Steve G.

Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Where Was The Libertarian Party?

In Activism, Civil Liberties, Congress, Constitutional Rights, Democracy, Democrats, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Medical Marijuana, People in the news, Politics, Republican, US Government on November 25, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Election Day 2009 has come and gone. Relatively speaking, this election was as insignificant as any off-year election is, as opposed to a mid-term election, but it still could have been an important year for the Libertarian Party, if we had simply bothered to show up. There were six elections / ballot initiatives which could have possibly been affected by the Libertarian Party… if we actually had a long-term strategic plan. As it is, some things happened for which it is notable that the LP had no role in. In no particular order, let’s look at where we could have had real impacts this year.

Governor’s Race – New Jersey: New Jersey voters tossed out their incumbent Democratic Governor, Corizine, in favor of Republican Chris Christie. It may have happened because Corizine is very unpopular with the citizens of his government-corruption prone state .While Christie’s election is not necessarily a bad thing, what made this election notable was that it swung on independent voters. Christie won 49% of the vote, Corizine won 44% and independent candidate Chris Dagget walked away with 5% of the vote.

Governor’s Race – Virginia: Republican candidate, Bob McConnell, with 60% of the vote, easily won election over his Democratic opponent, Creigh Deeds. For over 35 years, Virginians have consistently voted into office Governors of the opposition party to that of a sitting President, so this win might have seemed inevitable. What made this race notable for the LP is that it was again the independent voters who made the difference. In 2008, Virginia bucked its own tradition of voting for Republican presidential candidates and, instead, voted for Democratic candidate Obama. In that case, Obama won because Virginia’s independent voters were pretty evenly split between Obama and McCain. This year, however, independent voters were 2 – 1 in favor of McConnell and we can see the results from that quite easily.

Mayor’s Race – New York: In this race, Independent candidate Michael Bloomberg won a very narrow victory against his Democratic opponent, the essentially unknown City Comptroller. The name of the Democratic candidate is not important. What is important is that even with spending approximately $100,000,000 (yes, 100 million) dollars of his own money, Bloomberg only won 51% of the total vote, only 5 points ahead of his Democratic opponent. This will be Bloomberg’s third term, which was only possible because he supported changes to New York City’s term limit law, which had limited mayors to only being able to be elected for two terms. A strong Libertarian presence could have raised the term-limit issue by speaking strongly for them.

House of Representatives Race – New York’s 23rd District: What can be said here that hasn’t already been said? In what was probably the most noteworthy race of 2009? For the first time in over 150 years, this district will not be represented by a Republican. The story is remarkable. The Republican Party chose Dede Scozzafava, an NRA-approved candidate who also was pro-choice and in favor of same-sex marriage. The Democratic Party chose an un-noteworthy sacrificial lamb, Bill Owens, because the New York state House has a one person majority and they didn’t want to risk losing that majority by running their state Representative in an “unwinnable” race. So what happened? The far-right stepped in and ran their own Conservative Party candidate, Doug Hoffman, against Scozzafava. Why? Because she wasn’t conservative enough to satisfy far-right extremists, like Sarah Palin and Dick Armey. I think that this race was probably the most important this year because for what it signifies. The extreme far-right conservatives are not interested in Republican Party loyalty, they put political ideology above all else. Hoffman had no knowledge of or concern for “his” district’s local issues, he didn’t even live in that district In a move reminiscent of the worst examples of the “rotten boroughs” in British politics before the 20th century, the national leaders in the far-right conservative movement found someone whose only “qualification” was the purity of his ideology. Don’t worry though, if Hoffman HAD won, he promised that he would move into the District he would then be representing. Scozzafava eventually pulled out of the race and put her support behind the Democratic candidate. The extreme conservatives didn’t simply put their own candidate in a roll to beat the Republican candidate; they chased a loyal Republican out of the Republican Party, itself. In the end, enough loyal Republicans still voted for her that Conservative Hoffman lost. The final tally? 49% to 45% to 6%. I told you, folks… they’re eating their own.

This race, more than any other, demonstrates the collectivist desires of the extreme far-right conservatives… Local issues are not important to them; they want nothing less than to fill Congress with extreme conservative political ideologues who will put the desires of the conservative movement above every other consideration. Ideological purity is their litmus test, and having elected officials who will do the bidding of political masters instead of serving the needs of their constituents is a model for a one-party state with a collectivist government. We have seen such systems before and, trust me; their loyalty is NOT to their constituents… it is to their party. The far-right conservative extremist movement is trying to lead America down a very dangerous road.

In addition to these for elections, there were two ballot initiates that need to also be included in our summary. The first of these was the vote to overturn the law which passed the Maine legislature that made same-sex marriage legal in Maine. Drawing an immense amount of support from OUTSIDE the state, the conservatives managed to overturn that law by garnering 53% of the public vote to repeal it. The other ballot initiative we need to make note of was the approval in Breckenridge, Colorado of a law which decriminalizes all personal possession of one-ounce or less of marijuana. State and federal laws are still in place but for the first time, a city has stood up and said “it isn’t worth the government fighting to enforce those laws”. And who was responsible for this victory? If you said the Libertarian Party, you would be completely wrong. The organization that was responsible for getting 71% of the voters to approve that law was the modestly named ‘Sensible Colorado’… 71 freaking percent of the voters approved this and the LP had no hand in (and, thus, get no credit for) this win. Both of these initiatives were about personal freedom, personal MORAL freedom. If we, as Libertarians, are not the ones who can stand up for the side of freedom, then who the hell needs us?

So, what lessons should the LP learn from these elections? A couple of things. One is that being an extreme far-right, conservative neo-Republican party will not win for us. Those people are not disaffected, they are simply scared. They have their own machine and we would simply get swallowed entirely by them… and good-bye to the Libertarian Party. Another lesson is that independents really do matter. They might not be enough to win an election on their own, but that can certainly swing an election. In these elections we can all see the importance of a liberal movement. If we can mobilize it, we can win. The moderates, independents and liberals who turned out in numbers sufficient to elect Obama last year are the unmotivated and disaffected pool of voters we can turn to. There is power there, strength that is simply waiting to be utilized.

The Republicans are feeling elated about winning the two governor’s races this year. They are patting themselves on the back by seeing importance on the wrong victories. While governors might be the Chief Executives in their state, they have no role in formulating national legislation. The two House elections this year, both of which were won by the Democratic candidates, are much more significant in the larger picture of current American politics. What this says about the 2010 election possibilities is fascinating.

Candidates in reliable Republican districts will now be facing primary challenges from the far-right if they are not seen as being ideologically pure enough. Why is that important? Remember center-left Republican Senator Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island? He had to spend most of what he had in his campaign war chest to beat a far-right Republican opponent for the Party’s nomination. After the primary fight, he didn’t have enough money left to effectively campaign for the Senate seat, itself, and he lost to the Democratic nominee. We can look for more of this in 2010 as big money from national figures fighting for their far-right agenda will flood into the coffers of Republican candidates who aren’t seen as being conservatively pure. Any primaries in which the far-right challenger looses will leave the winner with little or no money to campaign for the actual seat or office in question.

Since Obama’s election a year ago, he has turned this country’s very active liberal base into an unmotivated “lost generation” looking for someone to give them hope. THAT is where our future lies. WE need to be the ones who can break the American liberals out of their ennui, to rally and mobilized the untapped political power they represent. THEY are the people who can make or break elections. Those people are looking for leadership and hope. Now is the time to bring back Ed Clark’s Libertarian movement. Now is when we need his “low-tax liberals” to rise up again and take the Libertarian Party back from the neo-Republicans. In every one of the elections I have mentioned here, WE could have made a difference, we could have made ourselves known again to the general public, we could have been leaders… and, to be politically viable, our future rest with being able to harness the unfocused liberalism which Obama has let wither away. The conservative extremists are destroying the Republican Party and the Democratic Party is showing itself to be incapable of leadership. There are holes being torn in American politics and, as nature abhors a vacuum, those holes WILL be filled. What we have to ask ourselves is, can we the party that fills those holes?

Since 1984, the LP has driven itself to an extreme end of the American political spectrum, an end that is mostly allied with the extreme far-right. That is not what first attracted the general public to the idea of libertarianism. It was the combination of the ideas of fiscal responsibility AND liberal social policies that first put the LP on the lips of the American people. Both the Republicans and the Democrats parties are moving farther and deeper into their own ideological extremes. I believe that any two-party system is going to naturally gravitate between polar opposites. The reason that it is important for America to also have a centrist party is because there needs to be a party that can comfortably welcome people from the right, left and middle. What makes the Libertarian party important is not conservative or liberal politics; it is our view of the role and function of government. What we oppose is authoritarianism. Personally, I am pretty far to the left while the political figure I know and admire the most is pretty far to the right; I believe that some government is necessary and she is an anarchist. Where we find commonality is our shared belief that neither the Republican nor the Democratic Party are serving the American people. THAT is why we both share a belief in libertarian philosophy, and the day that we can get both my moderate right Republican father and my independent green (liberal AND vegetarian) sister to vote for our candidates is the day that we will know that we have arrived.

Rhys M. Blavier
Romayor, Texas

“Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor”

© Copyright 2009 by Rhys M. Blavier

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Yesterday’s Townhall Meeting With Ben Cardin: Part III

In Activism, Health, Libertarian, Live-blogging, Media, Nanny State, Protest, US Government on August 13, 2009 at 4:43 pm

The event having ended, the crowd stands up and many file to exit.  Some stand around to talk with one another.  One gentleman comes to me to inquire about the meetings of the College Libertarians of Towson while many others, at least twenty, comment to me that I asked a great question.

As I exit the building, I see night has arrived.  I also see what I had not expected: hundreds of people outside with signs and flags.

One woman is holding a Gadsden flag, and I enquire as to where she got it, hoping to perhaps be able to purchase one of my own.  She informs me that she had gotten it at a Tea Party protest.

Although posters and signs had been banned inside the building, they were on full display outside.  There were also persons handing out flyers with information regarding a petition they wished for attendees to sign, a petition declaring their objection to the government’s new plan.

Walking from the building to the road, virtually every protestor there was against the government’s plan, many holding signs declaring government involvement in healthcare to be socialist.  I saw virtually no counter-protestors in favour of the statist plan until I reached the road itself, where the pro-statism counter-protestors stood on one side of the road and the anti-statism protestors on the other.  A quick glance at the two sides confirmed what one might suspect: the anti-statism side, which was chanting “No Obama care, no Obama care!” was larger than the pro-statism side.

