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Bad News from South Dakota

Paul Marks puts on his kevlar battle-bowler and sticks his head above the ramparts to criticize the Libertarian Party for its role in… helping statism! Now duck, Paul!

Both the proposition to legalise the growing of hemp (rather than importing hemp products from Canada) and the proposition to put ‘jury nullification’ (i.e. returning to the traditional practice of juries judging both fact and LAW) into the South Dakota Constitution have voted down.

One of the main reasons these propositions were voted down seems to be that they were associated with the Libertarian Party (which is seen, rightly or wrongly, to be a bunch of freaks).

The Republicans have failed to gain the South Dakota seat by 500 votes.

And the Libertarian Party (with its normal 1 percent or so of the vote) has cost the Republican party the Governorships of Alabama and Tennessee.

This will mean (for example) that Tennessee will now get a State Income Tax (the Republican was a very good man – utterly opposed to a State income tax).

True the L.P. failed to prevent the Republicans retaking the Senate (despite a very big effort to defeat a good man in New Hampshire – Sununu managed to beat the Democrats and their de facto allies the Libertarian Party).

However, this can go on. The Libertarian Party people must understand that their work simply helps expand government (see the Tennessee example above). If Libertarian Party people do not think that the Republican party is free market enough (and I agree with them that the Republican Party is not free market enough) then they should join the “Republican Liberty Caucus” and make the Republican party more free market. If the Republicans had backed the two pro-freedom propositions in South Dakota they might well have passed.

The energy of Libertarian Party activists is helping statism. The Libertarian Party takes just enough votes to cost the Republicans close elections and the statement “the Libertarian Party backs X proposition” is enough to defeat that proposition.

This is madness, please stop it.

Paul Marks

33 comments to Bad News from South Dakota

  • Michael

    I’ll start voting Republican when Republicans start
    voting like Congressman Ron Paul (Texas). In the
    mean time, voting Republican simply says “We approve
    of the way Republicans are using the constition as
    toilet paper” versus “We approve of the way Democrats are
    using the constitution as toilet paper”.

    There is NO difference between the Democrats
    and Republicans. They both want to take my rights and
    money, or kill me trying. Proof: Increases in laws,
    regulations, and budget under a Republican controlled

  • Whilst what Paul says may be true, the trouble with voting Republican even though it has the likes of Ashcroft trashing civil liberties and Bush imposing trade barriers (to name but two of many sins) is that if the statists in the Elephant Party know they can just take libertarian votes for granted regardless of the statist crap they support, what motivation would they have to actually try and woo libertarians by adopting genuine libertarian policies?

    Yet the prospect of disgruntled libertarians killing them in tightly contested seat actually might induce the philosophically disinterested policy wonks who care about nothing other than how to maintain power (i.e. 75% of the people who work for any political party) to take libertarian opinions seriously. It is a quandary for sure.

  • One thing – it seems as though the governorship of Alabama is still up in the air, although Bob Riley (the Republican) is looking more like the winner. It’s hinging on what the outcome of some possible irregularities in Baldwin County turns out to be.

  • The Libertarian Party in America is a bunch of freaks — or at a minimum, has more than its fair share of them.

    I listened to a radio debate with the candidates for California Lieutenant Governor, and the Libertarian candidates key issue was — wait for it —- legalizing the possession of ferrets.

    Yeah, the little rodents.



  • Until all of the states in the U.S. adopt democratic voting reform, the Libertarian Party will work against its own interests, and in the long run, die. I recommend visiting Election Methods for an overview of the problem with plurality/first-past-the-post voting and better alternatives. I also have a piece on one of my web sites entitled “Why I left the Libertarian Party…” which discusses voting reform.

  • RK Jones

    The first problem with this post is the assertion that the former Gov. of Tennessee is utterly opposed to a state income tax. While it is correct that he originally ran for election with that view, he had some sort of epiphany after the election and has been attempting to ram one through the state house for better than two years. Sundquist has been lambasted by taxpayers groups in TN almost constantly, including a protest where citizens surrounded the capitol building with their cars and sounded their horns.

    As for the Republican Liberty Caucus, it has from the beginning been little more than a sham designed to lure back the libertarian wing of the party. J.D. Hayworth is a long time member, whose main claim to fame was sponsoring the anti-flag burning amendment several years ago.


