Washington Libertarian Review

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

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Why there needs to be a viable third party instead of a "top two" system

Peter Callaghan of the Tacoma News Tribune points to exactly the kind of jingoistic, sound-bite politics that has given the Ds and Rs a bad name. And it is exactly why we have to expand the field of political party options rather than muzzle the two fattest and ugliest ones with non-partisan election rules.

Setting aside the fact that muzzling the two biggest parties with non-partisan type rules has the collateral effect of making third parties an endangered species, muzzling the offenders won't change their behavior, and it chills the First Amendment besides.

The beauty and strength of the first amendment is in allowing everyone their 15 minutes of fame. Yes, that has its downside too, but on balance we are a stronger, richer, nation because for the most part people get to say what they think.

But what has happened over the last century is that the Ds and Rs have found arguably legal yet highly pernicious ways (thanks to an ignorant supreme court that never has to stand for election) to make sure that they are the first ones to the podium, and they get to stay there the longest. The labyrinthian and oppressive campaign finance rules are Exhibit A to this fact. Nobody in third parties has the time or resources even to understand them, let alone form 501s and 527s to end-run them.

And so we are left with the Apple Cup on a grander scale. The red team calls the blue team a bunch of fags. The blue team yells the red team coach is an idiot. And they get away with it because they are the only game in town. Little do they realize that the bleachers are emptying because the fans are disgusted.

What the voters didn't realize was that I-872 destroyed the game as well as the teams. We don't need a free-for-all. We need a new game, one where more teams can have at least a fighting chance to win. When the Mets came to New York the Yankees improved their W/L ratio by about 50 points.

Monday, September 26, 2005

More credibility problems for government

Keep Washington Rolling, the pro-gas-tax group, recently found voters won’t take kindly to elected officials – or business and media leaders, for that matter – urging “no” votes on I-912. Voters would be more receptive to hearing why the projects funded by the increase are necessary from city engineers, public works directors and emergency personnel, the poll said.

The full story is here.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Washington State poll reflects skepticism, distrust of government

The Atlanta based Republican polling firm Strategic Vision has released its 9/23/05 poll of Washington voters. Overall the poll reflects a significant level of voter dissatisfaction. Here is a brief list of winners:

Dino Rossi
John Roberts
Patty Murray
Hillary Clinton
Rudy Guiliani
Likelihood of another terrorist attack

and losers:

Christine Gregoire
George Bush
Tax increases to pay for gulf coast storm damage
Reliability of Washington's elections system
Condolezza Rice

Winner and loser:

While Maria Cantwell is shown as shown as leading Mike McGavick, her job approval rating is below 50%

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Whither CATO?

The venerable libertarian think tank CATO institute is under attack for supporting the IRAQ war, or at least not opposing it, and for cozying up to the Republican neoconservatives.

And it appears there are some disgruntled over what is perceived as a "suck up" mentality at CATO to whichever political philosophy is then in power. When Clinton was in office, for example, CATO tried to sell libertarianism as "low tax liberalism."

No doubt there is a problem of staying relevant as the political winds blow. But it has been shown time and again that there are no favors in politics, except among those within the same political party or philosophy, and CATO would do well to ignore the invitations of the neoconservatives and hold on to its integrity.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Is the image of politics changing?

Conventional wisdom is that beards are the kiss of death in politics. But in New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Jon Corzine, who sports one, is 20 points ahead of his chief rival. Beards were de rigour in the 19th century. Maybe they will enjoy a comeback in the 21st. This would be a good thing since my wife insists I keep mine.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Analysis of Roberts' testimony

The Washington Post has decided supreme court nominee John Roberts is A Conservative, Yes, but Not a Scalia. Very interesting to note the article quotes libertarian law school professor Randy Barnett extensively, and none of the other recognized scholars.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

NJ Libertarian qualifies for gubernatorial debates.

The price of the ticket: $300,000.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Swan songs for the Rs?

As I speculated last Thursday the Washington Post suggests Katrina Darkens the Outlook for Incumbents.

I have often predicted that political pendulum is near the end of its conservative swing. Now it appears that gas prices, the War in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina will provide the catalyst for significant changes in Washington D.C.

While I, unfortunately, don't think the NLP is ready to assume the lead, I do think, with the right ideas and rhetoric, there is an opening for more libertarian ideas in the wake of the neoconservative crash.

Republican eats own young

Well, it seems Karl Rove may not be eligible to vote in Texas (scroll down). Two days after the Washington Post article hit the streets, Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams canned a staff attorney for speaking generically about voter residency requirements and not discussing Rove in particular.

