Daily Archives: September 21, 2019

How Can The Libertarian Party Effect Real Change? A Soho Forum Debate – Reason

Posted: September 21, 2019 at 1:45 pm

The Libertarian Party should never again put up national candidates whose views are similar to those of Gary Johnson and Bill Weld.

That was the resolution of a public debate hosted by the Soho Forum in New York City on September 10, 2019. It featured comedian and podcast host Dave Smith and Nicholas Sarwark, the chairman of the Libertarian National Committee. Soho Forum Director Gene Epstein moderated.

It was an Oxford-style debate, in which the audience votes on the resolution at the beginning and end of the event, and the side that gains the most ground is victorious. Smith won the night by convincing 20 percent of the audience, while Sarwark convinced 16.8 percent.

Arguing for the affirmative was Dave Smith, host of the popular libertarian podcast Part of the Problem, and a co-host of Legion of Skanks.

Nicholas Sarwark argued for the negative. Sarwark is currently serving his third term as chairman of the Libertarian National Committee, which is the executive body of the Libertarian Party of the United States.

The Soho Forum, which is sponsored by the Reason Foundation, is a monthly debate series at the SubCulture Theater in Manhattan's East Village.

Produced by John Osterhoudt.

Photo credit: Brett Raney

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Erie County Libertarians knocked off ballot after nomination certificates invalidated – WBFO

Posted: at 1:45 pm

Libertarians finally gained automatic ballot access in New York state last year, but you wont see any Libertarians on the ballot for Erie County races this November.

WBFO's Tom Dinki reports.

The Erie County Board of Elections invalidated the entire party lines certificates of nomination earlier this month, saying there were deficiencies on the forms that violate state election law.

Four of the 18 would-be Libertarian nominees challenged the Board of Elections in a validation proceeding Wednesday, but state Supreme Court Justice Frank A. Sedita III upheld the decision, saying the Board of Elections simply followed state election law.

Erie County Libertarian Party Chairman Duane Whitmer told WBFO the deficiencies were technicalities that should have not been held against the party. He alleged Erie County Democrats and Republicans conspired to knock Libertarians off the ballot.

This is an example of the two parties coming together and suppressing the third parties, he said after Wednesdays court proceeding. They have the time and resources. The (elections) commissioners are paid $120,000 a year in taxpayer funds to make sure that third parties cant compete.

Whitmer specifically accuses Erie County Democratic Elections Commissioner Jeremy Zellner, whos faced renewed criticism in recent months for also serving as chairman of the Erie County Democratic Committee.

Zellner was represented in court Wednesday by Second Assistant County Attorney Jeremy Toth, who called the accusations outrageous.

There was no underhanded tricks like petitioners always complain about when they screw up their own paperwork and thats all that happened here, Toth told WBFO. The commissioners have to follow the law, and the paperwork that was put in front of them was filled with mistakes.

Erie County Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr said Libertarians met most of the requirements under state election law 6-128, which deals with new partys certificates of nomination, but did not meet two of what he called the most important requirements: a certified copy of the partys rules and sworn affidavits from party officials.

Mohr previously met with Libertarian Party officials to show them what was wrong with their certificates, and even gave them a copy of a correct certificate to follow. However, he said the forms were still not valid when the party submitted them a second time.

The deadline to submit validated certificates of nomination was Sept. 3.

Mohr, who has been elections commissioner for 24 years, said its the first time he can remember a new partys entire line being taken off the ballot in Erie County.

Thats one of the reasons why the Board of Elections in this case went out of its way to attempt to assist the Libertarian Party in filing proper certificates of nomination, he said.

At least one of the would-be Libertarian nominees agrees. Carrie Christman, who is the campaign manager for Libertarians Buffalo Common Council nominee James Kistner, puts the blame on Libertarian Party officials.

(The Board of Elections) went above and beyond reaching out to assist this (party), and they failed to step up to the plate and take care of it, she said.

Many of the 18 would-be Libertarian nominees are already cross-endorsed by the Republican Party, like county executive candidate Lynne Dixon, but some like Kistner were counting on their Libertarian nomination to get on the ballot.

Aside from Kistner, the other three Libertarian nominees to challenge the invalidation were college student Scott Wilson, who is running for Buffalo city comptroller, and incumbent Hamburg Town Councilmen Tom Best and Michael Mosey.

Best and Mosey lost in the Republican primary in June, but will appear on the ballot on the Conservative Party line.

Those involved believe Erie County is the only county in the state where Libertarians were completely knocked off the ballot this election cycle.

The Libertarian Party of New York State gained automatic ballot status after Libertarian Larry Sharpe earned more than the required 50,000 votes in last falls gubernatorial race.

