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

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


Judge Scalia and the Problem with Government

Government always wants more power, and it is served by people who do not understand that danger. Judge Antonin Scalia, of the US Supreme Court recently said:

…Thursday in an interview conducted at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg talked about their views of the First Amendment. Moderator Marvin Kalb questioned Scalia about whether the NSA wiretapping cloud be conceivably be in violation of the Constitution:
Justice Antonin Scalia said, “No because it’s not absolute. As Ruth has said there are very few freedoms that are absolute. I mean your person is protected by the Fourth Amendment but as I pointed out when you board a plane someone can pass his hands all over your body that’s a terrible intrusion, but given the danger that it’s guarding against it’s not an unreasonable intrusion. And it can be the same thing with acquiring this data that is regarded as effects. That’s why I say its foolish to have us make the decision because I don’t know how serious the danger is in this NSA stuff, I really don’t.”

I find his opinion, especially as a “supreme, final arbiter” of the US Constitution, to be ridiculously dangerous.  Moreover, I think by now he should already recognize that danger.  It is an unreasonable intrusion for government to run its hands on me without probable cause. The problem with airline crime can be solved by private means that do not eviscerate the Constitution. Not reining in the NSA is a clear invitation to a police state. Scalia, who I one time thought was a responsible justice, makes it clear that he thinks there are no limits to government power. The individual takes a back seat in his world to the desires of government. His way always leads to privilege, corruption, injustice, lack of public trust and ultimately violence when people feel the effects, personal and economic, of losing their liberty.

I thought Judge Scalia went off the rails a few months ago when he said unfortunate happenings such as the government internment of Japanese US citizens in World War Two, without charge, would “probably” happen again. He said it almost like “Well, whatcha gonna do?” as if he was discussing the bad behavior of children. He should have stood up and said “As long as I’m alive I will fight crimes perpetrated on US citizens such as happened to the interned Japanese.” These matters are not merely intellectual exercises.  At Manzanar concentration camp, in California, in 1942 a group of young interned Japanese had had enough of their imprisonment in the desert, watching their lives and property being taken away by an omnipotent government. They thought they were citizens, like any other, who were incarcerated unjustly, and that there was no reason to hold them. They saw nothing but hardship for their families, economic ruin, and government theft. As good citizens, they marched against the camp gates. The US Army guards opened fire killing two of them and wounding eight more. There were no more uprisings at Manzanar. Nowadays, the whole country is becoming a Manzanar.

Scalia does not know that the purpose of government is to defend individual rights. Or it could be he knows, but does not care. Both are frightening in one so high.



The Lowdown on the Shutdown

On October 17th the Northwest Florida Daily News published opinions about the government shutdown from Committeemen Steve Czonstka and Ellen Holt representing, respectively, the Republican and Democrat parties.  Although not invited, I offer my Libertarian observations on the matter.

The shutdown was nothing of the sort.  It was always more threat than action.  It threatened a more fiscally responsible course that the Democrats took advantage of to seed the public with fear over how indispensable the government is.  The Republicans used it to show they really meant business when even they knew they didn’t.   In the end, it proved to be merely a delay on the road to more government intervention.  Government again functions spending more than it takes it, abusing the rights of individuals, and finding every excuse possible to avoid limits to Federal power as per the Constitution.

Who created the bru-ha-ha really is immaterial.  The shutdown supposedly put a halt to the non-essential 17% of the government, but who asks how did that 17% get there in the first place, or was there any doubt that the non-essentials would start work again after the shutdown? In the cynical calculus of Washington D.C., the major parties know they live or die by using the power of government to hand out benefits to their friends while progressively confiscating the wealth and rights of all.   That is how those non-essentials were created in the first place.  That is how both major parties stay in power.

The shutdown shows the major parties have far more in common than they care to admit. Both advocate compelling you with the force of law to do things with your life and property that you otherwise would not do.  Both major parties have grown the State and Federal governments to the point they are fiscally unsustainable.   The Affordable Care Act is a great case in point.  The Democratic Party bankrupts individuals with mandatory, monopolistic insurance and fines, while Republicans conveniently forget their own enthusiasm for the massive Medicare Part D, or that their candidate for President, Mitt Romney, oversaw his own massive State run healthcare system in Massachusetts.  The Republican motto is “repeal and replace” not just repeal.  Neither of these parties truly wants to reduce government.

I am not the only one saying this.  Every day one can read how Americans see what is going on.  On the surface, the major parties profess commendable values such as caring for the welfare of their fellow human beings, fighting for civil liberties, fiscal accountability and standing by their principles.  In reality, their policies have made their fellow citizens more dependent on government, limited civil liberties, amassed debt, and generally paid attention to their principles only in press releases.  There isn’t a single aspect of American life that is free from government intervention thanks to Republican and Democrat policy.

