Is it time for a ‘second party’?

Gary Johnson at National Libertarian Party Convention in May in Orlando, Fla. (AP photo by John Raoux)

Sometimes you stumble upon a nugget of wisdom in the most unexpected of places.

Today’s eureka moment is found buried inside the pages of the section buried inside the morning newspaper, the section where I usually scan the cover to see if there is anything local worth a second glance before skipping past the pages of syndicated liberal drivel to the Dilbert cartoon.

But the photo of Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson gave me pause. Beneath are a couple of columns labeled “Point” and “Counterpoint,” though I’ve yet to figure out what the point was supposed to be. It was the headline on the “Counterpoint” that brought me up short: “Term ‘third party’ wrongly implies we have more than one.”

This in the Sun section? Oh, the heresy! Surely Greenspun is spinning in apoplexy. Now there’s a pleasing image.

Both columns appeared at something called back at the end of May. How the putative editors at the Sun stumbled upon it at this late date and had the presence of mind or temerity to actually publish it is a mystery for the ages, but the piece by Antony Davies, an associate professor of economics at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, and James Harrigan, director of academic programs at Strata in Logan, Utah, opens with the question: “Is it time for a third party?”

They answer the question by refuting the question in the second paragraph: “The real question to ask now is whether there is a hill of beans’ worth of difference between the two major parties. Maybe what we really need is a viable second party, because from any objective point of view the Republicans and the Democrats care about only one thing: the acquisition of power.”

The writers then lay down brick by brick a solid logical wall.

They note that the parties present themselves to the public and the voters as vastly different, but over the past 60 years both have merely made government larger and more intrusive and smothering. One grows government by taking away civil liberties, while the other grows government by removing economic liberties. Results are the same, only the methods differ.

“And they have done a brilliant job of crowding out any possible dissenting voices. How brilliant?” Harrigan and Davies write. “‘Minor party’ candidates are not even allowed into the presidential debates unless they poll at 15 percent nationally. But their names are not included in the opinion polls that determine who gets in. Who set that system up? Republicans and Democrats.

“Who says they can’t work together?”

In 2015, they point out Congress passed and the president signed only 150 laws, but federal agencies created 3,000 new rules and regulations. “And soon, everything not forbidden will be mandated.”

They conclude that the major parties have deluded the voters into thinking that voting for a minor party candidate is simply a de facto vote for whichever of the two major party candidates you find least palatable.

The piece ends thusly:

So if you vote for Hillary Clinton to keep Donald Trump out of the White House, or the reverse, you have guaranteed a victory for the status quo. And that’s exactly what the Republicans and Democrats want you to do.

It’s time we had a second party.

The column is nowhere to be found on the Sun website.

sun page

Deuling editorials: Right thing to do, wrong way to do it

The New York Times editorial said the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling “fits comfortably within the arc of American legal history.”

The editorial continued, “As Justice Kennedy explained, the Constitution’s power and endurance rest in the Constitution’s ability to evolve along with the nation’s consciousness. In that service, the court itself ‘has recognized that new insights and societal understandings can reveal unjustified inequality within our most fundamental institutions that once passed unnoticed and unchallenged.’”

The decision may fit in the arc of changes in attitudes and politics, but it grasped never intended power for five of nine unelected justices.

Justice Atonin Scaliea called it a putsch.

The editorialists at The Wall Street Journal put it this way: “The revolution in mores about gay and lesbian participation in the institution of marriage is among the most dramatic cultural shifts in U.S. history. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges is a declaration of social inclusion whose outcome is welcomed by ever-more Americans. The complication is that the Constitution is silent about marriage and social-policy preferences, which are supposed to be settled by the people and the political branches.”

Nevada voters approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage by a voted of 69.6 percent in 2000 and 67.1 percent in 2002. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2014 struck the amendment as unconstitutional. It is questionable whether it would pass today, if it were on the ballot.

