Washington Libertarian Review

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

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Big Brother is getting more eyes and ears

Pierce County has announced the award of a $986,643 US Department of Justice grant "to coordinate selection and development of technology for wireless remote video and audio monitoring of selected high crime areas."

There. Don't you feel safer already?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Libertarian CATO Institute feated for bringing private account argument to Social Security debate

In a lengthy article reviewing the history of private accounts and social security MSNBC credits libertarian Ed Crane for recognizing a good idea 25 years ago.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

"All the potential culprits have been ruled out except one."

The London Times reports that proof has been found that global warming is caused by man-made emissions of greenhouse gases.

Computer modeling of changes in ocean temperatures compared natural variations in the earth's climate, or changes in solar activity or volcanic eruptions to greenhouse gas emissions. The results strongly suggests greenhouse gases are the culprit for a .9 degree increase in ocean temperatures over the past 40 years.

And so the environmentalists now have their "proof." But to what end? Do we restrain development of better living standards in the third world to keep ocean temperatures down? Or does anybody really think people are going to give up their cars?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Political Web ads may be curtailed

CNET reports another First Amendment freedom is on the chopping block, this time the relatively unregulated world of the internet.

Monday, February 14, 2005

The next election battle on the horizon

The P-I reports what the major parties have been saying all along. "Take us out of the nominating process and we will nominate the old-fashioned way, by convention and caucus." State officials are, of course, also threatening to ignore the party nominations and the whole thing will wind up in court again. Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The cover-up begins, at taxpayer's expense

Yesterday King County officials unveiled its 2004 Elections Report at a news conference. In a moment of sublime irony, Executive Ron Sims claimed the report proved the vote count was 99.98% accurate, "an accuracy rate that any bank would envy". In fact the correct rate, according to the report, was 99.8%. The Seattle Times' take on the news conference appears here.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

San Francisco Chronicle

U.S. 'in for a shock'
In early election results, Shiite cleric's alliance trouncing Washington's favorite.

So far, it seems the billions of dollars spent and all the lives squandered are resulting in a win by those most interested in creating an Iranian-style Muslim theocracy. More here.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Third Party Summit on Elections

As previously announced here this past Saturday a group of about 50 persons representing several of the third parties in Washington met in Bellevue to discuss matters of common interest. Guests of honor included Shane Hamlin of the Secretary of State's office, another SOS staffer whose name I forget and Don Whiting representing the Washington State Grange.

Hamlin was there to help explain the current status and proposed changes to the law of elections in Washington State. Essentially, the Louisiana type primary is here for this election cycle at least and the legislature is still trying to figure out how to make it work. Given the order in which things happened over the last year (first the blanket primary is thrown out by the courts; the Louisiana primary initiative--I-872--hits the streets; the legislature passes a compromise bill; Locke vetoes about half of the compromise; then I-872 is approved by the voters) there are significant problems to work out.

First, I-872 left the minor party nominating convention statutes in place, and they are in direct conflict with I-872, which allows any major or minor party candidate access to primary ballot without a nominating convention. Second, the elimination of the major/minor party distinction has collateral effect in several areas, among them the precinct committee officer regime and the post filing week nominating rights of major parties. Third, since the purpose of I-872 is to remove political parties from the process but also allows candidates to declare a party "preference" nobody has figured out how to assure the "preferences" are meaningful except by reference to political party, or how to prevent a candidate from listing her "preference" as "Democratic Libertarian Republican," which in turn renders the entire purpose of the initiative constitutionally suspect. Hamlin reported, essentially, that nobody has figured any of this out yet.

I can't for the life of me understand why Whiting was there, or why he was invited. Nonetheless, he did his best to paint a rosy picture of the circumstance, pointing out, for instance, that all current minor party office holders were elected in a "top two" system. What he didn't say was that each of those elections was actually for non-partisan office. Even so, this didn't go over very well, as most in attendance felt strongly that I-872 is near fatal to all third parties. After about an hour of what had turned into the Don Whiting Show (Whiting answered most of the questions and the SOS representatives said very little) the crowd started getting nasty. To his credit, summit organizer Tom Stahl called a time out and moved on the agenda to allow representatives of each of the third parties to address the group.

