Friday, July 29, 2016

So You Really Think That Trump Is Worse Than Hillary?

So you’ve looked at all the variables, and you wish things were different, but now you’re scared out of your wits by the thought that Trump is going to be your next president. You’ve accepted that Hillary is your nominee, and even though she wasn’t your first choice and you’re not exactly dismissing her more sketchy history, it’s become a bitter pill you’re willing to swallow. 

Because at least she’s not Trump.

This will surely be the number one motivator for many people voting for Hillary in November. But is it enough? Do her misdeeds get a pass because the other guy is much, much worse?

I sure hope not.

Being afraid is what makes people take leaps in logic that don’t really add up. It is funny to see the DNC using the demagoguery of Trump to scare people into voting Hillary, apparently unaware that this is also demagoguery. It makes no sense, but it is Trump that is accused of using emotion to create “political facts.” 

In reality, everyone uses fear when it’s advantageous to do so. This is what the Hillary camp is doing, but you cannot give in.

It should go without saying that I’m no Trump supporter, but many will nonetheless conclude from this article that I am. I assure you I am not. I promise you I am not. 

By all the gods, the old and the new, I am not. 

Yet those with an axe to grind are free to conclude this, as they surely will, but I am on the side of facts and reason. A fair assessment of the facts, I believe, will reveal that Trump is probably not as bad as you thought, and that Hillary is probably worse than you thought. It’s somewhere in the middle, actually. 

Trump is a statist, and that is why I don’t like him. He thinks that more government — a Trump-led government, in particular — is the answer to all our problems. Single-payer, trade tariffs, walls, you name it. There’s a government solution to everything. 

But that is where my criticism of Trump ends. I actually don’t care about his rhetoric. I don’t care that people think he’s a bully because, quite frankly, some of his more inappropriate attacks were actually made in response to attacks on him. Not all, of course, but some. He’s a guy that stopped taking things lying down a long time ago, and it’s why he’s winning. 

Another reason I don’t care is that, if he really was a bully behind the scenes as well as on screen, he would get nothing done. But clearly, he’s a guy that can get things done. If his critics are being honest with themselves, they will surely admit that this is the source of their fear: he’s really effective. 

Those slighting him for his allegedly poor business acumen have no idea what they are talking about. Attack him on anything else and you have an argument. But the guy whose name is literally a multimillion-dollar brand isn’t going to be miffed a bit by your assessment of his character or record. 

There are so many good ways to attack Trump, but this gets drowned out by the voices of desperation that just want something to stick to this guy. Anything. So was it any surprise to find that the DNC was secretly participating in anti-Trump protests? This is so sketchy it borders on Watergate, but the anti-Trumpers don’t see it that way. They will never see it that way.

Hillary’s supporters likely find this sort of thing justified, but it’s childish. It’s the political equivalent of “he started it!” In fairness, many of those protesters were Bernie people, but you don’t exactly see Hillary out there condemning it the way Trump is expected to do whenever his supporters cross the line. But I’m digressing.

Are there any positives to Trump? Of course there are. 

Despite his jingoistic approach to Muslims coming to and living in this country, he’s actually promoting a non-interventionist approach to foreign policy. Aside from taking out ISIS, he thinks it’s foolish that we’re spending so much time and money overseas when we have crumbling infrastructure here at home.

He made enemies with all the same people that Hillary considers friends. He makes a mockery out of a media that has been consistently shown to misrepresent the interests of Americans, and helps them dig their own graves time and again. 

Everyone freaked out when he pulled the press passes for The Washington Post because he didn’t trust them, and imagine my amusement when it was revealed through Wikileaks that the DNC was colluding with reporters from the Washington Post, among others. The wooziness your feeling is actually Trump getting the moral high ground. 

He’s also known for random acts of kindness and generosity that you never ever hear about, even though it seemed like there was a new one being revealed every day throughout his campaign. If you don’t know about any of those things, it’s probably because you never bothered to look. 

Again, I’m not saying Trump is Mr. Cleaver. But if you’ve ever wondered just why he’s so damn popular, you really should ask yourself if there’s something else to it. If you really think that only bigots support Trump, then you have not been paying attention at all. 

Dana White supports Trump because he supported MMA at a time when no other major venue owners did, and when someone goes against the grain to help you do what you love to do, you’re bound to become a fan. And I can think of worse reasons to endorse someone.

For all this talk of Hillary’s coalition-building skills, don’t Trump’s coalition-building skills warrant an equally fair assessment?

If you haven’t pulled your hair out yet, and are still reading this, you’re undoubtedly thinking: “Stop defending him! Can’t you see that he’s the next Hitler?”

No, I really can’t.

Trump is not the person this country needs to be president, but I can reject him without going into hysterics. 

But let’s assume you’re assessment of Trump is accurate. He wants to close down the borders, round up all the brown people for processing, give power to white supremacists to institute more racist policies, and so on. Suppose it’s all true. 

What does it say that all the death and destruction we fear he would do here is suddenly ok when we do it on the other side of the planet in a country that most Americans couldn’t find on a map?

I will be accused of failing to check my white privilege if I don’t recognize the threat to my dark-skinned brothers and sisters and jump on the “Trump is Hitler” bandwagon, but every excuse will be made for the utter destruction that Hillary has already wrought upon millions of dark-skinned people in the middle east. 

It’s much worse than you probably think.

The State Department, under her watch, was responsible for arming child soldiers in Sudan.

And this wasn’t some Fast and Furious style accident, where our guns wound up in the hands of child soldiers. I mean, Hillary’s State Department thought it was a good idea to arm child soldiers in Sudan in an effort to end the arming of child soldiers in Sudan. Oh, and it had to actually break U.S. laws to do it, one of them being the aptly named Child Soldier Prevention Act. 

Hillary’s stint as Secretary of State left a trail of bodies everywhere she went. 

Not only does she seem to love the Bush Doctrine, and believes that nationbuilding and regime change are things we should be involved in, she’s not above threatening the life and family of dictators if it serves her purpose. If that sounds familiar, it’s because Trump advocated doing the same thing to the family of terrorists, and everyone flipped out. 

So why flip out when Trump advocates for these horrible policies, but not Hillary?

Her foreign policy record is a trail of tears and bloodshed, so what exactly is supposed to comfort me about a Hillary presidency? I suppose it’s the fact that all that terror and destruction is not going to happen in my backyard, so I don’t have to care. 