Libertarians account for about 0.10% of registered voters in New York, according to the state Board of Elections. That also goes for Erie County, where just 775 of the 638,300 registered voters are Libertarians.

Whitmer said hes unsure whether any of the countys would-be Libertarian nominees will now appeal Seditas decision in state appellate court, but hopes theyll still get support either on other party lines, or as write-in candidates.

Were not going anywhere, he said. The (Erie County Libertarian Party) isnt going anywhere. The Libertarian Party of New York State isnt going anywhere. Were still going to fight. We refuse to be suppressed. We refused to be pushed away.

Election Day is Nov. 5.

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Plurality Has to be the Future of Politics – The Davidsonian

Posted: at 1:45 pm

Since high school, Ive been aware that neither of the labels Republican or Democrat quite fit me.

Despite being heavily involved in politics from a relatively young age, Ive always found a certain discontent with the bipartisan system that has dominated our country for so long.

While I deeply admire and respect the social justice work done by Democrats, Ive always been cautious of sweeping motions by a government that has so often failed us in the past. And while I ascribe to the economic freedom and small government values preached by Republicans, I cannot condone the continued presence of big corporations which increasingly set the partys agenda.

Eventually, I encountered a third option: libertarianism. What I mean by libertarianism is a philosophy that embodies the non-aggression principle: if what youre doing is not instigating an infringement on someones rights, it is permissible.

In practice, this principle permits a massive degree of personal freedom to lead ones best life (no matter what that may mean to an individual) as long as that person does not harm anyone else.

While some may choose to paint libertarianism as a radical and unrealistic philosophy, many of the views are fundamentally appealing. And despite the increasingly louder, polarizing voices of the far left and far right, many Americans arent interested in being forced to pick from two options.

Despite the universal appeal of libertarian ideals like freedom and equality, the Libertarian Party, like all third parties, is currently in a credibility crisis. This is due to everything from pessimism about our chances in an inherently two-party system to the repeated gaffes of our leaders (see Gary Johnson, What is Aleppo?).

Indeed, even the members of the movement have a tension with the party; many members of our organization, myself included, are not registered Libertarians. Though the movement is strong, the party is admittedly flawed.

Even though many people sympathize with the libertarian movement, it has been consistently difficult for us to get respect or even serious notice in the national sphere.

Being a libertarian has given me a different vantage point on the current political crisis our nation is facing. For those who fall within the traditional two-party dynamic, our politics can often feel like a battle.

The nature of our two-party system makes it feel like your win must come at the other persons loss, and vice versa.

As such, I hear many people, my Davidson peers included, resort to using language of good and evil rather than admitting that they merely disagree.

We no longer use the language of political compromise; instead, we call each other racists, bigots, and traitors.

Im not writing this because I think its going to make more people libertarians. Im writing because, as a libertarian, Ive seen firsthand the value that plurality can have in our discourse.

Regarding politics, I constantly hear people talk about how doomed we are and how our country will never escape the vicious fighting between Democrats and Republicans. And on my worst days, Im almost tempted to agree. However, on the aggregate, this has not been my experience.

Every week, I attend meetings at the Center for Political Engagement alongside my Democrat, Republican, and Democratic Socialist counterparts. Somehow, amidst all of the hatred and division in our country, we come together every week and have civilized and productive conversations, usually without so much as one unkind word.

We willingly come together and compromise, including making concessions to one another, without treating it as a zero-sum war.

Im not going to claim that its all peaceful or friendly; disputes between the groups on this campus can run the gamut from annoying to occasionally even scary.

Be that as it may, my general experiences have shown me that plurality can work.

Davidson College is a place that prides itself on the development of humane instincts beyond academics, athletics, and the arts. The ideal is that we use this space not merely to learn Spanish or econ, but also to refine ourselves as citizens and moral agents.

I believe that we, as a college and as a society, cannot limit our imaginations in a country of nearly 330 million people to two inherently flawed choices, election after election.

In a country that calls itself the greatest democracy in the world, we need to set our standards higher than that.

In order for us to improve our democracy, both at our school and in the U.S. at large, we need to lean into plurality, not away from it.

From the beginning, we have strengthened our society by insisting that freedom of speech and expression engenders intellectual diversity and growth, and we must never let that fight die out.

If we want to truly grow during our four years here, then we need to hear not only from the two main parties, but also libertarians, socialists, greens, and even the countless people who feel that they dont fit in anywhere.

We cannot be summarized by either a D or an R next to our names because we are all individuals with deeply intricate beliefs that rarely fall into one of two camps.

As a college and as a country that so proudly proclaim our commitment to freedom, equality, and diversity, we can all do better than checking one of two boxes.

