Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Funny Expressions

An expression that has made my mind wander in thought lately is one I often use to describe someone venturing into something new where the consequences and troubles are not yet known.

"It's the pioneers that take the arrows."

The funny part about this statement is that while the pioneers take the arrows, it's those that come after the pioneers who no longer have to take the arrows because apparently the arrow slinging folk either are out of arrows or are all dead...or have since opened casinos.

Maybe "trailblazing" is a better term.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Security Moms and Black Helicopters

Recently I had a discussion with a group of libertarians that was for me very frustrating. In the case of many in the conversation it was clear that their isolation from reality had led to what I call the "Dungeons and Dragons view of politics." In this group a sub-discussion had broken out about whether Ron Paul was a libertarian or merely a paleoconservative.

Even after this more discussions broke out with each person involved announcing what particular subsidiary of libertine thought of which they considered themselves a part. In other words some were Orcs, some were Rogues, and still others Paladins. These discussions can often be normals in certain circles of libertarians. But much like D&D weirdos all I can do is restrain myself from starting a punchfest. Now I know how my dad felt when he talked to John Birchers.

The New York Times magazine is doing a piece this Sunday on Ron Paul of which most I've already read in advance. It paints a view that Ron's supporters are basically a loosely organized group of the people and views I described in the previous paragraph. Whackos. Fringe.

I'm in partial agreement with this notion of the whacko support but this oversimplification is even a stretch for the New York Times. Like all groups of Americans, they are more complex than they appear and with Ron Paul's supporters it goes far beyond Federal Reserve conspiracies, black helicopters, and one world government.

That said, it really bothers me what is considered mainstream thought among "normal" citizens when it comes to political thought. I remember during the 2004 race when "security moms" were seen as a segment society that both Bush and Kerry had to win. It was seen as important and normal for both of these candidates to use rhetoric to simply make these "security moms" feel better. Whoever had the plan that made them feel secure would get their vote.

So while there are real problems in this country that need to be discussed, it's the "whackos" that dare to address them while the "normal" citizens simply want to feel secure.

Whacko subjects:

Sound Money
Unmanageable domestic obligations (entitlements)
Unfairness of the Income Tax
International military intervention
The failed war on drugs

Normal Subjects:

Flag burning
Minimum wage
Which government managed health care plan is best?
Are you pro-choice or pro-life?
Same sex marriage

You'll notice that in large part the "normal subjects" are matters that don't impact the average person's life but are instead simple enough for everyone to have an opinion. These subjects serve as distractions and enrage your everyday sensibilities. They know you care deeply about these subjects personally so they'll talk about them even though these politicians can do little to make a substantive difference regarding them.

This coming year politicians will be spending millions of dollars doing polling to find out what angers you, scares you, or makes you feel insecure so they will know how to scare you with ghost stories about their opponent. While all this is going on, the whackos will be discussing real political subjects between games of D&D and World of Warcraft.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My favorite drifter

A year ago I got off my motorcycle and was getting ready to go into a grocery store when I was approached by a drifter. This drifter was in his early 20's and was soft spoken and had what seemed like a pretty gentle spirit.

"Can you help me?" he asked. I asked him what he needed help with. I'm not against helping anyone in need.

"My girlfriend and I are homeless and she's sick." A reasonable enough request really though you'll have to pardon me, I'm a bit of a skeptic.

I asked him where his girlfriend was and he told me they were staying in a motel off of Highway 99. The next thing I wanted to know was what was wrong with her.

"Uh, I don't know." He replied. This was not the answer I was looking for but one I half expected.

So I spoke plainly to him:

"Look dude, maybe I can help you but you have to cut the bullshit for a minute, okay?" He nodded and said he would.

He then told me that he and his girlfriend were homeless and had a lot of problems and all he needed was cash. I asked him if he planned to buy drugs with it. He said he did not do drugs. I told him it was too bad because I had some and was willing to give them to him. (a complete lie) He then sounded interested all of a sudden. So while I had his attention I gave him some advice.

I told him that I had problems and I had money. I asked him why my problems hadn't gone away...after all I had a bank account. He thought about it and said "I guess everyone has problems."