One protestor, on the anti-statism side, yelled to me as I was crossing the street, “Did he answer your question?”  I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond.  After all, Cardin indeed had responded to my question, but not in any satisfactory way.

Still receiving compliments for my question, I made my way to my truck.  Traffic was slow, but I eventually escaped, driving past both groups of protestors.

All in all, it was a rather good event.  It was an absolute pleasure to see the masses verbally tearing down a member of the political class, instead of treating the politician like some holy cow not to be touched or demeaned.  There is nothing magical about politicians, after all—they are humans, just like us; they are flawed, just like us; and, in the state of nature, they are our equals, not our glorious, unquestionable superiors.

This is not to say that all of the sentiments of those who attended should be applauded.  Rather, it’s to say, as Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1787 to Abigail Adams, that the “spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive.  It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all.  I like a little rebellion now and then.  It is like a storm in the Atmosphere.”

Those wishing to contact their representatives to encourage them to adopt a separation of healthcare and state are encouraged to visit DownsizeDC.org.

—Alexander S. Peak

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Yesterday’s Townhall Meeting With Ben Cardin: Part II

In Activism, Health, Libertarian, Live-blogging, Media, Nanny State on August 12, 2009 at 5:01 pm

The first four questions were selected from among the blue cards submitted earlier in the night, and were read by the administrator in the green tie.

The first question, read at 7:34, asked whether “illegal” immigrants would be included in the healthcare system, to which Mr. Cardin responded that they would not.

The second question, read at 7:35, concerned small business.  Cardin responded by claiming deep concern for small business, and noted that he was on a committee dealing with small business for this exact reason.

At 7:36, the question read asked how these new proposals did not constitute socialised healthcare.  Not surprisingly, Mr. Cardin tried to assure us that it was not; the audience, however, was not buying it.

Finally, at 7:37, the question read asked how these new proposals could possibly save us money.  More on money, later.

At 7:38, the floor was finally opened to direct questions from the audience, unfiltered by the man in the green tie.  A few minutes were taken up in setting up the microphones, which the administrators wanted to set up no closer to the stage than aisle eight.  Thus, the lines that had quickly formed had to keep stepping back.  I shan’t list all of the questions asked, nor Cardin’s response to each—I will, however, list the more interesting or popular ones.

At 7:43, a gentleman asked about tort reform, and why it has not been included in any of the proposals.  This question received huge applause from the audience.  When the applause dwindled, he added, “Is it because most members of Congress are lawyers?”

A gentleman at 7:45 asked whether Congress would be included in any plans that are adopted, to which Cardin said they would.

At 7:47, an audience member asked Mr. Cardin to cite the specific clause, section, and article of the Constitution that grants to the federal state the authority to get itself involved in matters of health.  This question, to the best of my memory, received a standing ovation.  A woman behind me yelled to Cardin, “I have a copy [of the U.S. Constitution] here if you want to see it!” but I am sure she was heard only by those in her general vicinity, given the loud nature of the applause.

Around 7:53, I had the opportunity to ask my question.  I had been working on it all day.  My original draft was three-and-a-half note-card pages long, and included discussion of anarchism.  And had the majority in the audience appeared in favour of the statist policy suggestions, I probably would have risked reading the whole thing.  But because 90% of the audience was already opposed to the “healthcare” schemes Congress is brewing, I figured it would be more reasonable to present a truncated question.

And thus I began by stating my affiliation with the College Libertarians of Towson, which I’m happy to say received some moderate applause.

Following my affiliation statement, I began:  “Harry Browne often said, ‘Government is good at one thing:  It knows how to break your legs, hand you crutches, and say, “See, if it weren’t for the government, you wouldn’t be able to walk!”’”  This comment received both laughter and applause, so I waited until the applause ended before continuing.  “According to Dr. Mary Ruwart, best-selling author of Healing Our World in An Age of Aggression, we can cut the cost of healthcare by 80% by getting government out of healthcare.  Why is it—”  I had to stop speaking, for at this point I again received applause. I continued, “Why is it, then, that we are moving in the direction of bigger government rather than smaller government?”

After I finished my question, I headed to my seat and listened to Mr. Cardin’s reply.  He essentially said that he didn’t see the 80% figure as realistic.

Had I instead asked him my longer question, it would have listed ways in which healthcare really would become cheaper without government.  For one thing, if we have complete free trade with Canada (and all other countries), then we can freely purchase drugs from these other countries, and thus we can shop around for better deals than we might otherwise be able to get.  For another, without the government-created patent system which gives an unnatural monopoly to big business, then drug companies would have to compete on a truly free market, and they would not be able to charge customers exorbitant costs.  Without the evil FDA, which costs tens of thousand (if not hundreds of thousands) of lives every year, drug companies would not have to go through years and years of bureaucratic red tape, and could instead submit their drugs to private companies similiar to Underwriters Laboratories for testing.  But because drugs cannot be sold in the U.S. without FDA approval, and because it costs so much to get this government monopoly to approve any drug, the costs are passed along to the consumers who thus suffer.  We can also cut costs by alleviating doctors of their onerous government paperwork if we were to turn Medicare and Medicaid into private charities.  And if we were to eliminate government mandates on insurance companies, then insurance companies could tailor their plans to fit what customers want, instead of forcing us to conform to whatever it is that the politicians and bureaucrats think is best for us.

The elimination of government involvement in healthcare would have very liberating effects for consumers of healthcare.  But Cardin doesn’t see the savings as realistic.

At 7:59, I noticed that Mr. Cardin once again looked tiffed.  At no point did he cuss at his audience or stamp his foot, but he made it perfectly clear that he was in stark disagreement with the majority of his audience.

Someone, pointing out that Congress rarely reads the bills it signs, asked if Mr. Cardin would promise to read the bill prior to voting for it.  He promised he would, although I have to wonder how fully he aimed to keep this promise.  Would he read it verbatim himself, or would he get his aids to read it and then summarise it for him?

A person at 8:09 asked about interstate commerce in health insurance, asking why Congress hasn’t made it legal for consumers to shop around.

Another person, at 8:11, pointed out that there were ultimately not very many slides employed by Mr. Cardin, and then asked why it is therefore necessary to have 1,000-page bills.  This question definitely received applause, but the person was not done with questions.  “Can you name even one thing that the private sector was doing that the government took over and made more efficient?” this person asked, and received a standing ovation.  Mr. Cardin ignored the first half of the question and focused on the second half for his response.  I do not at this time recall his responses, but I do recall that he received laughs.

The gentleman who spoke at 8:26 said that if the Founders were there, they would be horrified, and would be looking for ways to get government out of healthcare, to which he received a standing ovation.  He continued by asking, “So why is it that instead, we’re handing over healthcare to a monopoly?: the government!”

The last person to speak pointed out that government rationing of healthcare seemed more similar to some sort of Hitlerian scheme than something we ought to champion as American.  Finally, the event ended at 8:30.

—Alexander S. Peak

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Yesterday’s Townhall Meeting With Ben Cardin: Part I

In Activism, Health, Immigration, Libertarian, Live-blogging, Media, Nanny State, Police State, Protest, US Government on August 11, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Yesterday, I attended Ben Cardin’s Townhall meeting at Towson University.  The purpose of the meeting was to discuss healthcare in America.  Ben Cardin currently serves as one of Maryland’s U.S. senators.

I arrived at 4:11, even though the event was not sceduled to begin until 7:00 PM.  Nevertheless, there was already a line.

This line grew quickly, and by 5:30, the Towson University administration began turning people away.

When they finally let us into the auditorium, they inspected bags and purses to ensure an absence of weapons and food.  Walking through the auditorium door, we were each handed blue cards on which we would write down a question for Mr. Cardin along with our contact information.  Inside the auditorium, classical music played.

I sat toward the front.  At 6:57, a gentleman in the corner of the room holding a small camera was asked to be seated.  It was difficult to hear their conversation, but the man appeared to ask the administrator if it was okay for him to stand where he was for the simple purpose of recording the event and the audience, to which the administrator clearly told him it was not.  The man submitted to the administrator.

I commented to the woman sitting to the right of me, “That guy wasn’t harming anyone,” to which she responded, “Yeah, none of us [audience members] had a problem with him.”

About a minute later, Cardin and a few others walk out.  I had not been paying attention to the stage as I was reading my book, but the audience reaction told me all I needed to know, and so I closed the book.  An administrator in a green tie makes some brief opening remarks.  All three persons and on the stage in front of the audience, and two projection screens stand on either side of the three persons.  Behind the podium are three nice-looking chairs, and above the chairs is a banner—probably paid for with your tax dollars—that said, “Every American Deserves Healthcare.”

The administrator lists a bunch of people who were there that night, most of the names being unfamiliar to me.  I presume a number were state delegates.  Although our other senator, Ms. Barbara Mikulski, was not present, her name was mentioned for some reason—perhaps her aids were in the audience.  Although most of the names mentioned received applause, her name received boos from the audience.

I became immediately aware of how lively this audience was going to be.  Clapping and booing were both highly-valued means of communication throughout the night.

Following the administrator, a woman spoke. She explained the troubles her family is facing, and how difficult it’s been caring for her children, the youngest of whom has some serious ailments.  Needless to say, the entire audience—regardless of what its individual members thought about the healthcare crisis—felt sympathy for this woman, the husband of whom currently works two jobs to make ends meet in our turbulent economy.  She ended her brief presentation by saying that she did not know what the best solution to our nation’s problems is, but that she hoped that events such as this townhall meeting would help to flesh out some of the problems and their solutions.

I could not help, when listening to her presentation, but to think that many of the problems she faced were the fault of statist intervention into the healthcare system and into the economy as a whole.

The audience was, for the most part, respectful to this woman.  This audience did not hold the same respect for the man who spoke next—the politician.

Cardin began speaking at 7:09, and he faced many hecklers.  It was really a beautiful sight: people, refusing to place politicians on some godlike pedistal, but instead speaking their mind, challenging the establishmen man, and, in so doing, challenging the entire elitist system!

This isn’t to say I loved every utterance that this audience made.  I was extremely annoyed to hear some audience members whining, “What about the illegals!?”  Such narrow-minded rhetoric was, in my opinion, a detriment to the otherwise-glorious anti-government arguments and sentiments of the crowd.  I half-wanted to pull these anti-immigrationists off to the side and chastise them for their wrongheaded focus, but decided against it.

Cardin had various slides he wanted to show the audience, but the audience was getting wrestless.  “We want to ask you questions!”  “Let us ask questions!”  Still, Cardin continued.

