Friday, May 30, 2008

The Battle For Jesus

It seems that politically, botht he right and the left are very keen to claim Jesus as their own. Bible verses are cited by both. Each claims its' righteousness.

Today, Michael Gerson's Washington Post column does something new: It proclaims Jesus not a libertarian.
It is true that Jesus was not a political activist; he joined no party and issued no Contract With the Roman Empire. But it is a stretch to interpret his personal challenge to the rich young ruler as a biblical foundation for libertarianism.

I'm not aware of anything in particular from my fellow libertarians that caused this statement's issue. I know that Bob Barr considers himself a Christian, but that's not the same as a crusade to claim Jesus as an exemplar for my favored political philosophy.

The Libertarian Party does claim some deeply religious individuals among its' notables. Here in Indiana, I can think of Dr. Eric Schansberg, Kenn Gividen, and Andy Horning as prime examples. Schansberg has done what Gerson is doing here, with his 2003 book, "Turn Neither Right Nor Left".

I think Schansberg's effort was far more justified than Gerson's. I mean, how many libertarian claims on Jesus have you heard lately? Compare that to the number on the right, especially. Based on Gerson's bio, I can't help but wonder if the man is simply firing a pre-emptive strike on Bob Barr on behalf of John McCain. His closing statement seems to suggest it:
For millennia, artists, thinkers and politicians have shaped their image of Jesus, often into a mirror image of themselves. But the goal of Christianity is to allow Him to shape us, not the other way around. And just as Jesus the leftist revolutionary is a distortion, so is Jesus the libertarian.

This seems like it's coming from out of nowhere. Am I missing something?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Positive Trend

Government mandates aren't the only motivation for more energy-conscious means of lighting and climate controls. Simon Properties is responding to two green sources of inspiration- the environment, and cash. From an Indy Star article:
Simon's energy use has fallen by 9.7 percent from 2003 to 2006, a reduction of 102 million kilowatt hours of electricity. That equals nearly 68,000 metric tons of carbon emission that weren't dispersed into the atmosphere and an $11 million annual savings in operating costs.
Simon's investment was $20 million. The investment paid for itself in just two years.

It's good to see articles like this. They can inspire other businesses to follow suit, way ahead of the speed of government mandates because most businesses have operations that are dwarfed by Simon. You can easily enough say, "If they could do it, I can do it".

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Libertarian Party Nominates Bob Barr!

After six rounds of ballots where Bob Barr and Mary Ruwart ran neck-and-neck, Wayne Allyn Root's declaration of interest in being part of a Barr-Root ticket gave the race to Barr. Here is the final vote:

Barr 324 (+101)
Ruwart 276 (+47)

I was very happy for this result. While Barr isn't the pure libertarian's dream candidate, he did receive better more and better press coverage on his entry into the race than all other LP nomination seekers had, combined. That is golden with me. 

The message of liberty has to be heard by the American public, now more than ever. The coverage Barr generated indicates to me that for once, at last, this will be possible of our presidential candidate. LP press release.

We've had a lot of purists' dream candidates, including our last, Michael Badnarik, who got less than 1% of the vote nationally, was relegated to the kiddie table of debates, and was generally the prime example of a tree falling in the forest with nobody to hear it happen.

I was therefore also very relieved for this result. Anyone other than Barr was going to repeat past results: less than 1%, certain exclusion from the main debates, confirmation in the minds of Americans that the LP is a collection of tinfoil hat-wearing kooks.

Later in the evening, Wayne Allyn Root won the nomination for Vice President, edging out Steve Kubby.

I'm not nearly as excited about this outcome, as Root really wasn't generating any buzz on his own. At least he can go out and talk about Iraq, the financial crisis, and health care without having to answer baggage questions first. Kubby would have, being a virtual single-issue marijuana candidate. As much as I agree with his positions on those issues, it isn't nearly as important as Iraq, the financial crisis, or health care, and really shouldn't come up in any serious conversation about public policy until those issues are exhaustively probed. 

There is a great opportunity to win the people over on these issues and the Libertarian solutions for each- then maybe they'll listen about pot. It doesn't work the other way. The average voter is not going to say, "Oh, you smoke pot every day? Well, we have to listen to your perspective on the dollar".

It's kind of depressing that these things have to be discussed as such. The LP is maturing, but at a snail's pace.
Round 5 Results

Now we come into the home stretch: It's Barr vs Ruwart.

Bob Barr 223 (+21)
Mary Ruwart 229 (+27)
Wayne Root 165 (+16)

Indiana's delegation went thusly:

Barr 6
Ruwart 6
Root 9

Root is eliminated, and with the ability to throw so many votes one way or the other, he took the opportunity, asking to be part of a Barr-Root ticket. 

The comments were a bit odd. He said he would like to learn at the side of Bob Barr for four years as his Vice President, and then it's all his in 2012. Hmm... If Barr is elected President, wouldn't he want to run for re-election? The comment struck me as a bit cocky. It will be interesting to see if the Root endorsement pushes Barr to the nomination, or pushes the votes to Ruwart.

In the first round, 38 votes for Root came from California. If either camp has the smarts, they RAN to California's delegation to make the case... if they weren't standing there before the tally was finalized. Indiana primarily went for Root, so the persuading should be happening there, too. 

Last vote coming up. It will result in a Libertarian nominee for President!
Round 4 Results

Wow- this is an incredible race! Although the numbers changed, the results remained virtually the same, with Ruwart and Barr still in a tie!

