fsp

varrin


Varrin on...

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Blog move and revival
fsp
varrin
I just posted my first entry on my new blog, which is a continuation of this one. The new blog is where my old static website used to be. This will be the last entry here at LiveJournal. This blog started in 2004, almost 10 years ago. I'm thankful for those here who urged me to start it. I'll be back to more regular blogging on my own site. Feel free to keep up with it at:

http://sugargroup.net/varrin

Cheers and all the best!

V-

Closing this down
fsp
varrin
I'm pondering closing this down. I may journal again, but I think another location would make more sense. Replies welcome...

V-

Maasai Mara Safari
camel
varrin
While I'd love to wow the world with literary genius in the course of conveying my Maasai Mara Safari experience, I would be remiss if I didn't relay some of the technical details for the benefit of those (probably mostly coworkers) who might consider a similar excursion. Such tedium is less compatible with the almost-Pulitzer-winning composition I'm so well known for (*cough*), but I'll do my best. I'll try to break it up into sections with headings. It'll be long. That's how I roll.

First, the photos are posted here:

http://sugargroup.net/photos/varrin/safari/

A note to those who viewed those photos via the link I poseted to facebook prior to the posting of this blog: There were a couple dozen pictures missing (~140+ of the 171) when I initially posted this. They're in there now, but I put them in order so there's no convenient way to know which ones were missing other than the slightly lower view count. Good luck :)

I've also captioned them and have identified (I hope correctly) almost all of the animals including the birds (I didn't look up the type of owl or gecko).

I have quite a bit of video footage which I might someday edit together, but I haven't done that yet.

The set up

This was my first trip to Kenya. I had 4 days and figured I ought to do a Safari, having never done such a thing before. I have friends at church who lived in Kenya and coworkers who have done many a Nairobi layover before. The consensus was, time permitting, Maasai Mara is the place to go.

This being a bidline trip, I should have had a whole crew with me, but the two First Officer positions went unfilled. The crew I operated in with left the next day, and my outbound crew didn't arrive until closer to departure time. Luckily, there was one First Officer there, Art. He was on another crew and positioned to Nairobi early (the same day I operated there) for his trip, which departed after mine. He was interested in going on a Safari, also, so I wouldn't have to go alone (and pay for it alone).

I contacted Charles Omolo, owner of Reed Buck Adventures. He came highly recommended by my coworkers and I thoroughly affirm that recommendation, whether you're a World crewmember or not. He can put together any kind of excursion you like. His contact information is on his website. Tell him you know me and he'll treat you right.

I had heard that the Sarova Stanley in Nairobi would give us credit towards a different property if we used one of their properties elsewhere. That turned out not to be the case (in later conversation, Charles wondered if the front desk staff might have been scamming on the side). They didn't offer credit, but they did offer a good rate for the Sarova Masai Mara, which was lower than the contract rate Charles gets. So we stayed checked into our Stanley rooms and took the Mara lodge for the low low rate of 10,000 KES (about $120 US).

The desk staff, hearing I was interested in a safari, took the initiative to call their favorite tour guide and hand the phone to me. I spoke to her and she ran down what she would offer. It sounded comparable to what Charles offered, though for a slightly higher price ($25 more, as I recall). Given Charles' reputation and competitive price, we chose to go with him.

The total for the transportation-related expenses (car, driver, fuel, game drives, conversation, advice, etc.) was $450 total for the two days, which we split ($225 each). The hotel was $120 each , park entrance was $60 each, and the extra Lake Naivasha excursion added $40, for a total of $445 per person. The hotel cost included 3 meals: lunch on arrival, dinner, and breakfast, all buffet-style. We had to buy any souvenirs and lunch the second day. (note: Charles can get lower prices at other lodges... the Sarova is supposedly the nicest in the park, so we chose to go there and were quite happy with that decision.)

The sights

We left Nairobi early Thursday morning the 6th. We stopped at the overlook of the Great Rift Valley north of Nairobi. Even given the cloudy weather, it was a spectacular view of the valley.

From there, we continued to Lake Naivasha. Charles handed us off to Hassan for our hour or so there. He took us out on a boat and we explored some of the wildlife in and around the lake. This included a wide variety of birds, and a couple of pods of hippos. He also managed to attract a couple of eagles by whistling and tossing a fish in the water near the boat. They flew down from the trees, grabbed the fish from the water, and flew back up to the trees. That was fun to watch, but difficult to photo and video.

We then went for a walk about the island (now peninsula) area of the lake where (parts of?) the film "Out Of Africa" was shot. Apparently, they brought in non-predator animals for the shooting of the film and left them there. They bred and populated the area making it a good place to see relatively-safer animals on foot. Out of the entire trip, this was the one thing we wish we had done differently. Our time was limited there and we would have enjoyed having longer to walk around and take some better pictures. Nevertheless, we still managed to see several larger animals, including a giraffe and some zebras.

