana.

I also found this to be interesting (continuing the same article):

Amendment 64 also recently received support from both Republicans and Democrats — in March, 56 percent of the delegates at the Denver County Republican Assembly voted to support the legislation, and in April, the Colorado Democratic Party officially endorsed Amendment 64 and added a marijuana legalization plank to the current party platform.

Bipartisan support for legalizing marijuana and regulating it like alcohol in Colorado? This is quite encouraging and fascinating (in California, you may recall, there was bipartisan opposition from the blue and red teams).

This isn’t to say there that Amendment 64 will sail through unopposed. There are anti-64 groups mobilizing so those of us who want to see 64 pass cannot be complacent. Also, with about five and a half months until election day, anything can happen.

Tomasky: Kill personal freedom for government and crony capitalist well-being

Michael Tomasky penned a sickeningly ignorant and immoral piece in the Daily Beast… even more sickening than he considers sodas and 1/2 pound hamburgers. The most stomach-turning part:

We have this “liberty” business completely backward in this country, and if Bloomberg can start rebalancing individual freedom and the public good, God bless him, I say.

Got that? Individual freedom has to be balanced with the public good.

But, wait, you say, ain’t we the public? Not in Tomasky’s view:

The costs to the health-care system are enormous, so the public interest here is ridiculously obvious. Obesity is a killer. Are we to do nothing, in the name of the “liberty” that entitles millions of people to kill themselves however they please, whatever their diabetes treatments costs their insurers?

The health-care system is a hybrid crony capitalist/government enterprise. Health coverage in its current form exists because of myriad laws and regulations. Hospitals and clinics are highly regulated. Doctors and nurses must pass through regulated courses of education. In every way that matters, government has been driving for decades.

Washington has created a system where certain private, individual behaviors create a drag on the system. Therefore, it’s now in the “public interest” to limit commerce to discourage individual behaviors that cost the system money. Unlike with communicable diseases like tuberculosis, obesity inherently affects only the individual. The “public interest” here is entirely a construct of government.

Now, let’s restate Tomasky in a more truthful fashion:

We have this “liberty” business completely backward in this country, and if Bloomberg can start rebalancing individual freedom and the well-being of the government and crony capitalists, God bless him, I say.

I’d say those who are opposing this have ‘this “liberty” business’ quite right.

Reason.com has more on this.

How far we have fallen…

Reading the point/counterpoint posts on the question of how the supreme court would decide on Obamacares constitutionality, was quite disturbing to me in several ways.

On the one hand I was heartened, because clearly both Brad and Doug are sane and rational folks with a reasonably solid background in both law and politics, and a foundational understanding of the constitution…

Of course, that only highlights how many people in this country are not.

Any reading of the constitution… of the very intent of the founding of this nation… makes it clear that our federal government is meant to be one of of limited and enumerated powers. If the government can mandate this, they can mandate anything. This is the fundamental argument about the necessity for a limiting principle to any government act.

And anyone who doesn’t want unlimited, unconstrained government can see that. Sadly, it seems that the idea of unlimited, unconstrained government is quite popular in some quarters… even with some supreme court justices.

The basic liberal/progressive/leftist argument for socialized medicine is “we should do this even if it IS illegal and unconstitutional, because it’s the right thing to do so the supreme court should uphold it”.

I.E. “It’s good because we want it, and therefore it should be legal because it is good; and we need to get rid of this whole “limited government” thing, because it gets in the way of us doing what is right and good.”

What I also find heartening is that both Brad and Doug both seem to have a good sense of all of this…

But that is also disturbing…

Because both of them seem to share the same actual opinion:

Both believe that Obamacare is ACTUALLY unconstitutional, and should be struck down…

…It’s just that Brad is cynical enough about the supreme court and the political aspects of the decision that he thinks enough justices will be able to argue themselves into ignoring the constitution and doing what they want to do, rather than what is right.

… and Doug believes that there’s a good possibility of that as well; he just has a bit more hope that they won’t.

… and if you look around the commentariat, that’s pretty much the split of positions that every other knowledgable observer has as well.

And if that isn’t disturbing to you, then you really have no idea what is going on, do you?

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

The REAL grass roots of American politics: A report from the first ever Idaho Republican Caucus

Since 1920, the 43rd state has had either a convention, or a presidential primary to select the the Republican party presidential candidate (the Democratic party allowed each county to decide whether to have a caucus or a primary, up ’til 2008, and the counties varied between caucuses and primaries. In 2008 they changed the rules and have caucused statewide since).

Idaho has historically had a late season non-binding primary, held in Mid may (and still does for everything other than president), by which time the presidential nominee is almost always decided.

For 2012, the Idaho Republican party was tired of being irrelevant to the election, and sought some way of moving their participation to earlier in the process. Unfortunately, moving a primary has some negative consequences. Because the early primary states like to protect their position as favored by the presidential candidates, each of the parties has rules that penalize states (by reducing the number of delegates they control) if they make their primaries earlier than they were in the previous election.

For 2012 however, the GOP changed their rules, so that if a state held a binding caucus, on or before April 6th, but not before March 6th (super Tuesday), and changed from a past the post winner take all system to some type of apportionment; they would not be penalized.

There was a very big, and very nasty fight within the party about this plan; with most of rural Idaho, particularly north and north central Idaho opposing it, and the major metropolitan areas Boise, Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, and Pocatello, supporting it.

A Sidebar: For those of you reading this not familiar with the politics or demographics of Idaho, and who primarily think of Idaho as a farm state… potatoes and all… a little background would probably be useful.

