Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Letter to a writer at The New Yorker

I wrote to Raffi Khatchadourian,
I feel disappointed you didn't touch base with me on the facts of the story you wrote on Bob Barr, published this week in The New Yorker. As the member of Minnesotans for Limited Government (MNLG) who was the catalyst behind Bob Barr's invitation to the Langford Park picnic, I was privy to the full context of the situation, the tension between the Ron Paul and Bob Barr campaigns. There was a story beyond what you saw, which you might have learned had you asked, that would have balanced your presentation. In short the Ron Paul Campaign for Liberty people were not happy that MNLG had invited Bob Barr, from what I was told. I was told they were trying to get MNLG to renege on the agreed upon time. I, myself, encouraged both sides, MNLG and the Bob Barr campaign, to speak directly with one another and act honorably. Fortunately MNLG acted with integrity as I knew they would. Regardless there were bad feelings on the part of the Bob Barr campaign towards the Ron Paul campaign, the after-effects of which you witnessed. If you had asked, you might have understood this full context, which few are aware of. Unfortunately you only painted half the picture, the latter half at that.

Robert Kraus writes of a pattern -
This pattern is something that we never wanted to disclose but holds true to previous treatment where staff members for Paul's campaign tried on more than one occasion to have Bob Barr uninvited from events, including Bob's gracious introduction of Ron Paul at last year's CPAC conference.

I do doubt that Dr. Paul was aware of these antics.
(There's also a hearsay report which deserves additional investigation if the full story behind these tensions is of interest.)

Meanwhile Ron Paul endorses Chuck Baldwin, a candidate whose 2004 campaign bragged about an endorsement from the League of the South. I would encourage this story to be more fully explored given the allegations of James Kirchick in his New Republic article Angry White Man. Ron Paul had no compunction in inviting Baldwin to speak at a rally in Washington, DC. I see people in the Ron Paul campaign acclimatizing themselves to an anything-goes mentality at the state level, and I mean "anything goes". Walter Block, an economist of whom Ron Paul speaks highly in his response to the TNR article, has even written in favor of slavery. I hope I am wrong about my worst fears here.

As Charles Sumner wrote,
Where liberty is there slavery cannot be, and where slavery is there liberty cannot be.

Meanwhile our country, by reasonable accounts, is quickly becoming a closed society, where civil liberties are being curtailed acceleratingly. Torture, wiretapping, loss of habeas corpus, journalist and mass arrests (and an alleged torture) at the RNC, brutality at a protest outside the last debate, domestic military operations (which Barr commented on in April [15:41-15:50] when he announced his exploratory committee), who is speaking out about these, apart from Bob Barr, Amy Goodman, and Naomi Wolf? This is the big story. In my introduction to Bob Barr at Muffuletta I spoke of how we Americans need to rally 'round our liberty. We used to raise liberty poles to symbolize how, as Americans, we treasured our freedom, regardless of party. This is the story. I have supported Bob Barr because I believe he is in the best position to reverse this curtailment of our civil liberties. I fear Congress has not the courage now to do this but could regain it with the right President and the right message from the electorate, if informed.

In contrast to this big story, I read a petty account of how one of the sign holders for Bob Barr complained about the task of holding his sign. Who knows? My guess is that he was saying this with a sense of humor, knowing the two involved. Did you know for a fact he was a big-L Libertarian? I know one of them was a Bob Barr supporter, but not a member of the Libertarian Party. That was me. I was off to the side except when the campaign people asked me to come close for the cameras. Moreover, both of us were in fact asked by the campaign to hold the signs earlier that morning. Why did you write "unbidden by the campaign"? Did someone tell you that? That was false.

I enjoyed meeting you. The story I mentioned to you about Asma Jahangir in Pakistan in so many ways now reflects the situation here. Will our country retain a respect for individual rights? I hope so. I believe in fact that by doing so we will be in a stronger position to confront the real dangers of the world, having built stronger bonds of trust amongst ourselves.

I wrote this letter in response to the article in this week's New Yorker magazine
Earlier, on September 1, 2008, I had sent Khatchadourian my contact info, as he had requested, with the following note -
It was great meeting you at the Bob Barr dinner. You did meet a lot of the people there, didn't you? I was the one, before dinner, who commented on the wonderful article on Asma Jahangir last year in the New Yorker, which I'd read. We later discussed forms of election, including a novel one which would be party-neutral and eliminate spoilers, by allowing primary candidates to throw their percentages towards leading candidates, the top two of which, after this coalescing, would go on to a final run-off. It's simpler, more straightforward, and so less vulnerable to fraud than IRV, which passed in San Francisco a few years ago, passed in Minneapolis in 2006, and is on the ballot in St. Paul this year. I believe that much of our problem lies with the rigidity of the two major parties and the privileged position they enjoy unnecessarily.

I hope you enjoyed the event.

Update (Oct 29, 2008): I have confirmed by email that the other sign holder did in fact say what he said "with a humorous sarcastic tone...not from the point of view of a reluctant or disgruntled supporter."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A vote for McCain is a wasted vote

Food for thought to a Republican

"A vote for John McCain is a wasted vote" says Bob Barr. There's no practical excuse for not voting your conscience now. A vote for Barr is a protest vote against the unlimited spending, the bailout, and the warrantless wiretaps, which now seem inevitable, unless Obama is a closet classical liberal, hah! At best one can only hope he's a moderate. A vote for Barr is a way to make your vote count by giving it meaning.

Here are the facts.

inTrade.com shows Obama today with an 87% chance of winning and McCain at a mere 13%.

The electoral college is predicted to be 364 to 174. If you place the states in order, either Colorado or Pennsylvania, each at the electoral 50% mark, would put McCain over the top, each showing an 85% chance of an Obama victory. There are 6 other states leaning Obama that would also have to switch over, FL (63%), NC (64%), OH (65%), MO (70%), NV (73%), VA (81%).

Barack Obama, copyright, and the surveillance society

Food for thought to a Democrat

Is Obama's support for warrantless wiretapping related to his wife's professional background as an "intellectual-property" lawyer? I learned about her work in Barack Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope. Are she and her former colleagues egging him on?

Don't laugh. Some wonder if the dramatic erosion of our civil liberties is connected to this decade's efforts to enforce copyright in an acceleratingly draconian fashion. Richard Falkvinge of the Swedish Pirate Party makes this argument (not about Michelle Obama in particular), that unscrupulous copyright lobbyists want surveillance.

Bob Barr on the NewsHour

Friday, September 12, 2008

On the Barr-Paul brawl

  1. Robert Kraus, Acting Executive Director of the LP wrote,
    This pattern is something that we never wanted to disclose but holds true to previous treatment where staff members for Paul's campaign tried on more than one occasion to have Bob Barr uninvited from events, including Bob's gracious introduction of Ron Paul at last year's CPAC conference.

    I do doubt that Dr. Paul was aware of these antics.
    Last week I was privy to negotiations in Minnesota during the RNC week which strongly corroborate the pattern described by Kraus.

  2. Is the hearsay reported here true? Does anyone have evidence?

  3. The worst vitriol seems to come from the seething tensions of rule-of-men advocates. If I'd met Ron Paul last week, I would have asked him directly his own opinions on the inalienability of rights and due process, two issues regarding which rule-of-menners tend to devolve, though only perhaps at the state level.
Version 1.1 - added detail to point 1

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bob Barr speaks at September 1 picnic hosted by Minnesotans for Limited Government

Bob Barr spoke September 1 at Langford Park at a picnic event hosted by Minnesotans for Limited Government (MNLG), of which I'm a member. Soon afterwards Ron Paul took the podium. Langford Park is in the St Anthony Park neighborhood of St Paul, Minnesota. This was the day before the Rally for the Republic.