After our time at Lake Naivasha, we made our way to the Sarova Mara, just inside the main gate to the park. The road from Nairobi to Narok is fairly good, but the road from Narok to Maasai Mara is horrible. It's paved, but it's much smoother to go off the pavement due to the frequent and rather large pot holes. The distance on the rough road is around 50 miles or so. Travel time, all together, is around 4 hours, with a lot of that being on the rough road after Narok.

On the drive, we saw giraffes and zebras off the side of the road. There were also several villages along the way with natives, animals, and shops... and a lot of schools. The scenery changed several times along the way. Parts were lush and green, and other parts were more desert-like. The various acacia trees (mostly umbrella and whistling) and candelabra cactus trees made for some amazing scenery along the way.

We checked into the Sarova Mara, a little later than planned, and had our lunch. By the time we were done, it was time for our afternoon game drive. It was sprinkling off and on but mostly not raining. Charles' vehicle has a pop-up roof so we could stand up and take pictures without windows obstructing the view. On this drive, we stayed fairly close to the lodge. We spotted many anetlope-family members including topi, Thomson's gazelle, Coke's hartebeest, and impala. There were also zebras, elephants, lions, a jackal, a leopard, and many birds, some of them larger, including an eagle dining on a guineafowl.

After returning to the hotel for the evening, there was a Maasai man playing guitar and singing in the outdoor bar area, followed by some dancing (and jumping) by a group of about a dozen Maasai people. We had dinner after the dancing and turned in for the night in our tent-cabins.

The next morning, we enjoyed breakfast and headed out for our second game drive at about 7:00 a.m. We found some cheetahs, more of the various antelopes, the leopard we saw the previous day (this time up closer), a gecko on an anthill, roughly a zillion buffalo, elephants, lions, a hyena, and some warthogs. We also spotted many types of birds, including an owl, several ostriches, and a fairly rare mechanical type: a Dash 7. In addition to the animals, we learned a bit about the vegetation; we saw a sausage tree (the fruit isn't edible but the Maasai us it to make beer), and learned that the Maasai use parts of the various shrubs for perfume, sandpaper, and various medicinal purposes.

During the course of the wildlife viewing, we never managed to find a rhino. Our only up-close giraffe viewing was a brief glimpse at Lake Naivasha (we didn't see any in the Mara). Aside from that, it was a very successful trip in terms of wildlife.

We headed back to the hotel with a stop in Narok for lunch. We saw more giraffes and zebras on the way back. Apparently they leave the park around this time of year when the higher grasses conceal the predators.

We stopped at a curio shop on the way back for souvenir shopping. The shop is a collective with seven groups selling their things under the same roof and sharing the profits. After paying the bills, the profit goes towards their local school. I picked up a couple of hand-carved teakwood animals for the kids.

Insights

Charles used to work for a church and do other kinds of social work, which is his background. Along the way we talked about various aspects of Kenyan life, including challenges they face. This provided some interesting conversation which was, at times, encouraging with respect to the future of Kenya.

He indicated that, though there continues to be significant political corruption, the Kenyan people are working hard to educate themselves and improve their lives. Based on conversation with both Charles and Hassan (our guide at Lake Naivasha) it sounds like the normal educational model in Kenya is a sort of hybrid government / community system. The government provides teachers even for the remote schools, but the parents and/or community are still responsible for providing books, uniforms, and lunches. Hassan said he had to provide both books and uniforms for his children, while the lady at the curio store indicated the proceeds from their business goes to provide (or at least offset) the books at their local elementary school, which had over 600 students.

I wasn't all that surprised at the (lack of) transportation infrastructure development. The roads in Nairobi are paved, but traffic is a mess and the quality and organization of the roads is not as efficient as it is in many western countries (or China, these days). I was surprised, though, at the communication infrastructure. There is 3G cell service throughout Nairobi and the surrounding areas, and cell coverage (though not 3g) extended all the way into the Maasai Mara. There were little phone shops in even the poorest towns. While I got a kick out of posting safari pictures to facebook in real time, it does seem to make what was formerly so mysterious and inaccessible, readily available to mere mortals (like myself). The world has gotten a lot smaller in this age of travel and information (think Daniel 12:4).

From a conservation standpoint, I enjoyed the opportunity to see the wildlife in its natural habitat. Even in East Africa, there appears to be widespread respect for nature and an interest in preserving it for the enjoyment of generations to come. Though I might debate the morality of government-as-groundskeeper, I am thankful for what appears to be the whole of humanity elevating its appreciation for the cornucopia of animals by not killing them every chance they get. Weapons in the sport of shooting have transitioned from guns to cameras, which these days seems more driven by culture than prohibition. Both components in that transformation (cameras and culture) strike me as superior to the old habits (guns and, well, guns).