One of his slides, unvailed at 7:18, showed the increasing cost of health insurance over the past ten years.  Looking at the slide, I couldn’t help but to suspect that it was not adjusted for inflation.  Rising costs of health insurance is certainly not a positive thing, of course, but no evidence was presented to indicate that the cause was anything other than the declining value of the dollar.  What is inflation?  Inflation is any increase in the money supply, and it causes the value of each unit of the money supply to drop.  Thus, when the government inflates the dollar by creating new money and credit out of thin air, the purchasing power of the average user of that currency falls.  The solution, therefore, to this problem is not new government mandates and higher taxes; the solution is to abolish the fraudulent institution responsible for inflation the money supply—in the case of America, that institution is the Federal Reserve.

Still facing heckles, Cardin becomes visibly became tiffed a couple minutes later.  He says to his audience at this time something to the effect of, “I know you don’t care about the facts, but…”  The audience responded, unsurprisingly, with further heckles.  Listening to the audience and our guest speaker, I couldn’t help but to feel like I was sitting in the British parliament.

At 7:22, cops walk from the back of the audience down to the front, and stand in the corners of the room.  I didn’t make precise count, but I estimate that about ten cops made this trek, presumably to intimidate speakers by showcasing the might of the state apparatus.  I do not believe anyone actually allowed themselves to be intimidated, but it was an interesting sight nevertheless.  Where has America gone?

At 7:25, in response to calls from the audience to begin the Q&A session, he pleads with the audience to just let him get through the last few slides.  The administrator in the green tie also kept insisting that the audience stay quiet while Cardin finishes his presentation—repeatedly, and to no avail.

Finally, Mr. Cardin finished his presentation at 3:33, and announces that he will now answer questions.  To this, the audience applauded.

—Alexander S. Peak

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Wal-Mart Embraces Fascism

In Corruption, Economics, Health, Media, Personal Responsibility, US Government on July 2, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Wal-Mart embraces fascism.

Is this claim too extreme?  Am I guilty of hyperbole?  In this case, I think not.

According to the 1 July 2009 edition of The Wall Street Journal, Wal-Mart, the largest “private” employer in the United States, is backing a federal initiative that would require employers to provide health insurance to workers.1

There are many reasons to oppose such a requirement—especially if you are a member of the working class.  As John Stossel writes,

Why on earth would we want mandated insurance from employers?!  Do our employers pay for our food, clothing or shelter?  If they did, why would that be good?  Having my health care tied to my boss invites him to snoop into my private health issues, and if I change jobs I lose coverage.  Employer paid health insurance isn’t free.  It just means we get insurance instead of higher salaries.2

According to Ms. Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, “four in ten Americans change their job every year. ”3  This makes employment-based healthcare all the more problematic for workers.  Moreover, Mr. Neil Trautwein with the National Retail Federation has described the employer mandate as “the single most destructive thing you could do to the health-care system shy of a single-payer system.”4

But the undesirability of employment-based health coverage does not alone make Wal-Mart’s Tuesday announcement a support for fascism.  To understand more clearly why the move is in a fascistic direction, we must first know what fascism is.

Fascism is an ideology that holds the state to be the supreme organisation in and engine or society, outside of which all else and everyone else is unimportant.  Mr. Sheldon Richman defines its economic system as “socialism with a capitalist veneer,” one that seeks to control the means of production “indirectly, through domination of nominally private owners.  …[F]ascism [nationalized property] implicitly, by requiring owners to use their property in the ‘national interest’—that is, as the autocratic authority conceived it.  (Nevertheless, a few industries were operated by the state.)”5

Perhaps the best description of the fascist economic model comes from John T. Flynn, who described the system in detail in chapter ten of his 1944 classic As We Go Marching.  The first explicitly fascist state, Italy under Mussolini, established corporatives to direct economic activity and production.  Flynn defines fascist system as “(1) a capitalist type of economic organization, (2) in which the government accepts responsibility to make the economic system work at full energy, (3) using the device of state-created purchasing power effected by means of government borrowing and spending, and (4) which organizes the economic life of the people into industrial and professional groups to subject the system to control under the supervision of the state.”6

Does the federal state’s most recent initiative take us fully into fascism?  Probably not, but it is certainly a step in that direction.

So why, then, would a business want to see the central state usurp greater degrees of power?  The state offers to Big Business what it cannot achieve on the free market: the means to keep out competition.  As historian Gabriel Kolko wrote,

The dominant fact of American political life at the beginning of this century was that big business led the struggle for the federal regulation of the economy.

If economic rationalization could not be attained by mergers and voluntary economic methods, a growing number of important businessmen reasoned, perhaps political means might succeed.7

Kolko’s main thesis is that it was big business that spearheaded governmental regulation of business during the Progressive Era.  The same happens today, and can be exemplified in Wal-Mart’s recent decision.

The Wall Street Journal explains Wal-Mart’s motivation in benign-sounding terms:  “Wal-Mart—which provides insurance to employees”—“wants to level the playing field with companies that don’t.”8  This is a sugary way of saying that Wal-Mart wishes to use the aggressive controls of the state to force firms smaller than it to provide what they may or may not have the resources to provide.  Those firms that are unable to continue operating under the state’s new regulations will, of course, be forced to go out of business (unless they’re able to procure bailouts—this is also problematic), thus leaving less firms with whom Wal-Mart will need to compete.  This is bad not only for workers but also for consumers.

We shouldn’t really be surprised by Wal-Mart’s recent move.  As Mr. Lew Rockwell reported in 2005, Wal-Mart called for an increase to the minimum wage so as to impose a higher cost on smaller competitors.  As Rockwell wrote, “if Wal-Mart can successfully lobby the government to abolish lower-wage firms, it has taken a huge step toward running out its competition.”9

That Wal-Mart would again advocate statist interventions that it knows it can overcome but that its competitors will have more difficulty overcoming goes to show what little Wal-Mart has in way of business ethics.

Notes

1 Janet Adamy and Ann Zimmerman, “Wal-Mart Backs Drive to Make Companies Pay for Health Coverage,” The Wall Street Journal CCLIII, no. 152 (Wednesday, July 1, 2009): A1, A4.

2 John Stossel, “Health Insurance Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be: Mandating Medical Coverage May Sound Good, but You’ve Got to Read the Fine Print,” ABC News, October 16, 2006, http://abcnews.go.com/Health/PrescriptionForChange/story?id=2574980&page=1 (accessed July 1, 2009).

3 John Stossel, “Whose Body is it, Anyway?: Sick in America,” 20/20, September 14, 2007.

4 Adamy and Zimmerman, op. cit., A4.

5 Sheldon Richman, “Fascism,” The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Fascism.html (accessed July 1, 2009).

6 John T. Flynn, “What is Fascism?” in As We Go Marching (orig. 1944; New York, N.Y.: Free Life Editions, Inc., 1973), pp. 54–55.

7 Gabriel Kolko, The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900–1916, (Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1963), pp. 57–58.  Butler Shaffer picks up where Kolko leaves off with Butler Shaffer, In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918–1938, (orig. 1997; Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, Inc., 1999).

8 Adamy and Zimmerman, op. cit., A1.

9 Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., “Wal-Mart Warms to the State,” Mises Daily, December 28, 2005, http://mises.org/story/1950 (accessed July 1, 2009).

—Alexander S. Peak

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Groupthink as a Political Mental Illness (Part II)

In Congress, Corruption, Democracy, Democrats, Health, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Local Politics, Military, Minorities, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Republican, Science, US Government on June 30, 2009 at 1:56 pm

From the studied literature on groupthink, there are a few points which merit mention here.  Smith and White say that:

Fantasies about invulnerability, and about the persecutory intent of external enemies and collective rationalizations of group actions could be understood as a system to help allay the unconscious anxieties of the group-as-a-whole.

A phenomenological approach to what Janis describes as groupthink indicates that a group overwhelmed by internal conflict may gain a great deal of relief if it can locate or create [emphasis added] a strong external enemy (Coser, 1986).  Internal dissension can be seen as trivial in contrast, thereby enabling the displacement of within-group tensions into the relations among groups (Smith, 1982b). In this regard, such internal properties of the group as illusions of unanimity and invulnerability, which may be views as pathological from one perspective, may in fact serve a valuable social function by providing a particular cognitive set to enable a group to “create” an enemy.

(Smith & White, 1983, p. 71)

Anne Gero tells us that:

In a consensus [emphasis in original] decision process, subjects expect [emphasis added] more cooperation and friendliness and less disagreement that they would anticipate in [a] majority decision process.

(Gero, 1985, p. 487)

And that:

I would again emphasize the importance of disagreement to the outcome of group decisions… members may approach a consensus process with anti-disagreement norms.  Preventative or remedial measures should be taken to encourage members to disagree in the consensual process.  If disagreement is suppressed, the conditions of groupthink may develop and threaten the quality of the group’s decisions.

(Ibid., p. 498)

Finally, Callaway, Marriott & Esser mention that:

Highly cohesive groups provide support to their members that reduces conflict and disagreement and hence the stress inherent in decision-making.  However, this stress reduction is achieved at the price of suppressing critical inquiry.

(Callaway, Marriott & Esser, 1987, p. 949)

And that:

In groups of low-dominance individuals, perhaps the assignment of the roles of critical evaluator and devil’s advocate) prescribed by Janis, 1972, to counteract groupthink) must involve personal responsibility in order to overcome the natural reticence of such individuals.

(Ibid., p. 952)

There is one other study which should be mentioned here, although, by title, it does not actually deal with the groupthink phenomenon, and that is a paper by Thomas J. Scheff called “Shame and Conformity: The Deference-Emotion System”.  In the introduction to his paper, Scheff informs us that:

… exterior constraint has become a basic premise for modern sociologists.  Yet, an adequate model has never been conceptualized, much less proposed in an operationally definable way.  Conformity poses a central problem for social science not only in its normal, but also in its pathological form.  What gives rise to excessive and rigid conformity?  This is the question posed by many modern analyses of bureaucracy and authoritarian forms of social organizations.

