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Where Ron Paul Supporters Can Go From Here

The Republican Convention is over. Ron Paul is not the nominee. I swore last year that I would do everything in my power to see that he got the nomination. I have done that, and so have countless other supporters, but it’s not to be.

Many Ron Paul supporters are young, many are political newcomers. I remember my first failed election (hell, they’ve all been failed elections for me). It sucks. I’ve seen grown men cry, ladies cuss, and the proverbial gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair. This is my 6th election since being introduced to the philosophy of individual liberty, so I’m used to it. I also feel it is the responsibility of the “veterans” to assist the less experienced advocates of liberty. I don’t say this to be patronizing, I say it because I wish I had someone there to help me the first time.

First, don’t despair. I know there is the impulse to throw your hands up and quit. I’ve even heard of open, armed rebellion. I like the spirit, but don’t do it. We’re a long way from that. Jefferson talked about evils being sufferable, for a while.

In fact, I have never been more confident that I am at this moment. A little history. I joined the Libertarian Party after the 1992 elections and helped start a campus group at Ohio University. The following year I went to the National Convention in Salt Lake City and worked as a volunteer. During a break I saw Ron Paul sitting in the hallway, by himself. Back then, everyone in the liberty movement literally knew everyone else. There weren’t that many of us. I introduced myself, told him what we had done, he offered words of encouragement.

Today, you can’t get near Ron Paul. People have Facebook friends lists with Ron Paul supporters that are bigger than the entire movement was 20 years ago. THAT is some serious change. Gargantuan improvement. As the younger generation likes to say, shit just got real.

We call this the Ron Paul Revolution. Folks, it’s high time we thought about that word. Revolution. And it’s time we acted like Revolutionaries. Rebels. Insurgents. Because that’s what we are. Instead of bullets, we use ballots. And let’s be frank, we’re not yet in a position to take on the enemy in open combat.

We are the Guerrilla Fighters of the American Political Landscape. For the uninitiated, a Guerrilla Warfare battleplan consists of three phases.
1. Statement of political principles, organization and planning.
2. Limited military operations designed to harass the enemy, wear him down, cut his supplies, destroy his morale, gain weapons for the rebel force, all without risking the annhilation of the insurgent army. Also, the gaining of moral ascendancy with the population.
3. When the force is powerful enough and the enemy weakened, meet the enemy in decisive, open, pitched battle.

Our ultimate goal is number three. We ain’t there, yet. But we’re not at number one either. That’s where we were 20 years ago. Right now we’re a strong second phase. Folks, we have gained moral ascendancy with the population. Think about that.

When two thirds of the country is tired of fighting foreign wars which serve no national security interest, then the populace is with us.

When 80 percent of the country wants an audit of the Federal Reserve, then the populace is with us.

When Ron Paul, during the primaries, was polling neck and neck with Obama in a two way race, then the populace is with us.

When a majority of citizens believes that marijuana should be decriminalized, the populace is with us.

But also look at our tactical successes. The majority of delegates in 11 states. Taking over of State Party Chairs, and numerous County chairs. Ousting old time party bosses. Forcing the GOP to use violence, to cheat, to take the campaign to court, then having them suck up because they need us. We are winning skirmishes, clashes, meeting engagements, annhilating the enemy in ambushes.

All that is left before the final stage is numbers. To get that, we have to fight more battles. That’s where we are right now.

Our goal was to get Ron Paul in pitched battle against Barack Obama. It’s not going to happen. So where do we go from here?

Some have advocated a write-in campaign for Ron Paul. Others have advocated a third party approach, such as the Libertarian or Constitution Parties. Some are supporting Romney and the GOP, while some will vote for Obama to punish the Republicans and force them to realize they need us. There are even some who are not voting for reasons of conscience.

Who is right? I have absolutely no freaking idea. Actually, I have an idea, but that is not the point. We are Guerrillas, and we can learn much from Guerrillas of the past. Before anyone soils themselves, let me state that I do not advocate Communism or any form of statism or coercion, and that I think Ho Chi Minh, Mao, and Castro were evil men. But their struggles are worth noting, for therein lies the blueprint for our success.

In Indochina, the Vietcong and NVA were organized by Divisions, but there were also independent Regiments. They would come together and join the larger units for major battles, but in between their commanders were allowed some tactical flexibility, to exploit opportunities, or just to learn how to fight the Americans and South Vietnamese.

That’s what we can learn from Ho. A broad front approach rather than a bold strike might be the best tactic. Hell, write in Ron Paul, vote for Gary Johnson, vote for Romney or Obama, or don’t vote. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll see which tactic works best and we can use that in the future. Personally, I’ve done them all over the years. I’m an independent now because it allows me some flexibility. This only came with experience.

But the numbers…that is everything. First, let me say that before we start building up our forces that we have to stop the hemorrhaging going on right now. Ron Paul, as a Doctor, would say “First, Do No Harm.” I have noticed a lot of internal fighting. Divisiveness. Accusations. Insults. I suppose this is inevitable in the face of a tactical defeat, and I understand that some have no stomach for the long haul, but it has to stop or we’re finished.

If a person wants to vote for this candidate or that candidate, or not vote, or write someone in, or whatever, STOP accusing them of selling out, or of being stupid, or of being under some kind of mind control, or whatever. We all supported Dr. Paul because of something in common, the love of liberty. Just because someone has a different idea or plan does not mean they are evil or stupid. Share your knowledge, your results, your successes, your failures. We still have a lot to learn.

Question, you all claim to respect Ron Paul. Do you think he approves of this behavior? Ask him yourself.

Second. To increase our numbers, we are going to have to do some work. The early adopters have been culled out. Time to roll up our sleeves. And as with the internal fighting, we are going to have to stop insulting our potential allies. That’s right, the guy who insults you in the comments section is the guy you have to win over. Calling them “sheeple” or some other insult isn’t going to win them over to our side. They will shut down in a heartbeat. This might be a logical fallacy, but it is a psychological fact. If your aim is to merely pat yourself on the back, then calling someone a mindless, evil vassal of the totalitarian state is the right course of action. If, on the other hand, liberty is your goal, then it’s time to try something else.