I told him I wasn't going to give him money because it wouldn't solve his problems and it wouldn't solve mine. He then stood there waiting for me to give him drugs (that I didn't have) and I finally said, "You're not getting any drugs either, not from me." He respectfully walked away and thanked me for my time. This man was probably the coolest transient I've met.

Just last week I ran into him again in front of the same store and this time he was with his girlfriend. He was asking shoppers for money and then he saw me.

"I'm sorry to bug you again but could you help us." He obviously remembered me from a year ago. Here we both were again. Not much had changed apparently in either of our lives. He was still trying to score some cash for a bag and I was still buying corndogs at the grocery deli.

I told him that I really didn't feel like giving him any money as I didn't think it would solve any of his troubles. "That's what he told me last time. " He said leaning toward his girlfriend. He clearly remembered what I told him. He thanked me and took off.

Last night I was taking boxes of books to a used bookstore in another town and trading them in for store credit. When I came out of the store there was my favorite homeless guy. He came up to me to bum cash and finally recognized me.

"Why do I keep running into you?" He asked.

"Maybe I'm someone you should really listen to." I told him.

"I know." He chuckled a little bit and walked off. He passed by several other people without bumming.

Next time I see him I'll probably just punch him.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Pop Music Planet Savers

I thought about a long blog for this but I can't even justify expelling the energy from my fingers to do it.

I saw the video of Madonna (fake guitar playing and all) yelling at the crowd:

"Jump up and down if you want to save the planet! C'mon you mother****ers!"

I'm embarassed for her and everyone else who was associated with it.

To quote Dr. Evil from the first Austin Powers movie:

"There's nothing more pathetic than an aging hipster."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

From the Low Hanging Fruit Department

Presidential Candidates In First Ever Gay Debate

365Gay.com reports that "For the first time the leading candidates for the presidency will hold a televised debate devoted solely to LGBT issues. "

I'm confused. All the presidential debates so far already seemed pretty gay to me.

(badooom tshhhh!)

Thank you, I'll be here all week. Enjoy the buffet and please everyone tip your wait staff.

Good night!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Ron Paul Revolution

In February I mentioned that Ron Paul was running for president. Since then I've resisted blogging about his campaign until it was justifiably newsworthy. On a daily basis I bore Grump with details about Paul's campaign and he is a good sport letting me vent my enthusiasm and has only told me to shut up a dozen times or so. Up to now Ron Paul's campaign has been growing but only now would I consider it truly newsworthy.

Ron Paul's videos on YouTube were being viewed more than any other candidate and he had more friends on his MySpace page than any other GOP candidate. These two facts withstanding everyone was still pretty sure that this obscure, unheard of Congressman from Texas did not have any true supporters with blood in their veins.

During the first three debates the host networks held unscientific polls in different ways and Ron Paul won all three. This was dismissed as "trickery" by all three networks claiming that Ron Paul's internet support consisted merely of phantoms in an echo chamber. In other words nothing that would impact the real world or would make an impact in the GOP primaries. Ron Paul's libertarian views were all that were necessary to push him off to the fringe and he would bow out quickly as a footnote in the race.

Only that didn't happen.

What happened instead was that Ron Paul arrived at the 3rd debate in New Hampshire to find that hundreds of his supporters carrying signs (from a local Ron Paul organization unaffiliated with the campaign) had come out in force to support the candidate. CNN and others didn't know what to make of disproportionate amount of support shown for Dr. Paul outside the hall where the debate was held.

Because Ron Paul is the only GOP candidate against the war in Iraq (and has been from the beginning) many in the party have tried to remove him from future events and forums. The chairman of the GOP in Michigan started an online petition to have Ron Paul removed from future debates that did manage about one hundred signatures. A counter-petition was started to expose this party officer that collected over 14,000 signatures in 24 hours. The chairman also mentioned that the phone lines at the GOP office in Michigan were overwhelmed and eventually shut down (as well as their email server) and he stopped answering his cell phone and home phone. Apparently the internet phantoms were angered.

Then in June phantom supporters were contacting the Ron Paul campaign and asked why Dr. Paul was not attending a candidate forum hosted by Iowans for Tax Relief and Iowa Christian Alliance. The campaign was initially convinced that they had misplaced the invitation so calls went out to the host organizations to let them know that Dr. Paul was interested in coming. This is when it became known that Ron Paul was deliberately not invited. The reason cited was that he did not have a significant amount of organization in Iowa to be considered a viable candidate.

