Saturday, May 31, 2008

On the classical republican theory of government

In classical republican theory, government was to be a mixture of forms: the one, the few, and the many, each balancing the two others. In our Constitution, this mixture may be found, for example, in the offices of the President, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. We, the people, fill each office in democratic elections, but the natures of these offices differ, being leadership-oriented, principle-oriented, and poll-oriented, respectively. Ideally the House of Representatives ought to reflect closely the wishes of the people between elections. Thomas Jefferson spoke of two requirements for just lawmaking: majority will and respect for the equal natural rights of the minority. I believe that Representatives should, as delegates, reflect the will of their constituents and that Senators should, as trustees, focus on whether or not a bill respects the natural rights of all. As a little-d democrat little-r republican, I believe ... that the American people ought to be able to stand in the way of any legislation whatsoever, especially through what should be the most democratic branch of our republic, the House of Representatives. I also believe that small-l libertarians ... ought to be elected to the Senate so as to prevent oppressive legislation, standing up for those great general interests—the Declaration and the Constitution.
Casey Bowman (1994)
This is an example of the noise we in the Libertarian Party of Minnesota made in 1994 in the debate over health care. In my last post, I mentioned how noisy we had been. I wanted to give an example.

Here's a reprint of the full article -

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Health

[W]e both ... love [the people] with parental affection. But you love them as infants whom you are afraid to trust without nurses; and I as adults whom I freely leave to self-government.
Thomas Jefferson (1816)
by Casey Bowman

On July 6, members of the Libertarian Party of Minnesota attended a town hall meeting on health care legislation, hosted by Wes Minter and broadcast live on WCCO radio (830 AM). Responding to questions from the audience and callers were four panelists: Congressman Rod Grams, Senator Paul Wellstone, Dr. John Goodman (co-author of Patient Power), and Ms. Lois Quam (Clinton task force member).

Minter began the show by citing a quote in that morning's Wall St. Journal, made by Senator Jay Rockefeller on April 18: "We're going to push through health care reform regardless of the views of the American people." Indeed, some big-D Democrats have now become little-a anti-democrats. In a defense of his statement in a letter to the Wall St. Journal, July 21, Rockefeller went on: "My point has been that the half-truths and hysteria turned out by special-interest groups may have confused the public on some of the details of reform...." So Rockefeller was not blaming the people, only special interest groups. "... [R]eprehensible are those who sow such confusion and uncertainty," he wrote.

A full response I dared not broach live on the Wes Minter Show, but I shall now. In classical republican theory, government was to be a mixture of forms: the one, the few, and the many, each balancing the two others. In our Constitution, this mixture may be found, for example, in the offices of the President, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. We, the people, fill each office in democratic elections, but the natures of these offices differ, being leadership-oriented, principle-oriented, and poll-oriented, respectively. Ideally the House of Representatives ought to reflect closely the wishes of the people between elections. Thomas Jefferson spoke of two requirements for just lawmaking: majority will and respect for the equal natural rights of the minority. I believe that Representatives should, as delegates, reflect the will of their constituents and that Senators should, as trustees, focus on whether or not a bill respects the natural rights of all. As a little-d democrat little-r republican, I believe, in contrast to Rockefeller, that the American people ought to be able to stand in the way of any legislation whatsoever, especially through what should be the most democratic branch of our republic, the House of Representatives. I also believe that small-l libertarians (hopefully some big-L ones, too) ought to be elected to the Senate so as to prevent oppressive legislation, standing up for those great general interests—the Declaration and the Constitution.

Other Libertarian Party members were vocal. Charles Test read aloud a quote from the Minnesota State Department of Health, which had been cited in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that morning: "The emphasis in medical savings accounts on individual autonomy and personal economic gain ... is largely incompatible with the policy goals of universal health coverage and managed care." Reflecting on this, Test asked, "Aren't individual autonomy and personal economic gain basic principles that America was built upon?"

Later Test quoted the Ninth Amendment to the United States Constitution: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." This amendment affirms that the Constitution must respect the natural rights touched on by the Declaration of Independence that we, as individuals, retain.

Wes Minter followed up on Test's note of the Ninth Amendment by asking him how the founders might view the current policy debate. Test said they are all probably rolling in their graves. Minter asked which founders we Libertarians revere, Franklin, Jefferson? Test continued with a full list of founders, on up to Dolly Madison.

LPM member Evan Williams asked Dr. Goodman if it were true that 5% of Canadians are waiting for some medical procedure. Dr. Goodman responded by saying that 177,000 persons there are waiting for important surgery. Adding those waiting for non-life-saving surgeries, the total becomes one million, which all agreed was indeed about 5%.

Sen. Wellstone, at one point, claimed that a single-payer system would give people more choice rather than less choice. In reaction to one such remark, there was tumult in the audience. I remember, as one of the restless natives, crying out something about how part of the health care system closed down in Canada for a period. Wes Minter clearly enjoyed the enthusiasm exhibited by his audience. Wellstone also demanded that insurance companies never be allowed to deny anyone coverage, a remark in sync with Hillary Rodham Clinton's latest surreal lament on a morning show comparing insurance companies to car dealers who charge different prices for different cars and so restrict our choices.

