Steve G.

Posts Tagged ‘US’

Why Redistricting is the Most Important Issue for Texas in the 2010 Elections

In Activism, Congress, Corruption, Democracy, Democrats, Fraud, Green Party, History, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, Local Politics, Politics, Republican, US Government on January 20, 2010 at 9:31 am

What good does it do a man to have the vote if he has only one person that he can vote for?

All political power is inherent in the people and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their benefit. The faith of the people of Texas stands pledged to the preservation of a republican form of government, and, subject to this limitation only, they have at all times the inalienable right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think expedient.
Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution of the State of Texas

In 2011, the next Texas legislative session will tackle the subject of redistricting for the first time since Tom Delay and his partners in political crime forced the people of Texas to live with our incredibly gerrymandered map. Its purpose was to benefit the Texas Republican Party, harm the Texas Democratic Party and, as much as possible, remove the niggling little possibility that Texas voters might actually have the power to affect or influence the results of major elections here. Even the Democratic districts that were left were pretty much safe seats. Delay, Dick Armey and the rest of their merry little band of Machiavellis stuck their grubby little fingers into the mix and, like gods manipulating their computer game minions, succeeded in putting every voter in Texas into “political reservations”. No longer would the simple voter be allowed to mess up control of our state by dominant political machines. In short, what we have in Texas is Party-controlled government. In practical terms, the state of Texas and the two major Parties (preferably the Republican Party) would be (and are) the same thing.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that political machines haven’t always been in charge of Texas (anyone remember Archer or George Parr, “The Duke of Duval County”?). It is simply that before the 1990s, they weren’t as obvious, and they didn’t really care about national influence. It was corruption by Texans, of Texans, for Texans. Any influence that could shovel federal money to us courtesy of our Congressional leaders like John Nance Garner, Sam Rayburn, LBJ, Jim Wright and all of the rest was still corruption by, of and for Texans. There was no intention or desire to tear the rest of the nation down or rip it apart as it seems like is happening now. The thing is, for corruption to flourish, the politicians must be able to promise that they will continue to hold power and maintain the corrupt systems. That is what we have now; entrenched Party corruption. This is why I believe that, regardless of the economic crisis, the healthcare crisis, the ethical crisis, the war crisis, and every other of the many crises faced by Americans, as a whole, and Texans specifically, the single most important issue for Texas voters in 2010 is: “What the Hell will our political districts look like now?

I love Texas. I really do. It is the land of my birth and, no matter how many times I leave it, it’s the land I always return to. Unfortunately, Texas politics often embarrass me. I am not alone in this. There is an old saying here that goes: “Lock up your house and barn; watch your wife and children. The Texas Legislature is in session and nothing is safe.” There are too many things in Texas politics about which to be embarrassed (if not to laugh out loud about in their ridiculousness), too many to list, or even count. Our state constitution, itself, is probably the main one; a document so badly written that the only thing which keeps it from being the single worst one in The United States is the fact that Alabama’s state constitution might actually be the worst one on the entire planet. It is easily the worst one in The United States (http://blavier.newsvine.com/_news/2009/04/06/2646073-we-must-amend-the-constitution-now-), but having the 50th worst constitution out of 51 contenders is nothing to be proud of. A close second to the embarrassment which is the Texas Constitution is arguably our propensity to re-elect incumbents to pretty much any office that they run for.

Texas is a land whose people pride themselves for their fiercely independent spirit. Texas is also a state which avows its hatred of the very idea of a professional political class so much that the annual “salaries” for all legislative offices (including that of the Lt. Governor) is only $7,200 (http://www.laits.utexas.edu/txp_media/html/leg/features/0205_01/compensation.html, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/TT/mkt2.html). Keep in mind that it wasn’t until 1975 that Texas voters voted to raise those salaries from $4,800 up to $7,200… an increase of 50% (it was also at this time when members of our legislature were given a per diem AND could get mileage reimbursement at the same rate that state employees do). Texas government was designed to discourage the rise of a professional political class. Of course, in reality, it also keeps people without other sources of income (i.e. – the poor and the lower middle class) from being practically able to hold such offices. Thus, our fondness for keeping people in elected office is not only an embarrassment, it is rank hypocrisy on a statewide level. Now, I have so far basically said that we here in Texas have a “tendency” to re-elect the same people into government offices time and time again but, at this point, it is merely undocumented hyperbole. Fair enough. Go to the restroom, get yourself a nice beverage and make yourself comfortable because this is going to take awhile. Ready? Good.

(NOTE: If you are not interested in reading through the statistical information I have compiled, please feel free to skip the paragraphs between the two lines below and the two lines after the statistical paragraphs. The information in those paragraphs is included in this article (1) for those who, like me, find such information interesting, and (2) to cut off the need for comments such as “how do you know”, “what are you basing you opinions on”, and “prove it”. Thank you for your understanding on this.)

____________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

To start with, here are some statistics about state level elections in Texas from the 2008 General Election:

The Executive and Judicial offices up for election that year were Railroad Commissioner, three places on the Texas Supreme Court (and yes, we actually elect our Supreme Count members which, of course, makes them political creatures who need to raise election funds instead of allowing them to neutral arbiters of the law) and two places on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (in fact, we elect ALL of our judges here). All seven of them were retained by the incumbents. For those of you who want to keep track, that is seven for seven, so far, or 100%.

For the Texas Congressional delegation, we had one U.S. Senatorial and thirty-two U.S. House seats up for grabs. It shouldn’t surprise you to know that for those seats, all thirty-three incumbents ran for re-election. Want to know how many of them won re-election? Thirty-two of them were sent back to Washington. One of the incumbent Representatives (a Democrat in his first term, if you want to know) was voted out. The score now is thirty-nine out of forty, which comes out to 97.5%.

In the Texas legislature, there were fifteen seats in the Texas Senate and all one hundred and fifty seats in the Texas House up for election. For the Senate seats, all fifteen incumbents ran. Five were re-elected and one was defeated. If you wonder about the other nine seats, don’t worry. For those seats, the incumbents were completely unopposed and, under Texas law, didn’t even need to show up to the actual elections because they are automatically declared the victors (Texas does not have a “none of the above” option for our ballots). Score, fifty-three out of fifty-five now, giving us an incumbent ratio of 96.4%.

For the Texas House seats, one hundred and forty-tw0 out of one hundred and fifty incumbents ran for re-election. After the primary results were in, nine incumbents had been defeated for nomination by their party. Five more were voted out of office in the General Election. One hundred and twenty-eight incumbents were then returned to the Texas House and, out of those one hundred and twenty-eight, seventy-four of those “won” their elections without facing any challenges by their major opposition party, which means that 49.3% of the total seats in the Texas House were filed by people who simply walked into the House unobstructed. This makes our incumbent win record one hundred and eighty-one out of a possible one hundred and ninety-seven (91.9%). With all of these Texas races, out of two-hundred and five elections, one hundred and eighty-one continued to be held by the person who held them before the election, which is a total ratio of 88.3%. (http://www.bipac.net/page.asp?content=texas_elections&g=TEXAS)

Now, let’s take a look at our candidate line-ups for the 2010 election cycle, shall we? Before we even start, I want to point out that, out of 219 races I have analyzed, only two, yes TWO, will have primary contests from all three parties (Democratic, Libertarian and Republican). Only 0.9% of the highest offices in Texas will have the nominees for each race selected from more than one contender in each party. Those two races are for the nominees of each party for Governor and for District 5 on the State Board of Education. Really! Take a moment to think about that. Out of all of the state’s Executive, Judicial and Legislative offices, only one will have three nominees who will actually be determined by the people. (NOTE: For the sake of accuracy, I want to point out that the Texas Libertarian Party selects its nominees by convention but, for simplicity’s sake, I will use the term primary through this article to indicate the need of any party to select its nominees from a slate of several contenders.)