Idaho is a pretty BIG state geographically (14th largest at 83.6 thousand square miles), but with one of the smallest populations (11th smallest at 1.6 million), and thus the 7th least dense in population (19.1 per square mile, about 1/5th the national average).

Another important point: although Idaho is only the 14th largest state, because of its very odd shape (big and rectangular-ish at the bottom, long and narrow up top, kinda triangular in the middle) at 480 miles top to bottom, and 560 miles on the long diagonal; only Alaska, California, and Texas are longer north to south, and only those plus Montana and Nevada are longer (only by 60 miles for the latter two) on the long diagonal.

Combine that big state geography, and small state population, with our… unique… landscape, and things are a little weird here.

Let me describe to you what I mean by unique geography.

Idaho isn’t the big flat farm state that most people imagine in their mind, thinking of Idaho potatoes. Idaho is smack in the middle of the Rocky mountains, and is in fact the most mountainous of the lower 48 states by land area classified as “mountains” (Colorado is slightly larger and has a higher mean elevation, but is half mountains, half plains); as well as having the third most land area in National forest service land (20.5 million acres, only 300k acres behind California, and 1.5 million behind Alaska; and thus the highest percentage of land area); and at over 60% the third highest (behind Nevada and Utah) in percentage of land controlled by the federal government (which includes NFS and BLM lands).

There are six population centers in Idaho, and about 75% of the population lives within their catchment areas: Boise (620,000 metro population. 40% of the states population lives within 50 miles of Boise), Twin Falls (99,000), Pocatello (90,000), Idaho falls (130,000), Moscow/Lewiston (87,000), and Coeur D’Alene/Sandpoint (179,000, but only because that counts the entire population of the two counties. The actual “micropolitan” population is more like 100,000 between the cities and large towns within an hours drive); and they are mostly separated by pretty substantial stretches of mountains. Just to top things off, the northern half of the state (north of the Salmon river) is in the pacific time zone, while the southern part of the state is in the Mountain time zone.

The geographic separation is such, that the quickest way to get to Boise from Sandpoint, where we live, is to drive over 100 miles out of our way through Washington and Oregon. It’s only 320 miles in a straight line, but the shortest route by road is an 8 to 9 hour, 420 mile drive on mountain roads (many of which are impassible much of the time in winter), or a 500 mile 8 to 9 hour tri-state drive by interstate.

Those of us in north Idaho have basically no relation to Boise or Pocatello at all; except in that they dominate statewide politics because of their population. We’re far closer connected to eastern Washington (Spokane, Pullman), or to western Montana… or even to Seattle.

From my house, it’s a hell of a lot easier (and faster. It’s 350 miles and about 5-6 hours) to get to Seattle than it is to get to Boise. Hell, we’re only 220 miles from Calgary. Though it’s a 7 hour 350 mile trip by road; it’s still closer to us than Boise.

Check out the topo map below to see what I’m talking about:

You can see, there isn’t very much at all in between the Boise area, and the Lewiston area, except BIG mountains; and a few towns along U.S. 95, and around the lakes and big rivers.

U.S. 95 is one of the old original U.S. highways by the way; and one of the very few left that hasn’t been replaced by interstates. It runs through almost the entire state of Idaho north to South, from the Canadian border, down to southern Oregon at Ontario near Boise; into northern Nevada near Winnemucca and over to Fernley near Reno; from Reno down to Vegas, from Vegas down to Blythe California, then over into Arizona near quartzite; turning south again down into Yuma, and then into Mexico at San Luis Rio Colorado, on the Colorado river. I have driven the entire length of it (unfortunately not all at once, but in pieces), and from top to bottom, it is some of the prettiest, and most geographically varied, road you’ll ever drive.

Because of this geography, and the population differences, Idaho is effectively two VERY VERY different states; north and north central Idaho in the pacific time zone, and southern and eastern Idaho in the mountain time zone (with the dividing line at a little town in the middle of the bitterroot mountains called Riggins).

Both are very conservative overall, but the southern part of the state are very heavily Mormon, and very religious and socially conservative; while the northern part of the state is more catholic and protestant (but not really hardcore baptist, pentecostal, hardcore evangelical etc…), and much more libertarian.

The big problem, as far as north/north central Idaho goes, is that although it represents about 40% of the land area, out of a population of almost 1.6 million, the north only has about 320,000 or about 20%; and that 320,000 is very thinly spread across 10 pretty large counties, vs. the 1.25 million (or about 80%) across 34 generally smaller counties in the southeast and southwest.

Thus, the northern half of the state is generally marginalized as a political constituency, with Boise or Pocatello generally both setting the statewide agenda, and having things decided their way.

Of course, this situation probably sounds pretty familiar to Arizonans, Nevadans, Michiganders, Minnesotans, Floridians, and New Hampsherites (all have a very big north south split); Washingtonians, Oregonians, Coloradans, and Montanans (all have a very big east west split); and of course Texans and Californians (which both have a three or four way split depending on how you count it).

Predictably, Boise won; and Idaho became a caucus state, at least for presidential purposes. Idaho also, for the first time, became… at least somewhat… relevant to the selection of a presidential candidate. So much so that in the weeks before Super Tuesday, Idaho had visits from all the major candidates.

And believe me, there was plenty of interest and participation in this process; both by the people, and from the campaigns.

Our candidate visits included Ron Paul up here in Sandpoint, just this past Monday. On Sunday, the organizers of the event emailed me saying that I shouldn’t worry about parking or seating, there should be plenty. Unfortunately, the event was so packed, by the time I got there I wasn’t able to get in. They expected 400 or 500 people, and the hall at the county fairgrounds filled to capacity (at 1300).

