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Published: Sat, 01 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Sat, 01 Oct 2016 18:23:07 -0400


Ballot Access: Another Way Dems and the GOP Screw Third Parties

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 10:37:00 -0400

"A multi-party system is normal," says Richard Winger, publisher and editor of Ballot Access News. "You only have a two party system if there's repression. It's not natural."

With both major parties offering up two of the most unpopular presidential candidates in modern history, many voters (and the media) are paying more attention to third party options such as Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Green Party nominee Jill Stein.

But while independent candidates are gaining in popularity, getting them on the ballot to vote for them can be a long and costly process.

"There's so many ways in which the United States is near the bottom of democracy," says Winger, an expert in election law and ballot access. "There's been unbelievable hostility in the last few months to minor parties."

This hostility has resulted in states changing their ballot access rules—sometimes at the last minute—in an effort to exclude minor parties from the ballot.

One recent example of this was Gary Johnson's fight to remain on the ballot as a presidential candidate in Ohio after the secretary of state threatened to remove his name thanks to a frequently used rule that allows placeholder candidates when fulfilling ballot access requirements (read more about the incident here.)

"Ohio law explicitly says people who use the independent candidate petition procedure put a substitution committee on the petition," states Winger. But when it came time to remove the placeholder name and add Gary Johnson's, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted "acted like he never heard of such a thing!" Winger exclaimed.

Johnson eventually qualified for the ballot as an independent candidate after his supporters turned in the necessary 5,000 petition signatures to Husted in late August.

"They act like the secretary of state did the Libertarians a big favor by letting them use this thing which has been used all along," Winger says. "It's just so maddening."

Reason TV recently sat down with Winger to discuss which states have the worst ballot access laws, why the major parties give independent candidates such a hard time when it comes to getting on the ballot, and the consequences of a two party duopoly.

"This is one the things that anchors me being a libertarian," says Winger. "Before the government got involved in printing ballots we had total freedom."

Produced by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Alex Manning and Paul Detrick. Music by Alex Fitch.

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Congress May Have Transformed US-Saudi Relations While Overriding Obama's Veto

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 12:20:00 -0400

Saudi Arabia has long been a troublesome ally for the United States. Sure, the government has provided space for military bases, but those ended up being Osama bin Laden's top grievance with the United States. And sure, the Saudis have been helpful in cracking down on some violent radical Islamist groups, but they've sponsored and created just as many. And yes, they're a major trading partner in both oil and arms, but they've also been using our military support to indiscriminately kill civilians in Yemen. And of course, they're basically among the worst in the world when it comes to freedom of speech and religion, women's rights, LGBT rights, and human rights in general. But the special relationship between the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States may be forever transformed by Congress handing President Obama an overwhelming veto override yesterday—the first of his administration—on a bill that strips immunity of foreign governments and their officials from lawsuits regarding terrorism on U.S. soil. The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) enjoys its robust support in Congress due to its association with 9/11—and congresspeople don't want to be seen as voting against the interests of 9/11 victims' families in an election year, just weeks after the fifteenth anniversary of the attacks. The bill was spurred by allegations that certain Saudi government officials provided financial support to 9/11 hijackers, which were detailed in the recently-released "28 Pages" of a congressional inquiry into 9/11. But President Obama and the few dissenters of the bill in Congress have argued JASTA is too broadly written and not limited to 9/11 victims' families, and that it could also make U.S. military personnel and officials liable to legal retaliation in foreign courts. White House press secretary Josh Earnest called Congress' override of the president's veto "the single most embarrassing thing the United States Senate has done" in decades, and that by not fully considering the consequences of the bill to diplomatic relations and military servicepeople, "Ultimately these senators are going to have to answer their own conscience and their constituents as they account for their actions today." At least two senators who supported the bill and the veto override—Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.)—have suggested trying to "tighten up" the bill during the upcoming lame duck session of Congress by limiting the legislation only to 9/11. The Washington Post quotes Corker as saying the bill as written could end up "exporting...foreign policy to trial lawyers" and make U.S. personnel liable for lawsuits from anything to drones strikes to support for Israel's military actions. Congressional support for Saudi Arabia was once as good as a rubber stamp, but a number of congresspeople recently made a bipartisan push to restrict a more than $1 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia because of concerns over the Kingdom's bombardment of schools, hospitals, and civilians in Yemen. The resolution almost certainly will not have the support to stop the sale, but the pushback from Congress is new and noteworthy, regardless. There are legitimate concerns about the reciprocal nature of laws pertaining to the liability of foreign officials, but editor emeritus of World Policy Journal David A. Andelman made some pretty weak arguments against the bill in a CNN op-ed. One of his concerns is that the Saudis could clamp down on oil production and thereby contribute to a rise in fuel prices worldwide. A fair if potentially overstated economic concern, but it assumes the Saudis would be more concerned with lawsuits than they are with their ongoing proxy war against Iran, where keeping oil prices low is in the Saudi interest. An even worse argument Andelman makes is that American jobs could be lost if Saudi Arabia stops buying weapons from the U.S., even though the U.S. military-industrial complex is in no danger of running out of international c[...]