The Texas Executive offices up for grabs this year are those of Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller, Land Commissioner, Agriculture Commissioner and Railroad Commissioner. Now, not only is the race for Governor the only Executive office in which there will be three nominees chosen by primary elections, the incumbent in the office of Comptroller (the State’s only financial officer after our elimination of the office of State Treasurer) is only going to be challenged because a Libertarian (our own Mary Ruwart) has filed to challenge the incumbent. The Democratic Party is not running ANYONE for the office. This means that if it wasn’t for the Libertarian Party, the person who is responsible for all financial duties for the entire state of Texas would be the guy who turned in his notarized form; that would have been all it would have taken.

On the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, two of the incumbents are also only being challenged by Libertarians. For the eight seats on the Texas Board of Education, only three of the races have candidates from all three parties. Three of seats only have the incumbent party challenged by Libertarians, although the incumbents in all three of those seats do face primary challenges from within their own Party. The District 4 seat is only being sought by the incumbent… no challenges by either the Democratic or Libertarian Parties and no primary challenge, so he gets to simply walk in.

Neither of our two US Senate seats is up for election this year and, out of out thirty-two seats in the US House, all of the incumbents (20 Republicans and 12 Democrats) are seeking re-election. Of those thirty-two races, only the Republican and Libertarian Parties have candidates for all thirty-two. The Democratic Party only has candidates in twenty-four of those races (which means that one out of every four of these races, the Democratic Party isn’t even showing up for), and in one race, the Constitution Party also has one candidate running.

Of the thirty-two Congressional races, only twelve of the incumbents will face primary challenges from their own party (38%), nine Republicans out of twenty (45%) and three Democrats out of twelve (25%). Of the combined thirty-two races, the only challenges to seven of the Incumbents or the Incumbent’s Party are from Libertarians (22%), and one is from the Libertarians and the single Constitution Party candidate (03%), for a combined eight of the thirty-two seats… again, one out of every four. For all of the Parties, there are eleven Republican Party primaries (34%), five Democratic Party primaries (16%) and twenty Libertarian Party primaries (63%). Thus, out of a total of ninety-six possible primaries, there are thirty-six (38%) and, if you only count the sixty-four possible primaries for the Republican and Democratic Parties, there are only sixteen…which is, yet again, only one out of four. Out of THESE, there are only two races which will have primary challenges for all three parties (2.1%).

For the Texas State Senate, out of sixteen races, fifteen incumbents are seeking re-election (eleven Republicans and four Democrats). Of the sixteen races, the Republican Party has at least one candidate in all of the races, while the Democratic Party is only competing in eight of them, which (for those of us who can count) is only one out of two (50%). The Libertarian Party has candidates in nine of the races for a 56% presence. Of the incumbents running for re-election, only six out of fifteen (40%) face Primary challenges in their own party; four Republicans out of eleven (36%) and one Democrat out of four (25%… again).

In none of these races is there more than one candidate from any of three Parties facing a primary election… which is exactly 00%. In only one of the races (06%) are there two parties which will have primary contests. Out of a total of forty-eight possible primary contests there are only eleven (23%). This means that of sixteen possible primaries for each Party, the Republican Party has six (38%), the Democratic Party has two (13%) and the Libertarian Party has three (19%). For the General Election, only two of the races (13%) will have candidates from all three Parties, six (38%) will have only Republican and Democratic candidates, seven (42%) will have only one of the two major Parties (Republican or Democrat) running against a Libertarian candidate, and one (06%) will have a completely uncontested incumbent.

Finally we get to the Texas State House of Representatives with its one hundred and fifty seats at stake. 94% of the incumbents (one hundred and forty-one out of one hundred and fifty) are running for re-election. There are seventy Republicans and seventy-one Democratic incumbents running, which means that only nine of the seats are guaranteed to have a new person in them. The Republican Party is fielding candidates in one hundred and twelve of the races (75%), the Democratic Party is running in ninety-three of the races (62%) and Libertarians are contesting sixty-four of the races (43%).

Out of the one hundred and forty-one incumbents running, only twenty-three (16%) face primary races…sixteen Republicans (23% of seventy) and seven Democrats (10% out of seventy-one). Of the potential four hundred and fifty possible primary elections, there are only fifty-nine (13%), which is thirty-nine Republican primaries (26% of one hundred and fifty), ten Democratic primaries (07% of one hundred and fifty) and ten Libertarian primaries (again, 07% out of one hundred and fifty).

From all of the one hundred and fifty races, only twenty-seven (18%) have at least one candidate from all three parties. Twenty-nine of the races (19%) have only candidates from both the Republican and the Democratic Parties. Thirty-seven of the races (25%) only have one or more candidate from the Libertarian Party opposing one of the two major Parties. Of the one hundred and forty incumbents running, forty-six of them (33%) of them are completely unopposed (twenty-one Republicans out of seventy for a 30% ratio and twenty-five Democrats out of seventy-one for a 35% ratio). Out of the one hundred and forty-one incumbents running, eleven of the races have the incumbent’s party unopposed by candidates from either of the other two parties 08%). This includes six Republican contests out of seventy (09%) and five Democratic races out of seventy-one (07%).

Now, can you figure out what is the most horrifying statistic which can be made from the above paragraph? I’ll give you a couple of minutes to re-read it. {da da da da da dum} Have you figured it out yet? If it wasn’t for the Libertarian party, ninety-four out of the one hundred and fifty races for seats in the Texas House (63%) would have either the Incumbent or the Incumbent’s Party with no, let me repeat that, with NO opposition. Out of all of the two-hundred and nineteen total races in 2010 that I have broken down, that comes to one hundred and fifteen races (53%) in which there is only a challenge to an incumbent or an incumbent’s Party because of candidates from the Libertarian Party. Do you, like me, think that percentage is WAY too high?

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

So, why have I written almost 2,000 words in eighteen paragraphs taking up most of three pages to numb you with statistics that barely a handful of people would even think about? Why have I spent most of my waking hours over two full days making myself blind(er) and giving myself a migraine to have these statistics to write about? It is very simple. Political districts in Texas are so frighteningly gerrymandered (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrymandering , http://www.thefreedictionary.com/gerrymander) that almost every seat for every state office in Texas (by which I mean, every elected office which has a specific political district that is smaller than the entire state… US House, Texas Senate and Texas House) is basically considered a safe seat for either a particular candidate or a particular political Party (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safe_seat) . They are considered so safe that few of them are challenged for and MANY fewer of them still are lost. That should be unacceptable to any person who believes in a democratic form of government.

Both the Republican and the Democratic Parties (especially the Republican Party over the last decade) have worked and legislated to not only make it infinitely easier to stay in office than it would be in a system in which voters have the true power over our government, they make it almost impossible for any new parties to challenge their political hegemony. Even if the two major parties hate each other, it is still in the best interest of both of them to keep the playground closed to other kids, as it were.

The Texas state Constitution makes these requirements for legislative districts (Article III, sections 25 and 26):

(25) “The State shall be divided into senatorial districts of contiguous territory according to the number of qualified electors, as nearly as may be, and each district shall be entitled to elect one senator, and no single county shall be entitled to more than one senator.