Also the telephone banks were operating in force (I got two calls in the last two weeks from the Ron Paul folks, both actual human beings; and over a dozen from Romney and Santorums campaign, all robocalls).

And finally, last night, the Idaho GOP held their first ever presidential caucus.

It was a resounding success… so much so that it almost ended up a total disaster.

Based on Democratic caucus participation (in 2008, their most attended caucus ever, only 20,000 Idaho Democrats caucused), and participation in caucuses in other states, the state central committee planned for between and 3% and 6% of total registered voters to attend the caucuses; expecting as little as 1% in some counties, and as much as 10% at most in others.

This year there were about 750,000 total registered voters in Idaho (a bit less than 50% of the population); and while something between 55% and 60% of registered voters vote Republican in general elections, Idaho has been an open primary state up till now, and in any given year only around 10% of voters are actually registered Republicans (this year, based on previous participation, Idaho has “official” party affiliation recorded for “Democratic”, “Republican”, “Libertarian”, “Constitution” and “Unaffiliated”. The large majority of Idaho voters are registered “unaffiliated”).

I spoke to several Idaho state Republican party staff members, and given the low Democratic caucus turnout, and that in most caucus states the turnouts are 3% or less (even Iowa on a good year gets 6%) they expected something like 10,000 people state wide, and 20,000 at the very outside, would attend this years Republican caucuses (remember, the most Democrats to ever caucus in Idaho was 20,000 in 2008).

Not only that, but just about all the “smart folks” were predicting a low turnout due to “lack of energy” and “lack of enthusiasm” etc… etc…

They were wrong.

VERY wrong.

Nearly 10,000 people showed up to caucus in just one county alone (in Ada county, population 300,000, which contains Boise, more than 10,000 people went through the doors at caucus locations, and 9,050 cast first round ballots).

All told, about 45,000 people statewide cast a final round ballot, in whatever round their county went to. If the numbers in other counties are at all similar to those in Bonner county (the only county I have direct numbers for), at least 60,000 and maybe as many as 80,000 people actually showed up at caucus sites.

And of course, that doesn’t include the people who showed up, saw how busy it was, and left; or the people who, never having attended a caucus before, were confused about the process and gave up earlier.

In Sandpoint, there were so many people wanting to caucus, that many people simply left; either angry or frustrated at the long lines and waiting in the cold (it was 36 degrees and full dark before we got through the doors).

I spoke with several staff members at Sandpoint High school (our local caucus site), and Priest River Jr. High school (the caucus site in Priest River), and with several county Republican committee members and volunteers; who told me that hundreds of people didn’t understand the process, and had showed up at the caucus sites during the day, wondering about how to vote. After finding out they had to come back at 6pm and stay for several hours, most of these people left (often angrily) saying they wouldn’t come back.

I arrived at our caucus site, our local high school, at about 5:30pm; 30 minutes before the designated “door opening” time and 90 minutes before the caucus was supposed to begin at 7pm. When I arrived, the 438 space main parking lot was already full, with the remaining 200 spaces in the side lots filling up rapidly.

By 6pm, the parking lot was completely full, and the line to get into the caucus site was wrapped halfway around the school. I, having arrived at 5:30, didn’t get in to the registration table until 6:45pm (in the end, they continued processing people through until around 8pm).

Bonner county, where my family and I live, has a population of just about 40,000, with 22,794 registered voters as of 9am yesterday morning; however, over 80% of all the registered voters in our county are unaffiliated (though the county generally votes over 60% republican). Prior to yesterdays caucuses (Idaho allows same day registration and affiliation), the total number of registered Republicans in Bonner county was just 1,662.

The county party committee, following the central committees guidance, were told to prepare for something like 600 to 1200 people to show up for the whole county; and had intended to use the 300 seat high school auditorium for the caucus site in Sandpoint (half the registered voters in the county live within 10 miles of Sandpoint).

That auditorium was filled in the first ten or fifteen minutes.

By the time my wife and I got through sign-in and ID check at 6:45, we had already filled up the cafeteria; and were well over 500 strong. In fact, by the time we hit 700, we hit the fire code maximum for the auditorium, AND the cafeteria and the overflow room.

Finally, at around 7pm (when the first round of voting was supposed to start), they pulled the bleachers out in the school gym. By the time they finished letting people in, there were over 1100 of us in the building (including a lot of kids, there with their parents; which my wife and I found heartening).

Because of the huge turnout, there obviously weren’t enough staff volunteers. The staff ended up asking for some additional help from the attendees, and the high school kids who wanted additional community service (which was gladly given); and everything was delayed by over an hour.

There were four caucus sites for the county. By the time we started the first round of balloting it was after 8pm; and 856 of us cast a first round ballot in that building alone. All said and done, there were 1411 first round ballots cast for Bonner county; when less than 12 hours before, there were only 1662 total registered Republicans.

Before I continue I should note the rules and process for the Idaho Republican caucuses, as conducted last night.

There were five candidates that qualified to be listed for the caucuses: Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Buddy Roemer.

Voting would proceed county wide, in rounds, eliminating lower performing candidates in each round, until a “50% plus one vote” winner could be declared for each county (NOT for each caucus site). In the first round, any candidate that failed to achieve 15% support would be eliminated. In any subsequent round the lowest performing candidate would be eliminated.