Look, with few exceptions, the vast majority of us were, at one time, advocates of the status quo. Were we evil? No, just mistaken. I was a pretty good guy back then. I know some decent folks who are Democrats and Republicans now. The solution, again, is to follow the example of Ron Paul. Paul has a history of contact with people of questionable aims, but he had the uncanny ability to connect with them on that one key issue, and to work from there. Such is the nature of third party, fringe, outsider politics. Understand that each of us has a different history, comes to the game with different goals and ideas, including single issue voters, such as the liberal mom who just wants her son to come home from Afghanistan. With Dr. Paul out of the running, she may well vote for Obama. Tough. We can’t banish her. Use a little understanding, and then work to educate. Do like salespeople. Find out what they object to, then overcome the objection. Our foot is in the door, and we have to exploit the opportunity.

Finally, we need to dispense with the “this was our last chance” nonsense. Horse manure. Whether the system survives for us to change it or it implodes and we have to rebuild it, we will always have a chance. I love Dr. Paul, but there are a number of other worthy candidates for the future. Justin Amash is good. Some people like Rand Paul. Hell, what about all the people who will ascend to office this time that have backed Ron Paul? Follow his example. He said that WE are the Revolution. The fact that you support him puts every last one of you on the same page. At least the same chapter. Heck, I’ve met a lot of you and I would vote for you if you ran for office, including the Presidency. You could do just as well. As Ron Paul is fond of noting, your job description is the Constitution. It’s not that difficult.

Ron Paul has worked for 40 plus years to restore the vision of the Founders. Revolutions often take time. I know that patience is difficult, especially if you’re young (it was for me). But if you admire Ron Paul, take his lead on this. It will take some resilience, but this is the most optimistic I’ve ever been, and a lot of people I talk to that have been in the liberty movement for a while feel the same.

I used Ho Chi Minh as an example earlier. He first thought of the idea of an independent Indochina in the early 1920’s. He would serve as an organizer and trainer in various countries for 20 years, and would fight the Japanese, French, South Vietnamese and Americans for another 30. His dream wouldn’t come to fruition until 6 years after his death.

It will take this kind of commitment to succeed. But the road map for our success has been laid out by the Revolutionaries that came before us.


Sorry, Mr. Wolfe, But Terry Wilkins Is The Last American Hero

In 1965 Tom Wolfe wrote an article for Esquire about NASCAR champ Junior Johnson where he called him “The Last American Hero.” Long before tearing up the tracks, Johnson had earned his living tearing up the backroads of North Carolina hauling his father’s moonshine. Even after becoming a successful racer, he continued to haul shine until he was caught, not in a car but when he went to light his daddy’s still after the old guy had fallen ill.

After a year in the Federal Pen, he returned to a rapidly changing NASCAR. Instead of independent owner/drivers, racing teams were being forged and Detroit was pumping big money into the cars in an effort to showcase their machines. I don’t know if they didn’t think Johnson was worth the investment or if he was too independent, but he continued to be his own man. In 1960 he took his underpowered Chevy to Daytona and discovered during practice the now-common tactic of “drafting.” Other cars had 20 mph on him, but he drafted his way to first place. In the subsequent years he continued to win, manufacturing his own parts when necessary. He retired in 1966 with 50 career victories, and was named by Sports Illustrated the best driver ever.

I think that all real Americans love a guy who goes his own way. Junior Johnson was definitely that man, whether refusing to kowtow to Detroit or refusing to accept the morality and legality of U.S. liquor laws. But Tom Wolfe was premature in annointing Johnson the Last American Hero.

Terry Wilkins is the owner of Captive Born Reptiles, which has two locations in Columbus, Ohio. From what I understand, the predominant method of the reptile industry is to catch exotics in the wild and put them up for sale. Wilkins actually breeds them himself. If you possess even a modicum of consciousness, then you’re aware of the public opposition to the ownership of exotic or wild animals. Various states and localities have enacted numerous laws to prohibit and regulate the ownership and sale of exotics, and Terry’s reptiles are often the target of such legislation.

I first met Terry 6 years ago. My son, out of the blue, asked for a Ball Python. Now, I come from Southern Ohio. My first memory of snakes was of my grandmother taking a rock and crushing a copperhead’s skull. We were fundamentalists, and believed that there was just a tiny bit of Satan in every serpent. Bottom line, snakes are for killing, not for keeping as pets.

At first I thought to have my son committed, but he was patient and informative and educated my wife and me. He would take us to Captive Born, where Terry would patiently explain all things regarding snakes, and in Christmas of 2006 we bought the Python, who my son named Monty. Seriously, he named him and said he had never heard of Monty Python before.

As a result, I would see Terry at his store every once in a while. I would come to find out that over the years, as a result of his passion for reptiles, Terry Wilkins has been harrassed, fined, jailed, threatened, maligned, and worse. Once he was paid a visit by local law enforcement because a city ordnance said that one of his pythons was too big. Accompanying them were employees of one of our beloved local animal institutions who proceeded to take ball bats and kill the creature.

Harrassed, fined, jailed, threatened, maligned. But never intimidated. To say the least, I had come to respect the guy’s conviction in the face of such belicosity, but at a chance meeting at a party of a local exotic bird breeder, I would come to understand something of the soul of the man. We discussed the usual laundry list of events that I already knew, including the most recent city proposal. I asked how he intended to deal with it. I don’t recall the exact words, but he said, in essence, I don’t care what they do, I’m not going to stop raising and selling reptiles.

In the words of George Costanza, I felt it move.

I don’t know anything about Terry Wilkins’ politics. I don’t know enough to make technical judgements regarding his husbandry techniques, care of reptiles, or training. (Although he saved Monty’s life when the vets and other “experts” couldn’t) But I do know integrity when I see it. The absolute confidence someone has when they know that what they are doing is right. Which is why I wasn’t suprised when I found out about this other gem regarding Terry while doing research for this blog.

In 1991 Terry was the chief of the state’s Office of Community Services. He blew the whistle on the Department of Development’s misuse of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds. By 1993 he was out of a job. Surprise, surprise. However, hearings were held and it was determined that yes, indeed, millions of dollars worth of taxpayer funds were being flat wasted.