(26) “The members of the House of Representatives shall be apportioned among the several counties, according to the number of population in each, as nearly as may be, on a ratio obtained by dividing the population of the State, as ascertained by the most recent United States census, by the number of members of which the house is composed; provided, that, whenever a single county has sufficient population to be entitled to a representative, such county shall be formed into a separate representative district, and when two or more counties are required to make up the ration of representation such counties shall be contiguous to each other; and when any one county has more than sufficient population to be entitled to one or more representatives, such representative or representatives shall be apportioned to such county, and for any surplus of population it may be joined in a representative district with any other contiguous county or counties.

Now, take a look at (1) the current c0ngressional districting map for Texas (http://congdistdata.tamu.edu/USCongressionalDistricts.pdf), (2) The current Texas Senate districting map (http://www.laits.utexas.edu/txp_media/html/leg/features/0400_04/plans01188.html), and (3) the current Texas House districting map (http://www.laits.utexas.edu/txp_media/html/leg/features/0400_02/planh01369.html). You tell me whether or not you think that these districts are gerrymandered or if they meet the requirements of the Texas Constitution.*

[*By the way, when I was doing my Google searches for the Texas state government district maps, two of the results that popped up were “Dante’s Inferno – Circle 8 – Subcircles 1-6 – Cantos 18-23” and “Dante’s Purgatorio – Terrace 5: Avarice And Prodigality”. Do any of my readers find that as unbelievably funny as I do? Just curious.]

To have a functioning democracy, it isn’t enough to have the right to vote. We must also have both a selection of candidates from which to chose AND the power to determine who WE want in office rather than who the Parties want. Right now, for all practical purposes to be a candidate for any of the offices which I have covered, you must have all of your paperwork in the hands of the Texas Secretary of State on the first business day of January. This allows candidates to be listed on the ballots in time for the state primary elections. Parties like the Libertarian Party have to use conventions to determine their nominees which use a slightly different schedule than the primary schedule, but the filing deadline is the same.

So, what is it about our elections, as described by me up to this point, which rob voters of power over our elections? First, there is no opportunity for citizens to see which races do not have any competition and then work to raise more candidates. This means that even the two major Parties are stuck with whoever met the filing deadline. Second, while minor Parties (Libertarian, Green, etc.) have to use a convention method to choose their candidates, those candidates STILL have to have their paperwork filed by the January filing deadline. This means that the convention delegates can ONLY “choose” candidates who met the filing deadline. They have no opportunity to control the process and, except in elections when they have more than one member of their party to choose from, are stuck with whoever had their paperwork in on time. There are processes to declare a write-in candidacy or to get on the ballot as an unaffiliated / Independent candidate, but are not practical means in the state of Texas to give the voters more choices or options besides those who handed in a notarized form by the first business day after New Year’s.

To truly be in control of who represents them in their governments, the process has to be designed to remove the power of the Parties over the process. We need districts which are completely non-partisan and politically neutral. We need to make it easier for more candidates to get on the ballots. We need enough candidates running for every office that all of the Parties will need to actively campaign to win their Party’s nomination in the primaries and conventions before they campaign for the actual office. We need to examine different methods of voting which put control of the outcomes in the hands of the electorate. (http://blavier.newsvine.com/_news/2009/04/21/2714028-the-laboratory-of-democracy-alternative-voting-methods-approval-voting-re-edited) We need to reduce the costs of filing for office by independents and others who do not have the backing of a Party which has ballot access, and of running a campaign for office. We also need to remove the bureaucratic barriers which make it difficult to even be on the ballot.

The thing is, if we were to solve all of the issues which I have raised, we will end up with better people in office. While many people complain about the lengths and costs of campaigns by candidates for the office of President, there is one good benefit of the process, which is that it hones a candidate’s skills and message, AND gives the press time to learn more about the candidates than the candidates might want us to know. Winning an election to become the President of The United States does not make a candidate a victor, it makes them a survivor. The other main benefit to the voters making changes to our election process is that we will end up with officeholders with a wide range of beliefs, skills, and knowledge. Diversity is not found in the color of someone’s skin, their gender or their sexual orientation; it is found when you have people with differing beliefs working together to create our laws and operate our governments. Homogeneity of ideas is the worst enemy of true diversity.

As much as people of any particular ideology might think that having people holding the same ideological beliefs as they do in every office would create a perfect government, they are wrong. Good decisions are not made when everyone agrees; they are made when people with differing beliefs can work together and challenge each other to make the best decisions. (http://blavier.newsvine.com/_news/2009/06/11/2918292-groupthink-as-a-political-mental-illness-part-i, http://blavier.newsvine.com/_news/2009/06/15/2933680-groupthink-as-a-political-mental-illness-part-ii) I recently ran across a blog, called ‘Divided We Stand, United We Fall’, which has apparently been around since 2007. It has some very good stuff in it but I want to point my readers to a particular article on that site (http://westanddivided.blogspot.com/2007/07/curing-libertarian-political-impotence.html).

This is why I say that the SINGLE most important issue for the Libertarians in the 2010 election is the redistricting which will be done by Texas (and the other states) in 2011. Unless we can literally change the political map next year, we will simply spend another decade as a fringe party which has no REAL impact on our laws or on the operation of our government. This is the case that the Libertarian Party needs to be making to the citizens of Texas, as well as to voters all across The United States. We need to make sure that the voters in every district know that, while they have no power to determine who gets elected by voters in other districts, they can still have an impact by choosing to send Libertarians, in those districts which have Libertarian candidates, or people of differing ideologies that the current prevailing ones as their representatives in Austin and in all of the other state capitals. NONE of many problems can be fixed if we don’t have the best people in office to work on them. If we cannot make them understand the importance of redistricting as a way for THEM to have more power over those in political office, then we will fail them. Voters may get the “government that they deserve” but, if we can’t give them real choices about who they can vote into office, they will never have to opportunity to deserve a better government.

For more information, please see http://texaspolitics.laits.utexas.edu/6_printable.html.

Rhys M. Blavier
Romayor, Texas

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

© Copyright 2010 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.

Advertisements

The Next Greatest Generation?

In Activism, Congress, Corruption, Democracy, Democrats, Economics, Fraud, Libertarian, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Pork, Republican, Spending, Taxation, US Government on January 13, 2010 at 8:09 pm

I know of very few people in America today who would disagree with the statement that America is heading for a mountain cliff heedless of the dangers which will await us once we plunge over it. While people of differing ideologies might not agree about the various factors which are pushing us farther and farther into danger, I think that one thing that can be agreed upon by all factions is that our national budgets / spending are out of control and is one of the contributing factors. There are two basic topics which I want to discuss with this article. One is about some factors which I think compound the problems and combine to make our nation fiscally unsustainable. The other is a call to action and sacrifice by my own generation.

Have you ever wondered how one politician can claim that government spending has been reduced while another politician can claim that government spending has been increased and, yet, they can both be telling us the “truth” while our financial problems continue to get worse and worse with each passing year? Well, we can thank the idea of “baseline budgeting” for making such political contortionism possible. Baseline budgeting is the concept that, for a new budget year, you will draw a line at specific totals of spending from the previous budget (the baseline) and you then incrementally increase spending above that baseline. Thus, one politician can say that spending has been cut if the amount of money that will be allocated above the baseline is less than what might otherwise be allocated while the other can say that spending has increased because the current budget is higher than the previous one. In neither case, however, has the issue of the already bloated budget mess been addressed.

