Old Ways Die Hard

In the movie “Braveheart” the evil king Edward III implemented a policy to ethnically cleanse Scotland of Scotsmen. Called Prima Nocta, it gave the local lord a special, legal right to sleep with all commoner, newlywed, Scottish women before their husbands do. Its purpose was to shatter cultural bonds and reduce the population to slaves. The modern mind finds this concept abhorrent since it has at its root the idea that all men are not created equal; that a crime is not a crime depending on who is doing it.

The American equivalent of Prima Nocta is now the TSA. The TSA can perform acts that are legal on one side of a yellow line on an airport floor but grossly illegal on the other, such as illegal search and sexual battery. Contrary to the Fifth Amendment of our Constitution, all American travelers must get permission to travel, passed through the TSA, before boarding commercial vehicles of all types (even a bus). Thousands of American citizens are on the TSA “no fly” list even though no charges are brought against them. This amalgam of legal hypocrisy rests on the idea that a person inherently consents to government search when they travel (what nonsense) and that the illegal search will prevent some sort of terrorist catastrophe. The thought that this can exist in the law, and that Americans now accept it as part of the price of travel, is as disturbing as it is ridiculous.

But the level of national outrage with the TSA has increased a notch as of late. TSA agents recently conspired to guide attractive male travelers to a fellow inspector who got his jollies by groping them. Because the TSA was typically inefficient in investigating itself, the evidence to prosecute these men was lost. The worst that could happen to them is they got fired.

Okaloosa County is no stranger to this TSA saga. It was here that Ms. Jean Webber’s chronically ill, 95 year old mother became national news when she was forced to remove her adult undergarment at the order of a TSA agent; a task Ms. Webber had to perform on her mother personally.  TSA agents have been involved in theft, smuggling, sending pictures of attractive “naked screened” passengers to tens of thousands of recipients, bribery and, now blatant sexual battery. Since very few travelers actually consent to having a stranger grope their genitals, (most endure it simply to get to where they need to be), everyone going through this procedure in Florida is having the crime of sexual battery committed against them.

In our land of the free everyone must get searched by the TSA without evidence or probable cause. Even Congressman Ron Paul was delayed from voting in Congress by a TSA search, which is a direct violation of the Constitution, Article I, Section 6, as he told them.

We now have an entire generation that has grown up under TSA illegality. What makes the destruction of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments so much more the worse is that TSA procedures will not prevent terrorism. Without fueling overactive imaginations, there must be a dozen ways that a fanatic can attack flight operations without even getting on a plane; without even seeing a TSA agent. When the government took over airport security, it gave a public subsidy to the airlines who otherwise would have had to come up with private measures to handle security. That method would have at least given people a real choice as to how they wanted to travel, not violated the Constitution, nor set up a privileged legal class.

The TSA should be disbanded. Airport security should be returned to those who have the greatest stake in its success, the airlines. Crimes should be prosecuted based on the act, not based on who is doing them, or where. The United States does not need a fake Constitution, nor does it need to propagate the idea that you’re privileged in the law if you work for the Feds.

Let’s leave the middle ages in the history books where it belongs.

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




Government Favors

Government Favors

On March 4th, at the Okaloosa County Commission regular meeting, Undersheriff Don Adams asked the Commissioners to make a special requirement before issuing a permit for the Victoria Secret/Pink promotion group party that happened last week. He asked the County to allow only off-duty Sheriff’s personnel to supply security as a condition of the permit at a cost of approximately $348 to the promoters. The County Commissioners unanimously agreed.

In a true spirit of going along to get along, a representative of the promotion group did not object, but at its core he was allowing government to use its power to issue permits to force him to purchase security that benefitted members of a government agency, namely, the Sheriff’s Office. I can only presume he gave up his power of choice over security to avoid problems with the permit as a whole.

It seems so small and innocent to give the Sheriff deputies a break, but this is a misuse of the power of law. Government isn’t there to give special favors to anyone, especially those who work for the government. The purpose of government is to protect individual rights, and not to presume it can determine winners and losers in the economy.

The Commissioners should have voted this down, but that doesn’t seem to be how we do business in the USA anymore.

Pete Blome

Chair, Northwest Florida Libertarian Party

Secret Tax Votes By Our Commissioners

The famous publisher Joseph Pulitzer once wrote that there is not a crime, not a dodge, not a trick, not a swindle, not a vice that does not live by secrecy.

Well the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners took advantage of the laws of Florida (FS196) and gave a company a ten year ad valorem tax break and the company name must remain secret.  This means there can be two identical businesses in Okaloosa County, with the same amount of income, and one can go under while the other prospers because it got a secret tax break courtesy of our County Commissioners.  Does the BCC know or care about the free market or open government?

There was only one voice, the Chair of the local Libertarian Party, who spoke out against this blatant injustice enabled by bad law from Tallahassee.  Not only do the County Commissioners get to decide who wins and who loses in the economy  (as if they have a special ability to do so), it was also done away from the prying eyes and embarrassing questions of the companies who lose in this deal. They will never know they were discriminated against while they pay taxes.

