Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Another Cleveland Nostalgia Trip

I've been looking forward to this holiday visit to Cleveland, of course to visit with family and friends there, but also to see another Punk Rock Old Farts Reunion, as Death of Samantha plays the Beachland Ballroom on Friday night. Beachland's bio.

DoS were one of my favorites in the mid-80s. They played around town frequently and always had something interesting to add beyond the songs. DoS reveled in kitchy Americana, and the antics on stage immediately before the rocking were usually hilarious. Drummer Steve-O (waaaaay before the Jackass 'star') wore a coat made of yarn and ineptly bounced on, and fell from, a pogo stick. He did ridiculous send-ups of Joe Cocker and Roy Orbison with lip synchs. He once even emerged from a coffin on stage to say, "Hi folks!" in his cheesy way.

I've been enjoying this run of nostalgia. In the past year and a half, I've seen the following Cle Punk bands, all getting together to do one last hurrah: Children's Crusade, My Dad Is Dead, Numbskull, Oral Authority, Pink Holes, The Plague, and Starvation Army. I never thought I'd see many of these again. I hope I never see the Pink Holes again, as they lost whatever magic they had over time, alas.

I really never expected to see Death of Samantha play. I had the honor of putting together a 'reunion' of theirs that I thought would be the last, back in 1998. My best friend Steve Wainstead was leaving Cleveland for New York City, and I threw a going away party for him. Since I had a club for the event, Pat's In The Flats, I asked if he would like to see any bands play. "Death of Samantha!" was his immediate response... followed by, "Well, if you can get them to do it". It wasn't easy. The band had moved on to become Cobra Verde, but having left Steve-O behind. And, if memory serves, Doug Gillard and Dave Swanson were then also out of Cobra Verde. In any case, there were some old feelings to be dealt with, but gratefully, they were willing to do five songs, really only because it was for Steve. He went all the way back with those guys, having served as driver and roadie for them on tours, and taking the photographs for their album covers. Even then, I really didn't expect to pull it off, because singer John Petkovic has always had a looking forward, never back approach. It didn't surprise me when he struggled to remember words to his own songs, like "Yellow Fever" back in '98, because that stuff was so yesterday.

So, I'm thrilled that all differences are put aside, original bass player Dave James will play, and the band has actually been looking forward to doing this show. I've had a ticket for months. I don't care if it is 'just nostalgia'. The chance to hear these great, fun songs one more time because they want to do it is a great opportunity for me.

So, here are some DoS clips my good friend and old Blows Against The Empire radio co-host Matt Dudas posted this week. Seems he shot them in 1990 at the Babylon A-Go-Go, recently rediscovered the tape, and had it converted to digital so that he could post in advance of the reunion he couldn't attend. I'll keep the chain intact, and will shoot the show so that he and Steve Wainstead, who also can't attend, can see. Well, and you also, dear reader.

And, if you want a whole lot more, check out my podcasts, #12 & #13, which feature a sound board recording of DoS from the Phantasy Night Club in Lakewood OH, and a very chaotic appearance on my radio show, with a live set using improvised instruments in the WCSB record library- both form 1989. Here is the linkage.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Nativism On Parade In Quebec

I'll never forget the sight of Confederate battle flags flying in rural Quebec, back in 1998. I was floored... until it dawned on me why Quebecois might do so: separatism. They weren't flown for racism, but solidarity with the idea of breaking away. Folks in rural Quebec were very serious about wanting to leave Canada to form their own nation.

Well, if not racism, bigotry still. Get a load of this! The Montreal Canadiens committed a foul offense in the eyes of some in Quebec, and not just armchair powerplay quarterbacks. From ESPN:
The Quebec government isn't pleased about the hiring of a Montreal Canadiens coach who can't speak French.

The province's culture minister says she expects the Habs to correct the situation.

Christine St-Pierre isn't quite calling for the firing of new coach Randy Cunneyworth, who was just hired over the weekend.

But she says the Habs have given the impression his hiring is temporary, and she takes them at their word. The former NHL forward's title is interim coach.

The hiring has created a frenzy of media reaction, including calls for a boycott of products associated with the Canadiens.

Culture minister? This is the sort of Soviet bloc officialdom that I used to make radio satire for. Here's an idea, Christine St-Pierre: How about let the team hire a coach because they think it will lead to winning hockey!

Whoops! The Canadiens have a history of sacrificing things like success, and shit, in exchange for nativist political correctness.
The Habs have not had an only English-speaking coach since the 1970-71 season, when Al MacNeil coached them. They won a Stanley Cup that year but MacNeil had a poor relationship with some players and was demoted to the minors after the season.
Can you believe that nonsense? Hey coach! Yeah, you won the Stanley Cup and all, but off to the AHL with you! Well, MacNeil won the AHL championship next year with Nova Scotia.

As for Cunneyworth, I liked him as a player. He played tough hockey, which was par for his era. But even then, he stood out as a lunch pail kinda player that I favored- like Mike Ricci or Owen Nolan. Coaches are often craft teams like their own on-ice persona. This is why I was a big fan of the Daryl Sutter-coached San Jose Sharks. Sutter had players like Ricci, Nolan, Stephane Matteau, Ronnie Stern, Dave Lowry- real grinders that had heart to spare. If talent didn't get it done, willpower could. If Cunneyworth brings that essence to the Canadiens, Montreal's hockey fans should love him for it. I'd start to like the Canadiens, at least. Right now, I couldn't name more than 6 or 7 of their players, the Canadiens being one of the softest teams in a soft NHL.

The Tale Of Two Playwright/Presidents

Odd coincidence that Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong Il die on the same day. The North Korean dictator's passing is getting all the screaming headlines, which is a shame being that Havel was the punk rock freedom loving dissident who led a bloodless revolution, and Kim Jong Il was the repressive dictator. The loss of the repressive dictator is better news (if death should be so seen), but Havel is the one worth celebrating. From Reason in 2003:

This act of literary punk rock was followed, logically enough, by a defense of rock music that sparked the Charter 77 movement. Or, as Havel told a startled Lou Reed when he met the Velvet Underground's former frontman in 1990, "Did you know that I am president because of you?"

Defending The Plastic People

In 1968 a rare copy of the Velvet Underground's first record somehow found its way to Prague. It became a sensation in music circles and beyond, eventually inspiring the Czech name for their bloodless 1989 overthrow of Communist rule, "the Velvet Revolution." The Plastic People, then a newly formed troupe that borrowed heavily from Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, quickly added a half-dozen songs from The Velvet Underground & Nico to their repertoire. The group was banned not long after the Prague Spring concluded but continued to play at weddings and secret shows.

Then, in 1976, four members were arrested on charges of "disturbing the peace." The Czech dissident movement, newly roused by Havel's open letter, made the trial an international cause. Havel, who intuitively grasped the symbolism of the case, was in the courtroom every day to witness and document the judicial farce. Just as George Orwell saw picking up a gun to shoot fascists in the Spanish Civil War as "the only conceivable thing to do," Havel understood this assault on freedom as one outrage too far. It was a turning point in his life. "Everyone understood," he wrote later, "that an attack on the Czech musical underground was an attack on a most elementary and important thing, something that in fact bound everyone together: it was an attack on the very notion of living within the truth, on the real aims of life."

