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."