My second liberty pole

Related Post:

Here I am meeting Bob Barr

"Ron Paul has done a tremendous job," says Barr in St Paul, Minnesota

The other day Bob Barr expressed his appreciation for what Ron Paul has accomplished and argued,
As the nominee for the Libertarian Party, I have the honor and the ability to do what Ron Paul cannot do. He is not the nominee. He was a great candidate on the Republican side and did a tremendous job getting these ideas out there, and he's continuing to do so, but the only way that we can go to the next level is through my candidacy with the Libertarian Party between now and November 4.
Barr spoke on September 1 at a dinner with the Minneapolis Bob Barr Meetup at Muffuletta in St Paul, not long after two speeches, one by him and another by Ron Paul, in Langford Park a few blocks away at a picnic hosted by Minnesotans for Limited Government (MNLG).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Nader discusses National Press Club press conference with Barr, Paul, and McKinney

Ralph Nader at his "Open the Debates" rally in Minneapolis on Sep 4, 2008, discussed the upcoming National Press Club press conference on Wednesday morning, Sep 10, 2008, with Bob Barr, Ron Paul, and Cynthia McKinney. He revealed 4 points of common agreement.
Next week we're going to have a news conference with Cynthia McKinney, Bob Barr, and Ron Paul in Washington, D.C. We will have a preliminary manifesto where we agree on four categories....

  1. to reverse the militarization of foreign policy ...
  2. to hold the Federal Reserve accountable ...
  3. to repeal the Patriot Act ...
  4. to treat the massive deficit ...

We obviously see a convergence of people on both sides of the political spectrum on things like civil liberties and the militarization of foreign policy ...

The video of Nader's statement has been uploaded to Vimeo and should be available there soon, too.

Update (Sep 9, 2008, 9:16 pm Central): According to a Houston Chronicle blog, Texas on the Potomac, "Houston Chronicle Washington correspondent Bennett Roth obtained an advance copy of Rep. Ron Paul's remarks planned for delivery tomorrow at the National Press Club." The blog has posted the purported copy.

Update (Sep 9, 2008, 11:00 pm Central): CNN Political Editor Mark Preston reports information from senior Ron Paul aide, consistent with purported copy of Paul's planned remarks.

Update (Sep 10, 2008, 10:30 am Central): Here's the official statement Ron Paul made to the National Press Club.

Update (Sep 10, 2008, 11:11 am Central): What about Bob? by David Weigel at Reason. By the way, I met Austin Petersen last week at the Libertarian Party booth at Ron Paul's Rally for the Republic.

What's good for the goose - Bob Barr in Texas

My mother warned me long ago that the day might come when 2 + 2 would equal 5. In Texas, there's some basic arithmetic now in play. What day is 1 day before the November 4, 2008, election? What day is 70 days before the November 4, 2008, election? I just looked on a calendar. 70 days would be 10 weeks. That day would be Tuesday, August 26, 2008. Apparently the Democrats who filed on August 27 disagree.

The Bob Barr 2008 campaign is fighting to keep the Democrats off the Texas ballot.

Why so adamant? What's a day among friends?

Well, the problem is that third parties have been regularly left in the wilderness when it comes to ballot access. I've seen the barriers to political competition over the past decades. The two major parties rigidly claim preferential treatment both in the form of election and debate access. Let's make a deal. If the Bob Barr campaign pulls back and lets Texas let the Democrats off the hook, then let's have some quid pro quo.

What's the quid?
  1. A debate open to civil candidates with noticeable percentages, such as Bob Barr and Ralph Nader. Perhaps the time allotted could be weighted by their polling percentages, apart from equal time in their opening and closing statements.
  2. A truly general form of election with no favoritism towards the two major parties.
There may be a problem with the Republican Party's candidate filing, too, in Texas. The Bob Barr 2008 campaign thinks it has a case. I highlight the Democratic Party's failure to file on time because it is so clear-cut.

What a week! - RNC 2008 - part 2

According to Amy Goodman in this interview, when Goodman asks how the press could do their job without arrest and charges, St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington made to her a sordid suggestion, that the press be embedded in the "police mobile field force". (!!!!!)

How about citizen journalists with a Flip video? How do citizens peacefully assemble and exercise the 1st Amendment, and do so with witnesses?

Someone I know was arrested blocks away from a concert in Minneapolis she was leaving, trying to leave, other streets having been blocked by police.

Were the troops wearing names and jurisdictions? Do they need badges?

How does one stay innocent? How does one disperse when the question "Which way?" goes unanswered? How does one witness?

Need we be embedded citizens?

Update (Sep 9, 2008, 2:00 pm Central): Melissa Hill, whom I trust on this, writes,
I was arrested on Wednesday night after the RATM concert on 7th Street. I stayed on the sidewalks and didn't do anything but apparently I'm being charged with "obstructing traffic??", being a "public nuisance" and "unlawful assembly"??? They handcuffed us and we had to sit there for hours on the street. They also arrested MN Peace Team members and freelance journalists and people simply going home.

Source: Wall on public Facebook group "I went to the RNC 08 and all I got was arrested!" (Sep 8, 2008, 7:56 pm Central)

As I understand it, the MN Peace Team tries to mollify crowds.

Update (Sep 9, 2008, 2:47 pm Central):
Why We Were Falsely Arrested by Amy Goodman

What a week! - RNC 2008 - part 1

Video by Melissa Hill
Song: Handlebars by Flobots

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dinner with Bob Barr in St. Paul, Minnesota

It's all set. Bob Barr is coming to have dinner with supporters on Monday at Muffuletta, in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood of St. Paul. He's planning to give a speech and answer questions afterwards.

Tomorrow is the Liberty Parade. I just finished painting the base to a 15-foot, pine liberty pole I made with a red liberty cap. I plan to raise it somewhere in Loring Park during the concert in the afternoon after the parade.

Meetup event - Dinner with Bob Barr

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dinner with Bob Barr in Minneapolis/St. Paul - Labor day, September 1

Bob Barr, candidate for President, is coming to town, and he'd like to meet with us for dinner. Please join us. This is your chance to hear him speak and answer your questions in person. This is not a $1000 per plate affair. We're just getting together to have dinner and talk with Bob Barr.

This event is scheduled for 5 pm, Monday, September 1, Labor Day evening. We'll chose a location once we have a better sense for the size audience we'll have. We just found out 2 days ago that he'd be available. Please let others know if you would.

Here's a link to the invitation, where you can sign up - Dinner with Bob Barr

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bob Barr is coming to Minnesota

I just got off the phone with Mike Ferguson, Midwest Regional Coordinator for Bob Barr 2008. According to Ferguson, Bob Barr is coming to the Twin Cities in late August or early September.

Update (Aug 26, 2008): Barr is coming on Aug 31 and will stay through Sep 1 at least, according to Ferguson, with whom I just spoke on the phone.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Article in Sunday Star Tribune by Jill Burcum

There's an article in the Sunday Star Tribune written by Jill Burcum, assistant managing editor, which appeared on the front page of the opinion section. She mentions Bob Barr and his 8% showing in Minnesota and Iowa in the recent Zogby poll.

This is no accident. The other day she interviewed me and four other people active in the liberty movement. Jill's initial focus was on the Ron Paul phenomenon, but she learned from us (and perhaps others) that the movement was more than just about one man.

The first half of the 4th-to-last paragraph reflects what I discussed with her. I pointed out how I came from a staunch Democratic Party background. I mentioned how I grew up in San Francisco in the 60s and felt strongly about our entering wars such as Vietnam, Haiti, and Iraq without constitutional process. I also strongly emphasized the importance of civil liberties in this election. So I think she was looking at her notes from her discussion with me for those sentences. I also mentioned to her how Barr was in this to win. I mentioned the Zogby poll, which surprised her (as it had me, when I had first heard about it). She asked me for info on it via email, which I sent her later.

The great thing about the whole conversation was the tone. It was friendly and relaxed. We put our trust in her, and I think she sensed that. You know there's a great deal of power in what editors can do with your statements. I was very pleased tonight to see what she had written.

Burcum's article is not online yet, that I can see. It'll probably appear at http://www.startribune.com/opinion later this morning sometime. The title is It's not the man--it's the movement.

Update (August 10, 2008): Here's the article.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Baby steps for Bob

Calling all Minnesotans

Remove your party blinders, and help restore civil liberties.