His essay on the trial has the rushed and liberated tone of someone who has just crossed a personal point of no return, or has just heard the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks for the first time. It ends with a classic description of Havel bumping into a film director who didn't understand the sudden enthusiasm for defending some derelict rock musicians.

Inspired by Lou Reed? That's a-ok with me. And sure, Kim Jong Il inspired the South Park guys to do a hilarious send-up of him, still, Havel's the one worth celebrating. CNN report.

The Plastic People of the Universe is Frank Zappa inspired. I remember the shock of listening to this record again around 2004 and thinking how the voice of the 'President' sounded so much like George W. Bush. It made it all the better, if possible:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I Was Wrong About Bob Barr

When Barr sought the 2008 nomination of the Libertarian Party, I backed him. Not aggressively, and not with my vote at the Convention, as I did not attend, the non-attendance being an indicator of how lukewarm my support was. I just searched this blog and found that I hadn't even written of him here until 4 months after his nomination. But, I backed him all the same.

As I recall my thinking at the time, I was of a mind to forgive his anti-liberty transgressions as a Republican congressman, as he recanted his former positions. We all change, not usually so late in life, but if he had his Come To Jesus moment and found libertarianism to be his genuine calling, what good would I do in dismissing it? What would that tell others I was trying to win over to my side? I want former Republicans and Democrats to come to the Libertarian Party, so I let his past not stand in the way, and judged him on his message and his plan to spread the message.

Well, I was duped. 'Patriot Paul' Wheeler emailed me today with a link to a story showing Bob Barr endorsed Newt Gingrich. Here's an excerpt from a different article on the same topic:
Bob Barr was the Presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party in 2008, having recently switched from the GOP. It was recently rumored that he was considering a Republican run for Congress in Georgia, but this still came as quite a shock. Bob Barr is one member of a large slate of public officials and former officeholders who endorsed Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign today.

Among the state and local officials announcing they are endorsing Newt Gingrich today are:

Georgia Congressmen Austin Scott, Lynn Westmoreland, Tom Price, Jack Kingston and Phil Gingrey. Former Georgia Congressmen Mac Collins and Bob Barr.

My reaction was very similar to the first comment following the article. A lot of people at the Convention were very upset that he was even being considered, due to some of the legislation he advanced while a Republican member of Congress. I try not to get caught up in the 'fake libertarian/real libertarian' thing too much. I wasn't a pure libertarian when I was first
became interested in politics. I was a Democrat. But I came to be a libertarian, and I try to just work with others who show an interest in the moment. And really, during his campaign, I found Barr to be an excellent advocate for liberty. I was fairly sold on his conversion.

Now this.

It's impossible for me to square Barr on this, though. Ok, people change. He made a big to-do about having seen the light on the things Libertarians questioned him on from his past. Ok, good. But then a Gingrich endorsement? Gingrich has unfortunately showed himself very plainly not to have libertarian grounding. His foreign policy and takes on civil liberty are the antithesis of libertarian thinking, and freedom loving.

Sure, just as with any liberal or any conservative, libertarians will find occasional common ground on issues, but with Gingrich I'm convinced now that the common ground is accidental. That Barr can't discern this tells me that his seeking our nomination was insincere, because, yeah people change... but that's a flip-flop. A big one. I wouldn't have cared if he endorsed one of two other Republicans- Ron Paul or Gary Johnson- because they certainly are libertarian, and will advance policies I can largely be proud of. But Gingrich? I would sooner vote for Obama.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The 1% And Government Money

Interesting article, although with one large hole in it, from Reason, channeling Investors Business Daily:
John Merline of Investors Business Daily has published a fascinating analysis of $10 billion the government annually gives to the dreaded 1 percent:

Using IRS data, IBD found that the top 1% of income earners claimed approximately $7 billion in Social Security benefits in 2009. That year, the program paid super-rich seniors — those with adjusted gross incomes exceeding $10 million — an average of $33,000 each.

Medicare, meanwhile, paid roughly $2.6 billion in health care subsidies for the richest 1% of enrollees, based on calculations using Medicare enrollment, overall Medicare spending and premium data. (Medicare does not track spending by enrollee income.) And if you consider that 5% of Medicare enrollees have more than $1 million in savings, the amount taxpayers spend to subsidize retiree health benefits skyrockets.

The hole is that government funnels gobs of money to corporations in subsidies and bailouts, and these moneys in turn often go to the salaries and worse, bonuses, of top executives. That's a pretty large hole for Reason to miss. However, it is illuminating how our tax system and our entitlement programs, which most people seem to hold as sacrosanct and absolute do things they don't expect them to do.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Solemn Oaths

I've enjoyed watching some of my conservative friends squirm in cognitive dissonance over Newt Gingrich. These villagers were wielding clubs and pitchforks when Bill Clinton was getting hooted in the Oval Office, and making the connection between marriage vows and the ability to tell the truth.

So, I love that on the question of character, Ron Paul took the same argument forward, and applied it to the Constitution and the oath of office to uphold the Constitution during a recent Republican debate.

And I really love that what he said got solid applause. This gives me hope.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Mad Memory Lane

I was a huge Mad Magazine fan as a 9- & 10-yr-old. I thought it was genius. My mother hated it, which made me love it all the more.

CNN has an article on Al Jaffee, long long time cartoonist and writer for Mad. He did the Fold-Ins, 'Snappy Answers To Stupid Questions', and inventions.
And then there are his sketches of "Mad inventions," including an airbag suit and an improved beverage can. Some of them, like a smokeless ashtray or a multiroll toilet paper dispenser, have come to pass -- much to Jaffee's amusement.
My favorite Jaffee Mad Invention that came to pass was the toothpaste flip cap. I distinctly recall his cartoon of the groggy person brushing in the morning dropping the common screw cap, which fell behind the radiator, or some other hard to reach place. I am that morning klutz. When the flip cap toothpaste rolled out, I bought. And smiled.

At 91 years of age, Jaffee is still turning them out. He has a delightful current jab at Newt Gingrich. I especially like the poke at Gingrich's Freddie Mac hypocrisy.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Do They Owe Me A Hobby?

Of course they don't. I'm speaking of $1 bills in particular. One of my geek hobbies is Where's George? No doubt you have received a bill with some Where's George markings on it, directing you to that website so that the movements of that bill can be tracked, for kicks and giggles.

In some of the budget cutting talks this year, the discussion turned to eliminating the $1 bill and replacing it with a $1 coin. This makes a lot of sense. Coins are vastly more durable than paper money. Did you know the average $1 bill only lives about 18 months? Over the long run, the cost savings are enormous- $5.6 billion over 30 years. This makes it worth doing.

But, but, but.. my hobby! Well, screw that. Nobody owes me a hobby. Where's George will as easily become "Where's Tom?" as $2 bills become the new smallest paper denomination, or, "Where's Abe?", as the public doesn't generally like $2s.

