USAF Steps Back – published 11 Feb 2011

A few days ago I wrote about how the Air Force had overstepped its bounds by officially threatening to prosecute civilian military family members under the Espionage Act if they read Wikileaks on a privately owned computer at home [Air Force Print News Today, “Command Offers Wikileaks Guidance” AFMC Public Affairs report, 3 Feb 2011].

The Air Force leadership needed to be reminded that their reason for being is to assure our liberties, not threaten to throw families in prison for reading.

Apparently, these men realized what a mess they had made, quickly retracted the threat, and said it “was not actually sanctioned by headquarters and was not in keeping with official policy.”

Thank goodness for that. But this matter not yet over. The threat retraction will not be seen by everyone, and it will chill the free exercise of the first amendment.

The Espionage Act is an especially odious law that led to hundred of Americans being thrown in jail during World War One for expressing in public that they were against the war. That such a law exists, to me, is incredible in a land that values liberty, and it should be eliminated.

So before we breathe easy, know that the stage is set for this to happen all over again.

Pete Blome
Libertarian Party of Okaloosa County

The LPF Is In Desperate Need of Reform

(originally sent to all Libertarian County Chairs with email addresses 30 Jan 2011)

Dear Fellow Libertarian County Chair,

My name is Pete Blome, and I Chair the Libertarian Party of Okaloosa County. I became a County Chair because I believe in Libertarian principles, and I think if more of our leaders applied them that our lives would be better and the troubles of our nation fewer.

We libertarians are part of the political process in America. We are trying to use our leadership and our vision to elect libertarian representatives to government. We are trying to put people and money together to gain libertarian influence in our communities.

I would like to ask you to join in the task of reforming the Libertarian Party in our state.

There are many factors that go into a political movement, and among them are personal leadership, effective administration, a professional and serious approach to duties, the ability to address relevant issues, make political alliances with sympathetic groups, gain influence outside the governmental structure, raise funding, and attract new members. All of these matters are issues of concern with the current LPF.

On the 27th of January of this year, Vicki Kirkland and Char-Lez Braden honored us by making the long and tiring drive from Orlando to Okaloosa County. They spoke to a gathering of Libertarians from the Panhandle (Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton and Escambia Counties). Their intent was to make the case for their reelection at the Palm Beach Convention to happen in late April. But after answering questions from the audience, they left the people in the room uniformly questioning their ability to take on the tasks that any state party must accomplish.

They are the leaders of our party, but…

– they made no opening statements nor presented any issues, principles, or strategies that they want to use to gather public support.

– they admitted they do not have an active fundraising program, but routinely lamented the limitations they have due to a lack of funding.

– they admitted that they do not have any significant media contacts (network news, major newspapers), nor have been pursuing them, thus limiting the ability to get the libertarian message out to the public.

– they admitted that they have not published any articles in support of the libertarian cause in outside media, nor made any other public appearances to do so.

– they were notified by me in advance that a newspaper representative of Freedom Newspapers (Northwest Florida Daily News, Crestview Bulletin, Destin Log, and Walton Sun) would be in attendance at the meeting and that they should have a prepared statement, but they never produced one. This newspaper rep left the meeting without an LPF message, other than what he saw in the meeting.

– they admitted communication with the affiliates has been poor and that it will be corrected, but this is an old story that has gone on for at least two years. I personally asked, again well in advance, that this 27 Jan meeting to be advertised on the Florida LP website, but Char-Lez admitted he forgot to do it..

– they admitted they had no contacts for potential state level candidates, nor had any ideas on how to attract them

– they said they were advocates of the “full slate” approach to the 2012 elections, but had not done any groundwork to get this accomplished.

– they admitted to suppressing dissenting views by such people as Tom Rhodes by preventing his access to the state website. I personally found this troubling because, in my opinion, it is better to error on the side of too much talk than too little. I also did not like the fact libertarians hear nothing from the LPF in terms of constructive debate about our problems, and yet a county vice chair’s words, no matter how brusque they may have been, were supressed.

– and lastly, they said it is up to candidates to present solutions to the many problems that face us in Florida. This is undoubtably something candidates must do, but it is also a major function of party leadership. You cannot lead unless you have someplace to go.

One of the people in the audience was Karl Denninger, and he wrote the following on his website about the meeting: (seen by up to 300,000 people daily, and he is a repeated guest on major media). It is well worth reading by libertarians, including the comments.

This review is harsh, but it is telling it like it is. For all our sake, the Libertarian Party of Florida leadership must have the character to not take such criticism personally, and then fix the valid problems that were spelled out.

