Monday, April 28, 2008

Pink Floyd's Answer to the Ron Paul Blimp: The Inflatable Obama Pig

You can't see it in this picture, but according to the AP: "The underside of the pig simply read 'Obama' with a checked ballot box alongside."

For nostalgia's sake, here's a picture of the Ron Paul Blimp which, sadly, has been grounded.

Update: Apparently Pink Floyd front man Roger Waters had a brief affair with libertarian writer Ayn Rand back in the day. Small world.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Alan Keyes Leaves the Republican Party

What great news. Not only will Barack Obama have the opportunity to beat this nut again, but an Alan Keyes presidential campaign on the Constitution Party ticket would force John McCain to show his true colors by competing for the wacky fringe of the conservative spectrum. Imagine McCain trying to woo religious conservatives away from Keyes by assuring them that he is the candidate most strongly against gays, feminists and the ACLU.

The only down side to this story is that it marks the death of the Constitution Party as a refuge of anti-war paleoconservatives. The party was originally formed as a vehicle for Pat Buchanan to make a third party run in 1992, though he ultimately decided not to. The Buchanan Brigades must be horrified to see a neocon hawk like Keyes moving in to take over their party.

For those of you unfamiliar with Keyes, he's the candidate who wants to declare a "War on Pornography" and give African-Americans reparations for slavery in the form of a giant tax holiday. Keyes is also the creator of the "Draft Alan Keyes" web site.

Update: Amazingly, the Constitution Party came to its senses this afternoon and decided not to nominate Keyes as its presidential candidate. That honor will go to political unknown Chuck Baldwin. While it's always nice to see Alan Keyes humiliated, it looks like it will be up to Bob Barr to take ultra conservative votes away from McCain.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Checking out the Competition: Libertarians for Hillary Clinton

On the night of her Pennsylvania victory, I thought I should check to see whether Hillary Clinton has any libertarian supporters of her own. Who knows, maybe latter day Philadelphia patriots propelled the former first lady to victory. Or maybe not. The results of some quick Google searches:

"Libertarians for Hillary Clinton": One hit (and it's a joke)

"Libertarians for Clinton": Three hits (one of them is a blog post mentioning that there are no Google hits for the term)

"Libertarians for Hillary": Pay dirt - over 300 hits. There's even a Unfortunately, it has no content. I'll leave it to someone else to make the obvious joke. also appears to be a place holder site.

By contrast, "Libertarians for Obama" gets nearly 20,000 Google hits. This isn't exactly a scientific poll, but I think it's pretty clear who libertarian Democrats are lining up behind.

If anyone has heard of any prominent libertarians coming out in support of Clinton, I'd love to hear about them.

Update: It looks like the Clinton campaign has bought the sponsored search term "Libertarians for Hillary" on Google. I wonder what they were thinking.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Libertarians for Conformity

The web site Join or Die '08 is an effort to get Ron Paul supporters to abandon every piece of ideology their candidate has - non-interventionism, civil liberties, privacy, personal freedom, etc., etc. - and rally around John McCain for the good of ... what exactly? Paul has never been the most die hard Republican - remember 1988? - and the Republicans have been happy to return the favor (read the full history of Republican attempts to defeat Paul here). So why should libertarians care about Republican unity, especially when the party's standard bearer is John McCain?

The site was apparently started by a 14-year-old from Georgia who has raised a total of $320 for Paul's campaign. So I'll try not to bash its collectivist, conformist, rally-around-the-leader sentiments too much. But what are Join or Die's adult supporters thinking? And why is the site getting coverage in everything from Wired to Daily Kos? This is pretty embarrassing for Paul supporters.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Nice Work if You Can Get It

Step one: Retire from the military.
Step two: Get a job as a "military analyst" for a TV news channel.
Step three: Participate in a special public relations program sponsored by the Pentagon, in which the military feeds you pro-war talking points.
Step four: Repeat those points on the air, while the networks pay you for providing "independent analysis."
Step five: Parlay your access and TV fame into a military contracting gig which, by the way, benefits from the war you're supposedly assessing as a dispassionate, neutral observer.

Read about this and much more in today's great New York Times story about these craven, incestuous creatures - the TV military analysts.

Camille Paglia: Why Feminists Should Vote for Obama Over Clinton

"Radical '60s libertarian" and individualist feminist Camille Paglia explains in an article in the London Telegraph why feminists shouldn't support Hillary Clinton. Then she endorses Obama. Worth a read. Did you know, for example, that Clinton failed the D.C. bar exam? Or that, as Paglia writes, "Even Hillary's eye colour is fake: she wears blue contact lenses"?

An excerpt:

"The argument, therefore, that Hillary's candidacy marks the zenith of modern feminism is specious. Feminism is not well served by her surrogates' constant tactic of attributing all opposition to her as a function of entrenched sexism. Well into her second term as a US Senator, Hillary lacks a single example of major legislative achievement. Her career has consisted of fundraising, meet-and-greets and speeches around the world expressing support for women's rights."

