Friday, October 01, 2004

Didn't Watch

I received a pile of emails asking my opinion of the debate. Bummer- I didn't watch. I actually had some fairly pressing business to attend to.

Even if I had the time, though, I wouldn't have watched. Simple reasons: The "debate" wasn't going to be a debate, but rather, a two-headed infomercial. Libertarian Michael Badnarik, despite being on the ballot in 48 states, wasn't included.

Collusion isn't pretty when business does it to rip off the public. It's even uglier when two candidates for President do it.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Presidential Candidate to Visit Noblesville

Libertarians from Indiana, and even central Illinios and Ohio will have a chance to meet and support LP Presidential candidate and native Hoosier Michael Badnarik in Noblesville this Saturday, October 2 at 7:00pm. Badnarik will be winding down his 2-day tour through Indiana at Lutz's Steakhouse on SR32 about halfway between downtown Noblesville and Westfield. The event is free and open to the public, although there is a suggested minimum donation of $25. There will be a cash bar and hors d'eouvers. While not required (anyone can drop in!) the state party is looking for RSVPs from those planning to attend. Call 317-920-1994.

Several other LP candidates and officials will be on hand, including Michael's mother, Elaine Badnarik. Elaine is the LP's candidate for Lieutenant Governor.

I'm glad that Badnarik is coming here now, because here we are in the thick of the campaign season, and national issues aren't being as hotly discussed in Indiana as they are in Ohio, Florida, Iowa, and New Mexico. Nothing wrong with Indiana, but everything wrong with how campaigns wind down, and a bit of a criticism of the Electoral College system. Both Bush and Kerry know via polls that Indiana is a red state. Nothing Kerry does or says will change this, so he has given up on campaigning here. Bush is comfortable enough that he won't bother campaigning here either. It makes perfect sense for them to chase after the close states and ignore the ones that are certain. There is no advantage in taking a 60-40 victory in Indiana and turn it into a 70-30 win. It's still 11 electoral votes, and Bush and Kerry know they belong to Bush. Great strategy, but not so great for a population to be utterly ignored by the top of the ticket. Thank goodness for Badnarik.

It will be interesting to hear the issues he chooses to discuss. He doesn't seem to favor any one over another. If I had my druthers, I'd have him hammer away on taxes, spending, and the economy. We'll see.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Victory at the Debate!

Sure, I'm biased. That doesn't mean that I can't say that Libertarian candidate for governor won his debate with sitting Governor Joe Kernan (D) and Mitch Daniels (R). He did. He struggled at first, thanks to an uncooperative sore throat, but once he hit his stride, Kenn was on. Of course, as a former preacher, he feels at home behind the lecturn. C-Span footage. Debate transcript. Review.

Gividen's ideas struck many observers as novel and innovative. (It struck me as odd, though, that Kenn was the only candidate to tout his own website.) In fact, Kenn was convincing enough to have Daniels compliment him during the debate five times. This is a big deal.

Traditionally, Democrats and Republicans marginalize Libertarians and other third party candidates by ignoring their presence. Kernan took this tack, only acknowledging Kenn once, and then strictly as an opponent. But Daniels said plainly that he felt that Kenn had good ideas in his approach to education.

This makes Daniels the runner-up. It isn't because he was the nice guy to my guy. It's that he isn't so full of himself to think that he is the only one with a good idea, nor too stuck up to give nod to an opponent. Nobody has it all right or all wrong, and I appreciate the reality check Daniels provided.

The acknowledgements could not have gone unnoticed, which should do wonders for our credibility.

Another way Kenn won was in strictly presenting his ideas as worthy of consideration, never criticizing his opponents personally. Meanwhile, Kernan and Daniels were increasingly negative throughout the debate, leaving Kenn above the fray. Negative campaigning has done nothing but hurt candidates here in Indiana. The display of Kernan and Daniels could benefit Kenn significantly.

At least, that's my hope. For now, I'll savor Kenn's showing.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Cultural Differences

I'm going by what I saw and heard in Denmark, without any fact checking research, so take it with a grain of salt. These are just a handful of quick-hitters.

The Danes have a parliament and a monarchy, and seem to like it that way. Monarchy seems terribly outdated to most Americans, since that's the kind of government we overthrew in 1776. The Royal Family are figureheads, just like the British Royal Family: well-paid, un-taxed, and truly hyper-priveleged. It's a source of national pride to Danes, and they want to keep the system in place. The recent divorce hoopla surrounding the Prince and Princess has done nothing to diminish support for the monarchy.