The First Presidential Debate in 3 Minutes

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 08:45:00 -0400

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump met for the first presidential debate last night at Hofstra University in New York. The major party candidates hoped to make their case to the record number of American voters expected to watch. Meanwhile, third party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, despite pulling a combined double digits in national polls, were locked out.

The lack of an alternative viewpoint to the Republican-Democrat status quo led to some familiar discussions. On security, Trump emphasized his support for bringing back and expanding New York City's defunct stop-and-frisk policy while Clinton focused on the need for more restrictions on gun ownership. Trump's failure to acknowledge that stop-and-frisk was both unconstitutional and ineffective in reducing crime was only matched by Clinton's failure to mention that gun violence is at historic lows despite soaring gun sales.

For libertarians in particular, the most egregious parts of the debate may not have been the disagreements, but the times when the candidates were aligned. They nodded in agreement when it came to opposing free trade accords, increasing spending and debt, and denying gun rights to people placed on government lists without due process.

Also, NBC's Lester Holt made a brief appearance as moderator.

Reason TV boiled down 90 minutes of agony to give you the three minutes that count. Watch the video above to see the candidates discuss these issues and more, along with some of the more egregious consultant-crafted zingers they delivered.

Produced by Zach Weissmueller and Justin Monticello. Music by Polyrhythmics.

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USA Today Reporter Blows Jill Stein’s Cover; Candidate Arrested at Debate Site

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 17:47:00 -0400

Media fact-checking of the first presidential debate started before the candidates even arrived on Monday. Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee, did not qualify for the debate (even though Monday's event undoubtedly would be improved by the inclusion of additional candidates like Stein and Gary Johnson) because she is not polling at 15 percent. Undeterred by the arbitrary rules set by the Commission on Presidential Debates, it appears that Stein intended to show up at the debate site anyway—until her cover was blown by a Eliza Collins, a reporter for USA Today. I'm pretty sure Jill Stein just boarded the media bus at the Hofstra University #Debates2016 — Eliza Collins (@elizacollins1) September 26, 2016 Stein told the newspaper in August that she was planning to crash the debate. She did the same thing four years ago, and the stunt ended with Stein handcuffed to a chair. USA Today reported that Collins' tweet "scrambled law enforcement officials" who tracked down Stein on the Hempstead, New York, campus of Hofstra University, where the debate is being held tonight. Stein's campaign says she was on her way to record an interview with MSNBC when she was "escorted off the campus." .@DrJillStein being escorted off the campus of #Hofstra: "This is what democracy looks like." #debatenight #Debates2016 — lancegould (@lancegould) September 26, 2016 The campaign is planning a protest with supporters outside the debate site tonight. "The Commission on Presidential Debates is trying to exclude myself and Gary Johnson from the debate on Monday night on the campus of Hofstra University," Stein wrote on Facebook earlier this week. "I'm going to be there anyway. The American public has a right to hear real debate about real issues affecting real people." Unfortunately for Stein, the area around Hofstra is teaming with more than 1,000 law enforcement officials and "and various checkpoints have been set up throughout the sprawling campus to avoid people without credentials from gaining access to secure areas, according to the Long Island Press. If you want to hear from candidates who aren't Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tonight, check out Reason's livestream with Johnson and his runningmate Bill Weld. Even Trump thinks they should get to debate: src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">[...]