Is this what Bush meant when he spoke of "compassionate conservatism?"

Saturday, September 10, 2005

State judicial races to become more political

The News Tribune reports: State judicial races might get bigger shot of party politics, apparently with some sense of alarm. A federal court of appeals recently lifted a prohibition against judges identifying their political affiliations and opinions. After all, say critics, "that could open courtroom doors to biased judges, unfair trials and increased special interest influence."

This is nothing but a matter of perspective. The very reason why judges are asked to decide cases is because there is a strong difference of opinion between the litigants about what is right or wrong in the circumstance.

Although it is possible for a judge to come down somewhere in the middle, more often than not one side wins and the other side loses. Then the winning side says the judge was fair, unbiased and without undue influence, and the other side suspects foul play. Its in the nature of the beast.

Nobody really thinks judges don't have opinions before they come to the bench. It's only human nature to have them. And before they come to the bench they have typically honed the skill of advancing those opinions as attorneys representing clients.

So, how could it possibly be that allowing judicial candidates to express their opinions before they get elected is a bad thing? The alternative is to promulgate a sham on an unsuspecting public.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Failures of the Bush Administration

Sidney Blumenthal has this engaging, if somewhat inaccurate, criticism of the Republican brand of limited government. But what it shows, more than anything, is that incompetence reigns supreme at the White House.

On the right Bush has been accused of snatching defeat from the mouth of victory by elevating John Roberts to Chief Justice. The thinking goes, if Bush had left Roberts to fill O'Connor's seat he could have nominated another conservative to replace Rehnquist, thus moving the court "one notch to the right." Now, with centrist O'Connor's seat open again, the risk is he is going to have to nominate someone more palatable to the left.

I think we will shortly see more and more Republicans in congress bolting from administration policy, and Bush is already a lame duck, even before the 2006 elections.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Partisanship increasing - good or bad?

Contrary to prior catastrophes America has not pulled together behind its president. An ABC/Washington Post poll reflects a Deepening Divide between Ds and Rs over current administration policies in general and Bush's performance in particular.

The question is what this means for third parties. In one sense it is good sign, because "bipartisanship" is now revealed as the sham that it is. On the other hand, I'm afraid the need to be on the winning (or "right") side is going to cause independents to take sides, which reduces the pool of available supporters for alternatives to the Ds and Rs.

Time will tell.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Libertarians gaining in Costa Rica

While the LP languishes on the sidelines in the US, Movimiento Libertario in Costa Rica has gained 10% of country's Congress. One very big advantage the Ls in CR have is proportional representation. But, as the latter article explains, there are other factors as well.

Congress has the Endangered Species Act in its sights this fall

The property rights / environmentalist war is bound to heat up this fall as Congress has the Endangered Species Act in its sights.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Web site analyzes roll of internet in politics

Two academics, Kirsten A. Foot, Ph.D., of the UW, and Steven M. Schneider, Ph.D., from SUNY, have developed PoliticalWeb.Info providing analytical reports, working papers and publications, and multi-functional interfaces to Web collections, all to help explain the impact of the Internet on politics.

Hi-tech no panacea for ID theft woes

Now that the British are considering their own version of the REAL ID, a security expert says it can make matters worse. Dr Emily Finch, of the University of East Anglia, said the introduction of Chip and PIN on credit cards and UK government plans to introduce identity card schemes will only encourage crooks to become more imaginative. She said there was no substitute for individual vigilance.

But it really isn't about identity theft is it? Its about amassing monstrous databases for purposes of crowd control, isn't it?

Bush Nominates Roberts to Replace Rehnquist

In a rare display of responsiveness, George W. Bush Nominates Roberts to Replace Chief Justice Rehnquist. Of course, this confirms prior speculation that Roberts has always been the choice to replace Rehnquist, it being merely a matter of time, and prehaps a matter of a second confirmation hearing.

Much has already been written about Roberts' background. He will likely fall into line behind Rehnquist and side with Scalia and Thomas on most issues. This does not bode well for minor political parties, whose rights have continually been ignored by conservatives on the bench.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Democrats to hold annual dinner

Erstwhile senator and vice-presidential candidate John Edwards will be in Seattle Tuesday for the annual Warren G. Magnuson dinner. Why should Libertarians care? Because the Ds are charging $100 a plate for a party building event. Maybe the Ls should take a page from the D playbook.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Who is proud to be a Republican today?

