Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Clarion Call to Democrats - we need a clear, articulate program!

At the recently-concluded “Values Voters Summit” sponsored by the "Family" Research Council, a terribly misnamed Chrstianist hate organization with spurious and at best questionable moral values, the holier than thou attendees voted overwhelmingly that “abortion” was their Number One issue for the upcoming congressional elections.

It seems that despite the Human Rights Campaign's recent bleating about how "gay marriage" might cause the Republicans to take over the House in 2010's mid-term elections, the Christianist Right Wing has made it clear that “abortion” will be one of their litmus tests this year. I am sure that some of them will be railing about “gay marriage” and “gay rights” anyway, it is noted that “gay” issues did not make the top five. At least one of them, Delaware Republican US Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, seems to think that masturbation should be outlawed, too.

Jerry Pournelle, a great science fiction writer (with and without his collaborator Larry Niven), has advised these folks to put abortion on the back burner – as we will see below, Jerry is taking the position that abortion should be a “states’ rights” issue, to try to keep social conservatives, tea partiers, neo-cons and others in the Republican tent.

Jerry makes no bones about his support and sympathy for Tea Party types at his Chaos Manor blogspace, or rather personal journal. He does want to make sure that all sorts of “conservatives” stick together and vote Republican this November.

BTW, Jerry does have a fairly legitimate claim to being a blogger before there was ever such a thing – he may be, in a way, the *original* blogger.

He says:

“I can make some claim to this being The Original Blog and Daybook. I certainly started keeping a day book well before most, and long before the term "blog" or Web Log was invented. BIX, the Byte information exchange, preceded the Web by a lot, and I also had a daily journal on GE Genie. All that was long before the World Wide Web.”

I have been following him, and Chaos Manor, on and off, in places like Byte magazine and elsewhere since the 1980’s, and I remember when he wrote about the Atari ST (I had several, years ago, including the 25 pound “portable” Stacy model – the last of which I still have stored in a closet).

I’ve seen Jerry, a mostly “hard science” SF writer, make a lot of sense on science issues, including his advocacy for solar power satellites (SPS) as a cure for the earth’s energy needs and a way out of reliance on fossil fuels.

With that as prologue, I don’t see eye to eye with Jerry on everything.

Many of the people I know, know I am a Democrat since at least 1978 when I first decided on a party affiliation after being "independent" for a number of years – and some know that when I was in college, I was in the libertarian wing of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), a conservative organization for students founded by William Buckley.

One of my high school history teachers (Mr. Palmer) had an influence on my political development, providing some reading material from de Tocqueville (he said the name was supposed to be pronounced “Tuckwell”), and I cut my teeth on Barry Goldwater’s “The Conscience of a Conservative.”

Still, over the years I moderated – especially after reading the Bettman Archive’s picture book, “The Good Old Days – They Were Terrible.”

I found myself a moderate libertarian – and I have learned that the social conservatives and neo-cons who run the Republican Party have no room for moderate libertarianism. (My high school and college friend, Cliff Thies, has stayed the course, and is a leading intellectual light for the more reasonable tiny minority of Republican libertarians.)

In this week’s Chaos Manor meanderings,

Jerry made a pronouncement on the topic of abortion. In context, he was discussing issues he thought should not be a part of the national conversation, taking a rather non-libertarian “states’ rights” tack on the issue. Here is an excerpt of what he wrote:

“A politically pure conservative party can't get a national consensus on many important issues. Some of us don't want one on many issues. Subsidiarity is in my judgment one of the important principles of conservatism. An example is abortion. The abortion issue divides many: how can you let those people in Missouri regulate something as fundamental as the right for a woman to choose, and thus force her to have a baby against her will? How dare you allow those people in California to permit the slaughter of the innocents and murder the unborn? And those arguments are important -- but not at the Federal level, because Congress has not the power to forbid or enable abortion except in the District of Columbia and in military hospitals. However strongly you or I may feel about the issue, what they do in Missouri or Maryland or Louisiana is not our business unless we live there.”

In my opinion, Jerry misses or ignores the libertarian issue in his quest for "unity" – first, calling it “abortion” is a misnomer and an oversimplification – abortion is only one of a pregnant woman’s choices. (A Catholic ad campaign for the past several decades encourages women to “Choose Life!” The Christianist Right wing wants to make sure that the legal corollary is “Or Else!”)

The issue is women’s reproductive rights. This is a civil rights issue for women. It is an individual rights issue – neither technically federal or state in nature – but the only thing shat should be legislatively regulated at whichever level is and should be for the purpose of insuring reasonable access to safe treatment facilities.

The 10th Amendment is the one cited by “states’rights” advocates like Jerry – it states:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

What “states’ rights” advocates don’t understand, is that the last clause means, quite clearly, that the people do not lay down their individual inalienable and constitutional civil rights when they find themselves off a military reservation or outside the District of Columbia.