Kieran Clark 22 is a philosophy major from Asheville, North Carolina. Contact him at kiclark@davidson.edu.

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Troy mayoral candidate loses Libertarian line – Times Union

Posted: at 1:45 pm

From left, Rodney Wiltshire, Tom Reale and Troy Mayor Patrick Madden participate in a debate held at the Lansingburgh Boys and Girls Club on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019 in Troy, N.Y. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union)

From left, Rodney Wiltshire, Tom Reale and Troy Mayor Patrick Madden participate in a debate held at the Lansingburgh Boys and Girls Club on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019 in Troy, N.Y. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union)

Photo: Lori Van Buren, Albany Times Union

From left, Rodney Wiltshire, Tom Reale and Troy Mayor Patrick Madden participate in a debate held at the Lansingburgh Boys and Girls Club on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019 in Troy, N.Y. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union)

From left, Rodney Wiltshire, Tom Reale and Troy Mayor Patrick Madden participate in a debate held at the Lansingburgh Boys and Girls Club on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019 in Troy, N.Y. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union)

Troy mayoral candidate loses Libertarian line

TROY Mayoral candidate Rodney G. Wiltshire Jr. lost the Libertarian slot on the November ballot when paperwork accepting the new partys nomination was not submitted, Democratic and Republican Rensselaer County Board of Elections commissioners said Wednesday.

All three mayoral candidates' names will now each appear twice on the Nov. 5 ballot as they go head-to-head in the election.

The paperwork was not filed, Republican Elections Commissioner Jason Schofield said. Democratic Elections Commissioner Edward McDonough confirmed it.

Wiltshire, an enrolled Democrat, will appear on the Green and Independence lines. Incumbent Mayor Patrick Madden is the Democratic and Working Families candidate. Thomas A. Reale will be on the Republican and Conservative lines.

The citys Democrats enjoy a nearly a three-to-one enrollment edge over the Republicans, giving Madden a significant head start as the party candidate. Republican candidates have generally attempted to collect as many minor party lines as possible to try and offset the Democrats majority.

This will be the second time that Madden runs in a three-way race for mayor. In the 2015 contest, the now incumbent mayor ran successfully on the Democratic line against Wiltshire, who was then the City Council president, and former Republican Councilman Jim Gordon.

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Libertarian Think Tank Hosts Panel on Higher Education Act Renewal – Diverse: Issues in Higher Education

Posted: at 1:45 pm

September 18, 2019 | :

WASHINGTONWith the imminent renewal of the Higher Education Act, the legislation governing federal higher education programs, policymakers are wondering which issues will garner support across the aisle. A panel hosted by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, on Capitol Hill gave a glimpse into one side of that equation, featuring conservative authors on higher education.

The panel, called Realistic Solutions to Big College Problems: Overhauling the Higher Education Act, explored panelists hopes for higher education policy, largely focusing on college affordability with Dr. Neal McCluskey, director of the Cato Institutes Center for Educational Freedom, as moderator.

Panelists included Dr. Phil Magness, senior research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Dr. Richard Vedder, a distinguished professor of economics emeritus at Ohio University, and Cato Institute Senior Fellow Dr. Todd Zywicki, a George Mason University Foundation professor of law at the George Mason University law school.

The discussion opened with commentary by Sen. Rick Scott, former governor of Florida. As a low-income student who grew up in public housing, he said college costed him about $200 per semester.

Theres no reason we cant figure out how to do this less expensively, Scott said.

He mentioned a series of bills he plans to file, including measures which would get rid of distinctions between for-profit and non-profit schools, hold higher education institutions responsible for paying a fraction of student loan defaults, cut off schools that raise tuition from federal funding, allow Pell grants to go toward technical schools and reduce regulations for private lenders.

Scott, among others, expressed skepticism about Democratic candidates proposals to forgive student loan debt, saying these plans would bankrupt and destroy the country if implemented.

Now the Democrats have a great new solution, he said. Theyre just planning to make it all disappear. Poof, just like that cancel all student loan debt. Its going to be magic.

Still, panelists expressed a sliver of hope that Republicans and Democrats can come together on aspects of the Higher Education Act to make higher education more affordable.

While Vedder would like to get rid of federal student loans entirely, he said everyone can at least agree the FAFSA form students use to apply for financial aid is stupid and needs of reform.

No one Democrat, Republican, vegetarian, Presbyterian, whatever your orientation is agrees it makes any sense at all except for a few bureaucrats, he said.

Vedder thinks Democrats could also get behind Income Shared Agreements, student loans supplied by universities themselves, and skin in the game, which refers to policies that reward or penalize schools based on whether students can graduate and repay their loans. However, these policies may struggle to pass, he said, because theyll burden schools with low retention rates like historically Black colleges and universities, which he described as politically very sensitive.