On the opposite end of the possible budgeting methods is “zero-based budgeting”. Zero-based budgeting is the process of building a brand new budget from the ground up each and every year. As stated in the Small Business Accounting Guide, “(ZBB) is a method of budgeting which requires you to justify all planned expenditures for each of your new business period[s]. It defers [sic] from traditional incremental methods which may only require you to explain the amounts you need in excess of the previous period’s funding.” (http://www.small-business-accounting-guide.com/zero-based-budgeting.html)

Baseline budgeting is easier for politicians who either can’t be bothered to spend the time necessary to actually create an annual budget from the ground up or who don’t want to cut pet projects and excess pork that benefits their own constituents (and thus, their chances of getting re-elected). Baseline budgeting also increases the likelihood that expenditures will be made annually that no one is actually aware of. To make a baseline budget sustainable over a period of years or even generations, you must have an infinite and ever increasing source of money and resources. Without such an infinite or growing pool of resources, taxes must be continually raised and new sources of taxation must be found, otherwise you have a system which continually increasingly overextends itself. Eventually, the golden goose (the taxpayers and revenue sources) die, leave or rebel because they have no more to give.

If you want to see a demonstration of why continuous baseline budgeting without a sufficient resource pool to draw from creates an unsustainable economy try this, get some Legos® and attach one block to a Lego base. So far, so good, it is solidly grounded. Now, what you do from there is to continue adding new Legos to the stack (not the base, the stack) you have started EXCEPT that, instead of placing new Legos completely over the ones already there, you add each subsequent Lego one step off from the one below. This creates a stair-like effect. The problem is that, without addition support from its base, you eventually reach a point where the weight on the topmost and farthest point of the stack is too great to be supported by the base and the end topples over. When it does collapse though, the top block is not the only one that falls off. Because of the connectivity of the blocks to the ones above and below them, most of the stack will collapse. THAT is the end result of continuous baseline budgeting.

Another way to look at it is that our government is a drug addict and the drug which they need to get high is tax dollars. As with any long-term and strung out junkie, the amount of drugs needed to give them their fix increases. Junkies do not make wise choices. The will ignore food, hygiene, love, any and everything which does not contribute to their high. They will also beg, borrow and steal money from anywhere that they can in order to buy them their drugs because they can’t make rational decisions. Eventually, those who have willingly or unwillingly financed their habit want their money back. If you don’t see where this is going, try watching the movie Less Than Zero and imagine that the character played by Robert Downey, Jr. is our government.

Things would be bad enough if baseline budgeting was the ONLY budgeting problem that our government has. Unfortunately for us (the taxpayers) there are quite a few other flaws in the system. As a result, simply changing our budgeting method to a zero-base budgeting system (or to any one of several other possible ideas, such as program based budgeting) will not fix the problems with government expenditures.

Another of the problems (out of many) is that budgets are made based on PROJECTIONS of what Congress and the President THINK our national income will be for a given year. As a result, the actual amount of what is available is always wrong. If the projection is too high, then money will have to be “borrowed” to make a budget work. If the projection is too low then the excess money will STILL be used to fund SOMETHING. How this problem works is that taxes are due in April and usually by October, the government has a pretty good idea of what they actually have to spend. This is good because it coincides with America’s fiscal year. This is bad because what is being budgeted for is the fiscal year starting the NEXT October. While it would be painful to remedy this (and take several years), the time to present the next year’s budget can be moved back by two or three months each year until eventually budgets that are presented are based on what the real government income was (and which has been in “the bank”) since the PREVIOUS October. This, again, draws back to the analogy of the drug addict and trying to clean him up and wean him off of his drugs. Right now, we are theoretically spending money a year before we have it. We need to move things back until we are only allowed to spend what we have had in our hands since the previous October.

On another front, while in THEORY the budget is made up of a lot of individual budgets for all of the different budget areas, what is now the common practice is to make the process so continuous and time consuming that eventually Congress is forced by time limits to roll everything up into huge and monstrous constructs, so big that NO ONE can actually know what is contained within them, called omnibus budget bills. ( http://corporate.cq.com/wmspage.cfm?parm1=232) As a way to delay the “need” of passing of omnibus budget bills, Congress can, and does, pass what is called a “continuing resolution” or a CR. (http://www.thisnation.com/question/003.html) What a CR does is authorize the government to continue spending what it is already spending based on the lowest possible amount… the amount proposed by the Senate, the amount proposed by the House, or the actual expenditure. While holding spending at the lowest level asked for might, on the surface, sound good, it is usually a political ploy to either hurt programs not liked by some members of Congress or to continue funding a pet project that might otherwise be cut. This game is played out until the “clock” runs out and, viola, the only option available is to pass yet another omnibus package.

There are many more problems which simply screw the taxpayer each year, such as earmarks, pet projects, hidden budgets, etc. Did you know that Congress gets an AUTOMATIC pay raise every year unless it votes to specifically NOT give itself a pay raise in any particular year? Because of a law passed in 1989, Congress doesn’t have to do anything or pass anything to get their automatic raise each year. If they do NOTHING they get the raise. (http://usgovinfo.about.com/cs/agencies/a/raise4congress.htm) In addition, for a nation which was designed to have no permanent political class, elected office now comes with huge pensions and benefits. (http://money.cnn.com/2006/01/20/commentary/wastler/wastler/index.htm).

In addition, our legislatures operate under a sort of reverse-NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) philosophy when it comes to spending taxpayer’s money. I say reverse because (unlike politicians doing whatever they can to keep anything potentially negative from happening in the locations that they represent, no matter how necessary they might be or how they might be the best solutions for our nation, as a whole), politicians will say that we need to reduce spending EXCEPT for the spending that benefits their districts or states. Hey, we have too many military bases; no problem, we will close some, EXCEPT for the ones in my district. Wow, that project is a huge sinkhole for money but the money goes to my constituents so, by God, I will fight tooth and nail to keep it funded. Everyone agrees that spending needs to be cut but no one is willing to cut spending that benefits them or their businesses, no matter how much sense it might make to stop that spending. We have become a nation of whores who will justify any and every atrocity as long as we personally make money off of it. Such spending is nothing more that wholesale bribery by our legislatures to us, the people, to buy our votes to keep our Senators and Representatives in their jobs. “Every government is a parliament of whores; the thing is, in a democracy, the whores are us.”(Anyone who is interested in how our government works, or doesn’t work, but has not read P. J. O’Rourke’s brilliant Parliament of Whores needs to read it as soon as they can.)

So, what are some of the actual ways in which our government budgeting process and its resulting need for ever larger amounts of revenue harm the people of America. Well, for one thing, if we go back to the drug addict analogy, our government is not just addict, it is also a powerful “crime lord”. For a nation born from a tax revolt, America has become one of the most, if not the most, greedy and oppressive nations in the world when it comes to collecting taxes, even to the extent of its belief that collecting American taxes justifies its right to bully other nations into cooperating with the IRS. The United States is unique in the world in its obsession with collecting taxes from any and every American living outside of the US. (http://www.ivdgl.org/pages/c-lifeevents/expatriation.html) (http://wapedia.mobi/en/Tax_evasion) (http://www.richw.org/dualcit/faq.html#discover)

Unfortunately, this standard only seems to apply to individuals who the government can beat up on. Large American corporations can, for all intents and purposes, buy their way out of being taxed, even when they “base” themselves outside of The United States, by simply giving politicians “great heaping wads of cash” or, to use O’Rourke’s phrase, “more money than you can shake a stick at AND the stick”. If individual citizens were to do this, they would be considered “tax evaders” and prosecuted wherever they might relocate to. America wants “its” money and it is damn well going to get it, even if it means hounding geriatrics into their graves.

