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

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 ( 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 ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Private Prisons: Bernie Sanders is Right Prison Photo

US Senator Bernie Sanders (allegedly a Vermont Independent, but running for president as a Democrat) and US Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Bobby Rush (D-IL) introduced bills in Congress last week aiming to “ban private prisons, reinstate the federal parole system and eliminate quotas for the number of immigrants held in detention.” The bills won’t pass, and who knows what devils lurk in their details, but the general direction is right.

Americans should be embarrassed by the propensity of government at all levels to cage other Americans. We’ve often heard over the last few years that the US government imprisons a higher proportion of its own subject population than any other government on Earth. I doubt that’s true — the remaining Communist regimes and other dictatorships likely don’t honestly account for how many people they incarcerate — but the US certainly leads the “western democracies” in the matter. Nearly one in every 30 Americans is “under correctional supervision,” i.e. in jail, in prison, or on parole or probation.

As a libertarian, I’m all for “privatization.” I’d love to see as many services as possible taken out of government’s hands and left to the private sector.

But “private prisons” aren’t “private” in any meaningful sense of the word. They’re still operated under government supervision and according to government rules; they are still paid for with taxpayer dollars. Fake “privatization” of prisons creates two bad situations:

First, it creates a special interest lobby centered around how much money can be made by sticking people in cages. “Private prison” companies lobby for things like mandatory minimum sentences and a litany of new or revised “tough on crime” laws that put more and more non-violent criminals in their facilities to generate more and more profits. That lobby finances the campaigns of politicians who pass such laws. It’s good for business.

Second, it results in situations where no one is held accountable or responsible for abuses. When, for example a prisoner dies for lack of proper medical care, the politicians blame the “private prison” operators and the operators blame the politicians, round and round in a circle until someone’s wrist gets slapped and everyone forgets about it (until the next such incident).

I won’t vote for him, but Sanders is right on this. We should be looking for ways to minimize, or even abolish, imprisonment, not ways to pretend we’ve “privatized” it.

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