Gary Johnson Getting Nearly as Many LGBT Voters as Trump

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 12:40:00 -0400

A new poll has Hillary Clinton dominating Donald Trump with registered gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender voters. This is not terribly surprising news. But both Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are drawing some notable numbers from the LGBT community. NBC partnered with Survey Monkey to track likely voters for two weeks in September. In a head-to-head matchup between Clinton and Trump, Clinton won overwhelmingly, 72 percent to 20 percent. Those numbers are generally comparable to the split in the LGBT vote in previous elections. But the poll also evaluated a four-way matchup. There, both Clinton's and Trump's numbers dropped. Clinton would beat Trump for the LGBT vote, 63 percent to 15 percent. Johnson would get 13 percent of the LGBT vote and Stein would get 8 percent. So the third-party candidates are pulling 9 percentage points worth of LGBT votes from Clinton and 5 percentage points from Trump. And given that the head-to-head matchup shows an 8 percent either undecided or declining to say, it's safe to say that there's a good number of LGBT voters unhappy with their major party choices. By and large, though, the poll also shows that LGBT voters view Clinton much more positively than the general public. Among those polled, 59 percent view Clinton positively. Her popularity numbers when comparing the LGBT community to the general community are essentially reversed. Trump's favorability rating is even worse among LGBT voters than it is among the general public. Only 17 percent of LGBT voters view Trump favorably. Trump's unpopularity with the LGBT community should be seen as rather striking, given that he's less openly hostile on gay issues than previous Republican candidates. But policy-wise, he's extremely unpredictable. He has taken both sides on the debate over whether North Carolina can ban transgender people from using the school or government bathrooms and other facilities of their choice. He has, as the election gone on, essentially taken every Republican position, including opposition to the legal recognition of gay marriage. Clinton, meanwhile has promised the LGBT community anything any activist group has asked for, a host of new federal laws and regulations to protect them, and just about anything at all to get the gay vote. But clearly a good chunk of LGBT voters are thinking beyond gay issues, which is not unusual. What is unusual is that these third-party candidates are siphoning off such large numbers. According to the poll, 70 percent of the LGBT voters who responded identify as Democrats or lean Democrat. That means Clinton is losing seven percentage points from LGBT voters within her party when Johnson and Stein are offered. The LGBT voting community is not large. They accounted for seven percent of this total voting sample. But given how close the polls are now, that's enough to swing an election outcome.[...]

Even Donald Trump Wants Gary Johnson in the Debates

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 10:00:00 -0400

So when it comes to the first presidential debate, only Hillary Clinton and Donald J Trump, the two most-hated candidates in recorded history, will be allowed to participate. Here are four good reasons why Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president who is a former two-term governor of New Mexico, should be allowed to participate. And here's a bone for supporters of the Green Party's candidate, Jill Stein: At least some apply to her as well. 1. 15 percent makes no sense. The Commission on Public Debates, which was created by the Republican and Democratic Parties in 1987, says participants must average 15 percent in five polls they choose. But why 15 percent? If you're going to insist on a poll-driven number, 5 percent makes far more sense. That's the number you need to hit to receive federal matching funds and it's also the level that most states insist on for a party to receive "major-party status" and thus not have to jump through a bunch of ballot-access hoops every election. FWIW, according to RealClearPolitics' latest roundup of national polls, Johnson was at 8.6 percent just after the commission turned him down, which was higher than what independent candidate Ross Perot was at in 1992 when he was invited to the debate. 2. He's on the ballot in all 50 states. Johnson is on the ballot in all 50 states, so he can theoretically win the election but more realistically, he will totally influence the outcome. In fact, a recent state-by-state poll had the guy in double digits in 42 states and at 15 percent or better in 15 of those. What the hell is going on when a figure who will be on every American's ballot isn't given a shot to make his case on the same stage as the Republican and Democrat? 3. Americans want more choices at the ballot box. According to Gallup, 60 percent of us say the Democrats and Republicans do such a poor job that a third major party is needed" to represent our views at the ballot box. Just 38 percent say the Dems and the Reps are getting the job done. And get this: A Suffolk University/USA Today poll found that 76 percent of likely voters believe "a third-party candidate who is certified on a majority of state ballots should be included." 4. Donald Trump wants third parties included (or at least he did in 2000). Here's a charming bit of video from 2000, when the debate commission announced its 15 percent rule for the first time. Donald Trump himself argued forcefully that the Reform Party candidate, Pat Buchanan, and the Green Party candidate, Ralph Nader, and others should participate in the presidential debates and the only reason they were being excluded was that Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore were scared of competition. Minnesota's then-Gov. Jesse Ventura introduces Trump by calling the exclusion of third parties "despicable" and noting that if he hadn't been allowed to debate Democrat Humbert Humphrey III and Republican Norm Coleman, he never would have become governor. Produced by Todd Krainin. Written and narrated by Nick Gillespie. Scroll down for downloadable versions and subscribe to ReasonTV's YouTube Channel to receive notification when new material goes live.[...]

This Picture of Willie Nelson and a Major Democratic Pol May End Pot Legalization

Mon, 19 Sep 2016 18:17:00 -0400

Seriously, could weed's reputation take a bigger hit, especially now that it's trying to go street legal all over the country?

