Washington Libertarian Review

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

Friday, December 31, 2004

For those of you who have time on your hands...

check out Lawrence Solum's Legal Theory Blog. No, he isn't a libertarian. I'm not sure what he is, but apparently he has a generally favorable opinion of libertarian law professor Randy Barnett's book, "The Structure of Liberty." Regardless, the breadth of materials he links in his 12/31/04 post is very impressive.

Listen Up, Politicians: It's Ears Before Ayes

The L.A. Times reports a California court decision that requires elected officials hearing a quasi-judicial matter, such as land use appeals, to (gasp) actually listen!

Re-Search and Attack

The Washington Post has a fairly comprehensive post-mortem on the 11/2/04 presidential contest between Bush and Kerry, entitled "On Nov. 2, GOP Got More Bang For Its Billion, Analysis Shows". Although mostly devoted to the specifics of each campaign, the article does include some interesting observations, of which all political hacks should take note.

1. Even though Kerry outspent Bush in the long run Bush had it when it counted, in the beginning.

2. Rather than court the undecided vote, the Bush campaign went after the "soft" Republican vote (i.e., those who lean right but don't vote on a regular basis).

3. The most effective "527" PACs were those who went after the opposition, such as the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," rather than support their preference.

4. The Bush campaign raised statistical analysis in voter profiling and targeting to a new level. This snippet from the article explains:

Republican firms, including TargetPoint Consultants and National Media Inc., delved into commercial databases that pinpointed consumer buying patterns and television-watching habits to unearth such information as Coors beer and bourbon drinkers skewing Republican, brandy and cognac drinkers tilting Democratic; college football TV viewers were more Republican than those who watch professional football; viewers of Fox News were overwhelmingly committed to vote for Bush; homes with telephone caller ID tended to be Republican; people interested in gambling, fashion and theater tended to be Democratic.

Surveys of people on these consumer data lists were then used to determine "anger points" (late-term abortion, trial lawyer fees, estate taxes) that coincided with the Bush agenda for as many as 32 categories of voters, each identifiable by income, magazine subscriptions, favorite television shows and other "flags." Merging this data, in turn, enabled those running direct mail, precinct walking and phone bank programs to target each voter with a tailored message."

"You used to get a tape-recorded voice of Ronald Reagan telling you how important it was to vote. That was our get-out-the-vote effort," said Alex Gage, of TargetPoint. Now, he said, calls can be targeted to specific constituencies so that, for example, a "right to life voter" could get a call warning that "if you don't come out and vote, the number of abortions next year is going to go up. "

Dowd estimated that, in part through the work of TargetPoint and other research, the Bush campaign and the RNC were able to "quadruple the number" of Republican voters who could be targeted through direct mail, phone banks and knocking on doors.

Archive: Lawmakers use public office to help private interests

It's almost a year old, but the Seattle P-I has an interesting special report on lawmakers' conflicts of interest on its web site. The essential thrust is that lawmakers often sit on committees and/or sponsor legislation that affects industries they have a financial interest in. There are also links to further detail regarding specific legislators. For example, erstwhile Libertarian Toby Nixon (now a Republican member of the House) sponsored anti-spam legislation written by his employer Microsoft.

There are no smoking guns here. But the report is a good primer on how things are done in Olympia.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Should there be a new governor's election?

The Seattle Times is running a straw vote here. As of this post, and after 11810 votes, the results are 50/50.

The irony is near hysterical.

UPDATE: As of 4:55 PM on 1/3/05, 13,373 votes counted, the majority is swinging to 52% in favor of a revote.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Third Party Summit

Veteran Libertarian Party activist Tom Stahl is organizing a "Third Party Summit" to explore areas of common interest. Current plans include a meeting at 1:30 P.m. on February 5, 2005, at the Bellevue Public Library to discuss recent changes in the Washington primary, its effect on minor parties and a minor party response, if any. I understand we have commitments to attend from the Green and the Constitution Parties, and perhaps others.

I will reserve my analysis of the new election laws for a later day. For now, suffice it to say that I fear that the powers in Olympia will attempt to sucker third parties into playing along with the "top two" system because candidates will not need to hold conventions or collect signatures. The problem is, neither will the parties be assured that the candidate is an adherent to the party message or that the party message will survive to the general election.

GOP could seek new governor election

Confirming Seattle P-I columnist Robert Jamieson's worst fears the GOP could seek new governor election.

And round and round it goes....

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Rossi might contest election results

The P-I is reporting this morning that Rossi might contest election results. Anyone who has been watching the recounts knows that the point spread between Rossi and Gregoire is not statistically reliable and that the whole process appeared as a horse on roller skates.