Even in the field of political competition Americans must struggle with a thumb on the scales.  Both Steve Czontska and Ellen Holt have the privilege to be elected on a publicly funded election ballot, yet I am prohibited by law from doing the very same thing specifically because I am a Libertarian (FS103.091(4)).   Not only do those of us outside the major parties have to fight for people’s minds, we must also fight those who would rather outlaw us than deal with us.

Libertarians know our nation is on an unsustainable course.  We cannot continue accumulating debt.  We cannot allow lawmakers to reduce people’s rights to the level of serfs.  Government intervention must be stopped.  If not, the laws of fiscal mathematics and public outrage will eventually take over.  Stopping these trends has been the Libertarian message for decades.

In her column Ellen Holt expressed fear that a government shutdown could collapse the economy.  If so, it is an abject lesson for us all to not allow government to rule our lives.

Steve Czontska quoted Ronald Reagan, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction…”

I prefer Reagan’s quote, “…I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.”

Pete Blome is Chair of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party, and an At-Large Rep for the Libertarian Party of Florida

It’s Not About Fairness

Senate President Don Gaetz took pains in an editorial last week (‘Revolving Door’ editorial fails fairness test, Northwest Florida Daily News, 22 Sep13) to defend his Chief of Staff, Chris Clark, who earned $400,000 working as a political consultant during his time off from working for the Senate President.

He made it clear he considered such a relationship neither illegal nor unethical, and welcomes future criticism.  “It’s a practice that Democrats and Republicans have used without any serious problem that I’m aware of,’’ said Gaetz.

Indeed, no one can object to a person using their wits to earn a living, especially when it is neither unethical nor illegal.  Of course, in this case we are talking about someone who is supposed to deal with people as a chief of staff of the Senate President that at other times of the year he may deal with as clients.  That’s a tough trick to pull off and not be doing special favors for someone.  In addition, it begs the question, but for his connections to the Senate President and as Chief of Staff would Mr. Clark make the hefty sums he does consulting?  I speculate that he would not.

Senator Gaetz is ignoring an obvious problem between government, access to power, and money. In the public eye behavior like this leads to a range of questions about government service as a means to private wealth, impartiality in government, and whether it is who you know not what you know that counts in this world.  Should Mr. Clark benefit financially both being an active public servant and at the same time privately consulting using the knowledge and contacts he makes as a public servant?  Most people, instinctively, would say no.

There is little doubt Senator Gaetz thinks he should.  The relationship between Gaetz and Clark is a close one.  According to the Tampa Bay Times, 31 August 13, he was Don Gaetz’s campaign manager in the 2005 Florida Senate race (paid a salary of $128,000 too), was given large chunks of the year off from 2009 to 2012 to consult for other Republican campaigns in the State, and immediately thereafter had his state salary increased from $76,068 to $150,000, “making him the highest paid staff member of the Florida Legislature.”  The Senator said the increase was justified because Clark “took a significant pay cut when he came to work for me six years ago.”  The favors go further.  After Mr. Clark returned to the Senate from his latest political consulting trail in 2012, Don Gaetz gave him $10,000 as a “win bonus.” He might argue good people are hard to find, and this is the way to get them keep them.

Clearly, Mr. Clark is using his position as a means to private wealth.  For him, working for the Senator is both a public service and a private business that generates as much private revenue as the demand in the market will allow.  Speculating again, I think that can be a lot of money.

Impartiality is also out the window.  Since Mr. Clark seems primarily involved with getting other Republicans elected to office, can anyone that opposes his political clients be sure that they are getting fair treatment when they meet him doing his job in the Senate?  Then again, Senator Gaetz might not have hired him to be impartial, but simply get the administrative job done the way the Senator likes.

Lastly, we see the old adage confirmed, once again, that it is who you know that counts.

Overall, this controversy has said more about Senator Gaetz than it does about Mr. Clark.  Clark works for Gaetz, and the Senator can pay him whatever he wants to pay him. Clark is also a public servant with current and exceptional access to legislative decision makers that he can pass off to clients. He is taking advantage of it with the Senator’s blessing.

Just because the law allows you to do something does not mean you should do it.

One thing is for sure. This isn’t about fairness.

Pete Blome is Chair of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party and an At-Large Rep for the Libertarian Party of Florida.



The More Things Change

Let’s face it, the elections of 2012 show that going against the grain is not in the nature of those elected to office.

Take a look at Okaloosa County. This county was wracked by scandal at the Tourist Development Commission (TDC) and the County Commissioners were thoroughly embarrassed by their apparent lack of oversight of both money and employees. In 2012 two new Commissioners were voted into office. This was a superb opportunity for the new Board to reevaluate the nature, purpose, or need for a TDC, and even eliminate it. In the course of time, however, everything seemed to be blamed on one bad apple, despite the Florida Auditor General saying that the problem was much deeper. The auditors said contracts were given without paperwork, and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars went to people or organizations unknown. One bad apple couldn’t do that. Instead of getting to the root of the problem, the Commissioners have made nice and actually voted to give the TDC a boost of $300,000 for some special project earlier this year.