In a parting shot at Rockefeller's remarks on special interests, I shall quote from an article written by the secretary and treasurer of the Arizona chapter of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Mr. Richard Fisher ("Behind the Task-Force Veil", Liberty, July 1994):
In February 1993, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons filed suit under the Federal Advisory Committee Act ... to force the Clinton administration to reveal the task force's composition. In November, the admin[i]stration was ordered to comply. The documents thus made public suggest a very different picture of the task force than the White House has presented....

Among the special interests represented were United Health Care Corporation, Chicago Health Maintenance Organization, Aetna, Travelers, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Wausau Insurance Company, National Capital Preferred Providers Organization, Harvard Community Health Plan, Kaiser Permanente, U.S. Health Care, EDS Health Care, PCS Health Systems, First Health, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and Alliant Health Systems....

One corporation represented on the task force was MCI Communications—the likely primary vendor for the 250 million cards Clinton's plan would require. Potential contractors for other parts of the Clinton plan were also amply represented, including the Rand Corporation, Alpha Center, Telesis, Cooper & Lybrand, Price Waterhouse, and the Principal Financial Group....

It is plain that ... Lois Qualm, vice president of United Health Care Organization, [and others] have conflicts of interest in helping formulate federal health-care policy. Yet these officials and executives of major managed-care concerns played significant task-force roles without obtaining waivers for conflicts of interest, despite the requirements of the law. ...

Rather than admit to the prominent participation of special interests in the formulating its health-care proposals, the White House chose the path of secrecy and closed doors. In doing so, it trampled on the law.

This article was originally published in The Minnesota Libertarian (State Fair edition) August 1994. The author and the original publication are due attribution.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Message to a Bob Barr Meetup to be

Now that Bob Barr has won the nomination of the Libertarian Party, let's get together and brainstorm on what we can do. Bob Barr is in this to win. This is not just about sending a signal as it was in the past. After leaving the Democratic Party in 1988, I was active in the Libertarian Party of Minnesota in 1994 and 1995. We got noisy and urged the Republicans then to adopt the message of liberty. The libertarian message swept them into office. We gave them a chance. They failed. And the Democratic Party surely hasn't learned from their defeat then. Same old, same old. It's all the same old. And they speak of change.... Now it's our turn. 2008 is a moment of decision for America. Will we move forward again with our dream of freedom? Will we live up to our Declaration of Independence or will we sink back into the quagmire of history? Will we appreciate how lucky we are to have such a Constitution and due process? And will we work it? Please come help.

Version 1.1

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bob Barr - a check and a balance

Bob Barr states the obvious
Clearly something is way out of whack in our system of checks and balances. [2:19-2:24]
in an 18-minute interview at Townhall.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bob Barr polling at 6%

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bob Barr - changing the game

Barr speaks here of his campaign.
The message that we bring of freeing up our economy, so that businesses and individuals can keep more of their money, reducing government regulation, reducing government interference in people's lives is really going to resonate with the American public.

Note: I do have an important difference with Barr regarding federalism. I'd separate church and state completely at both the federal and state levels, treating the gay-marriage issue legally as one would a contract, whereas Barr seems to want to eliminate only the federal role. There is the Ninth Amendment.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bob Barr nominated - the American Revolution continues

The Libertarian Party has nominated Bob Barr as their candidate for President of the United States of America. The American Revolution continues. Long live the Declaration, the Constitution, and due process. This was a defining moment.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Libertarian Party Debate changed my mind - Barr/Gravel 2008

Barr-Gravel is the way forward, for American voters to rally around in sufficient numbers to protect our liberties and ensure that our office-holders feel accountable. At the beginning of the debate, I was thinking Barr-Root. We have to win in 2008. We are in crisis, as Barr says. How do we move America forward? we must for our natural liberties, our civil liberties, due process. Where will we be otherwise in 2012?

Twitter witnessed my change of heart -
Mike Gravel is doing well so far, though I don't support him, though I did momentarily reconsider when he mentioned Solon.

I'm starting to think Barr-Gravel, instead of Barr-Root.

Root wants to privatize war on terror. Exactly the wrong answer. He's out. This is the exact problem with anarchist thought.

Barr makes key point on health care. 50% of his doctor's bill due to law not health.

laughing at Kubby's answer [on trousers and skirts]. Glad to hear Barr take a stand against his own "Defense of Marriage Act". Gravel- love, love, love.

"We are on the cusp of a libertarian era." - Bob Barr

Update (May 24, 2008): One more twitter to close the loop -
Libertarian Party debate changed my mind - Barr/Gravel 2008

Update (May 26, 2008, 1:00 am Central): Well, it's Barr/Root 2008. Barr wished to team up with Root, and Gravel wouldn't run for VP. I'm going to have to trust Barr on this one.

