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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Too Short For a Column: 2011 Remarks in Review

Here is a wrap-up of everything I wanted to post in 2011 but found I could only make one or two lines out of it. Some of it I already said elsewhere, but here is a complete collection of it. So, let's go. Cue the "In Review" music of your choice.

It's Official: Gary Johnson to Run as Libertarian

Gary Johnson will seek the
Libertarian Party
nomination at the  convention in
Las Vegas.

It's official now. Gary Johnson has decide to drop out of the Republican primary and run for the Libertarian Party nomination. I think this is a good move for him since his ideas on gay marriage and abortion are too non-mainstream for the Republicans to tolerate. 

I personally like the fact that Johnson is a social liberal. He is what is called a "classical liberal". He is fiscally conservative and socially liberal. He opposes most government policies restricting individual choice. He supports the FairTax. In other words, Gary Johnson is my ideal candidate.

That being said, I will still support Ron Paul in the Republican Primary, for now anyway. But if it comes down to him and Gary Johnson, Johnson gets my vote. I don't think it will though.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The First Annual Chutney Awards - Stupidity and Politics at Its Finest

Well, in what I hope will become an annual tradition at Gakkery, I am giving out the 2011 Chutney Awards. These are for cases where politicians or other important figures or entities demonstrated what can best be described as the intelligence of a Bowl of Chutney. In other words, stoo-pid. Well, here goes. Want actual good news? Come back tomorrow and we'll talk about that stuuff. But for now, it's just stupid and dumb.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Johnson Switches to LP, I switch to RP

Note: Unlike the preceding articles I wrote about third party candidates, this IS an endorsement and should be taken as my personal opinion. It was written by me, not by the Ron Paul and Gary Johnson campaigns. 

Gary Johnson has dropped out of the
Republican race and will seek the nomination
of the Libertarian Party. As of now, I'm supporting
Paul, but things could change. 
So, by now many of you have heard the news that Gary Johnson (who I endorsed) plans to drop out of the GOP race and seek the Libertarian Party nomination. Then again, nobody on TV mentioned it, so maybe you didn't. But anyway, I mentioned that I liked Ron Paul as a candidate but thought Johnson would be better. So, this change, combined with Paul's recent surge in the polls, has caused me to consider a few questions.

1) Should I stick with Johnson and support him for the LP nomination, or should I ignore it at this point?
2) Should I support Paul for the GOP nomination, or should I ignore it at this point?
3) Can I do both #1 and #2, or is that hypocritical?
4) If both Johnson and Paul win their party nominations, what do I do?

I will now state what I think of each. With regards to number 1, I want Johnson to get the LP nomination, and will support him. But, I don't want him running against Paul since that will hurt both of them. I'd rather the LP run nobody against Paul, but if they do run somebody, I'd like it to be Gary. If it's Paul-Johnson-Obama, I don't know what I'll do, but I don't see that happening.

As for Ron Paul and the GOP, I do support him for the nomination. I feel he represents liberty, and as I said, he was the second-best after Johnson. On that note, being smart and actually researching these "racist" allegations, I am not disturbed by them at all. Yes, not reading what was ghost-written in his name was a stupid thing for Ron Paul to do was dumb, and yes, it was morally wrong, but it was 20 years ago. Paul has disavowed the racist writings. Plus, Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks are his heroes. He supports liberty for everybody, white and black. That is not racism.

But back to Gary Johnson. If Ron Paul ultimately does not get the Republican nomination, then I definitely would like to see Gary Johnson be nominated by the Libertarian Party. Since I'm not a delegate, to the Party Convention, I can just advocate for him and hope he gets nominated, but if he does, then I can start to do more. I just hope the GOP nomination has been decided one way or the other by May 6th. Otherwise, we may have a doomsday scenario where the LP nominates nobody and Paul loses, or nominates Johnson and Paul wins the GOP primaries. That would be crazy.

Could Ventura be the LP nominee?
I hope not. And it's unlikely. 
In any case, there are 12 days until the Iowa caucuses and 19 days until New Hampshire Primaries. Let's hope for the best with Ron Paul. If he wins Iowa, he could afford to come in a close second in New Hampshire and his campaign would strongly benefit. But if he finishes towards the bottom in Iowa, we're in trouble and may have to turn to the LP. Of course, Paul could seek that nomination if he fails the GOP, and then things really get interesting. The LP's top choice is apparently Jesse Ventura, but he doesn't appear to want the job. That's good, IMO, since he doesn't represent represent limited government enough.  Ron Paul is their second, and after that it's wide open. Let's hope for the best.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

An Orwellian Nightmare: Obama Signs Defense Authorization Act on Bill of Rights Day

As some of you hopefully know, last Thursday was Bill of Rights Day. It was on December 15th, 1791 that the Bill of Rights was ratified by the 13 states. Americans were guaranteed freedoms such as speech as well as the right to be free from unjust searches and seizures. This document is one of the most fundamental sources in ensuring our freedoms today.

The Bill of Rights is short, but very
important. Keep our  freedoms!
However, :President Obama is seeking to take those freedoms away from us. On Thursday, he signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This bill would allow anyone "suspected" of terrorism to be detained indefinitely. Even American citizens.