So, how can our national and state budgets be fixed before everything collapses? First, some generation is going to have to accept that it is going to be screwed, either by cutting or losing their own benefits or by being left holding the hot potato when it blows up. I realized this many years ago, when my own grandparents were still alive and I, in my twenties, listened to my grandfather get very angry about anything being done or even talked about by the government which might lessen his own benefits without any concern for what kind of mess would be left behind. Now, I loved my grandfather, he still is one of my heroes, but, at that moment, all I could think was “You selfish bastard; what about your own grandkids?

I realize that it is unconscionable to take away from people who have already entered their last years because they cannot rebuild their own lives. We cannot expect those generations to harm themselves like that. If sacrifices are going to be made, one of the younger generations will have to make them. Just as it is not reasonable to ask the dying generations to make such sacrifices, it is immoral to say to younger generations “I don’t care what happens to you or what you are left with. I’m going to get mine while I can and to Hell with anyone else.” (This, of course, is essentially the foundation of Ayn Rand’s objectivist “philosophy”.) This is where my call to action comes in. While this mess was created and worsened by the generations of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, if my own generation doesn’t simply suck it up and take the bullet, it will be the generations of our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren who will be hurt, and even worse than we would be by taking the hit now.

My grandfather’s generation has been called “the greatest generation” because it fought and died to save the world from the Axis powers in WWII. How can any of us expect to beat what they did? What we can do is harm ourselves in order to make things better for the generations which follow us and, maybe, give them something to live up to. We can become “the NEXT greatest generation”. This is my call to my own generation; this is my call for us to be heroes to the generations that follow us. Let us make the painful choices now. Let us absorb the harm, the lessening of benefits, the belt tightening, the need to rely on others to personally help us because we won’t be getting the help from the government that many of us will need.

I would also ask my readers to keep in mind that not only is my monthly government disability check my own source of income; I have no children to either rely upon or to worry about leaving our messes to. I have every reason to keep things the way that they are now and no reason to worry about how any future generations might be harmed. I have nothing to gain in this and everything to lose, but, if it would help future generations, I would willingly give up what I personally get and need. Would any others from my generation agree to make the necessary sacrifices themselves? Can we be the ones who clean up the mess that has been left to us? Do we have to courage to make ourselves “the next greatest generation”?

Rhys M. Blavier
Romayor, Texas

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

© copyright 2010 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.

A Modest Libertarian Proposal: For Secessionists, Separatists, Radical Anarchists, Anti-Government Absolutists, Conservative Neo-Republicans, Randian Objectivists, Tea-Baggers, “Me, First & Last” Social Darwinists, and Conspiracy Theorists

In Corruption, Democracy, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, literature, Personal Responsibility, Politics on November 30, 2009 at 12:57 pm

I did a LOT of driving this last week-end, a LOT. This gave me a great deal of time to think and process recent experiences. One conclusion that I did arrive at is that if a group of people gather together for a common cause (other than masturbation) and then spend their day in a mutual masturbation circle jerk, they will have accomplished nothing.

On Saturday, I went to a libertarian gathering which seemed to be more about libertarians telling themselves how successful they have been at furthering their cause even if they haven’t been able to actually get anyone elected to a significant office. There were no strategies or concrete ideas for getting anyone elected or for spreading the libertarian idea to a wider audience. While I met some good people, I found that the main value for me to have made the trip was in observing and listening to the others there. What I did not hear were any words which spoke of libertarianism as being about anything except “me”. One speaker even lived up to the cliché view of what current libertarians are when she spoke about reading Ayn Rand and realizing that caring about others or helping to make the world a better place has no value.

On Sunday, I drove to my old home town to help some friends do some work on a house. This house has been a special place for a long time. In 1972, a group of college friends found a place to live in off-campus. During the 70s, it was pretty much a commune for the local science fiction group. For probably 15 years it was home to a rotating group but the house was always there for us. For most of the last 20 years, it has been the permanent home to a few of the gang but the house has remained a constant in the lives of many. I moved away and moved on with my life but 17 years later I came back and the group still gathered at the house on regular annual times. I have never lived there or even spent a night there but, when the message went out that there would be a work day on the house, I was there. I gained nothing, at least in objectivist terms, by helping out but it was a small gesture of thanks for what the house and the people who have lived there have meant to me.

The stark contrast between how the two days were spent was startling. A second conclusion I arrived at is that I think that there is more to be gained by working together to build a better world around us than there is from seeing the world as a place where it is ok for the strong to prey on the weak. The week-end reinforced what libertarianism meant to me when I was first attracted to the movement.

Thirty years ago, I had the profound honor of hearing a man named Ed Clark speak at Texas A&M University, courtesy of the Memorial Student Center’s Political Forum committee. Rudder Theater was full that night. There were many there who were, like me at age 20, preparing to vote in our first Presidential election (and for me, my first government election as I briefly lived in the United Kingdom in 1978 – 79). This man was the candidate for a new political party, and was that Party’s first candidate to be on the ballot in all 50 states. The Libertarian movement and idea was getting some national attention because of how “radical” and fresh it was. They had a vision of a limited government which would combine the best facets of conservative fiscal policies with progressive social policies. In a radio interview, Clark described libertarianism as “low-tax liberalism”. Hearing him speak in person was a remarkable experience for me. Not only were his ideas progressive and forward-thinking, they were inclusive and logical.

To this day, I still call myself an Ed Clark libertarian. Unfortunately, the Party pushed Ed Clark and his liberal / moderate wing out during their 1984 convention. If you ask people today what a libertarian is, most of what you will hear are descriptions of a radical, conservative, neo-Republican lunatic fringe group. In 1980, it looked like the Libertarian Party might, one day, have a legitimate influence on American government. Coming up on 2010, it looks like we have crawled beyond the fringe to create our own unique brand of American political lunacy, on a par with the Anti-Masonic “Know Nothing” Party of the 1800s. With this in mind, I want to make a modest proposal to all of those who hate government, despise paying any taxes, want to “be off of the grid” and want to be left completely alone by every government.

We will GIVE you a 5,000 square-mile plot of land in Alaska. Not enough? How about 10,000 square miles? We will set aside that land and will legally declare it to be independent of the United States of America or of any other nation of the world. It will be free land on which you can settle and create your own society with a complete absence of government. You will not be subject to any law or be a part of America in any way… no taxes, no military service, and no government interference of any kind. We will also shoulder the costs to relocate anyone who wants to leave the United States to participate in this experiment. This will be a one-way, one-time ticket. We will take all of you to the border of your new homeland and let you enter it freely and of you own volition. Further, we will assume all of your debts, (up to, say, $25,000). If your debts are greater than that, so what? You will be moving to a place where you will be free from debt collectors. What will your credit score matter up there? We will arrange for the sale of your American property, both to free you from the burden and to help pay for the costs which The United States will incur on your behalf so that you will not be beholden to any other person or nation. In short, we will do everything necessary to help you sever all ties between you and the United States. We will give you what you are asking for in its entirety. You can be completely free from any and all government control or responsibility. By doing this for you, however, there would be a lot of changes that you would need to be aware of.

Remember, infrastructure is created by governments. There will no roads, electricity, water, sanitation, waste removal, hospitals, medical care, medicines, schools, postal service, police or fire departments, judiciary, defense, phones, internet or any other public “improvements” other than what you will be able to create for yourselves. In your new haven, there will be no government, no law, no order, and no society which you do not create for yourself.