Baby steps for Bob -
  • Baby step #1 - Walk around a lake. Think about things.
  • Baby step #2 - Construct a pair of blinders. I did it for just a few bucks. I bought a mask and some black cardboard paper at a party supply store on Ford Parkway in St. Paul. Cut two 8" x 3" rectangles and fold them in half. Staple them at the loose ends with the elastic string of the mask inside. 2 staples each will do. Place the mask on top of your head and the elastic under your chin, positioning the two black cardboard blinders forward at eye level.
  • Baby step #3 - Walk around the lake again, this time with the blinders on.
  • Baby step #4 - At the end of your walk, symbolically take off your blinders
  • Baby step #5 - Sign the nominating petition for Bob Barr

Adult step #1 - Join the Minneapolis Bob Barr Meetup.

Update (August 10, 2008): At Rejaw, I wrote -
Bob Barr is in this to win, but he can't do it without you.

Help us remove the party blinders from people.

I don't see a check on power. Obama fails on surveillance, McCain on torture.

If you cherish due process, habeas corpus, and privacy, then please consider doing something. Baby steps for Bob.
A college friend of mine wrote me via email, commenting on the two issues I brought up regarding the other two candidates. In response, I added -
I picked two issues of great importance, which I care deeply about, where each has done a 180 or at least a 90 degree turn.

Regarding McCain…

A college friend of mine, who read this, felt, if I understand him correctly, that McCain was just pandering to the Republican base, but would, once elected, come to the rescue and stop the torture.

My perspective is different. At a debate Nov 28, 2007, shown on two big-screens at a local hotel, McCain came out strongly against torture. I nearly broke my arms applauding. Later in February he dropped the ball, I believe. See this article from the San Francisco Chronicle's SFGate.

McCain supports Bush veto of bill banning harsh interrogation tactics
Doesn't want CIA limited to methods used by military
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, March 9, 2008

Regarding Obama...

Obama said he would filibuster a bill such as the recent FISA bill. Instead he voted for cloture. Here's a CATO podcast on the issue by Tim Lee.

Warrantless surveillance and torture, is this America? I don't see a check on power rising from either of the two parties, in contrast to the Watergate era.

Baby steps for Bob...

When you go to the Minnesota State Fair, please do stop by the Liberty Center and sign the petition. We need your help. It's close by. If you look at the map, you can see that it's about as far to walk from one end of the fairgrounds to the other as it is to walk to the Liberty Center. -

5 minutes by car

30 minutes by baby steps

Update (Aug 13, 2008):
The Liberty Parade

Maybe we could do this as part of the Liberty Parade!! It would fit in perfectly with the spirit of the parade. We'd wear party blinders and symbolically take them off when we arrive at Loring Park. What's funny is that the organizers of the parade are encouraging people to be creative and use cardboard paper. What a coincidence!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Triggering a war with Iran

Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker reports that someone at a meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney seriously suggested that a fake incident be staged to provoke the American public against Iran, to start a war. Who was this man? Has he been fired? Where is the outrage? If there is a unitary vice-presidency :-/, Cheney, if he condoned a breath of this behavior, if he did not drum him out, adds a count, a count to his impeachment. Where is Congress?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Cascade Creek

Yesterday at the Borders Bookstore in St. Paul, I saw an old map of Minneapolis from 1849. With the help of a magnifying glass, I discovered that Minnehaha Creek used to be known as Cascade Creek. The name means the same thing. I'm glad it changed.

Source: Map of the Territory of Minnesota Exhibiting the Route of the Expedition to the Red River of the North, in the Summer of 1849 By Captn John Pope, Corps Top Engrs. Drawn by P. S. Morawski.

Minnehapolis - "City of the Falls"

Years ago I researched the meaning of the name Minneapolis at the Minnesota Historical Society. Now thanks to Google Books you can see for yourself... The name Minneapolis comes from a combination of "minnehaha" meaning waterfall and "polis" meaning city.

Source #1
An interview with Daniel L. Payne, who at that time was working on the St. Anthony Express, was published shortly before the death of Payne a few years ago. In this interview Payne said that during a meeting called a the office of Col. John H. Stevens, to see if a better name than Albion could be found, Colonel Stevens suggested that Minnehaha be compounded with the Greek word polis in some way. [George D.] Bowman suggested dropping "ha" from the combination, making the name Minnehapolis. Payne advised dropping the other "ha", leaving Minnepolis. The conference ended by taking "hah" from Minnehaha and attaching polis. Minneapolis was the result. The combination of polis with Minnehaha was no doubt first suggested by Charles Hoag and seconded by Colonel Stevens; but the exact way in which the combination was made was probably as stated by Payne. Bowman advocated the name so persistently that it was finally adopted.
Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Volume X. Part 1. (1905), p. 262

Source #2
The name of a place is so important that the manner in which our city was christened ought to be known to everyone. In the beginning, not to be outdone by St. Paul and St. Anthony, the citizens on the west side of the river called their settlement "All Saints," and so it was known to travelers. Possibly it seemed to some of the residents that there was too much saintliness. At any rate discontent arose over this name, and various artful schemers tried to better it. "Albion," "Lowell" and other names were suggested in vain. Finally Charles Hoag, one of the crowd at the St. Anthony jewelry store club, wrote the editor of the Express the following letter:
Minnehapolis, opposite St. Anthony, Nov. 5, 1852.

Mr Bowman: We are accustomed on this side of the river to regard your paper as a sort of exponent of public sentiment and as a proper medium of public expression. My purpose in writing this letter is to suggest a remedy for the anomalous condition we occupy of dwelling in the place selected by the constituted authorities of Hennepin County, as the county seat, which yet bears no name unless the miserable misnomer "All Saints" shall be considered so thrust upon us that the unanimous determination of the inhabitants cannot throw it off. It is a name that is applicable to no more than two persons in the vicinity of the falls and of doubtful application even to them.

The name I propose is Minnehapolis—derived from Minnehaha, "laughing water," with the Greek affix "polis," a city, meaning "laughing water city" or "city of the falls." You perceive that I spell it with an "h" which is silent in the pronunciation.

The name has been favorably received by many of the inhabitants to whom it has been proposed, and unless a better can be suggested, it is hoped that his attempt to christen our place will not prove as abortive as those heretofore named. I am aware other names have been proposed such as Lowell, Brooklyn, Addiesville, etc., but until some one is decided upon we intend to call ourselves—Minnehapolis

From that time forward all other names were forgotten and Minneapolis, dropping its silent letter in spelling, became famous for its beautiful name as for its useful products.
Ernest Dudley Parsons (1913) The Story of Minneapolis, pp. 52-53 [bold emphasis added] (photo p. 173)

Source #3
You remember that John Stevens, "The Father of Minneapolis," came in 1849, and in two years a settlement began to grow about his house, for which, of course, people wanted a name. Goodhue, the editor of the first St. Paul paper, said that everything in Minnesota was named after a saint, and so, as the names were almost all used up they ought to call this one "All Saints." Though no one liked it then, the name stuck for quite a while, as a nickname will. Afterward they tried calling it Lowell, then Albion, and finally Charles Hoag thought of Minnehapolis, spelled with an "h," which name at once pleased everybody and has been the name ever since. We often hear people say "what's in a name?", but perhaps there is a good deal, for the little town began to grow and grew so fast that before many years it had outstripped all the older ones. As the fur trade grew less and the lumber and wheat trades greater, and after the railroads came, it wasn't important to be the head of navigation, and very much more important to have the great water power, which was a cause, of course, for the mills.
Hester McLean Pollock (1917) Our Minnesota, pp. 157-158.

Related posts:

How Bob Barr became liberty-minded

Bob Barr speaks about how he has come around and how important it is for others to move forward, too,—that's you and me—to rally around our Liberty.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Zogby shows Minnesota support at 8% for Bob Barr

Bob Barr approaches double digits here in Minnesota. A recent Zogby poll breaks it down state-by-state. 8% of Minnesotans already support Barr. I was surprised and pleased. That's a number you can really do something with.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

To live peacefully

Astounding point. This was news to me. Even if you wish to be independent, to live peacefully, after the age of 65, you can't really, because government will punish any service that provides you with an alternative. This can't be true, is it?