Once again I found myself defending the LPWS involvement in the blanket primary suit against a few who thought we were "cozying up" to the Ds and Rs. Once again I explained, self-preservation drove the LPWS' participation. After California's blanket primary was invalidated, it was only a matter of time before Washington's blanket primary was invalidated as well. The 1% rule was still on the books and did not make sense except in a blanket primary context. The LPWS wanted a "seat at the table" when the remedy was worked out. Unfortunately, the federal district court judge refused order any remedy, saying it was for the legislature to work out.

To my surprise, there were lots of common interest in the nuts and bolts of politicing. For example, the Greens are holding a candidate school in the spring and invited all other parties to attend. Unfortunately, I understand, the event will take place on the same weekend as the LPWS annual convention. Other concerns included keeping up to date on the campaign financing rules, fundraising and media coverage.

The suggestion that the third parties consider fusion candidates or cross-endorsements got a mixed response. One participant pointed to the wide divergence of political philosophies in the room, and suggested the only offices that he thought might lend themselves to such candidacies would be the Secretary of State and/or County Auditor races, in which the third party candidate ran strictly on election reform issues favorable to all third parties. There is some merit to this idea, methinks. But it will be for somebody else to carry it forward.

All in all, it was a good event, one that should perhaps happen more often.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Death of Environmentalism as we know it

There is a storm brewing in the environmentalist movement. On Sunday the Seattle Times reported that Green causes [were] called out of step, citing a recent paper writen by a pair of upstart environmentalists, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, entitled the "Death of Environmentalism" which has stirred a debate within the environmental community.

The authors argue that "not one of America’s environmental leaders is articulating a vision of the future commensurate with the magnitude of the [global warming/environmental] crisis." Positing that "the environmental community’s narrow definition of its self-interest leads to a kind of policy literalism that undermines its power," the authors argue, essentially, that the environmental movement has not evolved with the times, and continues to use the strategies of the '60s and '70s to fight, and for the most part lose, the battles of today. "We will never be able to turn things around as long as we understand our failures as essentially tactical, and make proposals that are essentially technical."

Indeed, the reason the environmental movement has stalled is probably because, as objectivist Robert James Bidinotto argues, is that enviromentalists do not recognize "the consequences of accepting core environmentalist premises, specifically, their deadly impact on human life.". Bidinotto continues, "Starting, as they do, from the premise of nature's intrinsic value—a value independent of any valuer or purpose—environmentalists are driven by that premise's inescapable logic to consistently oppose every human effort to use the planet," which in turn leads to poor living conditions and often death, mostly for the Third World.

After observing the successes of conservatives by promoting "values" over "issues" Shellenberger and Nordhaus argue: "Environmental groups have spent the last 40 years defining themselves against conservative values like cost-benefit accounting, smaller government, fewer regulations, and free trade, without ever articulating a coherent morality we can call our own. Most of the intellectuals who staff environmental groups are so repelled by the right’s values that we have assiduously avoided examining our own in a serious way. Environmentalists and other liberals tend to see values as a distraction from “the real issues” – environmental problems like global warming. If environmentalists hope to become more than a special interest we must start framing our proposals around core American values and start seeing our own values as central to what motivates and guides our politics. Doing so is crucial if we are to build the political momentum – a sustaining movement – to pass and implement the legislation that will achieve action on global warming and other issues."

One interesting thing about the environmental debate is the perspective of each side. We all agree that clean water and clean air are common interests to all. The divergence is that the conservatives focus on the consequences of environmental policy to the individual while the liberals focus on the consequences of environmental policy on nature, the place were the individuals live.

And each side has a point, and therein lies the dilemma. If we focus on the individual interests of the here and now, by building hydroelectric dams in prime salmon habitats, we may have cheap power and not enough to eat. On the other hand, if we start taxing or regulating land intensive industries such as forestry with a view to preserving the salmon habitat we may have enough salmon but not enough lumber with which to build houses.

Whatever the appropriate policies ought to be, look for new forays from the environmentalists in the near future that will look nothing like business as usual.