If you are hawkish on foreign policy, then fine. But if you call yourself an anti-war liberal, how in the world can you justify voting for this person?

Some will say I’m being unfair. “You don’t know how hard it is being a woman in politics.” 

That’s true. I certainly don’t know how hard it is to be a woman in politics, or in business, or in school, or in any other arena. But I also didn’t see Fiorina using that excuse when she was attacked. 

When Trump mocked her appearance, Fiorina handled it with class and just moved on. She’s given speeches about how she’s been referred to as a bimbo in actual board meetings, but it was more as a matter of fact and less as an emotional appeal to victimhood. 

Fiorina is not a robot, she’s a woman. She shows that you can acknowledge the awful crap that women have to deal with on a daily basis while choosing not to be a victim. Most conservative women in politics talk this way, actually.

So why does there seem to be a massive campaign underway to paint Hillary Clinton as a victim

It’s a distraction. 

She’s not making enemies because she’s a woman. She’s making enemies because people see her for who she is, and yet she still gets away with it. 

Others have researched the Clintons in depth, and if you are not convinced that she’s corrupt, my article is not going to convince you either. But you owe it to yourself one way or another to do the necessary digging. 

Discover the origin of her investment career with a bank that was being investigated for corruption. See how she uses the Clinton Foundation to accept bribes from special interests, both here and abroad, and how she reneged on her promise to be transparent about donations to the Foundation — a promise that played a pivotal role in determining whether or not she would be chosen as Secretary of State. 

It’s all there, you just have to open your eyes. For a quick overview, read this. For something a little more in depth, Stefan Molyneaux goes through the corrupt history of the Clintons in this video, and goes into detail on the email scandal in this video. I highly recommend watching both. 

Finally, if I’m being completely fair to Hillary supporters, I have to acknowledge at least one genuinely understandable reason why they support her. It is part of a picture of Hillary that those closest to her say is more accurate, which accentuates her better qualities.

Suppose in this alternate reality occupied by close friends of Hillary that, in fact, she is a decent, reasonable woman that really has been the target of unrelenting political shenanigans, and that all of this effort to smear her and her family has been going on for far too long. She is nothing more than a committed, smart, and genuinely considerate person. 

That’s what those close to her are saying. They’re saying that she actually listens to their concerns, and talks to people like they matter as human beings. 

Having never met Hillary Clinton, I suppose I just have to take their word for it. But where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and the evidence does not seem to support this characterization of her. 

She’s enjoyed support from the black community, for example, but there is evidence to suggest that this support is not deserved, and could deteriorate before November. 

In light of the DNC email leak, Hillary’s campaign has released one press release blaming the Russians and Trump for meddling, and another press release thanking Debbie Wasserman Shultz for her service to the DNC and welcoming her to the campaign. 

She has not, to my knowledge, actually condemned any of the things said in the emails, and does not even seem to care all that much about it. 

This would seem odd if she was the woman her fans claim her to be. Wouldn’t she want to address the bigotry and skullduggery in her own party’s ranks, if only to say that this is not what the Democrat Party stands for? Couldn’t she create that unity by condemning the lack of impartiality and downright shadiness of party leadership? 

It would certainly go far to show that she’s not the crook others say she is. I think it’s clear to anyone watching this play out that Hillary merely means to ride it out, as she always does. She has fixers to handle this sort of thing. They tell her not to address it, so she doesn’t address it. 

I suppose, in that sense, she does listen. 

There is another sort of person that is also really good at listening: sociopaths. A sociopath will hang on your every word, because knowledge is power. If you understand what people want, then it’s easier to manipulate them. So in this sense, I agree with her fans. 

She needs to listen to you, so that she can tell you what you want to hear. This is why Hillary is just as bad as Trump. She can manipulate people to get what she wants. She can escape prosecution in the courts, and she can cover her tracks. 

Only she can put lives at risk and get away with it. 

She’s toppled governments and ruined lives. She lectures gun-owners about guns winding up in the hands of kids, after actually helping to put guns in the hands of kids.

Unlike Trump, she has actually had the chance to use the strong arm of government to enact policies that have devastated communities a world away. And she did it because she’s effective at getting what she wants. 

Just like Trump.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Anti-Pot Scaremongers Are Wrong About Legalization in Colorado (Again)

Opponents of marijuana legalization in Colorado pulled no punches in scaring the hell out of people when the citizens of the Rocky Mountain State decided to take back the right to grow, sell, and consume the Herb That Shall Not Be Named.

We were all told that there would be more intoxicated drivers on the road, and that someone must think of the children. But it turns out that highway fatalities are down in Colorado since Legalization. 

We were told that marijuana was a gateway drug, and would lead to increased drug use. But it turns out that's wrong too. All drug-related criminal offenses dropped by an average of 23%

We were told that there was a serious danger of kids receiving marijuana edibles with their Halloween candy, but that never happened. Not even once

And now we've learned a new fact about teenagers that is rather interesting. Teens would be using it like crazy if it were legal, we were told. And all of this concern for the children might be one of the strongest arguments against allowing this substance to be legal. If it were true.

But this isn't true either. 

According to a recent survey from the Marijuana Policy Project, marijuana use among teens is actually down, and is now officially below the national average. 

"The biannual Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS) found that 21.2% of high school students in Colorado reported using marijuana within the past 30 days in 2015, down slightly from 22% in 2011, the year before Amendment 64 was approved and enacted, and 24.8% in 2009, the year hundreds of medical marijuana stores began opening throughout the state." 
A spokesperson had this to say: 
"These statistics clearly debunk the theory that making marijuana legal for adults will result in more teen use. Levels of teen use in Colorado have not increased since it ended marijuana prohibition, and they are lower than the national average. Elected officials and voters in states that are considering similar proposals should be wary of claims that it will hurt teens."
Marijuana use among teens is not increasing in Colorado. The experiment in Colorado is showing that marijuana is not the boogeyman that many had feared. 

There is certainly still a debate remaining over the most effective ways of regulating this new industry, but we can certainly do without scare tactics. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Ron Paul's Unwillingness To Endorse Johnson Is A Teachable Moment For Libertarians

Photo: TheBlaze
The ideological purists in the party were no doubt thrilled when Ron Paul stuck tenaciously to his principles and refused to endorse our candidate. He said that lovers of Liberty should look to our party this year, but as far as endorsing our candidate, he is not prepared to do so. 