I was perplexed by the economics of the park. They have one entrance gate where they collect $60 per visitor. It is a fairly popular park, so they should have quite a bit of revenue from that fee. I can't quite figure out where it goes. I only saw rangers at the main gate. I don't believe there are other gates (though I could be mistaken). The existing trails don't appear to require any maintenance (if so it isn't much). And the road from Narok to the entrance is clearly not the recipient of funds (we saw people filling potholes with gravel along the way who Charles referred to as volunteers). I hope the government doesn't just squander those funds on things not related to conservation and/or enhancing our ability to enjoy that which is conserved.

Also, despite a couple days of conversation with Charles, I remain uncertain as to what the best help would be for the Kenyan people. We westerners generally equate prosperity with goodness. While I wouldn't argue against prosperity, there is more to life than wealth. And wealth can't simply be dumped upon a place with the expectation of making it great. There doesn't appear to be one single silver-bullet solution like better education, better government, better infrastructure, better healthcare, etc. There are churches and schools everywhere; they're more visible there than many other places around the world. I can only presume they're doing their best to make life better. Maybe, like so many other things in life, improvements will take time.

I hope our trip there, including the economic activity it brought (hotel employment, souvenirs, meals, etc.), made life a little bit better for those who live there. It certainly made my life more enjoyable. No man-made zoo can compare to our up-close view of the God-made wild...

V-
Tags: ,

Finishing my time as FSP President
fsp
varrin
Greetings from the Free State.

The time has come for me to, once again, step down from the Presidency of the Free State Project. This is my second term in this position and it has been an honor to serve the FSP organization in this capacity. My resignation will become effective upon securing a replacement for me, or by February 28th, whichever occurs first. I hope that by making this announcement, setting a deadline, and allotting a reasonable amount of time, the right people will arise to continue leading the Free State Project towards its goal.

The Board of the Free State Project formally accepted my resignation and is beginning the search for my replacement. The Board is happy to hear your nominations for the position and ideas for organizational and leadership reforms. If you are interested in a leadership position, know someone who is, or simply have a good idea you want to share, please contact the members of the Board or me directly.

While the FSP has faced challenges over the course of the last year, we begin this transition period well positioned to continue towards our goal of attracting 20,000 pro-liberty activists to New Hampshire.

Financially speaking, the FSP is on solid ground with roughly $17,000 cash on hand. While that doesn't allow us to budget for everything we desire, it does allow us to cover radio and internet advertising, presence at important events around the country, sponsorship of the 2011 Porcupine Freedom Festival, and necessary organizational expenses. So that the FSP organization can budget for more of what is desired, I hope that you will support our upcoming efforts to improve both the revenues to the project and the effective allocation of those funds.

Two important steps have also been taken towards helping people be more effective as volunteers for the FSP. First, Edi Swearingen (yes, that's my lovely wife) has volunteered to take on the role of volunteer coordinator. She is now the first point of contact for those wishing to volunteer to help the FSP, and will help volunteers get the support they need from the organization. Second, Kate Muller and Jody Underwood have agreed to develop training materials and programs for volunteers. This will help new volunteers learn how better to help the FSP, and allow for better continuity as new volunteers fill existing roles. I hope these two steps will help many more people to successfully help attract 20,000 pro-liberty activists to New Hampshire.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I'll be tying up some loose ends and helping the Board select a replacement for me. I have volunteered to continue being the National Media Representative, and remain available to serve on the Board for the time being. Though I am stepping away from the Presidency, I look forward to continuing to contribute to the FSP in effective ways under new leadership. I hope you'll consider doing so, too.

Again, I'd like to thank our volunteers, donors, and other supporters for your amazing contributions that have made the Free State Project the most successful libertarian movement in history. It is the countless hundreds, nay thousands, of you who have made this what it is and I thank you sincerely for the positive contributions you have made. It is truly an honor and a privilege to participate, and to lead, and I look forward to continuing our quest towards Liberty in Our Lifetime.

V-

Liberty Forum Cancellation
fsp
varrin
To Participants and Friends of the Free State Project:

It is with sadness, both personally and on behalf of the Free State Project, that I announce the cancellation of the February 2011 New Hampshire Liberty Forum. I was looking forward to this 5th annual Liberty Forum and I know some of you were, too.

It fell to me to make the difficult decision to cancel the event, and it falls to me to announce its cancellation now, so I feel it is also appropriate that I provide a brief explanation as to why it was best to cancel this upcoming Liberty Forum. I would also like to provide a bit of encouragement about the Free State Project itself.

In 2006, the Free State Project decided to launch a second annual event, a more formal hotel convention in the winter time to contrast our casual summer social event, the Porcupine Freedom Festival. This was a potentially huge risk for the Free State Project given our tiny budget and all-volunteer structure. Despite that, the first New Hampshire Liberty Forum in 2007 was an unprecedented success. Since then, it has grown into one of the most highly respected events in the libertarian community.