I'm fond of pennies, but there's really no good reason to continue minting them. I like riding trains, but that doesn't mean I support subsidies to Amtrak. Etc. I don't expect the entire country to spend foolishly just so that I may continue to enjoy a hobby as I know it today. My whims just aren't that important.

So, if the $1 should fade into history, I'll be glad of it overall. I'll smile at the cost savings to my country, and adjust my bill stamping habits accordingly.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lunch At McDonald's

I'm going purely out of respect. Big respect! From Reason Hit & Run:

San Francisco's ban on giving away a free toy with a child's meal containing a certain number of calories, salt, and other particulars is set to kick in tomorrow. McDonald's, the clear target of the ban, had a year to figure out a way to change its business practices. Seems like they used the time wisely, reports the SF Examiner.

The San Francisco ban on providing free toys to entice children to eat unhealthy foods goes into effect Thursday, but McDonald’s plans to comply with the law by charging 10 cents a toy for their Happy Meals and donating the money to the nonprofit Ronald McDonald House.

No worries about my austerity plan. I'm getting a Southwest Salad and unsweetened iced tea, which comes in under 500 calories. But to outmaneuver the nanny asshole bureaucrats and leave them absolutely tearing their hair out? Oh, I'll spend a fiver!

Which Is The Parody?

I put it to you, dear reader: Can you discern which video is the joke video? Is it the "Indy Super Bowl Shuffle"?

Or, is it the "Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video"?

Answer: The joke is the Cleveland one. Really! No fooling!

Update: Well, the people who made the Super Bowl Shuffle video have swiftly pulled the video. In the morning proud of it, by lunchtime embarrassed, and by dinner, gone. You can see the vacant remnants of the top video posted above, a sad, empty void that was roughly equal to the original. Per Advance Indiana:

WRTV is reporting that the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association has pulled a parody video it produced of the Super Bowl Shuffle song featuring downtown hotel workers plugging Indianapolis' major hotels. The take off of the song made famous by the 1985 Chicago Bears' team that confidentally predicted the team's Super Bowl win that year was resoundingly mocked throughout the Indianapolis blogging community.
The Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association billed the video as a marketing tactic aimed at Chicago meeting planners and business executives to build buzz ahead of the 2012 Super Bowl.
But what officials described as a cheesy video featuring tourism staffers and workers from seven downtown hotels in their own choreographed version of the 1985 Chicago Bears' "Super Bowl Shuffle" quickly garnered hundreds of critical comments and even a petition and a Facebook page asking city officials to pull it down.
As the feedback reached a critical mass online, ICVA removed the video from YouTube just before 8 p.m. Wednesday.
"Thanks for your passion about the city. We acknowledge making a mistake by going public with this and we accept fault. The video has been removed," wrote Jeff Robinson, the organization's creative director.
The YouTube video had nearly 8,000 views before the video was removed, but the dislikes outweighed the likes 3-1, and of the nearly 200 comments, almost all slammed the video as embarrassing and poorly done.
Yes, I contributed a 'thumbs down'. Happily. Pulling it kind of smacks of thin skin, though. Oh well. In the words of another Indiana accidental kitsch treasure, "Boom goes the dynamite."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Republicans, Defenders of Human Rights?

One of the things I had hoped for upon the inauguration of President Obama was the end to the policy of indefinite detention for prisoners of war. Trials should happen quickly, as opposed to the policy we had under Bush to simply incarcerate terror suspects without trials.

So, Obama strengthened the policy.

So, if the Republicans introduced the policy, and the Democrats confirmed it, what hope?

Yes, I could dream for the election of Libertarians. But in the meantime, Senator Rand Paul (R-TN) comes to the rescue.

Senator Rand Paul has submitted an Amendment to Senate Bill 1867 (known as the National Defense Authorization Act) which would strike the section of the bill that allows the US government to indefinitely detain individuals without trial or due process. The Amendment is #1062 and would eliminate Section 1031 which states:

"Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force...includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons...Detention under the law of war without trial"

The Democrats and their supporters made plenty of noise about human rights when Bush was in office. They did so correctly. Shame on them for not acting on their noisy rhetoric once in office. A bunch of empty suits. Well, this is consistent of them in so many things- deficit spending, war in Iraq, presidential power, etc., etc.

Rah-rah Rand Paul!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Austerity Update

I managed to go one week without drinking very many calories, and no sodas at all. I drank a fair amount of unsweetened tea with lemon, which is good for 10-15 calories per serving. Pretty negligible really, especially compared to 140 calories per 12 oz.

This only led me to one pound of weight loss, even by staying under my calorie allotment, and by playing hockey twice in the week. No matter, I feel better than I did just one week ago. I was getting to where I just felt physically sluggish overall. Physically, that feeling is gone.

Mentally, there are other things I need to address. Mainly, I just don't enjoy the work I'm doing anymore. In fact, I don't really enjoy playing hockey that much these days. That's pretty stupid, since it is recreation, and fun is half the point of it. Yes, the exercise is valuable, but I have many options for getting exercise, such as going to the gym, lifting weights in the garage, biking when the weather allows, etc.

I have many thoughts about the work situation. Mainly, right now, I'm happy to have work at all. I went the first half of the year getting about 10 hours/week in on good weeks. So, I'm not in a hurry to jettison the thing I have. But there is no reason not to really think about what I want to do when I grow up, because before you know it, I'll be 50.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kole Austerity Program

This is my boring mid-life crisis. No hot cars or wild young blondes for me. Nope- just a plan to lose weight, get fit, and figure out a way to have some fun on the cheap.

Hey, if Italy and Greece can pretend to curtail their irresponsible management of their nations, I can reign in my bad habits for real, me being smaller than a nation. At least so long as I don't look at my waistline.

I'm at 195 lbs, and want to get back to 180. I figure that will be good for at least 2, maybe 3 inches off my waist. I can get there by the first week of January if I limit myself to about 1,650 calories per day. I'm using an online program to monitor progress. If I have to look at the numbers, I'll do a better job of keeping on track than if I wing it.

So, the first thing to go is drinking my calories. I had done a good job of managing this for several years, having been beaten up by Lyme Disease, which got me away from drinking alcohol, and then kidney stones, which got me away from my old friend Coca-Cola. Having not had a major flare-up of Lyme symptoms in better than three years, and not a major stone (some very small ones) in more than five years, I slid off the bandwagon and started first drinking Diet Coke, then regular Coke.

Understand that when I was in my early 20s, and my metabolism was still very high, I used to drink 4 liters of Coke every day. That was good for about 1,600 calories every day. Crap calories, but oh, I loved Coca-Cola so. This time around, nothing nearly so extreme, just three cans a day. Still- an extra 450 or so calories every day at 43 is good for gaining a pound a week without a tradeoff.

So, goodbye Coke. It's been three days without one. The first two days, I thought about it endlessly. It's a silly thing to think about endlessly, really. But I think it's starting to pass.