Listening in on Bob Barr live

What an amazing age we live in! I'm listening in on Bob Barr discussing issues at his booth at the LP National Convention. He's discussed habeas corpus, health care, the fall of the "status quo" parties, the elimination or near-elimination of certain federal departments (Education, Energy, Commerce, Agriculture), health care, the Fed & home mortgages, his experience growing up at times overseas (3 years in Baghdad, 1 year in Tehran, Peru, Panama,...). Barr's "been on the dark side", he says. He's now come to the light of freedom. He delights in the level of political discussion he's had at the Libertarian Party convention, more than he's experienced in the past 30 years at events hosted by other parties. He expresses gratitude for being there. At Republican Party meetings there's no discussion of substantial issues. All they're interested in is getting their candidates elected, keeping them in office, and raising money. The Democratic Party is falling into the same trap, the "trap of incumbency."

Barr expresses his belief that in the heart of every American beats the heart of a libertarian. He or she just isn't conscious of it. We have six months.

Free video streaming by Ustream

Update (May 24, 2008, 12:33 pm): Most interesting twitter from daveweigel -
Even odds that the LP will reject Barr for an anarchist...
In a year full of defining moments (Ron Paul in January, America in November), tomorrow is the defining moment of the Libertarian Party.

Update (May 24, 2008, 1:55 pm): How Americans will judge the LP will depend not only on whether they choose Bob Barr as their nominee, but also on whom they nominate as VP. I don't see any rational alternative to a Barr-Root ticket. A Barr-Gravel ticket would be nice symbolically if only Gravel were more respectful of people's natural right to pursue health care and insurance peacefully, in peaceful society, deciding individually, and not through government use of force, health care free of government-enabled big-cat domination.

Update (May 24, 2008, 2:15 pm Central): A report from the American Spectator on the debate token deadline 15 minutes ago -
The final official number of Libertarian Party delegates registered as of this morning's cutoff time is 562. That means that presidential candidates hoping to participate in tonight's televised debate will need 57 tokens to qualify. (Each registered delegate is issued one token to give to the candidate of his, her, or its choice.) The cutoff time is 1 pm Mountain Time (3 pm Eastern) about ten minutes from now.


UPDATE: The Barr campaign just turned in 93 tokens to qualify their candidate for the presidential candidate. However, that sent up a cheer from supporters of Wayne Allyn Root, who turned in 94 tokens. This represents a strong showing by the pragmatist wing of the LP, since Root is also a telegenic ex-Republican. Meanwhile, candidate Christine Smith failed to meet the 10 percent threshold necessary to qualify for the C-SPAN debate.

UPDATE II: I've just been informed by a senior source with the Barr campaign that their token total was actually higher, but Barr shared some of his tokens with Mike Gravel in order to help the ex-Democrat qualify for the debate. "We wanted him in the we actually had by far the most tokens of any candidate," the source said.
I'm glad Bob Barr did that, if the report is true. It's important that Mike Gravel engage in the debate. Though, is it permitted by the rules? I suppose that it is since by their very nature tokens can move from hand to hand. Does anyone know the answer to this question?

The process of one candidate transferring his tokens to another reminds me of the process after the general primary in For a Truly General Form of Election.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Jesse Ventura's critique of Minnesota Libertarians

According to Damon Root of Reason Magazine in his article yesterday The Body is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Understanding Jesse Ventura's long, sad decline,
Plus, [Jesse Ventura]'s no longer so quick to identify as a libertarian, sneering nowadays that Minnesota's Libertarians "tend to want anarchy."
I have heard this theme repeatedly from former governor Ventura with his recent reappearance on the political scene.

I don't necessarily disagree with him. Thirteen years after I left the Libertarian Party of Minnesota, where I had been an active member in 1994 and early 1995, chairing the Legislative Committee, contributing to the libertarian groundswell of that day, I returned two evenings ago to see what I could do if Bob Barr were to win the nomination. Perhaps the Minneapolis Bob Barr Meetup could help gather signatures for Barr to appear on the state ballot. The executive meeting was open to the public and friendly.

This week there's tumult in the Libertarian Party at the National Convention in Denver. As I have written many times, "liberty and anarchy are opposed." Now the self-described "anarcho-capitalists" would describe themselves as "purists". They are mistaken. There is nothing pure about advocating vigilante justice, when one person accuses another of violating his or her rights. How can the market ensure "due process"?

On the other hand, the Libertarian Party risks losing the real message of liberty if candidates go forth with policies which brazenly violate people's rights, such as government control over everyone's pursuit of health care.

Both are unacceptable.

I believe the key point is taxation. There are those who insanely believe in no taxation, no government, now.

I share the point of view of founding father James Wilson, who wrote
by some politicians, society has been considered as only the scaffolding of government; very improperly, in my judgment. In the just order of things, government is the scaffolding of society; and if society could be built and kept entire without government, the scaffolding might be thrown down, without the least inconvenience or cause of regret.
and that of William Ellery Channing
Legislation has its limits. It is a power to be wielded against a few evils only. It acts by physical force, and all the higher improvements of human beings come from truth and love. Government does little more than place society in a condition which favors the action of higher powers than its own.
Wary of physical power, Channing looked forward to when moral power, "mightiest when most gentle," would "supersede the coarse workings of government" as "guardian of all right."