There is wide consensus that conformity is encouraged by a system of sanctions: we usually conform because we expect to be rewarded when we do and punished when we do not.  However, conformity usually occurs even in the absence of obvious sanctions.  Durkheim’s formulation [the idea that the force of social influence is experienced by individuals as exterior and constraining [emphasis in original] (Durkheim [1987] 1951)] refers to the ubiquity of conformity.  The reward of public acclaim and the punishment of public disgrace rarely occur, yet the social system marches on.  Formal sanctions are slow, unwieldy, and expensive.  In addition to the formal system, there must be a complex and highly effective system of informal sanctions that encourage conformity’

A clue to this puzzle can be found in Goffman’s treatment of interaction ritual (Goffman, 1967).  He notes that the emotion of embarrassment or anticipation of embarrassment plays a prominent role in every social encounter [emphasis in original.  In presenting ourselves to others, we risk rejection.  The form the rejection takes may be flagrant, but it is more frequently quite subtle, perhaps only a missed beat in the rhythm of conversation.  Depending on its intensity and obviousness, rejection leads inevitably to the painful emotions of embarrassment, shame, or humiliation… when we are accepted, as we present ourselves, we usually feel rewarded by… pride…

(Scheff, 1988, pp. 395 – 396)

Scheff also says that he feels that we should be aware of Helen Lewis’s theory of shame since it is a direct opposite of Goffman’s.  Whereas Goffman viewed shame as an external influencing factor, Lewis dealt only with the internal process of shame.  Scheff used an analogy to a metaphor about a contagion between people and pointed to what Lewis called a “feeling trap”, or an inner contagion.  In Goffman’s analysis, one becomes ashamed that the other one is being shamed, w, who, in turn becomes shamed, which increases the first person’s shame, and so on – an inter-personal feeling trap.  In Lewis’s analysis, one becomes ashamed that the one is ashamed, an inner loop which feeds on itself – an intra-personal feeling trap.  However, unlike Goffman, Lewis does not separate her analysis of shame from her analysis of anger.  Instead, she postulates, an affinity between the two emotions, with shame usually being followed by anger.

Scheff explains to us that the reason he has introduced us to these two different concepts of shames and its relationship to anger is the he believes that if we combine Goffman’s ‘social’ analysis with Lewis’ ‘psychological’ one, it is possible to convey the extraordinary of what he calls “the deference-emotion system”.  He believes that this system occurs both between and within interactants, and that it functions so efficiently and invisibly it guarantees the alignment of individuals with mutual conformity and respect leading to pride and fellow feeling, which, in turn, leads to further conformity, which then leads to further positive feeling in a system which seems virtually automatic. (Ibid., pp. 396 – 397)

Scheff next delves into the biological and social sources of shames, with a great deal of emphasis on the work of Charles H. Cooley.  Some of what Cooley goes into is almost frightening in its implications of how deeply Man, himself, and society, as a whole, is built upon a foundation of shame of and a need for pride.  He includes the following to illustrate the power of what he calls “social fear”:

Social fear, of a sort perhaps somewhat more morbid, is vividly depicted by Rousseau in the passage of his Confessions where he describes the feelings that lead him to falsely accuse a maid-servant of a theft which he himself had committed. ‘When she appeared my heart was agonized but the presence of so many people was more powerful than my compunction.  I did not fear punishment, but I dreaded shame: I dreaded it more than death, more than the crime, more than the world.  I would have buried myself in the center of the earth: invincible shame bore down every other sentiment: shame alone caused all of my impudence, and in proportion, as I became the criminal, the fear of discovery rendered me intrepid.  I felt no dread but that of being detected, and of being publically and to my face declared a thief, liar and calumniator.

(Ibid., pp 399 – 400 [emphases added by Scheff])

Scheff uses this episode to make a point he wants us to understand before telling us that:

In modern societies, adults seem to be uncomfortable manifesting either pride or shame.  The emotions of pride and shame often seem themselves to arouse shame [emphasis in original].

(Ibid., p. 400)

Scheff also emphasizes the 1956 conformity studies of Solomon Asch, who testes the hypothesis that;

“Given the kind of task demanded, a majority of the subjects will find group standards compelling, even though they are exterior and contradictory to their own individual standards.

(Ibid., p. 403)

Asch’s conformity studies give a considerable insight into the outer workings of conformity and found that only one-quarter of the test subjects remained completely individual throughout their involvement in the study.

Even though Asch did not design his tests to examine the effects of emotions upon his subjects (he was focused on the ‘what will happen’ of the tests rather than on the ‘why it happens’) and, while he did not ask his subjects about their emotions, he found that many of the responses to his post-study interviews suggested that emotions played an important, if not critical part in how his subjects reacted to situations during the study.  Among the subjects who had yielded to the majority views at least once, he found that many of them found the experience of being in the minority extremely painful.  They felt a negative view of themselves from the point of view of the others.  They were dominated by their exclusion from the group, which they took as a reflection of themselves, and were unable to face a conflict which threatened, in some undefined way, to expose a deficiency in themselves.  Asch also found that the responses of the yielding subjects suggested a denial of conflict, and of the feelings resulting from that denial.  Some of the responses were of complete denial, some were slight, and some were evasive about it.  Some of those subjects also granted to the majority the power to see things correctly, which they came to believe they could not do, and had allowed themselves to become confused so that at the critical point in the study, they adopted the majority judgments without permitting themselves to know of their activity or shift [emphasis added]. (Ibid., pp. 403 – 404)

As for the subjects who had remained completely independent throughout the course of the studies, Asch found that they, too, felt that they were suffering from a defect, as well as their also being troubled by disagreeing with the majority.  They, like the yielding subjects, had felt deep internal conflict and overt shame; however, they persevered through those feelings of conflict and shame and responded according to their own personal perceptions, despite their strong emotional reactions and feelings of personal discomfort. (Ibid., p. 493) What’s more, during their post-study interviews, the independent subjects were apt to be open, frank and forthright about the feelings and doubts which they had experiences over the course of the studies.  One of Asch’s own summaries of these interview responses included the following passage:

“… independence requires the capacity to accept the fact of opposition without a lowered sense of personal worth.  The independent person has to organize his overt actions on the basis of experience for which he finds no support; this he can do only if he respects his experiences and is capable of claiming respect for them.  The compliant person cannot face this ordeal because he equates social opposition into a reflection of his personal worth.  Because he does so, the social conflict plunges him into pervasive and incapacitating doubt.

(Ibid., p. 404)

To bring Asch’s work into its place within his own theory about the role of shame in conforming behaviors, Scheff says that:

The subjects who remained independent, although they experiences shame, had sufficiently high self-esteem to act on their judgments despite [emphasis added] their feelings of shame.  Thos who yielded had low self-esteem and sought to avoid further feelings of shame by acting contrary to their own judgment.

(Ibid., pp. 404 – 405)

Since the yielding subjects had found it easier to deny and go against their own internal judgments that to go against the contrary judgments of the group, it would also seem logical to draw a conclusion that those subjects who had remained completely independent could later face up and admit to their previous feelings of shame and doubt because those feelings had not overwhelmed and conquered them and, thus, they had no further reason to hide from the or from openly admitting to them, while the yielding subjects later had difficulty owning up to their previous feelings of shame and doubt which caused them to conform to the judgments of the group because those feelings had overwhelmed and conquered them and for them to openly admit to having had those feelings would cause them to lose to those feelings all over again.

As a final note, which he makes on his own reactions to Asch’s findings, Scheff tells us that he found one particular remark, which had been made by one of the yielding subjects, to be “troublesome” and “baffling”.  That remark was about how the subject said that he had voted for Dewey in the 1948 Presidential election, even though he preferred Truman, because he thought that Dewey would win and was, thus, preferred by most Americans.  Scheff sums up his own personal reaction to this remark by saying that:

Apparently unacknowledged shame is not only invisible, but insidious.

(Ibid., p. 405)

Scheff closes his paper by postulating that:

If the deference-emotion system is universal, the theory would provide a unitary explanation of conforming behavior, the central problem of social science.

(Ibid., p. 405)

If Scheff’s theory were to be applied towards some of the on-going groupthink research, it could possibly help work out some of the variables which the various researchers have, as yet, been unable to confront or utilize.  It could be especially helpful in such studies conducted within the field of political science because the emotional needs and inherent fears and insecurities of people about their government seem to make them particularly susceptible to groupthink tendencies.

An awareness of what groupthink is, by political scientist, political analysts and commentators, and by ethical political leaders might help them to, if not prevent, then to make the public aware of occurrences of groupthink within political parties and ideologies, as well as in our various branches and levels of government.  Those who actively work to prevent or publicize groupthink and groupthink tendencies within their spheres of influence, interest or study might also find our political world becoming more responsive to the average citizens, as a result.  Those in all fields relating to politics need to make themselves more aware of the potential negative aspects of group dynamics within our political systems for; only by being objective and honest about our political systems and being open to criticism of their negative aspects can they effectively prepare for and combat those aspects.  Conducting groupthink research specifically within the political sciences field might provide the edge we so desperately need to keep our government vibrant and effective and, thus, able to properly serve our citizens better in the future than it has in the past.

Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor

© Copyright 1989 by Rhys M.  Blavier

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Thank you for reading this article.  Please read my other articles and let me know what you think.  I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

Groupthink as a Political Mental Illness (Part I)

In Congress, Corruption, Democracy, Democrats, History, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Politics, Republican, Science, US Government on June 18, 2009 at 1:53 pm

[When I was researching information for my Master’s Paper in 1989, I was looking into the subject of how Greek students being involved in student activities impacted the ability of independent students to be equally involved. What I quickly discovered was that, apparently, NO ONE had ever written anything about this. I was teaching myself how to use a computer while I was doing this and on-line research was rather limited back then. Never-the-less, in trying to find information which would even relate to my topic I discovered studies on groupthink, conformity and shame theory… three areas of psychology that I could also not find any evidence of having been studied together. I was creating my own database on the subject.

I had no knowledge about these things before I started doing my research but, one day that Fall, it all came together in my mind. When it did I was literally stunned and shaking in fright. I called a friend of mine in California and it took me around four hours of talking (pretty much me talking and rambling for four hours and him listening) for me to even calm down. These things haunt me to this very day. While I was doing my research with regard to application within the field of Student Activities and College Unions, I also immediately saw its implications within politics. My entire research paper was close to 90 pages long, but a year later I took a portion of it to create a smaller article to try to get published. Unfortunately, I never heard any response from any of the researchers or student activities / college union journals I sent it to. And so it was all put away in a box and carried around with me for 20 years.

Not too long ago, I found the box the papers were in (hard copies only, of course) and have been wanting to transcribe them so that I could have them computerized. I am starting with the shorter article and, because I reference it or base portions of other articles on what I learned for it, I have decided that I would post it on here… in two parts because it is still too long for a single article on here, and with references to student activities changed to ones about politics… to see if it can help others understand aspects of social psychology within politics that they might not be consciously aware of.  I sincerely hope that this disturbs you, the reader, as much as it has disturbed me.

