Tag Archives: politics

Virginia Libertarian vs. libertarian

Update: See end of post for update.

An odd-year election in Virginia wouldn’t normally hold my interest, but this year there’s an interesting subplot for the rest of us. Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe battles Republican Ken Cuccinelli and they’re neck and neck.  In third place is Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis, amazingly polling around 10%. Is this a glimmer of third-party glory cutting through the dust of the two-party sand storm? A good showing would help remind American voters that a third way exists.

As a resident of Oregon (not voting), I don’t know much about these three candidates in Virginia, but I had hoped Libertarian Sarvis would do well and finish with double digits on election night to bring attention to Libertarian Party. But then Ron Paul threw his support behind Republican Cuccinelli! Why would Ron Paul snub an exciting Libertarian challenge to the two-party statists? There must be less to Robert Sarvis than meets the eye, since Ron Paul doesn’t always feel like endorsing someone and could have easily continued his home schooling interview schedule. Then again, Ron Paul is a Republican and didn’t endorse 2012 Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson, so they’re not exactly blood brothers.

It turns out Libertarian Sarvis may not be so libertarian after all if you start comparing him to other folks who call themselves incidental libertarians. And Cuccinelli isn’t really all that Republican if you start comparing him to the business as usual over at the Grand Old Party where he’s seen as a libertarian. The quest for the Holy Grail of Virginia has become a race run by Big-L Libertarian vs. small-l libertarian vs. not libertarian.

Terry McAuliffe is the “not libertarian,” so I don’t have much to say about him. But Robert Sarvis now finds his ideological and party credentials called into question. Is he a Big-L or a small-l? Charles C.W. Cooke makes a good point that, “a politician (who) is not a Democrat but is nonetheless critical of the social policies of a Republican hardly makes him Murray Rothbard.” Read his well-reasoned problems with Libertarian Sarvis at the National Review Online.

Meanwhile amid the confusion, the entrenched powers of the two-party statists typically complain about the Libertarians taking votes from the Republicans. It should be noted, however, that Sarvis is a much more progressive libertarian than some, and is pulling a fair share of attention away from McAuliffe. He seems at odds with libertarian values in both social and economic issues, though he has landed the endorsement of Gary Johnson.

In conclusion, the Republican looks like a libertarian and the Libertarian looks like a progressive and the Democrat is the only one who isn’t confusing me. He’s buddies with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Ken Cuccinelli, while perhaps more libertarian in some ways than Robert Sarvis, isn’t really all that libertarian, identifying most clearly as a conservative. What is the libertarian voter to do? I expect in-fighting and intrigue on minor points, but this is most likely to occur within a single party.

Despite nay-saying by some, Robert Sarvis certainly is a Libertarian. Ken Cuccinelli is too socially conservative to be confused as a Libertarian. It’s all very exciting and we’re paying attention to this election – so there’s that. Don’t  judge a book by its cover – it may have been misshelved.

November 5th Update: The results are in. A majority of Virginians (52%) did NOT vote for winner Terry McAuliffe, and third place Robert Sarvis failed to break the 10% threshold which would have put the Libertarian party on the ballot.  Ken Cuccinelli didn’t win either. Libertarian FAIL.

Drone On

To much fanfare, President Obama announced that the Federal Government will scale back the use of drone strikes, with new restrictions on “deciding whom to kill.” Targeted killings have been carried out in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan and other far off lands (away from American citizen’s concern) for the last decade in a generally secretive manner. The objective is to kill suspected terrorists and as few other people who have nothing to do with terrorism as possible.

The war in Afghanistan, which has no legitimate objective and now exists only as an agenda item to give the military as we know it legitimacy, is scheduled to conclude by the end of 2014. The fact that one can even schedule the end of a war so far in advance (or at all) proves the war exists because someone scheduled it into existence in the first place.  And while the President and his people are brainstorming and graphing out the most convenient time to end this war (and plan the next one), they managed to come up with clever new bullet points about whom to kill and whom not to kill.

Gee, I’m glad they could fit it in.

