[note:  some of this concerns discussions I’ve seen in passing on twitter or conversations I’ve had in my personal life, so this will have less direct documentation and links than my usual essays.  This essay is less about Rittenhouse’s actual guilt or innocence-I’m not going to be discussing the minutae of the trial much-and more about the lessons that should be taken from it.]

This week the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict came out in his trial related to shooting three people during a Black Lives Matter protest last Augst:  not guilty on all counts.  Reaction from across the political spectrum has been incredibly polarized, usually along partisan lines.  People on the left (with a few exceptions, such as Glenn Greenwald and Jimmy Dore) are generally appalled and disgusted, screaming racism, judicial impropriety, and accusing Rittenhouse of crocodile tears during his crying in court.  On the other side, the right and a LOT of libertarians (often but not always Mises Caucus types, and some of the state affiliates) have come out in favor not only of the verdict, but of Rittenhouse’s actions.  He has been praised as a hero by many, as a picture of cool and collected self defense in a crisis, and as an antidote to violent rioters and the woke mob.

It seems like both sides have made some critical errors in reasoning, desperate to find either a hero or a villain in a mess that left two people dead and one seriously injured.  And the all or nothing arguments have obscured the reality of what happened and what it means in context.  At the same time, both sides have made some good points about the reality of our justice system and our society, and its flaws.

On the left, the argument that Rittenhouse crossed state lines never really held water, and was shredded in court.  Same for being too young to possess a firearm.  While the idea that if minors can’t consent and aren’t legally responsible they shouldn’t be allowed the full exercise of the natural rights of an adult has merit (and opens up a much bigger debate beyond the scope of this essay), under Wisconsin law he was probably ok.  And if he was old enough to fully exercise his right to bear arms, the geography shouldn’t matter.  Rights are rights, wherever you are.  Certainly the law as written, along with the prosecution’s failure to have the gun measured (since the relevant portions hinge on short barreled rifles vs. long guns) is ambiguous enough to make him legal on that aspect of things.  And likewise characterizing the AR-15 as a “high powered rifle” is a bit of a misnomer.  Anything more powerful than a BB gun can be lethal pretty easily.  They’re not designed to be squirt guns. 

More seriously and more defensible, friends of mine have raised the contention that self defense laws as written, combined with a still too racist society, give people open license to murder minorities as long as they can scream self defense afterwards.  They cite numerous examples of cops “fearing for their lives”, along with George Zimmerman.  They argue that this case shows the need to reform self defense laws, and that it will have a chilling effect on protests.  While I can see why they’re concerned, I don’t think this is a completely fair comparison.  Rittenhouse was being attacked right before at least one of the shootings, and was definitely on the opposite side (of the issues) of most of the protestors.  More knowledgeable people than myself have waded through the minutae of law (you can read the relevant WI statues here) and made the case that legal innocence rested on whether Rittenhouse had moved back into the legal prerequisites for self defense for each shooting, regardless of what brought him there .  I’m not a trained lawyer, and this is more complicated than simply saying to the typical politician “hey asshole, follow your oath of office!”, so I can’t comment on the validity of this line of reasoning.  But what I can say is there’s enough there there to make it a real question. 

I don’t think this trial raises huge implications of law.  Wisconsin self defense statutes include a duty to retreat and specify that only life can be defended with lethal force, not property.  And I think no matter how self defense law is written, there will always be situations that are very clear cut, and some that are ambiguous enough to be matters for a judge and jury.  In that regard, at least, the system worked as it should.  Likewise, I don’t think there’s any real implication for gun laws either way here.  Rights come with consequences, and sometimes people use their rights really stupidly, to the point where they need to be punished for it.  Whether that punishment comes in a court of law or the court of public opinion depends on the nature of the stupidity, of course, but both are valid and necessary.  Here while you can certainly argue that there wasn’t enough consequences in either court, Rittenhouse was arrested and at least faced the threat of serious consequences for his actions.  The system churned on him rather than simply ignoring him.