Also, I should be clear that the county Republican party commissioners and volunteers conducted themselves in as professional and courteous a manner as they could given the difficulties; and they conducted the primary in an entirely open and transparent way. I would like to particularly thank our county commissioner (and party chair) Cornel Rasor and county party treasurer Alan Banks, for working so hard to make things work given the difficult circumstances; and for being so open and encouraging to people who wanted to witness, film, photograph, record, and report on the process (at one point Cornel said “Please, everyone, tweet this, post it on facebook, blog about it… we want everyone to see that we’re conducting the most open caucus in the country).

23 of Idahos 44 counties had a 50%+1 vote winner in the first round (including most of the top ten population counties). Every county that finished in the first round went for Romney except one; Latah county, which voted for Ron Paul. Most of those counties went for Romney by 60% or more, with two (Madison county and Bear Lake county), hitting 90% for Romney (notably both counties are almost entirely Mormon, as were most of the counties that went for Mitt more than 60%).

One should note, Latah county, with a population of just 35,000, and less than 2000 registered Republicans prior to their caucus, had 982 votes cast yesterday. 52% voted for Ron Paul, and only 20% voted for Romney.

… and that rather nicely illustrates the political divide between north and north central Idaho, and southern Idaho.

In the first round, Bonner county cast 1411 votes, including 558 for Ron Paul (39.55%), 291 for Romney (20.77%), 290 for Rick Santorum (20.43%) 173 for Newt Gingrich (12.26%) and 4 for Buddy Roemer. This meant Newt and Roemer would be eliminated after the first round.

Six of the remaining 21 counties went through two rounds of voting, including Boundary county just to our north (they are the county bordering Canada) who went for Ron Paul at 54% (Romney at 18%, Santorum at 28%… they really don’t like the government very much in Boundary county). The other five counties that finished in two rounds also went for Mitt Romney.

In the second round, even though we didn’t cast our ballots ’til around 9:30pm, our polling place only lost 28 voters, and Bonner county as a whole only lost 138 voters, dropping from 1411 to 1293; 564 for Ron Paul, 277 for Mitt Romney, and surprisingly, 452 for Rick Santorum, causing Romney to be eliminated.

Unfortunately, a lot of folks were pretty sure the caucus would only go two rounds; and left immediately after casting their ballots, not waiting around for the vote count.

The one real black mark on last night caucus, at least in Bonner county; wasn’t from the party, it was from the left… Unfortunately, many of us recognized a number people we know to be hardcore Democrats, far left liberals, or otherwise very anti-republican (and definitely NOT libertarians or Ron Paul supporters), in the caucus crowd last night. I have spoken to people who were at the other three caucus sites in the county, as well as some people in other counties; who have told me the same thing.

There are not a lot of Santorum supporters up here; and there ARE a large number of Romney supporters (it’s still at least 20% mormon up here, plus the pragmatists who think that Romney is the only one who can actually beat Obama).

A number of the folks who were there, are pretty sure that those people we recognized as leftists made up a lot of the Gingrich and Santorum voters in the Bonner county caucus last night.

When Gingrich was eliminated in the first round, as everyone knew he would be; we all expected the Gingrich vote to MOSTLY split between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. When basically ALL the Gingrich vote went for Santorum, eliminating Romney and forcing us into a third round… Let’s just say that everyone was more than a little surprised…

… Actually extreme shock and more than a little disgust might be a better description.

Like 15 other counties, the caucuses in Bonner county last night went to three rounds, but the difference between the second and third round was much greater than between the first and second. Bonner county only lost 138 voters between the first and second round. Between the second and third round we lost 341. Notably, that included a lot of the folks who we recognized as leftists; and almost none of the Ron Paul supporters.

When we finally cast our third round ballots, well around 10pm (the count came back around 10:30), 555 Bonner county republicans cast their ballot for Ron Paul, and 487 cast their ballot for Rick Santorum; Paul winning the county at 53.28%.

I don’t think there is any question, given the numbers I’ve seen and talking with people in the other polling places and other counties; that some democrat/leftists manipulation was going on in Idaho last night, trying to undermine Romney and Paul by artificially boosting support for Santorum.

Overall, Ron Paul won six counties and 18% of the vote, Rick Santorum won seven counties and 18% of the vote, and Mitt Romney won thirty-one counties and 62 percent of the vote.

Officially, Santorum received 29 more votes state wide than Ron Paul, so he came in second; though as I said, I believe that result was the result of deliberate manipulation. Romney should have received even more votes than he did, as should Ron Paul, and Paul should have been in a very clear second place.

Although Idaho’s Republican caucus for 2012 was technically an apportioned caucus, not a winner take all; the rules that the Idaho Republican committee decided on, were that the counties would be winner take all, and if more than one candidate won more than 50% of the counties delegates, than that candidate would have all the states delegates committed to them.

Since Mitt won 31 counties, he got all 32 of Idahos delegates. Given the results overall for Super Tuesday; although Romney is not a mathematical certainty for the nomination, he is almost certainly the nominee.

Of course… he’s BEEN “almost certainly the nominee” since shortly after November 4th 2008; when the RNC decided that was who they were going to line up behind for fundraising and groundwork for the next four years to beat Obama….

but that’s another rant for another day.

From a personal standpoint, other than the manipulation issue, and the party VASTLY underestimating the level of interest, passion, and participation of the people of Idaho… I found my first caucus experience to be very interesting and personally far more rewarding and engaging than a primary. There were certainly a lot of folks who were irritated by the process, or who feel that a caucus is simply improper or an inferior way to vote for a candidate; but I can certainly see the advantages of it.