For example, Amendment 1 guarantees individuals a right to freedom of religious expression, and prohibits Congress from establishing a religion. Some states’ rights conservatives believe that the state governments should, or do, have the right to establish a religion – ignoring the right reserved to the people to have freedom of religious expression.

Similarly, involuntary servitude was abolished by the 13th amendment.

The amendment reads:

“1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

If a law requires a pregnant woman to remain pregnant, that is imposing on her a condition of involuntary servitude, to either the state, or to the man who provided the spermatozoon responsible for the condition.

Patriarchal religious zealots whose primary aim is the subjugation of women and the subordination of the rights of a living human being, a legal person from the time of her birth and breath, to those of a potential human being that is under construction.

As I have pointed out recently, some state legislatures have taken the dangerous step of legislating the personhood of potential human beings under construction. At least one (Utah) has taken steps to criminalize pregnant women who might in some way deliberately or negligently harm the potential person under construction inside her body. Someone in Utah may have read the 13th Amendment, and has taken steps to criminalize pregnancy issues. Suspect a pregnant woman of negligence, and a kangaroo court can convict her and sentence her to live under the watchful eye of the pregnancy warden in a prison ward, under constant medical supervision, and perhps even chained to a bed for the duration.

Social Conservatives, driven by the Christianist (anti)Family organizations loke FRC, are the worst possible allies for responsible libertarians. Let’s paraphrase a little Rogers & Hammerstein here:

You’ve got to be taught
to hate the gays
and people who pray
in different ways
and fear the transgender
for all of your days
You've got to be carefully taught.

The Christianist Right
are mindless sheeple
who teach their own children
to flock to the steeple
and hate on all sorts
of different people
They've all been so carefully taught.

While such people might be considered populist in some parts of the country (it is scary how many Americans care little for individual rights other than their own), they should never be allowed to use the power of the ballot box to impose their so-called “morality” on people who live by better and higher or other moral principles. The principles on which the nation was founded take precedence over religious-based prejudice from people who don’t understand their own sacred scriptures.

Jerry likes to mention Alexis de Tocqueville – so Jerry is likely to be familiar with the idea of the “tyranny of the majority.” The majority should not be allowed to trammel on individual civil rights, particularly when the rights trammeled upon are being denied only to one class of people, which includes women and minorities.

Jerry either ignores or does not realize that the 10th Amendment reserves individual liberties to the individuals, not to the states – and that pregnancy, a condition of servitude, cannot be made an obligation by the states, or even by a popular referendum – only the congress can enact legislation relating to conditions of servitude, and only within the scope of prohibiting involuntary servitude except as part of the penalty for a crime.

(Of course, Jerry and I can point out his colleague Larry Niven’s short story that involves a recidivist traffic offender attempting to escape from an organ-recovery process that would result in his effective execution, as an example of a dystopian state-gone-wild – such an approach would be a reduction ad absurdum as ridiculous as extending legal personhood to the fertilized ovum.) We need to keep government away from regulating women's bodies.

For Jerry and Republican libertarians, the answer just might be to turn to the Democrats, who are not tied down to anti-libertarian social conservatives and Christianist fundamentalists – and I would look for their support, and those of “tea party” types who are frustrated with the status quo – but to get that support, the Democratic leadership has to articulate a clearly and simply stated legislative program that can attract the frustrated tea partiers away from the false siren call of the demagogues of the neo-con and religious right wing.

So far, the Democratic leadership has failed to work out such a program.

If they want to have any positive impact at all on the results of the November 2010 election, they have to do this. Up until now, they have been too paralyzed by the “big tent” to offend the blue dogs in their midst, who by throwing themselves in with Republicans in many cases made it impossible for Congress to get a lot accomplished the past two years.

The problem is not that there is a Democratic majority in the House, the problem is that, between the Republicans and the 40 or so socially-conservative blue dog Democrats, the House has held the people hostage the past couple of years, in addition to the previous eight.

The solution is not to put the Republicans who caused the whole economic mess between 2000 and 2006 (and even to the present day, with their blue-dog cohorts) back into power, even with a leavening from the ultra-right wing nut cases like Christine O’Donnell.


The apparently counterintuitive solution is to elect more Democrats, and I mean real Democrats, not more useless blue dog DINO Democrats.

In 1994, Republican Newt Gingrich engineered a Republican takeover of Congress with his “Contract With America” which enunciated a legislative program that he and hs cohorts proceeded to enact over the following several years.

No one, on either side, has emulated Newt this election season - but the Republicans have found a way to tap into “Tea Party” frustrations. (for those who don't know, “TEA” stands for “Taxed Enough Already.”)

This is, of course, an issue – but we run smack up against the libertarian principle of TANSTAAFL (“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”)

Tea Partiers mostly want a free lunch. No one can really provide what they want.
I recently found a place for the Democratic leadership to start – it’s here:

It is the platform of the Democratic Freedom Caucus – a group of libertarian Democrats.

