International House of Propaganda
In what looked like a sincere but probably fruitless attempt to gain support among Butte County Libertarians, Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, spent two hours Thursday, March 17, addressing about 13 Libs in the annex room of Chico’s International House of Pancakes.
The meeting was cordial and confrontational by turns, with the assemblyman taking sometimes heated questions relating to illegal immigration, drug prohibition and the inner workings of government.
LaMalfa started off talking about redistricting, but the conversation quickly turned to prison reform and drug prohibition. When asked if anyone in the Legislature had the “political courage” to change the state’s drug laws in order to unburden the state’s $6 billion prison system, LaMalfa said he didn’t think legalizing drugs was the answer.
“There are a lot of ways to attack the prison problem,” he said. “Do [criminals] need a Cadillac prison? When I grew up they told me it was going to be bread and water—that scared me. [Prison] is pretty attractive to people that haven’t got a high school diploma. There are too many rights we give to these people.”
Addressing a more common goal of Libs and Repubs, the penetration of our nation’s borders by hordes of dark-skinned young men willing to do hard and dirty work for pennies on the dollar, LaMalfa implied that we should look to the Middle East to solve our immigration woes.
“I had the opportunity to see Israel’s security fence. That’s a 22-foot-tall concrete wall. There’s no way anyone’s getting in there,” he said. “If we want to get real about it, we need to put things in place that will keep our borders secure. [Illegal immigration] is a huge burden. We need to have the courage in the Legislature to say, ‘We need to patrol our borders.’ It’s like patrolling your property line at home. It’s not racist, it’s not hateful. We have a proper way of doing things in this country.”
The PATRIOT Act came up soon thereafter, with LaMalfa offering that “There’s probably some flaws in the way the PATRIOT Act was fleshed out, but something had to be done.”
The implication was that it was difficult for the Republicans, who currently control the federal government, to get much done because the hated Democrats were obstructing the people’s business.
“It’s tough for Bush because he’s been bottled up by the Democrats,” LaMalfa said.
At this point that an older man who had been sitting quietly in a booth to the right of LaMalfa shook his head in apparent frustration.
“No, no, that doesn’t matter,” he blurted out. “What it is is, the Illuminati or the shadow government or whatever you want to call it. They dictate to Bush what to do. This has been going on for 80 years—I’ve got proof! They want socialism, they want one-world government, they don’t want borders. That’s the plan, and nobody’s going to stop them.”
After a second or two of awkward silence, another Lib jumped in and asked LaMalfa what he thought about Arnold Schwarzenegger, and with that the Illuminati question was conveniently forgotten.
“Arnie’s got a little more of a greener streak than I would like,” LaMalfa resumed, although he noted that he is in favor of most of the governor’s proposals. This somehow led to a discussion about multiculturalism, which LaMalfa said there was nothing wrong with in principle, but that we need to focus on “our American culture, our family culture.”
“We need to not spend so much time wondering what color or what gender we are. It’s a disservice to everybody. I was raised to be colorblind.”
The conspiracy guy seconded that, nodding his head fervently and declaring, “They want us to be global citizens!”
Somehow the topic then turned to energy use, with LaMalfa saying that solar energy is too expensive to solve California’s power needs and that more dams and nuclear power plants are a better solution.
(Reporter’s admission: My mind trailed off at that point, as witnessed by an interlude in my notes, which read “Is this going to go on forever? My God… If I were a rat in a glue trap I’d have gnawed my foot off by now.")
At that point, the energy in the room was in a lull, until a 24-year-old Lib sitting next to me asked LaMalfa, in a roundabout way, about the recent federal proposal to eliminate farm subsidies. The small crowd “oohed” and chuckled, knowing that LaMalfa’s family has received somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million in federal rice subsidies over the past decade.
But LaMalfa kept his cool, saying that because many other countries don’t have the environmental and labor laws we do, the international commodities market is unfair to American farmers.
“If we sold on the open market we’d lose every time,” he said. “Subsidies keep us in the black.”
The conversation, which had by this time gone on for almost two hours, soon devolved into a vague discussion on the merits and pitfalls of free trade. With the sign from the Wal-Mart across the street glowing red through the plate glass window behind him, LaMalfa said, “I don’t know why we buy so much from China. They still have missiles pointed at us.”
Soon after, an audience member motioned that the discussion had gone on long enough and a Lib organizer thanked LaMalfa for speaking to the group. He was presented with a white T-shirt on which the letters “IRS” were printed in black, bold ink with a giant red screw framing them. As he held it up proud, the Libs took pictures and gathered up their dinner checks.
In a follow-up phone call the next day from the News & Review, Butte County Libertarian Party Chairman Casey Aplanalp gave the assemblyman props for showing up and speaking to such a feisty audience. But he also said he wouldn’t be voting for LaMalfa in the future.
“He’s kind of a statist," Aplanalp said.