The other item that needs to be reduced is eating out. Work can be tough in this regard, because I frequently work on the road. It's one thing if you work on the road at one location for 4 or 5 days. You can get a room with a mini-kitchen, go grocery shopping, and make decent food. If you're in a different location day to day, it's way easier to eat out. I can eat a 2,000 calorie meal every meal on the road, easily. That doesn't square too well with the 1,650 calorie-per-day plan.

Eating out and drinking calories is expensive. Knocking off 3 Cokes/day is about a case week, or $7 week. If I make meals at home, I can do it for $2/serving easily, whereas eating out I'm going to average $15/serving. Add the rest of the family to those numbers?

It just comes down to a prior lack of discipline. Laziness. The benefits of changing ways on these two items is obvious. It just means more prep time, and careful selection when eating out. No buffets.

If Italy and Greece can pretend to suck it up and impose discipline, certainly I can do it for real. Nothing to lose but extra weight.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Finally On The Right Street

I was in Chicago one week ago, taking a fun day trip with my 3-year-old son Ethan, doing 'ooh ahh' touristy stuff.

It was a concise little route to begin the day, arriving at Chicago Union Station via Amtrak. We walked across the south branch of the Chicago River on Jackson Street to the Willis Tower. After looking out over the city in those glass balconies, we had Chicago style pizza at Giordano's, which is just a block east on Jackson, across Franklin. After lunch, we walked towards the Lake along Jackson Street as I looked for a cab to hail. Before I could find one looking for a fare, we arrived at the intersection of LaSalle & Jackson. One the northeast corner, I saw the Occupy Wall Street protesters- outside the Bank of America building.
The thing that immediately struck me was that nobody was protesting on the northwest corner of LaSalle & Jackson. This is the location of the Federal Reserve of Chicago.What struck me next was that there were protesters carrying anti-war signs. They were protesting Bank of America, for funding wars.

Looking at the protester-free Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Protesters at the Bank of America, to the right, and this well-intentioned man, on the wrong side of the street.

I didn't want to have a political day. I was there with my 3-year-old, who is fascinated with trains, tall buildings, pizza, and fish. I wanted to get him to the Shedd Aquarium, post haste, and not get involved in protracted political discussions. That would have bored the crap out of him.

But damn! At least OWS is on one of the right streets now. They're just on the wrong side of the street. Is it possible, really, that people who one might suspect are politically aware, could be so ignorant to not know that it is the Federal Reserve, with its printing of money out of thin air, that funds these wars? That, if we were on a gold standard, and not able to deem ourselves able to spend massive gobs of money on war machinery, we simply couldn't do it?

The Fed! That is where you should be protesting! If I accept that the protesters are politically aware, my only possible conclusion is willful ignorance- that blind adherence to anti-corporate rhetoric comes long before striking at one of the roots of the problem. I'm not fan of corporatism, but corporatism is enabled by fiat currency and politicians who don't mind to direct the printers to whip up more cash, and who want to thump their chests as the World's Cop.

So yeah- protest at the White House and at Capital Hill, too. OWS is still largely at the wrong street. Protest at the Fed. This is all the more pertinent on this Veterans Day.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Incoming! Boondoggle!

Portland Oregon's light rail is routinely held up as the prime example of a delightfully working urban passenger rail system. I always find it worthwhile to look at the financial reports put out by the operators, just to see how wonderfully they work.

In the case of Portland, the operating budget shakes out like this for 2011 (Their fiscal year ends June 30):

24% of its operating budget came from passenger fares
8% from other transportation revenues
68% came from a variety of subsidies

Info from TriMet's website and balance sheet.

That's just to say that it doesn't work. They show you that with plain facts on their own site. It has nothing to do with the perspective that it's wrong besides. The transfer of wealth from those who don't ride to those who do is unjust.

Indy's newly re-elected Republican Mayor Greg Ballard wants to repeat this mistake.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Republicans, Defenders of Economic Liberty

The Indianapolis City-County Council saw a change in its makeup last night, as voters elected enough Democrats to give that party a new majority on the Council. Three at-large seats shifted from Republicans to Democrats. There were 4 Libertarian candidates, 3 of which gained a total greater than the margin of victory for the three Democrats over the next three Republicans.

In the wake of this, I was treated to usual blathering about how Libertarians 'steal votes' from Republicans, and - get this - caused Democrats to win control.

First fallacy there is that anyone 'steals votes' from anyone. No party owns the votes. The Voters own the votes, and they decide to whom they shall cast them. So, if today you are one of those folks disappointed at Democrats taking control of the City County Council, go kick the ass of one or three of the Republicans. They failed to adequately compete.

Second fallacy is that the Libertarian voter would cast for Republicans by default, if only the Libertarians were off the ballot. Well, it is argued, Libertarians and Republicans sound alike on economic issues.

Oh, I beg your pardon while I call bullshit! Ok, conceded- the two may sound the same. Rhetoric is meaningless to me. Actions matter. So, less than 24 hours after winning re-election, Republican Mayor Ballard announced his plan for getting the light rail boondoggle going. From the Indy Star:

Only hours after clinching his re-election as Indianapolis mayor, Greg Ballard went to the Statehouse to kick off his next campaign: Landing a mass transit system for central Indiana.

Ballard, a Republican, met at 11:30 a.m. today with Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, to discuss his top priority in the legislative session that begins Jan. 4.

"Certainly coming into the session we want to try to figure out a way to enhance mass transit in the city of Indianapolis and the region," Ballard said.

The Republican defender of economic liberty has this as his top legislative priority.

Egad. 'Republican defender of economic liberty'? I just threw up in my mouth a little.

So, I don't really want to hear it about the city, region, state, or country being screwed over by Libertarians, essentially causing Democrats to be elected. I fail to see the difference on anything apart from scale- and that's only occasionally. Ballard has bought in 100%.

During the campaign both Ballard and his Democratic opponent, Melina Kennedy, said they support the concept of transit but insisted they needed more details before championing the Indy Connect proposal by the Central Indiana Task Force for increased IndyGo bus service and rail lines to the suburbs.

The biggest stumbling block: Cost. The task force's proposal was estimated to cost about $2.4 billion, evenly split between local government and federal funds.

So, what's the difference? I don't see any. I see two halves of the same one. So, I have no sympathy whatsoever.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Today's Voting In Fishers

What a difference a year makes. Last year, I was a candidate for County Council, and stood freezing outside my home polling place. There were Republican candidate supporters handing out literature at least during the peak hours. The traffic was moderate at best during the peaks, and flat the rest of the day.

Today, there were only three contested races, and no Libertarians on the ballot. Although the weather is delightfully warm, only one candidate had supporters handing out literature. I was the only voter in the building when I showed up to vote today. Two others showed up as I was ready to leave. I voted for Democrat Joe Weingarten, for Fishers Clerk-Treasurer. If he wins, he would provide some measure of check & balance on the Town Council, which has long been a little Republican clique.

Today's was a fairly unsatisfying ballot, especially since there weren't any Libertarian candidates. I don't know why suburban Libertarians are so loathe to run for office, but they are. My only conclusion after many years of involvement here is that life isn't so disagreeable as to inspire challenges to the status quo. On the other hand, the Democrats only fielded two candidates out of a possible eight, so maybe it's a sense of futility in trying to unseat Republicans, or just plain apathy.