This turn of events is disappointing, but not shocking. He didn’t endorse Gary in 2012, and wouldn't have been expected to do so this time. In his (conspicuously pre-recorded) speech to us delegates at the convention was a thinly-veiled admonition against nominating Gary again. He warned us not to go with a moderate that would “water down” our message. 

We all knew what he meant, but we chose Gary anyway. We effectively said, “With all due respect, Dr. Paul, you do not speak for us.” Ron Paul kept saying during both of his campaigns, "I've been a Republican all my life." So why would we even expect him to endorse one of our own?

I believe Ron Paul played a vital role in rolling out the carpet for our ideology, and he did so at a time when so many people were eager to hear it. The people that supported him didn’t really care about his chances of actually winning. They just liked what he had to say. 

I liked what he had to say. 

I am one of the many people to join this movement as a direct result of Ron Paul. Seeing an anti-war, socially liberal Republican debating several establishment types really stood out to me, and I wanted more of that. 

I willingly overlooked many of his missteps, because I thought he represented something bigger. I was aware that he had a messaging problem early on, but chose not to see it. 

During the first debates, he made a lot of good points about the role our foreign policy played in the events leading up to 9/11, and he had the 9/11 Commission Report to back him up. He eventually named this report in a press conference after being confronted by Guiliani during a debate, but this would come far too late. The exchange did not make Paul look good at all. 

Many of my Republican friends and family concluded from the exchange that Ron Paul is a loon, even though he had all of his facts correct. It didn't matter, because Guiliani was able to reframe everything he said in a simple way, and simplicity always wins. 

Ron Paul figured out later that there are better ways to respond, and he began using them. Things like appeal to authority ("That's not me saying that, that's the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission Report..."), and analogy ("If you're investigating a murder, you have to think like a murderer. But that doesn't mean we condone killing..."). 

Gary Johnson will probably have similar missteps, so the point is not to hold this against Ron Paul, but to point out that his messaging has never been perfect either. 

Actually, a clearer example came when Ron Paul was asked about whether the 5 year old child of an immigrant parent should receive emergency care in a hospital. He could have said, “Of course, but…” and then describe a Libertarian solution that would be better. Instead, his answer went on and on, and it made him look uncaring and too ideological. It was the basis of ridicule by the media, Jon Stewart included. It’s the reason people think Libertarians are vampires.

I’m sure many Libertarians cheered when he said these things, because on the grounds of ideology alone, they are great. But from a messaging standpoint, it just bombs. 

This is why I am so perplexed to see him refuse to endorse Gary Johnson on the grounds that his messaging is unclear. Even when Ron Paul was explaining every detail of Libertarianism correctly and clearly, it still looked confusing to a lot of people. I would find myself nodding along, thinking he’s saying everything perfectly, only to find my friend sitting next to me scratching his head and asking a ton of questions.

For this reason, I argue that Gary Johnson’s messaging is probably better than Ron Paul. 

Case in point: Me.

Back in 2008, I listened to a lot of talk radio. One of my favorites was Jerry Doyle, and one day he was playing some clips from the debates, and they featured Ron Paul. At the time, I was just ecstatic to hear someone playing Ron Paul clips and speaking favorably about them. 

Someone on his show (guest, co-host, I can’t remember which) said, “He sounds like a liberal.” To which Jerry responded, “No, he’s a Libertarian. That’s what I am.”

He was asked to explain what Libertarianism is, and he said, “Generally, they are fiscally conservative and socially liberal on the issues.” His guest was sold on it based on that description, and so was I.

That’s the moment I started calling myself a Libertarian. 

Granted, I’m just one guy and this story is anecdotal, but there are facts to back it up. According to a Reason-Rupe poll, Libertarians overwhelmingly identify as fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Millennials were asked if they would support a candidate that said he was fiscally conservative and socially liberal, and 80% of those that identified as Libertarians said yes — way higher than any other label.

I’m technically a Millennial, so I guess that explains why Jerry Doyle’s generalized characterization of Libertarianism appealed to me. 

So when Gary Johnson says, “Painting with a broad brush stroke, Libertarians tend to be socially liberal and fiscally conservative,” he’s making a mostly true statement.

I get that this oversimplifies what we believe, and I get that it doesn’t have any principles behind it. I get all the issues with this phrase, but we are not talking about ideological consistency, we’re talking about messaging.

Furthermore, I don’t think this phrase is that far off from our ideology either. You might say that you are a socially-conservative-leaning Libertarian because you personally think prostitution is wrong or you think drugs are bad. But as long as you recognize that the state has no authority to say you can’t do these things and that they should be legal, then your position most closely lines up with what is considered the modern liberal position on those issues. 

That’s not how we would like it to be, but that’s how it is. People are used to thinking about things in terms of liberal and conservative, and this orients them in a helpful way. We would not choose these words if it were up to us, but it is not up to us. 

Once people sign up to learn more about Libertarianism, we can explain the nuances. We can say that, not only do we support marriage equality, but we support getting the government out of marriage altogether. This is an entirely new position to most people, neither liberal nor conservative, and technically falls outside that paradigm. But as long as we are forced to use the words of the day to tell people about us, it is ok, as long as it is prefaced with words like “generally speaking” and “speaking with a broad brushstroke.” 

This is why Gary Johnson can reach more people than Ron Paul ever could have. 

Anyone who doubts this should look no further than the concession speech of Larry Sharpe at the convention. All of the anti-Weld people coalesced around a candidate that ended up telling all the delegates that, had it not been for Gary Johnson waking him up, Larry never would have realized he was a Libertarian and end up joining our party. 

Imagine that: the man who is so allegedly terrible at messaging is the one that woke up the guy everyone chose to represent the Libertarian wing of the Libertarian ticket. That is what’s known as irony. 

Believe me, while many Libertarians may not like simplifying their message, that is what has to happen. Not only that, but the issues need to be talked about not just in terms of what ought to happen, but what CAN happen. The latter is what matters more to the average joe that’s been laid off and can’t find a job. 

It’s all well and good to be a perfect spokesperson for our ideology, getting every sentence just right. But we’ve been doing that for decades, and how far has it gotten us? 