On the other side we have a number of errors as well, and since this side includes a lot of people in my camp I find their errors a lot more disturbing and/or infuriating.  Let’s start with “he was just there to protect property”.  If that was the case, how come we had an entire year of Black Lives Matter protests that often had Redacted Bois guarding property and supporting the protestors with essentially no incidents that I know of, except for Garret Foster (RIP) getting run over by a counterprotester.  If he was there to defend property he did a crap job of it, and given that it wasn’t his property it didn’t justify lethal force to defend.  Holding Rittenhouse in the same light as Kenneth Walker (and by extension capitalizing on Breonna Taylor’s death) is not a good look.  Walker and Taylor were in a private residence, assaulted by agents of the state acting in bad faith under laws that should never have existed in the first place.  Rittenhouse…far more questionable (more on that later).  Bringing up the criminal pasts of those that were shot is simply idiotic; however horrible they are (and they’re not good) either Rittenhouse had no way of knowing who/what they were beforehand or he went to the protest to shoot those three specific people.  One assertion is dumb and insane, the other is simply dumb and irrelevant.

Most important is Rittenhouse’s character.  He was not, to put it mildly, a moral exemplar.  It came out pretty quickly after his arrest that he was a cop worshipper, and then he partied with Trumpers after his release.  Partying with Trumpers perhaps doesn’t automatically make one a racist, but it’s certainly strong evidence in that direction.  When I’ve made this argument in online discussions the response has usually been Biden whataboutism or pointing out some of Trump’s policies and reforms, which did include some minor criminal justice reform.  Here’s the thing though-both Trump and Biden said a lot of horribly racist things and implemented a lot of horribly racist policies, usually connected to immigration, empire, and the drug war.  @#^! them both for it.  But it was only Trump that had a large number of avowed racists and nationalists among his supporters.  Trump voters may not have all been racist, but they joined the fandom with all the racists and were ok with that.  It tars anyone still in a MAGA hat with an ugly brush.

This is not to say that all of the keyboard pounds spent on this haven’t gotten anything right.  The allegations of judicial bias and prosecutorial incompetence ring very true.  Introduction of evidence painting Rittenhouse as a racist was disallowed, and that could have gone strongly to motive, which would seem to be important in relation to a claim of self defense.  The prosecutor pointing a potentially uncleared weapon, with his finger on the trigger, at a jury (although the details are disputed) was insane.  On the other hand, a defense lawyer acquaintance of mine has argued that the public eye on the case forced the judge and prosecutor to do their jobs, and that most prosecutors are generally incompetent, but are granted wide latitude by judges.  Also, this slate article characterizes judge Bruce Schroeder as generally pro-defendant-this time the defendant happens to be white and high profile.  I would guess that most of the people yelling about Klan robes under Schroeder’s judicial one would probably agree that the justice system tends to railroad the accused and favor incarceration over conviction.  There is a potential disconnect here.

The comparison with women in jail for killing their abusers absolutely has merit.  The immediate solution would be jury nullification, but over the longer term carving out exceptions in self defense law specifically to cover this is probably a good idea.  How exactly to word this I’m not entirely sure, and I welcome suggestions.  Many of these situations would most likely still be matters for a jury, but given how insidious and long lasting domestic abuse can be, and how destructive mentally and physically it is for its victims, protecting them from punishment for defending themselves seems like a necessary thing.

Finally, there’s one more bad argument that brings me to the two things at the heart of what bothers me about all of this.  Many on the pro-Rittenhouse side have asked “how can Rittenhouse be racist?  His victims were white!”.  There’s been a lot of screaming about the woke mob, and how Black Lives Matter is this evil communist group (that one is an easy refute, and I’ll take it on again later in this essay), and how it wasn’t really a “peaceful” protest.