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Five New Reasons to End the Wars

We all know that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are killing thousands or Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis, and costing U.S. taxpayers trillions of dollars. But here are a few more, less obvious, costs of the wars that have come to light over the past month or so:

- The wars are corrupting the military contracting system. Check out the story of Efraim E. Diveroli, the 22-year-old arms dealer who got a $300 million contract from the U.S. government to supply the Afghan army with bullets. He sent over paper bags full of 40-year-old Chinese ammo.
- Congress is investigating disturbingly high incidences of rape by U.S. military personnel and contractors against their colleagues.
- They're destroying our military, as the number of new recruits drops, reenlistment falls and soldiers and sailors refuse to go to Iraq.
- The BBC reported this week that teenage Iraqi war refugees are resorting to prostitution because the war has destroyed every other means of earning money to feed themselves and their families.
- Chinese nationalists are using the Iraq war as an excuse to continue their repression in Tibet. "No one can criticize what we're doing in Tibet," the argument goes, "because what the U.S. is doing in Iraq is worse."

The wars - and especially the Iraq war - are the most important issues in this election. The housing crisis will pass. Healthcare coverage will advance and decline in fits and starts no matter who's in the White House. But what the U.S. is doing in Iraq is creating a hell on Earth for millions of people, and slowly destroying our own country from the inside. But try telling that to the liberventionists. If a presidential candidate like Barack Obama won't promise to lower their taxes, they'll find a warmonger like John McCain or Wayne Allyn Root to vote for.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rappers for Obama

The right-wing magazine Human Events thinks it has uncovered a new Barack Obama scandal: "Obama thus far has equivocated on rappers."

The expose continues: "It’s high time the media ask some tough questions. Why has Obama collaborated with rappers? ... Have any rappers contributed to his campaign? Will he return the money? Why has he not renounced support from rappers?"

They report, you decide: Can a man hold a position of authority if people who say naughty words support him?

For more unintentional comedy from Human Events, check out "Barack Obama: Exposed."

As the magazine describes it: "It's the only way you'll get all the ammunition you need to end Obama's White House dreams once and for all." (my italics)

(Via Talking Points Memo)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Campaign Finance

"We have created a parallel public financing system where the American people decide if they want to support a campaign they can get on the Internet and finance it, and they will have as much access and influence over the course and direction of our campaign that has traditionally been reserved for the wealthy and the powerful."

-- Barack Obama, quoted by ABC News, possibly laying the groundwork to reject public financing in the general election campaign (via Political Wire).

It might seem like this is a year when campaign finance laws won't even be on the agenda. Obama supports them, and John McCain wrote them. I doubt the next president will do much to change these laws, but 2008 is shaping up to be the year when the intellectual justification for these laws began to crumble.

For one thing, 2008 has shown that there is little correlation between money and electoral success, at least at the presidential level. From the beginning of the campaign through the end of February, for example, John McCain had raised about the same amount of money as Rudy Giuliani, who dropped out in January after failing abysmally. Mitt Romney raised nearly twice as much as Giuliani. Ron Paul raised twice as much money as Mike Huckabee, and we all know how many states Paul won.

Secondly, the 2008 election has shown that many small contributions can add up to a greater war chest than a few wealthy donors giving the maximum contribution. Exhibits A and B: Ron Paul and Barack Obama. It's tough to argue that we need to get money out of politics when it's average voters who are giving the money.

This election also seems to be changing the attitudes of liberals - the constituency most likely to support campaign finance laws. Now that Democrats are beating Republicans in fund raising, calls from the left for more restrictions have visibly died down. Even DailyKos had a post debunking the argument that greedy campaign consultants are responsible for high elections spending.

"Campaigns costs have gone up less because of consultant fees and more because it costs more to communicate with voters, and the number of voters they must reach keeps growing," writes Kossack DHinMI.

I don't think this country is ever going to go back to an unregulated campaign system. But maybe Democrats - including Obama - have begun to realize that getting money completely out of politics is not the answer. Would Obama oppose a bid to raise the contribution limit from the current $2,300? Would he support easing some of the restrictions on campaign spending by independent groups? I don't know, but I do think that Democrats in general are beginning to come around on this issue.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Who is Austan Goolsbee?

Obama's chief economic adviser - a friend from the University of Chicago, where they both taught - sounds an awful lot like a libertarian (though I don't know if he accepts the label). Check out Goolsbee's New York Times columns, in which he argues that taxes distort retirement planning, denounces banking regulation in China and cites evidence that the free market, not the government, can do the best job of assimilating immigrants. For any of you who have read Freakonomics, Discovery Your Inner Economist, David Friedman's Hidden Order, or anything else in the "use economic thinking to make life more efficient genre, then you'll recognize Goolsbee's style.