That's right - if a Congressman tweets his girlfriend that he's flying to her town and has "a special surprise" in his pants, they can say he's planning to recreate the Underwear Bomber. Or, more realistically, they can have any American citizen declared a terrorist just for what they put on Twitter, Facebook, or their blog. If I say "I think it's ridiculous that we can't bring bottled water onto airplanes. What could a terrorist do with bottled water? Pour it on the pilot and damage the equipment?" they could say I'm planning a terror attack using bottled water and airplanes and lock me up indefinitely. In other words, I'd be stuck in some top-secret facility forever. All because I spoke out against bottled water policies on airplanes. And even though the right for me to post something like that is clearly protected by the First Amendment. And even though indefinite detentions are clearly Unconstitutional. Remember the Bill of Rights? It's going down the toilet.
It's getting really
close to Orwellian here.

You have to wonder what the government will think of next. Will we have Orwell-style Thought Police making sure we can't possibly dissent against the government? Will they outlaw all protests against the goverrnment? Will Congress give themselves the power to shut down Youtube on a whim? Oh wait, the last one might happen soon.

In any case, these Constitutional Violations must stop. The American government must be restrained by its Constitutional limits. NDAA must be declared Unconstitutional, and SOPA must not be passed. Instead of worrying about whether politicians have violated their wedding vows and been unfaithful to their wives, worry about whether they have broken their oaths of office and been unfaithful to the Constitution. Most have been.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Third Party Coverage for Presidential Election 2012: Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) - Peta Lindsay and Yari Osorio

PSL hopes to continue the struggle
against the capitalist system in 2012.
The next part in our coverage of third-party candidates in the 2012 Presidential Election. I anticipate reposting and updating this closer to the election, as it is still almost 11 months away. This is not intended as an endorsement of any kind. Also, do not pay notice to the fact that the socialist parties are being covered first - they were simply the first to nominate somebody. Also, I apologize for the atrocious formatting. Blogger's being annoying. 

Party: Party for Socialism and Liberation
Presidential Nominee: Peta Lindsay*
Vice Presidential Nominee: Yari Osorio*
Election Website: http://www.votePSL.org
Ideology: Socialist/Marxist

* - Neither Lindsay nor Osorio is Constitutionally eligible to be President. Lindsay is 28 and Osorio was born in Colombia so is not a "natural-born US citizen". This is explained further below.

Response by staff member (text in bold was my questions):

Dear Gregory

You could consider posting what we have on our site at http://www.votePSL.prg which will have the most up to date information on our campaign.

I am inserting some excerpts from the website below so you can get a better idea

The PSL is a revolutionary Marxist party in the United States that struggles for socialism. We want a revolution; and, we work hard to make it happen.
The PSL is involved in struggles—both large and small—that affect the U.S. working class. From the Occupy movement to the anti-war movement and the fight for immigrant rights; from struggles for affordable housing and health care to combating racist police brutality; from the movement for women’s rights and LGBT equality to labor and union struggles—the PSL is at the forefront of the class struggle against the capitalists and their rotten system.
Peta Lindsay will be the Presidential
We are comprised of militant, working-class organizers and leaders dedicated to advancing the struggle for workers’ power.
Our party knows that revolution is necessary. We fight for reforms that ease the burden on workers and oppressed people, but ultimately reforms are not enough. We know that revolutions are made in the streets, in the factories and other workplaces, and in the military units when workers—in and out of uniform—become conscious that the power of the capitalist bosses and the generals must be replaced with the power of the people. This is the message that the PSL will bring through its intervention in the 2012 elections.
The U.S. electoral system is reflective of a capitalist plutocracy. We live under a government of, by and for the wealthy. These politicians—from President Obama to Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and on down the line—are fully beholden to their corporate backers, the 1 %. Even if they started off from humble backgrounds or espoused progressive positions earlier in their careers, not one politician will be able to become president of the United States unless they adjust their positions to that which is acceptable to the capitalist vultures and the military-industrial complex. Each one of them will embrace the goals of U.S. imperialist domination or they will be dumped unceremoniously by the Republican and Democratic parties. None of them will forward the working-class struggle.

The PSL’s 2012 campaign is meant to inspire more working-class organizing, agitation and revolutionary consciousness. We will take the ideas of socialism—a better, more just society; the way forward for humanity—to the workers and poor people in the United States. The PSL’s campaign will open a much-needed avenue for workers to wage political combat against the capitalist establishment and their corrupt representatives.
Our candidates will travel to every part of the country to spread this message.
Join the PSL’s 2012 campaign. Raise the banner of socialism. Champion the cause of the working class.
Become an advocate for people’s rights and revolutionary change.

First (and this part I am asking everyone), could you please give me a summary of your campaign and what it stands for. What are some important issues to you?
Also, since ballot access is important for third party candidates, please let me know (as best you can - best guesses are fine) what progress you have made/plan to make on ballot access.
The ruling class in the imperialist United States do everything they can to keep workers' candidates off the ballots. Those who do get on have to collect thousands of signatures using volunteers for weeks and week and even with such a noble effort it is still only possible to get on a handful of states' ballots. Most organizations that represent workers interest do not have the millions of dollars to pay to get the candidates on the ballot or the ability to spend millions in mobilizing volunteers, e.g. California alone requires hundreds of thousands of signatures to gain access for just one election.
Yari Osorio will run for VP.
He is not Constitutionaly
eligible to be President
but PSL wants to send a message
more than anything.
Neither you nor Mr. Osorio are Constitutionally eligible to be president. How will this impact ballot access?
Our candidates are selected as representatives of the struggles of working people. Our first decrees would be to offer universal healthcare for all, end landlordism, forgive all student loans, forgive mortgage payment and reverse forclosures to attain housing for all, provide citizenship to all undocumented, abolish racism, double the minium wage--these are just some examples of our program and what our candidates represent. Our campaign is one of expanding rights of working people, not a campaign of exclusion like those of the candidates of the rich. The Constitution, as you state, prohibits our candidates from running. Each state has different laws that interpret this and it will be part of the struggle for ballot access. We will, however, gain access to the states we are aiming for.
Also, what happens if you win and Speaker of the House John Boehner becomes president?
I'm not clear about this question. (see note below)

What makes you different from Stewart Alexander of Socialist Party USA? Why should we support you over him?
We run with other socialist and progressive candidates against the capitalist system. We are not running against them but with them. We will have different campaigns and views. Workers should select the candidates they feel best represents them, but our campaigns are all in the spirit of solidarity with other campaigns like the Socialist Party.

