Thursday, August 17, 2017

12 Activist Things To Do To Change The World

1. Make a bunch of digital 3D models of political figures, and distribute the models widely at obscenely low prices for use in computer games, ads, parodies, farces, and the like.

2. Program a powerful AI to analyze all the non-essential legislation in the world and figure out a way to make all the B.S. self-nullifying.

3. Start a social promise community.

4. Write a best-selling story about how a band of dedicated activists peacefully conquered evil across an empire. Then sell the movie rights to a major movie studio.

5. Found a thriving mutual aid society for ex-felons.

6. Contribute to the growing movement for building a political coalition for liberty by mutual acceptance of differing opinions.

7. Convince the Ex-Felon Mutual Aid Society to organize a sister society for homeless people.

8. Brilliantly defend the mutual aid societies from attacks by centralists and fascists.

9. Host a regular party to celebrate liberty and reinforce connections with like-minded people.

10. Pass legislation legalizing psychedelics for psychiatric uses.

11. Run a powerful campaign for U.S. President on a platform of Liberty, that unites conservatives, liberals, moderates and radicals, achieving groundbreaking results.

12. Do one less banal thing, and one more profound thing, on a fairly regular cycle.

Vice Chair Report Q1 2017

This is the first quarter after our 2017 convention April 28-30, so I'm calling it Q1. We got a nice energy boost from the convention. After the fatigue of hard work passed, people turned to their activism business, thinking ahead to next year or to building infrastructure and relationships for liberty. Our new Secretary and Treasurer have been diligent and hard working - not that others haven't been. We are fortunate to have such committed and capable people joining us.

There's no way I can report on all the swirling political currents, but here's a few. Jimmy Gomez ended up plastering false-Democrat Robert Lee Ahn by a 20% margin for the 34th Congressional District. It's pretty much a one-party state here in the Metropolis of Southern California, with just a few Republican enclaves holding on. The Commissariat is moving to take any further semblance of control over our own health care away from us, with California single-payer. In exchange they offer an illusion of adequate care for all. LA County passed a sales tax increase to fund special interests claiming sovereignty over homeless people. Darkness increases all around us, but we must nonetheless be sustained by genuine hope for true and lasting liberty.  

More towards the navel, Boomer made a trip to a recent San Diego supper club gathering. I'd like to hear his report after I'm done, if he's willing. If anyone else here was there, let's hear from them too. Michael Warnken is still considering the job of Chair Pro Tem in Santa Barbara. He needs to join the Central Committee first, we'll get that done if it's meant to be. If you know of anyone else interested in the job, let me know. If I understood her correctly, Gail Lightfoot hinted that the Ex Com should consider rescinding any prior disaffiliation of the last SLO County affiliate chaired by Gail. I will let Gail speak for herself because I am not sure I understood her meaning correctly. I'd prefer to see local activists hold an organizing convention in each of those Counties, after we help them by reaching out to libertarian voters with some of our newly exercised capabilities. The first part of that has to happen before the second can. The first ain't happening yet, apparently due to lack of interest.

The affiliate-organizing-by-convention business is putting the cart before the horse, if it lacks local support. Before visible affiliates can organically emerge, grassroots support must be cultivated. We need informal clubs that identify as libertarian and support one another. Just groups of friends, really, who identify with us and include members of our central committee. Friends will collaborate on ways to make friends and support one another without getting thumped by the powers-that-be. Once we have a friends network doing grassroots activism, the visible affiliates with spending power will emerge when they are needed. I'd like to hear your ideas and plans about how you are going to build your own libertarian club, and make it thrive wherever you are. And I encourage the Ex Com to support people who are doing such things without trying to control them. Let's set an example of mutual respect, non-aggression and group effectiveness for others. Let's make the Ex Com a group we are all honored and privileged to be a part of, because of the remarkably good things we accomplish and the great friends we make while working together.

There's a million other things to say, but I'm out of time.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Southern Vice Chair Report, 2017

It’s been an honor to serve as your Southern Vice Chair for the past three years. I hope you’ve been satisfied or happy or even proud to be a part of this ‘rockin So Cal PARTY, where “you can be different, and still fit in.” I’ve tried my best to be supportive, and to do the activism that I can.

2016 was a good year in Southern California, by many measures. The presidential numbers were more than three times higher than our previous record. A lot of folks were busy campaigning. Our membership grew. Our members were at peace with one another. We found ways to support one another despite our disagreements.  People patched over old wounds, and moved on. When the vibe is good, when we follow our own principles of non-aggression, a lot of good activity blooms.

