THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 470, June 1, 2008
".470 Nitro Express"
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
Not being a glutton for punishment, I arrived in Denver on Saturday evening 24 May 2008. So, many of the preliminaries, including the platform wrangle and the debate among the candidates, had already taken place by the time I arrived. Nevertheless, I had a great time at the Libertarian Party's national convention, as well as the Boston Tea Party's informal convention.
My arrival was somewhat delayed by traffic in downtown Denver when a car stopped on Broadway directly in my path, so the driver could speak to someone in another vehicle stopped in the left lane. I was following in the center lane, and with it and the left now blocked, I moved to the right lane to pass. Naturally, the driver of the car who had blocked me then swerved into the right lane and clipped my left rear bumper. No injuries, but we all got to wait for the police to arrive to file a report. Whee!
I'm told by several sources upon whom I've been able to rely that the platform changes to restore the 2004 and earlier provisions which had been eviscerated in Portland, Oregon in 2006 were blocked by crafty elements of the platform committee. For example, all amendments were to be submitted in writing. Then, instead of considering *any* of the written amendments, only voice motions from the floor were considered. Of course, those who had submitted written amendments did not expect to be *able* to submit motions from the floor, and only evil reform caucus types were recognized at the microphones. So another convention ended with few meaningful elements of the old platform restored. Sad.
There has been trouble with the Libertarian Party for many years. The Libertarian Enterprise has done an excellent job of reporting on these problems in many articles since it was founded in 1995. My own early essay, "Defrauding the Elderly or Robbing the Young?" examined some of the problems I saw with Harry Browne's campaign promises.
That same year, Neil Smith wrote about the LP's belly crawling disavowal of the militias. He also wrote quite wisely about corruption in the LP in explaining his decision to accept the Arizona LP's offer of a position on the ballot for president of the USA in that state.
Are people like Neil and me out of step with the LP? Not really. I was surprised, and quite pleased, to find a little yellow slip of paper on one of the delegate tables in the main convention hall in Denver. It is topped by the headline, "Elect David Nolan to the LNC!" The first two paragraphs of that flyer read as follows:
Obviously, I need say little more about this indictment of the LP. Moreover, with Bill Redpath and Aaron Starr being re-elected to the LNC, it is not clear to me that much is going to change, especially where blatant support for one candidate over others is concerned. I might remind David Nolan that candidates in 1996 were blatantly harmed by actions of the LNC and HQ staff in favor of Harry Browne. The exact same reasoning, that he had national name recognition, was given. We saw how poorly that worked with Browne, who polled some of the lowest numbers ever for a presidential candidate (beaten by Ralph Nader twice, as I recall). I wonder how effective it is going to prove to be with Barr.
Fixing the platform in Denver in 2008 didn't get where the party's activist and purist members wanted it to go. While watching the balloting for president on Sunday, I was amused to see the huge light murals behind the main podium. One was of a generic, probably Microsoft clip art city scape. The other was of a windmill with the number 2008 above it. Yes, a device for pointing whichever way the wind blows. What a fitting symbol for this convention, I thought.
A few days before the convention, I was asked how many ballots to get a presidential nominee. My guess was seven. In the event, it took only six. In the last ballot, Mary Ruwart was eliminated with about 48 fewer votes than Bob Barr. Wayne Root had been persuaded to throw his support behind Barr, presumably in exchange for a speech Barr made to support Root for Vice President. Barr won a narrow victory. So, the former USA attorney, who voted for the war in Iraq while in Congress, who voted for the USAPATRIOT act, who proposed removing Wicca chaplains and ceremonies from the USA military, who proposed a Defense of Marriage Act to disenfranchise polyamorous, gay, lesbian, and alternative marriages, who was a drug warrior fighting to put people like many of the LP delegates in prison, is now the nominee of the so-called "party of principle."
Who is Bob Barr? Wikipedia says he was employed by the CIA from 1970 to 1978, during a time when the agency was being investigated for a large number of betrayals of the constitution and all manner of wrongdoing. In 1974, the Schlesinger report on CIA assassination plots and spying on some seven thousand American anti-war activists was revealed. In 1975, the Senate investigated the CIA, confirming extensive wrongdoing.
From 1986 to 1990, Barr held the position of USA attorney for the Northern (military occupation) District of Georgia. While there, he was in charge of prosecuting a wide variety of victimless crimes, including drug possession and sale cases, including federal firearms cases, including civil asset forfeiture cases. During the same time, according to the biographical guide for the USA Congress web site, Barr served as "anti-drug coordinator for Department of Justice, Southeastern United States." Clearly, this man is for active prosecution of crimes involving what a person chooses to do with his own body. Indeed, he was interviewed on Fox News by Hannity and Colmes, and indicated his opposition to legalization of drugs just two weeks before accepting the LP nomination for president. His many crimes against the constitution while in Congress are also detailed on his wikipedia bio.
After Barr was nominated for president, a funny, exciting thing happened. Former Reason magazine founding editor Manny Klausner made a very good point in his speech nominating Wayne Root for Vice President. He told the story of Root's parents who were unhappy with the Republican Party of New York in the 1960s, as it was being run by the Rockefeller family. So, they tried for a while to work within it. They were stymied at every step. They were kept off the important committees. They were ignored when they asked to speak. They were prevented from introducing useful motions and amendments. They were threatened whenever they did speak out, especially to the news media or in public. So, they formed the Conservative Party of New York and won some elections with it.
Klausner went on to say that Wayne Root's parents knew that to reform a political party they could not do so by working within it. They knew that they had to leave the party and form a new one of their own. Only in that way could they expose the difficulties and corruption and improper procedures which were keeping a clique of wrong doers in power.