What is your view on First Amendment Rights?
Although PSL nominee Peta Lindsay
 and Socialist Party USA candidate
Stewart Alexander agree on most
issues, Lindsay would not protect
hate speech as "free", while
Alexander would.
We support individuals choice in worship if they choose to do so. The first admendment is a description of bourgeois rights--we ask right to assembly for who? We stand for the right of assembly of the Occupy movement that is being severely repressed by the cops around the country, we are for workers' rights to organize a union at the workplace. However, we are not for the rights of racists, like the Klan and the Nazis--the promotion of racism and violence would be illegal. We are also not for the bankers to hire armies to suppress people from speaking out against them.
Do you oppose all forms of censorship, no matter what? Or would you support censoring certain things, possibly including hate speech or attempts to reinstate capitalism?
I think I answered this in the previous question

President Obama has been "accused" of being a socialist. Do you feel these statements are accurate? Why or why not?
President Obama is a representative of the banks and corporations. He is th ecommander in chief of an army of occupation that is killing people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere. He is not a Socialist.

Is war ever justified? If so, when?

We are for the defense and liberation of working and oppressed people.

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment so far in terms of politics?
In seven years our party has grown and matured in the struggle. It is an achievement to announce this campaign that will capture the attention of many working people around the country as we promote a program for true liberation through Socialism.

My notes and commentary:

Obama is just another
corrupt capitalist, according
to Lindsay and the PSL. 
  • After reading the response to the first couple questions, it appears to me PSL is attempting to continue the struggle against capitalism in 2012, not win it then and there. This isn't particularly a problem for a small party. Start with baby steps, and hopefully you will eventually reach your goal.
  • Also, I stand corrected with regards to John Boehner. It was my understanding that Constitutionally speaking, if neither the President-elect nor Vice President-elect were Constitutionally eligible to be President, it would pass to the Speaker of the House (Boehner). But, accordng to Article III of the 20th Amendment, "Congress shall provide by law for [such a case]". Either way, PSL doesn't seem to expect that to happen. But as I've said, if you truly support a third party candidate, you should vote for them even if they have no chance of winning. It's far better than picking the lesser evil. 
  • Note the differences between Lindsay and Stewart Alexander on free speech. Recall my quote from my coverage of Mr. Alexander. "As President, even if Nazis or Klansmen protested peacefully outside the front doors of the White House for weeks on end, I would not raise a finger against them or instruct anyone else to do so." In contrast, PSL would censor these things. I personally prefer Alexander's approach, but for voters who want to see those things stopped, Lindsay is the better choice.
  • I completely agree on the quote about Obama. This is why we need a third party candidate. Obama is absolutely pitiful. I can't believe I supported him at one time.
  • Let's hope all third party candidates can capture America's attention, Peta. Good luck!
Jack Fellure of the Prohibition Party is the only already-nominated candidate who I haven't covered. I will mail him a letter when I get back to UConn to ensure that his response gets to the right place at the right time.

Friday, December 9, 2011

New Letter to the Editor in Daily Campus

Today, I had a letter to the editor published in the Daily Campus, UConn's student paper. You can read it here or below. UConn is going on winter break, and then I will be returning for Spring semester. I arrive on campus on January 15th. On the 16th, we have Martin Luther King Day, so it's a "holiday off". Then, classes begin on the 17th (unless we have snow again).
Stephen Klinck misses an important point in his article about the Republican primary season. He does mention how the Republican candidates will be quick to support another one who happens to get the nomination. However, with a few exceptions, they haven't been directly going at eachother to begin with. Newt Gingrich is essentially seeking the nomination on the platform of defeating Obama. Well Newt, I should hope that's your plan. If you plan to get the nomination then lose to Obama, then you don't deserve it.
Additionally, the Republicans have failed to show how they would do any better in charge of this country. Politics as usual is not working. Let's face it. I personally am a libertarian and if Ron Paul doesn't get the Republican nomination, I will likely support the Libertarian Party candidate. For others who don?t really agree with either the Democrats or the Republicans, you too should not feel ashamed to support a third party candidate if need be. Additionally, Americans Elect is offering a direct online primary to support a third "party" candidate on the ballot. This would provide even more choice for Americans. So next November, don't feel like you have to choose between quibbling politicians who will worsen the state of this country. You don't. Hopefully this primary season will make all candidates seem so unappealing that none of them win. That way, we will finally have someone from outside the establishment running this country.
– Gregory Koch

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Third Party Coverage 2012: Stewart Alexander, Socialist Party USA

The first in my multiple part series on third parties running for president in 2012. This will likely be reposted as we get close to November. But I will post it now, as they have responded. I wouldn't assign much significance to the fact that they were first to respond - most parties haven't nominated anyone yet. 