People have to try to remember that Thomas Jefferson, one of the architects of our nation, was a Democrat, a libertarian, as well as a Unitarian.

Until just the other day, I did not realize that there were organized Democratic libertarians – since most of the libertarians I know are either Libertarian Party or Republicans, I did not realize there is a libertarian movement growing within the Democratic party.

If we are to save our Republic from the fascists who want to turn it into a police state, we have to hold off the social conservatives and neo-cons. Otherwise there may be little hope for the future of the nation, which is still reeling from eight years of abuse by George W. Bush and his Republican regime. Two years of Barack Obama, even with an uncooperative Congress that is mostly still in the hands of Republicans and DINO blue dog Democrats, has not been enough time to heal.

Does Jerry seriously want to see the election to the US Senate of a Christine O’Donnell who wants to make masturbation a crime, just because she got the party nomination? It’s better to make no endorsement at all, or better, maybe those of us who have a moderate libertarianism in our political philosophies ought to start supporting each other.

Side note to Rand Paul – drop the libertarian cover for the bigotry, it’s not funny, and it makes real libertarians look bad.


  1. You make the mistake of assuming that civil liberties issues applies only to abortion and gay rights. Yes, we libetarians agree with liberals on those two issues to some extent, though we are against government funding for abortion, and most certainly against special rights for gays which they seem to be pushing for these days.

    Civil liberties encompasses other issues like seat belt laws, smoking bans, lowering the drinking age to 18, ending selective service along with opposing any calls for mandatory national service, opposing trans fats bans and bans on sugary sodas, and opposing efforts such as those from Muslim communities in the U.S. to ban liqour stores.

    How do liberals stand on these Nanny-state issues? Not well. Liberals are on the side of big government in all of these instances, and it is the conservatives who support civil liberties. Yes, conservatives don't care about these issues like we libertarians do. But when pressed they side with their longtime libertarian allies against the liberals.

    So, in sum, libertarians and liberals agree halfway on a total of two civil liberties issues - abortion and gay rights. And with conservatives on just about every other civil liberties issue.

    Why would we libertarians, particularly us libertarian Republicans want to side with liberals? Run that by me again?

    Eric Dondero, Publisher

    P.S. Abortion has no impact on my life. But I do drive. And seat belt laws, have an enormous direct impact on me. Help us libertarians to repeal seat belt laws nationwide, and then maybe we'll think about some sort of alliance with you liberals.

  2. Eric,

    You might be surprised at how much we have in common.

    For the moment, let's set aside the issue of what constitutes "special rights for gays." I am sure we can have a separate conversation on that - I don't know of a single legislative proposal that creates special rights for gays. However, what I see in that comment is perhaps more an artifact of your accommodation with your party's social conservative wing.

    Take a look at the Democratic Freedom Caucus link in my blog essay, and compare it to what you wrote. From a libertarian standpoint, Democratic libertarians and Republican libertarians have more in common with each other, than we have with our respective party mainstreams - we just choose to make different compromises.

    Personally, I think Barry Goldwater would be condemned as a "liberal" by the current crop of mainstream Republicans, who wouldn't understand the "small l" liberal concept if it bit them in the nose. The Eisenhowers and Nixons of the past are about where the Clintons and Obamas are today - and the mainstream Republicans consider them "socialists."

    So I compromise with the moderate democrats you may see as "liberal" and "socialist" while you compromise with the Christianist social conservatives and neo-cons, who I see as "oppressors" and "fascists."

    It's not just abortion and LGBT civil rights.

    So, are you implying that you agree with, or at least turn a blind eye toward, social conservatives and neo-cons on civil liberties (and other) issues like:

    - favoring prayer in public schools
    - invading and occupying countries that did not attack the US?
    - The civil liberties attacked, limited and restricted by the USA PATRIOT and REAL ID Acts?
    - imposing a Christianist Shariah?
    - special rights for heterosexuals?
    - criminalizing private relationships?
    - restricting religious liberty for non-Christians
    - supporting the "tyranny of the majority" when it creates special restrictions for minorities
    - forcing some men to use women's rest rooms and showers?

    Women's reproductive rights may not impact you personally - considering that I am a transsexual woman, it does not impact me personally, either.

    I think we each make some compromises with our respective "mainstreams" and we each would like to have more influence over the direction our parties take.

    I think there is less danger from social liberals than from social conservatives. I fear "a little bit" of fascism far more than I fear "a little bit" of socialism.

    Then again, as a transsexual lesbian, I'm already treated as less-than-equal in American society, and I have much more to lose from the fascist than the socialist approach. If you fit in with the mainstream in other ways, it's easier to compromise with the "evil" that would marginalize me more.

    Given the size of the libertarian movement in Republican circles, I would be surprised if you did not know Cliff Thies - give him my warmest regards!