Amidst continuing criticism of the slow federal response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster NBC stiffled an unscripted criticism of George Bush, which accused him of ignoring blacks. Rapper Kanye West also accused the media of treating blacks differently from whites. "If you see a black family, it says they're looting. See a white family, it says they're looking for food," he said.

The show was live on the east coast, and so NBC officials were unable to censor the comments until it was reaired on the west coast. And NBC has taken great pains to distance itself from West's comments. ""It would be most unfortunate," it said in a prepared statement, "if the efforts of the artists who participated tonight and the generosity of millions of Americans who are helping those in need are overshadowed by one person's opinion." NBC must be proud.

One of the marks of a man who has exceeded his capacity to lead is that he is slow to react. W did the same thing on 9/11, sitting in a classroom of children for nearly half an hour after being told of the attack. But even if he never had a particular thought about the plight of the inner city blacks in New Orleans (I frankly think he never did) those around him should have known better, and they let the disaster spread without taking immediate action.

We are now full circle. The political party that came into being championing the rights of blacks has demonstrated, now that it is in power, that it couldn't care less about them.

Pro-gas-tax campaign slow to take shape

Friday's P-I reports the pro-gas-tax campaign is having trouble getting started.

Of course, the argument goes, Washington's infrastructure (old bridges, bottlenecks, etc.) need help. But the fact of the matter is the gas tax is DOA. If the proponents could have overcome the 400,000 signature groundswell of opposition, they have little control over the fact that gas is now over $3 per gallon, thanks to the combined effects of Katrina and W's wrongheaded foreign policy.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Long Term Questions for New Orleans

While critics are faulting the planning for and response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, a $10 billion relief plan has been proposed.

While it is obvious that authorities need to provide immediate relief, food, shelter, etc., for those afflicted, the real question is whether New Orleans should be rebuilt. It is, for most part, below sea level now. And if there is any truth to global warming (I've seen it in my own neighborhood and you probably have in yours as well. Like, when was the last time that it really, I mean REALLY, snowed in your back yard?), the chances of another similar catastrophe will only get larger. Check the attached map for the prediction of one futurist.

These are your tax dollars at work. Even in this arena of obvious need, hard questions need to be asked what plans should be made for the future of New Orleans.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Today this and another blog I post to got "spamed" with several obviously impertinent Anonymous comments containing links to commercial sites. Henceforth, if you want to comment on this or the other site, Cantwell Watch, you will have to register. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Waiting for a Leader

If the New York Times editorial page is any indicator, W's successor will have no trouble rising above expectations.

Greedy lawyers and negligent doctors

See this rundown on the coming nasty election battle over two medical-malpractice initiatives in Washington. One, I-330, backed by the medical community, puts caps on jury awards and attorney fees. The other, I-336, backed by lawyers, makes a doctor's malpractice history public information and creates a mechanism to revoke the licenses of chronically negligent doctors. So far, the doctors are outspending the lawyers by a factor of 2 to 1.

Frankly, neither initiative is particularly attractive. There is no guarantee jury award and attorney fee caps are going to lead to lower medical costs and the truly injured will be deprived of a remedy. At the same time doctors are already under intense scrutiny, and there is no indication that increased scrutiny will lead to better care.

Pirro trots out tired and failed challenge to Clinton

Jeanine Pirro, a Westchester County, New York, district attorney, thinks she can beat Hillary Clinton in next year's race for the U.S. Senate by arguing Clinton wants to be President.

This is the same argument Clinton's last opponent used. It failed then and it will fail now. In fact, it is the kind of argument that will help bring about the result Pirro threatens.

If this is the best the New York Republicans can do they are in big trouble.

Outlawing Teacher Strikes

Peter Callaghan argues teacher strikes add up to harm for communities that justifies anti-strike legislation for teachers.

Citing to a bill introduced last year by Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish), Callaghan argues teachers should be required to work without contracts and submit to binding arbitration, as the police and fire fighters already have to do. Education, according to Callaghan, is as important as public safety.

But this is a solution looking for a problem. Rarely is there more than one teacher strike in any one year, if there is any at all. The last teacher strike in the state, in Marysville, was in 2003.

More important, it can lead to increases in the state role in education in unintended ways. Public safety and public education are more different than they are alike. While the role of government in public safety is primarily to prevent harm, the role of government in education is to confer a benefit.

The public safety role is already leading to, in this writer's opinion, serious losses of fundamental rights and unwarranted invasions of privacy, all in the name of fighting terrorism. If public education is important enough to compromise the rights of teachers to strike, how long will it be before somebody argues it is important enough to (further) compromise the rights of parents and students?