All of that misses context, and context matters here.  Ultimately both sides are so focused on what they want to see that they can’t see the full picture.  The left can only see how Rittenhouse fits into the broader social and historical narrative, while Rittenhouse’s supporters can only see his actions in microcosm and isolation during each specific shooting.  One misses the points of law and what may have been legitimate actions of self defense, while the other doesn’t ask the important questions of how this happened in the first place.  What started this all?  Sure, it was a riot.  Protests aren’t always peaceful, which begs the question why were people pissed enough to riot in the first place?  2020 was the year of Black Lives Matter protests across the country as a lot of people got very pissed off at years of police murdering people, usually not white people, and facing zero repercussions for it.  These shootings ranged from people who may well have been guilty (and had criminal pasts) to children, and were never about situations where officers were being fired upon.  Much of this happened in the context of the drug war, which is arguably the most horrible thing that government has done to its own people post-slavery.  For libertarians, I have to remind too many of us again that we’ve been opposed to the state murdering people since before our movement had a name.  We’ve also been arguing for the moral legitimacy of violent revolution and shooting back for just as long, even though most of us hope that such times never come to pass and that real change can come either through the political system, building competing institutions, or both.  Sure, we can be dismayed that a lot of the rage tends to be directed at private businesses and residences rather than police stations and legislative headquarters, but it shouldn’t be any kind of stretch to understand why the rage exists in the first place.  Yes, much of the leadership of the Black Lives Matter movement came from the left, including some outright communists.  So?  They’ve also done more to bring attention to a core libertarian issue in a year than our movement has done in three decades.  While the contention that the Black Lives Matter movement has been co-opted by the Democratic Party is very valid (and a hell of an argument for voting third party), dismissing a whole group of people that are angry about some of the same big things we are because they started from a different point on the Nolan chart is stupid.  

One commenter argued that Rittenhouse’s cop worship can be dismissed at the naive beliefs of a young kid.  This is fine as far as it goes, but lots of kids draw tanks and planes as a kid, or dress as a cop for Halloween before growing out of it as they get older.  Most of them, however, don’t actually steal a tank and run over people with it, or go out and shoot people thinking they’re helping.  He may well be young and dumb, but his actions crossed big lines into serious consequences and went a lot farther than the usual young and dumb sort. 

It’s easy enough to dismiss conservatives as simply pro-cop, racist to one degree or another, or both.  I think libertarians, on the other hand, are so concerned about gun rights and the right of self defense that we often can’t see anything else.  It’s like our version of one of the great moments from The Boondocks.  To riff a bit on Huey’s speech towards the end, not every person with a gun made a heroic last stand against a rape gang!  Yes, the government does conspire to put a lot of people in jail (or straight up kill them) for acting in self defense, and yes the right to bear arms is still under constant legal and legislative assault.  But just because someone has rights doesn’t mean that every use of those rights is smart or moral.  Rights should not mean freedom from consequences when those rights are abused or otherwise used stupidly.  Again, those consequences can come in a court of law or the court of public opinion, depending on the nature of the stupidity, but we can’t be so zealous in our defense of rights that we’re blind to the context of their use.  If we can’t defend someone’s right to do something while also acknowledging that what they did was terrible, or supporting terrible people, or just really dumb we’re doing it wrong.

I think that’s at the heart of it all.  The ex-Republican chunk of the libertarian movement is so suspicious of anything that smacks of communism, and so paranoid about gun control (and not entirely without reason) that they can’t see that even if he was a dumb and naive kid, Rittenhouse was a cop worshipper and probably a racist on the wrong side of a protest against state murder.  Yes, he had the right to be there.  Generically speaking, he had/has the right to defend himself, and in the moment it’s very arguable that he was defending himself.  Even if he was legally right, which he may well have been, he was morally wrong.  He should have been allowed to be at that protest, but he shouldn’t have been there.  He should be allowed to hold his beliefs, but his beliefs are wrong.  He has the right to defend himself, but he shouldn’t have been in the situation where he needed to in the first place.  To hope for his acquittal is defensible.  To hold him up as any kind of hero, anything other than either a piece of crap or young and dumb is deplorable.

Finally…I wish this wasn’t a footnote, but unfortunately it fits.  The country has spent several weeks talking about this dumb white kid, which has sucked all the metaphorical oxygen away from what the protests were about in the first place.  People are still being shot by police.  Gods help you if you’re mentally ill and have a runin with the cops.  The drug war is still a thing, with too many people in jail for bullshit as a result.  Occupational licensing that stifles the poorest from working and holds convicted felons back from better jobs is still all too prevalent in our country.  The bigger structural factors behind poverty and racial injustices are still there.  What those factors are can and certainly is debated between, say, the left and libertarians, but either way they’re still there.  Where is the outrage over any of that?  Electing a Democrat (especially the particular Democrat) didn’t fix any of that.  When will there be enough anger again to truly change things?

In both parts of my previous discussions of the Jorgensen campaign I’ve stressed the point that the next big year for Libertarians is 2021.  Now is not the right time to talk about 2024.  We should be worried about city council runs, not our next presidential ticket.

This is still true.