We understand that you don’t like anything that is “tainted” by being provided to the general public, and / or bought or created through the use of “Federal Reserve Notes” (and yes, this week-end I heard someone talking about their new business and saying that they would not accept “Federal Reserve Notes”). So you will not be allowed to take any United States currency with you because you will not, of course, need it. You will not be allowed to incur any additional debt through credit so, in preparation for your move, you will be limited to dealing on a cash only basis. If you want to convert it all to gold or silver or gumdrops, you can, but remember, you will have to carry everything you will take in with you. I assume your economy would be based on the barter system. I will be curious, though, about what you will be able to barter with to get AT&T to provide you with communications capabilities, as one example.

Your American citizenship will be permanently revoked, as will those of any of your families, dependents, and friends who join you. As such, you can never again vote in any American election. You can never again enter the United States without proper documentation and / or visas. If you try, you will be subject to being arrested and deported back to your homeland, the same as any other illegal alien, you know, like Mexicans. You will never again receive any government payments, benefits, healthcare (federal or military) or assistance which would “force” you to possess any documentation, utilize our immoral currency or rely in any way on the government which you hate so much. This means that you will never receive any social security payments, Medicare, retirement funds, insurance payments, not even the annual payout made to citizens of Alaska because, of course, you will be citizens of your own non-nation. Oh, and about that land, you will each be able to possess as much of it as you can take and hold onto. You will have the absolute freedom to make your land your own BUT you will not, of course, be given any actual legal title to the land because to give you such title would require a legal and judicial system… and you wouldn’t want that either, would you, because they are also creations of government.

While I suppose that we could allow you to take in a suitcase of your own clothes (whatever you can carry), to fully honor your John Galt desires, we would not allow you to take any tools or other products created by our industrial mass production system. You see, we would want to respect your wishes to not allowing you to be burdened with anything so ignoble as having been purchased with “Federal Reserve Notes”. Maybe we could provide some of you with forges but how you would carry them into your new nation without tools or carts made by tools that you have made for yourself, I don’t know. Even if I had the answer to that, though, you wouldn’t want to know it because you want be pure, untainted and left entirely to your own devices. Each of you, after all, is John Galt.

Of course, you would be completely landlocked by the United States but that, again, would only be out of respect for your demands for complete independence and your wishes to have no “foreign entanglements”. We would thus ensure that you would be free of the temptation and taint of dealing with other nations or, even worse, with the United Nations. No, you will be completely and entirely free. You will be given your own country and cut off from any influence, hindrance, or assistance from anyone outside of your own borders. Imagine if “Escape from New York” was about turning Manhattan into a self-contained country instead of a prison… but without all of the inconvenient reminders of civilization and development like buildings and roads.

We will give you all of it. All you would have to do is give up everything else… oh, and allow those of us who do not believe as you do, those of us who do not share your vision of an anarchist “Heaven on Earth”, free to carry on our ridiculous desire to actually improve the society that we are part of. You will all agree to leave us alone in this immoral world which we believe can be improved. We leave you alone and you leave us alone… for ever (or until you all die off). Do we have a deal?

Now, for those of us who are left when the dust of the mass migration settles, let’s work together to figure out how to make the government we do have better. Let us create a fair and equitable tax system. Let us work on the problem of creating a society which benefits all of the people. Remember, political and philosophical extremes create unworkable absolutes. Some of us believe that the only way to make the system better is by working within it. We can have less government, lower taxes, and a beneficial society. All we have to do is be willing to work for it.

I, for one, will not abandon my fellow Man. My desire for a limited government does not mean that I reject the idea and value of government altogether. I believe in government and I believe that it can be improved, that it can be designed to function effectively. Remember, we get the government that we deserve. In a free society government is the creation and responsibility of a free people. If our government does not work properly, it is our fault for not caring enough to figure out how to make it better. It is also our responsibility to make government work for the people it serves, not be served by the people who work under its system. I am willing to stay here and do what I am capable of doing to make it better for EVERYONE… even those who don’t believe as I do. How many of you out there will help me? Can we work together to create a practical, rational and realistic idea of libertarianism and, from there, a practical, rational and realistic idea of libertarian anarchy which can be “sold” to those outside of our movements? I think that we can and I, for one, am ready to start trying.

Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas

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

© Copyright 2009 by Rhys M. Blavier

HOW SERIOUS IS THE LIBERTARIAN PARTY ABOUT BEING TAKEN SERIOUSLY?

In Congress, Democracy, Democrats, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, Local Politics, Politics, Presidential Candidates, Republican, US Government on November 25, 2009 at 1:53 pm

When I was 20 years old and preparing to vote in my first Presidential election, a man came to speak on the campus of Texas A&M University about his new party and his campaign for the Presidency. That man was Ed Clark, the first Libertarian candidate on the ballots of all 50 states. He spoke of a vision of government which combined fiscal responsibility with social humanism. Ed Clark made such an impact on my personal view of politics that now, 30 years later, I still call myself an Ed Clark Libertarian. Unfortunately, since then I have watched the Libertarian Party move to the far-right with no coherent message to the point where, instead of creating a viable third party in American politics, it has become seen a ‘lunatic fringe’ of the extreme far-right, religious conservative wing of the Republican Party, a neo-Republican Party, if you will. After 30 years, it has still never made a serious impact on American politics at either the national or even the state level. The fault is our own but, I personally believe that could be realistically changed… starting with the 2010 elections.

Right now, politics in America might be more volatile than it has been at any point in its history since 1860. The Republican Party faces the real possibility of splintering into two or more parties; divided by their extreme far-right Christian conservatives who view politics as a religious struggle with them battling for the glory of heaven by exerting “his will’ on Earth. Because this faction is fighting what they see as a battle for the next world, they see those who “oppose” them as inherently evil. They cannot compromise in what they see as a very real battle between “good” and “evil”. As such, they can be counted on to focus their efforts on stopping the “advance” of “ungodly” issues in America. They will even turn on their own, on other Republicans, who they see as weak in the face of their enemy… and make no mistake, they see those who do not agree with them as true enemies.

This internal conflict within the Republican Party, however, offers the Libertarian Party a very real chance to become a viable alternative party for the American voters. To do that, however, requires us to change ourselves into a viable party. Over the course of the last 30 years, the Libertarian party has moved backwards instead of forward. What was once seen as party with an interesting view of what government could be has become a perceived lunatic fringe of right-wing tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorists. We, ourselves, have marginalized our Party in American politics. We have no one to blame for our lack of achievement other than ourselves. As such, only we can change the perceptions of us by the American voters. To do that, we need to develop a strategic plan for 2010 and the following decade. We cannot possible devise winning tactics if we do not have an overall strategy for ourselves. We also need to give the American voters confidence that if they do elect any of us that we can participate and function in a real world government.

So, what are some things that the Libertarians need to do or change to become a viable third party in America? One is that we need to move beyond having a general philosophy about what government should be and become a political movement with an actual vision of what government can be AND an actual plan for how that can be accomplished. The question isn’t why SHOULD voters support us, it is what keeps them FROM supporting us. Remember, no voter owes a candidate or a party their vote; it is up to a candidate or party to earn their votes.