Zywicki agreed that skin in the game policies may prove themselves more complicated, but for different reasons.

If you want to think about how higher ed will respond, put on the cap of the most sociopathic Wall Street banker who only cares about money, he said.

He worries these measures will disincentivize colleges and universities from enrolling low-income and minority students, who tend to graduate at lower rates.

This whole industry is defined by unintended consequences, he said. Higher educations affordability problem is the result of unintended consequences of well-intentioned ideas.

The bulk of the discussion focused on why tuitions have become so costly.

Magness blamed higher educations frivolous expenses with universities using fancy campus infrastructure like rock climbing walls or lazy rivers to compete with each other. He also pointed to administrative bloat, arguing colleges and universities are over-investing in disciplines which attract less students, like the humanities, and creating administrative offices that arent strictly necessary. The example he gave was an officer of environmental sustainability.

What is higher ed providing here? he said. Is it really degrees and education or is it a jobs program for administrators? Is it a jobs program for faculty?

Among other issues, Zywicki blamed accreditors for limiting consumer choice and politicians bizarre war on for-profits, schools more heavily regulated under the Obama administration for graduating students unable to repay their loan debts at high rates.

Private enterprise has been a miracle in every other industry, Zywicki said.

While many factors contribute to colleges high cost, according to Vedder, the federal government is largely to blame because student loans enable colleges and universities to raise their prices.

Being in this building, in this place he said, gesturing to the Rayburn House office building, a five-minute walk from the U.S. Capitol, we are right at the epicenter of the problem.

Sara Weissman can be reached at sweissman@diverseeducation.com.

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RIP Earl Ravenal (1931-2019) | Cato @ Liberty – Cato Institute

Posted: at 1:45 pm

I was saddened to learn of the recent passing of Earl Ravenal, a one-time member of Cato's board of directors, long-time senior fellow and distinguished senior fellow, and an important voice in the development of the case against global interventionism in the 1970s and 1980s.

He taught international affairs for many years at Georgetown University, and was the author of several books and monographs, as well as countless papers and articles, including Never Again: Learning From America's Foreign Policy Failures (Temple University Press, 1978), and this gem, from way back in the Cato archives, "Reagan's 1983 Defense Budget: An Analysis and an Alternative" (Policy Analysis no. 10).

In his sweeping history of the libertarian movement, Radicals for Capitalism, Brian Doherty describes Ravenal as "a foreign policy intellectual of real-world heft." He was active in Libertarian Party politics, and was responsible for writing LP presidential candidate Ed Clark's campaign statement on foreign and defense policies in 1980.

Ted Galen Carpenter, who preceded me as Cato's vice president for defense and foreign policy studies, recalls "Earl was nearly unique in the 1970s and 1980s in being regarded as a serious scholar by much of the foreign policy establishment, despite his unorthodox views. That status made him a true trailblazer for those of us who reinforced the case for realism and restraint. Without his pioneering work, our task would have been far more difficult."

Another Cato colleague remembers Earl's dogged effort to assess the share of the Pentagon's budget that was geared toward defending Europe and Asia during the waning days of the Cold War. This was a daunting task, given that such spending is fungible, and the things that it buys mobile. A ship in Norfolk can be deployed to the Mediterranean, but also to the Persian Gulf, or even the Pacific Ocean (it just takes longer). Planes fly. Even troops can be relocated -- though their bases less easily. In the face of such complexity, most people simply shrugged their shoulders: "Who knows?" Ravenal improved public understanding of America's military posture in the early 1980s by forcing a discussion of these costs into the debate.

As a young Cato fan in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I encountered many of Ravenal's books and articles on foreign and defense policy. The most influential was arguably Designing Defense for a New World Order, published in 1991. I (somehow) managed to locate it on my bookshelf, and discovered countless highlighted passages, and earnest comments and questions in the margins.

Earl's family reports that he passed away on August 31, 2019. He was 88 years old. I extend to them my sincere condolences.

A memorial service will be held in his honor next month at the Cosmos Club on Sunday, October 27 at 2 pm. The public is welcome.


RIP Earl Ravenal (1931-2019) | Cato @ Liberty - Cato Institute

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Tulsi Gabbard: Taxation Is Theft (When…) – The Libertarian Republic

Posted: at 1:45 pm

Tulsi Gabbard is, I think its safe to say, the pragmatic libertarians favorite in the Democratic primary.

Sure, shes not a libertarian. Thats granted. There are plenty of policy positions she holds that simply dont overlap with the libertarian position at all. It would take more than my two hands to recite them. Some of these are understandably deal-killers depending on ones focus, and many dont even care much about Democratic primaries.