Bob Barr's final point with George Stephanopoulos

Bob Barr, in his interview with George Stephanopolous on ABC's "This Week" this morning, made an important point. We Americans must do something about the two-party state. We must open up the electoral system. Barr said,
Success will come from opening up the electoral system here so that no longer after this cycle will Americans feel themselves bound to the artificial constraints of the two-party system.
This was his closing point.

Are we going to help? Short of changing our way of voting, short of making elections party neutral, short of eliminating the "spoiler" argument (see For a Truly General Form of Election), what can we do now?

I argue that, if you're concerned about Barr being a spoiler, if you're not sure he can pull a Ventura, then there's still a way for you to help. Simply answer the polls honestly by stating whom you really support. If there's insufficient support by election time, you can always switch back to McCain or Obama. Answering a poll doesn't hurt the election. If, on the other hand, Barr does gain a potential winning plurality of support as shown in the polls, then you can feel good about voting your preference.

So - (1) Express yourself in the polls, and (2) Vote as you will at election time.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Grapes and liberty pole

I raised a liberty pole tonight for the first time outside. How long ago was the last liberty pole raised? A century ago?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Bill Clinton or George Bush?

People like asking Bob Barr, "Bill Clinton or George Bush?"

The man who wrote the book The Meaning of Is (2004) and led the impeachment effort a decade ago chooses Bill Clinton.

Full shows -
  • The Third Man? - Jane Hamsher and Bob Barr - bloggingheads.tv
  • Bob Barr - Daily with Lindsay Campbell - moblogic.tv

Not with fear in their eyes but love in their heart

... men, women, children, government leaders all around this great world from all different countries will once again look to America not with fear in their eyes but love in their heart and respect for what we will be fighting for ... that is, to restore the bill of rights, to restore the constitutional precepts of freedom and privacy, and to restore liberty to America... [6:18 - 6:43]

Monday, June 23, 2008

Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha Creek flies here, on its way to the Mississippi, at Minnehaha Falls. The word minnehaha means waterfall. The name of the city was originally Minnehapolis, meaning "waterfall city", as its activities in the mid-1800s centered around the waterfalls on the Mississippi and the mills powered by them, cutting timber and grinding grain. The letter 'h' was quickly dropped to facilitate breathing.

The name Minnehaha Falls beautifully hides its superfluity.

Related post:

Muskrat in Minnehaha Creek

I went on an expedition last Wednesday to Minnehaha Creek, after hearing about a sighting there the week before. One block east of the 34th Avenue bridge here's what I saw, a beaver, paddling along, carrying a branch with lots of fresh green leaves. Hope to get a closer shot next time.

Correction (Jun 29, 2008): After seeing it closer yesterday, I now think it's a muskrat, not a beaver.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Will you help?

Liberty is a team effort.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The dog of war unleashed

Preface: For all my Democratic friends who go on about President Bush and his precipitous moves in the Middle East, this article is for you.

In a parallel universe, Presidents of the United States of America are held accountable for unconstitutional threats, invasions, and occupations.

The President is to be commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States. In this respect his authority would be nominally the same with that of the king of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces ... while that of the British king extends to the declaring of war and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies,—all which, by the Constitution under consideration, would appertain to the legislature.
- Federalist LXIX

Whereas "We, the people," as stated in the preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America, did "ordain and establish this Constitution" in order to, among other ends, "provide for the common defense."

Whereas the Constitution of the United States enumerates the limited powers granted therein by the free people of the United States and vested in the specified branches of the Government of the United States.

Whereas, according to Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution of the United States, "The Congress shall have the Power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay ... for the common Defense ... of the United States," and not for intervention.

Whereas, according to Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution of the United States, "The Congress shall have Power ... To declare War," and not the President.

Whereas, according to Article 2, Section 1, of the Constitution of the United States, "The President shall be the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States ... when called into the Actual Service of the United States," and not before.

Whereas, according to Thomas Jefferson, the Constitution of the United States "expressly requires the concurrence of the three branches to commit us to the state of war, but permits two of them, the President and the Senate, to change it to that of peace, for reasons as obvious as they are wise."

Whereas, according to Thomas Jefferson, referring to the Constitution of the United States in a letter to James Madison, "We have already given, in example one effectual check to the Dog of war, by transferring the power of letting him loose, from the executive to the Legislative body, from those who are to spend to those who are to pay."

Whereas the President has presented Congress and the American people with a fait accompli in his threatened invasion and occupation of Haiti.

Whereas the President, in response to the question, "Mr. President ... do you intend to make as a pattern using military action without the consent of Congress or the approval of the American people?" answered: "With regard to Congress ... I think we'll have to take this on a case by case basis. In terms of popular approval, the American people, probably wisely, are almost always against any kind of military action when they first hear about it unless our people have been directly attacked. And they have historically felt that way, and obviously, at the end of the Cold War, they may be more inclined to feel that way. The job of the President is to try to do what is right, particularly in matters affecting our long-term security interests. And unfortunately, not all the decisions that are right can be popular."

Whereas, according to Article VI of the Constitution of the United States, "This Constitution ... shall be the supreme Law of the Land," and "The Senators and Representatives ... and all executive ... Officers ... of the United States ... shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution..."

Whereas absolutism begins where support for the Constitution of a free people ends.

May we, the People, resolutely call on our Representatives and Senators to impede the occupation of Haiti, which is unconstitutional in substance, not being for the common defense, and in means, not being initiated by Congress. Congress has the constitutional power to impede this operation. First, either House may declare that the acts of war launched were unauthorized; second, the House of Representatives may withdraw its funding for this venture; and third, the House of Representatives may impeach that officeholder who breaks the supreme law of the land which is our Constitution, duly so if after a long train of abuses and usurpations. If we fail to act now, how shall we act if that officeholder launches a reckless venture in Iran without our consent, or the consent of our Representatives?

May we leash this dog who, in the name of saving democracy abroad, has snarled at the democracy due within our own constitutional republic.

Postscript: This article did appear in the Minnesota Libertarian, October 1994. Only the name of one country has changed. Instead of Iran, the article originally read Bosnia.

When will the partisans on both sides remove their blinders to see how both parties set and accept the precedents of the other now?

I am disappointed that the Democrats have not impeached another President, Dick Cheney, the President of the Senate, since their rise to power in Congress in 2006.

The Congress does not have the power to vest its own power elsewhere. Neither is the President of the Senate vested with executive powers.

The next best thing to an impeachment might be the election of Bob Barr, a check and a balance on both party monsters. To all evidence he seems to take the rule of law seriously, while the real anarchists of both parties play.

Is Representative Dennis Kucinich's information accurate? How would we, the American people, know?

What does President Clinton's phrase really mean, doing the right thing?

The adapted article "The dog of war unleashed" was originally published in The Minnesota Libertarian, October 1994, p. 4, with the word Bosnia written instead of Iran. The author, Casey Bowman; the cartoonist, Logan Quinn; and the original publication are due attribution.

Related links

Update (Jul 3, 2008): Seymour Hirsh - Preparing the Battlefield: The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran
The New Yorker, July 7, 2008

Update (Aug 11, 2008):
Ron Suskind and Philip Giraldi provide evidence to fuel the impeachment of Cheney.

Bob Barr tells his story on Bloomberg

Bob Barr tells his story. What happened to the Republican Party after the Republican Revolution of 1994? Barr argues in this interview on Bloomberg that it died 4 years later in a meeting with Newt Gingrich right before the 1998 election. However, in his book The Meaning of Is (2004) I learned that things changed much earlier than that. It happened with Newt's cave (p. 223) on the Clinton 1995 budget, where Barr reports that Gingrich meant to discipline Republicans who did not do a 180 with him, with Gingrich that is.