Another is that we need to stop running candidates for Executive offices until we can support those candidates by holding enough Legislative seats to help them. Politics, like life, is a gamble. Not only should you never make a bet you are unable or unwilling to lose, you should never make a bet you are unwilling or unable to win. Realistically, if ANY third party or independent candidate were to win the Presidency or a Governorship without having any Legislative support, their administration would be a complete failure. In addition, that failure would become generalized as an argument against ever again voting for candidates who are not party of one of the governing parties. It would actually damage us rather than help us.

Yet another is that we have to stop spreading our very limited resources so thin that we accomplish nothing. Imagine that we are farmers trying to grow a crop, like roses. Roses require a LOT of water in order to grow and become something that can be sold. What we have is a very limited amount of water. It would be better to focus on a few plants instead of trying to raise all of the plants by spreading our water so thinly that NO plants have enough to grow. Now, let’s ask ourselves “What is the quality of the roses that we raise?” In order to increase the resources we can use to raise more roses in future years, we need to be able to sell a few today. We need to develop a “long game” strategy for the future.

On the national level, we need to be focusing on a realistic few races for Legislative office, and we need to start doing so immediately. It would also be better to win seats in state legislatures this year than it would be to win Congressional seats in 2012. Why? In one word, the answer is ‘redistricting’. Most states with more than one member of the US House of Representatives seem to have mostly gerrymandered safe districts, which makes it almost impossible for candidates who are not from the two main parties to win. We need to have legislators at the state level that can fight for non-partisan maps with NO safe districts. This is a very real way to tell the voters that their legislators work for THEM. I advocate a map which starts in each corner of a state and only looks at numbers of voters to create compact, regularly shaped districts without regard to race, creed, color or party. This would create districts that cannot be seen or used to promote ANY specific person or party. The reasons for this should be obvious. Not only will it help us in the future by giving third-party candidates a fair chance to win, it will also allow us to demonstrate that our primary interest is in giving power back to the voters.

We also need to understand that it is not necessary to win a majority, or even a plurality of seats to make a difference. Let’s look at Texas, as an example. Texas is in political turmoil right now. It functions on inertia… there is a government because there has been a government and it operates because it has operated. It is too big of a juggernaut to stop and it is simply rolling over everything in its path. The Texas Republican Party is eating itself right now. Our sitting Governor, Rick Perry, will have to fight against one of our two Senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison, just to win his own party’s nomination. This is not only internally destructive, when you understand how Texas operates; it is absurd because, constitutionally, Texas has a weak Governor system. The two most powerful offices in Texas government are the Lt. Governor, who presides over the Texas Senate, and the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. So, Texas has a strong legislature to really run the state, but that legislature only meets every other year and for a very limited number of days. In addition, the 2009 legislature threw out the sitting Speaker and chose a new one in a tough internal battle. At the state Senate level, our Lt. Governor is likely to try to get Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat in the US Senate. Texas is in political crises and, as the White House Chief of Staff so famously said, never let a crisis go to waste.

Right now, the 150-member House is almost evenly divided between the Republicans and the Democrats. The Texas Democratic Party right now is going to make a serious effort in the 2010 elections. They are actively recruiting candidates and have already held week-end long ‘mini-camps’ to educate potential candidates AND campaign staffs on how to campaign, how to fundraise, what the legal requirements are, fill out the forms, etc. These camps also allow potential candidates and the state party staff to get to know each other. They only need a few seats to wrest back control of the state House and they are determined to accomplish that. In a situation like what is facing Texas in the 2010 elections, if we could elect just 5 members of the state House, neither party would be likely have a majority. If we could elect just 2 members to the state Senate out of the 31 seats (half of which are up for election in 2010), we would have almost 7% in that body. If we could accomplish those two challenges, we would have a say in what happens in Texas AND the chance to work for a politically neutral district map.

The LP needs to be PRO-active about the 2010 election. If we wait until the state conventions in July 2010 we shouldn’t even bother. We need to get out AHEAD of the political season and start the discussions ourselves so that they will take place on our terms. We need to lead the discussions rather than respond to them. We need to have state and national party leader who are actively speaking around the state and promoting what our party offers that is different than what the other parties offer. All of our focus needs to be on the state legislatures this election. To make a difference, we have to be able to say WHAT we will do, and then DO what we say. It isn’t enough to be against what the other parties do, we have to offer a vision of what we CAN do. We need to find 5 – 10 House candidates and 1 – 5 state Senate candidates in 3 – 5 states to put our national efforts behind. It isn’t enough for these people to become known in their own districts… all of them must become known statewide. The people need to have speaking engagements across the state now, and they need to be speaking to full houses, not nearly empty rooms. They need to be where people are. This will not only help recruit new members and other potential candidates, it will get these people in the news where they can be seen by the voters in their districts as BEING recognized throughout the state.

We need to formulate strong, serious and realistic plans and timelines for what will be done between now and the election. We cannot keep operating on the serendipitous hope that voters will choose us because, gosh, we aren’t the other guys. We need to find a few key issues that the state candidates will uniformly speak to. Beyond that, we need to find candidates who cover different interest areas, different experiences and bring different skill sets to the table. We need to offer our disparate candidates as a real slate, working together. Even if we do this, however, we still must operate with the recognition that we can NOT win more than a handful of seats, at best. That is ok, though, because it GIVES us a message and a strategy.

Our candidates must offer very real differences between our party and the status quo. Remember, we are fighting inertia here. Without an extreme effort to shift that inertia, voters will continue to do as they always have. We need to also remember, we that cannot beat the Republicans by being Republicans. Right now, we have more in common with the Democratic Party than we do with the Republicans. We need to find common areas upon which to build cooperation. We have to make the voters see benefits to bringing us to the table. I think that in districts that are represented by good men and women of the Democratic Party, we should consider not running candidates against them and, instead, do what we can to help them. For the bulk of the legislatures, we just want to be allowed in… which will NOT happen with Republican wins and/or majorities. WE need to be seen as a unified and MAINSTREAM team that is working to make a better government than what we currently have. We need to also be seen as the team that can bring the other loose members of the political community (greens, independents, etc.) to the table where, through us, they can be part of the process. If we do that, for example, then we can garner statewide support (particularly financial support), and possibly nation support for simple district elections.

Libertarianism must end its stunted childhood. To become meaningful, we must move it beyond a simply philosophy into a practical vision for realistic government. As we move forward, we must ask AND ANSWER some difficult questions, including:

  • There WILL be government, so how can we improve it?
  • There WILL be taxes, so how can we make them beneficial rather than draconian?
  • A movement can NOT succeed simply by being against things, so what are we FOR?
  • What IS the role of government?
  • What IS the purpose of laws?
  • FOR whom do we speak?
  • TO whom do we speak?
  • How do we become perceived as BEING inclusive and NOT exclusive?

Ronald Reagan famously stated that “Government is not the solution to our problems; it IS the problem.” When he said that, he identified government as something that CANNOT be seen in any kind of a positive way. The idea that we need to promote is: “Government is not the solution to our problems; it is the problem, WHICH WE MUST LEARN TO SOLVE.” That change turns it from being a negative declarative statement into a positive challenge which we can all be unified behind as we work to build something better for the future. Our challenge, as a party, is to figure out how to make the government change so that we will have one that serves the people rather than one which terrifies them.

Sincerely,

Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas

P.S. – I asked my step-father, a center-right Republican, to look over my first draft of this. He gave me this comment from his perspective:

As an outsider to the Libertarian party, I would be more likely to vote Libertarian if the candidates did not look like mass murderers. The male candidates that I remember had long necks with Adam’s apples that looked like basketballs. The women were over 300 pounds with greasy, stringy hair. They had jobs like gooseberry farmers or manger of a gecko rescue center. What I’m trying to say is that they looked like some kind of fringe people and had no background for the positions for which they were running. Granted, there are some in Congress that makes me wonder what the people who elected them look like.