The average Dane loses 78% of his income to taxes. They are the most highly taxed nation on the planet. They like it that way. American readers are now bewildered. In exchange for this tax rate, there is true cradle-to-grave assistance, in everything from health care to education, including university studies.

For those who would point to the Danish free health care system, you should know this: well-off Danes don't use the free system, just as well-off Americans don't go to Wishard in Indy, unless it's a dire emerency. They go to private doctors for faster, more reputable care. The majority of Ame's Danish relatives are doctors, by the way, and Ame toured a hospital.

For my libertarian friends expecting stories of filthy, tubercular corridors in a callous, soviet-style barracks hospital, forget it. The average medical care is actually quite good, and the hospitals not unlike our own. I frankly expected worse. The questions I kept asking myself were surrounding the motivation. If it's all 'free', why bust your hump? What I observed is that the Danes have an outstanding work ethic and a thirst for learning. I'm know that there are welfare mooches in Denmark, especially in Copenhagen's Christiania, but not nearly to the extent you find in American cities. The sense of entitlement is there, but it is different in that the sense of wanting to contribute to society in order to earn the entitement is very strong.

Gasoline. They call it benzin there, pronounced "benzene". To fill a 12-gallon tank, you will spend $90 US dollars. Next time you want to wail and moan about the high price of gasoline here, remember that. I'll never forget it. I took a picture of the pump when I filled up.

Cars are not manufactured in Denmark, and the government is interested in directing traffic from cars to bicycles. If the price of benzin isn't high enough to pedal, maybe the tax on a new car will. It's 180%. That means a car that would have been $10,000 if tax-free costs $28,000 in Denmark. I marvelled at every Audi and Porsche I saw.

Americans sometimes complain about corporate dominance. Today it's Wal-Mart. Five years ago it was Microsoft. In five years, it will probably be some other entity. For the last 100 years or so, Maersk has been the undisputed top corporation. Maersk is a shipping giant, with a fleet of boats rivaled only by the US Navy. Of course, the Maersk fleet is made for shipping containers, the kind you often see eventually on rail cars and then pulled by trucks to their final destinations. How large is Maersk? The owner self-funded an opera house in Copenhagen as a gift to the nation, with the price tag said to be better than $400 million US dollars. I did not hear a single complaint about Maersk, even though I discussed the company with several people. It seems the Danes understand the value of a giant corporation.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Family Time in Denmark

Before Ame & I met with her grandmother, Virgie, and began our journey to Denmark so as to meet some of the relatives Ame had only ever heard about, Virgie read to us from an email. It laid out something of an itinerary for meeting various familie over the first five or six days of the trip. It had a tongue in cheek line along the lines of, "by then you will have tired of the Danes and will want to do some sightseeing".

That was all very amusing, but even though these are not my blood relatives, and I had really not even heard of any of the individuals, I did not tire of the Danes. I found them all extremely warm and hospitable, and enjoyed their company very much.

For me, the highlight of the trip was a dinner at a Copenhagen restaurant called Pedersen's. It is not far from the center of the city, located around the corner from the zoo. 33 relatives came from all over Denmark and even from Germany and Norway to share a meal and good cheer with their distant American cousins. Dining at this location was sentimentally important to Ame. Now that she has eaten at Pedersen's, six generations of Langmacks have done so.

I marvelled at how this extended family has kept in touch, considering the family tree. The connection between Ame and the Danes is her great-granfather, Holger Langmack. Holger and his wife emigrated to the US in the early 1920's, leaving five brothers and sisters behind. One of Holger's sisters married into the Glenthoj family. It was the Glenthoj's we were meeting. It can be hard enough keeping in touch with your siblings and the next generation sometimes. It is remarkable how the third generation after Holger's siblings are keeping in touch.

The Langmack US-Denmark connection remained strong. Holger Langmack is credited with starting the first Boy Scout troop in Denmark. Holger's son, Ame's grandfather Sven Langmack, was the Royal Danish Consulate in Cleveland. Now Sven's son, Ame's uncle Chris Langmack, is the Danish Consulate in Cleveland.

Chances are that with visits like these, the connection will remain strong. At Pedersen's, there was a call for a show of hands for all of those who had been to the US and stayed with Sven and Virgie in Cleveland. About 80% of the hands went up. Now they have a new destination, as everyone has been invited to stay with Ame & I here in Indiana.