Perhaps we need something different. Gary Johnson gave us our best result ever, and our paltry draw had little to do with messaging. It was pure logistics: we are not in the polls, and we are not discussed in the media. Because neither of those things happened in 2012 or in any year before, we struggled. 

But things are already different. People are listening, and taking us seriously. 

Nobody but the most ardent supporters ever took Ron Paul seriously. Part of his problem was an infamously low success rate in Congress, having only ever succeeding in making one bill become law. Just one. It’s a success rate of 0.2%

That’s not taking anything away from Ron Paul, because he did develop a reputation for being one of the lone men of principle in Washington. But it also means that he wasn’t very effective at doing what we’ve all been fighting so hard for: reducing the size of government. 

People would come to expect Ron Paul’s rejection, so much that he would be seen as a contrarian. This is not good, because if someone sees you as either a contrarian or a fanatic, you will no longer be heard. Perhaps that is why he was so unable to build coalitions to get small government reforms to actually pass. 

Perhaps the time for ideological fatalism is over. Maybe we need someone that is willing to meet people halfway, and focus not so much on all the things we believe as much as the things we already agree on. It’s hard to talk about common ground when we are so unwaveringly dogmatic in our principles. 

You can also think about it this way: If everyone questions Weld because he endorsed Kasich, then it’s axiomatic that we question Ron Paul because he endorsed Ted Cruz

Endorsements are always a good thing, but you have to take them with a grain of salt. Nobody’s perfect, and I would never act like Ron Paul is an enemy of freedom the way some detractors are treating Weld. 

I hate to see Ron Paul be so ideological, especially when he has proven to be more open-minded and compromising here and there in the past. I would very much hope that Ron Paul will come around and choose pragmatism over principles, at least this once, and see that there is nothing to lose by endorsing Johnson. 

He could use the same reasoning that Justin Amash used when he endorsed Ted Cruz. That being, to paraphrase, “He’s not a Libertarian, but he’s an ally of freedom, and is the only thing standing in the way of utter tyranny.” You and I may disagree with his assessment of Cruz, but he was able to endorse him without compromising his principles.

How Ron Paul can endorse Ted Cruz but not Gary Johnson is a mystery to many people. I don’t intend to waste anymore time figuring out the answer, and I do hope that Ron Paul will come around. 

Maybe he will. A lot of people are already coming around to Johnson, because he’s taking a different approach. At the very least, we should try it his way and see what happens. If he fails to get heard, we will learn from it. If he succeeds, we will learn from that as well. 

His message will be less Hayek and Rand, and more Penn Jillette and Kurt Russell, and I think that’s a good thing. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Why Johnson Is Our Nominee, And Why We Gave Him The VP He Wanted

Photo: WSJ
Libertarians sure know how to have a convention. Our candidates are amazing, our delegates are passionate, and now the whole world is watching. We could have done without the striptease, but what are you gonna do? We’re Libertarians. We’re an unruly bunch. 

I have so much to say about what we accomplished and will continue to write about it in the coming days. But for now, I have to address the elephant in the room: Bill Weld.

The split in our party is probably over-stated regarding our ticket, but it’s definitely there. Most will either remain silent and turn there attention to down-ballot candidates, or encourage more unity. 

I am now firm in my belief that this convention was an historic moment, and yes, Bill Weld is a big part of that. 

I know, I know. He’s not the most Libertarian. Some say he’s not Libertarian at all. I’ll get to that.

First, let’s get something straight. What his detractors don’t seem to understand is that the other candidates had their say, and were rejected. Everyone was heard, and all of the pitches were amazing. But they still lost. 

Here’s why.

To put it simply, the other candidates lacked vision. Gary Johnson was the only candidate with a fully developed vision, and that vision happened to include Bill Weld. 

The other candidates did have an “image” of what they wanted to achieve, but I learned in film school that image and vision are two totally different things. 

A filmmaker with an image is more like a cinematographer working from a storyboard. He’s very specific. This shot needs to look exactly this way, and not that way, and there are mechanics involved in figuring that out. It’s technical, and to a degree, objective. You can speak more easily about what it is NOT, and that’s important, too. 

Vision, on the other hand, involves two things: an ambitious but clear goal, and flexibility regarding the details. 

When I make a film, it’s less important to me that the film be executed exactly as I planned it. In fact, it’s better if I just assume it won’t. Some of the best moments in the stuff I’ve made were unplanned. Sometimes you have to play with it, and get lots of feedback. If the people around you know what your goals are, and why you are passionate about telling this story, they will help you hone it until it works. You will get people to follow you, whereas someone that simply wants the picture to look a certain way will only be as successful as his resources allow. 

It's also important to stick to your guns when it counts, too. If you take too much feedback, you will end up making someone else's film, and it will probably wind up being a muddled mess. 

All the other candidates had fewer resources, and compounded this problem by emphasizing the picture without giving us what we really wanted. They lacked vision.


So that was the nice way of saying it. But if you think that the other candidates DID have vision, let me prove to you that they did not.

Let’s start with Petersen. 

I sincerely believe that he would have won this nomination, had he not chosen to be an arrogant jerk. I’m far from the only person to point this out. 

As far as his lack of vision? He reminds me of George Lucas making the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Unlike the original series, in which he welcomed the feedback of everyone involved while he was making it (thus enhancing their quality by every observable metric you could think of), instead, he became something of an artistic tyrant, and the films suffered as a result. This change in Lucas has been well-documented. 

Petersen’s image puts Petersen at the center. If anyone objects, they are enemies of freedom, and he will sick his freedom ninjas on them. He rarely apologized for any of this, although he has apologized privately to some of my friends for comments he knows were out of line. He chose to behave like an ideological tyrant, not because his positions were anti-Libertarian, but because his methods were anti-Libertarian. 

He did not have the resources that someone like Gary has, but even though he proved that he could acquire them (courting Glenn Beck and Napolitano fans, for example), he used the Trump approach. He would have won the nomination, but decided to be a dick instead.

Petersen was rejected by the Body because his image was the image of a bully.

McAfee’s defeat was even more revealing. He did not just lose, he crashed and burned. In the first round of balloting, his total was disappointing, to put it nicely. It was not pretty. 