But shes got a laser sharp focus on the issues of overlap as her major concerns: A pro-peace, anti-war foreign policy thats at least more pure than her competitors and undeniably smart and informed by both intelligence and experience. A support for civil liberties and transparency from a place of actual sincerity. A willingness to call out wrong as she sees it regardless of where it originates.

And, lets face it look at her competition. Its one thing to say shes not libertarian enough for libertarian support in a general election. Im sure that even if Marianne blessed her with a miracle and she somehow became the nominee, the eventual libertarian candidate would have her beat on libertarian cred. But who else is running in the race shes currently in that could hold a candle to her?

Just having her in the debates is an easy way to show how awful her competition is on issues that Democrats are supposed to be good on because shes actually willing to call them out. We all want to see her torch other Democrats on that stage the way she decimated Harris in the last debate she participated in. And it was just yesterday on Twitter that she wrote Trump awaits instructions from his Saudi masters. Having our country act as Saudi Arabias bitch is not America First. which just warms my heart.

This weekend, Tulsi held a townhall in Ankeny, IA where she took questions from the audience. One of those audience members is a man named Seth (God bless you, Seth). He asked her about the good old libertarian bumper sticker slogan of taxation is theft.

Her response deserves more context than the first sentence that can fit on a meme, and is as follows

Seth: Hello. My name is Seth.

Tulsi: Hi Seth.

Seth: Im one of the libertarians in this coalition that youre building. And I want to say that youve already sold me on your thing. Im voting for you, Tulsi 2020. Were going.

Tulsi: Thank you.

Seth: But as a libertarian in this election space, Im curious as to what each candidate thinks. I wonder do you have any ethical problems with taxation? Whether or not its theft or whether or not its permissible even if it is theft, or just where are your thoughts on this subject?

Tulsi: Taxation is theft when our taxes are being used toward things that do not serve our interests.

Yall work hard every day. When you pay those taxes, you should have faith and trust that they will be used for things like making sure youve got safe roads to drive on. To make sure that your kids are getting a good education in these public schools. To make sure that your firefighters have what they need in order to make sure your house doesnt burn down if something happens. There are basic needs that we have in this country, and our taxes are meant to serve those needs.

Not to fund needless layers and layers and layers of bureaucracy. Certainly not to fund these wasteful wars and nuclear weapons that are making us in the world less safe. This gets to the heart of what Im talking about here.

It is about fiscal responsibility. And it is about accountability.

And making sure that our hard-earned taxpayer dollars are redirected away from this kind of waste and abuse and used to serve the interests of our people.

Obviously, there are issues that libertarians could find with this. Taxation is theft when? Public schools? How would she serve the interests of our people, and is there a more effective solution than government? Is government really serving our interests at all when it acts outside of a role that protects life, liberty, and property and what does that entail compared to her plans? That kind of thing that fills the headspace of all real libertarians rent-free. These are, of course, real questions and concerns. But

She acknowledged a negative moral component to excessive taxation and implied that its nature was involuntary. She may have agreed taxation was theft only when the ROI was in the red, but in some ways thats in line with classical liberal thought even if her cost/benefit analysis on when government is serving our interests enough to justify some degree of theft is in reality worlds apart.

When painting a picture of the kinds of things worth the necessity of taxation, she described muh roads, schools, and firefighters rather than expansive welfare states in mixed economies (even if she does advocate for some of those same policies elsewhere). She spoke against bureaucracy and war, and for fiscal responsibility and government accountability. Its hard to imagine some of her competition even using words like fiscal responsibility for lip service without bursting into flames.

As a libertarian who believes taxation is theft, and a classical liberal who believes that there are things worse than theft, maybe Im too sympathetic when giving credit for what I view as a great answer (politically speaking) that threads the needle she needs to thread for her coalition brilliantly. Maybe Im not as critical as I would be if she were running in another party but isnt that the point?

Id ask the following, though: Is there another Democrat running who could have possibly given a better answer from a liberty point of view?

Her answer can be viewed here, roughly 35 minutes in.

Image credit: Gage Skidmore

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New West Libertarian sees Bernier’s People’s Party as allies, not a threat – The Record (New Westminster)

Posted: at 1:45 pm

New Westminster-Burnabys Libertarian Party candidate says there are no existential questions for his party with a competing libertarian-leaning brand with broad coverage in the upcoming election.

Neeraj Murarka, New West's B.C. Libertarian Party candidate 2017 and B.C. director of the federal Libertarian Party, is replacing Rex Brocki in New West-Burnaby, with Brocki set to run up against NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in Burnaby South under the Libertarian banner.