  • Dale Amon

    If the Republicans borrowed Saddams ballot for an election, I’d vote NO.

    I’ve never voted for a Republican and doubt that I ever will. I went from registered Democrat to registered Libertarian in 1978 and never looked back.

    I look at our ability to cause great pain to Republicans as good news. It means our 1% has enormous clout. They have to look at our proposals and decided which ones they will have to adopt in order to keep us from taking too many votes away.

    If you join them, you are nothing. One more internal fringe group they can ignore with impunity.

  • I am always pleased when the libertarians infuriate the odd elephant or two, besides kicking the occaisional jackass in the butt.

    As a tranplanted brit to the US I am not amused by the GOP assumption that it can ignore libertarianism. If the GOP ignores libertarians then the price will be some interim statism. So what.

    By marginalising contests for the GOP, the long term effect will be more suitable policy choices for libertarian voters, and libertarian conservatives too, who might cast the odd nod in the GOP direction. In short the GOP will need to earn more libertarian support with some worthwhile policy changes.

    My wife did her stint as an election inspector at our local polling station keeping the urge to Floridize the poll at bay. Yes, we can tell you that there are libertarian voters, even in darkest Brooklyn. The infection is spreading like or lump it!

    This is no chance that the libertarians will disappear from the scene. Sure there are freaks in the fold but they attract publicity the oxygen of politics.

    On a more serious note, I fully expect the GOP to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as they did with the great contract nonsense. There is a need to prevent an outbreak of niceness and bipartisanship now the Elephants have the floor. The margins of politics are moving into libertarian hands where the debate should be. Paul Marks shouldn’t be too worried about that.

  • JUlian Morrison

    Maybe the “libertarian party” ought to realize that it’s an oxmoron. Leave politics to the only people allowed to win – the career politicians – disband the “party” and get back to changing minds.

    Don’t vote for anyone, least of all “conservatives”. Voting just encourages them.

  • Fred Boness

    In Wisconsin the Libertarian Party fielded the unimpressive, inexperienced brother of the previous Republican governor Tommy Thompson.

    There was no chance he would win. A vote for him was an ineffectual protest (I’m voting but, I’m not really voting) no different from sayng “Not in my name.”

  • Bear, the (one each

    I’ve been registered as a Libertarian since about 1975 (formerly a Dem), but I will soon be either non-affiliated, or GOP. The national LP has become nothing more, really, than a cult of personality for the Harry Browne crowd, and after reading convention coverage in Liberty I realize the movers and shakers of the party have their heads up their collective asses just as far as any other party. The Howard Philips-type parties are out of the question because I am not a Christian. Really, I have nowhere to go.

  • Responding to the earlier comment on this post from Paul Hager, who says: “I also have a piece on one of my web sites entitled “Why I left the Libertarian Party…” which discusses voting reform.”

    As a bemused witness to his departure from the LP, let me break down the reality of his exit just briefly for your entertainment:

    Having been our largely inactive candidate (by his own description) for US Senate against Dick Lugar in Y2K, he came back this spring seeking the nomination for our critical top of the ballot nomination for secretary of state.

    He was pushing some cockamamie multiple-vote scheme as the issue that he wanted as his campaign centerpiece. This plan may have intellectual merit (or not). It would be great to talk about at the college coffee shop. It would be nothing but gobbledygook in an election campaign, however, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the position he was seeking. Note that getting at least 2% in this specific race is the qualification for ballot status for the whole state party.

    When he lost this nomination he staged a little drama queen moment, asking to speak to the convention even before the woman (the beautiful and hard working Rebecca Sink-Burris) who actually won. He used the opportunity to tell us all that we’re a bunch of losers, and that he would unfortunately have to destroy us. Then he dramatically removed his LP ID badge, and walked directly off the podium and out of the building.

    I was laughing my ass off watching this sore loser from the back of the room. Whatever “flake” factor we have in the Indiana party went down by one.

    And if he plans on hurting us, he’s going to have to work a LOT harder than he did when he was with us.

  • Yeah, yeah, yeah,…

    I very doubt that I would be involved much in politics outside of going to the polls, holding my nose and voting for the “least worst” candidates if it weren’t for the Libertarian Party.