Local races seem not to be sexy enough for most folks. We never have any shortage of people considering runs for Congress. Even the state level races are challenging to find candidates for. I've never had a Libertarian candidate to vote for in either the Indiana Senate or House. I could have run for House on three occasions, and Senate on one, but I was on the ballot for other seats in two of those House years, and in the Senate year.

Next year's ballot should be sexy, being the fullest ballot of the 4-year election cycle- everything from President on down. I know there will be Libertarians for President, US House & US Senate, but I really would like to see candidates for the Indiana House & Senate. There's a lot we can contribute to the discourse in the run-up to the election, and even more if we're elected. But first, we need to run.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Get Well, & Respect!

I was fairly shocked the other day to check in to Facebook and to read Chris Bowen's status update, telling us he had been in a pretty serious car accident. Bowen is the Libertarian candidate for Indianapolis Mayor. From the Indy Star:
Marion County Democrats put out a release this morning with thoughtful comments by Chairman Ed Treacy, who of late has drawn attention much more often for his biting political jabs. It’s nice when the gloves come off one week before an election. Treacy said: “Libertarian Mayoral Candidate Chris Bowen is in our thoughts and prayers this morning as he recovers from a serious car accident that occurred last night. Mr. Bowen has worked hard throughout this campaign and is clearly dedicated to making our city stronger. We wish him well and hope for a speedy recovery.”
Indeed- Get well, Chris! That had to be one frightening moment. Very relieved that the car sustained the worst of the damage.

And big respect to Ed Treacy, a man who is better known for stinging attacks on political opponents. It's one thing to go toe-to-toe on policy, but too often it gets genuinely personal. Especially at times of injury, it's a great thing to see support cross partisan lines. Thanks, Ed! Big respect!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pal-Item Endorses Hisrich

I used to be far more connected to Libertarian candidates around the state. Running for statewide office and actually campaigning statewide will do that for you. In 2006, when I ran for Secretary of State, Libertarians were improving in many aspects of their campaigns, but endorsements from media outlets were very few.

This has been changing of late. I found that the Richmond newspaper endorsed Libertarian Matt Hisrich for his bid to win a City Council seat in District 1- in favor of a long, long-term incumbent.
Matt Hisrich, Libertarian candidate for the District 1 Richmond Common Council seat, served on this newspaper's editorial board for a time. He left behind a lot of good impressions as a thoughtful, intelligent, caring individual who knew how to ask the right questions, challenge conventional wisdom and, in so doing, advance the best interests of his community.

When he ran last year for office in Wayne County government, we regretted that his single-issue zeal against the economic development income tax rendered him less than effective on a host of other issues facing county government.

But, oh, what a difference a year, and a failed campaign, can make. Hisrich is back, articulating a host of positions, including jobs, which should render him attractive to residents of District 1 and the entire city.

That is a tall order in a district where Jack Elstro, the Democrat, has served with compassion and dedication pre-dating the 1968 Richmond explosion. This then is a bouquet, a thank you, to Jack Elstro for that record of service as much as an endorsement of the challenger whom we think possesses the talent, know-how and commitment to help move this city forward.
One thing I found interesting is the preference for a wider platform rather than a narrower one. For many years, Libertarians have been trying to simplify message, often getting bogged down in too broad a platform, including items that would be outside the scope of office. Certainly, I was annoyed as a candidate running for an office like Secretary of State, when I would face a battery of questions about abortion- an issue the Secretary of State cannot affect in any way, shape, or form. Looks like Hisrich hit the happy medium here of a broad spectrum of issues within the scope of the office. Well done!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Archives In The Hall

On Friday, I did take my collection of radio show tapes to the Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame's library and archives for storage. Many thanks to Archivist Dianna Ford, who took such an interest in the materials, and gave a really great tour of the facilities. As you might suspect, they have some amazing artifacts in there!

My first stop was to WCSB. I'd call it my old stomping grounds, but the studios have relocated from CSU's Rhodes Tower over to the Cole Center. All of my shows were broadcast from Rhodes Tower. The old studios had walls lined with cork, for sound absorption. It had a peculiar smell, and if you spent more than a half hour there, you went home 'smelling like the station'. Student Media Specialist Dan Lenhart left a WCSB t-shirt with Randy Allar for me to wear at the Hall.
Randy Allar once trained me in radio production. Not long after, I was training students in production as well. Here Randy shows me the layout of the 'new' WCSB.

This was a very proud moment for me. I was initially floored to even have the request made of me. My shows were never the most popular when they ran. They were respected, enjoyed, useful, educational- but never the top show. I was always lurking somewhere in the shadow of Steve Wainstead, who always seemed to have the top show whenever he was on. This is a great shadow to be lurking in, to be sure. Second to Wainstead is still high atop the mountain. But while I've foregone popularity in other areas of life, I always felt somewhat under-appreciated... Is that even the right word? Anyhow, I always seemed to want some kind of recognition that, yeah, you're doing good work there, Kole. Well- here it is!

The Library & Archives of the Hall is separate from the main museum, and is attached to Tri-C's campus at 30th & Woodland. I was told that eventually, the library will be open to the public. Visitors will be able to read and listen to stored materials (won't be able to check them out, though), including my shows. I'll be very interested to go back once it's operational!
Archivist Diana Ford accepting the first installment of my collections. The original cassettes and playlists will be kept forever at the Hall's Library & Archives. She and her staff will transfer the music from the CD copies I made of all the cassettes. She was very happy that I saved her a lot of time. I joked that I wished I knew that she wanted the materials two years ago, when I started making the dubs.

When Dianna Ford took us on a tour of the archives, the very first thing I saw was a shelf full of film canisters. I would so love to see this. It's the original!

So- why did I never pursue radio in Indiana upon arrival in 2002? Well, I was spoiled by my experience at WCSB. I always got to play whatever music I wanted to. 100%, absolutely everything was at my discretion. You don't generally get that luxury in commercial radio settings. Why not political talk? It doesn't really pay that well, for one thing. Most starting talkers have to make appearances in order to supplement their radio paychecks. I'd done that before, in Cleveland, when I was doing sports at WHK, ever so briefly in 1994-95. I knew right away that it wasn't the way I wanted to make a living.

So, I podcast when I'm so inspired. It's a beautiful thing. About $300 in equipment gets you up and running, and I can record a show whenever I feel like it. Listeners can subscribe on iTunes and get the show files downloaded when they are issued. My current podcast is definitely just for fun. If it never gets any recognition, I'm very cool with that.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

'propaganda' Into The Hall

On Friday, I will head back to my old stomping grounds in Cleveland to make a donation to the Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame. The Hall has asked me for my archive of my old radio shows! I am wholly honored.

My radio 'career' in Cleveland was primarily at WCSB, 89.3-FM at Cleveland State University, and my longest-running show was called 'propaganda', airing from September 1989 through August 1995. It began as a music show, and later evolved into a program covering odd phenomena, conspiracy theory, and bizarre music. The 1989-90 music shows were the most valuable, as I look back at it, having interviewed Cleveland bands and played their music. I moved away from the long-from interviews at that point, and the sounds I pursued moved from punk and hardcore to grunge and then noise and math rock- bands like Halo of Flies, Helmet, Craw, Pavement, Jesus Lizard, etc.