As to which I think is better?

Neither.

I believe that the primary/convention system used in this country is essentially a sideshow for the benefit of the media, the fundraising arms of the party, and the fundraising efforts of the candidates themselves. It is a detriment to political discourse and serves to perpetuate an inherently corrupt process of candidate selection by party insiders and political money brokers.

…but, as I said above, that’s a rant for another day.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Observations from the Colorado Republican Caucus

Just one day before the deadline late last year, I changed my party registration from Libertarian to Republican so I could participate in the caucus that took place yesterday evening (Colorado’s caucuses are closed to independent and third party voters). Being new to the caucus process, I didn’t know what to expect. Now that I’m no longer a caucus virgin (wow, that sounds dirty), I thought I would share some of my deflowering observations here.

The caucus itself was held at the elementary school all three of my children have attended. Once inside, I presented my voter I.D. and I was told to sit at the table with my precinct number on it. I was the first to be seated at the table but was joined by a nice elderly lady moments later followed by a young married couple. Not too long after that, the rest of those representing the precinct joined us at the table. By the time everyone was seated, there were just ten of us (there were probably three times as many people at the table representing the precinct next to us).

As we were getting acquainted, the leader of the caucus said a few words informing us what we were doing and not doing (no speeches on behalf of the presidential candidates – something I was looking forward to) and introduced the candidates running for the State House and State Senate and each made their pitch.

After these relatively short speeches it was time for the “presidential preference” vote. The caucus leader informed us that these votes were nonbinding (in other words, meaningless) with regard to how the delegates would be rewarded. Not only that, but she also explained that each precinct may or may not be eligible for delegates depending on how much support the precinct gave to the top of the ticket in the last election. As it turned out, our precinct received zero because too many voters had the audacity to not support the very sorry gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes in 2010.

Other than that, we were able to vote on who would be delegates to the less important conventions (in my judgment at least). None of these votes were contested as those who decided they wanted to be delegates did so reluctantly.

For the remainder of the evening, we discussed the primary race and who we were supporting and why. As it turned out, at least five at our table were for Mitt Romney – not because they particularly liked Romney but because he was the most “electable” vs. Obama. One was for Rick Santorum, two of us were for Ron Paul (myself and one other), one said he didn’t want to say who he was for and I don’t know who the last person supported.

While I did enjoy engaging others in conversation about the candidates and the issues, I don’t think this is the best way to choose a nominee for president. Having said that, I don’t know that the end result would have been any different had this been a primary as opposed to a caucus.

Post Iowa Caucus Links/Open Thread

Newt Gingrich calls Mitt Romney “a liar” but says he would support him over Barack Obama if he wins the nomination.

Talk radio host and raving lunatic extraordinaire Mark Levin threatens to campaign against Rand Paul if his father chooses to make a third party run. What a petulant asshole.

Sarah Palin warns: “G.O.P. had better not marginalize Ron Paul or his supporters.”

Over at Reason, Matt Welch gives 7 reasons why Ron Paul supporters should feel optimistic about his third-place finish in Iowa

CNN news feed “drops” as Afghanistan war vet urges support for Ron Paul; some Paul supporters claim shenanigans. To CNN’s credit, they do later carry a feed where Paul has the same soldier speak from the podium.

Rick Santorum came in a close second to Mitt Romney but James Hohmann at Politico says there will be a reality check coming concerning his viability. I certainly hope he is right.

Michele Bachmann drops out of the race after a very disappointing (but expected by most) finish. Buh-bye.

Rick Perry decides to continue on to South Carolina. He shouldn’t be a problem for too much longer.

There are a whole lot of other items in the news. Please share your links or comment about whatever.

Rick Santorum Revives The Lincoln-Douglas Debates; Unwittingly Takes Douglas’ Side

Wow… Just, wow. I’ve heard of people taking quotes out of context, but Rick Santorum is treading down a slippery slope that I think even he, as a hardcore social conservative, would find himself quickly uneasy with:

His spokesman Hogan Gidley emails me in response to Mark Miners comments: “Senator Santorum is certainly an advocate for states’ rights, but he believes as Abraham Lincoln – that states do not have the right to legalize moral wrongs. The Senator has been clear and consistent – and he believes that marriage is and can only be: between one man and one woman.”

Now, it’s easy to see where Santorum is coming from — the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Lincoln at the time was arguing, as so many libertarians argue, that there are some rights which are not to be voted on. Popular sovereignty can be good for making some decisions, but that in the case of slavery, it is used to uphold a moral wrong. Infringements upon rights granted by natural law cannot be justified by majority vote:

Lincoln’s strategy was to isolate Douglas’s doctrine of popular sovereignty from the national mainstream as a form of moral dereliction for its indifference to the corrupting effect of slavery in republican society. Douglas insisted that in his official capacity as a United States senator he did not care whether the people in a territory voted slavery up or down. Lincoln admonished: “Any man can say that who does not see anything wrong in slavery, but no man can logically say it who does see a wrong in it; because no man can logically say he don’t care whether a wrong is voted up or voted down.” Douglas argued that the people of a political community, like any individual, had a right to have slaves if they wanted them. Lincoln reasoned: “So they have if it is not a wrong. But if it is a wrong, he cannot say people have a right to do wrong.”

Lincoln and Douglas were coming from different first principles. In fact, the argument is not at all unlike modern arguments about abortion, a point I’ve made before. The question is not whether abortion should be allowed, the question is whether a fetus is inherently “person” enough to have natural rights. If it is, abortion is murder. If it is not, abortion is no different morally from removing a cancerous growth from one’s uterus. Yet both sides constantly talk past each other without acknowledging that they are working from wildly different first principles.

