Thursday, September 18, 2008

Yeah, seems about right....

Take a look at this:

"Less taxes and more war." How can people like this exist? and why are they determining who's going to be in line for the presidency? I would like to comment more, but I'm having a hard time avoiding words like "asshole", "moron", and descriptions like "worthless piece of shit". I guess I should just let the video speak for its self. I hope this inspires someone with some common sense and heart to get involved. It's not as hard as you'd think. I mean, look at this guy.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Using Trial and Error to learn basic economics

I don't claim to be an expert on economics. I never studied it in college and I don't think I've even read any significant books on the subject. In fact, the last time I can remember receiving any sort of formal education regarding economics was in middle school. There are, however, a couple of obvious points that have stuck with me over the years.

1) When supply is greater than demand, prices will drop.

2) When prices drop demand will often rise.

3) When demand is greater than supply, prices will rise.

4) When prices rise demand will often decline.

See how that works? It's a logical system which has a natural flow. When I saw this article today: it again occurred to me what morons we have running things up there (or maybe it's just that they expect that we're all too idiotic to notice).

Here's how I understand it: Prices have been rising for some time, finally reaching record levels and sustaining them for a while this summer. There was all the talk of economic turmoil, people being unable to afford to drive to work, milk becoming more expensive, and all that. Suddenly, in a week, the price drops 30-40 cents and people start buying it again, thus depleting the supply. Pretty shocking, eh? Prices decline and demand moves back up to near "normal" levels. Who could have seen that coming?

And why is it happening? I'm not sure yet. A lot of people are attributing the drop in prices to the president's recent move to allow for more drilling of our own reserves, and I think there's probably something to that. Oil prices are at least partially dictated by the world marketeers, and they tend to be a pretty skiddish and reactionary lot. According to the official word, as provided by the Enery Information Administration (EIA), who provide the "Official Energy Statistics from the US Government", "...access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030." (

Monday, June 23, 2008

Overheard at a meeting

The other day there was a small gathering to meet and speak with a gubernatorial candidate happening through our town. I went because I had heard some things about this candidate, but knew very little (the word was that though her policies weren't altogether perfect, she might be worth supporting since she wasn't being backed by the Republican establishment). The most interesting thing that happened during the meeting though was a couple of quotes I picked up. During a discussion about energy policy it was mentioned to the group that McCain doesn't support oil drilling in the US. This shocked a few of the people who weren't aware of this fact and "Bob" (a senior member of the local party) explained the discrepancy thusly: "McCain is a Democrat, for all intents and purposes". Nobody objected to this statement. This is the candidate these people are going to campaign and vote for? Since I've been involved with the Republican party I have not heard a good word about him. The closest came a few months back when a speaker at a club meeting said something like "Hey, our guy looks pretty good compared to Obama's preacher, doesn't he?". I'm having a really hard time understanding this plague of complacent acceptance. What are these people afraid of? In my experience, I know that the elders in the local club will come down on me for failure to fully support whatever nonsense comes rolling along, but I have yet to see what will happen if one of these respected members expresses a real, reasoned opposition to anything. I have gotten involved because I was tired of sitting at home complaining about what's going on. Now I find that those who are supposed to be doing something about it are just sitting around in a bigger, more public room and complaining about what's going on. Another quote from the meeting may ring hopeful. Across the table from me it was whispered "we've lost our way".

The first step is acceptance, right?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

2008 Republican State Convention (part 2)

Lunch was uneventful, I drove aimlessly around venting over the phone about how incredibly wrong everything seemed. Eventually, I stopped and ate, then headed back to the convention hall. On the way back inside, I passed the "Lunch on Table Rock" delegate soiree and could hear the music and what sounded like a live lounge singer doing assorted favorites from the Wayne Newton catalogue (or maybe some of Tony Orlando's classics). I wasn't disappointed to have missed it. Going back to the convention hall, my morale was not what it had been earlier in the day. As far as I knew, the only thing left to do was to approve the Party Platform, and since there wouldn't be any amendments or discussion, there didn't really seem to be much reason to return, but I had decided to go ahead and put in my time. I worked my way back toward my seat, hoping to find the area vacant, so I could settle in for a few minutes before everything started again. Unfortunately, there were four or five people gathered there. Most of them were my fellow county delegates who had been sitting near me, but one man was from somewhere else. He stood outside our district area, resting his forearms on the barrier between us. The group was deep in discussion, as I approached I heard the woman who had been sitting at my right side say "Yeah, I know! We've got two of them in our group!" she patted my seat for emphasis, and continued "I don't know how they got in!". About this time I passed by them and sat down. They were suddenly quiet. One of the men said, "not to change the subject, but..." and it went on from there.

Since the convention I've wondered what I was being portrayed as in that conversation. I wouldn't be surprised or bothered by being labeled as "one of those Ron Paul people", but I am a little concerned that they may think I'm a Democrat spy. There was a paper being distributed around the convention containing an article trying to connect Ron Paul to Barack Obama based on a link on a "meet-up" website. Upon the most basic investigation, the link they mention is actually in a directory of all the other "meet-up groups" on the site, and is in no other way directly related to the "Ron Paul meet-up" page. Maybe the article's author just didn't understand how website navigation works, but in light of what Bob told me earlier, it looks like are efforts afoot to invent some sort of Obama/Paul conspiracy to infiltrate the Republican party! The main reason this bothers me is that if they get this notion into their heads, they're going to see me as an enemy more than someone who's just misguided, and I'll be completely shut-out. Given the nature of my relationship with the party, one may wonder why I would see that as such a bad thing.