However Libertarians, being Libertarians and, well, people can’t help but think about the next presidential cycle in the immediate aftermath of this one.  And as such, I’ve got Some Thoughts on what I’ve been reading in libertarian circles post-Election Day.  In no particular order…

Justin Amash 2024Simply put, no.  Don’t get me wrong-Amash was an amazing congressman, especially in light of having to be in Congress during the Obama and Trump years.  His regular explanations of his votes were illuminating.  His nearly successful attempt at defunding the NSA was amazing.  And his last potshots at Trump over foreign policy have been wonderful.  He conducted himself with ethics, principles, and intellect.  He was wonderful for a Republican, and he’s continued to move in the right direction since officially joining the LP.  The US could do a lot worse than him as president.  However, he should not carry our standard in 2024.  And the reason is simple:  he’s still a carpetbagger.  He’s still kind of wishywashy on immigration.  Although he seems to be moving in that direction (which I support!) historically he wasn’t the strident non-interventionist that the LP needs and that I feel most comfortable voting for.  And, as a matter of appearances and strategy, as of right now he’s only won election as a Republican.  He needs to win a local office-any local office, whether governor or sanitation board rep-as a Libertarian first before he deserves a shot at our big seat.  For a long time (and still, to a large extent) the LP was seen as a vanity project for failed Republicans.  For whatever the failings of the Jorgensen campaign, the return to homegrown talent was the smartest thing our party has done in years.  It was the beginnings of reclaiming the LP’s identity as its own entity, not just a rump Republican party, and even more importantly the effect of homegrown talent was that the candidates were firmly committed to the message, and as such campaigned harder, articulated the message much better and much more consistently, and brought people in that were motivated rather than meh.  That’s the kind of person we need again in 2024, whether it’s Spike Cohen, Jorgensen again, Hornberger, or one of our many recruits from this cycle-or someone I don’t know yet.

Further thoughts on the presidential nomineeThey should be a proud libertarian of strong principle, but also someone who’s willing to reach out to groups well outside the stereotypical libertarian constituencies-this is another thing that Jorgensen and Cohen did exceptionally well.  They should have a solid body of work behind them.  Ideally we would draw from our stock of officeholders, but I know that’s not always how it goes in the LP.

What issues should we focus on?:  As I said in part 2, there are a lot of local issues to focus on that can make our communities better and prove our ideas can work in the real world, most of which we don’t know about yet. We have such an information gap in our party between what’s happening on the ground and what we’re aware of that it’s tragic.  We need to be out in the world (metaphorically, in the age of quarantine anyway) in a way that we haven’t been.  Even having a libertarian watching a city council meeting and reporting back on it would be an improvement.  And I think that’s where a lot of our energy needs to be. 

That said, the state and national stuff is always bigger and far more egregious.  I think we need to recognize, if we don’t already, that we’re a small movement, and as such look for single issue coalitions on what’s important to us, across the entirety of the traditional political spectrum.  The goal should always be to move society in a more liberty oriented direction and to improve peoples’ lives, but we shouldn’t be ignorant of how things will play out in recruitment either.  In the year of Black Lives Matter and police murder being in the headlines we continue to have natural allies there on qualified immunity, civil asset forfeiture, the drug war, and, in time, ultimately the very nature of the relationship between the state and the individual.  The Jorgensen campaign did a great job of starting that conversation in a way that no Libertarian ticket had done before.  And, when the Biden/Harris administration inevitably lets down that constituency, whether through backburnering criminal justice reform or simply being true to their historical track records, that’s a major opportunity for us to pick up new supporters.  And to anyone who’s screaming pandering right now, or “dirty commie thugs” or somesuch nonsense, my response is here, but more importantly, hear them in their own words.  How anyone-especially those who have been railing against the abuses of the state for so long-can hear the stories of those people and not be moved to tears is beyond me.  Also…in SoCal George Gascon was just elected DA on a campaign of, and I quote, “ending the racist drug war”.  It’s an issue that I wish wasn’t necessary to pursue, but it’s also an issue that wins both morally and at the ballot box.