Foreign Interventionism continues as the de facto method of American interaction with the rest of the world, and despite their arguments about whom to kill, the two largest parties are still arguing over quantities of deaths and who started it in the first place. No one is questioning the deeper issue of whether we should be involved at all, as fingers continue to point, always at others. President Bush started using the drones, but President Obama has continued the practice with generally increasing intensity over the successive years. Still, the Democrats try to project an image of respectability with their timetables for withdrawal and commitment to target terrorists “only when children are not around,” as Secretary of State John Kerry compassionately pointed out (a clever distraction). Mr. Kerry also says that his team has thought about their actions good and hard, so mistakes are rarely made. Republicans like John McCain, who by no means represents his entire party, and probably doesn’t spend much time thinking good and hard, would like to use more force (without a schedule or timetable) – a position that moves bonus points over to President Obama simply by the existence of such an idea. All the President’s has to do is frown and disagree.

The President’s party will applaud his commitment to peace, and using the “least destructive way to fight people…who are conspiring against the United States.” But there are so many things wrong with a government that tries to make itself look good by pointing out how few people it has killed compared to the other faction of the same government, especially when the opposite may be true. Motives can blind us from the truth when we’re told that killing conspirators saves lives.

At the end of the day the President has suggested that using drones to target and kill suspected terrorists is probably not a good idea, and we should have some stricter guidelines in place. He wants the government to be more responsible, and even though he has the power to stop the practice like a bad habit, he’s going to keep droning on with his global assassination campaign anyway. At least we now know he has a conscience to reject.

Brush Your Own Teeth

The people of Portland will vote with their toothbrushes this May.

Last August the City Council voted to add fluoride to the city’s drinking water, as Portland is one of the largest cities in the country that has not yet done so. Anti-fluoride activists were up in arms, bristling at the thought. Signatures were gathered and a referendum will now be set before the people. Voting was originally scheduled for 2014, but the vote has been moved to the upcoming odd-year election when participation is low due to the absence of any national concerns on the ballot. Your individual vote couldn’t be more important.

I divide the disapproving into two groups, both frowning. Some are opposed to fluoride, the actual physical element, and others are opposed to digressing individual rights and might not care much about scientific debate as much as misplaced executive order (or city council order anyway). I identify more with the government oppression crowd, but see value in brushing my own teeth. I happen to be going to the dentist tomorrow morning.

Proponents of mass fluoridation, such as Everyone Deserves Healthy Teeth, and many dentists believe that things worth doing can only be done by the government. If we can’t be trusted to brush our own teeth, this typical progressive mindset will soon lead to a ban on personal ownership of toothbrushes themselves.

Once fluoridation is introduced, the matter of regulating the precise amount becomes a central concern. Most who think about it would agree that too much fluoride is bad beans, so the question which cannot be answered is, “How much is too much?”  The pro-fluoridation camp insists that the amounts in question and in use are miniscule, so as to be insignificant. This is probably true, but I’d rather trust my own judgement on what is best for my own body, teeth included.

Rather than force all water drinkers in the city to ingest a potentially suspect chemical, why not reach out directly to the people who really want the benefits of fluoride or need a little help? If the city is going to spend money on something (inevitably spent on everyone equally or on certain people specifically), why not help lower income folks and others for whom the benefit is intended, by providing additional preventative dental services and actual dental care? There’s some of that already going on, so why not do enough to matter? It will surely save us all money and just the teeth that need it.

I’ll leave it to others to argue about the possible negative effects of fluoride, both on the natural environment and to our individual bodies. The unknowns are small uncertainties and thus open to debate, but the matter is hardly proven science one way or another. Even if many dentists recommend mass fluoridation of the city water supply, some experts say it’s not a good idea.

While the science is perplexing to me, removing personal responsibility only increases our tax burden as we all begin to brush each other’s teeth. The tooth brushes will grow bigger and bigger. We might even start using one big brush. The Portland Toothbrush. We’ll fight over what color it is and which medicine cabinet to keep it in. There will be a bristle for each of us, and we’ll all spit into the same sink.

It’s not miracle water. You still have to brush your own teeth.

Happy New Year From the Fiscal Cliff

Our government has done it again. They’ve made themselves necessary and showed that we need them to save us from themselves. If the war of the week isn’t big enough or the weather isn’t quite bad enough, a fiscal cliff ought to get our attention. I would like nothing better than for Congress to have nothing to do over the holidays.