Barr continues, explaining that he stayed in the Republican Party after 1998 because he saw hope yet for reform from within the party. This hope disappeared for him when (1) he heard Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez say that habeas corpus was no longer important and (2) President Bush repeatedly say that he would spy on American citizens within this country without court orders because he was commander-in-chief, even though there's a law that says he can't.

I must say that personally these were exactly the two things I saw in the Bush administration that deeply alarmed me. I remember turning to a friend of mine, while watching Kafka's play Amerika at the Jeune Lune Theatre and saying that Bush needed to be impeached if he didn't back off. That was early 2006. Since then I have changed my mind. Now I support impeaching Cheney instead, after learning more, particularly from Frontline. I continue to be deeply alarmed, and the Democrats are no succor.

Responding to the dull argument in the third video, I say it's not campaign finance that's at the root of the two-party state, it's the form of election. We Americans can address the problem without curtailing political speech, by moving to a form of election that's truly general.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

An inkling of future mugwumpery

The other day I happened to find some notes I wrote in July 1994 where I use the word mugwump.
mugwump (good word to use to describe independent thinkers in parties, moving back and forth)
It was in the context of my writing on For A Truly General Form of Election for The Minnesota Libertarian.

Here's the context...
**** 12 jul 94 ****

Changing the Primary to a Runoff Election

Under this system, the primary election would select two candidates, regardless of party, to compete in the general election. One ballot would list candidates from all parties at the primary election; the top two vote-getters would go on to the general election. The major political parties would endorse only one candidate; that candidate would carry the party's label on the ballot. Others vying for the position would have to organize and attain a substantial number of signatures to get on the primary ballot. They would be listed on the ballot with some oparty designation other than DFL or IR.

This idea is proposed as a way to increase political participation. It could provide a direct connection between the work of the caucus and the results at the primary. Plus, candidates who do not win the major political party endorsement would have to organize political support just to get on the ballot. It could encourage greater primary election participation because of the wider range of candidates on the ballot.

It is also seen as a way to better define the role of a party member and make the work of party activists more meaningful. It would reward the work of the party activists who, after a deliberative process, would be able to place their candidate on the ballot with their party endorsement.

Opponents say the existing primary system works well as a check and balance with the parties' candidate endorsements. They fear that some of the advantages of our two-party system would be lost under the new arrangement. For instance, in this system the potential for two Democratic gubernatorial candidates running against one another in the general election is very real. (Only one could bear the DFL label; the other could not be DFL, even though his/her ideology and positions could be closely aligned with Democratic principles.) Presenting voters with two candidates of similar ideology distorts the reasons for having competitive elections in the first place. In this case, voters won't be given a real choice of plans and policies. They would have to choose a candidate based on differences in nuance instead of differences in values and policy positions.

Minority groups could have cause for concern in that run-off elections could lead to under-representation of minorities in public offices.

Another concern is that the new system would encourage intra-party dissension and the formation of new political parties as splinter groups form around candidates who lose the endorsement. The preponderance of many smaller, active parties could lead to a dysfunctional multi-party system where public officials are elected with only small pluralities. Contributing to this trend of a factional, multi-party system is the effect of allowing voters to vote for a candidate of one party for one party for one position and a candidate of another party for other positions.
Citizens League (1991) - The Party Caucus: An Inquiry, pp 26-27

[CRB: An idea that occured to me reading this is as follows:

The primary election would be as described above except for ...
  • The primary would allow the candidates to throw their votes behind another candidate receiving a larger number of votes.

  • The first two candidates to reach a tally of 1/3 of the votes each, or the two with the highest tally after a defined (short) period (including a presentation), become the two to compete in the general election, although write-ins should be allowed even in the general election.

  • There shall be a public presentation of the pre-recorded arguments of each candidate, proportioned in time to the percentage of votes in the primary, before this post-primary tallying.

  • There shall be a public presentation of the pre-recorded arguments of both general election candidates equally proportioned in time, or alternatively, if mutually consented to, a public debate between the two candidates before the general election.]

[CRB (14 jul 94): flowing vs. still party, standing, stagnant, fresh, stale, stirring

Title of article: 'GO ON, CREATE A STIR.' or 'LET'S CREATE A STIR'
- There shall be a public voting of all candidates in ascending order of tally, except for those receiving less than a given percentage of the vote, say one percent, with an equal time limit on all, say a quarter-minute, with no commentary.

General Primary Election vs. Closed Primary Elections

mugwump (good word to use to describe independent thinkers in parties, moving back and forth)]

[CRB: * 17 jul 94 * term to use: party 'incrustation' (see W 1974) and 'party gridlock' and 'party entrenchment'

'freeflowing' democratic electorate as a basis for the classical republican offices of one, few, and many

'freeflowing political conversation and party organization']


**** 21 jul 94 ****

a general primary for all the people and all the parties
biplurality election

let the people together choose two major candidates through fresh parties with equal status

rather than having to divisively choose them through stagnant parties with special status

Letter to a nose-holding Republican

Since you're "holding your nose" on McCain, I thought I'd send you this info for you to consider as Barr is new to you. I'm a Barr proponent just in case you hadn't noticed. :-)

Even though Barr is not a conservative, neither is McCain.
[Note to reader - Barr is only a conservative if you define it as a label for someone who's serious about respecting the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, in which case it's equivalent to a classical liberal, or a libertarian. James Buchanan, in his book, Why I, Too, am Not a Conservative: The Normative Vision of Classical Liberalism describes masterfully the important difference, reiterating and amplifying Hayek's point.]
To conservatives in general, I'd argue that Barr is more conservative than McCain on many important issues, such as government spending. If you disagree, I'd be interested in hearing about your perspective. What defines your conservatism?

Here he was on Glen Beck on Friday -

- (Part 1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Mbi3JVaTdw
- (Part 2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHoF6lYtnRo
- (Part 3) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1yuJboCpo8
- (Part 4) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pI-TrTXS8io
- (Part 5) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBMirWOR3JY
- (Part 6) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VETUXKhzwjU

Barr has also written a book The Meaning of Is (2004), which I've read. Barr describes his experience and disappointment with the Republican Party. For example, he recounts how Newt Gingrich caved on the Clinton budget in 1995, doing a mysterious, sudden 180 degree turn, telling Republicans that "he was going to keep a list of every member who did not vote to cave on the Clinton spending package and that the list would later be used to punish us." Barr continues,
One of the things that always set Newt apart from his Democrat predecessors was that he had—prior to that point—always urged us to vote our consciences and our districts. I knew something major had broken inside our party leadership during the shutdown, and I doubted things would ever be the same again. I was not wrong. For the first time in my congressional service, I found myself questioning my presence in Washington. If I was merely going to be asked to be a rubber stamp for this kind of nonsense, I was not sure I wanted any part of the system.... By the end of the Clinton administration, the Republican Party—with a handful of exceptions—was just as unprincipled as Bill Clinton. We had absorbed his political tactics so completely that we did not even seem to remember a time when we had acted any differently. (pp. 223, 228)
Barr writes,
As America burned, the Republican Party was fiddling away. (p. 114)
Again, I'd be interested in hearing what positions you view as conservative and important in this election, and how you view McCain and Barr on these issues if you have the time to share that with me. I myself fear we're going gangbusters down the road to serfdom with either major candidate, so I'm trying to better understand what attracts or repels people from different perspectives. If Barr is to win, he'll need support from both Republicans and Democrats. David Walker, the comptroller general, has made me feel that addressing these issues is urgent. Walker argues that we have about four or five years now to get serious. Here he is on Glenn Beck in January, 2008 -

Here he is on 60 Minutes -

Here's a video interview of David Walker on BBC in 2006 - http://tinyurl.com/e6wam

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A letter to a disillusioned Republican

A Republican wrote me long ago,
I wanted to tell you that I bought Liberty the other day. I enjoyed many of the articles. The magazine sure does bash government, playing no favorites with any party. Some of the pieces, especially some of the letters, had too much of a pro-anarchy slant to them for my taste. It is true that our government has become too intrusive, to the point of denying the people liberties. That has to change. But I still think our system is not flawed and there is a need for government. A society without government would be nothing less than chaotic, with no means to protect the people's liberties when some tried to seek the natural desire for power. Anyway, I did enjoy reading the magazine and tend to feel as disillusioned with the Republican candidates as many of the authors. They are all old, long-time politicians who are in their positions because they have excelled at "playing the game".

