Thursday, April 30, 2009

Anatomy of a Coup

Most Libertarians who follow or take an interest in the goings on in the LP are aware of the current Lee Wrights situation. To summarize, Lee is on the LNC, and his dues lapsed, and rather than properly notify Lee of the problem, the Secretary decided to act unilaterally (and in violation of the Bylaws) and inform Lee that because his dues lapsed, he was removed from the LNC—never mind that such a decision mid-term lies with the LNC by voting him off, or with Lee himself, and neither occurred.

But I have news for you—Lee just happens to be a convenient pawn in a much larger game, and Lee’s outspokenness has been a thorn in the side of certain persons on the LNC who seem to be obsessed not with being the biggest fish in the LP pond, but with being the only fish.

Well, the picture has become much clearer now, and the attempts to accomplish that objective have been exposed, piece by piece, over the last couple of years. Here I detail what that plan is, and how it has been set about.

In simple terms, the plan has had several parts:
  1. Limit national membership to pay-to-play.
  2. Bamboozle, confuse, and confound the remaining members.
  3. Purge the dissenters by any loophole or means possible, valid or not, ethical or not.
  4. Stretch out the process so that members forget what happened.
Karl Rove would be impressed.

Let’s break this down.

1. Limit national membership to pay-to-play. It’s no secret that the national LP is losing money, and the Barr fiasco only seemed to amplify the problem. Almost half of the membership was completely alienated by that nomination in Denver, and that half were not only right to be upset, but they voted with their feet and wallets. Even Barr’s own running mate, Wayne Allen Root, threw Barr under the bus after the election. Root aside, the effect of the Barr nomination not only led to the eventual exodus of the LNC’s best fundraiser in Angela Keaton (the same weekend that Root threw Barr under the bus, BTW), but led to a slump in donations to the national LP that is still happening. The result is a staff lacking a competent Executive Director and doing the beck and call of the people running this plan.

Their answer has been to have the current LP Political Director put out grade-school-level fundraising pleas on the LP blog instead of doing it right by admitting that they screwed up and apologizing, and simply saying, “We’re asking for donations to be earmarked to do task X.”

Then there’s the California situation. This past weekend in Visalia (April 24-26) was the California state convention. On Friday (April 24) the Bylaws Committee had their annual meeting to complete any last-minute tweaks to the Bylaws Report, which was heard by the delegates the next day. I was there, and a proposal was dropped from the Report, submitted by the LP parliamentarian, and a former California Bylaws Committee member (when I was Chair of the committee) and Chair and national Bylaws Committee regular—a person who should know better. The short form is that the proposal would have added language to the California Bylaws that would have required California’s delegates to the national convention by both national sustaining members and state central committee members. The only problem is that such a “both” requirement comes into direct conflict with the “either-or” requirement of the national Bylaws on the same subject. The only reason that makes any sense is to limit California’s representation at the national convention, with the alternative being that the national party would milk an extra $25 per delegate out of the membership of the largest state affiliate—pay-to-play. (You can read the proposal here, page 3)

Fortunately, the proposal was unanimously dropped when the committee dropped its support and I pointed out the Bylaws violation. More on this later.

That’s good because there is a proposal in the national Bylaws report to readjust the delegate totals downward, under the guise of cutting convention room costs, which is just hogwash. Any good caterer knows they will take the expected turnout for an event and add 20% and they’ll usually get it right. If the convention is planned incorrectly—which can happen unless BetteRose Ryan is running it brilliantly as she always does—then the room is too large, but a planning error like that does not justify reducing delegate counts. Cutting down the votes to the selected few, OTOH, does fit this plan. Drop the number of delegates, make them sustaining national members only, all through Bylaws changes…and you’re on your way to elitism and Party destruction.

The Bylaws are the keys to the kingdom in the LP, folks. I cannot emphasize that enough! If one can control the Bylaws and engineer changes to suit their own agenda, they can take over the Party. The superficial justifications to members that don’t follow the situation closely are a mere tool to bamboozle the members and hide the real agenda.

