War Party’s New Line: Vladimir Putin is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

English: Richard Nixon meets Leonid Brezhnev J...
Nixon meets Leonid Brezhnev June 19, 1973 during the Soviet Leader’s visit to the U.S.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember the good old days? The US and the Soviet Union constantly staring each other down? Mutual Assured Destruction? Perpetual brushfire and proxy wars punctuated by deadly and disastrous conflicts like Korea and Vietnam?

They’re baaaaaaack …

America’s War Party (a faction that sprawls across Democratic and Republican affiliation lines) has been looking for something to replace the Cold War ever since it ended.

As the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact collapsed, the rationale for spending one of every four US government budget dollars on a military jobs program and corporate welfare for “defense” contractors evaporated. With peace breaking out, American politicians faced the daunting task of remaining relevant without an external boogeyman to scare the bejabbers out of us commoners.

Bush the Elder and Bill Clinton tried hard to keep the scare up with Iraq, but after Desert Storm nobody really bought Saddam Hussein as a major threat to world peace. It took 9/11 to really put the War Party back in charge. They took full advantage, joyfully dancing on 3,000 graves while they dragged the US into interminable and expensive fiascoes in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, all the while grooming a reluctant China as the next monster under the foreign policy bed.

All that was wearing thin, too, even after US president Barack Obama drew his “red line” in Syria and went to war without so much as a do-you-mind to Congress, seemingly unable to decide from day to day whether the enemy was the Islamic State or the Assad regime.

Enter Vladimir Putin. He’s perfectly suited to serve as the War Party’s new hobgoblin: Former KGB agent, head of an authoritarian regime, already on the US enemies list after frustrating US ambitions in Georgia and Ukraine … what’s not to like?

As I write this, Putin is escalating Russian involvement in the Syrian conflict, going from airstrikes against Islamic State targets to having the Russian navy fire cruise missiles in support of a regime ground offensive.

Frankly, Putin seems to be going gangbusters at  one of the two jobs Obama can’t seem to decide between (liquidating the Islamic State as a military force) while making it clear that the other job (“regime change” in Syria) is no longer on the table unless we want to go back to the days of two superpowers brandishing nukes at each other.

No more solitaire for the American empire. It’s back to high-stakes poker. Which, of course, is exactly what War Party politicians on both sides of the aisle want. Gambling with our money and lives is their bread and butter.

Can we build a real American peace movement to call the War Party’s bluff? Our lives may depend on it.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


Slow News Days and Third Party Politics: Attack of the Goat-Sacrificing Roman Sun God!

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American media seldom pay much attention to “third” political parties like the Libertarians and the Greens. They get footnotes in normal election coverage, with one exception: Sometimes someone weird shows up on a slow news day. Then it’s suddenly time to cover third parties.

Enter Augustus Sol Invictus, a declared candidate for US Senate from Florida, who plans to run on the Libertarian Party’s ballot line. You may have seen his name in your social media or news feed. He’s “trending.”

Invictus named himself after an ancient Roman sun god. He allegedly sacrificed a goat in the western desert somewhere. As an attorney, he’s defended white supremacist clients and some people believe that’s no coincidence. He’s supposedly called for civil war, mandatory eugenics programs and all kinds of other crazy, and definitely not Libertarian, stuff.  [Disclosure: I am a Libertarian candidate for Congress from Florida too; I have never sacrificed a goat, don’t associate with white supremacists, and support neither civil war nor eugenics]

The Libertarian Party of Florida’s executive committee censured Invictus  and disassociated their party from him on Sunday. His views, they say, are not theirs — which should be obvious, but some things do have to be explicitly said, not just assumed.

And yet, there’s actually a possibility that he’ll show up on Florida primary ballots as a candidate for the Libertarian US Senate nomination. If so, and if he wins, the Florida LP is stuck with him as their standard-bearer.

It shouldn’t be that way. And at one time it wasn’t.

Until the late 19th century, American government didn’t print ballots, nor did it control the internal affairs of political parties.  Voters cast ballots printed and provided by their parties of choice, or hand-wrote (or, if they couldn’t write, verbally swore to an election official) their ballots.

Starting in the 1880s, the states adopted the “Australian ballot.” Because government printed these ballots, government got to choose which candidates appeared on them. From that, a system of rules evolved which incorporated two express purposes: Keeping “third parties” off ballots with restrictive access laws, and robbing them of the ability to choose their own candidates, if they did manage to wangle ballot access, by forcing them into primary elections instead of nominations by convention.

All of this came about in the name of “reform,” to “take political decisions out of the smoke-filled rooms.” But that’s where the decisions are still made by the Democrats and Republicans. These restrictive laws don’t affect them nearly as much. Their party establishments are large, entrenched and powerful; they’re usually able to direct the voters instead of vice versa. It’s the third parties who get stuck with the weirdos. And with the media coverage that the weirdos bring.

A major step in real political reform would be to ditch the “Australian ballot” and its associated restrictions, returning to freedom of association for voters, candidates and political parties.

Florida’s Libertarians should be free to bury Caesar, rather than potentially forced to seemingly praise him.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


“Somehow This Has Become Routine”

Gun photo from RGBStock

That’s what president Barack Obama said after a gunman killed ten before police shot him to death at Umpqua Community College in Rosebud, Oregon on October 1.

Obama said a mouthful there; more than he knew.

“Mass shootings” — gun homicides with four or more victims — are indeed “routine.” That is, they are stable. There’s been no discernible upward trend in the number of incidents or victims over the last 40 years, contra scaremongers who pretend this is a new or growing phenomenon.

It’s also routine for victim disarmament (“gun control”) advocates to begin dancing on the graves of those killed in “mass shootings” before the bodies have had time to cool, demanding more, and more draconian, laws of a type which are not only patently evil and irrefutably  unconstitutional, but which have never produced the results their supporters claim to want. The main centers of American “gun violence” are, and always have been, areas where corrupt legislators or naive voters adopt the victim disarmers’ schemes.

Obama happens to be Grave-Dancing Ghoul in Chief at the moment, but would-be Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton wasted no time hitting the dance floor either, hoping to gain back some ground on opponent Bernie Sanders by grandstanding on the fact that Sanders hasn’t historically been quite as stark-raving nutzoid on the topic of guns and self-defense as the Democrat mainstream.

Clinton focused on the victim disarmament lobby’s bete noire, the National Rifle Association. “What’s wrong with us that we can’t stand up to the NRA and the gun lobby?” she asked.

A better question might be “with friends like the NRA, what do gun owners need enemies for?” The NRA has either overtly backed, or at best “grudgingly” compromised on, every major piece of American victim disarmament legislation since the 1930s.  At their very best, they’re weak-kneed moderates who can’t be trusted to show any backbone in defense of human rights. At their  worst … well, Benedict Arnold doesn’t lack for modern imitators.

For those politicians and activists silly enough to think “gun control” is a winning issue in 2016, one thing to keep in mind:

There are somewhere between 270 million and 350 million guns in the hands of between 70 million and 100 million Americans.

You can’t have them.

You don’t have to like it. That’s how it is whether you like it or not.

Get used to THAT routine.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.