I responded with this letter,
The mainstream among libertarians (classical liberals, market liberals... ) in a tradition that stretches back through liberalism of the 1800's, whiggism of the 1700's, and the leveller movement of the 1600's is one characterized not by antipathy to government, but rather to oppression. Allow me to quote from an anonymous tract of the English "levellers" who were influenced by the Anabaptist movement which began in the 1500's
The King, I confesse, has reason to cry out upon the A[n]abaptists, because he knowes them to be enemies not of Government, but oppression in Government, and all those who intend to oppresse in any manner, ought, if they will be true to themselves to doe so too; for the Anabaptists are oppressions enemies, whoever be the oppressours.
The Compassionate Samaritane (1646)
The anabaptist movement contained a full spectrum with regard to the oppression they saw, from the violent Munsterites to the civil Levellers to the pacifist Mennonites. The first of these did their best to discredit all of Anabaptism by their violent anarchy. The latter, as earlier Christians did, successfully protested oppression with their nonresistant martyrdom. The Levellers found middle ground in their patient and civil resistance acting to reform government through petitioning and constitutionalism, setting an example for those a century later and an ocean apart. Compare these words from the Leveller and Anabaptist Richard Overton to those of Jefferson 130 years later
For by natural birth all men are equal, ... born to like propriety, liberty and freedom, and as we are delivered of God by the hand of nature into this world, every one with a natural innate freedom and propriety, ... even so we are to live, every one equally ... to enjoy his birthright and privilege, even all whereof God by nature hath made him free .... Every man by nature being a king, priest, prophet, in his own natural circuit and compass, whereof no second may partake but by deputation, commission, and free consent from him whose right and freedom it is.
Richard Overton (1646) - An Arrow Against All Tyrants
...The web offers a medium whereby articles may be clarified by links to lexicons where terms may be defined as the writer understands them and to other articles that allow for the more depth depending on the interest and strength of the reader.

For example, ... the term 'libertarian' I would link to an article written some four decades ago by Dean Russell of the Foundation of Economic Education
Here is a suggestion: Let those who love liberty trade-mark and reserve for our own use the good and honorable word "libertarian."

Webster's New International Dictionary defines a libertarian as "one who holds to the doctrine of free will; also, one who upholds the principles of liberty, esp. individual liberty of thought and action."

In popular terminology, a libertarian is the opposite of an authoritarian. Strictly speaking, a libertarian is one who rejects the idea of using violence or the threat of violence—legal or illegal—to impose his will or viewpoint upon any peaceful person. Generally speaking, a libertarian is one who wants to be governed far less than he is today.
  • A libertarian believes that the government should protect all persons equally against external and internal aggression, but should otherwise generally leave people alone to work out their own problems and aspirations.

    While a libertarian expects the government to render equal protection to all persons against outright fraud and misrepresentation, he doesn't expect the government to protect anyone from the consequences of his own free choices. A libertarian holds that persons who make wise choices are entitled to enjoy the fruits of their wisdom, and that persons who make unwise choices have no right to demand that the government reimburse them for their folly.

  • A libertarian expects his government to establish, support, and enforce the decisions of impartial courts of justice—courts which do not recognize or refer to a person's race, religion, or economic status. If justice is to be rendered, the decisions of these courts must be as binding upon government officials and their actions as upon other persons and their actions.

  • A libertarian respects the right of every person to use and enjoy his honestly acquired property—to trade it, to sell it, or even to give it away—for he knows that human liberty cannot long endure when that fundamental right is rejected or even seriously impaired.

  • A libertarian believes that the daily needs of the people can best be satisfied through the voluntary processes of a free and competitive market. And he holds the strong belief that free persons, using their own honestly acquired money, are in the best possible position to understand and aid their fellow men who are in need of help.

  • A libertarian favors a strictly limited form of government with many checks and balances—and divisions of authority—to foil abuses of the fearful power of government. And generally speaking, he is one who sees less, rather than more, need to govern the actions of others.

  • A libertarian has much faith in himself and other free persons to find maximum happiness and prosperity in a society wherein no person has the authority to force any other peaceful person to conform to his viewpoints or desires in any manner. His way of life is based on respect for himself and for all others.

  • A libertarian doesn't advocate violent rebellion against prevailing governments—except as a last resort before the concentration camps. But when a libertarian sees harm rather than good in certain acts of government, he is obligated to try his best to explain to others who advocate these measures why such compulsory means cannot bring the ends which even they desire.

  • The libertarian's goal is friendship and peace with his neighbors at home and abroad.
Dean Russell (1958) - Who is a libertarian?
David Nolan, founder of the Libertarian Party in the early '70s, would, according to a recent article of his, not call anyone a libertarian who supported a flat income tax as opposed to a sales tax or his preferred tax, a property tax. This is absurd and shows the effects of prolonged partisanship....

Look to the Cato Institute for the mainstream. Its founders originally were active in the Libertarian Party but realized it was going nowhere (according to a recent Wall St. Journal article). They use the term "market liberalism" to describe their political orientation. I highly recommend their recently published "Cato Handbook for Congress". Former Minnesota Congressman Tim Penny just became a fellow there.

Cato has been touting the national sales tax, too, which is anathema to my mind. What is important is finding sources of information that share a reverence for the spirit of liberty....
The real friends of the Union are those,

Who are friends to the authority of the people, the sole foundation on which the Union rests.

Who are friends to liberty, the great end, for which the Union was formed.

Who are friends to the limited and republican system of government, the means provided by that authority, for the attaining of that end.
James Madison (1792) - The Union

I wrote the letter above after leaving the Libertarian Party in the mid-90's, entering the political wilderness where "none of the above" received most of my votes, as the Libertarian Party seemed to offer zero-tax nonsense.

Recently I've been reconsidering joining if only the party could disentangle itself successfully from the anarchists, from those who would use libertarian dreams to fuel anarchic primevalism. Liberty, paired with constitutional power, is not a stopping point on the "freedom train" of the anarchists, as they would like to portray it. Libertarians and anarchists are camps opposed. Now if they want the name "libertarian" now, just as others wanted the good name "liberal" and destroyed it, fine. That's life. The ideas remain.

The ideas of liberty and our Constitution need our support now, whatever we call them. We have little time. This is a defining moment, November 2008. Call us "pirates" for all I care. The Levellers adopted a label of opprobrium. Just let us call ourselves something we can rally around. I'm calling myself a "mugwump" here out of respect for the 19th-century mugwumps' prescience and rare concern for future generations. Some label we're bound to settle on. "Libertarian" for now this year will probably still do.

My instinct is to renew the symbol of the liberty pole, which was common in the first half of our history together. Let's use it now again, but try to keep it universal, above government, above mere parties, on the level of our Declaration of Independence.

Now that Bob Barr has won the nomination of the Libertarian Party, please consider voting for him. He's driving the anarchists batty.

Speaking of anarchists, don't you see there's more anarchy in the Republican Party lately with their nonchalant disregard for the long-held principles of this country, namely habeas corpus and due process. P. J. O'Rourke was recently in Minneapolis arguing that libertarians have no sense for tradition. What? Libertarians, in my experience, have a profound devotion to the traditions that matter, namely those revolving around procedural rights, such as trial by jury, warrants, torture, civilian oversight of the military, and such. Where is the concern these days amongst the Republican Party for these traditional niceties, some of which date back to Magna Carta?