Until then we'll need a constitution. Indeed even afterwards we'll need one in case we slip back.

With the anarchists, I have noticed a proclivity for blustering language as well. This is unacceptable. Such language is unacceptable for a serious political campaign where civil behavior is a must.

On the other hand, we must insist on the presumption of liberty, on a respect for our rights. For example, I believe Mike Gravel has a ways to go. I do like his videos, and I hope he continues to engage and debate.

After reading Bob Barr's book The Meaning of Is (2004), I believe he's the candidate most capable of standing up for our civil liberties and due process. His election would be the next best thing to an impeachment, to send an important message to government office-holders that they are not above the law. Barr's track record as described in his book speaks volumes.

Last night I wrote a response to Jesse Ventura's characterization of Minnesota Libertarians as a comment on the Reason Magazine website,
I was an active member of the Libertarian Party of Minnesota in the heady days of 1994 when the Republican Party listened to our message, which was a goal, given our small numbers. It was around that time when I first heard Jesse Ventura announce he was a libertarian on the radio. His colleagues Jason Lewis and Peter Thiele from KSTP came to our LP convention along with the Republican Party House Minority Leader Steve Swiggum, who had a T-shirt saying "Vote Republican" on the front and "or Libertarian" on the back, which he had worn at the Republican convention earlier that day (and which had gotten wet in Barbara Carlson's famous hot tub in which she interviewed politicians). We made our presence known by the revolutionary acts of simply asking pointed questions at town hall meetings on health care, for example, courageously confronting politicians by breaking taboos, speaking repeatedly about the Constitution and the Declaration. We also fostered friendly relationships with those politicians who listened to our message, as did Rep. Swiggum after we had presented him with a petition for term limits at his office. Curious he asked us to stay and talked with us for 45 minutes or so. I remember mentioning how the idea of term limits went back to James Harrington and his influential book "Oceana" in the 1600s. Later he and two other house members met with us and invited us to run as Republicans, an invitation we politely declined.

Later in 1994 Jason Lewis visited with us at Gluek's Restaurant while we waited for the election results on Nov 8, when libertarian messages were predominant in political discussions and swept the Republicans into power. Interestingly Reform Party candidate Dean Barkley and his team joined us, too, there at Gluek's where he then saw the returns come in that qualified his party for major party status, which set the stage for Ventura's run 4 years later. The point I'm trying to make is that it was quite collegial across party boundaries.

Another point is that I have always been a strong advocate for the Constitution. Indeed I have written many times, "Liberty and anarchy are opposed." Where is there a market for due process? To my mind anarchy would lead to feudalism, which is more in line with a desire for old-world conservatism. Anyway I see myself as quite a principled advocate for liberty, for example in my advocacy for Hayek's denationalisation of money.

The other day at Jesse Ventura's book-signing at the Mall of America I handed him a copy of an article I had written in 1994 suggesting a form of election that would get us past the increasingly rigid two-party rule we suffer, by eliminating the problem of spoilers, allowing candidates to act as electors throwing their votes towards leading candidates after a general primary, leaving only two candidates in a mandatory run-off. I thought he'd be interested in this based on what he's said recently about the two parties and their hold on us. We chatted a bit, after he immediately repeated his view that libertarians are anarchists when he realized that my article had been published in The Minnesota Libertarian (State Fair issue, 1994).

I believe the Dallas Accord was silly, and I constantly am dealing with the confusion it wrought, along with the pledge, which should clearly allow for constitutionally limited taxation. I support Bob Barr and hope anarchists have nothing more to do with libertarian political activity. In the academic world, it's good to explore all ideas, but practically speaking when you're at a Ron Paul meetup and someone says that they can't wait for a private war, it can be a bit off-putting.
Here is where Jesse Ventura critiques the "two-party dictatorship." Here is my modest proposal on how to get past the two-party monopoly and save the republic.

Version 1.1.1 (May 23)

Debates at John Adams Society

The chairman of the John Adams Society, who is also the state coordinator for the Ron Paul campaign here in Minnesota, where I met her, invited me to join in a debate this evening on immigration. I've debated twice at the John Adams Society before.

While Jesse Ventura served as governor of Minnesota, he pushed for a unicameral state legislature. I opposed this strongly, so strongly I had to say something, and the John Adams Society provided an opportunity on Sep. 15, 1999, for me to say what I had to say. In my argument, I reminded the audience of the theory of "the one, the few, and the many", which goes back to James Harrington in the 1600s and to Aristotle's Politics, and which was much discussed by the founders and in the debates at the time of the American Revolution and Constitutional Convention. John Adams himself brought such issues to the fore, reminding people of the world history that lay behind our constitutional arts, in his important work, Defence of the Constitutions of the Government of the United States of America. I understand from one of the other attendees, whom I saw again last month, that this debate was written up at the time in the local newspaper.