P.S. — I also developed a method that I thought could successfully combat hazing in schools, especially in Greek systems but, when I would try to get ANY school to let me try them, once it was learned that I, myself, had been an independent student… mostly by administrators who, themselves had been Greeks, I was always told that since I hadn’t been a Greek then I didn’t have basis upon which to make claims to understand them. They would tell me that only other Greeks could understand their ‘culture’ or fix what was broken in it… a classic example of groupthink in action. I eventually let it go, as I did my career in student activities.

P.P.S. — After reading this, can anyone NOT understand why I hold the entire Bush Presidency and administration in contempt? I would like to see someone write a book about the Bush Presidency SPECIFICALLY as a study of groupthink and how it illustrates every indication of the phenomenon.]

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In 1972, Irving Janis, in his book Victims of Groupthink, added a new dimension to the study of group behavior and group dynamics when he described “groupthink” as:

… a quick and easy way to refer to a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are involved in a cohesive in-group; when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative course of action… Groupthink refers to a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures.

(Janis, 1972, p. 9)

That single work seems to have had an immediate and almost historic impact on the study of group behavior.  Since the first publication of Victims of Groupthink, many researchers have been moved to study, to support, or to refute both Janis’s theories and the implications of groupthink.  Whatever has motivated any of these people, one thing is clear; that single work has been the starting point for many, if not all of these studies, and research on this phenomenon uniformly refers to Janis as the originator of the concept of groupthink, as well as its definer.

Early in his book, Janis gives the following story as an example of groupthink:

Twelve middle-class American men and women wanted to stop smoking, and attended weekly meetings at a clinic to discuss the problem.  Early in the sessions, two people stood up and declared that cigarette smoking was an almost incurable addiction.  The group agreed.  The, one man stood up and said “I have stopped smoking and, with a little willpower, so can the rest of you.”  Immediately, the other group members began to abuse him verbally, and the meeting ended in chaos.  The following week, the dissident stood up again and said that he could not both attend all of the required meetings and stop smoking; so he had returned to smoking two packs of cigarettes as day.  The other members welcomed him back into the fold with enthusiasm but no one mentioned that the original purpose of the group was to help each other stop [emphasis in original] smoking.  Their new aim was maintaining the status quo at any cost.

(Ibid, p. 9)

Janis illustrated his theories by using seven recent major historical events; five of which he labeled as fiascoes and the other two which he termed successes relating to the resultant outcomes of those events, based on the decisions that were made.  He argued that the decision making processes in the five fiascoes were faulty, regardless of the outcomes, and, likewise, the decision-making processes used in the successes were effective, even if the events would have not turned out positively.  He stresses that it is the processes used in a group’s decision-making that determines whether or not that group is a victim of groupthink and not the outcomes because bad-decision-making processes can result in good or successful results or outcomes, just as good decision-making processes can result in bad or unsuccessful results or outcomes. (Janis, fig. 10-1)

In his original work (Janis, 1972), Janis identified six major defects in the decision-making process which result I groupthink and which, in turn, result in poor quality decisions.  In the 1982 edition (Janis, 1982), he added a seventh defect to his list.  These seven defects are:

1.)    Discussions are limited to only a few alternatives without surveying all possible alternatives;

2.)   The originally preferred solution is not re-evaluated for non-obvious drawbacks or risks after its initial evaluation;

3.)    Alternatives which are initially discarded are never re-evaluated for non-obvious gains;

4.)   There is little or no attempt made to obtain information or advice from experts on alternative courses of action;

5.)    Where advice IS presented, selective bias on the part of the members is used to evaluate that advice and, thus, they use information which supports the group’s preferences and ignore evidence which is counter to the group’s preference;

6.)   Members fail to consider how groups external to the focal group might react and, therefore, fail to develop contingency plans for possible setbacks or failures; and

7.)    There is a failure to consult all members regarding the objectives to be fulfilled and the values implicated by their choice.

(Janis, 1972, p. 10; Janis, 1982, pp. 9 – 10)

Janis then went on to identify several antecedent condition which are necessary for groupthink to exist, and which relate to structural faults of the organization and the decision-making context.  The primary antecedent condition necessary for groupthink is a highly cohesive group.  The secondary conditions (which relate to the organization’s structural faults) are:

1.)    Insulation of the group;

2.)   Lack of a tradition of impartial leadership;

3.)    Lack of norms requiring methodical procedures; and

4.)   Homogeneity of members’ social background and ideology.

The tertiary conditions (which relate to the decision-making context) are:

1.)    High stress due to isolation of the group (usually for security reasons instituted because of perceived external threats);

2.)   Low hope of a better solution than the leader’s; and

3.)    Low self-esteem temporarily induced by the group members’ perceptions of:

A.)   Recent Failures;

B.)   Moral dilemmas; and

C.)   Excessive difficulty in current decision-making.

Finally, Janis postulates that the existence of these conditions generates eight symptoms of groupthink, which were evident in the fiascoes studies and which serve as the primary means of identifying the occurrences of groupthink.  These eight symptoms are:

1.)    An illusion of invulnerability that is shared by most members, which creates excessive optimism and encourages the group to take extreme risks;

2.)   Collective efforts to rationalize in order to discount warnings which might lead members to reconsider their assumptions before they recommit themselves to past policy decisions;

3.)    An unquestioned belief in the group’s inherent morality, which makes the members inclined to ignore the ethical and moral consequences of their decisions;

4.)   Stereotyped views of enemy leaders, usually considering them as too evil to warrant genuine attempts to negotiate, or as too stupid and / or too weak to counter whatever attempts are made to defeat their purposes;

5.)    Directed pressure on any member who does not conform to the group’s norms, who express strong arguments against any of the group’s stereotypes, illusions, decisions, or commitments, thereby making it clear to all that this type of dissent is contrary to what is expected of all loyal members;

6.)   Self-censorship of individual deviations from the apparent group consensus, reflecting each member’s inclination to minimize to him or herself the importance of his / her doubts and counter arguments;

7.)    A shared illusion of unanimity concerning the judgments conforming to the majority view (partly resulting from self-censorship of deviations, and augmented by the false assumption that silence means consent); and

8.)   The emergence of self-appointed mindguards – members who protect the group from adverse information that might shatter the group’s shared complacency about the effectiveness and morality of their decisions.

(Janis, 1972, pp. 197 – 198)

While Janis’ theories are not perfect, nor even necessarily complete, he has still provided a very strong starting point from which to begin exploring this issue.  Regarding the studies on groupthink which have been reviewed, there are some weaknesses which have been noticed in them, at least as far as their being of any potential benefit to the study of larger groups or political parties. Among these weaknesses are:

1.)    The studied laboratory groups are very small, usually three to five people (six reports studied).  These sized groups do not allow for the effects of internal cliques or sub-groups within a main group to be incorporated within the studies, or to arise independently over the course of the studies.  Thus, while there may be dissension (and / or other such factors) which is created / controlled by the researchers, or which arises independently, these studies groups are still small enough to leave individual subjects as each being a significant percentage of the entire group (33.3% — 20%) and, thus, more individually significant to the group.  Theories and research on ‘diffused responsibility’ indicate that when individuals are such a significant portion of the group, they are more likely to feel that they are more individually important to the group and are, even alone, able to have an impact on the group.  This generally means that they are more likely to retain their personal feelings of responsibility for the decisions and / or actions of their group, as a whole.  If there is dissent, etc., within the group, it can still be dealt with on a person-to-person basis.  In these small groups, if the ‘group’ puts pressure on dissenters, it cannot do so and ‘disguise’ the fact that it is made up of distinct individuals by their being a ‘force’, ‘it, or ‘them’ instead of ‘Mark, Jody, Bill, and Mary’, or ‘those four’. The group dynamic in groups within such a size range is dramatically different from the group dynamics within groups the size political parties, or even local communities.

2.)   There is little, if any, attention placed on what the members of the laboratory groups have to lose if they should feel inclined to dissent from the group’s decisions or actions.  In politics, we deal with the day-to-day lives of average citizens and, while citizens might be able to hide their personal discomfort levels when they are simply, for example, at work by leaving that ‘life’ behind them when they leave work for the day and enter back into their ‘outside-of-work social-life’, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for them to retreat from pressures and discomforts in their social lives in any way other than by withdrawing into themselves and isolating themselves away from inter-personal contact which causes them discomfort.  Therefore, if all that individuals risk losing in a study is closeness with others in that laboratory setting, are they more or less likely to risk that closeness and acceptance by retaining their individuality and dissenting from group pressure than they would be to risk being socially or professionally ostracized from, or losing prestige among their peers (prestige here can mean status but does not necessarily; it is more related to levels of confidence, respect and / or acceptance which an individual feels from their peers) if they should attempt to retain their individuality and dissent from the majority views in a social or political environment?

3.)    There is little mention mad of the emotional or intellectual comfort levels of the subjects when they are within the confines of their group situations.   It would seem to be obvious that these are important factors which need to be considered in such studies.  The more uncomfortable a person feels, or feels they will become if they take a particular dissenting decision or action, shame theory, as well as common sense tells us the more likely they are to do, say or go along with whatever they have to do in order to remain or to once again become comfortable.

4.)   Those studies which use dominant leadership as a factor or variable do not also use group leadership or dominance which comes about through the backing of, or support from, a clique or sub-group within the main group or even, as far as can be told by reading their studies, recognize it as being different from charismatic or personality-based leadership or dominance.  However, in real-life, such group leadership or dominance is a common occurrence, such as the promotion of those who are incompetent to lead or manage, or a ‘puppet’ leader put in place so that those with real power can stay behind the scenes.

5.)    While some of the studies try to create artificial cohesive in-groups in some of their laboratory groups, there is no mention made of the effects which real social relationships between group members has on their responses within a group setting.  For example, if group members do not know each other from outside of their group environment prior to their joining it and, thus build any in-group cohesion, friendships or inter-personal relationships with other group members, are they more or less likely to be a strong group member, concerned with the greater good of the group, than are group members who know each other from outside of the group, or who were friends with or colleagues of other group members prior to their becoming a member of the group?  Are group members who know other group members or are friends with them before becoming a member of the group, especially those who join the group BECAUSE they already know, or were friends  with other members (in fact, who might have been specifically recruited into the group by friends, etc. who are already group members), more or less likely to be conscientious group members who are willing to dissent from or even question the group’s decisions or actions (since their outside acquaintances with other members can be affected positively or negatively by their own personal words or actions within the group) than are group members who became acquainted with other group members only through membership in the group?  What about those who know other group members outside of the group and have pre-existing animosity of them, or who become a member IN SPITE OF members they already who they dislike or who try to keep them out of the group?  What about those who join for social acceptance by people that they know outside of the group?  These possible variables are numerous and are important considerations within our political groups or organizations because a common way for new members to be brought into a group or organization is for them to be recruited by friends and / or acquaintances.  We need to know what effects such membership recruitment has on the very real functioning of those groups and organizations.