Each year's Liberty Forum has represented a significant portion of the Free State Project's budget and volunteer effort. With that comes significant risk. Each year, we have had to carefully assess, all throughout the planning process, what the impact of the event will be on the Free State Project. As we have met important milestones along the way, including ticket sales, we have continued onto a successful event. This year, the planning process did not yield the same results.

The organizational effort for this year's event got a late start, and even later momentum. The existence of several competing events made securing speakers, including a keynote, difficult. The lead organizer decided to hold off on ticket sales until after the keynote was announced. In November, a keynote was selected but unexpectedly backed out. By the time a replacement was secured, it was early-December. Given the very late start, the expectation was that ticket sales would be brisk.

The keynote was announced, as well as numerous other presenters, and ticket sales began. Instead of catching up, the pace of sales indicated we were getting further behind. Though the responses from potential attendees sounded positive, those responses did not translate into actual ticket sales. This past weekend began a period of ever increasing financial obligations leading up to the event. The ticket sales, compared with previous years, were dramatically lower.

In the worst case scenario, the financial results of a poorly attended Liberty Forum could have been catastrophic to the Free State Project. The available data indicated we could be heading in that direction. Other organizations have experienced significant difficulty, even risking extinction, after continuing under similar circumstances. Taking that risk on behalf of the Free State Project did not appear to be a wise decision under these circumstances. Canceling the event ensures that the Free State Project remains healthy, particularly financially, so that we can try again in the future.

It would be easy to blame the event's lead organizer, the Free State Project's organization, me, the economy, the speaker lineup, the other competing events, and so on. In reality, all of those factors likely contributed to slow sales which brought us to where we are now.

Indeed, the Free State Project organization itself – the Board, myself, and the Liberty Forum organization – played a variety of parts in things not going well this time around. For that, and on behalf of all who contributed to this let down, I apologize with all the sincerity I can muster. As the person who initiated the event years ago, it is not just an organizational disappointment but a personal one, too.

That said, without the Free State Project, and specifically the organization that stewards the idea behind it, the first four installments of the New Hampshire Liberty Forum would never have happened. In fact, while some things can be done by individuals on their own, Liberty Forum has, from the beginning, been an excellent example of what can be accomplished when an organized group of libertarians pursue a common goal.

We, as an organization, now have an opportunity before us which we have not had for several years. Without the organizational burden of Liberty Forum tying up our attention, we can focus on other forms of outreach – social media promotion, advertising, representing at other groups' events, presenting an accurate and positive image in the media, and so on.

We also continue to prepare for the 2011 Porcupine Freedom Festival... and before you ask, I do anticipate that event to go on as planned. It is a fraction of the cost of Liberty Forum and hundreds have already indicated they're attending some six months in advance.

We now have time to decide if and when to hold the next New Hampshire Liberty Forum. At this moment, I don't have any specific news to announce regarding a future Liberty Forum, but some have already hinted at a heroic effort for late 2011 or early 2012. Should we do so, I expect those planning it will benefit from what we've learned this time around and prepare an event that, once again, sets the standard for all other pro-liberty conventions to live up to.

While I am taking the time to write, I should also note that the overall news regarding the Free State Project is overwhelmingly positive. Officially, almost 900 of our over 10,000 participants now live in New Hampshire, though the real number is likely over 1,000 by now. Those people have demonstrated two things which prove the Free State Project can work and, indeed, is working:

1.They have proven that there are hundreds, even thousands, of people who value freedom highly enough to uproot themselves and move to New Hampshire to work together with others to preserve it. Hundreds of actual movers turned what was once just a neat idea on the internet into a real, and quite legitimate, movement.

2.They have proven that, once moving, they can actually be effective at increasing the level of freedom for all of the citizens of New Hampshire. Because of the actions of Free State Project participants, New Hampshire homeschoolers have a lower regulatory burden than before, New Hampshire's adults remain free to make responsible decisions about seatbelt use, New Hampshire taxpayers pay lower taxes than they would have otherwise, and New Hampshire citizens have increased freedom to carry or sell common types of knives.

While these accomplishments are important and demonstrate the viability of the Free State Project, we have not yet arrived at a society in which the maximum role of government is the protection of peoples' rights to life, liberty, and property. All Free State Project participants agree to work towards that common goal and we're clearly making progress. We look forward to taking many more steps towards Liberty in our Lifetime.

We hope you'll join us in our efforts. Success doesn't come free or without hard work. We continue to need two important contributions in order to effectively attract more new participants to the Free State Project: money, and volunteers.