Abraham Lincoln, contrary to what Santorum suggests, is not suggesting that all men must be forcibly stopped by government from engaging in moral wrongs. He explicitly acknoledges the libertarian right of natural law — you can do what you wish with what is yours. You may self-govern; the nanny state is not there to stop you from acting within your personal domain. From his 1854 speech in Peoria, IL (same source link as above, italics original, bold added by me, and one sentence from the original speech inserted into the below passage for continuity):

The South claimed a right of equality with the North in opening national territory to the expansion of slavery. Rejecting the claim, Lincoln denounced slavery as a “monstrous injustice” and a direct contradiction of “the very principles of civil liberty” in the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln said that the right of republican self-government “lies at the foundation of the sense of justice,” both in political communities and in individuals. It meant that “each man should do precisely as he pleases with all that is exclusively his own.” Declared Lincoln: “The doctrine of self-government is right—absolutely and eternally right—but it has no just application” as attempted in the Nebraska Act. Spelling out the natural-law premises of his argument, Lincoln continued: “Or perhaps I should rather say that whether it has just application depends upon whether a negro is not or is a man. If he is not a man, why in that case, he who is a man may, as a matter of self-government, do just as he pleases with him. But if the negro is a man, is it not to that extent, a total destruction of self-government, to say that he too shall not govern himself? When the white man governs himself that is self-government; but when he governs himself, and also governs another man, that is more than self-government—that is despotism.” Recurring to the nation’s founding principles, Lincoln summarized: “If the negro is a man, why then my ancient faith teaches me that ‘all men are created equal'; and that there can be no more moral right in connection with one man’s making a slave of another.”

Note my bolded portion on self-government. It seems that Abraham Lincoln and Rick Santorum have some agreement that a state cannot legalize a moral wrong — they merely happen to have WILDLY different definitions of what constitutes a moral wrong.

Abraham Lincoln is following the traditions of natural law and natural rights. Each man is his own, and barring his attempts to coerce others to do his bidding, he should have freedom to operate as he sees fit. Slavery is an attempt to coerce others to do his bidding, and therefore it is an abhorrent moral wrong that has no place in a free society.

Rick Santorum is following a different tradition, one that states that man is NOT his own, and should forcibly be stopped from operating in his own domain if his actions violate no ones natural rights, but violate Santorum’s own sensibilities. If two members of the same sex, wholly consensually and within the bounds of their natural rights, want to engage in a right of contract such that they bound themselves together for all the legal purposes we generally associate with marriage, they must be barred from doing so. This consensual and voluntary action must not be permitted!

Abraham Lincoln says that the government must not condone the violation of one man’s natural rights by another, and that democracy is not an adequate justification for doing so. Rick Santorum says that government must be in the job of actively violating those natural rights, even if the people of a territory choose to vote to recognize those rights! Abraham Lincoln says that slavery is wrong because it takes away the right of self-government; Rick Santorum says that we must all be slaves of the state, because he doesn’t like what we choose to do with our freedom.

Abraham Lincoln decries a situation which denies the equality before the law of human beings; Rick Santorum claims the mantle of Abraham Lincoln while cheering laws that deny that equality! In doing so, Rick Santorum misses the irony: he’s replaying the Lincoln-Douglas debates in modern times, but he doesn’t realize that he’s taking Douglas’ side, not Lincoln’s.

Ad Populum

“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!” – Barry Goldwater

Ron Paul’s supporters and detractors would probably agree that many of his positions are out of the main stream of modern political thought. By definition, this makes Ron Paul and those of like mind extremists.

Josh Harkinson, writing for Mother Jones has put together a list of what he considers “Ron Paul’s 15 Most Extreme Positions.” Among these “extreme” positions are “eviscerate entitlements” (such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid), eliminating entire departments (ex: Education, Health and Human Services, Energy, etc.), “enable state extremism” (allow the states to determine issues like gay marriage and school prayer rather than address these issues at the federal level), end the war on (some) drugs, and Ron Paul’s statements against the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Josh Harkinson lists these positions and calls them “extreme” but does not make any arguments against these positions because these positions are already unpopular in his estimation (and indeed, many of these positions are unpopular). Harkinson, either consciously or not has resorted to what is referred to as the Ad Populum fallacy, otherwise known as “appeal to popularity.”

Ad Populum fallacy works like this:

1. Most people approve of X
2. Therefore, X is true

By calling someone an extremist or calling his/her positions extreme is at least a variation of this fallacy: “Most people disagree with Ron Paul on entitlements, therefore; Ron Paul is wrong.”

To be sure, most of the items on the list of 15 that I fully agree with, others that raise my eyebrows (ex: I haven’t investigated number 4 yet) and others that I disagree with* but whether or not each is an extreme has nothing to do with if I agree or not. Whether a position on an issue is extreme or not is entirely beside the point! Rather than calling a position extreme, it should be debated on its merits or lack thereof.

Popular opinion, especially in American politics, is a very fickle thing. Consider how much attitudes have changed over the history of the U.S. It was once considered perfectly okay for one human being to own another. To call for the abolition of slavery in one era was considered extreme, in another controversial, in yet another popular. Any person who would say today that the institution of slavery should be resurrected would now be called an extremist (among other things).

What does this change in popularity concerning slavery tell us about the morality of slavery? Was it a moral institution because it was accepted as part of the culture and perfectly legal but now immoral because most would say that slavery is one of the great shames in our nation’s history?