I returned for another debate at JAS last month, this time on the Fed. I argued in favor of Hayek's Denationalisation of Money. I did not reveal much of the argument, only one ancillary point with regard to how much less brittle a decentralized system would be, in a way the conservatives there might understand and appreciate given their intellectual context, mentioning names such as Friedman, Hayek, and James Buchanan, with whom they seemed to be familiar. To help open minds, I pointed out that Milton Friedman wrote a paper with Anna Schwartz in 1986 "Has Government any Role in Money?", which included a paragraph calling for an intellectual exploration of these ideas.

This month's debate is on immigration, an issue I tend to be relaxed about. The only strong feeling I have is that I do not want to see a fence built. I like what Jesse Ventura has to say on the subject. I also worry about the effect the new crowd of border police will have on North Shore locales such as Grand Marais, a town I considered moving to at one point. I imagine I'll be in the minority at the John Adams Society.

Ron Paul's attack against the 14th Amendment's guarantee of citizenship to babies born here repulsed me, as did the tone of one of his political advertisements against immigrants from Mexico. May no baby born here be left in the cold, outside of all countries, bereft of citizenship. Why couldn't our federal government negotiate with the Mexican government to make sure that the children of Mexican citizens who are here illegally and returned to Mexico obtain Mexican citizenship. If a baby is refused by the Mexican government, we should not refuse him or her here.

On the process of immigration, in principle I'd like a world where borders matter little, where common law has triumphed, guaranteeing natural and procedural rights for all. When Mexico and the US are both free, with power limited constitutionally by presumably mixed, federal, decentralized forms of government, Americans will find jobs in Mexico, and Mexicans here. The flow of labor will go in both directions. It will take some time though before the Mexican government is liberalized, in the classical sense. We Americans have a ways to go ourselves, of course.

Why not let states decide policy on who qualifies as a legal resident of the state? Why not have the Federal government limit itself to naturalization? Such a delegation of roles will afford more flexibility and less corruption in the inevitable flow of people from Mexico to the labor markets here.

Also it is imperative that our governments ensure that conditions of free labor exist for immigrants. After the civil war, the federal government stepped in to ensure that debt peonage in New Mexico would no longer be tolerated by the state. Recently I read the book Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy by John Bowe. Bowe tells three horror stories, where conditions of unfree labor have threatened the liberties of residents in modern-day America.

Version 1.0.1

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Why Bob Barr? Why now?

When asked Thursday why he's running, Bob Barr responded in a way that's a perfect reflection of how I feel and why I'm taking the time and spending the energy I am right now. Here's Barr's interview - Bob Barr: Raising the debate by Bill Steigerwald. What I agree with is his answer to Steigerwald's first question. Are we going to selfishly, partisanly ride this republic into the ground, or are we going to do something public-minded to restore the Constitution?

Floored by the debate

I was floored by the debate Friday morning on Fox Business between Wayne Allyn Root and Mike Gravel, happily so. Never did I think I'd see the day when people would debate on TV with liberty as the measure. I look forward to the second debate on Tuesday, May 20, hosted by Reason Magazine, which will include Bob Barr.

I was surprised to hear that Root shares part of my position on taxes. He'd replace all federal taxes with one tax, collected by the states on a per-capita basis. He calls it "Clean Slate". However I'm not a fan of poll taxes, even if indirect.

I believe it's more equitable to tax on the basis of time, allowing one moreover to properly credit time served on juries. I'd move the collection of federal income tax to the state governments, as they're more civil, being closer to the people. I'd flatten it, à la Steve Forbes, whom I supported in 1996 and who sent me a Christmas card or two after I asked permission in 1994 to reproduce a Forbes article in The Minnesota Libertarian, and Robert Hall, one of the fathers of the world-wide flat-tax movement, with whom I once had the privilege of speaking in his office at the Hoover Institution two decades ago, while I was looking for a dissertation adviser friendly to Hayek and his Denationalisation of Money (we spoke of transaction costs).

Now playing: Animal Collective - The Purple Bottle
via FoxyTunes

Update (May 18, 2008, 11:40 am Central): It just occurred to me that my idea about connecting a flat income tax with jury service credit on a time-basis, leaving such service optional, would induce people who are honest in their tax filing to serve, and dissuade those who are not. This would be a good thing for juries. Pardon my mumbling on a side issue. The basic idea I came up with years ago, and it's simple. Credit jury service via a flat income tax credit commensurate to the time served.

Now playing: The Flaming Lips - The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song
via FoxyTunes

Update (May 18, 2008, 1:15 pm Central): The article from Forbes Magazine was In bed with the devil by Brigid McMenamin, with the byline "No need to wait to find out how a Clinton-type health plan would work. Minnesota already has it. How is it working?" (Forbes, Sep. 12, 1994) We gained permission, but only on payment of $400, which the Libertarian Party of Minnesota couldn't afford at the time, if memory serves.

Now playing: The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement
via Cato Institute

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bob Barr's book's a bipartisan bombshell

I finished Bob Barr's book today, The Meaning of Is (2004). Though his theme is Clinton, in fact, it's a bombshell lobbed against both parties, or factions as they've become.