Our financial needs are a fraction of other organizations. In our entire history, we've spent less than many well-known organizations spend in a year, or even a quarter. The return on that investment is enormous: nearly 1,000 effective activists working towards freedom in a single state. No other organization has ever provided that kind of return at any price, never mind the shoestring we operate on. Nevertheless, we do have expenses and we will do our best to put your financial support to good use. Please consider helping by making a donation at http://freestateproject.org/donate

Finally, and maybe most importantly, none of this would be possible without an army of volunteers. The Free State Project itself runs primarily on unpaid volunteers, from event staffing, to mailbox checking all the way to the President and Board of Directors. If we had to pay retail rates for the labor of love that has gone into the Free State Project, it would cost untold millions of dollars. The more people who volunteer to help promote the Free State Project, the more effective we become at attracting pro-liberty activists to New Hampshire. We need help with IT, advertising, public relations, local groups, events, and much more. If you'd like to spend a few hours a month of your time helping the Free State Project, please email volunteer@freestateproject.org.

Thank you again for your support through the years.

V-

Free State Inspiration
fsp
varrin
This was in today's Concord Monitor. Interesting, to say the least...

Free State inspiration
Dan Schroth Piermarocchi, Pittsfield
By For the Monitor
December 18, 2010

To the good citizens of the Free State Project: Thank you for setting an example.

Many of us would gladly trade the protections society has bestowed on us for the liberty to live as we choose without harming our neighbor. Here in Pittsfield we have started the Free Town Project.

We have drawn up a petition to repeal the 1988 zoning ordinance. It has been signed and delivered to Paul Skowron, our very capable town administrator. He has assured me this will receive a hearing and be on the ballot come March. The way I figure it, the cops own the roads, the IRS still owns part of our pay, our fire chief, Gary Johnson, still wants you to get a fire permit, and Dan Kramer, our building inspector, still wants you to get a building permit. If we repeal zoning we get everything else. This almost has the taste of freedom.

You know the song "Uprising" by Muse? I think we are going to use that for our campaign theme song. I hope to meet some members of your group. You are always welcome in Pittsfield. You have been inspiring.

DAN SCHROTH PIERMAROCCHI

Pittsfield

Free State Project early mover political statistics
fsp
varrin
Somewhere in the recesses of my mind are previous statistics and predictions about Free State Project early mover campaigns for NH State House. I'd hate to lose track of such things, so I better start writing them down. I'll do that here, maybe not for the first time, but for the first time I can find.

To review, the Free State Project started in 2001, and designated New Hampshire as its destination in 2003. The Free State Project doesn't take positions on political candidates, so I'm not in any way suggesting that the Free State Project endorses the people involved here. Rather, I'm trying to observe whether the FSP's migration strategy will work and whether there's any consistency in the trends.

To be eligible to run for NH House, you must have lived in New Hampshire for 2 years. Given the 2003 selection of New Hampshire as the destination for FSP participants, none were eligible to run in 2004.

I moved shortly before the election in 2004 and was in the ~60's of early movers. Consequently, around 60 or 70 early-moving FSP participants were eligible to run in 2006. Of those, 7 ran, 1 won.

By the 2006 election, there were about 200 or so early movers present. If the ratio remained constant, the 2008 election should have had about 20 running and 2-3 winning. About 25 ran, and 4 won.

As of the 2008 election, as I recall there were about 350 or so early movers present (it may have been a touch less, I don't recall). At that time, I think I predicted that over 30 would run and ~7 would win. The results aren't final yet, but I believe about 25 ran, maybe a few more. This appeared to be a departure from previous years for the lower (fewer than 10% running for NH house). Add to that the fact that some of those have been around for 3 cycles and the shift (away from running for NH house) appears more pronounced. However, it appears the success rate has climbed significantly. The latest count I've seen indicates roughly 10 early-movers won (might have actually been more). This means FSP participants who moved to NH to pursue a society in which the maximum role of government is the protection of life, liberty, and property, now hold ~2 1/2% of the New Hampshire house.

As of today, there are over 600 early-movers. The rate of people moving has increased over the last couple years, but more of them have shifted further away from political action that despite the clear evidence that working towards electing FSP participants is clearly effective. All that said, I'd speculate that in 2012, if the trends hold up, we should see 35-40 or so FSP participants running for NH house and somewhere in the high-teens to low twenties winning. That would put FSP participants at around 5% of the NH house.

Here are the actual stats and my predictions over the last 3 election cycles, a prediction for 2012, and some possibilities for the future beyond that:

TypeYearEligibleRan%Won%
Actual200670710%11.5%
Prediction2008~2002010%2-32%
Actual2008~2002514%42%
Prediction2010~3503510%72%
Actual2010~350257%10+3%
Prediction2012615457%203%
Prediction20141000656.5%303%
Prediction????90005005.5%2252.5%


Note: two years ago, I predicted it would take 10,000 to hold a majority. That appears to be pessimistic so I'm revising that to "under 9000".

If a majority of the NH House of Representatives agrees that government should do no more than protect life, liberty, and property, that would make New Hampshire look very different from the rest of the states, and different than it does today.

It continues to appear that this strategy is realistic, and that there is sufficient interest on the part of the citizens of New Hampshire to support it. I hope those trends continue.