So there’s a lot to report and I don’t have much time. 2016 was a huge energy pulse that infused new members and a new positivity. I am so grateful to Gary Johnson and Bill Weld for attracting such fine members to us. Let’s multiply that gift, that positivity! Let’s grow those new members!

Aaron Starr fought a dramatic battle in Oxnard that is still ongoing. Susan Marie Weber (on the ExCom) won re-election in Palm Desert. Jeff Hewitt was all over the place for Calimesa. Our Chair Ted marshalled write-in candidates all over the state. Several made it on the November ballot. 4 of them right here in Southern Cal. Mimi Robson got 22% of her state senate district, with a tiny campaign chest. 22%! Baron Bruno ran an inspired, committed campaign in a three-way race in heavily Democrat territory. Both Mimi and Baron volunteered for the ExCom after their campaigns. Mike Everling was also on the November ballot, for state assembly. Alive Free Happy was all over the place, just doing a tremendous job, sending crews to staff booths at colleges and fairs, collecting data, building up infrastructure, building websites for local campaigns, leveraging the Johnson campaign to build up the local Party, too many things to mention. Judd Weiss ran for VP with John McAfee. Alicia Dearn ran for VP and became Chair of the San Diego LP. Angela McArdle ran for US Congress with a team of supporters. Jay Jones and Jill Pyeatt kept working hard to grow regional supper clubs. Mark Herd ran for LA City Council.  I could go on, but you get the picture.  

It’s great to see all that activity, and more than awesome to feel the good vibrations! Something new is blowing in the wind! But if we’re honest with ourselves, we face a long road ahead before liberty prevails over tyranny, before we conquer all the obstacles holding us back.

So let’s start with the fundamentals. If we want to make the world a better place, we’ve got to start by making our party a better place. We’ve got to avoid the venom, de-toxify our environment. I could see that happening all over the place last year. Not that everything was perfect - perfection ain’t possible, folks. If there was infighting anywhere, I didn’t hear about it. A lot of us had a great time campaigning, and doing other stuff together. I already talked about that.

The point is, we win by making this party a nicer place to be. By that metric, we are winning! People will come to a nicer place to be. When that happens, our movement gets bigger and more cohesive. As it swells, we gain political power, and the adversaries of freedom step up their attacks.

Sure, we have a long way to go before the ugly game of electoral politics gets better. But we are winning the culture wars, if you look at the long-term trending. The millennials are far more libertarian, as a group, than the generation before them. California legalized weed. The Cannabis industry is booming, festivals and commerce springing up everywhere. All those people are with us. The crypto movement, open source, gamer, sci-fi, fantasy, maker movements are growing. Take a look at Burning Man. Those people are all with us. The moderate sensible middle class people who liked Gary Johnson and Bill Weld, are with us. The organic natural food, live off the earth people are with us. The homeschoolers and unschoolers are with us. The religious freedom people are with us. The true conservatives are with us. Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach are with us. A lot of people in the entertainment business, a lot of musicians and artists are with us. In the cultural sense. We’ve got to let them know that we are with them.

And we’ve got to build a compelling culture. A culture of mutual respect, first. Add to that mutual support in the game of politics. With that ethical foundation, we’ll win respect for our words and deeds. Activists will have a reason to join, and do their activism with us. Candidates for public office will find meaningful support here. Our politics will be open, fresh, inspiring, respectful, winning!

There’s one very important fundamental that we can’t overlook.  Practice what you preach. We must make this party a nicer place for good people to be. Nicer than any other party; nicer than people imagine a political party can be. By doing that, earn the people’s trust. So people know that we can and will use whatever office we run for to make their home better now and in the long term.

So I’m happy to report that the state of affairs for libertarians in Southern California over the past year was . . . nice. And the forecast for the year ahead is for that niceness to continue and grow. As we become nicer, we will attract new volunteers and allies to help us out in the great work ahead. That great work to make our party the nicest club one could ever hope to join. And by doing that, to win!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

8th Annual Southern California Conference of Libertarian Parties


Last week (this past Saturday, actually) I had the privilege and pleasure of emceeing the 8th Annual Southern California Conference in Santa Fe Springs, California.  It's not a huge affair yet, but there are already more interesting people to meet than time to meet them all, and the speakers typically bring a raw passion to their efforts that is infectious for the types of people who typically attend.  The speeches are always unique; in some years none have been heard elsewhere before and so it is for most of the speeches in the remaining years.  People of all types are welcome and it doesn't cost much.  There's a "linger longer" in the bar and often an after party.  It's a good energizing, fun time.