He filed a wrongful dismissal suit. Actually 2 suits and 4 appeals. They were thrown out, one judge saying that the people he was suing were his supervisors, not his employers. Huh? And another one said that his whistleblowing didn’t have merit because there was nothing in the law that stipulated that taxpayer money had to be used wisely. Don’t take my word for it, it’s in the transcripts.

One judge ordered him to reimburse the state of Ohio for the cost of deposing state employees (25,000 dollars, which had grown to over 34,000 by 2010. Shouldn’t the state of Ohio have to pursue this, or at least have discretion?) Christ, even if you’re in the wrong, isn’t the job of government, in this case the courts, to give you a fair hearing?

Bottom line, Terry Wilkins was being persecuted for being a whistleblower. Persecuted, but not intimidated. In October of 2009 he went to a hearing regarding payment of the court order. The lawyer representing the state wanted to review Wilkins’ finances. “I’m not going to cooperate,” he said, and left the meeting.

As I said, I only wanted to write about Terry and his standing up for the rights of snake owners. That would have been enough. I had no idea about his fight with the state. That would have been enough as well. In this day and age, too many people are just willing to lay down for unjust laws. Look at New York City and their recent soda ban. New Yorkers pride themselves on being tough, but they let Bloomberg walk all over them. I can’t imagine Terry Wilkins laying down for anyone.

On one of the reptile forums a guy asked if someone like Terry Wilkins was the best spokesman for their cause. Apparently, the guy was worried about Terry’s “criminal past,” presumably the 3 days he spent in jail for opposing a microchip requirement. I wonder if the critic feels the same way about Martin Luther King leading the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s. After all, didn’t Dr. King have a “criminal past” as a result of being jailed for opposing unjust laws?

One of our problems today is that too many people want to work within the system to enact change. That’s fine and dandy, but there comes a time when you just have to flat out stand your ground and fight. I argue that it’s more effective. Our current legislative mess is a result of compromise, of decorum, of “respectful dialogue.” I look at Thoreau, at Ghandi, at King. What they accomplished through Civil Disobedience cannot begin to be matched by the advocates of “respectability.” At the end of the day, I hope that Terry Wilkins’ efforts will yield the results he desires. And maybe, just maybe, Tom Wolfe will write an article about him.

Whatever Happened To NASCAR?

I’m not a fan. Nothing against racing, it’s just not my thing. But I have to laugh whenever I hear someone talking about NASCAR being a Redneck event. Are you shitting me? That might have been true before “Days of Thunder,” but NASCAR has evolved into one of the Biggest Yuppie Sports out there.

Don’t believe me? Who’s the sponsor. NEXTEL. A cell phone company. Is there anything more synonymous with yuppiedom than a cell phone? NASCAR used to be sponsored by Winston Cigarettes. Winstons were for the man who thought that Marlboro Reds just weren’t quite tasty enough.

Speaking of sponsors, who sponsors the cars? Stock cars used to be sponsored by companies selling hard liquor, chewing tobacco, baloney, and ammunition. Now they’re sponsored by companies that sell laundry detergent, children’s cereal, online trading, and feminine hygiene products. I’ve heard folks bemoan the feminization of America. Some folks, particularly academic feminists, disagree. Take a look at NASCAR and tell me it isn’t so.

Today the tracks resemble professional team sports venues, replete with luxury boxes, and great pains are taken to ensure fan and driver safety. Back in the day, they raced on dirt tracks and the Daytona 500 was run on the beach. I saw a picture of a famous race track from 1970, and there was nothing but a guardrail and a house immediately past it.

Stock car used to mean that the cars being driven were the same kind that Joe Blow could pick up on the showroom floor. Now they’re 6 and 7 figure wonders of automotive engineering that are hand crafted in a de facto car laboratory.

And the drivers. Today they’re clean shaven, well spoken, and behaved. Kyle Busch looks like Adam Sandler’s cello playing younger brother. Compare that to the NASCAR racers of yore. Stock Car racing got its start from moonshine haulers. Many of the stars, as recently as the 1960’s, were actual bootleggers. Junior Johnson, pictured above, was a winning driver before he was busted and spent nearly a year at the Federal Pen in Chillicothe, Ohio. Then he went back to NASCAR and continued to win. Nothing was thought of it. Fireball Roberts and Curtis Turner looked like guys who hung out at the local pool hall.

Today’s drivers wear fire retardant suits. Junior Johnson raced in a t-shirt and a wrist watch. Today’s helmets look like something created at NASA. I saw a picture of an old time driver with what looked to be a tupperware bowl on his head and your great aunt’s bra covering his ears.

There’s so much money in the sport today, and I don’t begrudge them for it. I suppose that’s what’s driven many of the changes over the last 15 years or so. But I think there’s something to be said for the races of yesteryear. Back when southern cities had no professional sports, and the best they could do was root for college football or the minor league baseball team. When the races came to town, it was the only show around, and the folks came out in droves to see the loud, souped up cars, the larger than life characters, the breakneck action on the track with regular guys driving regular cars like maniacs around makeshift tracks. When on the last turn a Buddy Baker or Ralph Earnhardt were positioning to take the other out for the grand prize of 200 dollars of groceries and a kiss from a hot chick.

I suppose that’s also why so many people loved Dirty Dale Earnhardt. I think they sensed he was the last of a dying breed, a guy who was going to win or crash, and wouldn’t hesitate to take you out to take the checkered flag. I don’t like to make light of death, particularly tragic death, but sometimes I wonder if what happened to Earnhardt was a blessing in disguise for him. He had to have seen the writing on the wall. Maybe he would have died of a broken heart to see what has happened to his beloved sport. Or worse, would have been relegated to dinosaur status, one of the remember him‘s. I think he went out the way he would have wanted. At least that’s what I choose to believe.

Symbols-Part 1

The above photo is one of the most iconic images of the Vietnam War. Taken during the Tet offensive by Edie Adams, it shows the South Vietnamese National Chief of Police killing a Viet Cong operative. Many have stated that this one image did more to galvanize the anti-war movement in the U.S. than any other factor. The brutality, lawlessness, and desperation of the cause seemed to be captured in this one instance.