First the Florida Auditor General’s report, now secret tax deals?

Kudos to Nathan Boyles for being the only Commissioner to vote against this nonsense.

Lee Jackson

Bringing Back Ethics Won’t Cure Okaloosa’s Ills

Our political system for electing those who govern us is based on a belief that strong political parties, our freedom of political speech, and an inquiring press will provide us with enough information to cast an intelligent vote. The conflict and friction of the system makes campaigns unattractive to many and often bring out our baser natures. Money has become the dominant factor.

In theory, this process places the best candidates in positions of leadership. But the alleged two-party system with the press as referee is a fraud!

Nationally, we know nothing about our chief executive. We vote for or against candidates based on a single issue, based on their seniority, because they are members of our party, or to be on the “winning side” Locally, we have a sheriff who has pleaded guilty in connection with a kickback scheme a state legislator who’s been indicted on a felony charge of official misconduct. There is a call for returning ethics to local politics, an allegation that perhaps unethical individuals were elected many years ago and we have re-elected them several times since.

This situation is an indictment of our newspapers and at least half of those who voted each cycle. I find such a call for more ethics to be politics as usual and unproductive for Okaloosa County.

It is time for those who vote only for the two major party candidates to stop holding their noses while voting against personal principles. A politician’s promise of benefits at the cost of other taxpayers is too great a price for our votes.

No more politics as usual! It’s time for us to follow our values and principles. Our voting habits have produced professional politicians who go straight into government from school, are elected, and never hold a real job nor run a business.

The results are life time political careers without fear of losing re-election; one-party counties like Okaloosa and cities like Chicago; a sense of political entitlement; billions of dollars for pork-barrel projects directed to supporters; millions in bonuses with inadequate review; and corruption. Indictments for the misuse of tax dollars are a natural outcome.

What is the central issue in these indictments? These are not unethical people who have been elected to office as suggested by a recent writer (“Bring back ethics,” April 22). These are examples of elected officials being in office too long! These are examples of too many voters expecting their elected officials to “do things” for them in exchange for their vote and support.

We are not upset by the bonuses and the money for the hangar in Destin, but that these favors were given to those with more pull than we. The insult is we pay for these special favors with our tax dollars.

As long as we accept as normal that our government is the source of all benefits, our taxes will continue to increase, the money available for elected officials to buy our votes will be enormous, and its misuse will continue.

Voters must eliminate the notion that their elected official “doing something” for them is a positive when voting for a candidate. The voting decision must be framed this way: Will this candidate do what is constitutionally correct and which does not take rights or freedoms from other citizens to give me a benefit I do not earn?

The tough work of citizenship demands we replace politics as usual, not call for ethics reform one more time. We must evaluate our real political values, e.g. by taking the “World’s Smallest Political Quiz” at The Advocates for Small Government. Do we truly believe in personal and economic freedom or do we want more restrictions on our lives?

Then we must evaluate where candidates stand on personal freedoms. Look more closely at those who are truly closest to us and evaluate their positions in greater detail. Our vote will determine whether our personal freedoms are protected.

Finally don’t just “Spout Off” now and then. Stay engaged after each election cycle! Attend city and county business and budget meetings. Have a detailed knowledge of the parts of government that interest you most.

Our form of government may not be the best in this world, but it is far better than any other. It is worthy of more than just our vote. It deserves our continuous attention.

Lee Jackson, Chairman

Libertarian Party of Okaloosa County

Okaloosa’s Missing Ingredient

The Emerald Coast Association of Realtors recently sponsored a “Meet the Candidates” forum at the Fort Walton City Hall. The public had an opportunity to watch, listen, and even ask a question or two of the county electoral candidates.

The forum was a great idea, and one of the few ways candidates and concerned citizens can get together, but in the end it made me think about how off target were the issues that the candidates were speaking about.

The great issue overhanging Okaloosa County is that the economy in the USA is about to change for the worse. Overspending, overprinting money, government intervention in the market, and the inflation thus created will tax both our pocketbooks and our characters. The Federal Government tendency toward authoritarianism will increase.

Congress, for example, just granted unlimited check writing power to the Secretary of the Treasury to essentially nationalize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a $5 trillion dollar mortgage industry.

A billion used to be a lot. Now we talk in trillions.

Like many socialist governments in the past, the current US policy of government intervention in the free market, restriction of individual rights, and limitless government power is producing bigger and bigger problems. These problems are being felt right here on the Emerald Coast. Even though it is the wrong answer, the problems created by government will probably be fixed by a bipartisan agreement to increase government power. This will lead to a cycle of ever bigger problems.

It is for this reason that it is hard to watch such dedicated and well meaning people as these candidates talk about what they will do in office.