Party: Socialist Party USA
Image from Wikipedia.
Website: http://www.stewartalexanderforpresident2012.org/home.htm
Presidential Candidate: Stewart Alexander
Vice Presidential Candidate: Alex Mendoza
Ideology: Socialist
Ballot Access: [A]s to what we are doing to gain ballot access, we are getting things planned.  I can say that we are working on organizing our candidates in Alabama and Vermont, which have the sensible ballot access law that we merely have to be organized in the state.  We already have access in several states, such as Ohio and Florida, and there are some easy states, such as New Jersey, with low requirements and in which we have a lot of members.   In Michigan, there is a pending lawsuit for ballot access as the leading candidate for the Greens from 2010, which officially keeps their ballot access, was not a Green party member, but a Socialist party member whom ran openly as such.  That's what I know offhand.  We may not get all 50 states as many have early deadlines, though many do have later dates for president-only access.

Summary: I did not receive a summary exactly, but the website and question answers were detailed enough that I think we can establish it.

Questions (answered by campaign staff member):

Many of us are old enough to remember the "Red Scare" of the 1960s. Do you feel the need to convince them that socialism is not the ultimate evil as some would claim? If so, how will you do so?

Absolutely.  The Socialist Party USA, and its predecessor, the Socialist Party of America, have long supported civil liberties stronger than those of the twin capitalist parties.  In fact, Eugene Debs had spent years in prison for speaking against World War I.  Norman Thomas, a presidential candidate through much of the Socialist Party of America's history, had been good friends with Martin Luther King Jr and wrote President Truman warning him of Stalin.  Though many had been supportive of Lenin in Russia, the party was very much opposed to the USSR once Stalin took charge.

Election after election, Socialist Party candidates rank in as more freedom-loving than the capitalist candidates, including Ron Paul, whom ranks as slightly authoritarian (http://www.politicalcompass.org/uselection2008).

Pointing to this long history, in the face of the capitalist parties voting strongly for various civil liberties violations, such as creating indefinite detention without trial for American citizens, will do far to awaken them to the truth in these times.

2) On those lines, during the Cold War, many politicians from both sides adopted, to quote Harry Potter, a "neither can live while the other survives" approach to communism and capitalism. Do you feel that way? Why or why not?
It is not necessary for either capitalism or
socialism to die at the hand of the other. One can live
while the other survives. The same could not be said
of Harry and Voldemort, however.
We are not a Communist party, so this does not really apply to us.  Now, we do believe that socialism and capitalism can coexist in the same world, though the United States is a threat to socialism overseas at the present.  However, if the US were to go socialist, there would not be a powerful enough imperialist power to create such a threat to worldwide socialism.

The United States isn't truly practicing capitalism now, as one can see if they read Wealth of Nations, written by the "Father of Capitalism," Adam Smith.  Smith wrote the book describing how corporations concentrate power and destroy free market forces.  One method of building socialism still leaves room for these small shops (see http://www.stewartalexanderforpresident2012.org/nowakowskimodel.htm)

3) On your website, you say "We call for a ban on animal experimentation for product development, and for an oversight board to examine and limit the use of animals in scientific and medical research.". But where do medical drugs fall on there? Are they considered "product development", or "scientific and medical research"?
Medical drugs would fall under scientific and medical research.  These days, it is possible to culture animal cells in petri dishes which can be used for much of scientific research and product development to ensure that as few animals as possible are violated by research.

4) On those lines - it goes without saying that socialism would be for all the American people. But animals aren't people. What "human" rights should/shouldn't they have, in your opinion?
We do not have any animal rights experts working on the Presidential campaign at this time.  However, I could give some precursory answers that they should not be abused by humans outside of necessary testing done with the full review of scientific ethics boards.  Even when they participate in such tests, the greatest care should be taken to bring as little harm to the subjects as possible.  Wild animals should be given ample habitats to ensure they can survive successfully in the wild due to the laws of nature, not human expansion.  Animals should also not be killed for the commercial use of their furs.  We certainly would not suggest that animals, other than humans and any sentient species we may come across some day, deserve political rights.
Alexander seems to adopt a Keynesian
approach to economics. The more money
we put into the economy, the more comes
out, regardless. However, a campaign staffer
says this merely represents the way things
run under capitalism. The main goal is to
establish socialism.

5) How can you simultaneously enforce a $15/hour minimum wage and a full employment policy? When minimum wage goes up, businesses are able to afford fewer employees, not more. Or would the government simply pay the wage to unemployed individuals, somewhat similar to social security now?
The driving force in hiring policies of businesses is not the cost of labor, but rather a volume of business that demands more labor.  Putting more money in the hands of those likely to spend it quickly, which would include anyone whose primary income was what they earned making less than $15/hour, can only create more demand for labor.  Where the market was in place, perhaps a higher price on products produced by minimum wage workers may make up a small part of the adjustment, but the higher business caused by that and other policies would make up the vast bulk of the difference.  Businesses would have much less of a problem paying for a worker earning $15/hour with twice the business than a worker earning $7.50 with the same business.  Don't fall into the capitalist lies - these politicians are not speaking the actual knowledge of capitalist economics, but rather the interests of capitalist business owners who want to pay employees as little as possible so they can get a bigger piece of a smaller pie - often to their own detriment.  They don't look outside the immediate profits of now. Update: Per the campaign staff member: "Alexander does not take a Keynesian stance, though he takes that interpretation of how things run under capitalism.  The goal for the economy is establishing socialism, collective ownership and control of the means of production (and Alexander is adopting the Nowakowski model as his ideal model, which explains this more).  I answered this question based on what was asked, not a general stance.  Stewart Alexander believes in directly creating jobs, and he understands that before socialism can be fully instituted, this will be much more effective in a Keynesian sense than indirect incentives for corporations which often results in lots of waste." Fair enough. I stand corrected.
Alexander would not prevent
peaceful protests outside
the White House by anybody,
not even the Klu Klux Klan.