Of course not.

Slavery was as immoral when Thomas Jefferson owned slaves as it would be today. Popularity has no bearing on questions of right and wrong.

Obviously, there are many more examples of how popular opinion has shifted over time. These positions of Ron Paul’s that Josh Harkinson calls extreme today could become controversial (i.e. having nearly as much support as those who are opposed) or even mainstream in the future. This is likely a great fear of Harkinson and those of his ilk as it’s much easier to call Ron Paul, libertarians, or libertarian positions extreme than it is to confront them directly.

Yes, Ron Paul is an extremist but he is in some very good company. We can safely say that the founding fathers – the original tea partyers were the extremists of their day. They certainly couldn’t be described as mainstream. The words penned by Thomas Paine in Common Sense and later Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence were downright treasonous!

“You’re an extremist!”

My response: “Yeah, so? What’s your point?”

Actually, I consider being called an extremist a badge of honor; so much so that I have put a bumper sticker on my vehicle declaring myself as such (I bought the sticker below from LibertyStickers.com).

The day my views become mainstream will be the day I have to seriously reevaluate my views because I doubt they will be mainstream any time soon. But even though my views or those who promote them don’t win very often on Election Day doesn’t make my views wrong…just unpopular.

Hat Tip: The Agitator
» Read more

Point: You Cheering In The Streets Is No Different Than When They Do It

The following is a continuation of The Liberty Papers’ “Point/Counterpoint” series. In this feature, two contributors (or, as in this case, a contributor and a guest) of semi-like mind debate a specific point of view. Today’s Point is provided by regular reader and commenter Jeff Molby, who wrote in response to a friend and offered to submit it here as well. Tomorrow Brad Warbiany will present a Counterpoint (now available here).

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After posting a Facebook link to this article which disapproves of the American jubilation in response to the news of Osama’s death, a friend of mine made the following comment:

“There is a BIG difference between groups cheering when innocent Americans have been killed and cheering when the person responsible for killing those same innocent Americans has been killed.”

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I don’t condone any of the violent acts by either side. I condemn our efforts to install and arm puppet governments. I condemn the terrorist attacks. Both have been going on so long that I don’t even give a damn which one “started it”. Like a couple of pissed-off five year-olds, you either have to send them both to their rooms or step back and let them duke it out.

Personally, I think we’re way overdue for some de-escalation. I understand that many others think we need to do just the opposite, but for the purposes of this conversation, we can just agree to disagree on that point.

My only point in all of this is that this is an old, nasty conflict and there’s a ton of blood on everybody’s hands. It’s been many decades since we’ve had any sort of moral high ground when it comes to our involvement in the Middle East. 9/11 could have changed that if we had responded magnanimously, but instead we resorted with the same base reactions that we condemn our enemies for.

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t acknowledged that the civilians killed in the towers were “innocent” and therefore different. In a way, they were. In a way, they weren’t. You can call them innocent because most of them never touched a gun in their lives and wished no harm on anyone. At the same time, though, our government has done much harm in our name and here is the double-edged sword of democracy: we elect our government and we are responsible for its actions.

Do you know who was the last President that didn’t engage in overseas warfare? Hoover. The last 13 Presidents and 44 Congresses — with every permutation of Republicans and Democrats you can imagine — have all steadily cultivated the military-industrial complex that has shed the blood of innumerable innocent individuals that we blithely refer to as “collateral damage”.

At every step, we rationalize it. It’s easy to do and we have to do it; we’d be unable to consider ourselves human if we didn’t. “We do our best to minimize ‘collateral damage’, but it’s impossible to avoid it completely and we have to kill them before they kill us.”

It sounds good and logical until you confront the fact that our enemies use the same rationalizations. They look to their lost fathers and mothers and seek vengeance just as we do. They look upon the deaths of enemy non-combatants with the same feelings of righteous self-defense and inevitability. They feel they have to kill us to protect themselves.

And so we swim in the bloodiest of whirlpools.

So were the 9/11 victims innocent?

Lest anyone try to twist my words, let me be absolutely clear that the responsibility for the 9/11 attacks lies entirely with the perpetrators of those attacks. That does not make us innocent bystanders, though. We choose our representatives and give them a ton of money with which to do our bidding. We are responsible for the countless civilian deaths that our government has caused over the decades. You. Me. The 9/11 victims. Every American old enough to work and vote. It takes hundreds of millions people working together to great the largest killing machine the world has ever known. We did it together and most of us were proud of it every step of the way. Many of you are probably furious with me right now because you’re still proud of the weapon we’ve created.

I’m not saying we’re the Bad Guys. I’m just saying we’re not the Good Guys either. We’re simply active participants in a Hatfield-McCoy-esque feud whose root cause is long since forgotten. We’re wrapped up in a nasty affair with enough blood to cover everyone’s hands.

As I said earlier, I think it’s past time for the violence to come down, so I can’t share in the celebration of another death. For those of you that disagree, I understand your viewpoint and I won’t begrudge you your victory celebration. I just want you to realize that it’s no different from the celebrations your enemies hold when they win a battle.

South Dakota Lawmakers Confused By Federal/State Distinction — Embarrass Selves

[shakes head]

A group of South Dakota lawmakers has introduced a bill that would require almost everyone in their state to buy a gun once they turn 21.

Turns out it’s not a serious attempt. Rather, the lawmakers are trying to make a point about the new health care law — that an individual mandate is unconstitutional, whether it requires everyone to buy health insurance or, in South Dakota’s case, a firearm.