Just take a second look at the current national Bylaws report. You’ll see a proposal to limit Bylaws votes and Presidential and Vice-Presidential votes to certain delegates (but not Platform, Officer elections, or resolutions?) under the excuse of a potential outside takeover based on a 5% vote that just is not on the radar screen. The takeover is internal, no 5% needed, and the ones doing the caterwauling about an external takeover are the ones doing the internal takeover under its cover! What this really does is create one set of delegates for Bylaws and national office nominations, and another for the perpetual Platform bickering and the national officer elections. Why? Because the LNC selects all of the Bylaws Committee, and only part of the Platform committee. The membership selects the rest of the Platform Committee as we all know, plus the LNC members and officers. One would think that would be enough of a check to stop this lunacy, right? Think again! The way around that one is a coordinated effort to…

2. Bamboozle, confuse, and confound the remaining members. The fastest way to do that is to take simple things and make them complicated. Here again, we see the national Bylaws Report come into play, in this case multiple times:
  1. A proposal to change the Party officer elections from the current round-elimination system to an inverse IRV system, which most Party members just don’t understand. The current system is easily understood: for a round of voting, if a candidate gets 50% +1 votes, they win, and a vote producing no majority eliminates the lowest non-NOTA vote-getter, then lather, rinse, and repeat. It isn’t broke, and delegates understand it, so why change it? To confuse the issue to their advantage, of course, and to get their own specific people into these positions (and dictate how meetings and operations are done as well!)
  2. A proposal to change the LNC At-Large elections from the current vote-for-up-to-X candidates to a confusing and needless “single-transferrable voting” process which relies on a mathematical formula that doesn’t even make any sense! What better way to stack the deck than to claim voting “reform” and create a method that the average delegate won’t understand?
  3. A proposal to allow an electronic voting system to replace state-by-state voting tabulations. They claim it’s because of time consumption and prone to error, implicitly calling the larger states incompetent to do their own tabulation. As a witness to California’s tabulation process in Denver, I can emphatically state that such a claim is not only unfounded, but decisively false. As Diebold has shown, electronic tabulation does not produce better results. See also every libertarian’s favorite Stalin quote about who counts the votes. Again, the idea is to confuse the members, and in this case use an electronic means to cover it up.
  4. A proposal to do mail ballots on Bylaws proposals prior to the convention. The excuse is that a lot time is spent by delegates considering Bylaws proposals at the convention and this would speed it up. But hidden in there is a requirement that the only eligible mail voters are national sustaining members. Remember pay-to-play? Here it is again. Proposals can be submitted to national sustaining members by mail or to regular delegates at the convention, but not both. They get their own pay-to-players in place, and guess where the proposals are going? Go directly to mail, do not pass the convention floor, do not collect proper votes. This is also where the failure of the California proposal above comes into play—if this idea passes, Bylaws changes bypasses the largest voting bloc in favor of their own people. (It would be ludicrously egotistical of me to claim that this proposal was made to short-circuit my own influence on Bylaws within the California LP, and while I understand them better than most, and I am most definitely a thorn in the side of the conspirators, this would be a piss-poor means to do that, so I tend to discount the idea on it surface.) Plus there is always the “lost in the mail” factor. Lee Wrights’ dues renewal notices got lost in the mail, too, (assuming they were ever sent, but his ex-wife says they weren’t in his mail) and they used that to claim he was no longer a member. There is no reason that mail ballots to undesirable national sustaining members could get lost in a similar fashion—or claimed they were sent when they really weren’t. Instead of the Bylaws being put out for full delegate consumption as they are now, they become limited to a select group, with that group conveniently being their own pay-to-play crowd.
  5. A proposal to strike the Credentials Reporting Requirement and the clear language of each delegate being eligible to vote, in favor of relying on Robert’s Rules. There is no faster way to confuse members than by delving into the arcane, inane, and intricate details of the procedural mess known as Robert’s Rules. Well, guess what, this one would do exactly that, forcing a reliance on the Parliamentarian to decide things for the members instead of the clear language of the Bylaws. With that in mind, the loopholes are opened considerably to not only deny members their votes, but also to purge them and to dictate who can vote and who can’t, to a preordained result.
  6. A proposal to require NOTA to get tokened up (in contrast to toked up, which is a different thing!) like the people candidates, when the convention body already nominates NOTA by default anyway. The net result of this is to draw tokens away from candidates that might be seen as disagreeable, diluting the process. Delegates will be confused that their tokens can go to a non-person automatic candidate instead of a person candidate that needs the tokens to qualify for nomination.
  7. A proposal to require up to 20 secondings of a motion from the floor, which would include seating delegates. A motion could die from a lack of a second when in fact there was one, which further confuses (and eventually alienates) delegates—assuming they can get seated in the first place.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? Confuse the heck out of the delegates so they have no idea what or who they are voting on or have voted on, while stacking the deck against the membership. And those like me that expose the situation get subjected to the purge.