Generally speaking, I believe this is because his ethos is incompatible with politics, yet he was trying to do both. His failure doesn't mean he's a bad guy or that his message was rejected outright. LP members want to change politics, not burn it to the ground. 

There were many good things about McAfee. He was funny, and he was different. He was exciting. He could energize a crowd, and he had support from serious heavy-hitting media personalities like the good folks at Reason. He could have capitalized on anti-establishment sentiments in America in a way that none of the other candidates probably could. 

He also had a good story. He was terrorized by the Belize government, and fled for his life. He made millions in the private sector, and saved a young woman from prostitution by marrying her. These are really compelling plot points in a story that could have captured everyone’s imagination, if it was presented with a vision.

Instead, his whole pitch amounted to nothing more than a destructive attack on everything we’re trying to do. There are a lot of people that believe the political process is a sham, and McAfee represents that. I understand the sentiment, but at the end of the day, we are a political party. We are here to get candidates elected. If you don’t want that, then become a principled non-voter like many others have done. 

It’s safe to say the delegates wholly rejected this scorched-earth proposition. When you start your nominating speech by telling us that we're kidding ourselves if we think we're gonna win, then shame us all for being white when you lose, you alienate the very people that you'll need to eventually support you. I heard comments afterwards, along the lines of, "I guess it's a good thing we didn't pick him." At least Petersen bowed out gracefully. 

McAfee was rejected by the Body because his image was an image of reckless self-destruction.

It is not until we get to Darryl Perry that we find someone that, at the very least, kept the negativity to a minimum. He stuck to the issues, and spoke very well about them. He cared more about principles than anyone else up there, and he was funny at times. 

I would not have supported Darryl Perry, but would have accepted him as the nominee and campaigned for him if that’s what our delegates chose. The problem is that his message was too radical, and in the end the delegates did not want a radical. He might have had more support if he had more name recognition, and could be expected to pull in some donors. 

To get back to the filmmaking analogy, Darryl Perry would be akin to Ron Fricke, who made Baraka and Samsara. His films are of a genre known as “pure cinema,” and films of this type are breathtaking and beautiful

But most people would never watch them. Either because they wouldn’t be able to stand not having a relatable story, or because chances are you don't know someone who has seen one of them, let alone someone that will endorse them. 

Hearing Darryl describe his image is like watching a Tibetan monk finish a sandpainting, only to see them brush the whole thing away at the end. To the monk, the result is not important. The painting is a spiritual exercise, which is why the finished product doesn’t matter. And that is not vision. Visions are meant to be realized.

Darryl Perry was rejected by the Body because his image means nothing so long as it is not connected to the tangible world around them. It will never be realized, and that’s the point. When principles are all that matters (and things like compromise and pragmatism do not), you may as well brush it all away. 

I actually don’t think that Feldman was rejected, per se. 

He made a big splash with his nomination speech, but that was not the notable thing. What everyone needs to remember is that Feldman was basically the poster boy for inclusiveness. 

Inclusiveness is a very good seed from which to form a vision. Perhaps if he runs again for this race or another, he will focus on that seed, and wind up with a very good vision. 

I do not get the sense that inclusiveness is merely a talking point for Feldman. He uses comedy to bring people together. Comedy is a great equalizer, and is extremely effective at winning people over. It’s hard to disagree with someone when they make you laugh, because the involuntary act of laughter is very close to the idea of acceptance. 

Many of the people who voted for Feldman in the first round (like myself) were Johnson supporters. If Feldman suffered a loss to Johnson, it is probably because Johnson also has these qualities. Johnson preaches inclusiveness all the time, which is why Feldman was willing to vouch for his VP, despite his own misgivings of Weld. 

And Johnson is also funnier than people give him credit for. His $75 minimum wage joke was not delivered as smoothly at the convention, but I’ve heard him make this joke in interviews (like his interview with Penn Gilette), and it went over very well. I suspect comedy, like many of the other candidates’ strategies, will be honed over time. 

So Feldman has vision, but his vision is underdeveloped. 

And that brings me at last to the main split that has some people very upset and disappointed: 


One thing I will say is absolutely clear: everyone knew what they were voting for. The folks who chose Weld did so for several reasons, but they all come down to trust. 

Do we trust Weld? Not really. But do we trust Johnson? According to our delegation, the answer is tentatively yes.

Try to understand why this is important. 

What we basically said to Gary is “we trust you.” And what would it mean if we trust him with our nomination, but we don’t trust him to pick the right people to be by his side to help him? 

Think about it. If he wins, he’s going to need to pick his cabinet members. It’s implicit in the job we’re nominating him for that he be trusted to select his own advisors. Had we rejected Weld, we would have effectively micro-managed a campaign that already has a leader, and treated him like he needs a babysitter. It’s belittling, and makes no sense. 

I understand that we do things differently, and we reserve the right to nominate whomever we choose to be the VP. I like the fact that we do it that way. In fact, what transpired in the end was really quite beautiful. Johnson was forced to convince us that Weld was the right choice, rather than just accept it as a given. You’ll never see the D’s and R’s be this passionate about defending principles and forcing their candidate to do this. 

Even though I’m happy with the result, nothing made me more proud of my party than to see so many people coalesce around Larry Sharpe. It was exciting, because it means that everyone in our party cares very deeply. 

But people also coalesced around Johnson and Weld, and that was pretty amazing to see, too. 

Alicia Dearne’s incredibly emotional plea for party unity almost made me cry. It took guts, for one thing, and it showed everyone what compromise looks like. It’s clear that she would have preferred someone else (like herself), but was willing to put her own wishes aside for the sake of bringing much-needed unity to the party, and making Gary Johnson as strong as he can be. 

Granted, some will remain doggedly opposed to the result, but I believe most will come around. If anyone is prepared to leave the party just because it’s delegation picked the wrong guy, they were probably never serious about our cause in the first place. 

After all, the presidential race is not the only race we run candidates for. In fact, local races are way more important. 

In the end, people supported Gary’s pick because they trust Gary. Even some of the ones that supported him were nervous that he might betray us — a legitimate fear, to be sure — but took a chance. Better to go for broke. 

Weld won because Gary had a vision, and his vision included Weld. Period. 

He was never playing at the idea of winning, and isn’t settling for even 10%. The other candidates were only playing at the idea of winning, and some stated outright that it was not their main objective. 