Of the two Congressional candidates, the Republican had to beg forgiveness for not showing up because he was busy passing the Fannie and Freddie legislation in Washington D.C. The Democrat candidate said business, in general, is fueled by greed and because of this the government needs to take the lead and develop alternate fuel industries. I’ll bet without all the rules, regulations, subsidies, tax credits, incentives and discriminatory business legislation passed over the last 100 years, private industry would have produced a viable alternative fuel industry by now.

The candidates for State representative didn’t talk about a reduced role for government either, but rather cordially agreed that they were both for God and country and that they should do something about controlling insurance rates. Government should no more be in the business of setting insurance rates than they should be in determining what you eat for lunch.

The public defenders didn’t talk about ensuring defendants rights, but rather they talked about how their budget was cut 10% and how they would make the best of that. Eventually, the ill effects of Federal warrantless wiretaps, warrantless home searches, and monitoring citizens will work their way to Okaloosa County. Will they stand against these erosions of our Republic?

To their credit, the candidates for Sheriff did talk about faithfully applying due process, limiting costs, and apprehending illegal immigrants, but in the process of doing so one candidate talked about how the government can legally do a background check on a citizen by simply starting a conversation. We are not yet at the point of producing our papers at the order of the state, but we are getting close.

The candidates for County Commission also didn’t seem interested in limits to government. They talked about stimulating markets by somehow bringing in jobs, building reservoirs, and having an effective road development plan. I did not hear one of them mention lowering taxes for everyone, the sure fire way of creating more jobs. A Democratic candidate was quite refreshing in his honesty when he said (paraphrased) “I’m a Democrat. We believe government should be in everything.” The candidates also talked about a special tax for people who live on or near beaches. It seems to me nothing would kill property values faster than taxing it more.

What, then, are they missing? A libertarian mindset. A commitment to individual rights, free markets and limited government that alone can produce lasting prosperity and the opportunity for individual happiness. It used to be the foundation for just about everything we did in the USA, but now politics is always about more government power.

And that ain’t what the USA is supposed to be about.

Peter J. Blome

(Peter J. Blome is a retired military officer and Secretary of the Libertarian Party of Okaloosa County. He can be contacted at blomep@cox.net)

The Mid Bay Bridge takes its toll

If you work in Destin and live north of the bay, you probably use the Mid Bay Bridge. The bridge costs you $3 a day, or $15 a week, or $780 a year.

That is a significant sum of money, and about half of all people who use the bridge have the Sunpass system implying they have regular business on the Emerald Coast. Just imagine if the bridge tolls were reduced to 50 cents or so, mainly to maintain and operate the bridge. People would keep in their pocket a yearly amount equal to the individual Federal tax rebate.

So why doesn’t that happen?

Tolls are about government priorities, and, like most government bureaucracies, the Mid Bay Bridge Authority (MBBA) is focused on expansion. They expanded the toll plaza, they want to expand the access road from SR20 to the bridge, and periodically the idea of a second span gets floated in the press. Growth is so American and seems to be what matters to the MBBA, not necessarily the most bridge for the least cost.

Bridge use has gone down the last two years, and future traffic will probably be less. So is this focus on growth wise? Times are hard in the USA, and they are going to get harder. Growth plans that expect an increase in automobile traffic like we’ve seen in the USA for the last 50 years fly in the face of permanently higher fuel prices and a weaker economy. There is a real chance of having the tolls support more road than we need.

But reducing debt and passing on the savings to the public is guaranteed to be the most bridge for the least cost. A review of how bridge money has been used shows that paying off debt has not been a priority. As of 2007, the MBBA accumulated $155 million in current bond debts. In the previous 14 years of operation they paid off $10 million in bonds plus $15 million loaned to it by the Okaloosa County Commissioners. They have also made $117 million in interest payments.

At the same time, the MBBA collected $413 million in total revenue, and are now sitting on $93 million in cash and investments.

Considering the bridge cost only $67 million to build in the first place, and recently had a $6.5 million toll booth expansion, the MBBA seems to be accumulating a nice nest egg at your expense.

Paying off debt and reducing tolls is in the County’s best interest. Besides the obvious benefit of everyone paying less, there would probably be a boost to local business as people have more money to spend on stuff they like instead of an extra tax to get to work. Visitors here would have extra money to spend on businesses that line the route. An additional benefit would be less funding in general for the government bureaucracy that, as any Libertarian knows, would hinder other unnecessary growth.

The residents of Okaloosa County are far from powerless in this matter. The MBBA must submit its operating budget every year to the Board of County Commissioners for approval. Paraphrasing the amendments to the Florida statutes (FS 86-465 and FS 88-542), the County Commissioners may increase or reduce the total amount requested under the provisions of the bridge budget as the County Commission deems advisable. Let your commissioner know that lower tolls are better than expansions that will take decades to pay for.

After all, the only thing worse than having to pay a high toll is for your kids to pay a higher one for underused roads.

Peter J. Blome

(Peter J. Blome is a retired military officer and Secretary of the Libertarian Party of Okaloosa County. He can be contacted at blomep@cox.net)