A better case for the development of the Boston Tea Party www.bostontea.us could not be made. Indeed, in 2006, after the evisceration of the LP platform, Rational Review publisher Tom Knapp formed the Boston Tea Party. Among other things the party can do is endorse candidates who accept the party's very concise platform. That platform says, "The Boston Tea Party supports reducing the size, scope and power of government at all levels and on all issues, and opposes increasing the size, scope and power of government at any level, for any purpose."
For my own part, I'm not satisfied that Barr, McCain, Clinton, or Obama would accept that platform, or be credible if they pretended to do so. And, as the transition chairman of the Boston Tea Party, I helped organize an informal convention for the party on Sunday evening following the LP's fiasco in nominating a presidential candidate.
The party convention was attended by nearly two dozen libertarian enthusiasts, including George Phillies, Alden Link, and Tom Stevens. All three of those gentlemen were nominated by the party's state delegations to be considered for the party's presidential nomination. The party will continue to accept new state affiliates and new presidential and vice presidential candidates until 10 June, and have an online convention on 14 June (flag day in the uSA) to choose a nominee for each office.
Currently New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee are accepted affiliates meeting all the requirements. Colorado is in process of being accepted, and we have interest in California, Texas, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Kansas, Michigan, and North Carolina. Among other things, state affiliates are expected to work for ballot access in their states.
Tennessee is pretty easy, requiring a presidential candidate to have eleven electors each of whom must submit a petition with 25 signatures and the addresses for those registered voters. We would have until 21 August to put those signatures together. Florida, I'm told by Boston Tea Party founder Tom Knapp, requires a state affiliate organization and a national organization.
Colorado, on the other hand, according to the fine gentlemen organizing the Boston Tea Party's affiliate there, requires a party to have a thousand registered voters state wide who have indicated the name of the party as their choice when registering to vote. So, a campaign of voter registration, especially on college campuses would be in order.
Recently, I've been asked by many different people, in different ways, why have a Boston Tea Party? My answer includes the following: I see the Boston Tea Party as a watchdog for the LP, staying firmly to the tip of the Nolan Chart, and giving the radical, hard core, dedicated anarcho-capitalist LP members a place to go if the Reform Caucus pursues its idiocy.
Like any good student of history, I'm aware that politics tends to move toward the available center. People compromise. It is in their nature to cooperate, which is what free markets are all about. And, in cooperating, they seek common ground.
So, our role as the Boston Tea Party is to hold down the extreme. We should push further out into the territory of less government, less restriction, more liberty, greater security for private property, and more free markets. If the Democrats and Republicans try to compromise with the LP, they'll find us even more radical and difficult.
Obviously, I would have been much happier if the LP had put its platform back in order. I would have been much happier of the LP had nominated Mary Ruwart for president, or Steve Kubby for vice president. Indeed, I am extremely pleased that the LP delegates voted to place Mary Ruwart, R. Lee Wrights, and Angela Keaton on the Libertarian National Committee. I am disappointed with Barr, Root, Redpath, Starr, and possibly several others taking positions in the LP, of course. I am one of the many former members of the LP who has not renewed my membership since 1998, and given current events, has no plans to do so.
I think the LP would have a much bigger membership if it had nominated Mary Ruwart for president, or done other things to indicate a consistent, ethical, principled position on the issues of the day. Indeed, it was my fondest wish that the Boston Tea Party could endorse Mary Ruwart's candidacy had she won the LP nomination, and not bother to run our own candidate. That wish, as it turns out, was forlorn.
In coming months, many people are going to demand party loyalty from delegates and members of the LP. I suggest that those who feel deeply that they must support the candidates of the LP because they believe it is the right thing to do are the only ones who should do so. If you do not believe it is the right thing to do, you have no moral obligation to do so. Party loyalty, like "team spirit" and "patriotism" are sentiments which bother me a great deal. Unquestioning loyalty in particular led to the death camps in Germany, Russia, China, and elsewhere. The shameful internment camps for Japanese Americans and others under Roosevelt make it clear that Americans are not exempt from jingoism. The recent Abu Ghraib torture scandal reinforces this point.
Yes, I am suggesting that if you are a good member of the Nazi Party, you'll support the fiendish Hitler in his campaign for Chancellor. Likewise, if you are a good member of the Libertarian Party, you'll support the fiendish Bob Barr in his campaign for President. May you live to regret it.
A great many people spoke with me on Monday following our Boston Tea Party convention. I think we made a mistake in having our event about 26 city blocks away from the LP convention hotel. At least three dozen people told me they would have attended had it been more convenient. So, we'll keep that in mind for the future.
One of the interesting conversations I had Sunday night involved the possibility that several of the state LP party organizations might choose not to run Bob Barr on the ballot in November. I'm reminded of events in 2000 when the LP in Arizona placed Neil Smith at the top of the ticket, with the honorable and excellent Vin Suprynowicz as his running mate. I think such an event would be most welcome, and would indicate that some within the LP are capable of principled behavior.
Finally, I would like to note that Monday morning I had the opportunity to enjoy breakfast in the company of two of the greatest men on Earth. Neil Smith and Scott Bieser were at the convention to sell their book Roswell, Texas and other excellent literature. We had a very enjoyable conversation, though I couldn't help but think Neil had more to say than his voice, roughened by illness, could handle. Neil had an excited look when he mentioned his thoughts for the coming election, and how he would put the word out among the activist, purist, hard core, decent, principled libertarians.
I very much look forward to what he writes.