3. Purge the dissenters by any means possible. You’ve seen one method, which is to confuse and frustrate them so they leave. You’ve seen some attempts to winnow down who has a say in national Party affairs to a select few.

But wait, there’s more!

They want to have delegates give them direct power to disaffiliate states and expel members:
  1. A proposal to disaffiliate states who nominate Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates other than the convention nominees (the “Phillies Rule One”). This was brought about because New Hampshire nominated George Phillies in advance of the 20098 national convention to satisfy ballot requirements, and then could not replace him with Barr per state law, which resulted in the ongoing lawsuit that LPNH wanted no part of.
Right now, states can be disaffiliated if they violate the national Bylaws and the LNC votes ¾ to do so. Remember the LP California Bylaws proposal I mentioned above? That would have been a violation, and you can bet a push for disaffiliation would have followed. Had that failed, the delegates would have been limited as explained above. Purging the largest state affiliate from the ranks would have only solidified their power play immensely, especially since there is little love lost between the two.

The table was set for this one in 2008 under the guise of the Bylaws proposal to cover an alleged loophole in licensing state affiliates. At that time they made a planned mistake to ask for the moon in wanting control over local affiliates (below state level), as a calculated move to get what they really wanted, which was the language change for state affiliates. Had they gotten both, it would have been mere gravy. Delegates then didn’t see the real story for the cover story, including me, and it was passed after the language referring to local affiliates was stricken, as planned.
  1. A proposal to expel members that circulate ballot petitions for Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates other than the convention nominees (the “Phillies Rule Two”). They don’t want members putting anyone on the ballot other than their people. Never mind the obvious workaround that non-member petition circulators are not covered.
  2. A proposal to expel Party officers or state party officers who sign any papers supporting Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates other than the convention nominees (the “Phillies Rule Three”). Ironically enough, this rule would have caused the LNC to be expelled over offering Dr. Paul the LP nomination had it been in effect when that happened.
  3. A proposal to block out members of or people who support other parties (the “Barr/Keaton Rule”, named because Barr gave money to GOP candidates running against LP candidates while in the LP, and because Keaton was photographed modeling a Boston Tea Party tank top, even though she’s not in the BTP as of this writing). The proposal is written so that such a person may not be a “committee member” in a broad sense. That can easily be interpreted as including a state central committee member of ANY state. Purge of the Ron Paul R3VOLution, anyone?
The moment they try to interfere directly in the affairs of the state Parties by dictating to them on membership is the moment they have shown their hand and are royally screwed, because the states won’t stand for it.

But that’s not enough either. They also want to…

5. Stretch out the process so that members forget what happened. They’re relying on the idea that in today’s Short Attention Span Theater, people easily forget what happened in the past. Unfortunately, that’s a generally true observation. But they seek to foster that to their advantage by a Bylaws proposal to stretch out the time between conventions from every two years to every four years, allegedly to save on costs, but really to create more time to enact their plans and get members to forget about it and keeping them in power.

That’s their plan: limit, confuse, purge, and forget.

So what can be done about it?