The speeches this year had an outstanding synergy and sizzle for an event of this size.  Unfortunately, the fates decreed that the spoken words would go unrecorded, so far as I know.  This leads me to record a few of my impressions before time fades them, as a way of remembering the event and honoring the efforts of those who participated.

I made a few opening remarks to kick off the day.  Apart from the thank-yous, those remarks went something like this:

Today we are going to hear from a uniquely inspiring group of speakers.  Each of them was deeply invested in a political campaign last Fall.  Each will tell a different story, and relate lessons learned, from a different perspective.

It was an interesting and high-energy campaign season, with a shocking ending.  Have you gotten over the shock of regime change yet?  Not sure that I have.  It's nice to see a new skepticism of federal power from the Democrats and the left.  It might not last, but there's been nothing like it since the Vietnam War and Nixon.

 On the right, things are cloudier, if not darker.  We are waiting to see if the lower-tax, less-regulation nationalist wall-building crony capitalism pushed by the Trumpers will make up for the oppression of all the people they dislike, plus maybe World War III.  

It's a mixed bag.  There are little impulses towards liberty on both sides.  We'll cultivate those impulses and help them grow, harvesting new comrades in the fight for liberty and justice without aggression.

TRIGGER WORD WARNING! Close your ears if emotionally sensitive.
Trump! Obama. Hil-a-ry. China!China.China? . . . ALLEPPO.

Let's put those words and the negative emotions they provoke out of our minds and focus on softer, more healing phrases: Building communities - FREE communities based on equal justice.  Building interpersonal trust. Empowering citizens to thrive. Ensuring that future generations will have no less opportunity for the pursuit and enjoyment of happiness than we have enjoyed ourselves.

Those objectives (maybe we can call them activities, or even industries) are at the core of true liberty and human thriving.  Those objectives are what we achieve when we campaign together according to the principles we hold.  Increase in those industries is the greatest victory that any political campaign can ever achieve.  So let's hear some stories from campaigns like that!
 
I have no notes to bolster my memory of the speakers' remarks, so here are some impressions purely from memory, with fervent apologies to everyone mentioned:

Robert Imhoff told a story about how he got involved in the Johnson-Weld campaign.  Robert had no real experience in politics, but did understand how to reach people, and had access to some modest amounts of capital.  He was bitten hard by the campaign bug, and threw himself whole-heartedly into campaigning.  California was not a "battleground" state for Johnson-Weld, so the national campaign mostly ignored him, especially early in the campaign.

Ted Brown introduced three local candidates who made the November ballot via a write-in campaign in the June primary, Baron Bruno, Honor 'Mimi' Robson, and Mike Everling.  Baron and Mimi were first-time candidates.  Mike is one of the old guard who ran to fill an empty ballot line with the libertarian label, being nearly the only registered libertarian in the district.  Mimi is now Secretary of the California Libertarian Party and Baron is contemplating running for the national Libertarian presidential nomination in 2020.

Dan Fishman from Boston Massachusetts told stories of his experience as Northeast (Connecticut to Maine) Regional Director for Johnson-Weld.  The Northeast was a battleground region, so there was more involvement with the top echelons of the campaign, than Robert experienced.  His frustrations were unique, and many opportunities that Dan labored on ultimately went unused.  It's difficult to unravel the full picture in the Northeast hearing only from one perspective, but it is clear that there are stories to tell and lessons to learn from what was experienced there. 

Nick Sarwark,  LNC Chair, led off his talk with an analogy about lobsters and for the most part avoided talking about the campaign.  He exhorted the audience that to grow the party, we are going to have to break out of old comfortable shells.  We are going make room for new kinds of people, who view liberty from a different perspective.  Our party is not about right and left, it's about up and down.  If you are for human liberty, you are a libertarian, whether you are liberal or conservative.  Increase human freedom and love one another.