Brocki tallied 2.6 per cent of the vote in New West-Burnaby in 2015, which Murarka admitted will be a challenge to meet, saying Brocki is more experienced in electoral politics.

His own name recognition wont be the only challenge to the Libertarians in New West-Burnaby, though.

The Peoples Party of Canada, run by former Conservative Party leadership contender Maxime Bernier, has received significant press coverage in the year since its September 2018 formation. Thats particularly true, given the PPC hasnt even breached the five per cent mark in either CBCs poll tracker or fellow poll aggregate 338Canada since the partys creation.

That name recognition could steal what little sway the Libertarians wield. But although the Libertarians considered a merger with the PPC last year, Murarka said the party doesnt have any question about where it stands with a competing libertarian brand in the mix.

Murarka called the Peoples Party a more practical rendition of his own party. Where the PPC could conceivably snag a seat or two in October, Murarka sees his party as the more principled libertarian brand.

Theyre basically doing whatever is necessary to get into office, Murarka said.

While he said the PPC concedes parts of a libertarian platform to get into office, Murarka says the party could push libertarian ideals into the mainstream.

These are necessary evils in order to make change. If they manage to disrupt things, just manage to get a seat, I would be, honestly, very happy, Murarka said.

I dont see them as the enemy; Im not going to vote for them because Im running, myself. But I think that both of our parties are kind of on the same level.

Murarka couldnt name any particular PPC policies he saw as a concession from a libertarian platform, but said he does feel some sour grapes about Bernier skipping the Libertarian Party to form his own.

Murarka said his main issue this election is getting more voter involvement in the choices of government more referendums and more decentralized control of Parliament.

I want the voters to get to make those decisions, whether it relates to taxes, foreign policy, foreign intervention, military, spending, welfare all those things.

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Revolving Door Project Probes Thiel’s White House Connection – CounterPunch

Posted: at 1:45 pm

Washington is awash with proposals for a new regulatory agency centered on Silicon Valley. Often lost in that important conversation is the fact that the executive branch already has some positions with a direct focus on the technology sector, though they are limited in scope and scattered across the alphabet-soup of agencies. Perhaps no tech-focused bureaucrat has the presidents ear quite like the Chief Technology Officer. The CTO is the White Houses top advisor on anything to do with technology and innovation, tasked with explaining the latest developments and guiding the thinking of the most powerful politician on earth.

It should concern onlookers, then, that the current CTO, Michael Kratsios, got his job thanks to his long friendship with one of the most dangerous plutocrats of our age: Peter Thiel, founder of the Big Brother-esque software company Palantir and Trumps most ardent supporter in Silicon Valley. Thiels explosive political beliefs, and his capacity to profit from White House policies set by his cronies, are why the Revolving Door Project has filed Freedom of Information Act requests for all email correspondence between Kratsios and any employees of Thiels technology and venture capital firms.

Its worth taking a moment to introduce you to Peter Thiel. Hes the unofficial leader of the Paypal Mafia, a gang of Silicon Valley colleagues who got filthy rich by selling Paypal to eBay, then founded their own companies drawing on each other as major investors. They are true kingmakers in the Valley, perhaps the best living proof that the tech sector is not the platonic ideal of bootstrap capitalism which fellow libertarian Charles Koch makes it out to be.

But simply describing Thiel as a businessman and libertarian is woefully insufficient. He ultimately believes only in himself and his entitlement to power, knowledge, wealth, and fame. He is so certain of his place on top of the food chain that he believes anything which hampers him including the concept of democracy must be crushed.

Shortly after Barack Obamas first inauguration, Thiel wrote for the libertarian Cato Institute I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible. He explained Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians have rendered the notion of capitalist democracy into an oxymoron.

Given a self-imposed choice between the two, Thiel clearly chooses capitalism. After explaining that hes chosen to escape politics in all its forms including the unthinking demos that guides so-called social democracy Thiel writes that hes dedicating his efforts to building internet companies, exploring outer space, and settling the oceans in hopes of building his new libertarian utopia. The fate of our world may depend on the effort of a single person who builds or propagates the machinery of freedom that makes the world safe for capitalism, Thiel writes.

A 2016 profile found that there is no evidence that [Thiel] has changed his mind about the views expressed in his infamous blog post. But he has taken concrete steps to accomplish the goals laid out in it. Through a network of venture capital funds, Thiel invested in some of the most notable internet companies of our time including the gig-economy apps Uber and Postmates, which are premised on radical libertarian visions of the workforce. (Uber is now openly flaunting Californias efforts to bring the companys labor practices in line. Ayn Rand has friends in California.)