Bob Barr 202 (+16)
Mary Ruwart 202 (+16)
Wayne Root 149 (+3)
Mike Gravel 76 (-2)

Mike Gravel is eliminated here. Comments he made that were captured on C-SPAN's floor coverage were fascinating. Not surprisingly, he let's supporters know that he's retiring from politics, saying, "This is it. This is the end." 

I noticed it at the Indiana Libertarian convention, and also in his speeches in Denver, that he never could convince anyone that he was anything but an outsider coming in. Gravel repeatedly said, "Your party should do this". Showing that he never learned to change his perspective, at the end, he said, "They're decision, and I'll abide by it". Them. Not, my party's.

Now- does Root throw his support behind one or the other to jockey for the VP slot? Or, does he fight it out?
Round 3 Results

Moving right along, Mary Ruwart did benefit significantly from Steve Kubby's exit endorsement. It's a dead heat again- a tie!

Bob Barr 186 (-2)
Mary Ruwart 186 (+24)
Wayne Root 146 (+8)
Mike Gravel 78 (+5)
George Phillies 31 (-5)

Phillies is eliminated, and I did not hear him throw his support behind anyone, so where those 31 votes land is anyone's guess.

That's getting to be true of Gravel's and even Root's totals. Funny things can happen on convention floors. A candidate can decide he's tired and wants out, throwing support to someone at a key moment, becoming the kingmaker. 78 or 146 votes are huge at this point. This is where the lobbying really intensifies, and again I kinda wish I was there to feel the buzz of horse trading for liberty.
Round 2

Here's the vote after the second ballot:

Bob Barr 188 (+35)
Mary Ruwart 162 (+10)
Wayne Root 138 (+15)
Mike Gravel 73 (+2)
George Phillies 36 (-13)
Steve Kubby 32  (-9)

Kubby was eliminated, and Barr gained significant separation between himself and Mary Ruwart, taking a number nearly equal to the votes put up for grabs by the elimination after the first ballot. This becomes a nervous time for Mike Gravel, and the pit in the stomach forms for Phillies.

Kubby threw his support behind Mary Ruwart after this ballot, so we'll see if she reclaims some ground.
First Ballot In

Another convention, another close first-round finish:

Bob Barr 153 votes
Mary Ruwart 152
Wayne Root 123
Mike Gravel 71
George Phillies 49
Steve Kubby 41
Mike Jingozian 23
Christine Smith  6
Daniel Imperato 1
None of the Above 2

Comically, there were write-in votes cast for Penn Gillette (3) and Ron Paul (6), plus one other whose name I didn't catch.

Only Jingozian and Smith are eliminated from this ballot, and a new vote is taken. Due to the closeness and the lack of surprises here, I would expect the numbers to look very similar, as only 39 delegate votes are up for grabs. That said, some who voted for Kubby or Phillies may decide the writing is on the wall, and put their votes up for grabs. This where it gets to be very exciting to be on the floor. In 2002, I was filmed by C-SPAN standing on a chair and stumping before our regional caucus for Gary Nolan, right after the first vote.

At this point, anyone can switch at any time. Sometimes delegates vote with their state or regional delegation the first time, and then go their own way for subsequent balloting. 

I was struck that Georgia really turned up for Bob Barr, delivering 33 votes for him, with just two else cast (for Ruwart). California showed up for Wayne Allyn Root, with 38 votes. It will be interesting to see if those numbers change. Alaska did not support its' own Mike Gravel, casting its' four votes elsewhere. 

I watched Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project represent DC and announce the casting of its' three votes for Bob Barr, the erstwhile drug warrior, and wondered if Kampia had to choke down some cognitive dissonance on the vote. Apparently not, though. Kampia was one of the three.

Indiana's 22 delegates voted thusly:

Root 6
Gravel 5
Barr 4
Phillies 3
Jingozian 2
Root 2

Hopefully this vote will pare it down to two. I do not see a clear victory coming on the second ballot. 
Nomination Looming

I've been watching some of the C-SPAN coverage of the Libertarian Party convention in Denver, and the first vote is being tallied right now. Some impressions:

1. Most of the candidates haven't figured out how to be Presidential. It's not about putting on act or filling a role. It's about seeming serious about preparing to do the job as though about to be elected. 

For instance, Christine Smith sounded like she was campaigning for LNC Chair, talking about party platform fine points in the moment that should be about the Smith Administration platform.

2. Most of the delegates seem more interested in electing the candidate they like, as opposed to the candidate who will do the best job in promoting the vision of a Libertarian Administration. How else to explain candidates like Steve Kubby or Mary Ruwart? 

Kubby is showing that he can be more than a one-issue candidate, but because that issue is marijuana, the press won't ask him about anything else. The man has to use marijuana to stave off a recurrence of cancer. I can only imagine the kind of questions he'll get relative to being a Commander-In-Chief who flames up daily.

Ruwart is strictly dogmatic and without a platform of her own. Like Kubby, she will waste the opportunity to sell liberty to the public, instead having to explain an absurd position on child pornography. Well, our delegates love strict dogma. 

3. C-SPAN is running the camera up and down the convention hall, eavesdropping on conversations. We still have a lot of delegates who look like they came from the Jim Rose Circus. 

In sum, there are still too many ways the Libertarian Party will scare the average American. We still haven't learned even some of the obvious lessons.

Still, this is an exciting time to be on the floor. The place will buzz nervously until the Chair returns to the podium. When he swings the gavel, hearts will pound and the tension will peak. It's an extraordinary atmosphere!