Sympathy for the Devil

The “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville was a stupid tragedy costing the lives of three people and injuring more than 20 more. Many in the media now talk of incipient civil war, while politicians, reporters, and political parties almost universally brand the marchers as the instigators of the violence. Somehow I just don’t see David Duke meets Antifa as a trigger for the whole country to go to war. I also don’t see the march organizers as lone agents in what happened, as bigoted and ignorant as they are. In time the violent will be punished. The danger is what happens next.

Have no doubt, a lot of short-sighted people out there will start talking about how “white supremacist nationalists” need to be outlawed.   That’s when the real trouble begins. The Green Party is already calling for prosecution of far-right groups for terrorism. The Party for Socialism and Liberation openly justifies violence against those they consider far right. We cannot forget free speech covers both the enlightened and the ignorant. Unless their speech leads directly to violence (like yelling fire in a crowded theatre) or they initiate violence themselves, they must be allowed to voice their views. Otherwise, protecting our individual rights, yours and mine, really means nothing in the USA.

As Sir Thomas Moore said, if you cut down all the laws to get at the Devil, where do you shelter when he turns on you?

Pete Blome

Chair, Northwest Florida Libertarian Party

The Nuclear State

It’s been six years since the nuclear accident at Fukushima, Japan. Due to bad design and an earthquake, that plant now dumps 300 tons of hyper-radioactive water into the ocean every day. If you saw this with the naked eye you would die of radiation poisoning. Once again, this event points out the deadly nature of this technology. But it has a more insidious trait; it demands a dominant government.

Like government, the nuclear fire is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Most nuclear plants produce dangerous wastes that have to be specially protected, many for thousands of years. As carefully built as they are, some plants malfunction.   When they do, millions can die and vast tracks of land can become uninhabitable. Their operators are an indispensable caste of experts who need social stability and tons of money to do what they do. Despite their expertise, these people are only human. If Captain Kirk had nothing to do but take care of a nuclear power plant, you can bet he would still screw up somewhere over his lifetime, as the experts at Fukushima, Three Mile Island, St. Lucie, Hanford Repository, lost nuclear submarines, lost nuclear bombs, and Chernobyl demonstrate. It also doesn’t help that these plants are attractive targets for homicidal maniacs, that they provide fuel for nuclear weapons, or that they may be in the path of the Yellowstone Super Volcano. The very nature of these problems are beyond the power of individuals, or even local government, to handle.

The fact is there is now an ever-lasting need for a new type of permanent, top-down, government control in the world. Unlike a steel or chemical plant, you just can’t abandon a nuclear reactor in tough times.   If government were ever slashed to the bone, if welfare were eliminated, if wars were ended, there would still be a compelling need for strict government control of nuclear power. Private firms just can’t do it. They may be able to manage some aspects of it, but only with the external resources and guarantees of coercive government. If things start getting unprofitable or unsafe, a private firm’s incentive is to leave. That simply cannot happen anymore. If a Mad Max world arrived, you can bet your bottom dollar that the local warlord would provide steaks for the technicians, security for the plant perimeter, and force all the potato eating population to give up their wealth to keep the nuclear plant from melting down. Today there are 61 nuclear power plants in the USA producing 20% of our energy needs.   Worldwide, there are 449 such plants plus thousands of support facilities. Government isn’t just married to nuclear power, it’s become part of our civic DNA. The nuclear state is here to stay, forever, simply because of the terrible consequences of leaving things alone.

That bothers me.   Government should be there to assure rights, justice and defense, but to utterly depend upon it to safely manage this technology for millennia ignores the fallibility of all things human. When it fails, it is going to fail big. The Soviets thought they were going to be a continuous, dominant government forever. When the Soviet Union melted down countries around the world provided money, technicians, and security to keep Soviet plants and weapons safe while their citizens fought for food in the streets. Will self-interested, good Samaritans always be there? I wouldn’t bet on it. Will people, in general, be willing to voluntarily make the never-ending sacrifices in wealth and liberty necessary to keep this technology controlled? I wouldn’t bet on that either. What happens then?

Have no doubt, nuclear power brings benefits. Cheap electricity made the lives of countless millions better. Pursuing this technology made breakthroughs in areas such as medicine, management, communications (the internet was invented to keep in touch with nuclear silos), and engineering in general. This is all good, but I would ask, are all the physical risks and costs worth it? Maybe it’s better to let it go.