6) Kudos to you for opposing all forms of censorship. Would that extend to those who seek to reinstate capitalism?
Absolutely.  Your commitment to free speech is not measured by how you extend it to those you agree with, but by how you extend it to those you disagree with.  Socialism involves a lot of power being held in collective enterprises which must always be under democratic scrutiny, and no matter who is in power, the people must always scrutinize them and look for abuses.  Otherwise you will end up with a Stalin, a Bush, or an Obama.  To quote Stewart Alexander:

"As President, even if Nazis or Klansmen protested peacefully outside the front doors of the White House for weeks on end, I would not raise a finger against them or instruct anyone else to do so."

7) You call for proportional representation in government. Of course, the asymptotic limit of this is a complete direct democracy (i.e. each "voting district" has exactly one person), But anything other than this could lead to a opinion or candidate supported by a minority of Americans winning anyway. How do you plan around this?
You misunderstand proportional representation.  We are not calling for a mixed system, like in Germany.  We are calling for all the votes for the legislature to be pooled and seats being granted to parties based on votes received by the entire populace, not by districts.  We are not nationalists who drop our solidarity at national borders; neither would we drop our solidarity at arbitrary district borders.
Stewart would not let the
people go so far as to
violate human rights. Pictured
above is the English Bill
of Rights, one of the first
documents of its kind.

8) One final question on those lines - how far could the "voice of the people" go? If 55% of the voters in my district think that it's ok for a man to beat his wife, should domestic violence be legalized here? Of course, that's an extreme example, but I guess the real question is whether the people's decision is absolute, no matter what, or if "common sense" applies.
In light of the previous answer, I'm going to treat these as municipal or state borders, as there are no districts in the political system we are calling for.  Human rights are not at the discretion of any political unit, but something to be guaranteed everywhere.  Domestic violence isn't a matter of choice, it is a matter of violating human rights.  No political subdivision would be allowed to violate human rights or civil liberties.

My initial reaction:

  • With regards to Ron Paul, all the primary candidates from 2008 except Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich were considered as authoritarian (as opposed to "libertarian"). Ron Paul was less authoritarian than any of them (other than Gravel and Kucinich). That being said, Bob Barr (the Libertarian 2008 nominee) is significantly more authoritarian than Brian Moore (SPUSA's 2008 nominee). In fact, Barr is more authoritarian than Obama and Biden, according to Political Compass. Then again, most people within the LP weren't happy with Barr's nomination. It will be interesting to mark off the candidates for 2012 once we know who the LP nominee is.  However, as the pictures on the compass site are copyrighted, I cannot include them here.
  • What "human" rights
    apply to sentient
    aliens? It's an interesting
    Interesting comment in question #4 implying that they would give political rights to sentient aliens (actual aliens, not foreigners) if they ever came to Earth. I don't particularly have a problem with that (and actually agree with that) but how to give certain rights to aliens would propose a problem. I remember reading Robert J. Sawyer's novel Illegal Alien, in which an alien is put on trial for murdering a human scientist. The question was raised as to whether a "jury of his peers" would be required to contain 12 aliens of his species rather than 12 human beings, and if so, how that could practically be arranged. This led to the so-called "Trial of the Centuri", the name being an allusion to the alien's home star. But I'm not going to get into that right now. It was a very good book though, and it raises many legal and ethical issues. 
  • Note the ultra-Keynesian approach to #5. But also see the update above.
  • I completely agree with the sentiment in question six. I've said similar things myself. And I fully support the Supreme Court's ruling in Brandenburg v. Ohio that the First Amendment gave the KKK a Constitutional Right to hold a rally. I personally find their message repulsive and atrocious, they absolutely have the right to say it.
  • Proportional government is interesting. Seems like a classic parliamentary system, only without the minimum quota, however.
  • And as for number eight, the voice of the people absolutely should not override civil liberties. We saw what happened in New York City with the mosque. Don't let it get worse.
  • I'm also somewhat surprised that I couldn't find any sources who made the comparison between the Harry/Voldemort prophecy and the Cold War attitudes. But that's another story. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Third Party Presidential Candidates

Thanks to
for the pic
I have said before that I am a libertarian. This is true, and is part of why I am fed up with the government today. But, at the same time, I recognize that many people who are not libertarians are also frustrated with the mainstream politicians and are looking for another option in 2012. Which is why over the next few months, I will be analyzing and discussing various third-party candidates for President. Some have already accepted their party's nomination. Others will be known at a later date. I will be contacting all candidates with ballot access, asking them to summarize their mission and answer a few specific questions I have concerning their issues. (It will vary by party). I will post whatever responses I receive on this blog. I will also post any candidates who I contact right when I contact them, so we have some idea who is responding and who is too chicken. I will update this post shortly listing who I will now contact.

Updates 5:19 PM:

I just shot off an email to Stewart Alexander of Socialist Party USA asking him for comments... I also contacted the Party for Socialism and Liberation asking how to get in touch with Peta Lindsay directly. When I do, I will tell you... Jack Fellure of the Prohibition Party does not have an email listed on the website (which given what he says, doesn't surprise me too much) but he does have a PO Box. When I get back to school next month, I'll mail him from my address there. That ensures his response gets to me at the right place... There won't likely be many additional third party nominees in the next few months. The Constitution Party is having its convention on April 18-21 in Nashville, and will nominate its candidate at that time. The Libertarian Party will do the same thing May 4-6 in Las Vegas. Americans Elect will nominate a candidate over the internet in June 2012. The Green Party wraps up the third parties that I could find when it nominates a candidate in Baltimore July 13-15. Rest assured though, I'll try to find more third party or independent candidates out there though.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

An Open Letter to Gary Johnson

Recently, Gary Johnson received the endorsement of political consultant Roger Stone. Stone has a history of dirty tricks, including mailing pamphlets claiming Warren Redlich was a "sexual predator" when Redlich when for governor of New York as a Libertarian in 2008. Needless to say, if Gary is indeed aligning himself with Stone, I am absolutely furious. However, every now and then, a candidate gets an unwanted endorsement. Perhaps this is one of them. So, I sent the Johnson campaign an email, which you can read below. I will post any response when I get it.

