Washington Libertarian Review

Political commentary from the State of Washington with a libertarian perspective.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Rolling the dice for President

According to some recent research the process of selecting a President may be even less predictable than rolling dice.

Sociologists have found that when large networks of people evaluate something together their conclusions are not only powerfully shaped by the views of others, but by the network that binds them together. Washington Post columnist Shankar Vedantam speculates on the effect these findings may have on the selection of a President in Vote Your Conscience. If You Can.

The decisive factor, according to the studies, is not the presence of influential people but of people who are easily influenced. "Random, insignificant events are vastly magnified by networks of such malleable people influencing one another, and this tilts the race one way or another. Blind chance plays a big role," writes Vedantam.

This is a sobering thought. Those of us who take our politics seriously must not take it too seriously. All of the soundest of logic and highest of morality in the world could still lead to an unexpected result.

I suppose in a way this is a good thing, because it prevents any one faction from gaining unassailable control. But on the other hand I can't help thinking it leaves us all rudderless in an ocean of storms.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Taking Marriage Private

Stephanie Coontz, an Evergreen State College professor, has written this argument for getting government out of the marriage business. Its nice to see that libertarian ideas are getting some traction.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

ABC News Poll - Paul's support triples in Iowa, so does Huckabee's

As can be seen from this ABC News poll Ron Paul's support in Iowa has tripled, from 2% in July to 6% now. But the big news is that Mike Huckabee's support has also tripled, from 8% in July to 24% now. Now only Mitt Romney leads Huckabee.

Paul supporter buys full page ad in USA Today

See this paid political message in support of Ron Paul in today's edition of USA Today. This ad was apparently paid for by Larry Lepard a 50 year old investment manager, using nearly $85,000 of his own money.

NH CNN Poll: Paul & Huckabee gaining - Thompson slipping

According to a CNN poll published on 11/19, in the last two months, Ron Paul has doubled his support in New Hampshire to 8%. Also gaining was former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

The big loser was Fred Thompson, who dropped from 4th place to 6th place in the same period.

But all is not rosy for Paul in this poll. 61% of those polled said they would not support Paul under any circumstance.

Meanwhile a Washington Post-ABC News poll in Iowa shows Barak Obama inching ahead of Hillary Clinton and John Edwards losing ground.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Niche Society

Let us be lovers we’ll marry our fortunes together
I’ve got some real estate here in my bag
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner pies
And we walked off to look for America...
The lyrics of this Paul Simon song came to mind as I read today's op-ed by New York Times columnist David Brooks. Commenting on the fragmentation of the music industry and the death of the so-called mega-group, he laments The Segmented Society. It isn't just the state of the music industry that bothers Brooks. He says,

"It seems that whatever story I cover, people are anxious about fragmentation and longing for cohesion. This is the driving fear behind the inequality and immigration debates, behind worries of polarization and behind the entire Obama candidacy. If you go to marketing conferences, you realize we really are in the era of the long tail. In any given industry, companies are dividing the marketplace into narrower and more segmented lifestyle niches."
Certainly the segmentation of society is not really a surprise. Before 1983 AT&T was the only phone company in town. Now there are dozens. When was the last time anybody referred to GM, Ford and Chrysler as "the big three automakers"? How many networks now compete with ABC, CBS and NBC for TV viewers? Daily newspapers have been steadily losing market shares for years. Google, Yahoo and multiple other web sites now offer "personalized" portal pages. And so on.

Yet in a way there really is something to lament. For baby boomers the music spoke for the generation. From "One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small..." to "I read the news today, oh boy..." to "Stop, hey, what's that sound..." to "What's goin' on?..." to "The answer my friend, is blowin' in the wind..." the music defined who we were. And if there was an anthem of the generation, it was this Youngbloods tune:

Come on people now
smile on your brother
everybody get together
and try to love one another right now
What baby boomer does not know this refrain by heart? What baby boomer doesn't hope, deep down, that someday everybody can get together?

But it hasn't happened. The Woodstock generation gave way to the Watergate generation. The things that tied us together in the sixties drove us apart in the seventies. Foreign policy debacle followed foreign policy debacle. Back home the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. The civil rights movement balkanized into the separate movements of several minorities. And we have never been able to reclaim the unity of ideals and purpose that defined "the flower generation."

Conspiracy theorists may blame the Bilderbergs or the Trilateral Commission. But I think, at least as to the music, the seeds of this splintering were there in the beginning. The music that defined the baby boomer generation was a music of rebellion. Both rhythmically and lyrically it marked a significant departure from the music that had come before.