There are three things to do:
  1. Throw the bums out! By that I mean Redpath, Starr, Sullentrup, Karlan, Flood, and Mattson. Replace them with better leadership that is more concerned with Party growth and not concerned with internal power plays and attempts to establish fiefdoms. That also means firing M Carling, and Robert Kraus.
  2. Get involved. The world truly is run by those that show up. The opponents of the LP are well-organized and have a plan, even if their execution is clumsy. But even clumsy, they’ll get away with it if they are allowed to. There’s plenty of talent and people but not the involvement, and that involvement is what is needed.
  3. Call them out on their shenanigans! The Lee Wrights affair is unraveling on them as this is written, thanks to the activity of dedicated and PISSED-OFF members who have stepped up for our friend and representative. But that will not stop them from their plans unless we continue to expose them.
So the Coup is planned, and some people will claim this is nothing more than conspiracy theory and connecting disjointed dots. To them I simply ask then, if I’m wrong, and this all a bunch of coincidences, then why do those things exist in the first place?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

More on Universal Health Care

(Follow-up to

Universal Health-Care Insurance–The Wrong Health Debate

It seems that health care is the domestic hot topic this campaign season, with all of the focus being on rising costs of service and providers dictating what they will and will not pay for and how much in patient treatments.

There is no doubt that all of that is a large issue. But it is getting the cart far before the horse. That issue of health insurance is just a symptom of a larger health care problem. Other symptoms include obesity, the flood of pharmaceuticals, pollution, overwhelmed emergency rooms, the growing controversy over vaccines, and a slew of others.

The problem I’m talking about, and the problem that our aspiring political candidates *should* be talking about, is our general health.

After all, common sense dictates that if we as a nation are healthier then our need for the comprehensive health insurance that everyone is talking about becomes less and less.

First, a disclaimer up front. I have health insurance. I have good health insurance provided by my employer. But it doesn’t make me healthy. All it does is make me better able to cover the costs of getting unhealthy.

I recently just got over a nasty cold. I didn’t go to the doctor and I didn’t go to the emergency room, and I didn’t use my health insurance to treat it. I used over-the-counter remedies, both allopathic and homeopathic as well as dietary.

And therein is the problem. Addressing health insurance problems doesn’t address true health promotion, but rather paying for *bad health*. It’s treating the illness rather than working to prevent it in the first place. And that’s where the *real* debate, and the real solutions, lie.

We own our bodies, our minds, and our souls, and we have a responsibility to ourselves and to those around us and close to our hearts to take care of ourselves and those around us. Our bodies are actually complex machines that require good maintenance and materials in order to operate efficiently and correctly. To be sure, our genetics have an influential role, but even more so do our actions. What we eat, drink, breathe, and do greatly influence how we live and how healthy we are.

Let’s assume government is the solution for the moment. It’s a lousy assumption, considering its past track record, but let’s run with it. If government wants to really address the health care problem, it needs to start at the sources of our health, or lack thereof, and work to improve those for our benefit.

Our air is polluted with smog and chemicals, and the technology exists to make it better. Government can help there by providing incentives to industries to clean the air by becoming more green, installing smokestack scrubbers (for example), and in general promoting less pollutive practices through tax credits while punishing more pollutive practices through tax penalties. Government can provide tax credits to consumers for being more green as well, be it by planting trees to clean the air, carpooling, and so on. Government can plan for and implement more open space as well, with green belts to help the trees.

Our water is much the same as the air. Water is our life and our future and we need to be careful with it now so we have that future. We don’t need hot- and cold-running sludge. Government can encourage preserving and restoring the wetlands that filter that water, plus helping to develop desalinization plants to add more water resources. Government can also encourage through tax credits better water treatment and penalize bad treatment.

Our food supply is in bad shape. Our soils are exhausted, their nutritive elements leached out by overuse and replaced by chemical fertilizers, resulting in inferior food products that need fortification with vitamins and minerals. GMO foods are not the answer and are an unknown health risk. Government can help by promoting soil replenishment and natural agricultural practices, crop rotation based on soil needs rather than market forces, a reduction in petroleum-based pesticides and herbicides (which can cause cancer) and fertilizers, and getting our meat out of the feedlot and back on the range. More certified organic food and unprocessed raw foods into consumer diets will help, but that means more time at home to cook, which means less time at work, which means more take-home pay and government can help that by cutting income taxes.