Dear Gary,
I am a bit concerned about your affiliation with Roger Stone. Mr. Stone has a reputation for being a complete jerk, and you recently accepted his endorsement. This then made national media. However, Stone has a reputation for dirty campaign tactics, including mailing packets claiming New York Libertarian Party Gubernatorial candidate Warren Redlich was a "sexual predator". I do not think you want someone like that on your team.
However, I do recall the Saturday Night Live skit from 2008* where George Bush tries to endorse John McCain for President, but due to Bush's poor reputation, McCain runs away and Todd Palin and his "buddies" chase him down on snowtractors. I am wondering if perhaps this situation is something like that, minus the snowtractor of course. And of course, turning down Stone's endorsement is only going to turn him against you. However, I think at this point, now that the media has reported on your "affiliation" with Stone due to his endorsement, you need to do something or people are going to stop supporting you. I know most New York libertarians are still sore about what Stone did to Redlich. You're going to have a lot of trouble winning them over if you don't say something.
Of course, if you are deliberately and sincerely siding with Stone, then I hope you will change your mind. I do not like candidates who use dirty tactics, and one of the reasons I supported you initially is that you seem to be one of the "pure" candidates. I seek your reassurance that this is still the case, in spite of Roger Stone. Please clarify the extend of your dealings with him. Thank you.
-Gregory Koch
* You can watch that video on Hulu here. It's pretty funny.  

Commentary: So that's out of the way. As I mentioned, if Johnson and Stone are legitimately working together, Johnson will have lost all of my support. I previously said that Ron Paul would get my vote if he ran as a Republican, and if neither he nor Johnson got the nomination, I'd probably vote Libertarian. But now Johnson may be seeking the LP nomination. This could lead to a potential doomsday scenario with Romney or Gingrich running against Obama, with Johnson (allied with Stone) on the LP line. In that case, I'd have to find some other third party/write-in candidate, or not vote for that office.

However things turn out, come November 2012, I will still be supporting Sundwall for Senate. I won't publish an official post endorsing him until I get more details about his campaign, but I will post something in the coming months. Look for it. As for president, a lot of things still have to fall in place. And this shakes things up. I may wind up switching my allegiance from Johnson to Paul in the coming days. I don't know yet. But if Gary Johnson did stoop this low, I'm really surprised.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Libertarian Charity - The Best Form

Last month, our fellow libertarian blog "Libertarianly Speaking" ran an interesting article. A few days earlier, the Huffington Post had run an article claiming Ron Paul's views of charity were "unrealistic". However, let us take the time to consider what true charity really is.

Would Maimonides (top right)
agree with Dr. Paul? I think
I am Jewish and so cannot speak for Christian values, but I do know what the great Jewish sage Maimonides said. He listed the eight levels of Tzedakah (righteous giving - essentially charity) from highest (#1) to lowest (number 8). The lowest was simply "giving unwillingly". This is what we are very often doing now, even if we don't realize it. Through social security to support the poor, through taxes to support other government programs, etc. This is not real charity, or at least not very good charity. Meanwhile, the highest form of tzedakah was "Giving ... to a person in need ... to result in that person no longer living by relying upon others". As examples, Maimonides included, giving an interest-free loan, a business partnership, or a grant, and finding a job for said person in need. This is exactly the form of charity Dr. Paul and other libertarians have been advocating for years. Of course, Maimonides was many centuries ahead of them, to his credit.

However, government programs that are supposed to help the poor are not only forcing us to perform level 8, but they are doing the exact opposite of Level 1. Let's take a look at a few examples.