More on McAuliffe.

Hat tip: A. Barton Hinkle's Twitter feed.

Dear Democrats: No One Owes You Their Vote

Mon, 19 Sep 2016 17:00:00 -0400

The Hillary Clinton campaign thought for sure it could count on a few key demographics: racial minorities, gay voters, young women, and to some extent young people broadly. Now that many of these groups—but especially the kids—have proven less gung-ho about her than expected, Clinton is going full-force Millennial Whisperer, throwing out free-college proposals and Pepe the Frog references with abandon as her minions in media and politics hammer home one point: a vote for a third-party presidential candidate this November is a vote for Donald Trump. The new rhetoric comes in response to several signs that millennials won't simply go good-German in a post-Bernie world. In the latest Quinnipiac national poll, just 31 percent of 18- to 34-year-old voters favored Clinton, with 29 percent for Libertarian Gary Johnson and 15 percent for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Another recent poll, this one from New York Times/CBS News, found 26 percent of 18- to 29-year-old respondents saying they would vote for Johnson and 10 percent professing support for Stein. "A month ago Democrats were amused to see Johnson leading Trump along millennials," noted Dave Weigel at The Washington Post Monday. "Now, Johnson's support is being tackled like a crisis." The anti-third-party message has been coming from Clinton herself—on Monday, she gave a speech at Temple University "laying out the stakes of November's election for millennial voters"—and from new YouTube and TV commercials put out by Clinton SuperPAC Priorities USA. It's coming from Clinton surrogates like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, speaking on Facebook and at swing-state college campuses; and from pro-establishment voices in the media, such as The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and Mother Jones executive editor Clara Jeffery. On Thursday, Jeffery tweeted the results of a new poll showing high support for third-party candidates among young voters with the comment: "I have never hated millennials more." Jeffery's comment typifies a certain sort of left-leaning boomer leap-of-logic wherein the large number of Trump supporters within their own ranks aren't the issue and its the under-35 crowd's rejection of both Trump and Clinton that is truly unconscionable. Meanwhile, Krugman weighed in today on whether any sane person could vote for Gary Johnson, concluding sure—if they think it makes no difference whether Trump or Clinton gets elected and they agree with every policy position Johnson takes. The last bit is an especially strange assertion to make while simultaneously arguing for those who don't love Clinton to support her because she's better than the alternative. In Krugman's column logic, voting for Clinton while opposing much of what she stands for is righteous and normal while voting for Johnson because you support much of what he stands for is absurd unless you also agree with him 100 percent on environmental regulation, Medicare, school choice, and everything else. Riffing on Krugman, let's ask a similar question: Does it make sense for millennials or racial minorities to vote for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate for president, when they really want to vote for a third-party candidate? Sure, as long as you believe a few things. First, you have to accept a system in which two increasingly similar and incoherent political parties get to dominate American politics in perpetuity and in which the quality (or lack thereof) of the candidates they put forth makes zero difference. Second, you have to believe that Donald Trump presents an unprecedented threat to American society and this election holds unique historical significance that subsequent elections will not match. And third, you have to believe that certain classes of people can and should reliably be expected to vote against their own consciences and material interests to serve the greater good as it[...]