Our bodies can be improved with vitamin supplements, good nutrition, and boosts and balances to our immune systems. Alternative treatments such as Chinese medicine, herbalism, homeopathy, and naturopathy should be encouraged and promoted as a means to make us healthy, not derided. Vaccines are a poor attempt at homeopathy and wind up being nothing more than poisons.

Better yet, we can do all of this without government involvement, through informed choice and the free market.

We have the motivation and we ultimately have the power. In today’s age we have unprecedented access to the needed information to take the right steps. The rest is up to us getting off our fat butts, being responsible for ourselves, and making it happen.

So what are we waiting for?

Bong Hits for SCOTUS

(This case was decided a while back, and I thought I had blogged it, but I can't find it. So I'm reproducing it.)

It appears that from today’s Frederick v. Morse ruling, the Supreme Court, led by the conservative branch, not only took leave of its senses, but overdosed on whatever medications they were on when they wrote this crock of a ruling.

Once again, the Supreme Court defies common sense.

The facts are simple: Student Frederick joined fellow students across the street for his high school in Juneau, Alaska, to watch the Olympic torch relay pass by. as it went by he unfurled a 14-foot banner that read” Bong Hits 4 Jesus”. Principal Morse saw the banner, crossed the street and tore down the sign and suspended Frederick for “promoting illegal drug use”.

The school upheld the suspension for those reasons. Frederick sued, lost at the circuit level, won by reversal at the 9th Circuit, and lost at the Supreme Court.

The problem with the ruling by Roberts for the Court is that it is based in fantasy.

First, they back the ludicrous claim by the school district that the message had to do with drug use. While it is certainly true that “Bong Hits” may have a drug connotation, it can also have a musical connotations, “Bong Hits” relating to ringing of a large bell. In fact within the context of this particular message it makes much more sense. Despite all that, Frederick himself stated that the message as meaningless and that he saw it on a snowboard. Obviously the school district and the Roberts Court know the state of Frederick’s mind better than Frederick himself.

Second, they claim the event was school-sponsored and school-sanctioned. That too is bogus. The event was sponsored by the United States Olympic Committee, not the Juneau School District. School sanctioning of an event is meaningless, because students attend events that schools do not sanction all of the time, without any restriction on students free speech. Political rallies, rock concerts, and professional sporting events come to mind immediately. The Court and the school district need to have this claim, however, in order to make their ruling: without the idea of school sponsorship or sanctioning they cannot claim ANY right to censor Frederick’s speech or suspend him.

Third, Frederick was not under any control of the school district at the time the event happened. Frederick had never arrived at school that day when the incident occurred and never even set foot one on the school grounds that day prior to the incident. He was as much of a passerby to the event as any non-student was that day. He was not in attendance at the school at that time, so his student status cannot apply in this situation. Because he never arrived at school prior to the banner being unfurled, the school had no control or custody over him; therefore they could not censor or suspend him at all. To imply otherwise would give the school district unfettered reign over a student in all places, from the home to the public square and everyplace in between. It’s a very simple concept the Court completely ignores, and is crucial to the case: was Frederick under school control at the time? Since he arrived at the event and not at school first, the answer is no, and therefore the school had no legitimate claim of control or jurisdiction over his actions.

Fourth, the Court claims, as does the school district, that the banner message was “speech or action that intrudes upon the work of the schools.” What is that work in this case? The school district claims that work is the education of students about the dangers of illegal drugs and their use. Despite the obvious crossing of the line from education into indoctrination that occurs in such a purpose (see more below), what does “Bong Hits” have to do with the Olympic Torch? This event had nothing to do with an educational setting, for starters, and was purely an extracurricular event. Whether it happened during school hours or not is irrelevant. Second, if the banner had read “Steroid Shots 4 Jesus” or “Bong Hits for Olympians” then maybe there might be a connection between the banner and the event. This event had nothing whatsoever to do with the work of the schools.

