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Stateside with Rosalea: Convention Watch

Stateside with Rosalea

Dam Busters In Atlanta Take Aim At Welfare Queens

You have to love those Libertarians. On a Memorial Day holiday weekend when the airwaves are dominated by reminiscences about WWII because of the dedication of the new memorial in DC, they're holding their national presidential nominating convention in Atlanta, Georgia. Well, I suppose it's fitting -- like the bomber pilots of dam buster fame, the Libertarians are seemingly determined to stay below the radar.

In a recent press release entitled A welfare-free convention, the party's national chair, Geoffrey Neale, declares that "The evidence is clear: The two biggest welfare queens in the United States are John Kerry and George Bush." This is because the Democratic and Republican national conventions will each get $14.5 million from the Federal Election Commission to finance their events, and a further estimated $25 million in security costs will have to come out of municipal budgets in Boston and New York where those two conventions are going to be held.

"Because the Democratic and Republican nominees are both known in advance, their conventions are just obscenely expensive, taxpayer-financed political ads," says Neale, who also points out that both those conventions are invitation-only events, closed to the general public. "Now there's an entitlement program with a twist," Neale said. "Politicians are taking $79 million of your money for a private party that you're not even allowed to attend!"

The Libertarian convention is by contrast paid for by private funds. The party is touching a deep well-spring of suspicion here in the States when it opposes publicly funded political campaigns, something which most other democracies in the world take for granted. Another way in which this convention highlights the different style of democracy you have here is that they bill one of their speakers as "Libertarian Congressman Ron Paul."

Paul represents the 14th Congressional district in Texas - the rich cropland between the big metropolitan areas of Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Corpus Christi, which voted 66 percent for George W. Bush in 2000. In The Almanac of American Politics, from which I'm taking this information, Paul appears with an (R) by his name, but his politics are definitely Libertarian. In fact, he ran for president on the Libertarian ticket in 1988 and came third.

Although he's not going to be the Libertarian presidential nominee this time around, he has a strong following and his record in the House is "anything but rock-solid Republican." For instance, he was the only Republican to vote "present" (ie, abstain) on the resolution expressing support for the military forces at the start of the war on Iraq.

Both CBS and CNN have recently done stories about how the Libertarian nominee might cost Bush this election because of voter dissatisfaction with both the cost of war and the erosion of civil liberties -- another key Libertarian platform -- that the war on terror has caused. For example, another speaker at the convention, Dean Cameron, is well known not just as an actor but for having created the Bill of Rights, Security Edition for travelers.

This consists of the first 10 Amendments to the US Constitution printed on sturdy, playing card-sized pieces of metal. The product is designed to set off the metal detectors in airports and force airport security to take away your Bill of Rights.

The convention is being covered by C-SPAN, which you can watch on-line if your pipes are big enough at http://www.c-span.org. The acceptance speech of the presidential nominee will be broadcast at 6.30pm ET today, Sunday, May 30. Which is Monday, May 31, at 10.30 am in New Zealand.

The Libertarian Party website is at http://www.lp.org/

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