    Part of it is an emotional thing. I have an attachment to the party and the people in it. I know that despite any intra-party bickering I’ll always know that for the most part, I’m on the same page as everyone else in the party.

    Part of it is that I dislike the excess of “Professionals” amongst the D’s and R’s. Far too many of our elected officials have politics as a career. I will concede that the LP has the opposite problem in places, not enough professionalism. But I belive the LP’s shortcomings are less overwhelming than trying to break up the hold of the pros in the major parties.

    Finally. We aren’t going away no matter how much you whine.

    This year in Maine, we had a possible candidate for Governor, a Republican convinced him not to run. We now have a Democrat as the incoming Governor, and we missed out on all the pubicity and party building benefits of running a candidate for Governor.

    So pardon me if I don’t shed any tears for the G.O.P. in Tennessee.

    Now you can blame the loss of Hemp and FIJA referrenda on its association with the LP. But they aren’t exactly “hot button” issues with people to begin with.

    But remember the Income Tax repeal question in Mass. Only the LP could put it on the ballot, only the LP could champion it. And judging from what I’ve read and heard form the Boston media, it did not suffer due to its association with the LP.

    The Libertarian Party isn’t going away. Crying about how we “steal” votes (funny, I thought the votes “belonged” to the voters), isn’t going to help.

  • Aaron Armitage

    Paul Marks;



    There’s plenty of difference. In my state, we are now saddled with a Democrat attorney general who has said she’ll persecute pregancy centers that don’t offer abortions. They’re “phoney”, she says. Even if you’re so inconsistent a libertarian that you support the legalized murder of babies, these centers are purely voluntary: every penny comes from donations, no one has to go to any of them, and no one has to work there. I saw a ranking of our Congressmen’s and Senators’ voting records by a gay group. Their endorsed votes expand the powers of government, by forcing private employers to hire gays, ect. The lesson: conservative Republicans are more libertarian than Democtrats, even on social issues.


    I don’t know how it works in England, but in America the parties are open to influence in ways other than just voting. Even though they’re private associations, by law their candidates are elected by the voters, who have to do nothing more than ask for that party’s primary ballot. But candidates aren’t the only ones elected in primaries: precinct committeemen are too. Ultimately committeemen control the whole party, and it’s not that hard to become one.

    RK Jones;

    He was talking about the Republican candidate, not the governor.

  • I apologize for the awful grammar in my earlier post.

    I really need to proofread these things before sending them out…

  • Aaron Armitage

    Micheal should be Michael.

  • Andy

    The problem definitely lies with the Libertarian Party (capital L), not with libertarians (I am a small “l” libertarian that voted almost straight ticket Republican here in CA). The LP is a fringe band of nuts and lunatics that unfortunately distract from the good message that they should have. The nut in South Dakota is a painful example of this. See this bit for the story. Normal libertarians will never be able to get any sort of message across with “messengers” that are like this.