V-

Voting and morality: I'll join you; will you join me?
fsp
varrin
A few friends have posted "Will you join me in committing to vote?" on my wall. As short as the question is, that invitation isn't as simple as it seems. Alas, my answer simply cannot match the brevity of your complex question, so I'll just use lots of words like I usually do.

Amongst philosophically-oriented liberty lovers, there's a significant contingent who see voting itself as immoral. The most important component in their objection is this:

Forcing the outcome of a vote on unwilling participants is immoral.

Whether the mere act of voting in such a non-consensual endeavor is immoral might be more worthy of debate. But I'll just cut to the chase here.

The reality I'm faced with is the same reality all of us here in America are faced with. That thing we know of as "government" does, in fact, exist. It does as it wishes with only trivial opposition. What it wishes for, these days, is increasingly violent against its own citizens and others - both their persons and property. I don't endorse those activities of our governments (local, state, federal, etc.), nor of any other government. Most governments, past and present, behave these wrong ways much of the time.

The fact that our American governments generally feature some elements of democracy is not directly related to the morality of those governments. Non-democratic governments can be just as immoral, often more so. Our ability to vote, however, may give us mere peasants some influence over just how immoral our government can become.

Unfortunately, it seems many Americans actually want more, big, immoral government. I don't. That, in fact, is the primary reason I joined the Free State Project and moved to New Hampshire. I want to work effectively with others who are like-minded towards a society whose government refrains from the immoral activities that go beyond protecting our natural rights to life, liberty and property. Some of us (Free State Project participants) who seek such a society use the ballot box as one of our tools. Some don't due to their moral objection to voting itself.

Here's the problem I see: while the presence (or lack) of votes doesn't change the moral status of government's immoral behaviors, the lack of votes favoring more-moral government virtually assures democratic governments will become less and less moral. If we serfs can discern what things government should not do, voting for more restraint in those areas may reduce the frequency and severity of immoral activity by government.

I should be very clear that casting such a vote is in no way an endorsement of voting itself as a justification for immorality. Rather, I look at it as a form of self-defense. It might not suddenly stop the violence or 'enlighten' the government, but it could reduce the worst of its immorality.

So yes, I'll join you in voting. I'll be voting in favor of more freedom - less immoral government. I hope you will, too.

Now it's my turn to ask you a question in return. Will you join me in opposing the immoral enforcement of the outcome of our vote onto people who don't consent?

V-

Oath Keepers event Thursday the 14th
fsp
varrin
Due to recent events (see my previous post), it may surprise and confuse some that I would write this. It may be further confusing for those who know my general aversion to acting on speculation and protests / rallies. I'd like to make two things clear here: 1) I'm not speaking on behalf of or as a representative of any organization, 2) my intent here is to be mostly informational and limit my opinion statements to the one I make clearly towards the end.

A lot has been said about the baby custody / Oath Keepers story. I have heard much of that but have first-hand knowledge of virtually nothing. According to the Concord Monitor, the newborn baby of Jonathan Irish and Stephanie Taylor was taken into state custody shortly after birth while still in the hospital here in New Hampshire. The DCYF affidavit supporting the taking included many stated reasons, one of which was Irish's association with an organization called "Oath Keepers".

Oath Keepers is an organization which attempts to persuade those serving under an oath to protect the constitution (military, police, etc.) to affirm that they will "not obey unconstitutional (and thus illegal) and immoral orders..." They list several specific orders they won't obey if given with reasons.

The Monitor mentions many other reasons listed in the affidavit. It is unclear to me based on that article how significant the affidavit itself is, and/or whether the listing of Oath Keepers affiliation was actually considered, and to what extent, in the decision to take the child. That said, all reports I've read indicate that affidavit actually did come from the government and actually did list Oath Keepers affiliation as a reason to take the child. In my opinion, that is bad... very bad.

Stewart Rhodes (founder of Oath Keepers) informed me tonight that they are holding a rally on Thursday, the 14th in Dover. Details can be found here. The rally is at the Rochester Family Division Court, 259 County Farm Rd., Dover, NH from 12pm to 4pm. He asked me if I would help spread the word about the rally.

Maybe most importantly, he did what I hoped he would. He zeroed in on the real problem with this case. The real problem with this is not whether the parents are good or even fit parents. They may or may not be totally fit or totally unfit, and the government may or may not have been (otherwise) completely justified in taking the baby (in order to protect its life). I simply don't have enough information to even begin to consider those issues.

The real problem that does appear very clear to me is that the government included political group affiliation as a reason for taking a child from its parents. The inclusion of that in the affidavit is totally inappropriate.

Based on my conversation with Stewart, it is my understanding that this rally will zero in on that specific problem. I share Oath Keepers' strong disapproval of the use of political group affiliation as a reason, even if among other legitimate reasons, for taking children from their parents. Whether the taking was justified or not, I believe the government needs to be made aware that it is not acceptable to list political affiliation as they have apparently done in this case.