I recorded most of the shows on cassette tapes. My big project over the last two years has been to convert the tapes to digital files, on CD, then backing up as m4a files on my hard drive. I'm giving the RnR Hall of Fame the cassettes and my original playlists for their archive, and lending them the CDs for easy transfer. The cassettes often needed pitch correction, and the cassette-to-CD unit I used has Pitch Control on it. It will be much easier for their archivists just to transfer the digital files.

I'm giving them the 'propaganda' shows on Friday. The conversions aren't finished, so the next time I visit, I will provide them with the remainder of my shows. Here's the list of my shows at WCSB:

1987-89: Blows Against The Empire, with Matt Dudas
1988-89: The B-Sides, my first solo show, graveyard shift
1989: The Grunge Match, out of the graveyard, playing Nirvana before they made it
1989-95: propaganda
1995: Laissez-Faire! Libertarian news & comment
1998: Blood & Shaving Cream, AM drive playing the 'punk & alt hits'
2000-02: Rock N Roll Radio, with Shelly Gould-Burgess
2001-02: Laissez-Faire! Libertarian news & comment

Here's a breakdown of the evolution of 'propaganda':

Sept 1989-Oct 1991: 5-hour show with long form interviews with Cle bands
Jun 1991: Added the Church of the SubGenius' "Hour of Slack". WCSB still runs it.
Oct 1991-Jan 1992: 3-hour show, no interviews, music becoming more experimental
Feb 1992-Mar 1993: Moved to Sunday nights
Apr 1993-June 1993: Burned out on music, looking to make show more adventurous
July 1993-April 1994: co-hosted with Rev. John X. Piche, hilarious freeform shows
May 1994-Feb 1995: co-hosted with Steve Wainstead, moving towards politics
Mar 1995-Aug 1995: politics had taken over, the show would be re-named Laissez-Faire! and air in the same time slot.

I really want to go to the Rock Hall with Matt Dudas to present those show tapes together. Matt was instrumental in getting me involved at WCSB. If he hadn't reached out to me, I may never have found my way.

Those were some fun days. Too bad we didn't have digital cameras then. The pics are very few and far between, and while the audio archives are fun and in some few cases valuable, to see the mayhem of those days again would be priceless.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why The Righteous Indignation?

A friend forwarded a link to an article regarding theft at Zuccotti Park in New York:

Occupy Wall Street protesters said yesterday that packs of brazen crooks within their ranks have been robbing their fellow demonstrators blind, making off with pricey cameras, phones and laptops -- and even a hefty bundle of donated cash and food.

“Stealing is our biggest problem at the moment,” said Nan Terrie, 18, a kitchen and legal-team volunteer from Fort Lauderdale.

“I had my Mac stolen -- that was like $5,500. Every night, something else is gone. Last night, our entire [kitchen] budget for the day was stolen, so the first thing I had to do was . . . get the message out to our supporters that we needed food!”

$5,500 for a Mac? That's the Cadillac of Mac's, it would seem. The last one we bought for Ame was not much over $1,000.

Security volunteer Harry Wyman, 22, of Brooklyn was furious about the thievery -- and vowed to get tough with the predatory perps.

“I’m not getting paid, but I’m not gonna stand for it. Why people got to come here and do stupid stuff? All it does is make people not wanna come here anymore,” Wyman fumed.

Why the righteous indignation? And, why call it theft? It's just a method of wealth redistribution. To each according to their need, from each according to their ability. Heck- I should go get some. I can't afford $5,500 for a Mac. Maybe it's just a case of community standards being played out, and the redistribution of money and items is just part of fulfilling the social contract at Zuccotti Park.

What? You didn't sign a social contract? We have even more common ground than I thought!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Libertarian Takes On Occupy Wall Street

I've previously mentioned the common ground I believe libertarians can hold with left and right alike on Occupy Wall Street. Mainly, the bailouts to financial institutions were not just. If we just keep it right there, we can get along. If we start shading it, the coalition that would be falls apart- fast.

I really like what Libertarian Party Chair Mark Hinkle had to say about OWS and crony capitalism, in a recent press statement:

"It's true that 99% of Americans do not enjoy the special benefits of crony capitalism. Crony capitalism is very different from real capitalism. In crony capitalism, government hands out special favors and protections to politically well-connected businesses.

"The TARP bailouts, Solyndra, and the military-industrial complex are all facets of crony capitalism.

"Libertarians love free markets and hate crony capitalism.

"Unfortunately, hypocritical Republican politicians have taught a lot of Americans to think that 'free markets' means freedom for government and big business to engage in crony capitalism.

"That's not what free markets are. A free market is where the government leaves businesses alone, does not attempt to pick winners and losers, does not stifle competition, does not hand out corporate welfare, and does not absolve businesses of liability for their actions. Most of our economy today does not resemble a free market at all.

I would be interested in seeing an OWS reaction to this statement. Can people on the left agree and draw the distinction between actual capitalism and crony capitalism? Can the left agree that corruption is dependent upon crony capitalism, or do they actually like crony capitalism- so long as the winners chosen are ones they favor, such as green business?

For that matter, can the right see the same distinctions? Can they shed crony capitalism when the chosen winners are military suppliers?

Doug Masson has some similar ponderings today:
It’s always seemed to me that the corporate form should be anathema to Libertarians. It’s a government construct that exists for the purpose of evading personal responsibility.
I quite agree. It's interesting to see some libertarians and folks on the right who love all things business, and should equally cherish self-responsibility, overlook the latter in embracing corporations, merely because corporations are business entities. Business in and of itself is not the same thing as free enterprise.

We all have blind spots. These are the days when it would be a great idea to self-examine and find those blind spots, and acknowledge them. We end up with shitty solutions when we're full of shit.

Friday, October 14, 2011

When NPR Criticizes Obama

You know the Obama Administration is very obviously missing the boat on something large when NPR feels confident enough to mention it. In this case, NPR's "Talk Of The Nation" program noticed an LA Times article by Jonathan Hurley that included a quote that read,

"the election of Barack Obama may stand as one of the single most devastating events in our history for civil liberties."

NPR then had Turley on as guest to elaborate and take calls. Here's a short transcript of note:

JONATHAN TURLEY: It is a strong language, but I think civil libertarians are coming to grips with what is really a building disaster for our movement, and it's been a rather difficult process. You know, I have a large civil liberties blog, and there's a lot of soul-searching among civil libertarians about what exactly happened. But we are engaging in a sense of collective denial when we deal with President Obama.

DONVAN: You mean you're not talking about it publicly.

TURLEY: Yeah. And I think that's part of the purpose of this column, is to address the fact that President Obama is a perfect nightmare when it comes to civil liberties. He not only adopted most of President Bush's policies in the civil liberties areas when it comes to terrorism, but he actually expanded on them. He outdid George Bush.