But the truth is trickier. The Chief of Police was General Nguyen Ngoc Loan. The man being shot was the head of a 20 man Viet Cong assassination team tasked with killing Nguyen and his family. There was a mixup, and they arrived at the home of his Deputy and friend, killing him and his entire family, with Nguyen being godfather to several of the children. Shortly afterward a Marine patrol came across the group and in a firefight everyone but the head of the hit team was killed. He was captured next to a ditch that contained the bodies of Nguyen’s Deputy and family, as well as others (34 total). After the Marines questioned him, they turned him over to the South Vietnamese, along with the information gained during interrogation. At some point he was taken into the streets and Nguyen ordered his men to shoot him. They were wary with the cameras around, so Nguyen did the job himself.

Many bylines characterized the shooting as a “murder.” Sorry. Nguyen Ngoc Loan was within the law when he shot the VC commander. Under the Geneva Convention anyone operating in civilian clothing is considered a spy, and is subject to summary execution. And considering the full context, I would have done the same, then finished my breakfast.

Again, this wasn’t even considered. Simple answers for simple minds, I guess. But context is everything. Without it there can be no understanding. I read something once that said “text without context is pretext.” Indeed. As brutal and grotesque as the Nguyen shooting was, it didn’t tell the whole story.

We’re experiencing this now with the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman tragedy. Nearly everyone seems to have their mind made up about this. The Trayvon narrative is this. A psychopathic, racist white man with a gun stalked and murdered an angelic child whose only crime was carrying an iced tea and pack of skittles. The Zimmerman narrative is that a conscientious member of Neighborhood Watch was viciously attacked by a street thug and would have been killed if not for the use of his legally licensed firearm.

To be honest, none of us knows what the hell happened. Two people know, and one is dead. The Sanford police were actually in the process of investigating, and there was conflict within and between the DA’s office and the police department about the evidence, whether Zimmerman should be arrested or not, and whether or not he should be charged. But that apparently wasn’t quick enough, or thorough enough, for some. The Media Assault commenced.

The symbols. A cherubic looking Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman in an orange shirt that looked like a prison jumpsuit. Cut and dried man, cut and dried.

Then we find out that the Martin pictures were 5 years old. His recent pics looked like something in an old Tupac video. Shoes on the other foot now. Cut and dried. Cut and dried.

No one really knows where the term “cut and dried” came from, but I do know this. To cut something is to remove it from its whole. The sample may be representative of the whole, but then again, maybe not. Sometimes you can’t identify the object because you need the greater parts to make sense of it. An example is from the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers.” In the episode “Crossroads,” we see Dick Winters running full speed, stopping in front of a very young German soldier who has just arisen, sans weapon, and Winters shooting him. We see this again and again, and the memory of the event apparently bothers Winters. We eventually see the entirety of the event. Winters, after shooting the boy, kneels and starts shooting in all directions because he has surprised an entire battallion of Waffen SS in a clearing.

As Paul Harvey used to say, now you know the rest of the story.

As far as something being “dried,” I can tell you that as an amateur winemaker, I have used dried fruit before to make a batch. No matter how close the reconstituted fruit resembles the original, it’s never really the same. Something’s missing.

In the end, that’s the tragedy of the Martin-Zimmerman incident. In an attempt to frame the issue, the truth has been lost. If Trayvon Martin was unjustly killed, then George Zimmerman should be held accountable. If George Zimmerman was defending his life against an unjust attack, he should be freed. Justice is about the whole picture, not pieces and parts. I fear that whatever outcome will occur, it will be based upon an incomplete picture. And that is truly an injustice.

The Perfect Microcosm

A perfect sampling is a rare occurrence. Variance alone will see to that. In the casino game of Baccarat, I can tell you that if an 8 deck shoe is played out there will be, on average, 75 hands dealt in which a Banker or Player decision wins. 38 of those will be Bank, 37 Player. Again, on average. You could go through a thousand shoes and not see the distribution play out.

The current Republican Primary is one of those once in a lifetime examples of the sample being accurate. The perfect microcosm. Romney, Santorum, Paul and Gingrich all represent the current and historical segments of the GOP. Where it is, and how it got there.

Frontrunner Mitt Romney represents the old East Coast Establishment of which Goldwater and Nixon complained. Ivy League. Wealthy. Country Club. Patrician. Moderate. The only reason they’re not Democrats is because they’d have to hang out with the poor and minorities. If the Whig Party was still around, they’d be members. The only reason I don’t say that he is the reincarnation of Nelson Rockefeller is because he is the actual issue of George Romney. Mitt gets it honest. It’s in his blood. Or upbringing. Or both.

Speaking of Nelson Rockefeller, he looked like a shoo-in to be the GOP nominee in 1964. Barry Goldwater, carrying the torch of Robert Taft, said “My ass!” Literally, that’s what he said. OK, I don’t really know that for a fact, but for those who knew Goldwater, they wouldn’t be surprised if he had. Anyway, there had been a movement at the Convention in 1960 to draft Goldwater, but he gave them his famous “grow up conservatives” speech. They did, forming a grass roots effort that would propel him to the nomination four years later.

Ron Paul is this generation’s Barry Goldwater. None of the other candidates can make that claim. Goldwater was a non-interventionist at heart who only supported the Cold War “with a heavy heart,” realizing, rightly or wrongly, the unique nature of the Soviet threat. He had a libertarian streak a mile long, supporting drug legalization, gays in the military, abortion, and states’ rights. He railed against the takeover of the GOP by the Christian Coalition, and before his death said that the conservative movement in the GOP was dead.

Of course, Goldwater got his butt handed to him in 1964. However, the conservatives took control of the party, culminating in the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and they’ve controlled the party ever since.

At least that’s the popular version. In reality, the “conservatives” have never controlled the party. I’m an old fashioned guy who thinks that whoever coined the phrase gets a say in how it’s defined. The old limited government, constitutionalist, 10th amendment, non-interventionist, hard money, anti-New Deal, honest to god conservatives have always been a minority. Sure, the GOP has paid lip service to conservatism when it’s convenient, but today’s GOP has co-opted that term and bears no resemblance to its essence.