In the March/April 1995 issue, The Minnesota Libertarian republished Dean Russell's definition of a libertarian, which I had submitted, as its front-page article. The editors of The Minnesota Libertarian added this note
Although this essay was written 40 years ago it still reflects the attitude of Libertarians today.
Version 1.1 - Jun 5, 2008

A letter to a Democrat

No greater wrong, no grosser insult on humanity can well be conceived [than slavery]; nor can it be softened by the customary plea of the slave-holder's kindness. The first and most essential exercise of love towards a human being is, to respect his rights. It is idle to talk of kindness to a human being whose rights we habitually trample under foot. 'Be just before you are generous.' A human being is not to be loved as a horse or a dog, but as a being having rights; and his first grand right is that of free action; the right to use and expand his powers; to improve and obey his higher faculties; to seek his own and others' good; to better his lot; to make himself a home; to enjoy inviolate the relations of husband and parent; to live the life of a man.... Because a number of men invade the rights of a fellow-creature, and pronounce him des[t]itute of rights, his claims are not a whit touched by this. He is as much a man as before. Not a single gift of God on which his rights rest is taken away.
William Ellery Channing - The Duty of the Free States, 1842

... "Be just before you are generous." ...

I used to be a staunch Democrat. I understood liberalism to include the use of tax money to do good, provided that individual rights be not sacrificed at the altar of 'good' and that taxation and the government action taxation affords be constitutionally limited.

The line between liberalism and something quite different lies precisely where rights begin to be violated, and I mean the equal rights described in the Declaration of Independence.

There are countless infringements of these rights in MinnesotaCare, placing obstacles in the way of the pursuit of happiness in exchange for a politician's promise of happiness itself.

Of particular concern to me is the principle of medical privacy.

Permit me to quote from the official summary of Senate File 845 which passed at the end of this session:
Industry participants (group purchasers, employees, providers, state agencies and political subdivisions) are able to provide patient identifying data required by state law with or without patient consent, and may not be held liable for doing so.

Let us not go down the path of hubris and disaster, however clothed with parental benefaction.

Note: I wrote this and submitted it to e-Democracy's MinnesotaPolitics mailing list in the mid-1990s. Recently this issue has come to the fore in Senate File 3138 regarding government data warehousing of DNA fingerprints taken from the flailing feet of all babies born in Minnesota without parental consent. Both houses and both parties voted overwhelmingly to do this (3 voted against it total, I understand). Governor Pawlenty vetoed it, stopping the warehousing, but not the data collection, as I understand it.

Are there similar bi-partisan efforts brewing at the federal level?

Please consider Bob Barr and his veto pen.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The importance of medical privacy

I'm republishing a report on a health care town meeting in Rochester, Minnesota, May 7, 1994, which included this statement on medical privacy. Over the years I have frequently recounted Dr. Henderson's point,
The final speaker, Dr. Ed Henderson, retired from Mayo Clinic, and presently the executive director of the Zumbro Valley Medical Society and Emeritus Professor of Orthopedic Surgery in the Mayo Medical School, began with appreciation for being included at this event. He expressed his belief that physicians have been deliberately left out of the debate. The important facet of health care disregarded as a result has been the physician-patient relationship, the direct contact between doctor and patient that serves as a basis for care. The patient must see his doctor as his advocate, making sure that decisions are made that will ensure that patient will get the best treatment. Trust is critical. The confidentiality of their conversation is necessary for a proper diagnosis and treatment. I asked Dr. Henderson if he was aware of any organization taking a strong stand on the principle of medical privacy. He was aware of not one such group.

Shall we trust Clinton? Why not trust ourselves?
Casey Bowman, Minnesota Libertarian, June 1994, p. 7

Here's the rest of the report, which preceded the two paragraphs above,
Health Care Reform Meeting
by Casey Bowman

On May 7, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) sponsored their second Meeting on Health Care Reform. Before the meeting began, MN State Representative Gil Gutknecht, who chaired the host committee and introduced the speakers at this event, came up to us members of the LPM and talked with us in a manner of mutual respect. ALEC organizers gave us permission to put our "Project Health Choice" literature describing the National Libertarian Party health care proposal at the welcome desk. ALEC was true to its own words "empowering citizens in the health care debate."

The speakers in attendance were Congressman John Linder from Georgia, Wendell Cox of ALEC, Carl Parks from Citizens for a Sound Economy, Congressman Rod Grams, and Dr. Ed Henderson, Emeritus Professor of Surgery at the Mayo Medical School.

Congressman Linder attributed to Disraeli a sequence such as, "Bondage... Faith... Understanding... Courage... Liberty... Abundance... Complacency... Dependency... Bondage..." We need to learn from history and rebuild "understanding" before "dependency" sets in. Linder also warned that the Clinton plan intends to control entry into specialist practice.

The next speaker, Wendell Cox, warned against the coming rationing by waiting in line, by age, and/or by whom you know. He mentioned the "equality of poverty" experienced in the USSR, to which I might add it was an "equality of the graveyard" for millions.

Carl Parks, of Citizens for a Sound Economy, a group founded ten years ago at George Mason University with 250,000 current members, started by explaining that the term "universal coverage" is fine rhetoric, but what it means for everyone is a system like that provided to the veterans in VA hospitals. Parks felt the government is currently pushing the Gulf War Syndrome under the rug because they do not want to spend the money correcting the problem.

The speakers pointed out that the debate in Congress is not fair and the vote will not be either. Medical Savings Accounts have strong bi-partisan support and would be in the fore if Clinton had not been elected. The problem is the committee power hierarchy. For example, Senator Dingell is chair of some important committee. In exchange for the votes of four southern oil state members, he promises his support on oil import fees. Let us hope that Congressman Linder, who serves on the Committee on Committees, will work on the reform of committees. If the Republicans fail to reform the inequality in Congress among those elected to the same office, the Libertarians must address this issue vociferously. It is crucial.

Many in attendance believed that the Clinton plan was only a temporary stop on the way to a single-payer plan. That is, the socialization of medical care will necessarily follow the socialization of health care insurance. Representative Gil Gutkneckt reported that our own state Senator Linda Berglin is advocating MinnCare as a temporary plan that will lead our state down the road to a single-payer system.

The final speaker, Dr. Ed Henderson...

This article was originally published in The Minnesota Libertarian, June 1994, pp 5, 7. The author and the original publication are due attribution.

The first two questions

Out of purely historical interest—were it only so—, here are the first two questions at the "town hall meeting" hosted by KSTP in the Twin Cities on April 8, 1994.
Mr. Rob Horner [from St. Paul]: Hi. Welcome to Minnesota. It's indeed an honor. I'd like to talk philosophically. The philosophical basis for universal health coverage. I'll go first. Then I'd like to hear your philosophical arguments in support. I've got an interest in the ethics of redistribution. I firmly believe that the redistributionist policy undermines the basic sense of personal responsibility by transferring authority for decisions, crucial life decisions, from individuals to the state. When a do-everything government assumes control over a person's most personal responsibilities, we lose faith in our capacity to make our own decisions. And we've seen the deleterious effects of dependency upon an institution such as...

KSTP: Go ahead and ask your question.

Mr. Horner: OK, my question is: Is your plan really a health plan or is it a power grab? I'd like the philosophical arguments in support of your plan. I do not want to hear compassion. I want something more concrete.

President Bill Clinton: Compassion is part of my philosophy. But anyway.. Philosophically, I don't believe the government can solve all the problems for people and I don't think you should rob people of their personal responsibilities or their personal choice. That's why I don't have a government-run plan. It's private insurance, and people who don't have insurance have the responsibility to provide it themselves. But I believe philosophically it is wrong for people not to assume responsibilities for themselves and let other people do it. And what's happening today—let me just give you two examples. Self-employed person X decides, "Well, I"m not going to have any insurance." Then they get in a wreck. They show up in the emergency room. They can't pay. They could have had insurance, but they didn't do it. That's fine for them. Except they get the care. Nobody lets them die, and nobody thinks they should, and then the rest of us pay for it, and that is irresponsible. Another example: Restaurant X and restaurant Y next together. One covers employees. The other doesn't. One is fulfilling a responsibility not only to himself and the employees, but to the rest of society by not asking us to bear the risk of anybody getting sick. The other isn't. The other has a competitive advantage in business. I don't think that's right, and the system we have is not an individual responsibility system. It's an irresponsibility system. I don't plan to take over the health care system. I don't want the government to run it. I think the government should help to organize the markets so that small business people and self-employed people can afford to have insurance, and so that they're not disadvantaged as compared with big business and government, and I think it is irresponsible for people not to provide for their own health care and irresponsible for the government not to make it possible for people to do it no matter what their station in life.