I would also ask, was it worth the cost in liberty?

Pete Blome is a retired military officer and chair of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party

Happy 4th of July

Independence Day is America’s crowning achievement that has endured the test of time. Today’s political landscape and non-stop coverage has some of us discouraged on the fate of the nation. After a career of serving in our armed forces and daily interaction with our district residents, I am not discouraged at all. Political battles have been a fabric of our nation since our humble beginning, but citizens that value personal liberty and freedom have been the stitch that has held that fabric together. I will never forget a true lesson in freedom provided by an Air Force ROTC leader on campus while I was waiting to attend USAF pilot training. The cadets where gathering in the day room to discuss our reaction to some students that decided to burn the American Flag in front of our dormitory. As you can imagine, short of violence, we were ready to put a stop to this. This commander told us that our country is the greatest in the world because of the brave men and women who fight for a constitution that ensures someone has a voice that we vehemently disagree with.

I have been fortunate to fly the F-15C for our Air Force in multiple countries along with living in multiple foreign countries. I can attest- we are not the only ones who think we are the greatest country on earth. The success we have had as a nation is directly attributed to individual citizens that continue to hold dear the personal liberties and individual freedoms we built this country on. Political institutions do not make us great, you do. I have yet to meet anyone in our county that doesn’t have the same aspirations that I do. The ability to pursue my own concept of happiness, provide for my family, and serve our fellow citizens. It’s in our blood and any student of American history knows that we will always strive to secure individual freedom. That is Patriotism at its core and our district is full of patriots. Thank you from my family to yours.

The Cartwright Family

Proud citizen of Okaloosa County

(The author, Tony Cartwright,  is the Vice Chair of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party)

 

Those Seductive Feds

“Constitutional conservative” Congressman Matt Gaetz proudly voted for a bill (HR 1393) that allows the Federal Government to tell the States how they have to write their State income tax laws for people who work in the State for short periods.   I’m talking State, not Federal, income taxes.

Last time I checked, the 10th Amendment says it is up to a State to decide how it wants to impose taxes, with the exceptions of things like unconstitutional poll taxes and interstate commerce matters.

Don’t get me wrong. If I had my way, States would not impose wealth destroying income taxes at all, but I also know our Republic functions by limits on government. Matt obviously does not like 50 individual States experimenting on their own, nor does he trust that the ones with the best laws will get more business simply by market forces. He would rather tell them all what to do. Federal power is so seductive, and he is feeling comfortable with that.

Matt will make a big deal out of how this law will simplify complicated tax matters. So what. He forgot that centralized political power, like this bill, leads to centralized control, centralized command economies (like those Russkies used to have), bigger Washington taxes, bigger Washington egos, and finally bigger mistakes. He wasn’t sent to Washington to do any of this.

Matt’s new motto: “Take a walk on the wild side.”

Pete Blome

Chair, Northwest Florida Libertarian Party

 

Steve Scalise

The recent shooting of Congressman Scalise and four of his colleagues in Alexandria VA. shocks decent people everywhere. Panhandle Libertarians condemn this violence, and wish them all a speedy recovery.

To my mind, and as terrible as it sounds, this shooting was bound to happen. Democrat and Republican violent rhetoric is scale high. Politically related violence inside the USA seems higher than anything seen since I was a kid in the 1960’s. We are fed a daily media diet of protesters attacking other protesters, of comedians shaking severed heads, of plays in the park assassinating the President, and how the “Deep State” is a government unto itself. It seems those dishing out justice actually lead by political standards. No evidence leads to investigations while big admitted crimes are ignored (Bush, Obama, Clinton, Comey, Clapper, Brennan, for example). It is truly a head shaking, sad situation. At times like this, there is always some nut ready to pick up a gun.

But, more and more, you also hear how people are coming to realize that using force to achieve social or political goals leads only to tragedy and more violence. You using force to defend your life, liberty or property against violent criminals? You bet. Government using force for double standards, creating victimless crimes, taking your property without charges, or regulating your liberty away? That’s not OK, and just makes life worse.

It just happens to be a Libertarian message too.

Pete Blome

Chair, Northwest Florida Libertarian Party

 

Matt’s Torturous Path

On 24 March, Congressman Matt Gaetz told a Shark Tank interviewer “I agree with the President we ought to have every option on the table when it comes to advanced interrogation techniques.”   In plain English, advanced interrogation means torture. He thinks torture should be a legal tool of the United States used by the President. That is a self-destructive mistake for the country.