Yet, now that the tables have turned we hear previously silent Christine Gregoire crowing: "I think we have been a model to the rest of the nation and the world at large about how an election system, as close as this one is, can be done with the highest of quality ... This is the biggest display of democracy I have ever seen and I am proud of it and I think it's an inspiration."

Who does she think she is kidding and where has she been in the last month and a half?

Friday, December 24, 2004

This spending program is mental.

From the December 16, 2003 Tacoma Weekly, this gem:

"Starting next year the federal government will no longer allow regional support networks - local agencies which administer Title XIX funds - to spend money on people who do not qualify for Title XIX funding."

Starting next year?

Ok, that's not the real problem. The puzzler is why it makes sense at all to collect up money in Washington State, send it off to Washington D.C. , where the politicians and federal bureaucrats skim it, then send back what's left along with a raft of federal rules governing how the money is spent.

Why not cut out the "middle-man"? The State of Washington is big enough and powerful enough to collect for, and administer, all aspects of public funding for care of the mentally ill. Absolutely no good comes of having the feds intervene - all at great expense.

Title XIX is currently funded with equal contributions from the state and feds. But, the state actually performs the day-to-day administration of the entire program. The federal money merely arrives as a lump-sum distribution.

The Tacoma Weekly reports that local mental health agencies are about to suffer a $41 million cut in appropriations from the feds. We could fix that by keeping all the money here in Washington, rather than funding the federal agencies that merely give back part of our money.

Since Washington State already administers the program, there really is no reason for the feds to be involved at all. We'll just keep all the money right here - thank you very much. The savings ought to be at least $41 million a year, and we can once again fully fund mental health programs.

If we get rid of federal participation, we'll not only save millions, we'll also be freed of all the federal rules and regulations, allowing people here to spend the money in a way that makes sense for us, even if that's not the way politicians living in Washington D.C. think we should spend our money.

The dilemma of a radical

The AP reports Bin Laden seeks transformation from the status of terrorist to politician. After all, if war is the only object what's the point? When do the more mundane problems such as enough food and clean water get addressed?

Apparently, too, middle east watchers are now speculating that U.S offensives have been near fatal to the al-Queda organization, and Bin Laden's latest efforts are directed more to salvage than to "holy war."

Maybe, maybe not.

What we do know is that the situation in Iraq is not stablizing and that civil war is almost certain to break out when/if the U.S. leaves, that is, assuming it has not already broken out. So, even if the U.S. has been successful, more or less, against Bin Laden, the question is, at what cost? Who is the more radical in this picture? Bin Laden or Bush?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

"This wasn't about who wins the race"

The AP is reporting that Democrat Christine Gregoire has taken the lead in the Washington State Governor's race. "This wasn't about who wins the race," Gregoire said after the court ruling. "It's about protecting these voters' sacred right to have their legitimate votes counted."

Yeah right. And we can expect your concession speech tomorrow, eh?

"Incredible" Santa asked to sign waiver

With tongue obviously in cheek the food industry is taking a preemptive swipe at the coming litigation over obesity. In the interest of all baking Moms in America the Center for Consumer Freedom has provided this liability waiver directed at Santa Claus. After all, Santa must consume 1000s of cookies during his annual festive run through the neighborhoods of the world. And so the right thinking folks at the Center for Consumer Freedom just want to make sure Santa doesn't get any weighty ideas about suing because he can't control his own waistline. Just try and explain this to a six year old.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Parties take to the web

As if the court battle wasn't enough the Democrats have created a website entitled Dino Rossi: The Accidental Governor. Not to be outdone the Republicans have responded with their own Gregiore the Grinch website.
But there is also an internet lesson here for politicial junkies. These are simple sites, easily constructed by anyone with a rudimentary understanding of web design, with one exception.
The Democratic sponsored site links to a really snazzy letters to the editor site that assists visitors in writing letters to editors in their area, complete with guidelines for how to write them. And, not to be outdone, the Republican site invites visitors to USE THE GRINCHS OWN WEBSITE AGAINST HER..., which links to a nearly identical site for nearly identical purposes.
Well, hey! There is no reason why we libertarians have to sit this one out. The more the merrier, I think.
Go ahead, link to one of these letter writing sites and tell the editors what you think!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Some perspective

State legislator Steve Kirby offers his own story about recounts.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Beware, third party activists...

In the latest round in the battle over the recount a Pierce County Judge keeps 573 votes uncounted. At the core of the issue is the interpretation of statutes that were not designed for this circumstance. The Prolonged election reveals cracks in system. Some are already blaming Libertarian candidate Ruth Bennett. But that is really nothing more than a manifestation of ignorance.
There is nothing about the presence of a third party candidate that even suggests that votes for the frontrunners are likely to be closer. The problem, if anything, is that there really hasn't been any true competition among candidates for decades. One side or the other always won handily.
But the status quo is always afraid of risk. Beware, third party activists. The legislature, made up of Ds and Rs, are thinking about these things, and I can bet they are not thinking kind thoughts about us right now.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

How many ballots can dance on the head of a pin?