  • bonsaidave

    We do sometimes cause Republicans to loose an important race, and sometimes things like control of the US Senate, or the Colorado state Senate. And we were a whisker from doing to Bush what Nader actually did to Gore. Though we all have problems with Bush, I am glad to let Nader win that perverse contest.
    Democrats used to be more civil-libertarian, more anti-war, and less the drug warrior…where is the sense today in saying the Republicans are just as bad?
    Republicans are so clearly better in most regulatory affairs, and economists are now suggesting that the majority of the bad that government does here at home is in this area….For example…since 1962 the FDA has been requiring new drugs prove efficacy and they have thereby reduced the production of new products by about 60%. We are talking loss of life in the millions here. Bush has just apointed an economist to head the FDA for the first time and there is real hope for reform. His job would be ten times harder if the spector of Senator Kennedy and some McCarthite hearings were awaiting the next drug approval that ends up with complications.
    So the political options of a libertarian may be divided into 3 broad areas:
    1. Join the gigantic Republican army and try to get some leverage from within it…
    2. Keep our spoiler role, hoping to pressure the R’s (so they won’t find us spoiling them too often) and accept the fact we’ll sometimes produce a Gore victory…
    3. Forget about the party quandry and get all our energy into think tanks, special issue advocacy, and other indirect ways to effect the policy landscape.
    Because BOTH options 1. and 2. will undoubtedly be helping put some questionable politicians in power from time to time, the first attractive answer would seem to be #3. Who would suggest that the people behind the CATO Institute should have kept working the LP instead?
    We seldom talk much about branding our product. The LP’s first years got the word Libertarian on the political map and was thereby a massive success— because discussions with thoughtful people could start on a much higher plane. I remember feeling greatful to the Koch’s and Ed Crane and Ed Clark.
    Nowdays libertarian campaigns often do more to sully our brand than to build it. Our senatorial candidate in Colorado got major coverage of his notion that a few more guns was all he needed to win. The reporter was amused to accompany him to the gun store and see him turned down because his driver’s license had expired. We all have stories like this. The activities of the LP constantly reinforce notions that we are often kooky and always unrealistic dreamers seeking victory and getting 3%.
    Perhaps instead of being horrified that we almost produced a Gore presidency, we should think about how to use said leverage wisely. Years ago I was in a campaign where the Democrats funneled us a lot of money and it got them a US Senator. Why can’t we be going to major Democratic givers and asking for serious money regularly? Spending bad monies on good projects counts twice, I think. Who whould be shocked to find that some republicans gave serious money to Nader? Probably the best money they ever spent. We just saw well over $10 million spent on a senate seat that was expected to be down to the wire. It would have made sense for the Dem’s to give a few hundred thousand to the LP candidate, and if they could help write the ads, possibly a few hundred thousand. But would it have been worth it if it gave the Senate to the Dem’s?
    With quandries like that, why not just get serious about option 3 and find a specific policy area in which to work for freedom? Suggestion: we may never again have an economist at the FDA, we may never again have a time when patient groups and producer groups have a real chance to break thorough the maze of regulatory think and paternalism we face. If the drugs we have gotten in the last 40 years have extended lifespan about 3 years, the drugs we are missing would have done about as much. If you are into giving libertarian speeches, and are tired of luke warm responses at the Rotary….try speaking to a patients goup, (there are 10,000 of them) where everyone in the room has a vested interest in more new drugs and lower prices for the current ones. I just had a very liberal IRS attorny come up and ask how he can help get the FDA out of the way! Look at FDAreview.org or contact me at PatientsProgress@aol.com if you want to help.


  • Paul Marks.

    First On Tennessee – I was talking about the person who was the Republican Gov. candidate not the ex Reublican Gov. (that is the point about primary elections – make sure you get a decent Republican).

    However, (and now I have to eat humble pie) the one state I could get no voting stats on was Massachusetts and so (of course) this is the State wher the L.P. actually did quite well.

    19% of the vote for the Senate is a solid result (although, I am told, no Republican was actually running), but 47% for the abolish the State income tax prop is ASTONISHING.

    I would never have thought that a prop backed by the L.P. could get so near to victory.

    I still think that libertarians should work to make the Republican party more free market – but I can not pretend that, in Massachsetts anyway, the L.P. is just helping statism.

    Paul Marks.

  • David Carr

    Go and have a look at the Angry Dems to see how many Democrat voters claim to be switching their allegiance to ‘Greens, Libertarians or Communists’ in the next election.

    If I was an American libertarian, I would be just a tad concerned about the company I was keeping. Or rather, about the company that was now keeping me.

  • JSinAZ

    I’ve been a registered Libertarian in the state of Arizona (USA) for more than twenty years, and unfortunately it is clear that there is a high percentage of loopyness in our party (even without the freshly converted). Even so, it wasn’t until the Clinton era that I actually voted for a Republican candidate.

    This last election I voted almost a straight Republican ticket. Aside from notable examples such as our own Manchurian candidate Senator John McCain, Arizona Republicans tend to favor basic Libertarian principles. There are certainly examples of AZ Republicans supporting legislation that is antithetical to freedom and liberty, but compared to the local breed of Democrat the choice for me is clear.

    Perhaps in locales such as New York or Rhode Island, I wouldn’t feel that my vote-defection was worthwhile- it does seem that there isn’t a dimes’ worth of difference between the majority parties in those states, at least to an observer across the country. But were I a resident of New York State, voting against vile Hillary Clinton would be an absolute priority.

  • I have two questions:

    1) How did the Radical Left capture the leadership of the Democratic Party?

    2) Can small-l libertarians launch a similar campaign within the Republican Party?

  • RK Jones

    Sorry Paul, I engaged my fingers before my brain. I simply love attacking Republicans who raise taxes. How I loathe them..