P.P.S. — Since I originally wrote this, on a recent Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert demonstrated his mastery of satire as a way to point out how ridiculous things in this world or or my seem to be. In one of his stories this week, he was talking about candidates and the third one he named (the spot of shame in comedy) was “… and the Libertarian Party’s last Presidential nominee… Drinky Bird” while behind him flashed a picture of a classic Drinky Bird in a top hat toy and the caption “Drinky Bird ’08”

EW’s List of Memorable Antiwar Films

In Activism, Celebrities, Entertainment, History, Media, Terrorism, War on April 1, 2008 at 3:21 pm

Entertainment Weekly has come up with a list of memorable antiwar films, listed below.

Would you add other films to this list? Do you believe that any don’t belong on the list? Have antiwar films helped form your present views? What is the greatest and/or most memorable antiwar film of all time, in your opinion?

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930)
The Hollywood adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s classic novel is one of the earliest anti-war films, and still stands among the most haunting. As naive young German troops fight and die in World War I, their devotion to their homeland comes to seem cruelly meaningless.

LA GRANDE ILLUSION (1937)
French auteur Jean Renoir looks at WWI from the other side of the trenches and arrives at much the same conclusion. Three captured officers (Pierre Fresnay, Jean Gabin, Marcel Dalio) bond in a German POW camp and learn that nationalism and class divisions are less important than the things all humanity has in common. Such a damning statement that the Nazis seized its negatives when they invaded France three years later.

THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946)
Call it the Stop-Loss of its day: Midwestern war heroes (Dana Andrews, Harold Russell, Frederic March) struggle to ease back into their small-town lives after World War II. A rare look at the long-term challenges faced by ”the Greatest Generation” once they defeated the Axis.

PATHS OF GLORY (1957)
Director Stanley Kubrick’s first big box-office success was also his first foray into the anti-war territory he would return to again and again. Kirk Douglas stars as a compassionate French colonel defending troops who have been accused of cowardice by their brutal superiors during WWI.

DR. STRANGELOVE: OR, HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964)
Kubrick’s approach is considerably lighter in this mordant Cold War satire. As the U.S. and U.S.S.R. hurtle toward nuclear apocalypse for no particular reason, Peter Sellers pulls off a hat trick, playing the psychotic rocket scientist of the title, the ineffectual American president, and the lone sane military man. A masterpiece of weapons-grade gallows humor.

THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS (1966)
Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo delivers a still-searing portrait of Algeria’s mid-20th-century war of independence against its French colonial government. As both sides trade escalating acts of terrorism and brutality, the Western occupation is revealed as an exercise in gory futility.

CATCH-22 (1970)
Yossarian lives! Mike Nichols directs an all-star ensemble (Alan Arkin, Martin Sheen, Jon Voight, Orson Welles, Anthony Perkins, Bob Newhart…Art Garfunkel?!) in an adaptation of Joseph Heller’s tragicomic WWII novel. The characters may have been Allied bombers stationed in the Mediterranean, but the theme of senseless violence amid a bureaucratic tangle could hardly have been more relevant to the ever-deepening Vietnam disaster.

M*A*S*H (1970)
Before Hawkeye and Trapper John were primetime-TV staples, they featured in Robert Altman’s dark Korean War comedy. Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, and Tom Skerritt star as wisecracking Army doctors in a chaotic base camp south of the DMZ in the 1950s — another thinly veiled stand-in for the situation in Vietnam.

COMING HOME (1978)
Three years after the U.S. withdrew from Southeast Asia, American audiences finally got a great film that explicitly addressed Vietnam. Jane Fonda and Jon Voight both took home Oscars for their roles in a love triangle involving a paraplegic veteran and his nurse…

THE DEER HUNTER (1978)
…and that same year, the Academy voted this intense Vietnam movie Best Picture. Robert De Niro, and Christopher Walken star as Pennsylvania steelworkers turned soldiers; we watch the war’s inhuman violence tear them apart as they proceed from a pre-war hunting trip through the battlefield and back home. You’ll never forget those Russian roulette scenes.

APOCALYPSE NOW (1979)
In a loose re-telling of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) journeys up a Cambodian river to find and kill the unhinged Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). It’s since become one of the most iconic Vietnam War films — quotes don’t get more quotable than Robert Duvall bellowing, ”I love the smell of napalm in the morning!”

DAS BOOT (1981)
Back to World War II: Director Wolfgang Petersen takes us inside a claustrophobic German submarine, revealing the grueling realities of undersea battle for a young crew whose members are beginning to question Nazi ideology.

PLATOON (1986)
The first and most affecting of Oliver Stone’s Vietnam films. Charlie Sheen, standing in for Stone’s own wartime experiences, drops out of college and ships off to the Army. Caught up in the violent rivalry between two superior officers — a brutal authoritarian played by Tom Berenger and a warmer sergeant played by Willem Dafoe — Sheen’s ideals are shattered.

FULL METAL JACKET (1987)
Another insanity-of-war polemic from Kubrick, this one focusing on a troop of Vietnam-bound Marines. First we see Vincent D’Onofrio as a young recruit driven insane by the brutal dehumanization of basic training. The film’s second segment follows the rest of the troops through a similarly hellish march into the city of Hue.

THREE KINGS (1999)
In director David O. Russell’s quirky examination of the (first) Gulf War’s aftermath, soldiers played by George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, and Spike Jonze happen upon a treasure trove of Saddam Hussein’s gold bullion in 1991 — and then things really get started. As they traverse the desert, gradually coming to realize the war’s effect on Iraq’s civilians, wry humor gives way to touching drama.

MUNICH (2005)
Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated epic takes place more than 30 years ago, but it’s still the only feature film that’s truly done justice to the profound ethical complexity of today’s ”War on Terror.” Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Ciarán Hinds, and others are undercover Israeli spies, assigned to secretly track and assassinate the Palestinian terrorists who planned the vicious murder of Jewish athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Their mission seems entirely righteous at first — but as they travel through Europe, picking off the men on their hit list, anything resembling moral clarity soon vanishes.

FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS/LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA (2006)
Clint Eastwood directed not one but two dramas about the punishing Allied campaign to take Iwo Jima at the end of WWII. In Flags, the U.S. government forces the soldiers who hoisted the stars and stripes above the island in the iconic photograph into uncomfortable propaganda roles when they return home. And in the Japanese-language Letters, we see the same bloody battle from the other perspective, as Ken Watanabe’s Gen. Kuribayashi struggles to maintain dignity amid rising casualties.

I was surprised that they didn’t include “The War At Home“, a film which takes place after a soldier returns home from Vietnam, as he struggles to deal with the horrors he experienced; the film stars Emilio Estevez, Kathy Bates, and Martin Sheen.

Another antiwar film which I would highly recommend is “Jacob’s Ladder“. It stars Tim Robbins and Danny Aielo, and is kind of hard to explain. IMDB describes it as, “A traumatized Vietnam war veteran finds out that his post-war life isn’t what he believes it to be when he’s attacked by horned creatures in the subway and his dead son comes to visit him.” It seems like a horror film in many ways, but has a very interesting plot twist at the end, which still gives me goosebumps when I think about it. I cannot recommend this film highly enough. Here is the trailer for “Jacob’s Ladder”:

Which antiwar films have you seen and would recommend to others?