I’m sure Matt doesn’t see it that way. With the war on terror, torture has gained some undeserved popularity. He knows this topic hits an emotional hot button with a lot of folks. Every radical Islamic terrorist attack somewhere stokes a common desire to fight fire with fire. TV shows have gritty public servants thrashing bad guys to within an inch of their lives to find the kidnapped girl.   The scariest story line of all is the maniac with an atom bomb who won’t tell people where it is, and it has to be beaten out of him. People want simple solutions, and Matt Gaetz gives it to them. Of course, he doesn’t mention the horrendous price we pay for doing so.

Legalized torture is dangerous to that precious thing known as the American way of life.   With the word out that we will use torture, our enemies will be less likely to give themselves up. That will lead to the unnecessary death of our soldiers. It sets the stage for revenge attacks in a never ending cycle of retaliation. It removes any semblance of moral superiority from our legal or military actions. It turns its back on hundreds of years of the progress of civilization starting with the Crucifixion, and violates reams of existing law. It doesn’t recognize individual rights, only the force of the State over a person. It caters to mob rule. The innocent can suffer as readily as the guilty. In addition, it doesn’t work. When Secretary of Defense Mattis stated that “beer and cigarettes” were better than enhanced interrogation techniques, he wasn’t just speaking morally. The Air Force taught me a person under torture will say anything, do anything, to stop it. John McCain himself made all sorts of bogus admissions to crimes on North Vietnamese Radio under torture. These kinds of limitations make the whole idea unreliable in the extreme.

Legalized torture would be like introducing cancer into our Republic. It causes physical and mental lasting harm, with no remedy, to people who could be innocent. It trashes due process. It won’t even work, but it is popular. And to think Matt wants to give such power to the President, a separate and supposedly equal branch of the government. You have to ask yourself, what do we become if we do embrace torture and its threat to liberty? H.L. Mencken wrote to every problem there is a solution that is clear, simple, and wrong.   Legalized torture is that kind of solution.

Matt Gaetz is an educated man, lawyer, and officer of the court, but he chose political expediency over representation, tough words over a clear vision, and dangerously advocating an ever increasing Federal power to impose its might over the individual. His cynicism in supporting such a policy is both overwhelming and heartbreaking at the same time. The First District is chock full of people who are at the tip of the military spear. It makes me wonder if he ever bothered talking to them at all.

The lawyers I’ve known say it used to be considered better to let a guilty man go free than let an innocent man suffer under the law.

As a Congressman, Matt Gaetz has chosen a new path, and it ain’t pretty.

Pete Blome is Chair of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party and a retired military officer

 

Gaetz – More of the Same

Matt Gaetz revealed his plan for Obamacare in the Pace Town Hall this past 23 February, but it is the same self-destructive, uni-party Washington drivel as ever. He learns fast.

Despite declaring multiple times that “Obamacare is a threat to the economy!” and “I am a constitutional conservative!” Matt also said that whatever the Republicans come up with, the new healthcare bill will protect those with pre-existing conditions.

Those simple words spell the end of any kind of free market competition in healthcare insurance. It makes no sense for anyone to pay for insurance if they can get sick without paying and can get the same coverage as those who do. It solidifies government subsidy over 20% of the U.S. economy, decreases the quality of care, and raises taxes and insurance prices as well, as we have all seen.

Gaetz continues the anti-liberty legacy of Obama and George W. Bush, namely, socialized medicine. That is now becoming part of the American psyche. What Matt proposes is not constitutional, conservative, fiscally sound, or even compassionate to his fellow citizens. It is just bribing people with their own taxes to get votes, just like the Democrats do. Predictably, it will fail.

The solution is real competition in a genuinely free market. Get rid of the statutory monopolies, legal privileges and barriers to entry Congress voted the medical and insurance industry big players over 50+ years. That would really improve healthcare.

Pete Blome, Chair, Northwest Florida Libertarian Party

Such a Nice Lady

Wendy Williams is a well-known talk show host on TV. I don’t really watch the tube much, but I occasionally catch snippets of her show during those few times I channel surf. Those glimpses made me like her. Her appeal is that you can step in on the conversation much like visiting a neighbor for coffee, mentally engage her in pleasant banter, and coming away feeling better for it. It is a feel good show.