There are many dedicated libertarians who think these problems are impossible to fix, but that is not so. Some also think that what happens at the state level is of no matter, but no county can grow to its full potential if the state party is weak.

A few changes rigorously applied can bring a world of difference, even as soon as the convention. Spread this message. Send messages to Vicki, Char-Lez and the EC that they should:

– Start a fundraising campaign. Ask for as little as a dollar a month, or even per year, from members. If there are 19,000 libertarians in the state such a simple request could net a significant amount of money that just is not coming in right now…

– Compile an email mass mailing list of libertarians and regularly tell us what is going in the LPF. I read, see, and hear extremely little news from the LPF. The EC meetings appear to have no published minutes. The average Floridian hears nothing from the LPF. This is suicide for a political party.

– Publish the constitution, bylaws and standing rules of the LPF on the website so everyone can be informed of the rules and process of the party. As it is now, this information is the province of a few high party officials at the exclusion of all others. It is impossible to be an equal participant in the state party when this information is not available.

– Every action by the LPF and the members of the Executive committee, should be advertised. All public appearances by party leadership should be on the party website. The items they write about should be published. Interviews with news services should be on the web.

– Professionalize the party administrative functions and the website. Send notice of required paperwork to affiliates in a timely fashion. Have a means to quickly access people and information. Provide better photographs of the Executive Committee and publish biographies of the members.

– Put in the time and effort to pursue support from libertarian business persons, celebrities, and organizations from across the state. Do it in person and persistently. Do this with an eye towards a lasting relationship (20 years plus). Tell people the truth about what you are about, and they will follow.

– Defend the party. Char-Lez and Vicki said the campaign of JW Smith was kept off the ballot by official Dem Rep trickery, but could not explain how. If this is so, it is the duty of the state party to fight it like hell. If it isn’t so, tell us the facts.

– Pick a few (perhaps 6) state wide issues that have libertarian support, and then actively write about them, appear before the news about them, and speak at meetings about them. The paper attached above, which outlines suggestions for a statewide economic policy (which I think should be a first priority), was given to Vicki and Char-Lez before they arrived in Okaloosa, and attempts to do this this very thing. The FLP must be continuously in the public eye. If the current leadership cannot bring themselves to do this, they need to find a spokesperson who can.

– Invite, inform and involve the mass of libertarians out there who are tired of a reclusive, ineffective and largely silent Libertarian Party of Florida. These people are our future.

– And lastly, as a county chair, I ask you to attend the convention with as many delegates as you can, but do not vote for or support a candidate for state chair until these issues are addressed, and adressed with a concrete plan, not with mere aspirations.

I spoke with Vicki and Char-Lez about these matters in person and by email, so none of what I am saying should come as a surprise. In an email message I wrote to them .. “You, as the Party leadership, and nobody else, have to take our Party to the next level. It may be a bitter pill, but the general impression of your visit left us uncertain whether you appreciate what is at stake. You are not doing what is necessary for a state level party to be successful, and that must be turned around. We really wish you the best of luck. You have taken on a big task, which means tens of thousands of people depend upon your judgement and actions, making the cost of failure that much more dear. You can be sure Okaloosa will be doing its best to make a strong FLP and LPOC. I sincerely offer my personal assistance on any FLP matter in the panhandle.”

I stand by that. I hope you stand with the ideas presented here.

The Libertarian Party should truly be a “Big tent Party” where open discussion of ideas is welcome. If you have a stronger plan to present to the LPF, let’s have a productive discussion and settle on a course of action by the end of February. If you can support the ideas above, let the libertarians in your county know, and any county chairs not accessible by email. Vicki and Char-Lez need to know what we will support.

Libertarians state wide deserve a professionally run, basically capable state party.

And there is not that much time before the April convention.

Pete Blome
Chair, LPOC

Okaloosa Schools And Fundamental Liberties

Mr. Denninger’s passionate case for school reform highlights the arbitrary nature of the state monopoly known as our education system, and the apparent contradiction that free people are taught in the autocratic state institutions known as public schools. Removing the barriers to real competition among schools, both economic and legal, would go a long way to preventing the arbitrary use of power that state schools across the country have become accustomed to, as well as make them better teachers.

I was called at approximately noon today to inform me that my daughter had sat at a table with other students, rather than at the table for her class. Her purpose in doing so, which she informed me she intended to do last evening, was to peaceably assemble with another student of her acquaintance during her lunch break. For this act of peaceable assembly she had been told to go to lunch detention at the front of the room, and she had politely refused. For this refusal she was sent to the office. These facts have all been admitted to and are without dispute.