Trade Is a Labor-Saving Device

Sun, 18 Sep 2016 08:00:00 -0400

Democratic politics makes savvy people stupid, at least when they act politically. This has long been demonstrated, and it applies both to voters and policymakers. Several things account for it: the impotence of one vote, the consequent futility and hence wastefulness of acquiring information, the dispersal of the costs of government, and the resulting theatrical mood-setting farces called election campaigns. Outside politics life is rather different. Our actions have a reasonable chance of making a difference to ourselves and those we care about; the costs of our actions fall largely on ourselves; and acquiring information in order to act more intelligently is thus worthwhile. As a result, those who try to sell us goods and services have an incentive to behave responsively and responsibly, unlike candidates for political office. That's why, by and large, people act smarter in the personal realm than they do in political realm. To see the difference, think about the saving of labor. Normally we see this as a good thing. We buy electric toothbrushes, power lawnmowers, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, and self-cleaning ovens, among many other things, precisely to save labor. Why? Obviously because labor is work—exertion. Most of what we think of as work we would not do if we could have the expected fruits without it. (Of course we sometimes are paid to do things we'd do anyway, but then it is something more than mere work.) Saving labor through technology not only relieves us of particular exertion; it also frees us to obtain other things we want but would otherwise have to do without—including leisure. Thus labor-saving enables us to have more stuff for less exertion. Time and energy are scarce, but our ends are infinite. That's why no one in private life fails to see labor-saving as good. Frederic Bastiat captured this in a fable about Robinson Crusoe. Crusoe had a two-week project planned: making a plank. This would require many days of labor, cutting down a tree, trimming the trunk, and fashioning the plank just so. Next he would re-sharpen his tools and then replenish the provisions he would consume during the project. As he prepared to start the job, Friday excitedly delivered the news that a piece of wood, well suited as a plank, had just washed up on their island. Terrible news, Crusoe said. Friday didn't understand, so Crusoe explained: obtaining the plank without effort—that is, for free—would cost him weeks of labor. He said: Now, labor is wealth. It is clear that I shall only be hurting my own interests if I go down to the beach to pick up that piece of driftwood. It is vital for me to protect my personal labor, and, now that I think of it, I can even create additional labor for myself by going down and kicking that plank right back into the sea! The genius of Bastiat's fable is that people will readily spot Crusoe's foolishness. But it is equally certain that few will apply the lesson to the "national economy," which is nothing more than a lot of people, arbitrarily grouped into a "nation," who produce and trade, when permitted, with other people arbitrarily grouped into other "nations." When Bastiat's interlocutor calls Crusoe's reasoning "absurd," Bastiat replies: That may be. It is nonetheless the same line of reasoning that is adopted by every nation that protects itself by interdicting the entry of foreign goods. It kicks back the plank that is offered it in exchange for a little labor, in order to give itself more labor. There is no labor, even including that of the customs official, in which it does not see some profit. It is represented by the pains Robinson Crusoe took to return to the sea the present it was offering him. Consider the nation as a collective entity, and you will not find an iota of difference between its line of reasoning and that of Robinson Crusoe. Peop[...]

Why Are Haiti's Coffee Trees So Tall?

Sun, 18 Sep 2016 06:00:00 -0400

In the village of Bois Coffre there is a small mountain house, tucked at the back of a dirt courtyard surrounded by banana trees and hibiscus bushes. Growing right next to the structure, so close that its roots almost certainly threaten the foundation, is a towering 60-year-old coffee tree. The plant is nearly barren; it produces perhaps two coffee cherries a year—a harvest of four beans—but the tree's owner does not prune it back. In Haiti, there is a joke: If a coffee tree still gives a single cherry, a farmer will not touch it with a machete, lest he lose the income that cherry represents, minuscule as it may be. The joke isn't very funny. In Haiti, coffee grows on trees. Well, technically all coffee grows on trees. The brown beans that go into making your morning cup are actually the dried and roasted seeds of a small red fruit from a tropical tree. But on the better-managed coffee farms found in much of Central and South America, the plants are rarely allowed to grow much taller than a man. This channels the nutrients and energy that plants gather from the sun and soil toward producing beans, which make money, instead of wasting resources sprouting too many woody trunks and branches. As most coffee is harvested by hand, keeping trees short also means that pickers can easily reach the fruits. In Haiti, however, it's not out of the ordinary to find 20-foot-tall coffee plants. When I first arrived, I thought that the semi-wild, half-forgotten coffee I'd seen growing in the mountains was a recent development, the result of a sequence of natural and manmade disasters, including the earthquake of 2010 and the international embargo of the early 1990s that crippled the national economy. In fact, it is a sign of how long the country has been in crisis: Coffee is known as one of the best cash crops for a tropical farmer, especially one with a small plot of land who has few resources beyond hand tools, organic fertilizers, and sweat. The majority of Haitians are farmers, and for the foreseeable future agriculture will remain the default economic backbone for the roughly six million people who live in rural districts. Yet Haitian farmers put almost no energy into tending the small coffee groves that their fathers planted. The average yield in Haiti is now just a third of the Central American average. After I'd lived in Haiti for a few years, the underdevelopment of the coffee sector and its feral trees began to make sense. For many farmers, it's not about producing coffee—not really. Like much of what goes on in the country, it's more about marketing to aid groups or charities than it is about the real business of buying and selling. In Haiti, you can often make as much or more through temporary aid funding than you can from productive endeavors. Which means that, even as the market for unique coffee with an interesting backstory booms, cultivating it in the country has become as much about chasing charity as it is about trying to run a viable enterprise that produces excellent coffee year after year. AmericanoAmericans have gotten serious about their coffee, but only quite recently. Seemingly normal people line up on streets outside cafés in places like San Francisco, Manhattan, and Portland, patiently waiting for espressos and pour-overs and not batting an eye when the tab is as high as the price of a newsstand magazine. Many of these customers drink coffee because they like the taste of coffee, as opposed to, say, using it as a vehicle for milk and sugar or as a socially acceptable alternative to freebasing caffeine. These taste-centric coffee nerds have become a lot like wine aficionados, focusing on the country, region, or even farm where their coffee was grown. Some want to know about the agricultural and socio-economic conditions of the coffee plantations, as shown by the [...]