The Washington Post editorial also mentioned changes in attitudes. “Yet the fact that it’s foreseeable to Mr. (Justice John) Roberts that same-sex marriage bans would fall, state by state, to popular pressure shows how far the country has come, and quickly. In states where lower courts had already ordered same-sex marriages to commence, the transition has been generally calm. We expect to see the same maturity and acceptance across the country now.”

The editorialists at Investor’s Business Daily also questioned the power of the court to do what it did. “Do five men and women believe they can rewrite traditions dating back thousands of years with a few strokes of their mighty pens?” they wrote.

“Apparently so. So much for our democracy.”

As I noted before in comments, the ruling opens a new chapter in the interpretation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. WSJ also noted as much: “A better response — as practical politics and for civic comity — would be to support laws that protect the conscience rights of religious believers and faith-based institutions that do not honor same-sex marriages. The unfortunate truth is that the political left is rarely magnanimous in victory, and its activists may not be satisfied until the force of government stamps out private values and practices they find deplorable.”

Likewise IBD: “Justice Samuel Alito made plain that the decision ‘will be exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.’ Those who continue to believe gay marriage is wrong, he added, ‘will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers and schools.'”

The five justices have opened a can of worms.

It will be interesting to see how the once libertarian-leaning Las Vegas newspaper opines on this topic, if it does.


Getting your head right, Part 2: Thought Police subpoena sermons of pastors opposing ‘Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance’

When an alert reader first brought this news item to my attention I was certain that someone had taken an item from the satirical website The Onion and disguised it as a news story.

I imagined the original headline had to have been something like: “Houston’s tolerant city officials will not tolerate any intolerance whatsoever.”

But, no, gentle reader, there appear to be too many references to this news from the Houston Chronicle to Fox News to a Houston TV station.

The lede on the Chronicle story reads:

“Houston’s embattled equal rights ordinance took another legal turn this week when it surfaced that city attorneys, in an unusual step, subpoenaed sermons given by local pastors who oppose the law and are tied to the conservative Christian activists who have sued the city.”

Specifically the subpoenas are demanding copies of “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.” Mayor Parker is Houston’s first openly lesbian mayor.

Resistance is futile

HERO is the acronym for Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance. This ordinance apparently protects transgendered person’s “right” to use a restroom consistent with that person’s “gender expression,” regardless of actual biological sex. Opponents have dubbed it the “Sexual Predator Protection Act.”

According to a Fox News account, ministers who fail to comply with the subpoena could be held in contempt of court.

“The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Christina Holcomb said in a statement. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.”

Opponents of the ordinance, passed in June, gathered 50,000 signatures – far more than the 17,269 needed — but the petition was thrown out due to alleged irregularities.

A court date on litigation aimed at repealing the ordinance is set for January and the subpoenas are part of the discovery for the case on behalf of the city.

City Attorney David Feldman told the Chronicle that the pastors’ sermons are relevant to the case because they used the pulpit for political campaigning that encouraged members to sign petitions opposing the ordinance.

Ordinance opponent, Erik Stanley, an attorney for a group called Alliance Defending Freedom, told Fox News, “City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge. This is designed to intimidate pastors.”

In this day and age of constant social media posts and purloined audio and video posted on the Internet, do the Houston officials really even need a subpoena? Perhaps they could take a page from George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”:

“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live — did live, from habit that became instinct — in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”

And once you are found out, there is the certain outcome:

“We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us; so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him. It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be. Even in the instance of death we cannot permit any deviation … we make the brain perfect before we blow it out.”



Time to get your head right or else?

The pendulum always swings, doesn’t it?

After years of government-sanctioned and even government-ordered racial discrimination, the pendulum swung and we got affirmative action.

So, now that the courts have overruled the voters in nearly half the states on the matter of gay marriage, the pendulum swings to discrimination cases against bakers and farm owners for declining to provide their “public accommodation” services to gay couples.