KSTP: Mr. President, Angela has your next question on the other side of the room.

KSTP: Mr. President, this is Shirley Kaiser. She's a school principal from St. Paul, and she's concerned about losing certain benefits. Shirley...

Ms. Shirley Kaiser:
Good evening, President Clinton. I have been real concerned about the health policy. I followed it along since your beginning presidency. I wondered about your and Hillary's true concerns, if this is... I've been concerned that it might be a political issue with you, and I wondered how it will affect all Americans.

Will we really receive better service? I wondered, like people who have insurance, will we have to pay more. Will we get less then? Will we have less choice of doctors, less choice of hospitals? Will the doctors have less choice of the services that they could provide? Will we have more government debt? Will we have more taxes? I'm wondering if your program is about controlling rather than better service. And I realize that we in Minnesota are ahead of many states, but I do have real concerns.

President Clinton: Well, let me try to answer two or three of those questions. You asked ten at once, so, hah.. I, uh,.. The only real tax we have in this plan.. We have to raise funds to pay for the unemployed uninsured, which we're all paying for anyway, folks. When they get sick, they wait till it's too late, it's too expensive. They show up in the emergency room, and we pay. Under our plan, we would raise a fund to pay for them and to pay for the discounts on small business from two sources: one, a tax on cigarettes, and the other, a modest assessment on the biggest American companies that will get the biggest windfall from this. That is, most big companies are paying way too much in insurance now to subsidize the rest of us. They'll get a windfall. We ask for a portion of that back to create a fund for discounts for small business and for the unemployed uninsured. There will be more choice under our plan. This idea that every American today has a choice of doctors is a myth. More than half the American people who are insured in the workplace today don't have a choice. They get one plan, and that's it. Ninety percent of the American people who're insured in small businesses with twenty-five or fewer employees have no choice. Under our plan, there well be more choices. That's why so.. one of the reasons why so many medical groups have endorsed this plan. Not just the nurses, but the family practitioners, the pediatricians, any number of other medical groups have endorsed our plan because they know it guarantees more choice. Now, if you have a plan today that is better than the one in our bill, you can keep it. In other words, if you have a plan today where your employer pays one hundred percent of your health insurance, not eighty percent, and you continue to do that, that's perfectly alright. We don't change that at all.

Ms. Kaiser:
[Barely audible (It won't cost me more if)] ... it's an individual when you go for universal coverage? If I were to have a policy isn't it true that it will cost people that now pay for insurance more?

President Clinton: No, if you don't pay your.. If your employer pays all of your insurance now..

Ms. Kaiser: They don't pay for all of my insurance. I..

President Clinton: Well..

Ms. Kaiser: .. carry family coverage..

President Clinton:
.. the question is whether it will cost you more...

Ms. Kaiser: [inaudible, still speaking]

President Clinton: It depends on a lot of factors. In all probability you won't. All the.. Not our studies but all the non-partisan studies that have been done show that more than half the people will get the same or better insurance for the same or lower cost. By and large, the people who will pay more are people who aren't paying anything now, people who have only very bare-bones coverage, and young single workers will pay more so that older people can pay less and we can have a large community rating. Otherwise, most other people will pay the same or less. But if you have a better plan than we require, what this does is to put a floor under you.

[increasingly flustered...]

We've got—keep in mind—I mean, I don't know where.. You know.. I understand.. I saw all those ads putting out all that propaganda. This is just politics. This is just a power play and all that. Tell that to these people who are disabled, who can't get insurance. Tell that to these old people who choose between medicine and food every month. Tell that to the one hundred thousand Americans a month who lose their health insurance. Tell that to the farmer and the small business people who insure at thirty-five percent and forty percent higher rate. I mean.. This is a bunch of hooey.

If people don't agree with me, let them come forward and contest me with their ideas, but I am sick and, I think, a lot of you must be sick of all this hot-air rhetoric in all these paid television ads and all these hit jobs for people who are making a killing from the insurance business that we have today. It is wrong, and we should change it.

KSPT: Mr. President..

President Clinton: I don't.. Let me just say something. I don't go around.. First two questions.. I don't.. I don't.. I mean, I don't mind doing this. I'll do this all night, but it never..

One of the things I've learned in twenty years of public life is you don't get very far questioning other people's motives. Most people I've met.. Contrary to what you read, most of the people I've met in public life are honest, well-meaning. They're not crooks. They're trying to do the right thing. We have differences of opinion. But this health care debate in my judgement has really been retarded, in more ways than one, by all this motive-throwing-around we've had. You know, if I hadn't wanted to take on a tough issue, I could have found something else to do with my time. I believe we have to do this, and if we don't do it, you're going to have more people without insurance, more people who can't afford what they got and a terrible situation in this country, and that's why I did it. That doesn't mean I'm right, but let's argue about what should or shouldn't be done, and not talk about other people's motives. I've even tried to convince the insurance industry I don't want to attack their motives. I just want us to argue about what we should do.
Transcribed by Casey Bowman (1994)

Is universal coverage really a power grab? Is it about controlling?

I wrote a letter to the Minnesota Libertarian, which was published in their June 1994 issue
Now President Clinton is attempting to socialize the health insurance system. Beyond the issue of dependency discussed in the last newsletter, there is another essential point to see: insurance companies invest. Beware of those who would like to control via government where these investments go, whether to their favorite businesses or movements. As one advisor of the Clintons, Mr. Michael Lerner, put it in his book The New Socialist Revolution (a self-described "attempt to explain why the only changes that will make sense in America are those that will move this country to socialism..."): "The rub, as in so many areas, is the absence of money."

I suspect that these "new socialists" are going after our nest eggs. There lies the real power grab.

See - "The Meaning of the Politics of Meaning", Wall St. Journal, p. A15 (Jun 3, 1993). Lerner writes,
Hillary Clinton has been under fierce attack for having advocated a "politics of meaning" and advocating a societal tilt away from selfishness and toward caring and community. According to Paul Gigot on these pages last Friday [May 28], I am Mrs. Clinton's guru in these matters.

It's certainly true that the Clintons and I are on the same wavelength on this issue. But what, exactly, is so frightening about the politics of meaning?

For more and perhaps an answer to Lerner's question, and the "first two questions", read - Michael P. Lerner (1971) The New Socialist Revolution: An Introduction to its Theory and Strategy. Lerner writes,
This book is an attempt to explain why the only changes that will make sense in America are those that will move this country to socialism... (p. xi)

The collapse of the American economy ... would create international havoc and thus the conditions for significant struggle in all of the advanced industrial societies, where revolutionary forces would find it easy to seize the moment.... (p. 275)

There is every good reason to think that a revolution will not occur in this country before fifteen or twenty years, and it may be as far as thirty years away. (p. 276)

Probably one of the first actions of a socialist government would be to make free such essential services as health care.... (p. 310)

The rulers must come to understand that if there is to be a sea of blood, it will be made of their blood as well. The one thing that can make the American [socialist] revolution less violent is the clear and public determination of a majority of people to defend that revolution with violence. (p. 279)

The pleasant gentleman on the Long Island Railroad reading his Wall Street Journal or the quiet technician working in Palo Alto or on Route 128 in Massachusetts, the Wall Street banker or the assistant secretary of state or agriculture or defense, the professor of political science who runs the institute on Latin America or the liberal senator—all participate daily in making decisions that sustain the daily violence upon which this system rests. ... [S]urely the violent men who surround us, with their gentle manners and sweet smiles and well-manicured lawns and all the rest of the petty concealments that hide a life of "honorable" crime, should be tried for their crimes by the peoples of the world. (p. 271)

But what do we want? In a word, "socialism." ... But let us be clear what we mean by "socialism." Socialism is the ownership and control of the means of production, and, through that, the control of all areas of life, by the majority of people who work.... Socialism is radical democracy, democracy extended to every area of our collective lives. (p. 287)