King County discovered another error in its original counting of votes. 571 voters appear to have had their ballots wrongly rejected because a computer didn't have records of these voter's signatures even though the voters had properly registered. The story is here.

This comes on top of 1500 ballots that were improperly rejected earlier. That story is here.

The State Democrats sued asking Washington's Supreme Court to order the state to count every valid vote. But, the Supreme Court decided that a "recount," by state law, entailed only a "retabulation" of the ballots already counted, and did not entail "recanvassing" or reviewing what ballots qualified for counting. Only those ballots certified as valid for the original counting would be recounted. The Supreme Court decision (in pdf format) is here.

The Supreme Court explained: "'Recount' means the process of retabulating ballots and producing amended returns . . . and starts with the county canvassing board opening 'the sealed containers containing the ballots to be recounted.' . . . Thus, under Washington's statutory scheme, ballots are to be 'retabulated' only if they have been previously counted or tallied, subject to the provisions of RCW 29A.60.210."

What's that last "subject to" mean? Hmmmm. RCW 29A.60.210 says this: "The canvassing board shall conduct any necessary recanvass activity on or before the last day to certify the . . . election."

And, RCW 29A.60.190 says: "On the fifteenth day after a general election, the county canvassing board shall complete the canvass and certify the results."

So, it seems - as to the election held November 2, 2004 - the county canvassing boards shall have sealed the valid ballots and certified the general election results by November 17th at the latest. Both the first 1500 ballots and the later discovered 571 group of ballots would not be in the sealed boxes which are opened to start the "retabulation."

So, they don't get counted, right? Ah, maybe. RCW 29A.64.161 says "Upon the completion of the canvass of a recount, the canvassing board shall prepare and certify an amended abstract showing the votes cast in each precinct for which the recount was conducted." But wait, how can the board complete a "canvass of a recount" if all recanvassing must occur on or before November 17th?

Democrats are asking the King County Canvass Board to count the 571 votes notwithstanding the Supreme Court decision under its authority to canvass a recount and certify amended abstracts. But, if the board can review the 571 ballots, then why can't it review the original 1,500 ballots? And, if all these ballots (or if even any of them) can be reviewed, then what is the meaning of the Supreme Court's decision that there is only a "retabulation" of ballots that starts with unsealing the boxes of ballots originally counted?

When the Democrats ask the board to recanvass, it is likely that the board will agree. That's because the King County Canvass Board is comprised of 1) Dean Logan, the director of elections, appointed by Ron Sims - a proment Democrat, 2) Norm Maleng, a Republican, and 3) Dean Pelz - appointed by the King County Council Chairman.

Wait, who is the King County Council Chairman, whose designee will break ties as between the Democrat's representative Logan and Republican Norm Maleng? The Chairman of the Council happens to be Larry Phillips.

Why is that important? Because Larry Phillips' ballot is among the 571 ballots wrongly rejected in the original canvass. That story is here. Raise your hand if you think Larry Phillips' designee, Mr. Pelz, will vote to count his boss's ballot.

Republicans are, naturally, yelling about voter fraud on account of all this. The one thing we know for sure is that King County has some real problems getting accurate election returns. That is the most disturbing part of this entire election fiasco.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Seattle P-I: Libertarian may have helped Rossi

Today's Seattle P-I has this article about the LP's shift to the left and the likely effect it had on the governor's race.

Monday, December 13, 2004

What if the fraud is upon the Government?

All potential members of the Libertarian Party are asked to sign a pledge to avoid force (some pledges include "fraud") for social or political ends.

But what about the citizens against the government? Assuming as a given the Libertarian dogma that taxation is theft, is it ethical to defraud the government to get your money back?

I think not, and so do several states.

Olympia attorney Shawn Newman, who is not a Libertarian but should be, writes:

"Thirteen states, the District of Columbia and several local jurisdictions have false claim regulations. They are modeled after federal law which address false claims of entitlement to government money, property or services. These include: presenting a false claim for payment or approval; making or using a false record to get a claim paid or approved; conspiracy to get a false claim paid; delivering less property than shown on a receipt; delivering a receipt without knowing that the information is true (with intent to defraud); knowingly buying public property from a government officer who doesn’t have the right to sell it; or making or using a false record to decrease an obligation to the government."