What would Joe the Plumber be like
in a libertarian society?
  • Social security essentially enables the poor to get by for years, so long as they continue to rely on social security. We've heard stories about welfare queens getting free housing without ever having to work. This is good for them, except that they have to continuously rely on others for support. Some would say "well, they couldn't all get jobs". I will address that now.
  • It is precisely because of government policies that they can't get jobs. Consider a hypothetical Joe the Plumber. Joe is, needless to say, a plumber, but he doesn't have much experience. As such, he is only capable of generating $7.50 of profit an hour for an employer. Now, minimum wage is $8.00, so no employer is going to hire him to generate $7.50 of money and lose the company $0.50 an hour. However, they would hire him for $7.00 if they legally could. And $7.00/hour is a lot better for Joe than $0.00/hour. Furthermore, after beginning to plumb, Joe would get better at it, and eventually would generate more money for his employer and earn a higher wage. If Joe's employer wouldn't pay up, he would go to another plumbing company that would. It's the Invisible Hand. It's worth noting that 90% of hourly employees make more than minimum wage, even though employers don't have to pay them any more. So it stands to reason that without a minimum wage, employers would still pay competitive salaries.
  • Now, let's suppose Joe is a good plumber, but nevertheless, nobody will hire him. He could be an independent plumber who works for himself. He would probably charge less than some large plumbing company, which would certainly appeal to certain people. (If you just want your toilet fixed and don't care who does it, you'd go with Joe, perhaps). Right now, Joe isn't even legally allowed to charge less than minimum wage for his own services. This obviously hurts his chances of getting employed. But what hurts him even more is another government restriction. To do all this work, he would need to take several courses, obtain a license, plus obtain another license for his business, and spend a lot of money doing so. But Joe doesn't have a lot of money. That's why he needs the job, remember? So clearly this hurts him. Without all these red tape restrictions, Joe could easily find work,.
    Of course, we can now clearly see that without all the government programs that are supposed to benefit people like Joe, he could easily find work for himself and not have to depend on others for support. Then, we would have achieved the eighth level of tzedakah simply by repealing government programs which are supposed to "help" Joe.
     One final note. These programs are funded by tax dollars from people like you and me. This leaves open interesting opportunities. If there is a charitable cause that you are passionate about supporting, which is not covered by the government, you can now give some or all of the tax that would have gone to the government to a private charity. And studies have shown that private charities are twice as cost-effective as the government. 
     So, if you give $50 to your local soup kitchen, it's really like giving $100 to a government program. Now if you give all $100 (hypothetical amount) that you're no longer paying to the government, you're no worse off and those who do have legitimate excuses for not getting jobs are far better off. Even if you only give $75, both sides are better off. And it doesn't just have to be a general soup kitchen. Presumably, due to that all-important Invisible Hand, charities would sprout up urging people to help individuals who truly can't help themselves. This would include injured veterans, people who can't work due to a disability, etc. It would, of course, also include other charitable causes such as protecting the environment, or feeding starving children in Africa. 
    Regardless of which charities arise, I do have faith in humanity to take care of their own. And I have faith in individual groups to take care of their own too. Many religions are known for this, as are many ethnic groups. I don't view this as a problem, rather I think it's a good thing. Begin by helping those who are closest to you. Then move out into the local area, your state, your country, and the world. Perhaps this is a form of libertarian socialism. But as I have said, I am a "libertarian without labels". I incorporate any form of libertarianism I want into my philosophy, and choose not to label it otherwise. So I don't have a problem with that claim.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Those Big Government 'Turkeys'

The ESPN talk show Pardon the Interruption always announces its "Turkeys of the Year" on the episode before Thanksgiving. These awards are given out to individuals or teams who have done stupid or boneheaded things over the past year. In a similar vein, since this is probably going to be my last post before Turkey Day, here are my "turkeys" of big government (in no particular order)

Look at those turkeys in the
field. Happy Thanksgiving!
  • The Schenectady County Court, for summoning Derrick Smith for jury duty in his own murder trial. Smith promised he would be "fair and partial", but was nevertheless excused from the jury pool.
  • For the welfare enablers who created a system where a North Carolina man robbed a bank of one dollar so he could get free healthcare in prison.
  • To Congress, for their spending "cuts". Saying they saved money is the equivalent of me saying that in 2013, I'm going to buy a $50,000 Porsche instead of a $60,000 Ferrari. Now, you might say "In 2013, you'll still be in college. How can you afford a $50,000 car?" And that's precisely my point.
  • Broward County, Florida, for issuing the sister of County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman a red-light camera ticket, three months after she died. Bonus points for subsequently declaring that the deceased woman was legally required to either pay the ticket or contest it in court. 
  • To the Ontario County, New York Police Department, for their plan to combat distracted driving. In May, they implemented a program where motorists could report drivers who were in violation of cell phone laws. Here's the kicker - the motorists had to call a police hotline to do this! So Motorist B sees motorist A on his cell phone and calls the police. Motorist C sees Motorist B on his cell phone (reporting motorist A, but C doesn't know that) and calls the police. Motorist D sees motorist C.... And now they're all distracted, instead of just Motorist A, and at some point some of them are probably going to have an accident. This is what happens when you don't think... Unless, of course, they're just trying to increase the number of tickets so they get revenue. I wouldn't doubt it.
  • And finally, one from Down Under. Twelve years and $600 million AUD ($582 million USD) later, the anti-submarine torpedoes the Aussie Defense Department ordered from Europe have finally arrived. But the manuals to use them only are available in French and Italian. So now they have to hire technical translators with security clearance, which will cost another 110K or so, and another delay. And by the time this is all done, newer and better missiles will have been developed, so they'll do it again...
To all you readers out there, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving. Whether you're celebrating at home or with your family, you have a lot to be thankful for. So for one day, stop worrying about what is wrong with this country, and appreciate what is right. Then go back to criticizing the government for the rest of the year.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Second Letter Today: The Paperback Trader Will be Missed (Daily Campus)

A shot of The Paperback Trader from outside.
It is in the center of the frame, to the righht of the Florist.
Too bad it will soon be closing.
In addition to my last post, I had another Letter to the Editor published today, in the Daily Campus. Note that for the original article which I reference, please see here. You can also view my letter online here or see a PDF of the print version here though you can't print it from there.