Given Biden’s stance on guns, expect a lot of people on the right to suddenly care about gun rights again after ignoring Trump’s abuses.  The NRA is in decline (thankfully), but many better groups are out there carrying on the good fight-Firearms Policy Coalition, Gun Owners Of America, and Citizens Committee For The Right To Keep And Bear Arms all come immediately to mind.  There are also a lot of groups that are reaching out in minority communities, often also doing work (or overlapping with the work) of dismantling the drug war and reigning in police abuse.  Maj Toure and Black Guns Matter. The National African American Gun AssociationThe Latino Rifle AssociationArmed Equality.  The delightfully named Not Fucking Around Coalition.  I don’t agree with every stance these organizations and people have taken on every issue, and I have serious disagreements with some of them on some things.  But they are all doing important work on an issue that’s very important to us as libertarians, and we need to reach out to these people, go to their meetings, and offer as much support as we can.

War will be another issue which we will need to pursue with great vigor.  With the return of Democrats to the White House the antiwar (mainstream) left will most likely go silent, and I don’t think there’s a lot of antiwar Republicans left among the elected class.  However, the American people have very rarely liked war in the modern era, they’ve just dealt with it as the price for supposedly getting the domestic policies they want.  We can become the antiwar party.  We can reach out across the spectrum to help stop the next war, which we all know is coming giving Biden’s track record.  We can reach out to a broad variety of people here; Adam Forgie’s excellent series of interviews with all of the third party candidates this cycle had one unifying thread-every third party, from nativist to Libertarian to flaming commie, is profoundly antiwar and anti-empire.  This should tell us something big.

The issue we shouldn’t pursue though, or at least seriously modify how we talk about it?  Covid-19.  I have heard entirely too many libertarians, including a lot of candidates and official representatives, talk about the virus almost as if it didn’t exist, and talk about the quarantines and lockdowns as if they’re the second coming of the Soviet Union. 

This is not a winning strategy for us, morally or politically.

I have a more detailed take on this here, but to summarize I agree that lockdowns of private enterprises are unconstitutional and wrong, and they’ve been horribly economically destructive.  However, Libertarians need to have some damned nuance when we talk about this.  In mid-November as I’m writing this we’re facing flu season on top of a resurgence of Covid cases in various places.  And regardless of the percentage of surviveability (the case fatality rate is hovering at about 2%, according to that study), the reality is that almost 250,000 people have died because of this disease, which is somewhere between double and 7 or 8  times typical flu deaths.  Anecdotally Covid support groups have been talking about a lot of dead members, and side effects that linger for a lot longer than a typical flu.  And yes, the numbers might be goosed some (a charge I’ve heard frequently), but there’s still a substantial number of Americans that have been really affected by this.  To not acknowledge this, even as we criticize the abuses of the lockdowns, will win us no friends and quite frankly makes us assholes.  And it may well put us on the wrong side of history-we run the risk of becoming like the early AIDS denialists.  We need to point out the realities of the virus, the people that have died, and what people are living with and risking even as we point out the effects of the lockdowns, and we need to emphasize that private solutions are better here but solutions are still needed for a very real problem.  Simply going out and railing against the lockdowns and calling anyone wearing a mask a cuck or some nonsense just makes us sound like Trumpers.

Finally, tone:   Tone is always the toughest thing for libertarians, and really any ideologues.  We’re often angry and self righteous, and not without justification-there’s a lot to be angry about.  A lot that has been going on for a long time, and didn’t just spontaneously arise in the age of Trump.  The state has been killing people, and robbing people for a long time.  The ideology of control of the individual has had a powerful allure for a long time.  Suppression of dissent is almost as American as dissent.  And while Trump’s loss is welcome, Biden’s election is hardly a cause for celebration.

It’s hard not to be angry.

We should be angry.  We should continue to stand firm against what is wrong, in no uncertain terms (and that was one of the very refreshing things about the Jorgensen/Cohen campaign).  And those in office deserve every bit of the ire and venom that we can give them, especially since a large chunk of the formerly angry populace will probably be turning a blind eye to the sins of the new administration and will need to be reminded that their enemy just pulled a lot of the same crap a year or two ago.