"In Washington State, recent investigations by the State Auditor’s Office and others revealed:"

"- The State Liquor Control Board could not account for $421 million in sales and paid $839,706.90 to a vendor who submitted false billing records;"

"- DSHS mismanagement of the Medicaid program putting at risk as many as 155,000 children without health care options;"

"- Transportation cost overruns;"

"- Overstating public revenues from parking garages developed to benefit certain private interests (Spokane River Park Square development/Nordstoms);"

"- Overpaying businesses public relocation money (Tacoma’s convention center)"

Newman, and with some support from State Auditor Brian Sonntag, is proposing a Washington False Claims Act. The meat of the act would provide a mechanism for private citizens to report fraud on the government, and to receive a "bounty" for reports that lead to recoveries of falsely gotten gains.

This seems a good idea, perhaps as important as performance audits.

Protesting the vote

The Daily Olympian carries this story of what appears to be a nationwide groundswell of protests over irregularities in the presidential election. Among the 30 or so who were in the Olympia event were Shawn Newman, attorney and iconoclast extraordinare, and Green Party activist Chris Stegman.

This past October the LP of Washington pointed to certification problems for software in 6 Washington counties when suing to put Ruth Bennett and J Mills back on the general election ballot. The national LP is now participating in a recount in Ohio, as reported here, also alleging irregularities.

This voting integrity issue is not going away, and may get bigger as time goes by. The LP would do well to stay ahead of the curve, making sure that its candidates and other activists are fully informed.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

...No it isn't. It's about winning!

Throughout the recount saga the Democrats have been arguing they merely want to make sure every vote counts. Sure, and if you believe that I have a story about weapons of mass destruction to tell you. Now we learn, as reported here, if they don't win the recount they want the race decided in the Democrat controlled legislature.

The Democrats perseveration over the governor's race will almost certainly antagonize the voters to ALL POLITICAL PARTIES and partisanship in general, not just the Democrats. For the benefit of partisans of all colors, when the unheard of second recount is over, it should be over.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Changes to come

The Washington Libertarian Review will shortly be adding new writers. More posts and more viewpoints will make this site more interesting. Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Getting your money's worth

Yesterday the Democrats threw another $730,000 into the governor's race, asking the state for a once in a lifetime hand recount. They also sued in the state supreme court to require that previously invalidated ballots be reviewed again, even though state law prohibits it.

Meanwhile, the Public Disclosure filings show Democrat Christine Gregoire has spent $5,601,928.04 on her campaign. Republican Dino Rossi has spent $5,675,868.02. Libertarian Ruth Bennett has spent a whopping $2,703.98 on the race.

As of the recount Rossi, with 1,372,484 votes, is 42 votes ahead of Gregoire, who has 1,372,442 votes. Bennett, of course, registered only 63,415 votes, or 2.26%.

So what's the big deal to Libertarians? Bennett got trounced, right?

WRONG! Bennett didn't spend enough money!

Based on the above figures the Gregoire campaign spent $4.08 per vote. The hand recount costs will bring the total to roughly $4.61 per vote. Meanwhile Rossi spent $4.12 for each of his votes.

At the same time each of Bennett's votes cost her a mere $.0426 cents. That's right; the decimal point is all the way to the far left.

In terms of simple math, 936,114 votes (1/3 of the total plus 1) might have cost the Bennett campaign a mere $39,878.44. Obviously there is the marginal return factor (i.e., the more you spend the less you get), but these numbers suggest a phenomenon that the LP needs to consider.

Dollar for dollar, our money is worth more than theirs.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Recounting the numbers

According to the Associated Press "John Kerry has wired $250,000 in unspent campaign funds to help Democrats pay for a second recount in the election for Washington state governor,..."

Talk now is that the hand recount will cost the Democrats around 1 million dollars. The question is why, for multiple reasons.

First, at 25 cents a voter (the statutory cost for a hand recount) the Democrats will have to pay the state just over $700,000. So the question is why they need an extra $300,000, unless it is to pay election observers to oversee the recount. And if that is so, the questions become even more interesting. Do the Democrats not trust state election officials? Will the Republicans also have to hire election observers? Where are the Libertarians?

Second, is the Governor's office worth $1,000,000? We start with the Governor's salary, which is about $142,000 a year. I've already pointed out the recount will cost more than that. But wait...As of the last campaign finance disclosure (10/26/04) Gregoire had spent over $5,601,928 in the campaign! Meanwhile Rossi has spent $5,675,868. By the way, Libertartian Ruth Bennett spent a whopping $2,703 on her campaign. So, all totaled the campaign cost $11,280,499 for 2,805,913 votes cast, or $4.02 per vote. That's nearly 20 times more than the office pays! So if over 11 million has already been spent, what's another million?

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The saga continues

The Seattle Weekly has an informative report regarding the current status and likely future of primarys in Washington. The bottom line: It will probably wind up in court before the 2005 election cycle. One especially sour note is that the article ignores the LP, and instead focuses on the Ds and Rs exclusively.