Now, as a closet libertarian I have no problem with couples of just about any ilk forming unions under civil law — though I do have some problem with government discriminating against people for the purpose of taxes and benefits based on contractual living arrangements and have misgivings about changing the definition of words at the drop of a bouquet and wonder how this will bode for the “right” to plural and/or other forms of “marriage.”

What I do have a problem with is the sudden pendulum swing by liberals to vilification of people who in good faith or conscience do not wish to participate commercially or privately in a superficial ceremony.

One local columnist called on the Nevada federal judge who upheld the state gay marriage ban to resign because he recused himself — without stating why — when the case was remanded by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “If pang of conscience prevents him from living up to that oath, or carrying out the duties imposed on him by law, the proper remedy isn’t to simply slink away on one case. It’s to resign,” wrote the self-righteous columnist who has been known to rail against his own newspaper’s editorial stances rather than resign.

The headline on the Fox News story about the baker fined for refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding said he was required to undergo sensitivity training, though the story actually said he and his staff had to submit to “comprehensive training on Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws.”

In either case it sounds like getting your head straight.

You can’t found a country on liberty and free speech and then demand uniformity of thought and conscience. And conscience without the freedom to act is not liberty.

The concept of live and let live means government should not dictate behavior to either gay couples or bakers any more than the law should demand that doctors provide abortions or churches provide marriage services to all comers.

Freedom of speech requires freedom of thought and belief.

Colorado cake shop owner Jack Phillips decorates a cake. (AP photo)

Root calls for term limits for politicians

When Wayne Allyn Root — sports handicapper, former vice presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party and Henderson resident who is currently on the Republican speaking circuit — writes or speaks, it is in a staccato stream of quips suitable for a bumperful of bumper stickers.

In a 2010 column in the Review-Journal, he wrote:

“Obama is as hopeless, helpless, clueless and bankrupt of good ideas as the manager of the Chicago Cubs in late September. This ‘community organizer’ knows as much about private-sector jobs as Pamela Anderson knows about nuclear physics.”

In another newspaper column that year he wrote:

“My advice: V.E.T.O. — Vote Every one of Them Out.”

In still another column Root wrote:

“The mob comes to a businessman (like me) and demands 10 percent for ‘protection.’ The rub, of course, is that the protection is from them. The government calls that extortion and will send a mobster to prison for 20 long years on that charge. Yet the same government comes to that same businessman, demands a 50 percent (or more) cut of his business, and offers no protection whatsoever.

“I prefer the deal offered by the Mafia.”

On today Root has a piece on why moderate Republicans are killing the GOP. He ticks off a list of losers the party has put forward in recent years, moderates like Romney, McCain and Dole. The problem with these Democrat-lite types is that they lose elections, he says.

He makes a good point in this and those other columns.

Root concludes today’s screed with this:

“From this day forward we must term limit the politicians. Limit them all to two terms. One term in office. And one term in prison. I call it ‘the Chicago Rule.’”

I thought it sounded vaguely familiar.

Bumper sticker

It is easy to remember.

Ralston labels Root a birther — fair or not?

I think someone is stretching the definition of birther a bit.

On his blog Friday, defrocked newspaper columnist Jon Ralston, stated: “Wayne Allyn Root, the state’s most famous birther, continues to be honored by state Republicans and may soon become an albatross for a congressional candidate.”

I thought the definition of birther was one who stated or believed Obama was born in a foreign country and therefore not eligible under the Constitution to serve as president.

Ralston, ever the self-aggrandizer, went on to write:

“MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow picked up on Root after I broke news of the invite this summer with Nevada GOP elected officials and House No. 3 man Kevin McCarthy. In her piece, Maddow played the clip of Root saying Obama was an illegitmate (sic) president who got into college as a foreign-exchange student with an Indonesian passport. Root responded in a bizarre piece in which he accused Maddow of trying to “defame and slander me.” (He also has had a lawyer contact me.)”

Wayne Allyn Root

Now I’m not defending Root, whose bombastic speaking style leaves me cold and whose columns I published under protest at the Review-Journal, but rather I question Ralston’s accuracy. I can’t recall Root ever claiming Obama was foreign born.