But for those not in office?   We need to be kind.  I’m not talking about the knock down dragout debates we have with our close friends, although some kindness there wouldn’t hurt.  I’m talking about when we go out into the world.  When we’re at a community fair, or a city council meeting, or a protest, or a meeting of a non-Libertarian group.  First off, if we’re going to claim the moral high ground we damned well better act like we deserve it, and lead by example.  Ron Paul said it very well:  “Setting a good example is a far better way to spread ideals than through force of arms”, and while he was talking about international relationships, if you substitute force of arms with “yelling and screaming and calling someone a filthy statist idiot” it translates pretty well to interpersonal ones too.  More practically, again, we need to recognize that as a small movement if we want to actually affect positive changes in the world rather than self righteously jerking off in our own echo chambers we need to actually convince people to work with us, whether on a single issue or in fully coming over to our camp.  That does not mean compromise our message, change positions, or pretend to be what we’re not.  But it does mean we need to listen a lot more than we talk, we need to be empathetic, we need to hear what peoples’ real concerns are based on their lived experiences, and speak to them in their language, based on their concerns, not just theoretical abstractions.  We also need to recognize that good ideas can come from other camps, that (for the most part) if someone comes to a point of agreement with you on a particular issue through a very different path that’s ok, and that people can and often do come to good faith beliefs that are very different than ours.  The way to reach them isn’t to beat them down.  It’s to listen to their story, to figure out how they got there, to find out where we agree, and build out from there.

Good luck out there.

(warning:  pretty much any link in this essay is going to awful, graphic footage) 

It’s now been a bit over two weeks since Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by agents of the state in Kenosha, WI, and Kyle Rittenhouse killed two people during some of the subsequent protests.  Rittenhouse’s actions, in many ways, have overshadowed the inciting incident, and have led to a heated debate online.   The left decry him as a racist.  Conservatives see him as a hero against fascism.  Libertarians, usually mostly in favor of black lives matter protests, have often claimed he acted in self defense.

My biases, I’m sure, color my analysis.  A quick read of the other essays on this page will show you them very quickly-I have spent the vast majority of my life disgusted and appalled when the state murders people without cause and without process.  I believe black lives matter.  I believe the protestors that are protesting the state murdering people are on the right side of history, regardless of where on the Nolan chart they come from.  I believe that while many try to do their jobs honorably (it’s a whole other essay I’ve got brewing), police as an institution are entirety too powerful and enjoy entirely too much social sanction, with the result that in too many communities, usually our poorest and brownest, they act an occupying army rather than guarantors of our rights or even guardians of public safety.  I believe the natural right of self defense as inscribed in second amendment is for defense against our own government first, foreign invaders second, and defense against private criminals and dangerous and/or delicious animals third.  Given all of that, I attempted to be as objective as possible in studying the facts and forming my opinion. 

After watching as much footage as I could reasonably find, reading the criminal complaint, watching ABC’s coverage, watching this legal analysis, reading through a few threads in Libertarian groups, reading through reactions from leftie pages and friends that I follow, and reading a long thread involving some very smart friends of mine, I’ve come to some conclusions.

To whit, you all suck.

And you all suck because, in a statement that I’m sure will give one friend of mine reading this life threatening levels of laughter, you all need more nuance in your takes.

First, there’s some stupid stuff that I’ve seen on libertarian threads.  Some of us have claimed that Rittenhouse’s carrying a firearm while under 18 being illegal is a deprivation of his natural rights and bad law.  Ok, fine, but two or three threads over you’re all calling for the pedochippers (I’m generally with you, but after due process and conviction, not before).  Either there’s an age where someone becomes a consenting adult with all the rights thereof and before that they don’t, or there isn’t.  or there’s a sliding scale of age vs. rights and responsibilities, which is another arguable position, but make up your mind.  And likewise, pointing out that it was illegal for Gaige Grosskreutz, as a convicted felon, to have a firearm as evidence for Rittenhouse is pretty rich coming from libertarians.  Trying to have it both ways because you like guns is specious at best and hypocritical at worst. 

What’s left then is two separate questions-legality and morality.  Was Rittenhouse legally right to shoot the people he did, and was he morally right to be in the situation in the first place.

