Saturday, November 17, 2007

Libertarian Blues


All right, not a great week for liberty — at least not compared to last week, with Ron Paul’s record-breaking fundraising on the Fifth of November. This week, by contrast:

•The feds raided the man behind the Liberty Dollars that bear Ron Paul’s visage, either because they threaten to become a private currency or because (as I feared back when Libertarian Michael Badnarik was touting the things during his 2004 prez campaign) the whole silver coin system’s a ponzi scheme. It was front-page news in the right-leaning New York Sun, which suggested the raid could affect the presidential race, though I’ve heard of no legal connection to the Paul campaign itself. I’m not sure if the Sun figured campaign implications would attract the attention of sympathetic, right-leaning readers or whether they, like some neocons, are hoping to see the unlikely Paul juggernaut implode.

•Mona Charen, in an NRO piece likening Paul to David Koresh, proved herself to be one of those neocons — ah, but then, according to the juvenile Charen, I have just engaged in anti-Semitism by calling her a neocon — even though I’ve probably referred to myself as sort of a neocon at some point over the years (you may have read my Retro-Journal entry about being influenced by Leo Strauss via Alan Bloom — and I just finished reading a book by Norman Podhoretz, which I’ll describe at greater length in December’s Book Selection of the Month entry). Charen merely notes that Paul criticizes neocons and that some people use the term to refer primarily to conservatives of Jewish ancestry.

That’s pretty typical of her extraordinarily weak yet multi-point “case” against Paul — some people like him and are anti-Semites, some people like him and are crazy conspiracy theorists, some people etc., etc. All of which could be said of any political candidate: most people who thought they’d seen UFOs supported Ross Perot in 1992, according to one poll, perhaps because they thought him the candidate most likely to buck the system and blow the lid off the imagined conspiracy, but that in itself hardly discredits him (those people are probably supporting UFO-spotter Kucinich and UFO-conspiracy-criticizer Richardson this time around, by the way — so maybe my declaration that Richardson is at the bottom of the sanity heap wasn’t so far off [the corollary to that declaration being the danger that America will pick the two presentably weatherman-like, superficially-reasonable-seeming "hair guys," Edwards and Romney, as the major-party nominees]).

Charen is one of those tiresome conservatives who seems to operate on the belligerent pundit principle “If I can bluster my way through a stupid argument without admitting to myself that it’s stupid, it is in some sense legitimate, so don’t try stopping me, I’m on a roll.” Embarrassing — and bad for the culture. Retire, Mona Charen. You are a disgrace not only to conservatism but to the intelligentsia in general.

•The Republican Liberty Caucus, or some chapters of it (it being the group dedicated to advancing the libertarian cause through Republican politics) can’t decide whether to endorse Ron Paul, apparently, though you’d think he’s the candidate they were born to endorse. If not him, who? If not now, when?

•I continue to hear Establishment types, emboldened by an article in Wired, imply that the existence of lots of Ron Paul spam somehow shows that the whole Ron Paul movement is an illusion, as if all those actual, flesh-and-blood, non-robotic people showing up at Paul-themed gatherings (LIKE THE PARTY HERE IN NEW YORK CITY AT RON PAUL NY HQ, 515 W. 29TH ST., TONIGHT AT 9PM, I SHOULD NOTE) are irrelevant, along with their headline-making campaign donations.

•And headlines, alas, also continue about a former Libertarian Party national committee member (Steve Fielder of West Virginia) murdering and dismembering his wife — definitely a violation of the LP’s “non-aggression principle,” just in case that’s unclear to anyone. I’ve always said I defend principles, not politicians and that my allegiances therefore wouldn’t be affected even if it turned out the leaders of a faction I liked were axe-murderers — so now I get a chance to prove it! Sigh. What gets me is that the wife’s body appears to have been nibbled on after death by Fielder’s pet prairie dog, Max, so authorities put the prairie dog to sleep to get a bite-imprint from him — and I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that they mean “sleep” euphemistically, in which case I can’t help wondering why poor Max, who was clearly only an accomplice, was so quick to get the death penalty — and at a time when the constitutionality of lethal injection is in question. Pure speciesism! (And still the greens turn to the state for answers!)

•Speaking of animal-lovers, my friend Pagan Kennedy has abandoned her plan to write an article about how hard it is for libertarian males to find libertarian females to date (I’ve only dated one, briefly, in all these years, not that I’m complaining). It’s a good topic, though, given that libertarians, by at least one poll, are about 90% male, sort of like the populations behind two of my other favorite hobbies, comic books and skepticism, as it happens. No regrets.

Some brighter notes, though:

•Bretigne Shaffer, formerly a principled non-voter (not a position with which I agree, for more or less Kantian reasons but also for the simple strategic reason that if the anti-statists stop voting, the statists will always win), writes that she expects to vote for once — for Ron Paul. I think Reason’s Brian Doherty has also suggested he might be tempted.

•Barry Goldwater, Jr. has endorsed Ron Paul — and Bretigne’s dad Butler Shaffer campaigned for Barry Goldwater four decades ago, so there’s some sort of full circle there. (Of course, the modern Goldwater is not quite as powerful as the Silver Age Goldwater.)