Root has “suspected” Obama, in order to get some form of affirmative action benefit, enrolled in college as a foreign exchange student, possibly using an Indonesian passport.

Here is what Root himself has to say on this topic:

“I believe Obama is a fraud. But it has nothing to do with his birth. Obama’s critics have it all backward. They are looking in the wrong place. He isn’t a foreigner portraying himself as an American. He’s an American who fraudulently portrayed himself as a foreigner. So because of his own fraudulent actions, Obama is actually the one to blame for starting all of this conspiracy talk.

“Months ago, MSNBC television host Rachel Maddow spent 15 minutes on her national show calling me a “birther.” I scratched my head, because I’m not — never have been, not for one minute. A “birther” believes Obama is a foreigner, not legally qualified to be President. I have never believed that.

“I’ve always believed that Obama is 100 percent American. There, I’ve said it loudly. I’m a leading critic of the President, but I’ve always believed him to be American-born. He is as American as P.T. Barnum. And he lies and exaggerates like Barnum, too. While Obama is no foreigner, he is a fraud.”

Root goes on at some length laying out the circumstantial evidence that leads him to this rather tenuous conclusion. A conspiracy theorist, sure. But a birther?

Accuracy in commentary, as with Obama’s so many broken promises, should never be allowed to get in the way of a good old name-calling tirade.

Saga of the ever shrinking newspaper staff conintues

The decimation continues.

I don’t know yet what happened, and I’m sure there someone had to sign a piece of paper agreeing not to discuss it in return for a modest departing gift, but just let the editorial page masthead of the Tuesday and Wednesday Las Vegas Review-Journal report the news:




Vin was at the paper nearly as long as I was. I hired him about 20 years ago, I think. The job interview was at the Main Street Station. We recognized each other by mustaches — mine a handlebar, his a Fu Manchu.

Vin Suprynowicz, a “few” years ago

The only editorial writer the paper now has is Glenn Cook.

The paper will never be the same. No one had as keen a knowledge of libertarian philosophy, Nevada politics, history, literature, the Constitution and the founding documents as Vin. No one had as sensitive a bullshit meter as Vin.

His departure, in light of new make-no-waves management, was inevitable.

Best luck, Vin. Put me down as a reference.

Meanwhile, go to his website and buy a couple of his books. They are well worth the money and are provocative reading.

History might offer some lessons on tampering with the definition of marriage

While the U.S. Supreme is pondering two court cases that might make anything the Nevada Legislature does on the topic of gay marriage moot, nonetheless our lawmakers are plunging ahead in an attempt to overturn the state’s constitutional ban enacted by the voters in 2000 and 2002.

As a born-again libertarian, I care not what people do behind closed doors and don’t think they should be discriminated against for doing so. As a lifelong writer and editor, I have qualms about changing the definition of words. It is a qualm I share with George Orwell who said those who control words control thoughts.

In front of the Supreme Court building. (Reuters photo)

But there is also a certain historical aspect to the discussion of this topic that is largely overlooked. I was reminded of this today by a paragraph in a Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial calling for the repeal of the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

“Yes, we might wish to return to a day when the sacrament of marriage was an entirely religious matter, not regulated by the state,” the editorialist remarked. “In fact, it must be reiterated at every stage that government has no power to require any church or religious organization to recognize, endorse, or financially support same-sex marriage, or anything else abhorrent to its teachings.”

But if the Catholic Church’s ancillary institutions may not “discriminate” by refusing to provide free contraceptives to all insured employees, how long before …?

Now the history lesson:  In 1882, the Edmunds Act outlawed polygamy. Any Mormon who continued to practice polygamy was stripped of the right to vote or hold public office. As many as 1,300 were jailed.

At least polygamy had a long history of acceptance, one of Biblical proportions.

Might churches that “discriminate” against the civil rights of homosexuals to marry have their tax exemptions denied and building permits rejected?