‘Trump Bad’ Is Not a Good Enough Argument to Discourage Third-Party Votes, Democrats

Fri, 16 Sep 2016 13:10:00 -0400

According to The New York Times, the Democrats and the Hillary Clinton campaign are keenly aware that they are losing votes to third-party candidates, especially the votes of the under-35 crowd. Well, good for them for noticing! So … how are they approaching this problem? Let's see: "We'll be launching a multimillion-dollar digital campaign that talks about what's at stake and how a vote for a third-party candidate is a vote for Donald Trump, who is against everything these voters stand for," said Justin Barasky, a strategist for Priorities USA. Mrs. Clinton may also get an assist from one Democrat who has been largely quiet about the race, but can testify to the importance of resisting the third-party temptation: former Vice President Al Gore. Her staff has had conversations with aides to Mr. Gore about bringing him onto the campaign trail to emphasize the importance of supporting Mrs. Clinton if they want to make progress on combating climate change. Oh … well, this is going to fail miserably. There are indeed some elements of this election that are beginning to look an awful lot like the George W. Bush/Gore match-up that saw third-party candidates pulling off a number of votes in a close race. At least it feels that way at the moment due to the narrowing of the poll numbers separating Clinton and Trump. The strategy detailed above suggests that after all this time, the Democrats have still learned not a single thing about the behavior of third-party voters. And it suggests that, just as with Gore's loss, should Clinton fail come November, there are going to be a number of people who will blame those who refused to comply with the demand that they fall in line with the major parties. The people who don't vote for Clinton will be blamed for Clinton's loss, which, while I suppose that's logically true, is ultimately a way for party leadership from having to face the fact that they've lined up behind a deeply unpopular, unlikeable candidate with a reputation for secrecy, dishonesty, and corruption, and then wondered why their campaign calling Trump secretive, dishonest, and corrupt didn't work. Back in 2013, when some Republicans were upset that a Libertarian Party candidate was going to impact the outcome of the Virginia governor's race, I wrote a short piece about the mentality of third-party voters. This was an effort to try to get the establishment-oriented Republicans and Democrats to avoid the trap that the Clinton campaign appears to be falling into: treating third-party voters as though they're wayward partisans who are acting out and need to be brought into line. During the Republican Primary, I brought those points back to help explain the behavior of Trump's supporters, who were voting in a manner very reminiscent to those who turn to third parties. They were not interested in supporting the Republican Party's favortie candidates and did not care if their decision ultimately helped Hillary Clinton come November. They were not party loyalists. Whether their grievances were supported by reality or not, they felt betrayed by the Republican establishment. Looking over this list of third-party voter analysis, it's easy to make a case that it all still applies to this national election. Anybody trying to get third-party voters to pull the lever for Clinton or Trump (but especially Clinton), needs to absorb this mindset: We don't like your candidate. I remain mystified every single time I have to bring this up. Clinton is probably the most disliked candidate that the Democratic Party has put forward in contemporary times. Trump, of course, is also extremely disliked. The result here has been an argument over which candidate is worse and disdain and condescension directed toward those who suggest that they're equally bad or somehow both equall[...]

Lawmakers Offer Snowden Film Cross-Promotion with Report Blasting Him

Thu, 15 Sep 2016 22:00:00 -0400

(image) This is a movie promotion strategy like no other. Oliver Stone's retelling of Edward Snowden's surveillance whistleblowing, Snowden, hits the theaters Friday. There's a big push now to attempt to convince President Barack Obama to pardon Snowden and allow him to return home.

Ron Bailey made note of this new effort yesterday. My own cynical take is that Obama is only interested in correcting the overreach in prosecutions of citizens during previous administrations. He has demonstrated absolutely no interest in even remotely restraining the authority of his own Department of Justice in any way whatsoever. The "right people" are in charge. There will be no pardon coming.

Now, this afternoon, the House Intelligence Committee decided to wade into the world of film promotion by releasing a summary of a classified report extremely critical of Snowden. And it's a bipartisan critique. Every member of the committee signed a letter to Obama urging him not to pardon Snowden.