In fact, what we call rock-n-roll was largely a synthesis of different types of music with very different ethnic and religious roots. Blues, bluegrass, country & western and gospel all had a hand in the creation of rock. It was a music that overtly challenged tradition and authority, when both of which had become ossified in the first half of the twentieth century.

But the challenges never stopped and now there is little tradition left. Holidays are now more than ever just days off from work. The celebrations for which these days were set aside are all so much rigmarole that we are more likely pay someone to entertain us than to cook our own meals or create our own activities. According to Brooks very few of today's musicians know the roots of the music they play. Consequently most of it is adrift in a sea of noise, meaningless.

Meanwhile, authority has no respect. And maybe it doesn't deserve any. The unity and sense of purpose that informed World War II has all but vanished from the American landscape. Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II - all of them demonstrated significant weaknesses of one form or other. Both Congress and the Supreme Court seem content to continually whittle away at our constitutionally guaranteed civil rights. Musically, there are no Dylans or Lennons to rely on either.

So, who are we? What does it mean to be an American these days? Even our common heritage as a nation of immigrants is losing its vitality as those of us who are already here wonder whether America is still "the land of opportunity." Now we seem to have this sense of limits, limits on available resources, limits on the way we treat the ecology, limits on the very freedoms on which the country was built.

Consequently, it seems to me, Americans are not so much interested in growth as they are in protecting what they have. And so they divide up into factions, each one focusing on some particular aspect of life that is most important to them, but each one also knowing that this sort of selfishness can never get us together and love one another right now.
Kathy, I’m lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike
They’ve all gone to look for America
All gone to look for America
All gone to look for America

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Liberty Dollar Seizure turns into battle cry for Ron Paul supporters

Anyone who owns so-called "Liberty Dollars" and "Ron Paul Dollars" should be prepared for a dramatic increase in their collectibility and value.

For about eight years, Liberty Dollars have been minted and sold by a group known as the National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve Act and Internal Revenue Code (NORFED) as a medium for "private voluntary barter" transactions. However, in 2006 the US Mint posted its determination that these coins constituted illegal currency.

NORFED's defense of its activities can be found here. And here is a copy of an amended complaint filed by NORFED seeking an injunction against the US Mint's interference with its business.

But anyone who has spit into the wind knows the results are none too favorable. Last Friday, just as NORFED was preparing to mail out thousands of "Ron Paul Dollars" to customers, the FBI executed this search warrant. According to the warrant, the NORFED's coins were illegal currency and its purpose was to "undermine the United States financial systems." As if.

But that isn't the end of the story. News of the raid spread across the blogosphere like wildfire and legions of Ron Paul supporters are livid. The Washington Post has this story and several posted comments from Paul supporters. Interesting reading.

So, don't count on seeing any more Liberty Dollars for a while. And pay close attention to any you may already have. They are likely to become highly treasured collector's items.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ron Paul wins straw vote in New York

The results: Mr. Paul, 26 votes; Mr. Giuliani, 21; Mitt Romney, 6; John McCain, 4; Mike Huckabee, 2; Duncan Hunter, 1; Fred Thompson, 1; Tom Tancredo, 0. The story is here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Another example of the pointlessness of campaign finance regulations

This past summer the US Supreme Court ruled that issue based political ads that were not designed to influence an election were not subject to campaign finance regulations. On its face this may seem an obvious and correct result. But consider the behavior of a newly formed group called the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America.

As explained more fully in this story the group is now running ads in South Carolina urging citizens to contact Congress to express their support for the so-called Wounded Warriers Act. What's wrong with that, you say?

1. Congress is already in support of the bill, and it is virtually guaranteed to pass anyway. 2. The bill's sponsor, John McCain, is targeting South Carolina for a win in his race for president, and 3. The ad prominently features McCain.

When the legality of this kind of ad was before the Supreme Court McCain's lawyers filed a brief opposing the practice. But the Supreme Court ruled the First Amendment rights of issue based groups could not be stiffled just because they might want to speak during an election. As the story points out, "The decision removed virtually any restrictions on these groups’ ability to advertise, and made nonprofit corporations, with their few disclosure requirements, the tool of choice for big donors looking to influence elections because of their wide latitude to advertise."

Here is yet another example why campaign finance regulations are foolish, and frankly, anti-democratic. They become so complex that lawyers are necessary to figure them out. And no matter how intricate or nuanced the regulations, the First Amendment rights to speak supercede most of them anyway. So what's the point of having them?