The legal question, surprisingly, may be the easiest to resolve, or at least to get to the heart of.  There is a noticeable gap in footage between the initial confrontation between Rittenhouse and Joseph Rosenbaum (the man in the red shirt) and when he’s running away from Rosenbaum when the first shooting happens.  The legal case for self defense hinges on what happened in those missing moments.  If Rosenbaum was the initial aggressor and, for lack of a better way of putting it, “started it”, then I tend to defer to Coloin Noir’s more learned legal opinion that by the letter of the law he acted in self defense.  And, likewise, when he was running away from the mob that’s a continuation of self defense.  However, if Rittenhouse started it, then the case for self defense seems to fall apart quickly, and when running from the mob he was running from people trying to apprehend a murderer.  The evidence here is mixed.  On one hand you have the initial confrontation footage, which, when combined with Rosenbaum’s history of violence in and out of prison seems like any allegations made that Rosenbaum was the aggressor (I don’t know if anyone has alleged this yet) would have some weight.  On the other hand, there’s this post claiming that Rittenhouse and his friends were the first belligerents, so…the legal case needs more evidence.  But at least here there’s a clear lynchpin moment.

Far more interesting and more relevant, however, is the moral case.  Was Kyle Rittenhouse right to be in Kenosha in the first place, was he defending the right things, was he responsible in wielding a weapon in this situation?  The answer to all of these is no.

He absolutely had the right to be out in Kenosha protesting.  But I have to ask as an aside how can Boog Bois be at protest after protest after protest and not fire a shot, but he shot three people?  Moreover, he was profoundly wrong in the side he supported.  Large portions of our country have been out in the streets month after month protesting the brutal murder of suspects by police-and yet more brutal murders of suspects by police keep happening.  And like almost all abuses of government power, most of the enforcement (though not all) has fallen on the poor and brown.   Federal troops have been sent in to crush protestors.  Terrible laws continue being on the books.  “Bootlicker” is a term that gets thrown around too frequently in political discussions, but here it seems to fit all too well.  Some will point to Rittenhouse cleaning up graffiti before the events as character evidence, but I point to him being a cop worshipper.  Many have pointed to the criminal records of the three people shot as proof that Rittenhouse was a hero, but while Rosenbaum’s record might be somewhat relevant for character and state of mind (see above), for the other two victims it doesn’t seem remotely relevant-and how would Rittenhouse had any knowledge of any of their records during the confrontation?  And yes, I had some stupid beliefs in my youth that I regret too, but, well, taking the side of the state usually means you’ll be on the wrong side of history.  Rittenhouse’s stated goals were to protect property and assist police.  He was cheered on by Kenosha police earlier in the evening.  He chose to stand with the people that beat down the different, that jail people for not getting a business license, that stand on necks, and that shoot people in the back.  He came, it seems, to Start Shit, and he found it.

So…left folks, when Rittenhouse walks free or is only convicted on a weapons charge, you’re gonna have to deal, and unlike a lot of times this sort of thing happens it won’t be because of a broken justice system.  Start bracing yourself now.  Conservatives, you need to deal with the fact that this kid was not some grand avenger, he was a dumb 17 year old with garbage beliefs that eventually became a scared 17 year old with garbage beliefs.  And libertarians?  If you want to keep pointing out that he acted in self defense, fine, but this kid is a shitty choice of hero.  If we defend him beyond simply saying he has a legitimate case for self defense we’re embracing the very police state and the very state murderers we’re supposed to be against.

In the final judgement he may be legally right.  But he was a dumbass, not a hero, and three people are dead behind it.  It’s nothing to cheer about.

And really, none of this would have happened if cops would just stop killing people.

This post is not about why I’m a libertarian.

That’s another post, hopefully a story worth telling, involving history, research, and fanfiction.  No, seriously.

This post is about my frustrations every time someone tells me “your candidate has no chance of winning”, or “why don’t you win some local elections first?” or “a vote for your candidate that you actually believe in (or can at least tolerate) is a vote for the other scumbag, who is worse than my scumbag”.  Or the ever popular “This is the most important election ever.  This is not the time to waste your vote with a third party protest vote, because it’s too important to get scumbag of the moment out of office”.  I hear this a lot, especially in presidential election years.  In fact I’ve heard these lines not just this year, but in every presidential election year since I became politically aware.

Counterpoint one, of course, is the fact that the Libertarian Party has well over 200 elected officials and while there’s definitely still a strain of “everyone wants to be president, no one wants to be dogcatcher” in party activism, we can and do win local offices better than any other third party, and have for a long time.  But that does leave open the question of why contest the presidency and the other federal offices each year.

Let me tell you a bit of my history.  I started to become politically aware in early high school, but didn’t really get interested in things until the late 1990s when I started college.  Discovering libertarianism, and realizing that there was actually a name for a lot of what I was already thinking was a huge moment for me.  As I started to look out at what was happening in the world I was troubled by many things, but especially the drug war (despite being a straightedger myself) and its ensuing mass incarceration and police murder, stupid foreign wars, corporate welfare, and insane taxation.