The report, a result of two years of investigation, concludes that Snowden was not a whistleblower at all and didn't attempt to properly bring problems with National Security Agency (NSA) snooping to lawmakers before snatching documents and fleeing the country. And the report makes it personal, accusing Snowden of feuding with coworkers and accusing him of lying about the reasons he left the Army (he says broken legs—they say "shin splnts") and lying about his education. Wondering what any of that has to do with whether his whistleblowing exposed illegal NSA surveillance? Keep wondering.

Read the summary of the House's report here. The full report is classified, so we have no actual foundation to evaluate the assertions presented in the summary. On Twitter, Snowden offered a handful of responses accusing the lawmakers themselves of misleading the public:


Advance reviews of Snowden are decidedly mixed. Maybe the spat will increase the film's profile? Reason's film critic, Kurt Loder, will be offering his take Friday morning.

Norwegian Black Metal Artist Elected to Local Office Against His Will

Tue, 13 Sep 2016 13:05:00 -0400

(image) Elections by their nature bring out shameless self-promotion from politicians. From Hillary Clinton's constant touting of her own "historic" significance as a candidate to Donald Trump's egomaniacal ravings, many Americans could be forgiven for desiring more self-effacing office seekers.

So Norway may offer a ray of hope for humanity. In the small town of Kolbotn, just outside of Oslo, political neophyte and international black metal sensation Fenriz (founding member of the band Darkthrone)­ has been elected to the town council as an alternate representative—despite having run a campaign urging people not to vote for him.

In an interview with the music website CLRVYNT, Fenriz (birth name Gylve Nagell) explained that he reluctantly accepted an offer from Norway's Liberal Party to stand in the local election, despite having absolutely no interest in winning office. "Basically, they called and asked if I wanted to be on the list" of backup representatives, he told CLRVYNT. "I said yeah, thinking I would be like 18th on the list and I wouldn't really have to do anything."

Perhaps concerned that apathy and total lack of experience wouldn't be sufficient to thwart his chances, Fenriz then ran an outreach campaign consisting entirely of posters with him and his cat accompanied by a plea that people not support him.

Unfortunately for this founding father of Norwegian black metal, the plan backfired spectacularly. The residents of Kolbotn were apparently so taken with his self-denying attitude that they promptly voted him into office, much to Fenriz's chagrin. "I'm not too pleased about it. It's boring," he said. "There's not a lot of money in that, either, I can tell you!"

One potential fear is that his party affiliation could alienate his core musical constituency of rabid Darkthrone fans. Norway's underground metal scene has had a sordid history of virulent anti-Christianity, with some fans going so far as to actually burn down churches. Fenriz's Liberal Party, in contrast, advocates the more moderate position of peacefully abolishing the Church of Norway as the country's official religion.

Still, Fenriz's apathetic attitude toward government arguably makes him a natural fit for the Liberals, who want a smaller, less burdensome state. The party's website calls for a number of libertarianish policies from reducing regulation to abolishing Norway's inheritance tax.

Whatever comes of Fenriz's time in office, the level of popular support for someone who's this unenthusiastic about the prospects of wielding is cause enough for celebration.