What actually happened in 1964 was that the East Coast Establishment lost control of the party. Where the Establishment Republicans had resembled Democrats in all but name, the new breed of Midwestern, Southern, and Western Republicans believed that the country had been soft on Communism. They not only saw the Communist threat in terms of foreign policy, but also as a war for the heart and soul of America. They were the consummate Cold Warriors. It really was the only plank in their platform. Other issues obtained importance only in relation to it. Civil Rights? An attempt by the Left to stir up minorities. Feminism? An attempt by the commies to destroy the traditional family structure. A War On Drugs was declared to combat the socialist influence of narcotics. The MPAA and FCC would do everything in their power to fight the anti-American messages in music, film, and television.

I like to call this the “asshole” wing of the party. Richard Nixon became their standard bearer in 1968 and 1972. He created the EPA, OSHA, imposed wage and price controls, took the U.S. off the Gold Standard and proudly proclaimed “We are all Keynesians now.” Hardly Robert Taft.

Newt Gingrich is the Richard Nixon of this generation. He talks of being a conservative, but his record has jumped all over the place. Just as Nixon and others saw a chance to take control of the party when opportunity arose, so did Gingrich. When he came to Congress in 1978 he had been an adherent of “Rockefeller Republicanism.” When Reagan was elected, he saw the changing tide and went with it. Got out in front of it, in fact. He has been a relentless critic of the Left, of the Press, of anyone in his own party that would dare stand in his way. He even isolated Bob Michel to set himself up for the Speaker’s position after the 1994 elections.

Of course, we don’t have the Cold War anymore. Now we have the Global War On Terror. Newt is willing to attack anyone who ever had anything bad to say about America, including other Americans. It is the focal point of his philosophy. He has declared that the war was a result of American weakness, and he holds the Left responsible. Therefore, he must destroy the Left, and his positions aren’t born of conviction FOR something, but opposition TO something. Still don’t like the Nixon comparison? Nixon said that when the President does it, it’s not illegal. Newt has said that the greatest impediment to governing is the Constitution. He wasn’t saying it like it was a good thing. It’s interesting that Nixon came to fame via the House Un-American Activities Committee. Hell, we’re all against being un-American. The problem is that he couldn’t define what America was, other than “great.” Same as Newt. It’s a belief based on an undetermined premise. Almost a circular logic. We’re great because we’re Americans. And Americans are inherently great. American Exceptionalism, which apparently means we can do anything we like, including murder a million innocent Muslims and expect the rest to be understanding. And if they’re not? Kill them too.

Which brings us to Santorum. He also believes in American Exceptionalism, but he is the lone social conservative in the race. Many Democrats and Independents incorrectly identify all or even most Republicans as social conservatives, but as a former Republican I can assure you it’s not the case. Plus, the numbers don’t bear that out. Romney pays lip service to faith, and may even be devout personally, but he doesn’t run on it. Paul is a devout Baptist, but is vehement about the First Amendment, on both sides. Gingrich may or may not be a social conservative, but like Nixon, is more concerned with power and realizes that social issues are a loser in the general election, and steers clear of it. Looking at the numbers, the social conservatives comprise just a third of the GOP. Yet they have to be considered if you’re a Republican candidate for President.

How the social conservatives came to represent such a powerful block in the GOP has always been confusing. Some like to point to the “Fusion” ideology of Frank Meyer, going back to the late 50’s/early 60’s. I’m skeptical. But I do know that after the New Left took over the Democratic Party in 1972, many fundamentalists and evangelicals felt isolated. At least the GOP wasn’t hostile to them, so they started a slow drift to the right. All I know is this. In 1976, evangelicals largely supported Jimmy Carter. By 1984 it was Ronald Reagan. Some think that Reagan actively courted them before 1980. “Active” is doubtful. In 1980 Reagan vehemently opposed a bill in California that would have prevented homosexuals from holding jobs in education and health care. A few years later he didn’t want to touch anything with the “gay” label. By 1988, with the impressive showing of Pat Robertson in the primaries, the social conservatives had become a force to be reckoned with.

So the big question is, how did the term “conservative” go from being nearly synonymous with “libertarian” to being synonymous with gay-baiting, porn banning, and forced prayer in schools? The answer? Politics as usual. Politics isn’t about a coherent philosophy. It’s about winning, and that requires building a coalition. And coalitions are never among people who agree;why else would they have to be built? For example, there are a ton of blue collar white union members in the Democratic party that could care less about minority, gay, and women’s issues, in fact disagree with their party’s stance, but they believe they’re voting their interest. Jewish Americans vote Democratic 75-80 percent of the time, as do 90 percent of black Americans, but 30 percent of black Americans polled express distrust and hatred of Jews. Yet the Democrats have built a successful coalition.

The Republicans are no different. After the Goldwater revolution in 1964, the only real Goldwater type Republican to represent the GOP was Reagan (although his true ideological foundations are debatable). Looking back, his election was the result of two things, none of which was the GOP’s overwhelming acceptance of conservatism. The obvious was the absolute mess of the late 70’s. The people were ready for anything but Carter. The other was the energy of the “real” conservatives in the primary, which caught the GOP off guard. They’ve never let it happen again. Kemp represented the free market side in 88. Buchanan, while not a Goldwater conservative, was a non-interventionist who ran in 92 and 96. Forbes’ flat tax proposal was intriguing, and he ran in 96 and 2000. Ron Paul is the closest thing we have to Goldwater, and he ran in 08 as well as this cycle. None won. None got the support of the party establishment.

My own assessment is that the GOP, after 1964, realized they couldn’t win without the Goldwater wing. However, instead of merely compromising and adopting some policies, the party bosses went one step further and adopted the “conservative” label as a marketing tool. Why not? Conservative is a nice, safe tag. Better than “Patronizing Elitist”, “Belligerent Warmongerer,” or “Religious Dictator.”

Real conservatives have never controlled the party, and Ron Paul’s dogged persistence is highlighting the historical divisions and contradictions within the GOP. Ayn Rand once said something about contradictions not being able to exist within the same man, or the same country. An individual trying to hold contradictory ideas will go insane, and a country trying to do the same will implode. The same thing applies to a political party. Paul’s campaign has been the catalyst that has boiled down the GOP to its essence for all the world to see. Raw, naked, exposed. I make no predictions as to how this will play out. Whether the GOP will self destruct. Or change. Or if a third party will gain prominence, or even replace them.

It will be interesting to watch.