A call was made to me in an apparent attempt to enlist me in applying some sort of sanction for her conduct. You may consider this letter my pointed and vociferous refusal, and a direct challenge to this School policy.

In reaching my conclusion I asked what purpose of the alleged rule had that she violated, that is, how her decision to peaceably assemble with another student of her acquaintance during non-instructional time while consuming her lunch in any way harmed the educational mission or execution within the school day. I was told that in the past some students had behaved in an unruly manner, including leaving trays and other debris after departing the lunch room at some point during previous school years.

However, it was explicitly admitted that she had not committed any such offense. Under questioning the administration admitted that she properly disposed of her tray and other debris, there was no student displaced from a seat at the table to which he would have otherwise been entitled and there was no misbehavior such as a raucous conversation. The alleged rule which she had intentionally broken, that of demanding that she refrain from said peaceable conversation with a person of her choosing, under obvious logical analysis, is nothing more than both prior restraint and collective punishment for an offense that has not in fact taken place. The sanction applied also implicates a fundamental human right of peaceable assembly.

Certainly any school has a right to sanction students who are unable to behave in a cordial and peaceable manner during lunch or any other time while on school grounds. It is unquestionable that the educational mission of a school requires that conversation between students be refrained from during instructional periods when attention should be paid to the material being presented. But no such argument can be made of disruption of the educational environment by a student simply choosing to have a quiet conversation with a friend while consuming lunch in the cafeteria.

Further, I was told that she had a right to attempt changing this policy through a representative process in the Student Council. Upon further questioning, however, this assertion proved to be false. Not only does the Student Council have no binding power of any sort this matter had been previously put to them in past years, they had passed open seating at lunch as a resolution, and the Administration then unilaterally revoked the decision of the Council instead of applying sanction to any wrong-doers. This was a mistake on the part of the administration as my willingness to cooperate always instantly evaporates if an attempt is made to deceive for the purpose of enlisting my agreement.

Collective punishment and deprivation of a student’s right to peaceable and quiet assembly with their classmates during non-instructional periods of the day is a poor and unwarranted excuse for the apparent rank arrogance and incompetence displayed by school staff who are unable or unwilling to do their job in policing the lunchroom and sanctioning those students who engage in inappropriate behavior on an individual basis.

Nobody who is aware of recent world events can miss the fact that we currently have an entire nation that is on its feet over exactly this right – that of peaceable assembly. The Egyptian body politic has risen and refused to cede the streets. I cannot help but draw the parallel between Ruckel Middle School’s refusal to recognize this fundamental human right and those protesting in Egypt, and find it particularly ironic that a civil rights complaint given to the governor was found discarded in the trash outside Port Said.

The right to peaceful assembly and conversation is a fundamental human right and the peaceful exercise thereof is being displayed right now, literally “in your face”, on television each and every night.

It is outrageous that our so-called “public schools”, which claim in their handbooks to be “a partnership between student, parent and school”, would fail to recognize, support and protect such fundamental human rights simply for the convenience of their incompetent staff. It is beyond ridiculous that Ruckel Middle School would choose, when challenged on these facts, to apply collective punishment rather than yield to the clear logic that is being demonstrated each and every day on international television.

Our schools should be teaching and respecting fundamental liberties, not wantonly abrogating them and threatening dissenters. Each student should be able to recite the three fundamental human rights: Life, Liberty and the pursuit of (but not entitlement to) Happiness. The right of free speech and peaceable assembly, contained in the First Amendment, is formal recognition of a portion of that right of Liberty. All rights may be infringed upon only where doing so reasonably prevents another’s rights from being harmed.

This is fundamental to our government and nation’s history and our schools, collectively and individually, have an affirmative obligation under both ethics and law to not only teach this but live it.

I have made clear to my daughter through her years at Ruckel and prior to that at Bluewater Elementary that all respect is earned. There is in fact nobody, not even myself as her father, who is owed respect. My first and foremost task in raising her from infancy to adulthood is for her to transition from someone dependent on another, in this case myself, to an independent adult who is able to think for herself, recognize what human rights are, and stand for them on her own two feet. Part of this educational process is informing her of the fundamental human rights declared but not granted in The Declaration of Independence, that rights are not bestowed by a nanny government or authority figure but rather are unalienable, and that with those rights come responsibilities.