But the bipartisan beast has reared its head again, as the House followed after the Senate to sidestep the disaster they created. The Democrats naturally want to increase funding to feed their bloated bureaucracy, but the Republicans showed up to unite the team after stalling just long enough to point out a few differences of  opinion… and… things… and stuff… and ok we’ll go along with that. Eventually, most Republicans succumbed to media spin and avoided being cast as the ones who might have saved us from the bill to save us from ourselves. Libertarians would have loved the chance.

Clearly the Congress has its priorities somewhere else, evidenced by their being in session on a holiday and involved in this silly exercise to fund the government. Not only should they have figured out how to fund their budgets and agendas a long time ago, there shouldn’t be so much to figure out. This is like getting excited about making the minimum payment on a credit card just to keep it a few dollars under the maximum credit limit. Woo.

They didn’t even pass this bill on time (a day late). President Obama basically said thanks for, “paying the bills guys,” and then headed back to vacation with his family where he should have been all week anyway. I enjoyed his request to Congress for, “a little less drama, a little less brinkmanship and (to) scare folks a little less in future fiscal dealings,” but he is just passing blame that rests equally with his administration as it does with Congress.

Senator Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican said, “”I reluctantly supported (the bill) because it sets in stone lower tax rates for roughly 99 percent of American taxpayers. With millions of Americans watching Washington with anger, frustration and anxiety that their taxes will skyrocket, this is the best course of action we can take to protect as many people as possible from massive tax hikes.”

Again, Congress is pointing out that they are necessary to save the day. Republicans are reluctant, while Democrats are happy to be of service. Same end result.

Republicans talk about cutting spending, but most will continue their part in feeding the bipartisan beast. Even if not spoken of today, Neocons have their own high spending schemes to fund, such as unconstitutional wars and foreign aid.  A compromise now, “…would avert most of the immediate pain and postpone Congress’ fiscal feud for two months…” Then they’ll do this again and there will be new villans.

Congressman Ron Paul commented that, “They’re arguing over power and… who looks good… but they’re all trying to preserve this system. Whatever they do will just be fluff and will not solve our problems… They’re like a bunch of drug addicts that just want another fix.”

So, if the Fed can just print more money (like it freely does), why do they even bother with raising taxes through an elaborate and drama induced fiscal cliff extravaganza?

Don’t Tax the Church

I saw this meme posted on Facebook recently:

Facebook Meme

Why should the churches be taxed? As a punishment to make them pay their fair share? Though the issue of churches and taxes is most commonly associated with the paying or not paying of property taxes, the popular sentiment on Facebook around this and other images I’ve seen shows an interest in punishing the church simply for being the church. It could be that those who Like this poster don’t know that churches are exempt from certain taxes, and may not know that churches are voluntary associations funded by voluntary contributions from individuals who also pay a portion of their income to the government in taxes. The latter is a non-voluntary contribution.

A common topic thrown around in the media lately is the need to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for the ballooning scope of the federal government. The big red balloon needs more hot air, so why not target other groups that seem to have a good thing going? The cathedral in the image above certainly gives that impression, but must everything successful be taxed just for existing? The government certainly has no jurisdiction over the finances of the church, no matter which denomination or congregation. The same people who call for ever-increasing taxes might be the same that constantly complain of a lack of separation of church and state, on the grounds that they don’t want to be imposed upon by the church. Apparently imposing on the church is acceptable.

Churches vary significantly in their beliefs, liturgy and involvement in the community, but generally church members voluntarily contribute money as they wish to the local church affiliation of their choosing because that is where they want their money to go. Churches do help a lot of people outside the church, both domestically and internationally, but the church is not required to meet some sort of entitlement quota. That group of individuals can direct their money to whatever cause they choose and do so as a voluntary benefit to the community at various scales.

One condition for maintaining a tax exempt status is that the church must not forward a political agenda. Charitable organizations (religious or not) are said to provide a benefit to society and serve public purposes. If these organizations are taxed, they would not be able to provide those benefits and services due to the excessive financial burden. Government taxation itself can provide similar benefits and services, and does compete directly with charitable organizations. This can lead to churches falling behind in competition to provide services because voluntary contribution surely goes down as taxation goes up. With a tax, the government would be hitting the church on two sides.