Rep. Hal Wick, one of five co-sponsors, told The Argus Leader newspaper that he expects the bill to fail.

“Do I or the other co-sponsors believe that the state of South Dakota can require citizens to buy firearms? Of course not. But at the same time, we do not believe the federal government can order every citizen to buy health insurance,” he said.

The town of Kennesaw, GA mandates that every resident own a gun. The State of Massachusetts mandates that every resident purchase health insurance. Neither of those mandates caused a US Constitutional crisis. How in the world is the proposed South Dakota gun mandate in any different?

In truth, it’s not. We have long placed certain actions within the purview of State power that would be unconstitutional if done federally. It is only blatant misreading of the commerce clause that has allowed the Feds to infringe as far as they have.

Yet these dolts think that trying to enact a STATE mandate is somehow logically analogous to fighting a federal mandate. As if nobody had heard of MassCare or nobody had drawn up the suggestion that states have the power to require car insurance but may be* unconstitutional to mandate at the Federal level. They, by their words above, do not even seem to grasp the distinction between Article I, Section 8’s enumeration of powers at the Federal level and the fact that States are held to a different [lower] standard.

I can only see two reasons for this:

  1. They really ARE this dumb.
  2. This is all just one big publicity stunt.

The former suggests that the voters of South Dakota shouldn’t be trusted at the ballot any further, as they clearly can’t elect people capable of behaving responsibly in office. The latter suggests that the politicians just happen to believe that the voters of South Dakota [and writers for Fox News] are so dumb that they can’t tell the difference between State and Federal actions. Either way, it’s one more example that democracy doesn’t work.
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NYT: Myth-based editorializing

On Boxing Day, our self-styled intellectual overlords at the New York Times gave us a gift of epic proportions: a gob-stoppingly vapid and shallow editorial on the principal of federalism. Let the fun begin!

With public attention focused on taxes, the deficit, gays in the military and nuclear arms reduction, little attention has been paid, so far, to the Tea Party’s most far-reaching move to remake American governance.

[…]

The proposal is sweeping, expressing with bold simplicity the view of the Tea Party and others that the federal government’s influence is far too broad. It would give state legislatures the power to veto any federal law or regulation if two-thirds of the legislatures approved.

The chances of the proposal becoming the Constitution’s 28th Amendment are exceedingly low. But it helps explain further the anger-fueled, myth-based politics of the populist new right. It also highlights the absence of a strong counterforce in American politics.

Well, so far, they haven’t strayed too far from the truth. Sure, they use the term “remake” where I would probably use “restore”, but the rest of the statement still stands. And, shock of shocks, the Times even gets the basic description of the Amendment right. But, alas, the truth quickly fades as the truthiness takes over.

What about those “anger-fueled, myth-based politics”? Well, the politics of limiting the Federal government are anger-filled, but this charge is leveled at us by the NYT to render our cause illegitimate. That’s where it rings false. We are angry because Washington is out of control. The list of abuses committed against freedom in the last twenty years needs no recitation here, but it culminated with a health-care reform law forced upon an American population that clearly and vociferously opposed it. Even today, job growth is stagnant in the face of a capricious and vengeful regulatory monster sitting on the banks of the Potomac ready to strike.

What about myth-based? The only things myth-based here is the notions of history held by the Times’ editorial board:

These flaws make the proposed amendment self-defeating, but they are far less significant than the mistaken vision of federalism on which it rests. Its foundation is that the United States defined in the Constitution are a set of decentralized sovereignties where personal responsibility, private property and a laissez-faire economy should reign. In this vision, the federal government is an intrusive parent.

The statement above is so ridiculous that any further ridicule from me would only distract you from its ridiculousness. I will, instead, only point out that if the New York Times’ editorial board not collectively slept through its eighth-grade civics classes, it would know that it just described the United States from its founding until the end of the Civil War.

Here, the NYT gets uncomfortably close to the truth, and so has to go scurrying back to the mythical founding of the United States it holds so dear:

The error that matters most here is about the Constitution’s history. America’s fundamental law holds competing elements, some constraining the national government, others energizing it. But the government the Constitution shaped was founded to create a sum greater than the parts, to promote economic development that would lift the fortunes of the American people.

The NYT board is deliberately ignoring the fact that the Barnett amendment, albeit crude, is a manifestation of the Founders’ belief that the States themselves should have representation in the Federal government. Before the 17th Amendment, it was the intent of the Constitution that the Senate represent the States, not the people (who were represented in the House). In reaction to the national trauma of the Civil War, the next half century featured a shift of power from the States to the Federal government.

The merits of the shift from a balance between the States and the Federal government to a dominant Federal government are open to debate, especially as we are seeing the faults of the dominant Federal government ever more clearly. However, the New York Times does not approach the issue from this reasonable position. Instead, they try to rewrite history to claim that it has always been this way.

This begs the question of why a once-august journalistic institution has devolved into a pathetic imitation of the Ministry of Truth. For that, we shall let the Times speak for itself:

In past economic crises, populist fervor has been for expanding the power of the national government to address America’s pressing needs. Pleas for making good the nation’s commitment to equality and welfare have been as loud as those for liberty. Now the many who are struggling have no progressive champion. The left have ceded the field to the Tea Party and, in doing so, allowed it to make history. It is building political power by selling the promise of a return to a mythic past.

This nation has always yearned for more government. Soon enough, they will be saying we have always been at war with Eastasia. Remember, the editorial board of the New York Times are siding with the government against you, and are making the truth a sacrificial lamb in the process.

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