Thats not even mentioning that his old college roommate alleges Thiel used to call apartheid South Africa a sound economic system. Or that hes funding Urbit, an app developed by the slavery and white-nationalism apologist Mencius Moldbug. Or that he wrote a book arguing that multiculturalism dumbed down American institutions, and in which he called date rape belated regret. He denies the apartheid comments, and has apologized for some of the statements in the book. But he also gave $1.25 million to the Trump campaign a week after the Access Hollywood tape came out. As any anti-intelligentsia crusader should tell you, actions speak louder than words.

And, of course, he funded the lawsuit which brought down Gawker, after considering bribery, theft, bugging, and email hacking, among other potential crimes, years earlier. Gawkers Silicon Valley-focused blog Valleywag revealed that Thiel is gay in 2007, an understandable reason to hold a grudge. But the Gawker case set a dangerous precedent for reporting rights on the internet, which is quite convenient to Thiels anti-democratic worldview. As Jeffrey Toobin wrote in the New Yorker, Hulk Hogan conceded that Gawkers story about him was true, yet he still won a vast judgment and, not incidentally, drove the Web site out of business. The prospect of liability, perhaps existential in nature, for true stories presents a chilling risk for those who rely on the First Amendment.

Thiel does not believe in democracy. He does not believe in equality. He does not believe in a free press. His voice, by default, should be irrelevant to the American democratic process (beyond, of course, his right to cast a vote like you or I).

So it is doubly disturbing that Thiel played a key role in staffing the current White House. And despite the famously high turnover rate in TrumpWorld, several of his cronies are still speckled throughout the executive branch.

Kevin Harrington, a former investor with Thiel Macro, is a senior staffer on Trumps National Security Council. Harrington played a major role in staffing the initial Trump NSC, and has stayed on staff, despite having no national security credentials. If the NSC were not exempt from FOIA requests, wed be probing Harringtons contacts too. Similarly, Trae Stephens, co-founder of the Thiel-backed Anduril Industries and a partner with Thiel in the investment firm Founders Fund, was on the Trump national security transition team. And Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had plenty of Palantir alumni in his orbit, including Justin Mikolay, who went straight into lobbying for Palantir after leaving the Defense department.

But Kratsios, the Chief Technology Officer, is arguably the most prominent Thiel-ite in the White House. The Senate only confirmed Kratsios (unanimously) as the CTO in August, but he has filled the role of Deputy Chief Technology Officer and Deputy Assistant to the President since early 2017. Thus, hes performed his current jobs advisory functions since the start of the Trump era.

Kratsios came to Washington by way of two Thiel financial ventures: Clarium Capital Management and Thiel Capital. Clarium is a hedge fund which made some savvy bets on energy markets in the early 2000s, but took a major tumble in 2010. Kratsios was the firms Chief Financial Officer and Chief Compliance Officer from 2010 to 2015, according to his LinkedIn bio. Apparently, Kratsios impressed Thiel enough to bring him on at Thiel Capital as Principal and Chief of Staff.

Thiel Capital is more of an enigma. Its website is just a logo. The only public information about it comes, again, from a LinkedIn page, declaring that it provides strategic and operational support for Peters many investment initiatives and entrepreneurial endeavors. (LinkedIn, by the way, was created by a Paypal mafioso.) Another sign that Thiel Capital isnt looking for the spotlight is the name: Thiels better-known venture capital funds are all named after Lord of the Rings references, such as the godlike Valar, or magical metal Mithril. Thiel Capital appears, then, to be a means of overseeing and managing the other, flashier pieces of the Thiel empire.

Trusting Kratsios with such a crucial role speaks to Thiels high regard for him, as does the nomination to be Trumps Deputy US Chief Technology Officer. As a venture capitalist, Kratsios has no direct background in research, development, or science. His expertise, rather, is spotting which technologies are about to be commercially viable and are likely to make a killing for those who can get in on the ground. Now as Americas CTO, his priority is still to pump public money and private investment opportunities into the buzziest Silicon Valley innovation of our time: artificial intelligence.

At a panel last week hosted by the Center for Data Innovation, a subsidiary of the infamously pro-corporate Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Kratsios bragged about a Trump proposal for nearly $1 billion in non-defense AI spending. This years publicly-known defense department spending on AI totals almost $1 billion more, according to Kratsios. Thats a marked contrast with the FY2016 budget, which set aside about $1 billion in total for all AI spending (defense and non-defense).

That spending is just one part of the American AI Initiative, Kratsios signature project. Other facets include opening more federal data sets up to private actors, deregulation, and White House-approved technical standards in the AI space. Kratsios preempts any critics of the initiative with the common, flawed fatalism of arguing that the US needs to beat China in the sphere. The American AI Initiative calls for a strong action plan to protect our advantage from adversarial nations for the security of our economy and our nation, he wrote in a Wired op-ed.