Matthew Barnes finished up the conference with a short talk about Alive Free Happy and its participation in the Presidential campaign and local campaigns.  By that time, my head was full of what I been hearing all day, but I remember Matt showing pictures of some of the Alive Free Activists at campaign events, talked about tabling with the Nolan chart, building infrastructure by reaching out to voters during the campaign, and not missing the little victories that passionate and persistent effort will undoubtedly keep winning.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Uproar in Heaven (Film Review and Commentary)


Uproar in Heaven is classic Chinese anime' (although this post is based on the 2012 condensed and re-voiced adaptation), and this post contains spoilers of its plot and characters.  Some poetic license is taken, and much of the detail and flourish of the film itself is skipped over, for brevity's sake. I highly recommend watching.  Of it, Wikipedia says:

"Havoc in Heaven, also translated as Uproar in Heaven, is a Chinese animated feature film directed by Wan Laiming and produced by all four of the Wan brothers. The film was created at the height of the Chinese animation industry in the 1960s, and received numerous awards. It earned the brothers domestic and international recognition. The story is an adaptation of the earlier episodes of the Chinese novel Journey to the West."

The film is in two parts, which tell early stories from the novel.  The story of Part I is summarized below, for those who are unfamiliar with it.  This post would have no purpose, if its readers could not glimpse the character and grandeur of the old stories and the power of their protagonist without having to read the book or watch the film.  If you already know those qualities well: congratulations, you're a winner!  Skip down to the moonlit dancing pixie!

The Monkey King, whose subjects frolic in the fruit trees, desires to have a perfect weapon. His advisors impel him to seek the weapon from the Dragon King, who lives under the Eastern Sea.  The Monkey King plunges into the Eastern Sea, subdues the Dragon King's guards, and demands that the Dragon King supply him with the perfect weapon.  The Dragon King complains, but supplies the Monkey King with a spear.  The Monkey King rejects the spear as "not even a weapon," and demands something better.  So it goes through a sequence of increasingly massive weapons, all of which fail to win the Monkey King's approval.  The Monkey King mocks the Dragon King, saying "can't you find a better weapon somewhere in the vast Eastern Sea?"  Being advised of a clever scheme to rid him of the Monkey King, the Dragon King offers him the key to the oceans, left by King Yu to restrain the floods, "if you can take it."

The Monkey King finds the key to his liking, and demonstrates his power by wondrously removing the key, to the consternation of the Dragon King.  The Monkey King returns with the key to his kingdom, causing great excitement and rejoicing in his subjects.  Meanwhile, the Dragon King complains to the Jade Emperor in heaven about the Monkey King, demanding that the Jade Emperor subdue the Monkey King and bring him to justice for robbing the Dragon King of the key to the oceans.  The Jade Emperor's court knows of this Monkey King as a "Taoist monkey born 500 years ago",  who is not to be taken lightly.  The Emperor's advisors counsel appointment of the Monkey King to a minor imperial office, and so, after seducing the Monkey King to visit the Imperial Court, convince the Monkey King to accept appointment as protector of the imperial horses.  Upon taking office and finding the heavenly horses restrained and subdued in the stables, the Monkey King observes "they're treating the horses all wrong," and immediately frees them all.  The imperial horses race around heaven, while the Monkey King nurtures them without imposing restraints.

A superior in the imperial hierarchy moves to discipline the Monkey King for freeing the horses.  The Monkey King defeats his superior, after scorning him by yelling "who the hell are you to tell me what's right and wrong!", while the horses celebrate by running around.  The superior's advocates petition the Emperor, and embroil the imperial court in an uproar that leads, after a declaration of equal sovereignty by the Monkey King, to a furious attack upon him by multilayered imperial forces, that is the climax of the first part of the film.  The Monkey King defeats the attack decisively, bringing peace and prosperity to his people, and so Part I of the film ends.


 Part II veers from the political to the spiritual, and back again, but is still focused on the Imperial designs to subdue the Monkey King.  It is a wild and multi-dimensional ride that reveals different layers of the struggle between self-sovereignty and submission to a higher power, in both political and religious spheres.  It's well worth watching if you appreciate early animation; the animation, the art, the voice acting, and the story are all worthily accomplished, by the standards of the time. There's no need to spoil Part II -- the description of Part I makes the settled character of the Monkey King clear enough for my purpose here.  He never abandons his proud independence, or his role as a protector and benefactor of his people, and so the story retains its consistency without losing its power to surprise.  O.K., one hint of a spoiler ahead: the climax bears a resemblance to a story many in the West know well, that is about as old: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace, and the parallel story of that book, Daniel In The Lion's Den.