At the time the most recently murdered by police were Peter McWilliams, Don Scott, and Amadou Diallo.  We were bombing Iraq mostly, and supporting less than wholesome regimes across the planet.  My favorite example of corporate welfare at the time was the Export-Import Bank giving handouts to Campbell’s Soup to buy foreign advertising.  And taxes were what taxes were.

In the next 20 years we’ve had only presidents from the two major parties.  We’ve had one actual independent, one nominal independent, and one Republican turned Libertarian in Congress.  The duopoly, I think it’s safe to say, has completely controlled politics at the federal level.  So…what has that gotten us?

It’s true that there have been some good things from the courts, or at the state and local level.  Obergfell and Heller/McDonald were awesome, although for every Obergfell there’s definitely been a Kelo.  Colorado just ended qualified immunity.  Florida passed major occupational licensing reform.  Many states in the ensuing 20 years have fully or partially legalized marijuana and started to crack the evil (slightly anyway) that is the drug war.  These are things to be celebrated, to be sure.

But I can’t help but feel like these are just shifts around the edges, and that nothing has really changed.  Let’s look at that federal list from 20 years ago, shall we?  Cops are still killing people-Philando Castile, George Floyd, Kelly Thomas, Breonna Taylor jump immediately to mind.  We still incarcerate more people than any other country in the world.  We’re still bombing Iraq, and we’ve added Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen to the package, along with the occasional assassination of an Iranian leader.  And we’re still propping up terrible regimes.  We’ve lived through auto industry bailouts (multiple), bank bailouts, and most recently covid relief that mostly went to the already rich.  And though the rates get tinkered with every few years, our paychecks are still raided constantly by all levels of government, we still rent our cars from the state long after buying them, most of us still pay a tax on every economic transaction we make (now across state lines).  Only the names of the dead and bombed have changed.

And in response to such circumstances, who do the major parties keep giving us?  Architects of war.  Champions of corporate bailouts.  One of the most venally corrupt politicians in the history, who is not the only racist president, but is probably the most racist to hold the office since Nixon or FDR.  The guy who bragged for decades about writing the Patriot Act.  People who believe in nothing save either their own ambitions or their own aggrandizement.  If the major parties had actually succeeded in nominating someone like a Bernie Sanders, or Ron Paul, or going back a little Dennis Kucinich, someone who, love them or hate them you know acts from clear principles and generally lives by them-and who actually cares a bit about the people they represent, I might buy the strategic voting argument, or the lesser of two evils  argument.  But the major parties keep putting up more of the same, and the result is that we keep getting more of the same.

That is why it is so important for Libertarians and Greens and all manner of other voices to keep contesting the highest offices, even though the game is rigged and it’s fantastically expensive.  When I go to cast my vote for Jo Jorgensen this November-and in fairness all of the rest of what I’m about to say can be said of Howie Hawkins as well, I’m voting for someone who stands for something.  Who directly addresses the biggest issues of our day and says “No.  What we’ve done for 20 years or more is wrong, and we need to do something different”.  And who not only has been consistent herself over her lifetime, but is part of a broader movement that has been consistent on these issues for a long time. 

When this question first came up this cycle, my immediate response was “we keep running presidential candidates because the major party candidates are so bad.  Run someone better and we’ll think about voting for them”.  This is true, but as I think about it it’s more than that.  Voting major party in my politically aware lifetime has always been about voting against the other guy.  Voting third party?  That’s a chance to vote for something.  And I’ll always embrace that.

 I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time.


Speaking out in a public forum that is.  I’ve been an activist on and off for 20 years for various libertarian causes, and a keyboard warrior when I wasn’t actually out in the streets.  I stopped doing activism for a while because I had to finish school, because I was disillusioned with party activism, and because I thought that the best way to change the world was to encourage the young to think for themselves, and become their own people.  I still hold to that as my primary mission, but the the abuses of state power that I continue to see every day on my feeds, along with the extra time allowed by the Covid lockdowns, has led me to put my words out into the world.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to change anything.  I don’t know if this project will last much beyond the start of the school year.  But for now I have a voice, and I will use it.