6.)   When a study makes ‘getting input from group members about possible decisions to be made or actions to be taken’ a factor or variable of the study, is there any assessment about whether or not there is any difference between input which is sought and / or received under a ‘glaring spotlight’ or in a situation of possible derision or resistance, and input that is sought and received in confidence and / or in a situation of respect and / or openness?  If not, have any of the researchers given any consideration within their studies to the effects that the manner in which input is sought has on the input that is received?

7.)    While Janis gives us examples of, and specifications about groupthink, it would be helpful if, to demonstrate the point that the presence of groupthink is determined by the decision-making PROCESS, itself, and not of the outcomes of that process (good processes can still result in bad outcomes and bad processes can still result in good outcomes), it would be helpful if examples were included of such good / non-groupthink processes which resulted in negative outcomes AND of bad / groupthink processes which resulted in positive outcomes. The theory is stated regarding this, but the case is never made.

(This Article will be concluded in Part II, which will include information on conformity studies and on shame theory)Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor

© Copyright 1989 by Rhys M.  Blavier

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Thank you for reading this article.  Please read my other articles and let me know what you think.  I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

Why I Am Pro-Choice… A Constitutional Literalism Opinion

In Children, Civil Liberties, Congress, Constitutional Rights, Courts and Justice System, Democracy, Drug War, Health, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Science, US Government on May 1, 2009 at 6:01 am

Amendment 9:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

My sister got pregnant when she was only 17 (and unmarried). She got married before the baby was born, but she always carried a chip on her shoulder about that. She is also a far-right, Ayn Rand style objectivist-conservative (but without the actual philosophy to understand what that means). I used to be content to merely say that I supported a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body, including a decision about whether or not to have an abortion. That, however, wasn’t good enough for my sister. She is strongly against a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion and, one day, forced the issue and made me think about what my true, bottom line, no holds bar reason for my pro-choice belief is. It comes down to this. I don’t care when a life starts. When a fetus is inside a woman’s womb it has no more rights than any other parasite does.

Now, I am sure that what I just said has REALLY upset at least half of the people reading this but I am willing to admit what most people won’t on this issue. It isn’t a matter of a fetus being capable of living on its own outside of a womb, or a fetus’ soul or anything else. It is, purely and simply, that a fetus meets the biological definition of a parasite and a parasite has no rights. All rights belong to the parasite’s host.

par•a•site (p r -s t )
n.
1. Biology— An organism that grows, feeds, and is sheltered on or in a different organism while contributing nothing to the survival of its host.

parasite (p r -s t )
An organism that lives on or in a different kind of organism (the host) from which it gets some or all of its nourishment. Parasites are generally harmful to their hosts, although the damage they do ranges widely from minor inconvenience to debilitating or fatal disease.
A parasite that lives or feeds on the outer surface of the host’s body, such as a louse, tick, or leech, is called an ectoparasite. Ectoparasites do not usually cause disease themselves although they are frequently a vector of disease, as in the case of ticks, which can transmit the organisms that cause such diseases as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.
A parasite that lives inside the body of its host is called an endoparasite. Endoparasites include organisms such as tapeworms, hookworms, and trypanosomes that live within the host’s organs or tissues, as well as organisms such as sporozoans that invade the host’s cells. See more at host.

Now, I like babies as much as anyone, however, I was not allowed by my sister to have a belief that was not utterly devoid of emotion. As a result, I came to an emotionless conclusion on this issue. It simply doesn’t matter to me how far along a fetus is. Nor does any other factor external to a woman matter to me. As long as a fetus is inside its mother, as long as it draws its nourishment and life directly from her, it is not, in my opinion, a person. It might be a ‘life’ but many things are alive which are not granted the status of a person. Once a child is born, by whatever means, it is IMMEDIATELY a person will all individual rights, privileges and protections thereof, but until it is outside of its mother it has no rights.

Ok, I have heard some pro-lifers argue that if a fetus is NOT a person, then someone who injures or kills a mother has not committed murder by killing the fetus. This argument is also nonsense because only the mother has the right to determine if her fetus will be born or not. Anyone who might take that choice away from her has committed murder because of the simple fact that they, and not the mother, took away the mother’s right to have that baby, to give it life.

Now, I have seen people who want those of us who believe in a woman’s right to have complete control over her body try to get us to look at pictures of aborted fetuses in order to try to evoke an emotional reaction. Sorry, this isn’t about emotion, it is about The Constitution. So, you might ask, how does that apply to anything else a person, male or female, might want to do to their own body. I say that it isn’t my right or the government’s right to tell them what they can and cannot do to themselves. This does not apply to those who are not of a sufficient age or intelligence to make an informed consensual decision about themselves but, other than that, if a person wants to have sex with people(s) of their own gender or with prostitutes; if they want to take drugs; if they want to ride a motorcycle with a helmet; or they want to shoot themselves in the head or otherwise end their own lives; if they want to marry someone that they love, serve in the military or raise children, I believe that The Constitution says that they have the rights to do so.

The only valid purpose of law is to protect people from other people; not from themselves or to tell them how to live their lives.

I am a Constitutional literalist, an absolutist. I do not believe that rights are given by The Constitution, nor are they hidden and waiting to be discovered in The Constitution. I believe that The Constitution guarantees that we have ALL rights except those specifically denied to us… and the line is where we take away those rights from someone else. I believe in freedom, and I believe that we can only truly be free when we are willing to allow everyone else to be as free as we ourselves want to be. The only question I have for my readers is this… do you have enough faith in our nation and our Constitution to trust that, with equal freedom, everyone else is capable of determining the courses of their own lives? Do you have enough faith to let everyone else be free?

Rhys M. Blavier
Romayor, Texas

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all Honor

© copyright 2009 by Rhys M. Blavier

Thank you for reading this article. Please read my other articles and let me know what you think. I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

John Stossel Takes On the Bailouts

In Drug War, Economics, Immigration, Media, Medical Marijuana, Spending, Taxation, US Government on March 17, 2009 at 8:56 pm

This past Friday, 20/20 had a special report titled “Bailouts and Bull,” explaining why stimuli and bailouts will do nothing to jump-start the economy.

More than 300 economists earlier this year signed a petition declaring their view that “more government spending is [not] a way to improve economic performance” and that “[t]o improve the economy, policymakers should focus on reforms that remove impediments to work, savings, investment and production.  Lower tax rates and a reduction in the burden of government are the best ways of using fiscal policy to boost growth.”

Eighteen of these economists were interviewed for Stossel’s special report.  Among those interviewed are two of my own professors, Dr. Howard Baetjer (back row, second from the viewers’ left) and Dr. Joe Pomykala (front row, on the viewers’ right), both of whom were lucky enough to get face-time.

I spoke to Prof. Baetjer this past Wednesday.  He explained that Stossel interviewed the eighteen economists both as a group and on a one-on-one basis.  Baetjer said he enjoyed the experience, and would love to do further televised interviews in the future.  In my own experience, I find Baetjer to be a very upbeat guy who is quite gifted at explaining economic concepts.

In watching the special, one can see that not everyone was lucky enough to have her or his interview used.  Baetjer, for example, said that when Walter Williams was interviewed, Williams allegedly said, “I don’t even know why we’re discussing the economics.  These bills are unconstitutional!”

For those that missed the 20/20 special, the Mises Economics Blog has made the entire episode available.

In addition to explaining that bailouts and “stimuli” are not the solution, the special report also (A) explains why privatising roads is an effective means of alleviating road congestion, (B) details how the federal government is oppressing medical marijuana retailers even in states that have legalised the medicine, (C) shows that universal pre-K is not a desirable government programme, (D) explains why building a fence between México and these United States is a huge waste of money, and (E) posits how a destitute person with no college degree can gain wealth in America.

—Alexander S. Peak

An Energetic Anger

In Global Warming, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Science on March 4, 2009 at 1:17 pm

I’m looking at CSPAN this morning and they have T. Boone Pickens speaking on American Journal. The topic was about “energy independence”. He made it  seem as if the only hope for American energy independence was natural gas and solar power. I didn’t hear any mention about the original diesel fuel (hemp oil). Why do I bring this up? Because it can be grown almost anywhere in the U.S. and you wouldn’t have to use food crops for fuel which depletes the food supply.

A few of the positive points about using the fuel mentioned above is that it burns cleaner than most other liquid fuels and that it can be grown quickly. Hemp is nothing more than a tall grass so it can be grown in a lot of different environments. It can also be harvested multiple times a year. Not to mention the other uses for the rest of the plant parts such as cloth production and it’s ability to make a very durable and efficient paper. It is also edible. The list of uses grows but yet there was no mention of using this crop for alternative fuel.

Mr. Pickens in his interview made the claim that only diesel or liquified natural gas has the energy to run a big rig. He said that since this is the case that until America taps it’s natural gas reserves that we will always be dependent on other nations for our energy needs. But this logic is a fraud because , as I stated above, we already know of a good fuel source that can run a car. The very first “Model T” Ford ran off of hemp oil. It also had hemp plastic panels on it as well; which have an impact strength stronger than steel.

In other words I just hate for people to be duped into believing that our only salvation for energy independence is petroleum. We have plenty of other resources that I haven’t even mentioned like magnet motors and also don’t forgot the other inventors of alternative energy that were all bought out and who’s technology has been suppressed by major car and oil industries to consolidate  their oligopoly over their customers. There’s a documentary called “Who killed the Electric Car” that details what some people have went through and how technology has been out for a while but that car industries kept them from getting out.

Jason Gatties resigns as Boston Tea Party Chairman

In Boston Tea Party, Health, Libertarian, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Press Release on November 21, 2008 at 5:24 pm

Dear Freedom Fighters,

I would like to thank those who have expressed concerned over the illness in my family. Trust me, it does help. I also want to thank everyone who in this brief period of serving as chairman, supported my efforts. However, sometimes in life, there are more important battles and I’m at that stage right now. When I decided to run for the Chair seat, I could not foresee the issues that have popped up in my life personally over the past two weeks.