Uproar in Heaven is an outstanding animated film, and its political story resonates with a kind of libertarian self-sovereignty, masked through a layer of monarchy.  There is much other Asian anime that carries a libertarian message, but this film stands out for its fearlessly libertarian adaptation of classic Chinese literature, during a time when Chinese culture and politics seemed ready to reject any acceptance of anti-authoritarianism.  Ignorant Westerners (such as myself) cannot even imagine that modern or classic Chinese culture could recognize disobedience to authority as a trait of heroes.  Confucius dominated Laozi, we were taught, the Chinese do not value individuality.  This film belies my meager public school education concerning China (no great feat).  The film was produced in Shanghai in 1964, before the dawn of Mao's cultural revolution in 1966.  It's enough to make one wonder how much popular culture such as reflected by Uproar In Heaven had to do with the brutal reaction from China's ruling party, that was the cultural revolution.

The Monkey King - Sun Wukong - has deep roots going back at least to the 16th-century Chinese novel Journey To The West.  I have not read that work, and could only do so in translation; now I  will.  The novel and the film under review draw inspiration from Taoism, which is based on the teachings of Laozi (or Lao-tsu) from the 4th or 5th century B.C.E.  The same Laozi who is credited with saying "When the best leader's work is done, the people say, 'We did it ourselves'" and "Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself," among many other libertarian and spiritual sayings.

But why should this film review appear in a political blog at all?  Just as a reminder that art is political, and the cultural origins of liberty are old and wide.  It would be foolish for us in the West to regard ourselves as the prime carrier of the torch.  We are only one army among many, who have yet to stand in the present day.  When the more than one billion Chinese in the world listen to Laozi again, a miracle of liberty will unfold in the Middle Kingdom and beyond, such as has never been seen before.  This miracle will prove that the tales of Sun Wukong and Daniel in the Lion's Den are true: the power of living freely by each individual's best conscience is indestructible, and can never be defeated.





Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Can An Anarchist Participate in Politics, Without Dishonor?


I am an anarchist who labors in electoral politics.  I do not believe that winning an office by electoral politics grants any magical powers to rule over others.  So why then do I participate in electoral politics as if intending to win morally meaningless offices?  Just the thought of such dangerous foolishness should make me feel icky.

It doesn't though, because I have learned the light art of holding two contradictory thoughts in my head at the same time.  Not the dark art.  The light art entails understanding arguments on both sides of a moral question, and using that knowledge to make peace and increase understanding of others.  The dark art uses that same knowledge to lead people astray and sow general confusion.   I intend only to shed light: on the one hand, seeking magical powers to rule over others is plainly off the mark for an anarchist.  On the other hand: the enlightened ones do not need to be taught what they have already learned.  It is those who have never understood the message of liberty who need teachers and leaders.  For an anarchist, laboring in electoral politics is missionary work.

The "we-run-to-win" contingent might be heard groaning here, if any are present.  Please be patient.  One can wholeheartedly run to win, while simultaneously believing that the office contested for is immoral.  Of course, others may believe that the office is moral and necessary.  Let's leave the issue of the morality of the office aside for now.  We agree that the act of running for office is not, by itself, immoral.  And we agree that if we are going to run, we should run to win.  Winning is the point of playing the game; if we don't try to win it won't be a game.  We are going to work side-by-side to win, and if we win, you are going to have anarchists in your government, and you are going to better understand and accept what it means to be free.  If we lose, you are going to better understand and accept what it means to be free.  In that sense of understanding and acceptance, you are going to have anarchists in your government either way.  As I was saying, it's missionary work.

A good missionary learns more from the mission than those who are ministered to, and learns it from those who are served.  It's not as if the anarchists have all the answers.  We believe in liberty, but some questions are not yet answered by experimental data, and some expressions of the new order will not be foreseen or planned.  The amazing new orders that will emerge will be informed by so many different people, including by you to whom we bring our message of freedom.  We will learn from you as you learn from us.  Just know that we will never stop pushing for more liberty and justice in human affairs, which will once perfectly achieved dissolve the power of every office of authority that any politician might ever seek.

This missionary work can be done in any political party, or outside of any party.  I labor in the Libertarian party, because I am a convert of this party.  It was not the Republicans, Greens, Democrats, Peace and Freedom, or any other party who converted me.  I did not learn much about liberty in public school.  It was the Libertarians, the people I met at their conferences and conventions, who opened my eyes.  Not everybody has the same motivations or experiences as I, and that's OK.  There are other mission fields to work in.  So thanks for giving me a break, my friend.  It's not easy, being a missionary.
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