Gary Johnson Has More Daily Newspaper Endorsements than Donald Trump

Mon, 12 Sep 2016 12:00:00 -0400

Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson has racked up his second daily newspaper endorsement, two more than Donald Trump has received so far. The editorial board the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina (a Berkshire Hathaway-owned newspaper with a daily circulation of 67,000), declared its support for Johnson over the weekend. The endorsement notes: For months, we here at the Journal editorial board wrestled with this endorsement. For most of that time, we looked at Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump. But as the weekly revelations ripped away any hopes we held for finding the "better angels of their nature," confirming our belief that neither is fit to be president of our still-great land of Lincoln, we began to look harder at Johnson. We refused to let the powerful party behind either Clinton or Trump push us into a bad choice simply because the parties could do no better. We join many Americans in being sick of the status quo in American politics, particularly presidential politics, that has far drifted from the bedrock ideals of our fabulous Founders. On this day, by endorsing Gary Johnson, we issue a challenge to change that status quo. The timing is accidentally interesting given the weekend scandal with Clinton's bout of walking pneumonia. It was yet another situation where the candidate and her inner circle made a situation worse by being so secretive about it. Yes, there was going to be criticism of Clinton's health and whether she is in good enough shape to be president. But by trying to hide the problem and failing, not only has the health debate grown louder, it has also folded in criticism of the Clinton's circle's constant secrecy. If it wasn't such a big deal (and it probably wasn't), why was she keeping it a secret? She was keeping it a secret because being honest about it would inspire additional criticism of her by her opponents and the media. That's a terrible reason for a candidate for president keeping things secret! All of that and the editorial board's justifications for the endorsement matter because in 2012 the newspaper endorsed President Barack Obama's re-election. Clinton's campaign platform is a promise to carry on everything Obama has done or pushed for. The Journal turning away from Clinton says as much about perceptions of her credibility as a candidate as the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia turning away from Donald Trump to endorse Johnson after decades of exclusively nominating the Republican nominee. It's still very early in the nomination season. There's only been seven daily newspaper nominations so far, five for Clinton and two for Johnson. There are no daily endorsements for Trump yet, but I would imagine that his extremely combative—threatening, even—posture with the press plays a larger role than any of his stated positions. The Journal notes that one of the reasons they're nominating Johnson so early is that they support the push to have Johnson included in the debates. Matt Welch has been keeping track of the polling results that would led to Johnson's inclusion in the debates. Right now, it's not looking so well. While I'm very doubtful that newspaper endorsements themselves are going to lead to much, it's nevertheless important to note when media outlets that have been typical endorsers of whatever the establishment parties hand them start turning away. But it's not unheard of and it's too soon to say whether this year represents an important new trend. Editor & Publisher keeps track of newspaper endorsement trends. In that pivotal 2000 presidential election, when Ralph Nader was on the ballot and getting a lot of attention, 21 newspapers endorsed third-party candid[...]

Where Gary Johnson and Jill Stein Are Strongest

Tue, 06 Sep 2016 11:00:00 -0400

At last we have a national presidential poll that includes a state-by-state breakdown of support for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green nominee Jill Stein. It was published by The Washington Post this morning, and it offers a useful glimpse at where the two minor-party candidates are strongest. Needless to say, this is just one poll. It has its oddities—it shows Texas as a toss-up between Trump and Clinton—and it obviously isn't as strong a guide as an average of several surveys. It also leaves out D.C., due to a small sample size in the district. But it's a much bigger banquet of data than what we had before. What does it show? Gary Johnson's strongest state, unsurprisingly, is New Mexico, where he served as governor from 1995 to 2003. At 25 percent, he is within striking distance of Donald Trump, who is presently polling at 29. (Hillary Clinton still enjoys a comfortable lead in the state, with 37 percent of voters supporting her.) Johnson's second strongest state, also unsurprisingly, is Utah, where the Post poll shows him getting 23 percent. Utah has the least libertarian reputation of the Mountain West states, but Trump is unpopular with its heavily Mormon population, so the situation there is kind of weird this year. (Trump is still likely to carry the state, but not by the enormous margins recently enjoyed by GOP nominees.) Here again, Johnson is within striking distance of second place: Clinton currently has 27 percent. Note, though, that the Post survey leaves out independent candidate Evan McMullin, a Mormon conservative whose campaign is going nowhere nationally but may eat into Johnson's support in Utah. And just to amp up the uncertainty, Utah is also the one state in the Post poll where the number of undecided voters is in the double digits. (It's at 11 percent.) Johnson's third-best states are Alaska (which has a history of awarding alternative candidates strong showings), Idaho, and South Dakota, all of which give him 19 percent. Other places where Johnson gets 15 percent or more include Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Rhode Island (!), Washington, and Wyoming. He's in double digits in 41 42 of the 50 states; his weakest support is in Mississippi, where he's getting just 4 percent. In an ordinary election, 4 percent would be an unusually high total for the Libertarian even in a more ideologically sympatico state. But this is, as you may have gathered, not an ordinary election. Stein is behind Johnson in virtually every state. (Hawaii is a toss-up.) But she's still polling pretty well for a minor-party candidate. The one state giving her double digits is Vermont, where her total stands at 10 percent. Second place is nearby Maine, where she's receiving 8 percent; she's getting 7 percent in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho (!), Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington. It is traditional when reporting such results to note that minor parties tend to poll better earlier in the campaign than on Election Day: Many dissatisfied voters will flirt with alternative candidates before deciding in the end to hold their noses and vote for whichever major-party nominee frightens them the least. And that may well happen this time as well, though usually the effect would have started to kick in by now. But in a way that makes these numbers all the more valuable. Support for third-party and independent candidates can serve as a map-by-proxy of where our binary political system is doing the poorest job of representing the full spectrum of political opinion, information that is not just interesting in itself but is particularly important at a time when we may be going through a party realignment.[...]