The Boston Tea Party deserves a Chairman who can dedicate 100% towards the cause. I’m simply unable to do that at this time. Family comes first and politics will always take a back seat to that. It is for this reason that I must officially resign as Chairman of the Boston Tea Party. I need to tend to family & more importantly, my pregnant wife. There is nothing more important to me than her health and I want to make sure that I can be there to hold her hand during this stressful period. She is very close to her family, but they live an ocean away, so hearing about someone she was close to dying of cancer is just a bit much right now. I’m all she has and I must be there for her.

I’m sure there will be those who will rip me for this decision and that is within your right to do so. However, I will never put politics ahead of family.

It was an honor to be elected your Chairman and I’m confident Douglass Gaking will be a fantastic Chairman, as he takes over my duties on a full time basis. The timing is just bad. I wish I could stick around and help this party grow, and perhaps I can in the future in some capacity, but right now just isn’t that time.

Thank you all so very much. Take care and keep fighting the good fight.

Jason Gatties

LFV Exclusive! Steve Kubby “Our Time Has Come”

In Activism, Barack Obama, Health, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, Libertarian Politics 2008, Medical Marijuana, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Presidential Candidates, Republican, Science, Steve Kubby on November 7, 2008 at 4:57 pm

Our time has come
By Steve Kubby


This weekend, the leadership of the Republican Party will be assembling at a secret location in Virginia, to try to decide what to do with the shattered remains of their party.

Conspicuous in his absence, Congressman Ron Paul, who holds many of the answers his party is seeking, was never invited.  Dr. Paul believes the GOP lost because it has lost the trust of their constituents, many of whom chose to stay home rather than vote.

Ron Paul tells us that the Republicans are unwilling to deal with the basic issues that have derailed their party.  Those issues, like ending the wars, downsizing government, cutting taxes and more personal freedom, are fundamentally Libertarian issues and the leadership of the GOP to unwilling or unable to embraces such a Libertarian platform.

Some conservatives like Richard Viguerie, understand this and have made sincere efforts to absorb and promote Libertarian views, but as Viguerie admitted privately to me, the GOP leadership has led the party astray and refuses to be replaced.

So the stage is set for the Libertarian Party to receive a stream of refugees from the GOP.  These Recovering Republicans have already been washing up on our shores and even former GOP operatives like Bob Barr have found a new home with the LP.

Unfortunately, many of our new friends from the GOP have insisted that we tone down the Libertarian message and water down our platform to make it more appealing to mainstream voters.  That’s the same nonsense that destroyed the GOP.

The Recovering Republican view prevailed at the LP presidential convention and the majority of delegates backed two GOP refugees as their ticket.  The Libertarian wing of the party may have suffered a defeat, but the results of this election show that the Recovering  Republican wing of the party was a dismal failure at delivering the numbers or outcome they had promised.  Thus, instead of $30 million, they raised just over  $1 million.  Instead of 5% of the popular vote, they delivered no more than past campaigns.

In contrast, Obama succeeded because he used the Net to raise hundreds of millions of dollars, one hundred dollars at a time.  Using the lessons of Howard Dean, Obama broke away from conventional political fundraising and created his own ground game.  Is there any reason the LP cannot do the same?

Of course our GOP refugee friends have their own reasons why things didn’t go right for them, but they had their chance and the results are clear.  Now it is time for the LP to adopt a truly Libertarian platform, elect a seriously Libertarian Executive Committee and sponsor real Libertarians for office.

Liberty works.  It’s time for the LP to make a real commitment to real Liberty and give people what they want and deserve: Smaller Government, Less Taxes and more Personal Freedom.  If our party can just focus on these simple but powerful ideas, we can overtake the GOP and replace it with what people really want and need.

Our time has come.  Are we prepared to show real leadership and stand up for our Libertarian principles, without excuses or  watered down language? The choice is ours.

__________

Steve Kubby is a respected longtime libertarian activist, and one of the world’s leading experts on medical marijuana.  His newest project is a publicly-traded company, DYMC, which is developing cannabinoid medications; you can read more about that exciting project here.

Steve Kubby: Healing our world, one patient at a time

In Activism, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Health, Libertarian, Media, Medical Marijuana, People in the news, Politics, Press Release, Science, Steve Kubby, US Government on November 6, 2008 at 1:44 pm

The following was provided to LFV by Steve Kubby, and is being published with his permission.  Steve is a longtime libertarian and longtime medical marijuana activist.  He is also one of the world’s leading experts on medical marijuana.

Dear Friends,

Million of people die each year from diseases that could be largely prevented or minimized by cannabinoid medicines. The science is irrefutable.  We now have thousands of peer-reviewed, scientific studies that have emerged and clearly show how cannabinoids can be used to treat, reverse and even prevent many of our worst diseases.

What’s worse, we are only now beginning to understand how just deadly conventional prescription drugs actually are.  For example, one brave pioneer, Dr. Barbara Starfield of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, wrote an article for the July 26, 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), volume 284, no. 4. She entitled her article, “Doctors and Their Drugs Could be the Number One Cause of Death in America, Causing Almost 500,000 Deaths Every Year.”

Watching people die needlessly is not an option, so my friends and I have formed a publicly traded company to research, develop and license new cannabinoid medicines that are safe, effective and far less expensive than the dangerous, toxic and synthetic pharmaceuticals in current use.

Unlike most publicly traded companies, we have a mission that goes beyond our bottom line.  That mission is to force governments to license cannabinoid medicines NOW, so we can start saving lives and helping to improve the quality of life for million of suffering patients.

So what can YOU do to help heal the world?  Simple, learn more about what cannabinoid medicines have to offer, then join us in demanding that these lifesaving, nontoxic medicines  be fast-tracked for emergency approval and use by patients.

Right now, we have or are developing cannabinoid lozenges and creams that can provide effective, safe and inexpensive treatments for a long list of diseases, including diseases that we are told are untreatable.  There is no excuse for any further delay in getting these lifesaving, non-smokable, lozenges and creams into the hands of patients who so desperately need relief.

We looked into forming a non-profit organization to accomplish our goals, but we decided upon a public company instead, so that we could provide our fellow patients with a unique opportunity to participate directly in the coming boom in cannabinoid medicines  Our publicly-traded company, DYMC, was recently featured on Money TV and is currently being broadcast to over 150 million television viewers.  If you haven’t taken the time to view this video, please do so, because in addition to describing what our company is doing, our Chief Science Officer, Dr. Melamede, provides valuable health information that could save or prolong your life. Links to this video are provided below.

If you’d like to get involved, please drop me a line at steve@kubby.com.  You may get an automatic response from my spam blocker asking if you are really a human.  If you do get such a response from me, just hit your reply button and the spam filter will clear you and your message to get through.

I look forward to working with you to heal our world, one patient at a time.

Let freedom grow,

Steve Kubby

MoneyTV Discusses Cannabinoid Medicines, part one
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrckW0XB634>

MoneyTV Discusses Cannabinoid Medicines, part two
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VyXuyGEyeg>

To view it on a cable tv station in your area, please see:
<http://www.moneytv.net/tvguide.htm>

To view a CNNMoney.com report about us see:
<http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/articles/prnewswire/200810221425PR_NEWS_USPR_____LA40899.htm>

Dr. Tom Stevens health concerns

In Boston Tea Party, Health, Politics, Presidential Candidates on October 27, 2008 at 8:34 pm

Tom Stevens, former BTP Vice Chair and current Objectivist presidential candidate, has apparently suffered some extremely serious health problems requiring emergent medical care, but is refusing further treatment.

Since word is getting around, I do wish to confirm that on Thursday night, I was rushed to the hospital on an emergency basis. I may have suffered a small stroke and had a massive infection exacerbated by uncontrolled blood sugar levels. Since I had to teach two classes this morning and in light of the fact that I am an idiot, I signed myself out of the hospital against medical advice. You should have seen the statement I had to sign where the doctors warned me of “coma, inpending death, further stroke, etc.”
 
I have been in extreme pain and even oxycodone has not relieved it. The left side of my body is numb.
 
I appreciate the good wishes I have received and I apologize if I am not in a position to take phone calls at the current time. It is quite difficult for me to speak.
 
I always thought it odd that when crisis occurs in some people’s lives, they withdraw from their commitments and involvements. I will not take that course. I will do what I can to get better and will continue to be involved in the fight for liberty until I can no longer do so.
 
Things are serious, to say the least, and my spirits are not what they should be.
 
Thanks to all who have expressed concern.
 
Respectfully,
 
Dr. Tom Stevens
Best wishes for improved health (and improved spirits) go out to him from all of us at LFV.  

Steve Kubby: Placer County Republicans whine over Kubby Vindication

In Activism, Civil Liberties, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Drug War, Health, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Media, Medical Marijuana, People in the news, Politics, Republican, Steve Kubby on August 28, 2008 at 4:35 pm

The following was submitted to LFV by Steve Kubby.  The blogger notes at the end are part of what Steve sent us, and were not written by LFV.

Friends,

As most of you know, I had the court’s permission to move to Canada, I returned voluntarily to clear up an alleged probation violation, I was never extradited, and was I never convicted for “Narcotics production.”

Despite these facts, the Placer County Republicans continue to lie about me as well as their own criminal and dopey response to the passage of California’s historic Prop. 215.

It’s time the Placer County Republicans grow up and do what former Republican Congressman and now Libertarian Presidential Candidate, Bob Barr has done — declare that the drug war was a mistake and must end now.

–Steve Kubby

———————————–

http://blog.placer-cra.org/past/2008/8/23/auburn_journal_took_up_case/

Auburn Journal Took up Case of Celebrated Pothead
Posted by Aaron Park on August 23, 2008 at 06:32 PM

Remember Steven Kubby?

He was extradited from Canada to the USA when he ran to avoid prosecution for Narcotics production. (at least Rothe stuck around)

Before and after Rothe had his civil rights restored from his prior Drug Trafficking conviction – the Auburn Journal took up the cause of Stephen Kubby.

In 2003, Kubby’s felony conviction was reinstated as reported by the Auburn Journal

There was a follow-up story trumpeting Kubby’s plight as he applied for refugee status in Canada

And another in 2006 when his ‘stay’ in Canada was about to run out

And this is basically a commentary printed in the AJ taking Kubby’s side

And this year a follow-up story was run:

By Gus Thomson

Journal Staff Writer

A Mendocino County court has dismissed the remnants of a 1999 Placer County prosecution of medical marijuana proponent Steve Kubby.