One of her topics today (22 Feb) was Tiffany Trump. It turns out that this daughter of the President was recently “shunned” at a New York fashion show. Some of the people around her at that show said they refused to sit next to her, and the few that did looked like they were in no way even trying to be civil. Wendy had photos. The reason? Her father is the President, it was New York, those people did not approve of him, so they took it out on the daughter. Wendy’s straight-faced reaction? “Tiffany, go home to your dad, put your head on his shoulder and cry, and tell him what happened.”

The lack of empathy stunned me. I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked any more by those who I thought were decent people suddenly doing bad things, but I still am. Here we have a private citizen daughter of the President wanting to go to a public fashion show, presumably to relax and enjoy herself, she gets publicly ostracized, and Ms. Williams approves of it. She further recommended that Tiffany succumb to the boorish behavior of the maddening crowd at that show by being emotionally weak (she wasn’t) to bring pressure on her father to change his ways. Ms. Williams apparently has no scruples against using her nationwide show to advocate using a family member of the President in a disgraceful fashion to influence public policy. I’m sorry, but that is totally messed up.

I have no love for Mr. Trump. I am a Libertarian, and I do not approve of state heavy solutions to America’s fiscal or social problems in general, whether they be Trumpian, Republican or Democrat in origin. However, going after innocent family members is going too far. Ms. Williams has a show watched by millions, and it obviously can send a bad message. It gets repeated in the social media to infinity. So far, the Trumps have had to endure the MSM accusations that the First Lady was a prostitute in Slovenia, an NBC writer that actually said their ten year old son would grow up to be a serial killer, and now Tiffany shunned by a foppish crowd that considers itself too “principled” or “noble” to even sit next to her at a fashion show. What self-important nonsense. Forget that this never happened to the past President’s family. It is simply the sort of sociopathic behavior that ruins lives. It makes it far more difficult for a republic to function. Just because a mother or father are important public figures is not a reason to subject their families to the flamethrower of outrageous public ridicule. Instead of showing judgment and perhaps empathy for Tiffany, Wendy jumped on the MSM Bandwagon of bloody mindedness.   I am disappointed in her. It showed no class.

If we do not have limits to our ire, especially where no force or fraud has been used, everything we cherish will burn. That serves no one. There really is a time to condemn uncivil behavior. Picking on a political figure’s uninvolved family is uncivil, and hurts all of us in the end.

Wendy, I used to think you were such a nice lady. Now, I see something different.

Pete Blome is Chair of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party and a retired military officer

 

 

 

 

 

Us

There are more than just a few bi-partisan people out there who think Libertarians should just pack it in. “Become a wing of the Republican or Democrat Parties,” they say. “You’ll never have any luck going head-to-head with the Republicans and Democrats.” For them, it is simply a waste of time to be in a third party.  Why even try?

They may have a point. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No sense being a damn fool about it.

But if it weren’t for us, where would our family, friends, community and the nation be?

Who would speak to competition in all its forms, economic, political, and cultural? Competition is what gives those with talent and a dream a chance. That’s the American way. It is what brings out the best in people and leads to higher standards of living. Politics without competition becomes oppression. Since it’s been left it to them, the state is now all powerful, the economy is managed for the benefit of a few, and war is a way of life. There are laws that favor them and limit us in our peaceful desire to compete politically. They advocate state power as the solution to everything. It isn’t.

Where would real solutions to the never ending, wasteful wars on drugs, terror and poverty come from? They gain control by having more people dependent on the state. Their legislators routinely trade liberties for security, and achieve neither. We all lose when nameless, faceless, rulers and bureaucrats seek to make people safe and healthy, for their own good, by making others victims.

Would consensus over coercion be the way our leaders operate? Sure, they compromise on how much the tax increase should be, or what banks should report about your financial transactions, but there would be no one to live the elegance of the non-aggression principle. Not initiating force in all its forms to get what they want is as foreign to them as Sanskrit.

Who would address the fraud that permeates financial regulation, the Pentagon, the economic statistics, and the public face of foreign policy? They make rules based on giving privileges to friends. In Florida, the law says they can even give a tax break to one specific company over all others, and keep it secret from you at the same time. That says it all.