  • Russ Goble

    My wife and I briefly flirted with the Libertarian Party (I even voted Brown in 2000), but have concluded they really aren’t worth our time for the most part. I agree that the Republicans should pay more heed to the libertarian message, but the LP is simply not a good place to hear that message. The LP has no concept of governing. They are all principle with no pragmatism. Principle is nice, but the LP is so obsessed with being ideologically consistent they appear totally out of touch with reality. I believe their policy towards Afghanstan was that we can and should attack out of self defense, but we should not rebuild or give foreign aid to a post-Taliban Afghanistan. So, they are consistent in that they believe the U.S. does have the right to defend itself and they are likewise consistent in their hate of ANY foreign aid. But, that is just stupid. It is in our best interest to foster a self-reliant and stable afghanistan (and preferably democratic). Is it interventionist? Hell yes. It’s also the right thing to do. Or at least it’s the best option available, principles be damned. It’s called governing.

    Long story short, the LP is no different than the Naderites, communists, and other political entities that have all sorts of utopian principles, but have no concept of governing. Unfortunately, the Republicans are the only horse worth betting on. Is a lesser evil way of looking at things? You bet. But, it’s also the right way to go in 2002. LIke anything, things will change and this isn’t a permanent political arrangement. But, right now, it’s the way to go.

    And yes, the Tennessee Republican candidate was pro-income tax and that’s what sank him.

  • Russ Goble

    A couple of Libertarian sidenotes. Here in Georgia (your home for the 2002 political earthquake), we had an odd situation where Libertarians were actually costing Democrats state seats.

    Here’s how it worked. You needed to get 50% of the vote to win or you’d face a runnoff. So the Democrat would get 49%, the Republican would get 48%, the Libertarian would pull in 3%. So, you’d go to a runnoff of the top 2 and the people who voted Libertarian tended to vote Republican. SO, the Republican would win.

    THis happened in several Senate campains (Coverdale’s being the most recent) so the Democrats who controlled every aspect of the state government changed the rules. THey made it to where you had to get 48% of the vote to avoid a runnoff. Cute huh? It’s that type of pure power politics that I think finally wore thin on Georgia voters.

    One other gripe about the LP. Sure, the drug war is stupid and mariauna should be legalized, but that’s not a campaign policy that has legs. Until the LP start focusing entirely on their economic and civil-liberties platform (outside of drugs), they will continue to lack any appeal to Joe Six-pack.

    I remember Bill Maher (of Politically Incorrect) saying he was Libertarian because he thought drugs should be legalized. Never mind he was a typical Hollywood socialist in every aspect, he was just ignorant enough to think the Libertarians were actually just Democrats who wanted to legalize pot.

    The LP has a message problem that they don’t seem to want to fix. Legalizing ferrets (like in the a post above)? Come on.

    I’m with several pundits who have said this: The Republicans won because they seemed like the more serious party for our times.

    There really is a desire for a 3rd party in this country, but there simply are no viable options. It’s too bad.

  • Dale Amon

    I don’t know why it is so many people assume Libertarians are just radical Republicans. T’ain’t so. We’re completely different. If you took my position on the Nolan diamond chart and squashed it flat to get rid of the LP, I’d be stuck solidly on the Democrat’s side. Not that I’d be at all happy there, only that I’d be very much less unhappy than I’d be on the Republican side. Admittedly, there might be a rare occassion when I’d get drunk, hold my nose, X one on my absentee ballott, send it off and then get really drunk to forget what I’d done.

    So Paul, if you magically got your wish, you’d be adding me to the Democrat’s vote tally. Is that what you want? I guarantee you I would not be alone. You’d probably put about half of the currently registered LP members into the Democrat’s ranks.

    To paraphrase the old pledge: “I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Republican Party”.

  • Eric the .5b

    Yes, the LP is full of nuts and crooks like Harry Browne. I don’t think they’re an attractive party. However, I don’t see any major reasons why I should find the Republicans any more ideologically attractive than the Democrats. I voted for some Republicans this time because they’re more likely to prosecute the war. Period.

    Republicans anywhere near power don’t care about libertarianism or even the “smaller government” cause in general. In a heartbeat, they’ll switch from, for example, saying they’ll abolish the Department of Education to saying they’ll boost its funding and control over public schools. In their best, absolutely most shining moments, they increase government at a slightly slower rate than the Democrats.