The ruling – which sees Kubby’s misdemeanor convictions for possession of a magic mushroom stem and peyote buttons expunged under California law – came last week.

Full erasure of the conviction would take a governor’s pardon, but Kubby said Tuesday that the court decision to dismiss the case leaves him “fully vindicated and in possession, once again, of my inalienable, inseparable, non-transferable rights.”

Mendocino County Chief Probation Officer Wesley Forman issued a statement said that he had no objection to the dismissal by Judge David Nelson because Kubby had complied with the terms of his probation.

Kubby’s legal challenges started after a January 1999 raid on his Olympic Valley home in Placer County. The raid netted 265 marijuana plants from an indoor grow.

Kubby was a chief proponent of medicinal marijuana law Prop. 215 when it was passed by voters in 1996 and ran for governor as a Libertarian two years ago. He was also a candidate for Libertarian Party presidential nominee this year.

Kubby’s chief defense at the trial was that he and his wife had a doctor’s recommendation for medical use of marijuana and that his use kept a rare form of adrenal cancer at bay.

In one of the most contentious trials in Placer County legal history, a mistrial was declared after a jury leaning 11-1 for acquittal on possession-of-marijuana-for-sale charges remained deadlocked after
five days of deliberations and four months of testimony.

Kubby would eventually serve 20 days of a 120-day jail term in Placer County on the jury’s peyote and mescaline possession convictions, both misdemeanors.

Kubby, 61, now lives in Mendocino County. He said that he has fond memories of much of his life in the county but that he wouldn’t return as long as the district attorney who prosecuted the case – Brad Fenocchio – was still in office.

The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.
A more detailed story will appear in a future edition of the Journal.

Blogger’s Notes – I can hardly wait to see the full story. What I have read thus far looks pretty biased in favor of the pothead. While Rothe didn’t write any of the stories, he has a responsibility to make sure his paper isn’t used to pimp an agenda.

Even worse – a reporter by the name of Ryan McCarthy wrote some of the stories. McCarthy was a known pot user himself. Given how Rothe and the journal have reported on crime over the years – why should anyone be surprised?

Celebstoner: Tommy Chong not stoked about Biden selection

In Activism, Barack Obama, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Drug War, Health, Law, Media, Medical Marijuana, People in the news, Politics, Presidential Candidates, Science on August 28, 2008 at 10:58 am

http://www.celebstoner.com/news/celebstoner-news/tommy-chong-not-stoked-over-biden-selection.html>

Tommy Chong not stoked about Biden selection

Earlier this week, in an interview with the Washington Post, Tommy Chong was asked what the average citizen can do to further the cause of decriminalization. “Check out the people you’re voting for,” Chong replied. “For instance, Joseph Biden comes off as a liberal Democrat, but he’s the one who authored the bill that put me in jail. He wrote the law against shipping drug paraphernalia through the mail – which could be anything from a pipe to a clip or cigarette papers.”

Obamas running mate Joe Biden doesnt want anyone to have fun

Obama's running mate Joe Biden doesn't want anyone to have fun

Barack Obama’s V.P. selection Sen. Joe Bidenalso sponsored the Rave Act, which targets music events where drug use is allegedly prevalent.

About medical marijuana, Biden said iin 2007: “We have not devoted nearly enough science or time to deal with the pain management and chronic pain management that exists. There’s got to be a better answer than marijuana. There’s got to be a better answer than that. There’s got to be a better way for a humane society to figure out how to deal with that problem.”

Biden coined the term “drug czar” and has championed the Office for National Drug Control Policy.

On a more positive note, Biden introduced a bill that would eliminate the discrepancy between crack and cociane sentencing in federal cases. The curent ratio is 100:1. In other words, 500 grams of cocaine equals five grams of crack; possession of either is punishable by a five-year sentence

“I have long regarded Biden as an opponent of the cause for reasons like Tommy says, and more,” offers Drug Policy Alliance executive director Ethan Nadelmann, “but I was surprised when he was the one who introduced the 1:1 crack/powder reform bill this year, which leapfrogged the more modest reforms put forward by Sens. Kennedy, Hatch and others. I’m not sure whether to take it as a sign of a more general opening up on his part, or just a play for the African-American vote in the primaries. But at least Biden isn’t entirely bad news for drug policy.”

What do you think of Obama’s choice of Biden for his running mate?

Many thanks to Steve Kubby for sending this item to LFV!

Bob Barr’s second appearance on Stephen Colbert show

In Celebrities, Entertainment, Environment, Global Warming, Humor, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, Media, Politics, Presidential Candidates, Science, Shine on you crazy diamond on August 28, 2008 at 9:33 am

My personal favorite line (by Stephen Colbert)

Libertarians believe it is my right to varnish in an unventilated room.

High Times on libertarians: “Libertarians hate the government, and love a good fight. They are absolutely the best friends you can have”

In Drug War, Entertainment, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Media, Medical Marijuana, Politics on August 15, 2008 at 4:19 pm

Did you know that Cheech Marin (of “Cheech and Chong” fame) was Steve Kubby’s college housemate?  Me either.

Following is the High Times article about Steve Kubby (in pdf format).  Written by Alexander Zaitchik as part of the “High Times Interview” series, it’s a definite must-read.

Kubby in High Times page 1

Kubby In High Times page 2

Kubby in High Times page 3

Kubby photo in High Times

Many thanks to Steve Kubby for passing this along to LFV!

Was “drug warrior” in Blackwater t-shirt really undercover DEA, or does the DEA assume we are all stupid?

In Crazy Claims, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Drug War, Fraud, Law Enforcement, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Media, Medical Marijuana, People in the news on August 5, 2008 at 12:13 pm

Kris Hermes at Medical Cannabis: Voices From the Frontline has further covered the recent raid on a California medical marijuana dispensary.  LFV readers will recall that we also covered the raid, complete with photos and pointed out that one of the heavily armed people involved in the raid was wearing a Blackwater t-shirt.  Here is an excerpt from Kris Hermes’ excellent article:

I was able to speak today with Tami Abdollah, the Los Angeles Times (LAT) reporter who wrote the article associated with the photo of the agent wearing a Blackwater t-shirt. First, Abdollah explained that at the time of the raid (when the photo was taken) she had asked about whether the agent in question was a Blackwater employee, but was not given a straight answer. After the raid, and after the story had been published by the LAT, Abdollah was contacted by Sarah Pullen, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles office of the DEA. Pullen requested that the face of the agent wearing the Blackwater t-shirt be blurred because he was an undercover agent and the photo might jeopardize his apparent anonymity. At the same time, Pullen assured Abdollah that the “undercover” agent was in fact an employee of the Drug Enforcement Administration and has never been an employee of Blackwater. Pullen also felt it necessary to explain to Abdollah that the request to blur the agent’s face and the fact that he was wearing a Blackwater t-shirt was completely coincidental. In a subsequent conversation with the DEA, Abdollah was told that the agent was not undercover for the raid, but does routinely engage in undercover operations.

You can read their entry in its entirety here.

This raises some interesting questions, not the least of which is why an agent who regularly works undercover would be involved in a very high-profile raid, especially during broad daylight when he is likely to be seen and photographed?  Why does their alleged “undercover” agent even look like a cop, since undercover work is “routine” for him?  And even if, for the sake of discussion, we believe the DEA’s explanation of why he was not wearing a DEA shirt, why on earth would anyone think that his wearing a Blackwater t-shirt would draw less attention to him, rather than more?  Why didn’t he wear a plain t-shirt, or a t-shirt depicting a band or something similar, if he just didn’t want to be seen, photographed, or recognized wearing a DEA shirt?

Since the DEA claimed he works undercover, they can also claim that his identity cannot be revealed for security reasons, and thus avoid any demands for proof that he is really with the DEA and not with Blackwater.

How very, very convenient.

Many thanks to Steve Kubby and Rebecca Saltzmann for bringing this to LFV’s attention!

Rep Barney Frank (D-Mass) wants marijuana possession legalized

In Activism, Big Brother, Congress, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Democrats, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Drug War, Law, Media, Medical Marijuana, Nanny State, People in the news, Politics, US Government on July 31, 2008 at 1:06 pm

From CNN:

(CNN) — The U.S. should stop arresting responsible marijuana users, Rep. Barney Frank said Wednesday, announcing a proposal to end federal penalties for Americans carrying fewer than 100 grams, almost a quarter-pound, of the substance.

Current laws targeting marijuana users place undue burdens on law enforcement resources, punish ill Americans whose doctors have prescribed the substance and unfairly affect African-Americans, said Frank, flanked by legislators and representatives from advocacy groups.

“The vast amount of human activity ought to be none of the government’s business,” Frank said on Capitol Hill. “I don’t think it is the government’s business to tell you how to spend your leisure time.”

The Massachusetts Democrat and his supporters emphasized that only the use — and not the abuse — of marijuana would be decriminalized if the resolution resulted in legislation.

The Drug Enforcement Administration says people charged with simple possession are rarely incarcerated. The agency and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy have long opposed marijuana legalization, for medical purposes or otherwise.

Marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, according to the drug control office.

“Smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science — it is not medicine and it is not safe,” the DEA states on its Web site. “Legalization of marijuana, no matter how it begins, will come at the expense of our children and public safety. It will create dependency and treatment issues, and open the door to use of other drugs, impaired health, delinquent behavior, and drugged drivers.”

Allen St. Pierre, spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, likened Frank’s proposal — co-sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas — to current laws dealing with alcohol consumption. Alcohol use is permitted, and the government focuses its law enforcement efforts on those who abuse alcohol or drive under its influence, he said.

“We do not arrest and jail responsible alcohol drinkers,” he said.

St. Pierre said there are tens of millions of marijuana smokers in the United States, including himself, and hundreds of thousands are arrested each year for medical or personal use. iReport.com: Is it time to legalize pot?

There have been 20 million marijuana-related arrests since 1965, he said, and 11 million since 1990, and “every 38 seconds, a marijuana smoker is arrested.”

Rob Kampia, director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said marijuana arrests outnumber arrests for “all violent crimes combined,” meaning police are spending inordinate amounts of time chasing nonviolent criminals.

“Ending arrests is the key to marijuana policy reform,” he said.

If HR 5843 were passed, the House would support marijuana smokers possessing up to 100 grams — about 3½ ounces — of cannabis without being arrested. It would also give its blessing to the “nonprofit transfer” of up to an ounce of marijuana.

The resolution would not address laws forbidding growing, importing or exporting marijuana, or selling it for profit. The resolution also would not speak to state laws regarding marijuana use.

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