But our delegates want to win. We’ve earned it, and we believe it’s our time. We care about principles, but we also care about being taken seriously and, hopefully, putting some tick marks in the "win" column for a change.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Nominating A POTUS Candidate Is The Easy Part

As I sit in the airport, I’m feeling more present in my life than ever. The miracle of human flight and the nuisance of airport security that must be endured to enjoy it, as I fly to the East coast to nominate someone I think will protect the prosperity we enjoy in the West. 

I am cautiously optimistic that my party will do the right thing and nominate Gary Johnson. It’s no secret at this point that he’s my guy. 

Of course, it occurs to me that all of the candidates likely would have been thinking the same things I was thinking as I passed through airport security, and that kind of matters.

All of the candidates would be exceptional alternatives to the two offerings that voters will be forced to choose between, and I cannot stress this enough. I’ve thought long and hard about what I will do in the event that my guy doesn’t win, and I’ve decided that things are too important not to support the eventual nominee. 

Some of my friends will chastise my partisanship, but partisanship is in a totally different league when it’s a minor party in question. In fact, until now, it’s practically a different sport entirely.

Fortunately, the two sports are about to merge into one entirely new creation. The game is about to change. 

It’s important that we get it right, and no one disagrees with that. But what does getting it right look like? Nobody knows, because we’ve never been here before.

Radicals within our party have one perspective. They believe that we can’t appeal to the masses unless we set ourselves apart by preserving our very distinct message and its principles. It matters a good deal to them, and I completely understand. 

Others would accept the support of disenfranchised Republicans and (soon-to-be-disenfranchised) Bernie supporters, even if it means sacrificing our presentation of Libertarian principles. Why miss such a huge opportunity to win, or at least make a lasting impression by getting huge numbers, for the sake of purity?

I understand and respect both of these positions. But it’s hard to reconcile both. How is our delegation going to do it?

I think I know how.

Johnson will win, but the anti-Johnson camp will coalesce around a VP candidate other than Weld. This will (I hope) create the unity that our party needs going forward. 

If I’m wrong, and they do in fact pick Weld (and they totally might), we may lose a few hardcore purists, but they will return to fight another day. If they would leave our movement because it’s delegation chose pragmatism over principle, then they were never really serious about things to begin with. Friends of mine that are radical have stated that they will continue to support the party and continue to address this issue, but have no plans of abandoning the party. 

I respect the shit out of that. 

I’m no radical, but those that understand that the world does not just bend to your whims and know the importance of persuasion are people we need in this party.

When I get to Orlando, I intend to approach all the candidates and ask them these questions…

Johnson: Your low-energy personality has many delegates nervous about nominating you. If you do manage to debate Hillary and Trump on a national stage, what are you going to do to prepare?

Petersen: When it comes to addressing your critics in the party, has your approach evolved at all, and do you intend to run a negative campaign if you become the nominee?

McAfee: Can you elaborate on claims made by your running mate, Judd Weiss, that you are unwilling to support Gary Johnson if he’s the nominee because he is guilty of shady practices?

Perry: Do you actually want to win, or do you just want to use the POTUS race to share Libertarian ideas?

Feldman and Sterling (and others I’m forgetting): How will you overcome the perspective that you are an unknown with little experience, and how do you expect to raise the money necessary for a national campaign?

So that’s it. In four days, we will all have to move forward with our decision, and I'm prepared for anything. We'll see what happens. 

My (amazingly possible) flight is boarding. I suspect I’ll have more to say on the other side of this trip. Stay tuned…

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Libertarian Party's Donald Trump: The Truth About Austin Petersen

Some of us “party insiders” have been saying for a while that Austin Petersen is not good for the Libertarian Party. I put “party insiders” in quotes as a bit of a joke, because anyone that actually involves themselves in what we do on a day-to-day basis understands that there pretty much are no “insiders” in our party.

In reality, all it takes to be an "insider" is run for the board of your state or county affiliate, which anyone can do as long as they are a registered Libertarian. Just know that if you disagree with Austin's tactics, you would automatically be part of the "great conspiracy" to keep him out. 

This article is not intended to be a hit piece on Austin Petersen. I don't want Johnson supporters to share this just because it happens to attack Austin. Likewise, I don't want Petersen supporters to assume that I'm taking a cheap shot at their guy. I care deeply about this party and this movement, and much of what I describe here is certainly not limited to Austin or his supporters. 

That being said, Austin does have a role to play. Only he can decide if he wants to be remembered as a valuable piece in a much bigger puzzle, or as the troublemaker that only seemed to upset people and cause discord. 

Libertarian in-fighting is an artifact of our ideology and will always be around, but if we can't learn to disagree agreeably, then our ideas are not useful to anyone. That is why I'm writing this. 

If I do nothing else here and you, beloved reader, take nothing else away from it, let it be successfully setting the record straight. I know many people personally that took a liking to Petersen, based on a few debate performances. But they usually drop their support, once they discover what he's really been doing to the party. 

It's not like I don't think he's capable of being a genuine voice for Liberty if he wants to be. Clearly he can. He served as Outreach Director of the party, and was a creative force behind bringing a key Libertarian voice to television. He's also very charming and likable when he wants to be. He'd done his homework, and knows the philosophy well. I don't overlook any of this stuff. 

But having said that, we cannot let the man off the hook. His terrible treatment of activists in the movement is disgusting, and the party is more divided than ever because of the enmity he creates.

To that end, I want to clear up a lot of misinformation surrounding this guy. And boy, there's a lot go through. Everyday, he lies about something new. 

Most recently, he lied about Gary Johnson's campaign supposedly buying up all the hotel rooms for the National Convention, and that John McAfee's campaign manager quit. Both of these claims are provably false, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

If you wish to support Austin Petersen at the end of this, be my guest. All I can do is report the facts, give you my personal opinion, and let you decide the rest.

This is important, because the message of Liberty applies to everyone, and it matters who we choose to communicate that message. 

There will be millions of soon-to-be disenfranchised, non-Libertarian voters looking for another option, and what will they think if they turn to us and see that we nominated a 35 year old Trump?

He's also made several disparaging remarks about our female activists. There are plenty to choose from, but this one was enough to be included in an article written by the same person: 

In others, he refers to women as "butter face," and suggests that breasts are helpful distractions for ugly women. I wish I was making this stuff up. 