    …And if the LP’s backing of the Massachusett’s proposition to eliminate the income tax “killed” it when not a single Republican politician there backed it, I have to wonder whether it’s better for such a proposition to be studiously ignored by the media and still get 45% of the vote (this time) – or just never come up for vote.

  • Eric the .5b

    I’d like a functional libertarian party as a real factor in US politics. I’d even settle for something as simple as a secular, socially tolerant, small-government, conservative party. We have neither.

    I don’t know that the Republican party could fill either of those roles, but it might be able to manage the second, and get a lot more libertarian support, if Republicans do a few things.

    What things?

    1. Pick some politicians who both suggest something like eliminating (or, hell, at least cutting) government programs and actually do eliminate (or cut) the targeted programs.
    2. Drop the bigots and theocrats. GWB did this in fine form shortly after 9/11, but the party as a whole needs to do this, with all forms of bigotry. Drop the gay-baiting (even if the Dems do it, to), the xenophobia, and the sneering at any non-Christian religion viewpoint.
    3. Stop supporting companies and business sectors and support free enterprise. Kill subsidies, don’t increase them. Remove or decentralize regulation.
    4. Look into federalism. Look into the roles of public vs. private action. Stop adding functions to government and stop moving those functions to higher levels of government.

    However, these things won’t happen even if every libertarian in the US were to join if they did.

    1. You can’t dangle pork in front of your voters by shrinking government.
    2. You can’t squeeze interest groups for money if you remove the spectre of government intrusion in their businesses and lives.
    3. Third, you lose the votes of the bigots and theocrats if you move towards tolerance and liberty.

    So… Why were you asking us to try for more of the same, again?

  • JSinAZ

    I agree whole-heartedly with the proposition that there is a Republican instinct is to limit freedom in a most self-serving way, and to hypocritically abrogate state laws that do not fit within their concept of ‘social conservatism’. And there are large segments of the Republican constituency that are religiously motivated, something I cannot help but to view with suspicion. These are some of the reasons that I could not bring myself to vote for them (or even to say nice things about them) for the first three-quarters of my life.

    And these are the reasons I feel so uncomfortable defending Republicans or even suggesting that they constitute in a general way a better electoral ‘choice’ than Democrats.

    However, let me suggest a few concrete examples of the freedoms the Republicans have helped secure locally: in my state, they have created laws that allow me to exercise my right of self-defense (through both concealed and open-carry weapons laws); the Republicans in the my state and the U.S. congress changed tax laws to let me keep more of my money; our current Republican president has been steadfast in his prosecution of our foreign enemies.

    In contrast, the Democrats are fundamentally despicable on every count: they happily legislate away all freedoms in the cause of statism; they heap abuse on those who wish to keep more of their own money; as Clinton proved, they jettison every ‘ideal’ they profess to hold in order to get elected and stay in power; and lastly, they are flaccid and inept when it comes the prosecution of armed conflict.

    By what measure can one say the Democrats are more likely to act to preserve our liberty and freedom?

  • A brief response to Al Barger.

    I think Al may still be miffed that I beat him for the Senate nomination in 2000. In any case, the “cockamamie” alternative voting system, as well as other alternatives, can be found by following the links I provided.

    It is true that the Indiana LP retained ballot access. But they did it by finally finding a relevant issue relating to the office: redistricting. Voting reform – the issue I was pushing – was also relevant.

    The question is for the Libertarian Party is, will it continue to function as at best a spoiler, or will it try to change the system so that it has a chance to influence policy and eventually govern? It does appear that at the national level there has been some recognition that voting reform is central to future success for the party. The national LP did endorse reform after I left — though the voting reform proposed is only a slight improvement over the present system. It’s a step in the direction of rationality…

  • I beg your indulgence for an additional post. Jay Manifold offers the following link dealing with voting science and social choice found in Science News,

    Are we using the worst voting procedure?
    . You’ll see a reference to approval voting and Stephen Brams. “Cockamamie”, indeed…

  • Dale Amon

    Say hello to Jay for me. I know him from the commercial space community.

  • Eric the .5b

    The Democrats aren’t any better, no. But, except for the narrow issue of the war, I don’t think they’re any worse.