If you're the rallying type, this rally may be a good way to express that very concern.

V-

Response to George Donnelly
fsp
varrin

George Donnelly has, over the past two days, engaged in speech and action that is damaging to myself and to the Free State Project. Regrettably, his continued promotion of false information, primarily about me, leads me to publish this response. I am responding principally due to the publication of his blog titled “I Deleted the Free State Project Facebook Page that I Created Because I’m Not Food for Parasites.” That blog has been promoted to Free State Project participants, some of whom may be misled by it. I do not wish for them to be misled, hence this response.

 

In the course of this response, I intend to accomplish the following:

 

1: Identify the false statements Mr. Donnelly makes in his blog post and elsewhere.

 

2: Share other relevant information that may help people decide whether Mr. Donnelly and/or myself are people they would like to associate with.

 

3: Solicit feedback regarding my words and deeds with an aim towards improving my communication and management skills going forward.

 

As I do these three things, I aim to be as truthful as I can possibly be – it is not my intent to falsely represent myself, or Mr. Donnelly. Further, while I hope to sufficiently correct Mr. Donnelly and provide adequate information to those who are considering association with Mr. Donnelly, I neither wish to technically nor in-spirit defame him or commit libel.

 

1: Identify the false statements Mr. Donnelly makes in his blog post and elsewhere.

 

Mr. Donnelly made many false statements in the above referenced blog. Below are responses to some of the false statements. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of false statements from the above listed blog, nor is it an exhaustive list of all of the false statements Mr. Donnelly has made over the last two days.

 

i. “He claimed complete power over the page even though he never contributed to it.” - I did not make this precise claim and would not have made such a claim.

 

First, Facebook owns the facebook website and sets the terms for its use. They, not I, have “complete power” over the page. Second, Facebook's Pages Terms states: “2. You may only administer a Facebook Page if you are an authorized representative of the subject of the Page.” The claim I made was simply that Mr. Donnelly needs to want to make an effort to represent the Free State Project appropriately if he is to be an administrator. I never stated “I have complete power of the page.” Third, while the Free State Project delegates representative authority to me on a day-to-day basis, I have no legitimate authority that is not granted by the Free State Project's Board. It is the Board, not me individually, who has the legitimate authority to authorize people to represent the Free State Project. Finally, the assertion that I never contributed to the page is also both false and contradictory to what I actually said.

 

ii: “Then he threatened to tell Facebook I was not an official representative of the Free State Project.” - This is clearly false and Mr. Donnelly's quote demonstrates this.

 

What I said was that “If you don’t [want to make an effort to represent the Free State Project appropriately], then you’re violating Facebook’s terms by being an admin for an organization you don’t represent.” I was simply stating a fact. I did not threaten to tell Facebook anything and, when falsely accused of doing so, clarified at least twice.

 

First, I was asked to be specific about my assertion of misinformation. In response, in included this: “1: I threatened to tell Facebook that George isn't a representative of the FSP – not true (I *did* copy to George Facebook's terms, which he claims to respect elsewhere, indicating that only representatives of the subject should be admins.)” - Note: I not only refute the assertion, I indicate my reason for doing so. The claims I refer to of George's respect of Facebook's terms were in comments on the now-deleted page. At least once (I think at least twice, but I'm relying on my fallible memory now) he stated that he doesn't want to start a second account to post to the FSP's page because that would violate Facebook's terms.

 

Second, Mr. Donnelly stated: “The real question is whether I can trust you not to go behind my back and get my account deleted.” I responded: “And no, I'm not interested in trying to get you deleted.”

 

Mr. Donnelly has continued to make the false claim that I “threatened to tell Facebook...” despite the fact I did not do so, he has not published any evidence to support his claim, and I (at least) twice clearly indicated I was not making such a threat. I do feel it was important for Mr. Donnelly to know about the terms problem for a variety of reasons.  Most importantly, I believed Mr. Donnelly would simply respect those terms on his own based on prior comments he had made.

 

iii: “Varrin Swearingen and Jason Sorens made me feel like crap because I played a leading role in developing a nice promotional tool for the Free State Project.” - This is also false. First, neither Dr. Sorens nor myself can control Mr. Donnelly's emotions. Second, it is practically impossible for anyone to be absolutely certain of another person's true motive. Third, my stated motive was consistely and repeatedly communicated as ensuring that “Free State Project” doesn't post things inappropriate for the Free State Project to say. For example, “The principle problem here is that the post appears to come from the FSP,” and “It is important to post only appropriate things as an admin.”

 

iv: “Instead of acting with honor, Varrin lied about his threats.” - This is also false. I did not make such a threat and no evidence of such a threat has ever been presented. See ii above.