Sam Biddle, a former Valleywag editor, deconstructed the many flaws in the race with China narrative here. But its worth noting that Peter Thiel stands to profit from federal funds pouring into the AI space. Through his venture capital funds, hes invested in AI companies all over the globe. He helped develop a non-profit AI group with some long-time investing pals. His own company, Palantir, has an AI division. So does the military technology developer Anduril, in which Thiel has invested.

Both Anduril and Palantir already have major military contracts, and have stood firm in the face of activist pushback. Palantir CEO Alex Karp criticized Google employees hesitance to develop AI for the Pentagons Project Maven as part of a confused PR junket in the last few weeks, which is a follow-up to Thiels own round of Google-bashing. While Palantirs bread-and-butter is crunching big data, rather than teaching machines to think for themselves, Palantir furthers its future business opportunities by presenting an image of a patriotic, pro-military technology companyespecially when it has connections with the White Houses main technology advisor. This just might be enough to edge out Google and Amazon for some of the billions in defense money that is on the line, despite Jeff Bezos own corrupt connections in the Pentagon.

Given Thiels massive potential to personally profit from the American AI Initiative, and the dangers of his ideology influencing White House decision-making, the Revolving Door Project is requesting transcripts of all email correspondence between Kratsios and anyone with an email address associated with Palantir, Anduril, or any of Thiels venture capital companies or philanthropic foundations. We need to see whether Kratsios communications, if any, with the Thiel network show unusual or undue coordination, and if Thiels firms may have profited from it.

Given his intermittent taste for the limelight, its hard to call Peter Thiel under-scrutinized. But his connections to dangerous technology and belief in a dangerous ideology mean that he ought to be more of a household name. Investigating his point man in the White House is just one small part of the goal of greater scrutiny.

This article originally appeared on CEPR.

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Voters hear from Indys mayoral candidates on topics including public safety, pot holes – FOX 59 Indianapolis

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Around 100 people gathered at the Indiana Landmarks Center on Central Avenue Thursday to hear from the three candidates vying for the mayor's seat. That included Incumbent and Democrat Joe Hogsett, Republican Jim Merritt and Libertarian Douglas McNaughton.

We are just 47 days away from the election. This forum gave the candidates 15 minutes to address the audience and about an hour for them to answer questions.

People asked about everything from potholes and public safety to electronic billboards and whether the candidates agreed with the county's ordinance to ban them. Each of them gave separate answers for why they believe they are the person for the job.

After drawing names, McNaughton approached the microphone first. He stated his job as an automation engineer gives him the opportunity to travel the world.

He said he's "seen the city at its best, [he's] seen it at its not so best." In his 30 years living in Indianapolis, he said as a Libertarian and a "general observer around the world" he sees room for improvement.

"I see things that can be improved over what they are currently,and that's why I'm running for mayor," McNaughton said. "I think I could do a great job and introduce some new ideas, some out-of-the box thinking, maybe some approaches that other people haven't considered because it's not an approach they would normally see."

Then, Hogsett walked the audience through where the city and county leadership were when they took office on January 1, 2016. He said both the Democratic and Republican caucuses put aside their differences to work together to address the problems they faced in the areas of "understaffed and poorly equipped public safety agencies, road infrastructure straining under decades of underfunding and a budget deficit that threatened to destroy the city's credit rating, and bankrupt whole departments of our city by 2019."

He gave credit to the people serving alongside of him saying they "never wavered" and told the audience under his leadership, city leaders offered a balanced budget for three consecutive years, along with a $400 million infrastructure plan.

Lastly, Merritt approached the microphone and quickly began talking about public safety. He said if he is elected mayor, there will be a public safety director who is an expert in fire, ambulance and law enforcement.

"Somebody that will be at my side 24/7 and I find thatto be very, very important," Merritt said. "Right now, our heroes in the law enforcement IMPD, 80% of their day is paperwork and 20% is law enforcement. We all know we need better recruiting, we need better equipment and we need better everything at IMPD."

Merritt said he will be available to any police officerat any time. He said he wants "the chief of police who I'll name to be out in the community working and being current."

After the candidates finished their statements, they took several questions from audience members. They wanted to know about electric scooters, gentrification, how the candidates planned on dealing with potholes and even how the three men would separately help all neighborhoods regardless of location.

FOX59 is televising the October 28 mayoral debate. You can find those details out here.

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Voters hear from Indys mayoral candidates on topics including public safety, pot holes - FOX 59 Indianapolis

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