Intergallactic Rednecks

I caught my son watching “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” He realized it was a prequel to the Tim Burton reboot from 10 years ago, but had no idea that 5 movies existed back in the day. So we checked them out at the library (free still beats buying/redbox/video rental) and began with the original.

Am I the only one who wants to yell “STELLA” when Zira appears?

Charlton Heston was shocked to see a planet where the Apes ruled Man, but the fact that they spoke English didn’t faze him.

It’s like my kids watching “Family Guy.” A one year old speaking is too much for their intellect, but a talking, alcoholic, womanizing dog is just fine.

Speaking of talking dogs. Cartoons are marketed for the current generation’s youth. When “Scooby Doo” came out in 1969 it was no different. The Mystery Machine was no Microbus, but you get the idea. Fred and Daphne represented the burgeoning sexual revolution. Velma represented the fledgling feminist movement. Shaggy was a stoner, and Scooby? If you’ve done enough LSD, a talking dog should be nothing new.

Back on subject. Why do we automatically assume that alien life, if it exists, is superior to ours (Heston’s quote from the movie)? What if other life forms are the galaxy’s version of the Appalachian hillbilly?

One argument I hear is that if aliens are capable of interplanetary travel, their technology, and thus intellect, must by definition be superior. Not necessarily. History is replete with examples of civilizations having some ground breaking technology, but winded up not taking over the world. The Chinese invented gunpowder thousands of years ago, but wound up progressing at a slower rate than the West. The Mayans were brilliant astronomers and mathematicians. The Moors invented navigation by the stars. Still, these peoples didn’t wind up conquering the world. But I remember Van Johnson’s warning about humanity still being young. I just can’t remember the movie.

Of course, UFO believers will say that this constitutes proof of alien life visiting earth, giving them the advanced technology before everyone else. Circular logic at best, arbitrary assertion at worst.

UFO crashes. Are we to believe that alien civilizations have the ability to bend time, warp space, conquer the medical and technological challenges inherent in long term space flight, deal with asteroid belts, meteors, and black holes, but just can’t seem to get it together when they drive by our planet?

Then again, my space hillbilly hypothesis might work. Maybe they’re driving around the galaxy drinking, and just ran into the earth. Maybe, just maybe, there’s spacecraft debris all over the universe from these drunken star voyagers. I can see a TIME magazine cover one day of an astronaut on Mars holding a Budweiser can.

Why is it that every account of alien abduction involves an anal probe? If they’re so technologically advanced, why would they resort to 20th century earth technology to examine us? Bones McCoy had that 1970’s looking video game thing that we would call minimally invasive, I would assume aliens would have at least that. After all the reported abductions, wouldn’t they have enough data? I can’t imagine what they’re looking for. Maybe it’s just funny to them.

I have a hunch about the abductees and the anal probe thing. Maybe they did something they feel guilty about, and an alien abduction delusion is their way of dealing with it. Ahh, repression can be a wonderful thing.

Or maybe they’re lying to a suspicious spouse. It reminds me of that joke. “Dave, when did you start wearing a bra?” “Ever since my wife found it in the glove compartment.”

The problem with actually thinking about these things is that you start to make connections that aren’t there. UFO crashes into earth thousands of years ago, in modern day China, that’s where Asians come from, that’s why the greater technology and the cultural stereotypes of higher intelligence and bad drivers. Yep. John Nash’s schizophrenia becomes more understandable.

Did you ever consider that Ancient Alien theories, Scientology, and Nazism/Aryan supremacy are eerily similar?

Here’s another thing, why is it…oh, hell.

You know, sometimes it’s just easier to go the Charlton Heston route and not ask too many questions.

The Natural Order Of Things

Ron Paul supporters are in a bit of a funk following Super Tuesday’s disappointing results. The posts on Facebook, the blog comments, and even a conference call between Paul’s campaign staffers has an air of bewilderment as to why the enthusiasm for their candidate isn’t translating into electoral victories.

They’ve just answered their own question. Enthusiasm doesn’t automatically equate to votes.

Polls show Ron Paul with half the support of voters 18-29. Yesterday, he received only about 30 percent of that age group. Bottom line, 40 percent of Ron Paul’s youth supporters aren’t showing up to vote. The numbers don’t lie.

If all the young voters who said they supported Paul actually showed up and voted, by my calculations he would have won 4 primaries/caucuses so far.

Of course, anyone who follows electoral history shouldn’t be surprised at this. Young people, historically, just don’t vote. Period. The older the demographic, the more they vote. Look at Seniors. In my small Ohio hometown of 1000 people, the polling place was at the Senior Citizens center. It used to be at the American Legion hall. I remember the retirees gathering even before the polls opened to have coffee, eat breakfast, or just chat for hours. Even after they voted, they hung around. Maybe the election officials just figured to make it easier and have it at the Senior Center since they’d be there anyway.

I’ve seen Goldwater’s “grow up conservatives” speech. His supporters were young and fervent. Still, it took them 20 years from the time of that statement to make their mark on American politics.

The same with SDS taking over the Democratic Party in 1972. It would be another 20 years before one of their own, Bill Clinton, would be elected.

Which brings me to my point. In an earlier blog, “A Public Aplogy To Today’s Youth,” I hailed the youth of today for their support of Ron Paul. The “apology” was for having lost faith in them as a generation. Actually, I never had any faith, but that is a part of the natural order of things. Every generation thinks the next one is lacking. It’s not an actual reflection on the generation in question, but rather a result of taking 35-40 years to figure out how things work, and then having the rules change. It’s hard. If you’re young and offended, deal with it. 20 years from now you’ll understand.

Anyway, a young commenter failed to see the article for what it was, and said that I owed not only his generation an apology, but every generation thereafter. OK. First, I don’t actually OWE you anything. I’ve never wronged you. And I’m not a liberal. I don’t take responsibility for offending people who haven’t been born and who I’ll never meet.

But in thinking about it, maybe the young generation owes ME an apology. For not putting their money where their mouth is. By talking the talk, but not walking the walk. By being enthusiastic, but not putting that passion into action. I was feeling a little guilty about not taking part in sign waves, or sending in donations, or in not going to rallies. But I took off work 45 minutes early to vote. My wife went to work 45 minutes early to vote. Along the way we convinced about a dozen people to vote for Ron Paul. In the final analysis, we did our part. The rally-goers and sign-wavers and donation-senders stayed home.