In response to this the Ron Paul campaign organized a rally to celebrate "Life and Liberty" in the convention room next door to the candidate forum. They worked quickly because they only had one week to put the event together. What resulted was a packed room of over 1000 people. (which outdrew the original candidate forum) In fact the video at this link shows in a humerous way how much larger Ron Paul's footprint was in that convention center.

Finally the biggest news to date was broken this weekend by ABC News as Ron Paul released his fundraising figures for this last quarter and it was reported that Ron Paul now has more cash-on-hand than John McCain (around 2.5 million dollars on hand). McCain will eventually supplement his campaign with federal money (read: YOUR MONEY WHETHER YOU SUPPORT HIM OR NOT) but Dr. Paul's fundraising has come primarily from individuals as he has already indicated predictably that he will not take federal money for his campaign even though election laws allow it.

Eventually the number of candidates will dwindle from the ten major candidates to just a few. Those like Tommy Thompson, Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback will eventually drop out to allign themselves with a winner in order to preserve a cabinet post or perhaps invest in some political capital for themselves later. None of these candidates have a groundswell of support and none of them will shape the views of the party in the years to come. Supporting Ron Paul may not produce him as the nominee but you may end up with a new political base in America that believes that the federal government has no role in your wallet, your bedroom, or the internal affairs of other nations. That in my opinion is what his candidacy will do...give true hope for America.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence Day

Like Cinco de Mayo the use of '4th of July' as the colloquial substitute for the holiday has seen the meaning watered down. How much though I'm not able to tell.

Independence Day is my favorite holiday without exception. In my town I get up and go see the kids parade followed by the grand parade and then I go watch a pretty fair Revolutionary War reenactment at a local park. Where I live (Greater Seattle Metropolitan area) people still understand what Independence Day is...to some degree. I'd imagine in the heartland this is even more true.

An example of misunderstanding Independence Day on a smaller scale come from when I remember hearing Rosie O'Donnel speak about the 2nd amendment. Before you read further don't think this is just some right-wing target practice on an overweight, lesbian blowhard...not everything Rosie says is insane.

Rosie said that she felt the 2nd Amendment wasn't really a right but instead was written for colonial times so that patriots could use their arms to protect themselves from the British. The quote is below:

"I think the Second Amendment is in the Constitution so that we can have muskets when the British people come over in 1800."
One of my great problems with this understanding of the 2nd Amendment is that it is a fundamental misunderstanding of the war for independence. When colonists took up arms against the British, they were taking up arms against their own country, not foreign occupiers. The war was against an unjust government that had placed taxes and restrictions on their lives without the proper representation in parliament to have their grievances heard. When these acts of tyranny were placed on the 13 colonies only force would result. Whether it be force from the government to collect taxes and enforce restrictions or force on the part of the colonists to throw back the oppression.

I could bore you with tons of quotes from the Federalist Papers on the original intent of the 2nd amendment. The consensus among the founding fathers was that the protection of free individuals was their own responsibility. This protection was against any government that raised a standing militia against its people.

Incidentally if you remember the Clinton administration's liberal use of standing militias against the people (DEA, ATF, NSA, et al) you'll understand the proper use of the 2nd amendment.

The misunderstanding of this amendment and many others comes from a misunderstanding of Independence Day. When we call it the 4th of July I wonder how much of the meaning is lost over time to newer generations responsible for upholding the freedoms we are supposedly guaranteed. I quote the late Harry Browne:

Most of us care only about the rights and freedoms that affect our own lives. People who don’t own guns can easily believe that reducing gun ownership will save lives without inconveniencing them in any way. Politicians are particularly prone to this attitude. Most of them work in buildings with heavy security; many of them have armed chauffeurs and armed escorts. So they don’t feel imposed upon when restrictive gun laws prevent average citizens from defending themselves.

All of our rights come with risks and when abused can cause serious problems. In the long run protecting all of our rights (even the ones we aren't' currently using) will protect the ones we use and protect our liberty. So let the 4th of July come and go but celebrate Independence everyday.