In this case she is responsible for conducting herself in a cordial fashion while on school property and adhering to reasonably defensible rules that have a sensible and sound connection to the conduct of the school’s educational mission. The US Supreme Court supports this position. The Court has ruled that students do not cede their Constitutional Rights in the general sense at the door of a publicly-funded school. Only those constraints that can be linked to a colorable impairment of the educational mission and environment of the school, when they impugn fundamental liberties, are permissible. In Tinker .v. Des Moines (1969) the United States Supreme Court held that peaceable speech, in this case two students peaceably wearing armbands protesting the Vietnam War, could not be lawfully removed from school for their refusal to comply with a demand from administration officials to remove the armbands.

This is exactly the issue before Okaloosa County and Ruckel Middle School.

I am fully in support of a reasonable student dress code, restrictions on the use of electronic devices during instructional hours and any other conduct that could otherwise have a rationally-argued negative impact on the educational mission at Ruckel. She is fully-aware of my support of these objectives and constraints.

At the same time she is expected to both challenge authority when it is unjustly displayed in an abusive or repressive form and is, as I have explained to your administration in the past, within her rights to refuse to respect those who deliberately and intentionally engage in such conduct. She has never been and is not now or in the future under any obligation, either by the rules of my household or under well-settled law of The United States, required to cede to any authority that fails to comport with the above.

Civil disobedience has both a long and colorful history throughout the world and comes with the risk of sanction, which she was fully aware of at the time of the incident. Her conduct was not furtive in any way; there was no attempt to conceal the act and her intent was to lead to a reasonable discussion and resolution. The actions by your staff probably shouldn’t surprise me, given the nature of collective and prospective punishment that was first devised and implemented.

Ruckel and all other schools should be aware, however, that sanctions imposed by putative authority figures are subject to review through several paths. First, of course, is public exposure and protest. You might consider my publication of this letter as part of that. Perhaps this is a trivial matter in most students’ and their parents’ minds, or perhaps not. The decision as to whether other students and their parents wish to protest and what form that protest might take is, of course, up to them. Second, sanctions that appear to be improperly applied or impugn a fundamental liberty with justification can and may lead to legal review. I, as with all citizens, reserve the right to initiate that lawful and proper process should I deem it appropriate.

After careful consideration I cannot support the claimed need for a seat assignment in the Ruckel cafeteria as a means of prospective and collective punishment without any offense of the peace having first taken place. These students are not in primary school; all are of ages 12-14 and can certainly comport themselves with reasonable decorum and make it to their next class. Those who are unable to do so should be individually punished for their transgressions. In short, this restriction is unconscionable and must be dropped. If school staff is incompetent to supervise the students they must be publicly identified, fired and replaced.

Our school employees work for us as parents, not the other way around. They run a school, not a prison. Our children and school students have rights; they are not pawns on a chessboard or notches on a broomstick. We as the source of school funds have every right to demand accountability for every dollar of our tax money that is spent and the policies implemented. When apparent idiocy rears its head you can expect me to hold the schools to account, as I have in the past and both will in the present and future.

A version of this letter was sent directly to the administration. If you agree, the Principal is Ms. Goolsby and her fax number is (850) 833-3291. The Superintendent for Okaloosa County Schools, Alexis Tibbetts, has a fax at 850-833-3436.

Pete Blome Announces Candidacy for LPF At Large (1)

My name is Pete Blome, and I hereby announce my intention to run for the position of at-large representative for the Libertarian Party of Florida.

I am a retired military officer, and I am currently the Chair of the Libertarian Party of Okaloosa County, which is located in the Pandhandle of Florida. I am a relative newcomer to the Libertarian Party (2006), but in the time I have been a member I have become convinced that Libertarian methods are the best way to bring lasting happiness and prosperity to our friends and neighbors.

I’ve met many wonderful, talented and caring Libertarians since I joined the Party, but our party is in need of reform. Our principles must be matched by our actions. Our ideals must be furthered by people on the ground willing to work. I am such a person, and I will attempt to seek out others who feel as I do. I am in broad agreement with Adrian Wyllie, who has announced he will run for Chair of the LPF. Our party needs to grow, to professionalize, and to use opportunities to show libertarian solutions to a public that largely does not know about us. There should be a synergy between the state party and local affiliates that does not exist now. I encourage all concerned Florida libertarians to join us and make our party strong.

There is much potential for the growth of the Libertarian Party in the northwestern part of our State. Pensacola is a major population center that needs development. The sad situation that exists in Tallahassee, our state capitol, where no active Libertarian affiliate or representation exists, must be turned around. Okaloosa must continue its growth trajectory. With your support, I hope to do the things that must be done to set the stage for a Libertarian turnaround that will put the major parties on their ears.