Like Jesse Rifkin, I am deeply saddened by the closing of The Paperback Trader. Although I have only had a chance to go there once, I found it to be a perfect atmosphere, quiet and friendly. It is the oldest store in the complex, and I feel sad that it is going to be demolished in the name of "progress." As the song goes "pave paradise, put up a parking lot." Of course, we will still have the Co-op to buy books, but that just isn't the same. The Campus Bookstore is noisy and busy, while Paperback Trader was very relaxed and easy-going. It's too bad it's being forced to close. I encourage everybody to visit it at least once before it does so, just to get a feel of what an independent bookstore really feels like. The charm, atmosphere, and friendliness The Paperback Trader has can never be matched by any chain outlet.
– Gregory Koch

Poughkeepsie Journal Letter: Races Should Have More than One Hopeful

Today, I had a letter to the editor published in the Poughkeepsie Journal. You can view it online here or read below:

In the Town of Poughkeepsie Ward 5 last Tuesday, seven of the 13 races on the ballot featured a single candidate running unopposed. This goes against the nature of a true democracy, and there is no excuse for it. Voting for candidates is supposed to be a free and open choice. However, with just one candidate, it becomes what is called a “Hobson’s choice.” This term refers to the illusion of a “free” choice where there is really only one option. In other words, “take it or leave it.” Yet still, candidates run unopposed and get re-elected continuously. Nothing ever changes, because voters aren’t willing to create change. While unopposed candidates do create a Hobson’s choice, you always have the option to “leave it.” I regret that more voters did not choose this option by either writing in a candidate or not voting at all for those offices. If they had, perhaps we could have made a dent in the system.

Gregory Koch

Monday, November 14, 2011

Me asking Gary Johnson a Question at Online Town Hall

Gary Johsnon
On November 2nd, Republican presidential candidate Gary Johnson held an "Online Town Hall" where he answered questions from supporters in an unmoderated discussion. I was fortunate enough to be one of those supporters. You can view the video here or read a transcript below (some editing was done for clarity):

Gary Johnson: Gregory, you're up.
Me: My question is, I know many of my friends who are college age kids don't care about politics because they don't feel that any politician really represents them. So as the leader of America now, what will you do for my generation, who is supposed to be the future leaders.
Gary: Well Gregory I think, and this was also as Governor of New Mexico, I'll tell you I saw political favors, I'm talking Payolla here, it was Republicans and Democrats both. Make a contribution to my campaign and I'm going to give you special favors. [They say] "I'm going to grant loopholes, whether you're an individual a group, or a corporation - look, I'm kind of for sale." Well as Governor of New Mexico, nothing was for sale, the whole notion was to create a level playing field where all of us had access to the American Dream. And the American Dream is, if you're willing to work hard and be honest, there isn't anything you can't achieve. I think what's really important for young people right now to understand, not that they don't and not that you don't, is that we are going to be left with nothing if we don't fix the fact that we're borrowing money at a rate of 43 cents per dollar we're spending. Money is going to be worth nothing and that is not a good scene. If you look at Russia after the monetary collapse, they are never going to recover in our lifetimes from that. That's what we're looking at unless we fix it. Your generation is not responsible for this but mine is and the irony behind all this is that this is imminintley fixable but it's got to be fixed and it's got to be fixed now.
Me: Thank you [microphone doesn't pick this up for some reason, but eventually GJ moves on to the next question].

I am pleased with Gary's response. The fiscal issues need to be addressed, and as much as I'd like to see him connect with my generation, special interests are just as bad when they involve me as when they don't. And most of his supporters seem to be young anyway, judging by who came out for the town hall. (Ron Paul has this phenomenon too). There will be several more of these meetings due to their success, and I am looking forward to them. Until then...

Gary Johnson  2012

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Most Important Issue of the 2012 Election

                With the 2011 election now over, we must now focus on the forthcoming 2012 Presidential Election.  While there are many important issues facing this country right now, the most important one is the national debt. The US national debt is currently approaching $15 trillion and is rapidly rising. In September of 2008 the debt clock in New York City had to be rebuilt because it had run out of digits. Now, the country continues to spiral towards a financial disaster. A few years ago, Citizens Against Government Waste released the “Chinese Professor” advertisement. This frightening commercial featured a history professor at Beijing University in the year 2030. He discusses the fall of empires:  the Ancient Greeks, the British, and lastly, the United States of America. Those last words should be enough to send shivers down the spines of all Americans. The professor continues, talking about how all of these empires “turned their backs on the principles that once made them great”. He alludes to the Americans’ overspending, before concluding “so now, they work for us”. This line draws some laughter from his students, but it should be no joke to Americans today.
                America used to be a fiscally responsible nation. Prior to World War II, we never spent beyond our means. However, during the War we needed to have large deficit spending. The economy appeared to skyrocket, so Congress assumed this fiscal irresponsibility actually helped the economy. However, as French economist Frederic Bastait pointed out, what is seen does not always mean the same as what is unseen. What would have been called a stimulus in our time eventually led to a recession, then another, starting a pattern which continues to this day. As the Austrian School of economics teaches, what is good for the economy in the short-term is usually bad in the long-term and vice versa. Looking back, we can see how the war spending boosted the economy temporarily, but only until it crashed. The Financial Stimulus Package has done this as well. We need to reign in the government spending now.
                For every problem, there ought to be a solution. Indeed, we can solve this issue simply by electing fiscally responsible leaders who know not to spend beyond the government’s means.  Citizens may be dissatisfied with the cuts that have to be made, but if we don’t make them, our country may have collapsed in the next 15 years. As a 19-year old living in America, this really worries me. I shouldn’t have to be concerned about whether government policy will destroy the country by the time I turn 40. Our next president must be fiscally responsible. A Balanced Budget Amendment would be the first step in ensuring that we do not have a fiscal disaster. Since the president cannot pass amendments on his own, he should veto any unbalanced budget. A line-item veto would also allow the president to block certain parts of the budget that contain the most ridiculous waste.  In any case, the next President needs to rein in spending and balance the budget. We cannot afford not to.

This is an official blog entry for the YourLocalSecurity.com Blogging Scholarship. If selected, I'll receive $1000 towards my college expenses in 2012. This scholarship is sponsored by YourLocalSecurity.com