My evidence?

As America burned, the Republican Party was fiddling away.

p. 114

Like nervous corporate CEOs, the leadership structure of the Republican Party and it[s] corporate patrons preferred predictable consistency above all else. They felt they could deal with any reality as long as that reality was stable.

p. 227

In the new Congress, partisanship was everything. You played on a team and you were loyal to that team no matter what. Independent thought was strongly discouraged, and loyalty was enforced through a system that rewarded lemmings and punished mavericks. If you towed the line, you got campaign cash, action on your bills, and perhaps a shot at a committee chairmanship. If not, then the party leadership was not going to lift a finger to help you get anything done, either in your home district or Washington. The same system was enforced in both parties, and it ultimately made it difficult for anyone to cross partisan lines...

p. 148

We have a huge responsibility as a nation. We can close our eyes. But when we open them, the problem will still be there, looming before us with a brooding darkness. We can answer this question the wrong way. And allow the president to hold his office with the knowledge that he has committed multiple felonies. Or we can answer this question the right way. The only right answer to the question is to respond to presidential felonies with impeachment. Regardless of whether the president is ultimately removed by the Senate, we must take this step in the House, as directed by our Constitution, in order to establish a precedent that will prevent future presidents from engaging in similar conduct.

p. 171, quoting himself, emphasis added

We had not damaged national security, attacked the integrity of the criminal justice system, abused the most powerful public office in the world, or violated the constitutional rights of large numbers of American citizens. Bill Clinton had done all of these things, and this was the reason he was being impeached, not because of the affair he had with Monica Lewinski or the long list of affairs that preceded it.

p. 180, emphasis added

If any other person had done what Bill Clinton had done, he not only would have been prosecuted, but convicted, sentenced, and put in jail. Obviously, no prosecutor in America was going to bring an indictment against a sitting president. But that is precisely the reason the Founders put the impeachment provision in the Constitution. The whole point of the trial was to determine his guilt or innocence. By arguing that Clinton had already been tried and cleared—when he had not—[Senator Dale] Bumpers conveniently gave the senators cover to vote against removal, even though presented with a clear factual case for doing so. Like any masterful attorney, he was giving the jury a plausible reason to do what it wanted to do, even though its desires ran contrary to the facts and the law. Put colloquially, the senators were chicken, and Bumpers was giving them a place to hide.

p. 199, emphasis added

Along these lines, I observed one of the most amazing cases of odd behavior by a senator during my closing presentation. Its source was Alaska senator Ted Stevens. Stevens chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee and consequently owns one of the most heavily kissed backsides in Washington, D.C. He is constantly besieged by a cornucopia of special interests, all seeking their own slice of taxpayer money from the budget pie. He is a guy who is used to having everyone around him act exactly as he wants them to. Early in the trial, he had emerged as one of the most strident opponents in the Republican conference to putting together a real trial. He wanted the spectacle of the impeachment trial to end as quickly as possible so the Senate could get on its real business—which as he saw it was doling out taxpayer monies.

Still, I expected Stevens at least to keep his opinion to himself during the actual trial. Needless to say, I was surprised to look up during my initial presentation and see him slowly moving his hand back and forth across his throat while staring me down. Either they guy was having serious thoughts of suicide, or he was giving me a sign to sit down and shut up. Here, I thought, was Senate arrogance at its best.

p. 209, emphasis added

Does party membership amount to little more than the kind of choice a college freshman makes in choosing a fraternity or a young criminal makes in choosing a neighborhood street gang in which to participate? If parties are mere labels, rather than representations of deeply shared principles, then the answer is "yes."

p. 228

The Libertarian Party actually seemed to grasp the significance of Clinton's assaults on individual freedom. In a public call for impeachment in July 1998, the Libertarians argued that Clinton "has the worst record on civil liberties since Richard Nixon, and the worst record on economic issues since Fidel Castro. What he's done to the Constitution should be classified as a hate crime." Specifically, they cited the administration's systematic assaults on cherished constitutional principles, most notably those contained in the Bill of Rights. I found myself fully in agreement with their logic, and we became close allies in the impeachment effort, although I still disagreed with the party's position on several issues such as abortion and drug legalization. Interestingly, this disagreement would surface four years later when, in running for election in a new district, the national Libertarian Party, in a move reflective of the old adage about "cutting off your nose to spite your face," worked hard to defeat me over the drug issue, even though on privacy and civil liberties I was—in the words of many of the party's own members—one of their best friends in office.

p. 102, emphasis added

Can women say no?
The point here is not that Clinton had extramarital affairs while in office. He was not the first president to cheat, and he will not be the last. Bill Clinton's adultery was—in my view—something that was between him, his wife, and God. I am amazed that any spouse would tolerate his brazen behavior, but it is none of my business. However, what was my business as a member of Congress is that the evidence clearly showed that the president of the United States was a sexual predator (and, of course, a perjurer and obstructor of justice.) There was a clear pattern. First, Clinton targeted women he believed were vulnerable to his advances and who could not say no due to their station in life or their personal circumstances. When some of these women did say "no," they were subjected to a carefully orchestrated and brutal campaign that involved lawyers, political operatives, donors, and White House staff, with the clear goal of threatening or pounding them into silence.