Individuals financially support each other every day, in one way or another. And whether we choose to or not. Taxation is a transfer in the method by which benefits are provided to those in need. Whereas an individual might wish to choose to support a certain mission organization that digs wells in Africa, he may instead decide that because he had to pay a certain amount of taxes this year, that hardship gives him little choice over where his money goes as he decides instead to send the African well money to pay his rent. The tax money goes to fund whatever Congress thinks is a worthy recipient (sometimes this individual agrees with Congress, but often he does not). The result is that we do not control the fruits of our own labor and may be unable to help a group that has a special meaning to us because our money is first going to a cause we personally find inappropriate.

In addition to the right of the individual to direct his finances towards the cause of his choice, another strong reason not to tax the church is that America has a separation of church and state. We do not have an official religion (i.e. government religion). A tax on the church prohibits the free exercise of religion. You cannot have separation and taxation. There is a tension between government regulation and free speech from the pulpit, as a church leader who gives certain political opinions could cause his church to lose their tax exempt status. This can be seen by some as a violation of First Amendment rights, but if the government should stay out of the church, then the church should stay out of the government.

“Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:21 (ESV).

Individuals should give charitably with a personal conscience rather than by forced taxation.

Leaving Office Early

Republican South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint recently announced that he will be leaving Congress in January. He has served only two years of his second (six year) term, and will be taking a position as President of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Having just been reelected in 2010, should he walk away from the responsibility bestowed by the voters?

You will remember another early-leaver (quitter?). Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska and 2008 Republican Vice-Presidential candidate. She had barely cleared the snow from her desk in Juneau before she left office after only 2.5 years. She took a lot of heat for her inexperience while campaigning with John McCain. That feeling only increased when she abruptly left the highest office of the northern state to cash in on her fame by writing a book and joining the television political commentary circuit.

A bit closer to home, and a few years prior, we had a similar situation with current Portland Mayor-Elect, Charlie Hales (set to take office in January 2013). It was 2002 when he left his position as Portland City Commissioner with over a year and a half to go in his third term. He took a job with an engineering firm to promote street car transportation. While in office he was a champion of the streetcar, successfully bringing that form of rail transportation to downtown Portland. During the recent mayoral campaign, he also felt some heat for not sticking it out during his last stint in local politics. Unlike Palin, Hales was forgiven and voted back in.

Is leaving office early acceptable or not?

I suppose there are worse things one could do. Like stick around too long. The States and various jurisdictions have laws for replacing outgoing politicians, so the people are not really at much of a loss on representation. The bigger problem is the opposite problem: those politicians that just don’t seem to ever go away. Term limits are another subject entirely.

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City (2002-current), helped get the rules changed to increase the two-term limit to three-terms in time to let him run again. It’s worked out well for him so far, though many residents seem to wish they hadn’t allowed it. Current governors Jerry Brown (1975-1983!, 2011-current) of California and John Kitzhaber (1995-2003, 2011-current) of Oregon are serving their third terms, though non-consecutive. No rules were changed, and this is a fair move. But it seems like a sneaky maneuver.

Our problems with entrenched politicians pale in comparison to those in other countries, where the powerful maintain their position for many years. Vladimir Putin has manipulated Russian politics for sometime, having served as either Prime Minister or President or Prime Minister or President continuously since 1999. Fidel Castro was of course the leader of Cuba for over 52 years (and some dinosaurs).

We should respect the faithful completion of a full term, but I can appreciate the politician’s decision to leave office early. It’s his life, and he shouldn’t feel entrapped in a position he no longer feels is a good situation. Those who leave seem to have a pretty good gig waiting for them, and they know that they’ll most likely not be welcomed back. We probably won’t see Jim DeMint or Sarah Palin in an elected position anytime soon, though we’ll continue to hear from them. Charlie Hales is playing small ball in local politics, so he can get away with more.

It’s the other guys we have to worry about, and it’s our own fault for voting them back in. Again and again.