•A libertarian Republican successfully got a pot-legalization measure passed in a small Idaho town, though I can’t imagine that’ll go over well with the feds.

•John Stossel’s recent segment on global warming hype is on YouTube — and it’s good, though the points he makes are, of necessity, only the tip of the non-melting iceberg.

•Heather Wilhelm launches her RealClearPolitics column by writing about eminent domain abuse — unmasking the state as a self-serving, power-hungry entity (aided and abetted by the five liberal Supreme Court judges in the monstrous Kelo decision, lefty talk of aiding the little guy notwithstanding). Her old colleagues from the group that was U.S. Term Limits have lately fissioned into the Sam Adams Alliance and Americans for Limited Government, both emphasizing grassroots activism and basic fight-the-power stuff, bless ’em.

•Having some weird and occasionally very rustic Ron Paul supporters out there occasionally does result in some entertaining exchanges, as suggested by this passage — far funnier out of context (so why provide any?) — from a listserv I’m on:

I don’t necessarily 110% agree with everything I wrote in “Jews and Ron Paul.” It was written for a Christian Evangelical audience, as I wrote it in response to a discussion I had with the pastor of a large church when I was passing out Slim Jims at the grocery store.

Note: not sufficient to justify Mona Charen coming out of retirement.

Some Catholics, at least, like Ron Paul, as Paul-inclined Dimitri Cavalli pointed out to atheistic me.

•A fellow libertarian New Wave fan blogger I noticed online surprised me by being a Democrat, favoring Richardson — which means that while I’m worrying about things like whether Giuliani or Paul has a better handle on the Iraq situation, he’s worrying about whether Richardson’s water-use agenda for the Southwest will violate local sovereignty. Weird. It’s like finding out you have a perfectly intelligent cousin in Canada who obsesses over defending monarchy or something. Whole different world for me, mentally.

But then, that’s what the Web is for.


barry b. said...

With Paul’s recent strong positive press – a surge of negative press has been dragged out to meet him. I can only see this getting worse. The establishment fully intends to stop him and his followers. But this is how politics works – so let’s make the most of it shall we?

best regards

D------ said...

The Charen piece is a disgrace. I write this as someone who has read her column (and admired her as a conservative writer) since the late 1980s or so.

Most of the piece uses the guilt-by-association tactic. Sad.

Remember, it’s going to get worse.

Eric Dondero said...

Hi Todd,

We met at Americans for Limited Gov. Conference in Chicago last year.

I am the Founder of the Republican Liberty Caucus. And I gotta tell you, I am pleased as punch that the RLC is not endorsing Ron Paul for President.

I am backing — very strongly and enthusiastically – Rudy Giuliani for President. In my view, he’s far more libertarian on the issues that matter – fighting Islamo-Fascism, preserving Pro-Choice – than Ron Paul.

But other RLCers are even backing Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson and even John McCain. We took a straw poll at the last National RLC Convention, and Giuliani and McCain did quite well – overseen by WSJ’s Stephen Moore. (Jeb Bush and George Allen came out on top).

I’d rather see RLC endorse Giuliani. But I’m almost as happy if the group stays neutral. If they were to endorse Paul, people like me who have serious reservations about his ties to extremist fringe groups, would be very upset. I could split up the entire organization.

Better RLC sticks to helping elect libertarian-leaning GOP Congressman and State Legislators.

Eric Dondero, Fmr. Senior Aide

US Congressman Ron Paul


Eric Dondero said...

Of course, I meant to say “it” instead of “I” could split up the entire organization. My political foes would have a field day with that one.

BTW, I just put up a List of Famous Libertarians and Elected Libertarians and who they are supporting for President this year. Giuliani has the most number of big name Libertarian endorsers like Dennis Miller, Neal Cavuto, Steve Forbes, and Sally Pipes.

Marc Montoni said...


With regard to libertarian women — I happen to be married to one who is as radical or more radical than even I am. And I’m a “diamond-tipper”, top-of-the-Nolan-chart libertarian.

As state Secretary of the LP in Virginia, one of my tasks is to ensure the accuracy of the state LP’s database. One of the many data housekeeping things I do is to attach honorifics so that mailmerged mailings are formally and properly addressed.

As a side benefit, having filled in honorifics for all but about twenty of our current members, I can tell you that the 10% figure is a bit on the low side — it’s more like 15% — but still way lopsided in favor of men vs. women.

I have worked hard to encourage the participation of women; not always successfully. A disturbing lesson came my way a few years ago that convinced me to be much more careful to encourage women who will be **beneficial** to the organization.

I think the composition of the Ron Paul meetups is enlightening. The few that I have been to have been very balanced in terms of men vs. women. I am sure there are some lessons there; but unfortunately it may just be true that there are some things that won’t directly translate to third-party organizations.

I’ve been to many Green meetings. They have no trouble attracting female participants. In fact they do have trouble attracting men. They have the opposite problem from the LP.

Who knows — maybe libertarian men should volunteer & donate to the LP, but go to Green meeting for company.