Fifth, the Court fails to properly distinguish the actions and the message conveyed by the actions. It is long settled in the courts that while both are relevant, they must be considered separately. Motive of action is what separates first-degree murder from manslaughter, for example. In this case, the Court tied the two together when they should not have, and in doing so arrive at exactly the opposite conclusion that they should have. His actions were clearly free speech on a public sidewalk outside of the legal control of school authorities. He was engaging in his First Amendment Rights. The message conveyed by his actions may have been deemed offensive by others, most notably Principal Morse, but feeling offense is no grounds for censorship! If Frederick has conveyed a message using “fighting words” or other context to incite violence, such as “Kill the Teacher” etc. then removal of the banner might have been appropriate, but only by law enforcement, since Frederick was outside school control at the time. But that didn’t happen either. But because the Court not only ignored Frederick’s state of mind in terms of the banner message but lumped the action and the context together, it arrived at the idea that the banner could be censored and the student suspended. That conclusion is devoid of logic and goes against the Court’s own reasoning in the landmark Tinker v. Des Moines case: in Tinker the court ruled that First Amendment speech is protected for students unless school officials reasonably conclude that it will “materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school.” What is the disruption here, except to Morse’s sense of order to the event? It certainly was no disruption to the Torch as it passed unimpeded, and that had nothing to do with the school anyway. It certainly did not disrupt the work of the school as school work was suspended for this event in the first place. If anything, the school work was disrupted by what Morse did after the fact as that made its rounds of the students as this type of juicy gossip does, so if anyone violated Tinker it was Morse, not Frederick. The Court then applies the absurd claim that the disruption was to the school’s ongoing effort on anti-drug indoctrination, but fails to explain why a differing opinion, if the banner could even be construed as one in the absurd manner the school district claims, is disruptive. The only logical explanation is that the work of the school in anti-drug indoctrination is to remove all discussion about the topic and require students to accept the propaganda the school presents at face value. But that is not education; that is brainwashing. Absent that discussion the education is absent, and Frederick’s banner could have served as an instructional tool and means for discussion and furthering the students’ education rather than becoming an object lesson in civics on how not to handle a free speech situation.

What the Court also loses in the context is the message itself. If Frederick has, as Justice Stevens state in his dissent, simply stated “Glaciers Melt”—would that have been taken to be a contextual message on global warming, part of Alaska’s tourism industry, or the laws pf thermodynamics? Would Morse have torn down the banner if it had said “Sugar Packets 4 Jesus” or some other nonsense beyond the nonsense of “Bong Hits 4 Jesus”? Hard to say, but it would not be surprising if Morse would. The Court uses the idea, though that it is a drug message to justify the censorship. That is beyond logical and places the First Amendment, as Stevens aptly points out in his dissent, in the realm of being limited by context discrimination, which is purely subjective. The Court itself has ruled that the context discrimination clearly violates the First Amendment. The First Amendment does not say, “Congress shall make no law prohibiting free speech unless someone in authority disagrees with what is expressed.” Yet the court reverses itself on that very point here.

As for Morse, she was completely in the wrong, and as a school administrator she should know what the limits of her authority are, and in this case she crossed them badly. She got so wrapped up in her own emotional reaction to Frederick’s banner that she abandoned logic and rational thinking and awareness of her own role and proceeded to turn a silly joke into a national case. She was best to leave it alone and then use it to promote a discussion on the topic afterwards. Any student will tell you that if a “cool” thing becomes a teaching tool, it no longer becomes “cool” and the whole idea dies off quickly. Morse should have been aware of this being a high school principal and used it to her advantage instead of acting like an idiot. But that does not mean she should be held personally liable as Frederick would contend. She was acting in her capacity as an employee of the school district and not as a private citizen and therefore any liability would be assumed by the district. On that point the Court was in unanimous agreement and was correct.

In summary, the Court was out to lunch on this one. Context and circumstances do matter, and the case was wrongly decided in a manner that does not bode well for students in this nation. The only solution to this ongoing and growing tyranny in our public schools is to remove the students from the schools and seek their education elsewhere, be it private or home schools. That or remove the public schools in favor of other means of education, which isn’t a bad idea either.