Those should give you a good idea of the sort of individual we're dealing with, but here is one more. This one is a particular favorite of mine:


That is my favorite, because of all the figures that I would associate as “sleazy”, Kerbel is probably the last person I would think of. 

Being that he’s from Colorado, I’ve spoken with Kerbel a number of times. He is one of the sharpest, nicest, most consistently Libertarian guys I know. I would not have been at all upset if he was our nominee. I still think Johnson is better because of experience and name-recognition and all that jazz, but Kerbel is one legit dude. 

But if you're Austin, who cares? Most of his supporters associate Colorado as that place that banned him from debating (a fact that he misinformed his supporters about, which I’ll discuss in a moment). So most of them probably believed that Kerbel really was sleazy, even though Austin offers absolutely no evidence for saying so (something he does repeatedly). 

Again, this is not supposed to be a hit piece, but this stuff matters. Many smart, rational people are tentatively supporting him on the basis that he is a sharp, professional candidate that speaks our values well. I believe many will be aghast to learn that he is engaging in these things.

But we're just getting started.

The truth, as if it needs to be stated, is that all of our candidates would be exceptional alternatives, but only one of them is an internet troll masquerading as a presidential candidate. And I wish I could take credit for being the first to point it out, but clearly I’m not.

Lately, he is starting to take some outlandish actions, and to call them “missteps” would reflect a misunderstanding of the very nature of the campaign he is running. 

Many viewers watched the Stossel debate and took a liking to Austin. It’s not hard to see why. He seemed like a pretty ideologically consistent Libertarian that spoke well and genuinely seemed to love Liberty. His attack on Johnson’s position on anti-discrimination laws did not come off sounding like an adolescent sibling rivalry, but more like a real candidate with a legitimate point to make. 

It shifted a lot of energy away from Johnson and onto him, too, which means it was an effective attack. It showed that he is capable of going on the offensive without resorting to ridicule, mockery, or outright lying.

But if you are one of those viewers that took a liking to Petersen because of his better-than-usual performance in that debate, let me try and paint a more complete picture of Austin Petersen (as if I haven't already). 

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Johnson supporter. I was also one of the board members in Colorado that voted to direct the Convention Committee not to extend an invite to Austin Petersen to attend our debate. 

I can’t speak for the board, and I won’t go into any of the details of that decision. But I can tell you why I personally supported that decision. 

At that point in time, Austin Petersen had already publicly expressed his disinterest in and repudiation of the Statement of Principles of the Libertarian Party. He also continues to ridicule anyone that uses the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) as a means to communicate, simply, what Libertarianism is all about. 

If that was it, maybe there would have been less support for not inviting such a character to our debate. If someone has a rational argument to make for no longer using the NAP as a tool for communicating the ideas of Liberty because it over-simplifies things and infantilizes our ideology, then let’s hear it. Our membership will decide (unfavorably, I’d expect) whether it agrees or not. 

I am not a Libertarian purist by any stretch of the imagination. My last post should have made that abundantly clear. So if that was the case, I would have loved to hear his argument. 

But that was not the case. And the more Austin used social media as a mud-slinging device, the more I realized that he is not interested in rational discussion at all. In fact, he admits that he is not interested in this. He actually seems to enjoy being an agitator.

It was evident then in many ways, like the aforementioned demeaning of members who do prefer the NAP and use it often. He had taken a few swipes at his fellow candidates as well (referring to Gary Johnson as Gary “Flaccid” Johnson, for example), and they were enough to convince me that this man was not fit to run an outreach booth, much less lead the nation. 

The most alarmingly unprofessional statement to me at the time was what he said in his interview (if you can call it that) with Cantwell, whom very few people in the Liberty movement can even stand. The interview is like watching two Donald Trumps argue with each other about who has the largest banana in their pocket. 

More specifically, the part where Austin said this, in response to Cantwell saying he gets laid more often than people think: 

“I’ll bet you do, you tubby piece of s***. You couldn’t even approach the pyramid pile of p**** that I swim in on a regular basis. And it’s because I have class, mother f*****!”

Yes, he said that. 

It’s not that I think that these sorts of statements should always bar a Libertarian from ever getting to run for office. Most of us have said things like this at a time when we never thought we’d ever be running for office. Us regular citizens have that luxury. We don’t have to worry about the morality police combing through every recorded word we’ve ever said or written.

Having said that, though, it might be the only time I’ve ever heard a pro-life candidate talk about how he is swimming in p**** on a regular basis. Plus, none of these statements were friendly. He was not poking fun at Cantwell, he was viciously attacking him. Not that I'm a fan of Cantwell, but two wrongs don't make a right.

In fact, this interview is probably the most honest depiction of Austin Petersen that actually exists on the internet. Again, I can’t speak for the board, but to me, this was actually the dealbreaker. 

According to the bylaws of our party, his opposition to our Statement of Principles alone would have justified the decision we made. In fact, the National Party could technically dis-affiliate any state that chose to endorse a candidate that did so. Not that this was ever likely, but it is a fact. 

Again, if a candidate wanted to persuade me that those rules are too strict, I would love to hear his case. But for me, I was not merely following rules. I actually think those particular rules exist for guys like Austin Petersen. They exist for anyone that wishes to use our party for cheap ballot access, and for those who wish to portray a very incorrect image of Libertarianism. 

His dismissal of our most basic principles reflects a deeper problem that doesn't just rub the purists in the wrong way. His behavior is also a bit of a subjective thing to measure, but when he begins to tell lies, it is no longer subjective. It is a problem that we all need to recognize.

The first time I actually observed his campaign’s willingness to spread lies was actually regarding our board decision. He told his followers that we excluded and banned him from attending, which was never true. 

Once he reached out to us, it was settled that he was attending. There was no more debate on the matter on our end, because we never voted to exclude him. None of us freaked out, and there were no emergency meetings. We did not change our votes or backpedal. In fact, he was even offered a free meal by our Convention Committee Chair, which he arrived too late to receive. 

In spite of all this, he sent out a mailer that said, “Petersen Campaign Triumphant After Attack From Party Establishment Insiders.” 

There is simply too much fail in that headline to unpack.

He also told his followers that our board members were gagged because of a second vote we took regarding communications with Petersen's campaign. A clear violation of free speech! 