p. 100, emphasis added

Can Congress say no?
Requests from the executive branch to pass its legislative proposals without hearings are becoming more, rather than less, common, even as the complexity and importance of that legislation makes it imperative that the Congress conduct searching and substantive—if time-consuming—hearings (as was not done with the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001).

p. 229, emphasis added

Ignoring the Separation of Powers and attempting to make end runs around Congress was a favorite Clinton strategy, and the use of Executive Orders was his favorite tactic for doing so. In their legitimate form, Executive Orders are simply management tools used by the president to keep federal agencies running in the most efficient manner possible. They reflect the clear intent of laws passed by Congress and merely put a finer point on existing law. Bill Clinton turned this logic upside down, using Executive Orders to legislate—in clear violation of the Constitution—because he though[t] it too much trouble to be bothered by negotiating with Congress. ...

Some of the most insidious sets of Executive Orders were those issued by Clinton on the topic of federalism. A bedrock principle of the Constitution, which is woven throughout the debates over its passage and permanently protected in the Tenth Amendment, is that powers not explicitly delegated to the federal government belong to the state governments and the American people. Although the notion of federalism was being consistently eroded by years of contrary legislation and court decisions, no president had ever changed all that. They essentially set up a system where any conflict between state and federal regulations was automatically decided in favor of the federal law. This meant all an agency that wanted to run roughshod over a state had to do was pick a fight, which it knew it would win because the game was rigged ahead of time by Clinton's Executive Orders. Simply put, this amounted to crippling the Tenth Amendment, and it was done solely by executive action without any involvement from the courts or Congress.

pp. 91-92, emphasis added

However, the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) quickly followed [the failed attempt to require Clipper Chips in telephones]; the Clinton administration convinced Congress to pass this act in 1994. Under CALEA, every phone company in America is legally required to install snooping technology in all its new equipment so that government agents can listen in with ease.

p. 90, emphasis added

I am anything but a supporter of terrorists and criminals. I spent a large portion of my adult life working for the CIA and prosecuting criminals at the Department of Justice, so I am not unsympathetic to law enforcement. However, I have a theory about law enforcement: investigations can be hampered more than benefited by new authority and fancy technology. In my experience—privacy concerns aside—relying too much on sophisticated laboratories and massive wiretapping operations rather than on shoe-leather police work often resulted in cases that took too long to bring to trial and were far too weak and complex once they got there. For example, wiretapping can quickly overwhelm an investigation, particularly if multiple targets are involved or language barriers are present. Merely trying to cope with the resulting information is like trying to drink from an open fire hydrant. Despite the shortcomings, many agents like these methods because they are easier in many ways than old-fashioned investigative work.

p. 85, emphasis added

Who's defending civil liberties and due process now?
In past years, being a Democrat meant having a certain appreciation for civil liberties that went far beyond mere expediency. To be sure, Democrats did not always protect individual freedom, but they were far more reliable allies for the American Civil Liberties Union than were Republicans. This assumption of American politics cracked and ultimately shattered during the eight years of the Clinton administration. The first sign that this philosophy was dying occurred when many respected liberals went out of their way to cover up actions by federal law enforcement in the Waco attack. It went completely out the window when the Clinton administration introduced its draft anti-terrorism legislation following the tragic Oklahoma City bombing.

pp. 81-82, emphasis added

Much later, the FBI was forced to admit that it did use incendiary munitions after officials—including Janet Reno—testified under oath that they did not do so. ...

There are still numerous questions surrounding the Waco tragedy. At least two things are certain, however. First, top federal law enforcement officials from Janet Reno down behaved as if they wanted everyone in that compound dead, and their actions achieved that result. Secondly, the same top Clinton administration officials participated in an extensive effort to cover up the truth about what really happened at Waco. ...

I kept pursuing my hard line of questioning, but as we all know, it was largely in vain. We succeeded in getting important facts one the record, but the official version of the story is still largely one of a fiery mass suicide that the federal government was powerless to prevent. This, like so much of what passes for commonly accepted official stories in Washington, is a lie.

pp. 78, 80, emphasis added

As most Americans remember, Bill Clinton put Hillary Clinton in charge of a task force to develop a new health insurance plan for America. ...

Making this bad situation worse, Hillary insisted on meeting secretly to work on the plan. This resulted in a head-on collision with federal laws requiring government meetings to be open to the public if they involved non-governmental individuals. ...

Interestingly [the precedent] might also be used to prevent White House officials from being compelled to testify about conversations with other private individuals. Such a privilege—if asserted based on this precedent—would certainly encourage all kinds of corrupt conduct currently banned by law. In fact, it was this very argument that Vice President Cheney's legal team made in a bid to keep information about his energy policy task force secret when sued by Judicial Watch.

pp. 51-52, emphasis added

Now I know what my vote for Bob Barr would mean.