By the way, if you’re young and waved signs or sent in money and went to rallies and actually voted, this is not directed at you. Just so we’re clear.

Okay, you really don’t owe me an apology. You’ve not wronged me anymore than I’ve wronged you. I’m not even peeved. Again, it has to do with the natural order of things. I guarantee that in 20 years, you guys will set things right. I’ve gone to bat for you. Don’t let me down.

Oh, and one more thing. Pull up your goddamned pants!

Oh, And Arnold Stopped By, OR, 2 Nuns With Bows

Spent the day at the NASP State Archery tournament held in conjunction with the annual Arnold Classic. My daughter’s team qualified for Nationals in Louisville for the 2nd straight year, even with the increased points for qualification. We don’t have the final standings yet, but this would have gotten us 4th place last year. Last year was our first year (Worthington Bluffsview Elementary) and we finished 8th out of 18 and qualified for Louisville. This year the team totals were 250 points higher. Awesome job, Bears!

The National Archery in the Schools Program was started in Kentucky in 2002 by their Department of Wildlife and Education. Competitive archery has long been dominated by JOAD, which is the Olympic style shooting using the recurve bow. NASP uses a compound bow, the Genesis, probably since its interest is more related to hunting, conservation, etc. It has spread like wildfire in subsequent years. Last year 7000 4-12 graders competed in Louisville. The shooting line was a quarter mile long, and the event took over 3 days. Of course, the Kentucky contingency still dominates all things archery, with other rural and Southern schools following closely behind. A lot of these kids are born with bows in their hands, and many have probably taken a deer or turkey or some such critter already.

Which is why our story is of interest. Worthington, Ohio, is a well-to-do suburb of Columbus, although residents would argue that point. The suburb part, not the well-to-do part. The Sorting Life is hardly prevalent in our white-bread neck of the community park. We have climbed close to the top in 2 short years, and just had a 5th grade girl take the individual state title today. Matthews TV followed our team around last year at Louisville and featured them on their program. Why our kids? Beats me, although it probably had something to do with the fact that our kids were clean cut, well behaved, racially diverse, and enthusiastic. Not that other schools aren’t, but it did surpise me when I saw two Middle School competitors from North Carolina enjoying a smoke outside the convention center before their flights. Not that I saw any of this, but it wouldn’t have suprised me to see a high school kid from Arkansas being cheered on by his kid. Or a girl asking her coach if her baby bump would affect her technique. There were some tattoos, though.

If anyone thinks I’m bashing rednecks, well, I am. That’s only because I AM a redneck. I come from one of those small Southern Ohio towns like Philo or Maysville that rules the state archery championships. These kids are good, and they know it. We cheer a round when our kids get a 40. Their parents shake their heads when they come back with a 47. They strut back after tallying their points. They have that combination of boredom and arrogance that all great competitors possess. It’s like watching Mike Tyson in the 80’s.

Of course, two middle schoolers puffing a cig wasn’t the only once in a lifetime image from the archery tournaments. A Catholic school from Lexington competed last year, and I had the unique pleasure of watching two nuns walking with bows. Surreal. I can guarantee those kids were clean cut, and well behaved.

By the way, Arnold Schwarzenegger stopped by. He spoke to one of our kids. “How long have you been shooting, young one?” I don’t know why, but I still expect him to sound different. He was directly behind my daughter while she shot. The scores were so horrible following Arnold’s arrival that they let the kids shoot again, if they chose. As my son said, “How can you shoot with the Terminator breathing down your neck?” Indeed.

Arnold was actually walking straight toward my daughter, but she moved to let him by. My girl. I’ve never understood the star-struck mentality. In one instant there was a mob of people with their phones out, getting shots of the Austrian Oak. I guess part of my ambivalence is that we’ve seen Arnold up close several times over the years. My son competed in the Classic in fencing a couple of times, and he always stopped by and spoke.

It’s amazing that what started out as a mere bodybuilding event has turned into the largest sports festival in the country. The success of NASP is equally admirable, as is the rise to prominence of small schools from smaller towns. Or that a yuppie community can challenge the RFD status quo.

Not a bad way to spend the day, really. Besides, where else can you see Conan? Or two nuns carrying bows.

Reflections On Lent And Life

Occasionally I catch myself acting like an old man. I’m looking at pictures from Carnevale in Rio, arguably the wildest of the Pre-Lenten celebrations in the world. Buxom Samba dancers parade by wearing nothing but a brooch in the crack of their ass, and I’m impressed by the scale and detail of the FLOATS! Kill me now.

Speaking of Lent, I remember when Catholics used to give up booze, cigarettes, and sex for Lent. Now they can skate by with giving up chocolate and insults.

Has the church gotten soft? I’m not a Catholic. I’m not even a believer, but if you’re going to believe something, don’t do it half ass. I come from a small town in Southern Ohio. We had one Catholic family in town, and I think the nearest Catholic church was an hour away, so we never got to see their faith in practice. In reality, I never “knew” any Catholics.

When I was twelve we moved to Florida. The neighbors across the street were Irish Catholic from New England. My family was hard core fundamentalists, and probably viewed the Papacy with suspicion. Plus, no one in church drank or smoked, so I was absolutely fascinated with the neighbors. The dad, Pete, was a beer distributor, and the priest, Father Bob, hung out drinking Miller and smoking cigs. You’d never see a Church of Christ minister doing that.

Maxine epitomized the Catholic woman. I mean, she LOVED being Catholic. After the youngest son’s First Communion, we were treated to a video. Then we had to watch film (VHS was in its infancy) of the older sons and their first communion, look through scrapbooks of baptisms and whatnot. She volunteered for everything the church did.

Even then Maxine bemoaned how liberal the Catholic Church was getting. “I remember I was past my due date and STILL had to stand for the Easter Mass.” Apparently, some woman who had just had a baby had been allowed to sit through the most recent Easter service. Catholics seemed to be made of sterner stuff. At least Maxine was.