 

v: “Between a rock and a hard place, and after waiting several hours for Varrin to retract his threats, I finally deleted the page.” - This quote was posted well after I said “I'm not interested in trying to get you deleted.” I wrote that 11 minutes after Mr. Donnelly expressed his concern despite the fact I never actually threatened to do that in the first place.

 

vi: “Varrin alleged publicly that I deleted the threads about this from my Facebook profile.” - This is also not true. What I said was: “Unfortunately I no longer have all of the factual information regarding our exchanges due to the page deletion and George's removal of me from his friends list (and maybe deletion of posts on his wall, too?).” That was a question, not an allegation. The links to those threads in my history now go to blank places and due to my lack of access to Mr. Donnelly's wall, I have no way of directly observing whether those threads still exist or not.

 

2: Share other relevant information that may help people decide whether Mr. Donnelly and/or myself are people they would like to associate with.

 

i: Mr. Donnelly appears to me to have a very low regard for truth. This is demonstrated above and this point does not need to be repeated.

 

ii: Mr. Donnelly appears to me to have a low regard for communication etiquette. He demonstrates this repeatedly by publicly copying emails to him without permission from the authors, and by publicizing conflict.

 

iii: Mr. Donnelly appears to me to be disinterested in resolving conflict. Rather, he appears interested in perpetuating it. He demonstrates this in his refusal to talk on the phone to work on resolving this conflict after being both publicly and privately invited to do so. He further demonstrates this by continuing the conflict with his blog post well after taking the action he felt necessary to resolve the problem (deleting the Free State Project Facebook page).

 

iv: Mr. Donnelly appears to me to be interested in defaming people in response to conflict. In this case, he demonstrates this by by calling me a liar, and calling into question my trustworthiness. He did so even though I clearly did not lie in the ways he states, my record of trustworthiness is reasonably well established, and I took no actions in this case which could clearly be characterized as untrustworthy. As he was doing these things, Mr. Donnelly made numerous false statements and demonstrated his own untrustworthiness by publicly copying non-public emails, ignoring reasonable requests, responding to constructive criticism with hostility, refusing to work to resolve conflict, and ultimately destroying the Free State Project Facebook page.

 

There are many more things I could say, but I feel these things should be sufficient to help interested parties decide whether Mr. Donnelly is reasonable, trustworthy, or honest.

 

3: Solicit feedback regarding my words and deeds with an aim towards improving my communication and management skills going forward.

 

I do not pretend to be perfect. I do put forth my best effort to do whatever I do as excellently as I can. I do not always meet my own expectations, nor do I always meet the expectations of others.

 

It is not my intent to please everyone. That simply can't be done. It is, however, my intent to be the best I can be. I suspect some people who have observed the interactions between Mr. Donnelly and myself may have useful, constructive criticism to offer me. I welcome that useful, constructive criticism and hope it would be provided in a reasonable fashion. I would best accept that via email to me at my personal email address and/or president at freestateproject dot org.

 

Thank you in advance for your suggestions on how to better handle difficult situations such as these.

 

V-

 

 Addendum:

George,

Based on subsequent comments by yourself and others, I would like to provide an addendum to my response. 

I'm sorry you feel like I threatened you in the way you state.  I have tried to explain that I didn't actually threaten you, I didn't intend to threaten you, and after being alerted to your lack of trust, made it clear that I wasn't interested in doing what you thought I was threatening to do.  I did all of these things *before* you deleted the page and the record of those things is clear and well-documented.  If I somehow failed to make it clear that I wasn't threatening to report you and/or persuade Facebook to delete you, I apologize for that lack of clarity. 

I have outlined in my response my reason for citing Facebook's terms:  You had already repeatedly cited them yourself as your *reason* for not wanting to start a second account to post things to the Free State Project Facebook page as yourself.  Therefore, it appeared to me that you respected Facebook's terms.  I intended to appeal to your respect for Facebook's terms, not to threaten to attempt to persuade Facebook to enforce their terms.  I intended to do the former and not the latter and stand by both of those.

However, I'm truly sorry if my communication to you about all of that was not clear enough.

For the record, I'd like to publicly apologize for two more things:

1:  I should not have recommended starting a second account.  When I did so, I was not thinking about that being in violation of Facebook's terms.  Thank you for pointing that out to me and for encouraging me to put forth effort to respecting Facebook's terms.  My suggestion was clearly inappropriate, I subsequently corrected it (as has already been documented), and I do apologize for it.

2:  I apologize for using the term "nuclear option."  I intended that phrase, in the context, to be a short and hopefully mildly humorous (even if sarcastic) phrase meaning: "Varrin files some form of report to Facebook indicating inappropriate content which may result in George's account deletion."  That was poor judgment on my part under the circumstances.  If there was any "nuclear option", it was deleting the Free State Project Facebook page.  You actually did that.  I still think, under the circumstances, it would be poor judgment to call it that, so I'll do my best to refrain from calling it that.

V-

Edit: added addendum 10-11-10 12:29L


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