Not all civil libertarians have had trouble coming to grips with this reality. The partisan Democrat civil libertarians, yes. They have put on the blinders in a huge way. Team first! Rah rah!

A partisan Libertarian such as myself began calling out the President within six weeks of his inauguration. It was that obvious almost immediately. The dialogue is really excellent.

TURLEY: Well, certainly. I supported Barack Obama. I wasn't very quiet about my support. I thought he was going to be a refreshing change to George Bush. But what has happened is that we have an election that's become a single-issue election, and that issue is Barack Obama. And he's an icon to both sides. But what's happened to the civil liberties movement is that we generally have a pendulum swing back in favor of civil liberties, which we were building towards after the Bush administration.

Polls were showing that citizens were opposed to many of the abuses, that they wanted to see more protections, and Barack Obama really rowed that way. He portrayed himself as a civil libertarian. And then when he proved to adopt many of Bush's positions and adopt even worse positions in some regards, it split the base of the civil liberties movement. There are many people that frankly cannot get themselves to oppose Barack Obama. They make a lot of excuse for him.

DONVAN: You mean emotionally they can't do it?

TURLEY: They can't emotionally, politically, personally. They just have a very difficult time opposing a man who's an icon and has made history - the first black president, but also the guy that replaced George Bush. And the result is something akin to the Stockholm syndrome, where you've got this identification with your captor. I mean, the Democratic Party is split, civil libertarians are split, and the Democratic Party itself is now viewed by most of libertarians as very hostile toward civil liberties.

Senators and members of the House, it turns out, were aware of many of these abuses and never informed people.

This is really good radio, and I know that "Talk of the Nation" is typically like this, with good, measured guests and dialogue, beyond the soundbytes. I've generally had a hard time listening to it, because it is so regularly left-of-center. It's not that I need confirmation bias in all things, it's just that I similarly don't need to listen to predictably oppositional radio. I mean, I could listen to Limbaugh as easily, and don't. But the best political radio (or other media) is oppositional in nature, taking on the watchdog role. It's good to see and hear NPR start to do this a bit more. It excelled at it when Bush was in office.

Well, into the 3rd year of Obama's term is better late than never.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ugly Rhetoric

Every movement has its ugly rhetoric, where people get carried away emotionally at rallies and say regrettable things. I'm seeing calls for violence and bigoted displays out of the Occupy Wall Street movement on a scale not seen in the Tea Party. This is not good.

These kinds of things are only going to rile the Tea Party and the right against Occupy Wall Street, if they aren't there already. I have watched this political discourse go back and forth for about two decades now, where each side makes horrible remarks, the opposition reacts and is shocked, SHOCKED! I tell ya, and then they trade places, and evoke the misdeeds of the past to justify the misdeeds of the present.

Whenever I see this dynamic in play here, my mind goes to the former Yugoslavia, to the Serbs and Bosnians. How long have they been doing this? 700 years? It doesn't work.

I am convinced that left and right can get together on this, but it will take focus, and will require one side or other to take the high road. Since the OWS folks are on the ground and it's their moment, the onus is on them. So far? FAIL.

And, for what it's worth, my expectation is always that the left has greater capacity to take the high road, but always disappoints me more spectacularly, with rhetoric and imagery that is well over the top of what the right puts out there. I'm seeing it right now. The hatred and seething in many of these folks is well beyond the Tea Party. I'd love to see a leader- a Ghandi, an MLK Jr., someone who can make a point firmly without succumbing to hatred- take charge of Occupy Wall Street. This is where being leaderless is hurting movements.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ed Coleman Running Hard

I am pleased with the effort Ed Coleman is making in his bid to be re-elected to the City-County Council in Indianapolis as a Libertarian. He can't count on a majority of voters to keep him in office as a matter of blindly casting for the 'R' or 'D'. People have to know who he is and very consciously vote for him.

With this in mind, Ed and volunteers have been canvassing door-to-door in his Perry Township district, making his case. This is very satisfying to me. It's incredibly hard to reach voters any other way. Very small numbers turn out to political events. Advertise on TV or radio and the vast majority of the viewers or listeners are bound to be outside the district.

And, while Ed was bolstered with solid finances ($50,000) from the LNC- the Libertarian National Committee- he can't just saturate the airwaves with his ads, hoping that his district's voters happen to catch the programs. So, he's doing targeted ads on cable tv, on the system that airs in his district. Here is the full-length (2-minute) version, below. An edited version is airing in Perry Township.

Ed Coleman was originally elected as a Republican, as an at-large candidate in 2007. At the risk of bruising his ego, in my opinion, Ed was elected on the strength of having that 'R' after his name on the ballot. He certainly didn't go door-to-door over the whole of Marion County, nor spend $1 million on TV ads. At-large is a bellweather kind of election item. Going door-to-door is proven effective for Libertarian candidates. Phil Miller was elected to the Greenfield City Council in 1999 going door-to-door, and he hopes to be elected mayor there this year doing the same work.

So, Ed doing the work on multiple fronts, door-to-door and sharp media, gives him the best possible chance to win. I know from having been a candidate twice that you can always look back and see places where you might have been able to do more, or do better, in the effort to win people over and gain votes. With what I have seen, I don't think Ed will have any 'wouda coulda shoulda' about his effort. He's doing the right things.

Update: Maybe someone on the campaign team read the post, but I got an email within a couple hours of posting with details on team door-to-door for Coleman for this weekend.

Meeting Saturday, October 15 at 9:30am at Heine's World Famous Roast Beef, 7040 S Madison Ave, Indianapolis. More details and sign-up at an Indy Libertarian meetup page.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Common Ground, If Desired

I continue to be fascinated with the Occupy Wall Street protests. I can't help but notice points of comparison with the Tea Party protests, as certain positions have been reversed. Mainly, where patriotism or anger-as-hate was seen in the Tea Party, it has now reversed position on Occupy Wall Street in many quarters.

What a loss! Blind partisanship and tribalism can be so debilitating. I believe there is great common ground to be shared, if Tea Partiers care to unite with Occupiers. How hard is it for both sides to agree that government shouldn't have bailed out financial institutions, especially if the money was going to be spent on executive bonuses and the like? The common ground is injustice.

The common ground for anger is the injustice of crony capitalism, which isn't capitalism at all, but corporatism. The transfer of wealth from the many to the few is unjust. Period. Focus on that, and the movements can merge and become a dazzlingly effective, powerful force. Otherwise, the left and the right will snipe at each other over so many things, many of which are far from substantial, and the energy will be wasted.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

No Movement Shall Go Un-Co-Opted

Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party now share two commonalities for me.

1. I initially viewed both in "I could get behind this" terms.
2. Both were quickly co-opted by the existing political machinery.

Both soon revealed to me that I could not get behind them. The Tea Party showed its deep official religion interest, and then hypocrisy on government spending vis the military and Social Security. Occupy Wall Street lost me with any of the lists of demands that have emerged (there are several), and the anti-capitalist bent.

But- I am amazed with the rapidity with which Occupy Wall Street has been co-opted. It took about a year for the Tea Party to be fully infiltrated. Occupy Wall Street? About 3 weeks. Enter, the unions.