My wife convinced me to take the kids to the Christmas Eve Mass at the only church in town that still holds the Mass in Latin. Again, we’re not believers, but have always encouraged the kids to experience as much as they can. I’d never been to a service before, so I didn’t know about all the kneel-stand-sit routine. They had these leather pads to kneel on, but calling them pads was a stretch. I think they’d been around since the 1930’s. Hard as bricks. There was an old woman sitting near us who went through the entire service kneeling. She was dressed in black and had a rosary, and I swear she was in her 80’s. That service went on for a couple hours at least. No idea how she did it. Sterner stuff, indeed.

Even in my heathen household Lent has always been a special time. My wife was a seafood wholesaler, and Lent was always a busy and profitable period. Many area churches have their Friday Fish Frys and we always had to make some kind of appearance for the sake of public relations, although as a Southern Ohioan I love fried fish. In my hometown we used to have a Little League Tournament every 4th of July. Jamup Davis used to fry the fish, and everyone in a 20 mile radius had to get one of his fish sandwiches (served on rye, of course). To this day I can still taste it. I suppose the reason I frequent the fish frys is because I’m chasing, like a junkie, that first time rush, that cherry high, of Jamup’s fish sandwich. But I know I’ll never find it.

Jamup has passed on. He probably never knew how many fond memories he created that live on after him. Maxine is still with us. She probably never had any idea how much she taught me about conviction, and toughness. You never know the effect you will have on others from the seemingly inconsequential events of life. I wonder if I’ll ever leave someone with a fond memory, or a lesson learned, years from now, or after I’m gone.

Oh, hell, there I go again, sounding like an old man. Kill me now!

Falling Standards (And I Don’t Mean Gold)

A recent article by Lara Hoffmans in Forbes (link provided) concerning the gold standard is representative of the inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have flooded the internet ever since Ron Paul’s candidacy was announced a year ago. Incorrect information only occurs as one of two possibilities;ignorance or evil. It surprises me that a contributor to Forbes would make false statements about gold. Either Forbes’ quality is slipping, or its integrity. I’ll let you be the judge.

First, what the gold standard is, and what it isn’t. The International Gold Standard was adopted by the U.S. in 1880 and continued until 1913, when the Federal Reserve was created. After that it ran side-by-side with the Fed, in varying forms, until 1971 when Nixon took the U.S. off the Gold Standard and gave us what we have today, a fiat currency. What the Gold Standard did was fix the dollar to a set amount of gold. Basically, an ounce of gold represented 20.67 dollars (later 35 dollars). If you had $20.67 in currency and took it to a bank, you could convert it to an ounce of gold, usually in the form of a coin (until Roosevelt made private gold ownership illegal). The dollar was simply a claim on gold. Banks had to be careful about how much they issued, for at any time there might be a “run” on the bank and the gold reserves might be insufficient to cover the claims. The banks then had to borrow from other banks (at a cost) or, in some extreme cases, go out of business. In short, the money supply was limited to whatever gold was available.

Hoffmans implies that there isn’t enough gold to return to a gold standard, or that a gold standard is incompatible with economic growth. “Gold is pretty darn finite, wealth is not. Only so much gold exists above ground, and we only extract a bit more annually.” Wow. First, any amount of gold is sufficient for a gold standard to exist. We could easily adjust the current money supply to gold on hand. Instead of an ounce of gold being 35 dollars, it could be something else. The current commodity price of gold is 1700 dollars. Simple fix. A dollar is now 1/1700th of an ounce of gold. Or whatever we want it to be. It’s not hard to do.

As to economic growth, how does Hoffmans think we managed unprecedented economic growth during the Gilded Age? The answer; growth was simply measured differently. In essence, wealth is how much stuff you have relative to the money supply. With a relatively stable money supply, economic growth is measured in falling prices. Same money, more stuff. Imagine today if you started paying less for housing, cars, utilities, food, but your income stayed the same. You’d have more for other stuff. That’s wealth, not how many monopoly dollars you have in your pocket. Some decry “deflation.” I have no idea why. Hell, we could all be millionaires right now if the government would just print enough money and dole it out, but our money couldn’t buy a damned thing at the end of the day.

Hoffmans goes on to ask, “And what wretchedness has befallen us since we went off the gold standard in 1971?” Uh, a 16 trillion dollar debt. In 1971, the debt was 400 billion dollars (with a B). It took this nation 200 years to accumulate 400 Billion dollars of debt, and only 40 years to go up another 15.6 Trillion (with a T). I remember 1971. A candy bar was 12 cents. The other day I saw the same candy bar for 1.29. A 10 fold increase. Sheet metal workers in 1971 were making 12 grand a year. Today they’re not making 10 times that. You figure it out. It’s called inflation.

More from Hoffmans. “Interest rates are and have been very benign for years!” Yes, that’s because the Fed has kept them artificially low to encourage borrowing. The result is what we have now, the worst Recession since the Great Depression.

More brilliance. “US GDP was about was about $1 trillion in 1971 (in current dollars) and is now about $15 trillion.” What she fails to mention is that the 15 Trillion is in NOMINAL GDP. That’s equal to what the dollar is worth in today’s terms. But nominal GDP finally surpassed REAL GDP in 2000. In REAL GDP, it is more like 11 Trillion. But we won’t quibble over a measly 4 Trillion dollars, and what that means to your purchasing power.

Another ridiculous statement. “Under the fiat system, currency has value only because we all agree it does. It’s psychological.” Actually, a true statement for once. But she blows it here. “But it’s the same thing with gold. Gold doesn’t have inherent value. ” Uh, yes it does. Gold was not arbitrarily picked, as you say, to serve as hard currency. Gold developed as the ideal medium of exchange over thousands of years, spanning continents and civilizations. People have used seashells, wheat, moonshine, and everything else as currency. Gold won out because it is a store of value. It has high value among artisans and as a luxury. It is rare, portable, divisible, malleable, virtually indestructible, has a high unit value, and a number of technological uses.

A man even older than me pointed out that in 1930, 20 dollars cash could buy a new suit. Today it won’t buy a tie. In 1930, a pound of gold would get you a new car. Today, a pound of gold will still get you a new car.

I’m not trying to argue for or against gold or anything else. But like all things, I recognize BS when I smell it. Forbes has always had a great reputation for investment and financial advice, and for them to allow an article to run that is so patently incorrect…If this is the advice of experts, is it any wonder that we’re in the financial mess we’re in? Sorry to end on a rhetorical question, but such is the case with falling standards.