Well, this was not true either. Board members were always free to interact with Petersen and his campaign, just not in an official LPCO capacity. This was a reasonable expectation, given the willingness of Petersen’s campaign to spread misinformation. 

You know, like telling them we were all gagged. Why would we vote to do that? It makes no sense at all, but Petersen's supporters believed every word of it.

In any event, Petersen came, was warmly welcomed, and the debate occurred without incident. Taking a principled position to not formally invite him actually turned into positive publicity for Colorado and for the party. Many other Affiliates applauded us, as did many of our members. 

Those members in Colorado that were angry with us were precisely those members that received the bad information I just referred to. When it became clear to our members that, not only was he not excluded but was expected to appear (and was even included on our marketing materials for the event), they largely agreed with our decision. 

A big reason why this misinformation existed in the first place was a poorly-sourced article on, which contained much of these falsehoods. But Austin is not the sort of person that is going to follow up on it and verify if it's true. It benefits him more to have a dragon to slay, and he raised quite a bit of money trying to slay LPCO. 

It also bears noting that, although he attempted to involve himself in the affairs of an affiliate by urging all of his supporters to vote LPCO's entire board out of office, none of that came to pass. All of the board members that sought re-election at our Convention were re-elected without objection. There was not a single member of our delegation that even mentioned our decision, or any other issue, as being cause for concern for the board's integrity. You would think that Austin's sabre-rattling would have led to at least one member voicing dissent. 

If I could go back and do anything differently, the only thing I would have changed is that I would have suggested the disinviting to include ALL candidates that have repudiated our party’s principles. 

It would have changed nothing in reality because Austin was and still is the only one who has, but it would have driven home the point a bit more clearly that we are not just picking on Austin. Austin is doing it to himself. If you don't support our party's principles, fine. But find another party. 

That’s the real point here. Austin oscillates between proud agitator and victimized outsider, and people are calling him out on it. 

Gary Johnson called him out on it in Texas, and for the first time, everyone got to see it. He had the gall to say that Gary Johnson — a successful businessman, two-term Governor, and plaintiff in a suit against the Debate Commission — was a defeatist. The nazi cakes was one thing, but this is just silly. It was the height of hubris. (watch video here; exchange begins at 1:28:30)

He is treating this race like a personal vendetta, but against whom we can never be entirely sure. His narcissism has gone beyond even Trump, because at least Trump doesn’t act like he speaks for the party or for any movement. 

Austin has repeated the famous Isaac Newton quote, "If I can see farther, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants." But does he actually believe this? His actions seem to suggest otherwise. 

He is not above throwing heavy-lifting advocates of Liberty under the bus whenever it suits him. He picks fights with them instead, which is the least Libertarian thing you can do. 

One of the best examples of him picking a fight with the strangest of enemies is the time he whined about losing to "Uncommitted" in Missouri. 

Because of a technicality, Gary Johnson was not on the ballot in this state, which holds a Primary instead of the more traditional (for a third party, anyway) Caucus. As a result, Gary Johnson supporters chose "Uncommitted" instead. But when the LP National’s Facebook page reported (factually) that Austin Petersen came in second behind “Uncommitted” and he felt snubbed, how did Austin choose to respond? 

By accusing the LP National Facebook page of shady practices (with zero evidence), and by posting the cell phone number of Nick Sarwark, the LNC Chair, and encouraging his supporters to go and harass him. 

Now I know Nick personally, too, because he’s also from Colorado. He’s a big boy, and he can handle this sort of treatment. He’s been dealing with it since day one, in fact. But who else gives out the cell phone number of people he doesn’t like, and encourages his followers to harass them? 

That’s right. Donald Trump

Austin has a massive messiah complex. He thinks he’s white-knighting for Liberty, and that means he’s never wrong. Many of his supporters would rather quibble over details than admit that this is not healthy, presidential behavior. It certainly doesn't help the movement.

He says things like, “a prophet is never welcomed in his own land.” He says that because he thinks he's the Libertarian savior coming to rescue us from ourselves. Have you ever heard of a more anti-Libertarian ethos than that? 

Libertarians do not need saving, least of all from an insecure self-promoter like him. When he speaks, it is not the suffering of a man that spent three days in the belly of a whale, but the jilted bitterness of a troll that spent three minutes in a chat room. 

Any criticism is simply perceived as persecution by Austin, even when he is the one throwing the sharpest objects and seeing what does the most damage. 

But here's the good news. 

The more sharp objects that Austin Petersen throws, the sloppier he’s going to get. His attack of Gary in Texas is evidence of that. He has gotten so sloppy that even his own supporters are starting to turn on him. One of his supporters just posted this on the very website that Austin Petersen founded: 

“To be clear, I like Petersen. But his personal behavior and his attacks against the other Libertarian presidential candidates have made me switch my support. I liked his willingness to criticize Johnson. But the attacks have gone too far.” 

This actually gives me hope for the party. 

It means that its members are smart enough to spot a charlatan when they see one. They know that he doesn't care if the Libertarian Party grows, especially when he's posting stuff like this: 

This time, it’s not about Libertarian purity, it’s about something else. 

If Austin wants to step up and be the better man for a change, he might actually get my vote. I want to see more of that side of Austin that many already respect and admire. I don't think his young age has to count against him, on that I agree with him. I want to see the best Austin Petersen that he can be. 

And if you remain an advocate of this man, feel free to persuade me. 

I'm not kidding. I will listen. 

I will gladly change my opinion if Austin changes his attitude and his behavior. I had hoped he was willing to do this, based on the professionalism he displayed at our debate in Colorado. It's proof that he CAN do it if he wants to, but he's choosing not to. 

But whether he wises up to any of this, I cannot predict. Regardless, we can all learn from it. The great thing about our community is that we do not put up with this sort of thing for very long. It's not what we're about. 

We're about respecting each other, and building each other up through voluntary exchange. Criticism and competition are wonderful things, because they help us arrive at the best solution. But if we cannot show the world how to do this in a healthy way, then we are wasting our time. 

Convince me that his divisive rhetoric and negative campaigning is good for the party and for the movement. I don’t think you can, because cutting people down for your own benefit is in the nature of behavior that runs counter to the NAP. I would criticize anyone who thinks likewise.

But then again, Austin is not a believer in the NAP anyway.