Who would fight for the rule of law instead of the rule of men? People used to be innocent until proven guilty. Now they have started civil confiscation, search without warrants, passports withheld until taxes are paid, official permission necessary to travel, and “kill lists” on citizens overseas without public evidence, charges, or a trial. Their officials lie before Congress, get caught in the lie, admit they lied, and nothing happens to them. All of this would have been unimaginable 50 years ago.

Who would be there to point out the red herrings in identity politics, global warming, the “Muslim threat,” healthcare, those mad Russians, racism, bigotry, and centrally planned economics?   They thrive on perpetuating these problems.

Who would lament what could have been? We see not just what happens from policy, but what might have been had there been no policy. Imagine a world where the government did not assume the roles of community, church and charity. Imagine a world where money held its value. Imagine a nation where privacy was real instead of a sham. Imagine people held responsible for their violent or fraudulent actions, but otherwise left alone.

And who would hit them where it hurts; candidates opposing them in elections unimpeded by the baggage their candidates have to carry with them wherever they go?

America became great through protecting the power of the individual in the face of wealthy interests and power hungry government functionaries. Over the centuries, exploiting public fear, they have given up on that mission. We seek to preserve what made the USA worth living in all these years. This actually benefits them as well as us.

Give up and join them? Nah. I guess I’ll just have to be a damn fool.

 Pete Blome is Chair of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party and a retired military officer

 

Learning from Trump

I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that the media has been playing favorites with political candidates.

There is no doubt the recent Presidential election has revealed the true nature of what passes for “news” in this country. Fake news, “progressive” bias, blatant favoritism, collusion with candidates in debates, purposeful misreporting; there seemed to be no end to the betrayal of journalistic ideals in 2016. Before this election, the average American used to think that there may be a lean to the left or right in news reporting, but they trusted that the news was basically neutral. Donald Trump, for all his faults, blew that naïve notion right out of the water. Yes, Rachel Maddow, Megyn Kelly, Chris Wallace, George Stephanopoulos, and the rest of them really did have a hidden ax to grind. They sold their own versions of sizzle so much that the newsworthy steak disappeared from the plate.

Of course, a biased media is nothing new for libertarians. As the bastard children of genuine political discourse, libertarians have had to live with getting short, or no, shrift from the major media probably ever since the Party was founded. Among Libertarians, it is taken for granted that there will be little to no media support for anything a libertarian does or says, no matter how timely or wise. You can bet, however, that every Aleppo moment of failure gets covered.

In this way Libertarians share a strange kinship with Donald Trump. He ran as a Third Party candidate. He was ignored by the Republican leadership, and persecuted by just about every reporter that could type. But at the same time he understood the shallow nature of national reporting, and the power of the social media. He knew that a lot of political warts could be overlooked in time as long as he kept winning. P.T. Barnum may have said any publicity is good publicity, but Donald Trump skillfully tweeted that idea into even genuinely bad publicity is good publicity. Not to get chummy with our new President, I have to admire how he got his message out.   It got him elected. Libertarians need to learn from that.

The kinship stops when it comes to money. He had lots of it, whereas most libertarians do not. Borrowing an idea I read somewhere, small cash resources make Libertarian candidates vulnerable to the media tactics of “the smash and the silence.” First they smash the candidate as being incompetent, or wrong, or foolish, and then they hit the very same candidate with an icy silence over the rest of their campaign. This first creates a bad impression in the minds of voters, and the second cements it. The difference this time? Trump had enough money enabled means to keep the conversation going when CNN and the rest would have thought he would just sit down and be quiet. Unlike him, Libertarians have only enough resources to return the shots made at us in anger once in a while. Like the good soldiers we are, we keep pressing on year after year.

But we do deserve more attention than what we get.  The fundamental political question confronting America isn’t about Republicans versus Democrats. It’s about Republicans and Democrats supporting an overpowering government versus Libertarians protecting an ever weaker individual. You would think that would make good media copy. Making America great again should be about the Libertarian notion that the power of individuals protected by law is what let the USA grow over time into the powerhouse that it is. The primacy of government in American life is what will actually kill the American Dream. Sadly, Trump isn’t about that.

Still, the Trump has a lot to offer. Let’s not be too proud to learn from the opposition. If the media says bad things about us, at least they know we’re here.

Donald, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Just don’t ask us for a loan.

Pete Blome is Chairman of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party and a retired military officer