I thought that was interesting, as we witnessed union violence early in the protest, courtesy the NYPD. I'd be interested to see how that gets reconciled. Link

Monday, October 03, 2011

On The Wrong Street

The thought that keeps running through my head whenever I see a news report about the Occupy Wall Street protest is that the have the wrong street. The best places to start would be the nearest Federal Reserve Bank. There are 12 branches. The nearest to Indy is the Chicago Fed. Locations.

I also think about Thomas Jefferson's admonition about private banks (such as the Fed is) and corporate power. Consider that he made his remarks over 200 years ago, so it isn't

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs."

* Letter to the Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin (1802) and later published in The Debate Over The Recharter Of The Bank Bill (1809)

Or, if that doesn't resonate, pick one or the other of the following streets: E. Capitol Street, or Pennsylvania Ave.

Is corporate power too great? Don't like the bailouts? Well, who granted that power? American corporations didn't magically divine their powers. They were created by government. The money corporations get from government? Corporations may well ask for it, but it requires a bailout, or a stimulus program, or a subsidy for that money to end up in corporate hands. So, protest to the government that makes it so. Strike at the root, don't just pop the head off the dandelion.

The Fed is also the root. Where did the stimulus money come from? It was printed out of thin air. It did not back actual value. If governments cannot command their private bank to print money out of thin air, then banks on Wall Street cannot so blithely be bailed out when they screw up royally.

I admire many things about the protest (the 'Stop Capitalism' notably excepted), but I believe it is ultimately misdirected. There are members of Congress and executives at the Fed laughing and high-fiving over the misunderstanding, and the idea that the protesters are on the wrong street.

Update: Oh, did I say I admired Occupy Wall Street? Well, yes, I did. They just went way down the toilet in my estimation, now that I have read the 'Proposed List of Demands For Occupy Wall Street'. I beg the world's pardon. I fucked up. I saw protests against corporatism, and they had my interest. But now that I see that particulars? Sheesh. There are two good ideas in there along with one needless one, and 10 big stinking losers. They thought the economy was bad now? Bwaaahahahaha!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Slow, Not Broken

It's very rare that I find myself agreeing with something Bill Bennett wrote, but today's the lucky blind squirrel finds a nut day. From CNN:
There is a popular misconception in politics today that the American political system is broken because Washington can't accomplish anything meaningful. This is not true. The system is working entirely as intended -- bumps, bruises, and all.

One must not confuse broken government with slow government. Washington is stalled. It's being pulled in opposite directions by competing visions of government. In 2008, the American people elected a liberal president, House and Senate. What resulted was anything but gridlock. Democrats passed an unprecedented stimulus package, Obama Care, and the Frank-Dodd bill. In 2010, the country revolted, swung back to the right and elected a conservative House, the likes of which has not been seen before.

As a result, we are in the midst of a serious philosophical battle over the future of this country -- a battle between a small, limited government system and a big government entitlement state. The nature of our Constitution requires that the American people decide the direction of this country, not Washington. And until the American people decide, there will be arguments, division and gridlock.

Our country does not undergo dramatic changes in political philosophy, for better or for worse, overnight. It is a slow, painful process and has been throughout our history. Our Founding Fathers foresaw this.

Bennett goes on to cite Federalist #10. Color me impressed! I had no idea it was even in his repertoire. At any rate, today's government doesn't even look like gridlock to me. It looks very much as Bennett describes it- slow.

Now, that's a relative term, of course. For the majority of Americans, I think they really do want fast solutions to problems, and the discourse seems labored in the light of people characterized by short attention spans. I think of it as moving ever too fast. Lots of things I can cite as being under-discussed and over-rushed: wars in Iraq and Libya, Patriot Act, Recovery Act- these are off the top of my head. Wish those things were deliberated at extreme length. You know, like for five weeks, even.

Bennett is correct in that there is a sharp divide between those who want limited government and government interventions. Those who want more government should actually welcome the prolonging of debate on at least this ground: The Tea Party tends to be a fairly bogus small government advocate. Just start talking about Social Security to see them backslide. So, keep up the debate, and the support for limiting government will likely wither, as it usually does, when specific examples are raised, and their defenders lose religion and rush forth.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Gotchas And Cognitive Dissonance

The Ron Paul / Wolf Blitzer "Should they die?" exchange has been greatly remarked upon. I can picture one side of the political spectrum having jumped out of their easy chairs while watching the GOP debate, pointing their fingers at the TV, shaking with righteous indignation and yelling to those in the room (or to nobody at all), "See!"

Doug Masson weighed in on the exchange in more measured tones, and pointed out something that has been bubbling under the surface of my consciousness and made it rise forth.
There are very few actual monsters among us. But, there are plenty of people for whom strangers are little more than an abstraction. And that’s why no sense of empathy stirs them to be concerned about whether the unknown person lives or dies. When confronted with dissonance between their stated logic and the plight of someone they know and care about, there will be some justification about why the person they know is entitled to assistance. But, I suspect social proximity is the determining factor.
If one can be 'guilty' of what Doug brings up here, then we all are. There is this prevailing attack on libertarians as the kind of people who say, "I got mine, so fuck you". Yes, there are libertarians who take this approach. Guess what? Everybody actually lives that. Unless we have sold off all of our belongings and sent the proceeds to Africa, or West Virginia, or Knox County, or even the poor side of town... well, we've drawn the line, and said, "I've got mine, I ain't giving anymore, you're on your own, fuck you". We may draw the line closer to or further from home, but we all draw the line- unless we've sold off our belongings, and maybe joined a guerrilla army to fight against warlords in Somalia or ward off genocide in Darfur. At any rate, these political attacks are designed to inspire guilt. I was raised Catholic. I know a guilt trip when I see it.

I don't know why we can't acknowledge this about ourselves. We earn, we keep some, we give some away, we have some taken from us. We aren't in a national commune, pooling 100% of any income for the use of the whole, so it should be obvious to see. There's willful ignorance teamed with a smug moral relativism going on.

As for me, I don't feel guilty about having not sold my belongings, about having drawn the line, and prioritizing the well-being of my family first, as I define said well-being. I'll never feel the slightest twinge of guilt knowing that someone would have lived longer in Africa, in West Virginia, in Knox County, or in the poor parts of Indy if only I had put more into the public till. I don't see these others as my responsibility. I certainly don't see them as owing me anything. And, I have only begun on the kids' college fund after having been under-employed for 2+ years, and nearing the end of my contract- the only six weeks of actual employment I've had this year. The odd jobs were fun, but weren't even paying the bills. The bills and the kids' college fund, or, a small part of an operation for a person unknown to me? Yeah- the college fund, every time.

And, just like in so many other areas of life, I'll wait for others to lead by example. Any time one who believes in funding the health care of those they don't know wants to, they can. Just as I'm waiting for Al Gore to give up his mansion in the name of a better environment, and Warren Buffett to write a check for a billion dollars to the federal government as a self-tax on the wealthy, I'll look to the proponents of health care to write checks themselves. Otherwise, they're just bluffing. Or pandering. Or, full of shit.