Then there is the matter of county taxation. Okaloosa County Commissioners recently voted for a 4.3% property tax hike along with a 3 cents per gallon gas tax. It was a close vote (3 to 2) and Nathan Boyles, one of the new guys, decided it is better to tax his neighbors than to figure out how to make government smaller. Of course, this is how things have always been done. Government gets bigger and you pay more. What makes this pinch my mind especially hard is the County Commission recently unanimously voted for an ad valorem tax break to a company that by law is secret to the public (FS 196 and FS 288). They gave a preferential tax break to one company at the expense of all others, and the law prevents them from telling us who it is. Secret tax breaks fly in the face of open, accountable government. This very same Board then votes to raise taxes on everybody else in the County. No change here.

At the State level, who can ignore the Medicaid flip flop of our Governor Rick Scott? You could say he was elected as an opponent to the Affordable Healthcare Act, and was quoted as saying he would never lift a finger to help its implementation. Despite high sounding rhetoric, the Florida legislature is no stranger to growing government either, and voted this year for a 6% increase in the state budget for 2013-2014. More and more of that money is coming from Federal sources, 36.93% of the total state budget as of 2011, according to the census bureau. How independent can a state be when its bills are paid by the Feds?

In national matters, our “conservative” Congressman Jeff Miller, has shown he likes the growing list of laws that restrict your liberties and feed the “all seeing all knowing” central government. In at least two public appearances he said the government is not listening in on your communications. Trust him, he says. Of course, Lt-Gen Clapper, Director Of National Intelligence, was forced by the Snowden revelations to publicly admit and apologize for lying to Congress about government surveillance of all citizens (where are the perjury charges?). Plus, an NSA internal audit said the agency violated their own rules about surveillance several thousand times in the past year. Despite this contrary testimony to what Mr. Miller thinks, and the lessons of history, he voted against the Amash Amendment to the Patriot Act, which would have limited government investigations to people actually under suspicion using probable cause. His reason? It would have affected some unspecified secret surveillance program Mr. Miller likes. The erosion of the Fourth Amendment proceeds apace just as it did before. None of this fits the moniker “conservative.”

I’ve only scratched the surface. It’s clear that the leadership of 2013 is shaping up to be the same as 2012 or any other year. Those who have been elected love government power, and that is what the trend of the last 100 years has been all about.

I dared to hope for better.

Pete Blome is Chair of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party

IRS – You’re Surprised?

IRS – You’re surprised?

The blatant targeting by the IRS of groups opposed to the President clearly deserves prison time for those responsible.  The odious revelation that the power to tax was used to hinder free expression for partisan purposes rightfully shakes public confidence that the government protects the Bill Of Rights.  The IRS can, and should, be abolished.  But I must ask, why are so many surprised when this kind of abuse happens?

I would not be exaggerating if I said every day there are examples of even worse abuses by government.  It has routinely conducted warrantless searches of American citizens. For a long time it was a crime to tell anyone that a warrantless search had been committed.  In Boston we saw the fourth Amendment thrown to the winds for tens of thousands of citizens in the pursuit of two armed men.  The mortgage scandals, the LIBOR scandal, and the apparent immunity of big bankers, such as John Corzine, who blatantly steal investor funds but never come to trial, leaves the public with puzzled looks on their faces about the rule of law.  Worst of all, American Presidents have executed American citizens overseas without trial, or even without public evidence.  And this is the short list!

To Libertarians none of this comes as a surprise because we know big government is bad government.  It’s a pity so many of our fellow citizens cannot see the dingy forest of government abuse until their particular tree is chopped down.

Pete Blome, Chair, Northwest Florida Libertarian Party

Arresting Swimmers

The Okaloosa Sheriff, Larry Ashley, announced that he both can and will arrest swimmers if they venture out when a double red flag is posted on the beach.

This is a typical, but wrong, reaction to the problem of people drowning at the beach.

People own their bodies and must be held responsible for their own actions. People who swim when it is dangerous are making a personal decision to assume risk. For government to say they cannot accept another’s personal risk is the height of the nanny state. To imprison people for swimming at their risk is morally abhorrent. It leads to limitless government.

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the Sheriff is shovel ready.

Better to present drowners with the bill. A foolish person who must be rescued and then pay the hefty monetary cost would make a far better deterrent, and less costly to the taxpayer, than marking them forever in the prison system, limiting their future job opportunities and exposing them to the never-ending dangers and costs that living as a lawbreaker brings nowadays.

Clearly, Larry Ashley does not like libertarian concepts. He arrests swimmers doing a personal, voluntary activity, but condones government agents at the airport forcing old women to remove their adult diapers for inspection. Go figure.

It is even more incredible that the law doesn’t like them either.

Pete Blome

Chair, Northwest Florida Libertarian Party