Those who control the words will eventually try to control the thoughts.

Our lawmakers should unmake a few bad laws before passing any new ones

With the 2013 Legislature fast approaching everyone is talking about what laws should be passed.

Frankly, there are more than a few on the books that should be repealed, as argued in this week’s newspaper column available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press.

There’ve been nearly 900 bill draft requests submitted so far, but only five include the word “repeal” in the title. nprijpg

As our 63 lawmakers settle in for a chilly winter sojourn in Carson City, I highly recommend they cozy up next to a good fire with a copy of the Nevada Policy Research Institute’s “Solutions 2013: A Sourcebook for Nevada Policymakers.” It is 88 pages of facts and figures and recommendations put together by NPRI’s Deputy Policy Director Geoffrey Lawrence.

I’m partial to those laws on the books that should be undone.

One of the most urgent priorities is to change the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) from a defined-benefit system to a defined-contribution system comparable to a 401(k). PERS has a $41 billion unfunded liability when a fair-market valuation is used.

Next is the 1937 state prevailing wage law, which in practice requires all state and local government construction contractors to pay their employees union scale wages. This has resulted in public works projects costing a half a billon dollars a year more than necessary.

My highest priority would be to repeal the renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which by 2025 will demand that all electric utility companies produce or purchase a minimum of 25 percent of their electricity from renewable energy facilities, such as wind, solar, geothermal or biomass. The cost of power from those sources averages three to four times as much as electricity produced by natural gas-fired turbines.

You may download “Solutions 2013” at

You may read the entire column at the Ely and Elko websites.

‘Subject to reasonable restrictions’

As my ol’ Pappy used to say: Great minds travel in the same plane, but fools just think alike.

I remarked the other day that a “right” is not a “right” if the government can require a “permit” to exercise that “right.” It is then merely a permissible activity so long as the authorities deem you worthy.

Vin, back when he still had the fu manchu

Today Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Vin Suprynowicz weighs in with his take about people who say, “Even if there is some ‘Constitutional right’ to bear arms, it’s subject to reasonable restrictions, as are all rights.”

As usual, Vin takes his argument to a logical/illogical comparison about just what is reasonable:

Imagine for a moment that you’d like to attend a church or synagogue or other house of worship, or merely to pray in your own home. Imagine that you’d like to publish a book, or simply fire off a letter-to-the-editor.

Imagine now that the federal authorities, who have the power to seize your house or imprison you if you’re caught disobeying their edicts, responded, “Of course you have a right to do those things. No problem. But naturally, they’re subject to a few ‘reasonable restrictions.'”

All you have to do, it turns out, is apply for a federal Churchgoing License, a federal Prayer Permit, a federal Publication Permit, or a federal Letter-to-the-Editor License, whichever is appropriate.

The forms are free! Of course, you have to submit to fingerprinting. You have to mail in with your application and your fingerprint card a signed letter from your local sheriff or chief of police, stating he has no objections — a letter your local chief law enforcement agent can issue or withhold, at his whim.

The application fee (actually, it’s a tax — on a constitutionally protected activity — but you submit it in advance) is $200. The waiting period to hear whether you’ve been approved generally runs about six months.

Vin then notes that this is a partial list of the “reasonable restrictions” the feds have used for 68 years to limit the “uninfringeable Constitutional right” of Americans to own an automatic weapon.

The same could be said, as I pointed out, of the Clark County requirement that handgun owners register their weapons with the sheriff’s office.

A person who commented on Vin’s column online bemoaned the fact he missed the opportunity to state that the Bill of Rights doesn’t grant rights but specifies what the government cannot do to restrict them. Frankly, Vin and I have stated that so many times that another recitation seems redundant, but so many people apparently have not yet grasped the concept.

This is precisely how Vin phrased it more than a year ago:

Government doesn’t grant any rights. Rights are things we or our forebears were naturally free to do before the government was empaneled, liberties that government shall not be allowed to infringe.