A vote for Bob Barr is a vote for due process and the rule of law.

A vote for Bob Barr is a vote to let government officials know that no one is above the law, the Constitution, and a respect for human rights.

A vote for Bob Barr is a vote for holding our President accountable. Our country needs a good impeachment. A vote for Bob Barr is the next best thing.

One last quote :-)
While I was frequently derided throughout my congressional career for never smiling, next to Maxine Waters I was the Cheshire Cat.

p. 131

Version 1.1 - bit about factions added May 18
Now playing: Beck - The New Pollution (I noticed some bits and pieces of this song are from the Brazilian band Os Mutantes)
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bob Barr is going to smile a lot more

I laughed out loud at a cafe with my earbuds on [4:09].

Update (May 16, 2008):
Just to be clear, I found Barr's response quite endearing.

Monday, May 12, 2008

First report Bob Barr is running


Update (May 12, 2008, 10:50 am Central): Jay Goodman Tamboli reports
Barr criticizes McCain's singing about Iran and Clinton's comments. Says war should not be taken so lightly.
Many people may not know this, but Barr graduated from high school in Iran. This is a big plus.

Update (May 12, 2008, 6:25 pm Central): Part of Bob Barr's announcement on video thanks to CNN.

Update (May 13, 2008, 12:30 am Central): The video's now on YouTube

There's audio of the Q&A following his announcement here.

I hear the media presence was significant.

Update (May 13, 2008, 2:15 am Central): Bob Barr made an additional announcement on


Update (May 13, 2008, 12:00 pm Central): More on the strong media presence from ThirdPartyWatch.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bob Barr - how one president set the precedent for another

4 years ago Bob Barr wrote an intelligent book on how President Clinton set the precedent for President Bush in the accelerating erosion of our civil liberties and due process. Here he describes how an FBI "wish list", which included many of the things Democrats complain so vehemently about with Bush, came to light and how the Clinton administration "drafted a massive anti-terror package and sent it to Congress," some provisions of which Barr successfully defeated in 1996 "by banding together with libertarian-leaning conservatives and civil libertarians in the Democrat ranks. (p. 87)"

Tomorrow at the National Press Club, Bob Barr might announce that he's running for President.

Now playing: Snowden - Victim Card
via FoxyTunes

Update (May 12, 2008, 9:50 am Central): Minutes to go before Barr speaks. I just read a critique of Newt Gingrich by The Other McCain.
Ralph Z. Hallow of The Washington Times has a story about Republicans who fear the potential impact of a Barr LP candidacy:
Republicans, both publicly and behind the scenes, are saying that a Barr run could hurt him financially and sink Mr. McCain's Republican candidacy in the general election, likely against Sen. Barack Obama.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told The Times today that "Bob Barr will make it marginally easier for Barack Obama to become president. That outcome threatens every libertarian value Barr professes to champion."
Electing the co-author of McCain-Feingold would threaten no libertarian values?
I'd add what Barr wrote in his book on p. 223,
When Republicans finally waved the white flag of surrender and caved in to Clinton's budget demands, the approach taken by our leaders was particularly disturbing. Through late fall and early winter 1995 as the "crisis" played itself out, in meeting after meeting Newt had been urging us to hold tough. Newt repeatedly reminded us that principle had gotten us where we were and must always be our ultimate guide. In the end, however, Newt changed course suddenly and completely, telling us we were going to give Clinton what he wanted, and we had by-God better support it. He even told us—for the first time to my knowledge—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.

Update (May 12, 2008, 10:20 am Central): Why is Newt's cave an important issue for everyone, all Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike? Ask David Walker, the recent Comptroller General of the United States of America. See - Thomas Jefferson and the Barbarian Invasions

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

There is a way forward - part 1

Liberty and anarchy are opposed. I have written about this elsewhere. Suffice it to ask, as I did tonight, where is there a market for due process? The election of 2008 is at its heart about civil liberties and due process, principles I, for one, believe Lady Liberty loves, Americans love, and dare I say voters would love if they could get past identifying religiously with one Party or Another and brave their fears.

There is a way forward I'm gleaning from the turmoil I'm seeing. In a series of posts, I hope to give words to what I see.

Related posts:

Monday, May 5, 2008

What are Bob Barr's positions?

And why is Bob Barr even thinking about running for President with only 6 months to go? Bob Barr answers on

The driving issue this year is due process, our only hope for putting a brake on the accelerating breakdown of our American civil and natural liberties, an emergency brake perhaps.

Due process not only applies to the microcosms of a business being wiretapped, a person being rendered, a home being disrespected, but it also applies to the larger events. It is Congress's job to hold a trial of sorts before the dog of war is unleashed, before the President is sicced on any land. They failed in restraining President Clinton, and they continue to fail with President Bush. Instead they try to vest the power elsewhere childishly, namely with the executive himself, contrary to the Constitution, per Federalist 69.
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, as first General and admiral of the Confederacy; 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
Both parties have failed to stop government anarchy. Barr speaks of the rule of law, applied to government.