"He seems to be the sort of person -- amiable, empirical and reasonable -- you would want at the elbow of a Democratic president, if such there must be," writes George Will, in an interesting profile of Goolsbee.

Goolsbee, like Obama, isn't trying to radically slash the size of the government. Rather, these two share the philosophy that reforms can make government regulations less burdensome. Probably Goolsbee's most famous proposal, which Obama has embraced, is to eliminate the paperwork of income tax filing for the millions of Americans. Under Goolsbee's "Simple Return" plan, 40% of taxpayers who have only one source of income and take only the standard deduction could save 225 million hours and $2 billion in preparation fees by having their W2s sent directly to the IRS instead of sending them in themselves.

Goolsbee was recently in the news when the Canadian press reported that Goolsbee had met with Canadian officials to reassure them that Obama would not radically overhaul NAFTA as president (click here for more on Obama and free trade). Obama denied the story, and I have no idea whether or not it's true. But I'm sure that if it were up to Goolsbee, free trade would be pretty safe.

Here's Goolsbee on free trade in an interview with Marketplace:
"I don't think it helps when you open up trade agreements and see that they're 2,000 pages long, and they look just like the tax code -- that the first three pages are about opening markets, and then the next 1,997 pages are loopholes, giveaways, special protections for individual industries. I mean, that's getting us pretty far from the case for open markets."

John McCain Wants the Government to Dictate CEO Pay

For those libertarians who say "Yeah, John McCain's a warmonger and a cultural conservative and an all-around shady character, but at least he gets it on economic issues" I offer you this Reuters story: McCain Wants to Shine Light on CEO Pay.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Wayne Allyn Root Doesn't Want the U.S. to Leave Iraq

Libertarian Party presidential candidate Wayne Allyn Root on Iraq: American needs to keep troops there until the Iraqi government is strong enough to maintain order. So given the way things are going in Iraq, it doesn't look like Root wants this war to end any time soon. But then again, a competent Iraqi government is probably more likely than a Root presidency.

Watch it here:

(Via Third Party Watch)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Bob Barr Will Run, but Not as a Libertarian

The New Republic reported yesterday that Bob Barr will run for president as an independent. Curious news, given that Barr sits on the Libertarian National Committee. But so be it. Barr is no libertarian, as I've written in the past (here and here).

If he does go ahead with this foolishness, you would think he would at least want the Libertarian ballot line. Libertarians aren't very good at electing candidates, but they are excellent at getting on ballots. Maybe Barr doesn't think that LP members will support him at the convention next month. Maybe he's worried they won't look kindly on his opposition to abortion and immigration, or his PAC, which gives money only to the most pro-war, anti-privacy Republicans. As an independent, Barr might not even be able to take enough votes from John McCain to make his quixotic candidacy worthwhile.

So instead of the general election spoiler we might have hoped for, Barr will just be one more in what is shaping up to be a long list of novelty candidates this year: Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney, Alan Keyes and probably either Mary Ruwart or Steve Kubby for the Libertarians. Who knows, maybe Mike Gravel will even find a way to get onto a few ballots.

Who will this motley crew of also-rans take more votes from, McCain or Obama? I won't even begin to try to guess.

Update: Doug Craig claims on the Crazy for Liberty blog that Barr said in a radio interview that if he runs for president, he'll run as a Libertarian. I can't find any other accounts of this interview, but I'll take Craig's word for it. Still, this raises the question: If the LP members reject Barr as their candidate - as they very well might - would he consider an independent run?

Second Update: Barr has formed an exploratory committee to consider a Libertarian candidacy for president. So I guess the New Republic was wrong.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Obama the Dynamist

It's almost a throwaway line in today's Wall Street Journal story about the presidential campaign in Pennsylvania, but it jumped out at me:

"In many ways, the state mirrors how the Democratic campaign is creating splits within the party beyond issues such as race or gender, to voters' education and income, rural or urban habitat, and traditional or future-oriented outlook on life." (my emphasis)

I think these last seven words do a good job of summing up why my libertarian views push me toward Barack Obama: he wants to govern for the future. "We are the change we've been waiting for" sums it up pretty well.

In her book The Future and its Enemies, former Reason editor Virginia Postrel divides the political world into "dynamists" who embrace change and have a future orientation and "stasists" who cling to the past. Postrel rightly classifies most - but certainly not all - libertarians as dynamists because they want to unleash the potential of the individual and the creativity of the market.

Most true conservatives are obviously stasists. But liberals - as the word is used in America - can fall into either camp - or both. Putting up laws against smoking in public or setting a mandatory retirement age are certainly stasist ideas. But giving federal support to stem cell research and advocating for gay marriage fall into the dynamism camp, even if they aren't strictly libertarian positions.

Not surprisingly, Postrel likes a lot of what she's hearing from Obama - especially his post-racial themes - though his distrust of corporations is holding her back from jumping onto the bandwagon.