It was getting close to time to start up again, and we were still missing a man. It was a guy I had talked to during the break, he said he wasn't sure he was going to come back, since it didn't look like there would be anything for us to do. The club president came down the row, doing an inspection, and saw the empty seat, it was mentioned, and the man sitting next to the seat said "this guy hasn't been voting on anything! He just sits there". "Well, that's why he shouldn't be here" she replied, adding paradoxically "he's new. You've got to come to a few of these things to figure out how they work." She returned to her seat and the convention reconvened. For at least the first hour there were a series of speakers. I suppose it's good to get to the know the candidates, but I'm more interested in how they're going to do their job than how happily married they are, or if they "grew up on a small farm" as one particularly earnest candidate repeated several times. I have known a lot of people who grew up on small farms, and some of them are good, hard working people, but some of them are sticky-fingered meth addicts. Saying that doesn't impress, or tell, me anything except that you must not have anything worthwhile to say. I don't blame the woman to my right for falling asleep. On the positive side, the speeches did give people - including the guy missing from our row - time to distribute the three amendments to the Party Platform which, to my surprise, had managed to be printed out in time (maybe they were printed ahead of time?). Once the speakers had wrapped up it came time to get back to the business at hand, examining the proposed amendments to the platform.

One of the amendments offered more specific wording to an existing statement, which originally read that the Republican Party supports "Efforts at the state and federal levels to adopt a fair system that grants parents the ability to help their children escape failing schools and attend schools of their choice." The amendment would have removed the period from the end of that sentence and added " using pell grants, tax incentives, or whatever means necessary to give all parents, no matter what their income, the opportunity to choose the best education for their children. No child should be trapped in a school where they cannot succeed." Oddly, most of the debate around me had to do with whether or not this would be exploited by college students, which was something I hadn't considered, because it had seemed directed at children in public schools. The idea of using the Pell Grants was also reviled. It didn't pass.

Another amendment was submitted to remove the wording stating that the Missouri Republican Party supports "Legislation to prohibit all human cloning." and replace it with "A constitutional amendment to prohibit all human cloning at any stage from the one-cell stage forward." Again, the amendment seemed to be trying to add some specificity to the wording in the Platform, but it was voted down because, according to one speaker, the medical definition of cloning already refers to anything from the one-cell stage forward.

The convention was revitalized by the third proposed amendment, which, if passed, would state that the Missouri Republican Party supports "Replacing all income, pay-roll, and death taxes with the FairTax on new goods and services above the value of basic necessities and any need for the Internal Revenue Service." An excited murmuring washed through the crowd, eyes gleamed, there were giddy chuckles all around. There was discussion. What exactly is the FairTax? Nobody seemed clear, and the ones I talked to, who had some idea, said it was just another Federal Tax, which didn't quite work for them. A proposal to amend the amendment was made, and passed (at least I believe it passed, things were getting a little chaotic and hard to keep track of). It now read "Replacing all taxes with the FairTax on new goods and services, exempting the basic necessities, thereby ending any need for the Internal Revenue Service." The faithful party members around me beamed with the childlike exhilaration of being naughty, "Can we do this? I don't think we can even do this." "It looks like we are doing this!" The vote was extremely close, but the amendment was shot down "by about two votes", in one estimation.

Following the presentation of amendments submitted to the Platform, there was an opportunity to hear what resolutions had been submitted to the Platform. As it was explained to me, resolutions are very similar to amendments, except that they are attached to the Platform instead of written into it, and aren't taken as seriously. Five resolutions were submitted. By this time the crowd was getting restless. The first resolution, dealt with teaching our "true" national history in schools, and making sure money given to schools would improve education instead of expanding facilities. There was a little debate, questioning: "who determines what the 'true' history is?" and raising concerns: "this sounds like it could be used as a way to push political correctness". The resolution was defeated by a large margin. The second resolution was a request that our elected officials abide by the Party Platform and strive with every decision to ask themselves "will this protect or harm the liberty of the citizenry". The point was made that this is what these officials are supposed to do anyway, and the resolution was deemed unnecessary. The next two resolutions were variations on the previous one, but each was longer than the last. I couldn't help laughing each time the chairman paused before reading the next section of the second, and most epic, of these. There were at least five false endings, and each time he resumed, the groans from the audience got louder. The fifth resolution was announced, but before it could be read someone called out a "motion to adjourn", and with a swift vote, the convention was over.

Before dismissing us, the chairman gave an appreciative little speech to wrap things up and send everyone home happy. He thanked the staff from the venue, and the volunteers who set things up for the convention, he thanked the candidates for getting up and speaking to all of us, he thanked us for coming and being such great Republicans. He reminded us all just what being a member of the party meant, and I could hardly believe it. "We are the party of free thinkers and strong individuals. We don't expect everyone to be in lock-step or toe the party line." The cheers and applause rose to a final crescendo as the faithful firmly patted themselves on the back, basking in this absolving anointment.

Friday, June 6, 2008

2008 Republican State Convention (part 1)

In late May of 2008, I was a delegate at a state Republican convention, and I was left with a strange mixture of feelings about things. On one hand I was/am frustrated, disgusted, insulted, and deeply concerned (for the future of our nation), but on the other I am more impassioned than I have ever been (about anything), more confident that this freedom movement is absolutely what needs to be pursued (immediately and relentlessly), and less concerned about the local party bosses cracking down on me. The sickening apathy, hypocrisy and complacency of the current leaders of the Republican Party in my county (symptomatic of the national party, I now more firmly believe) were on full display, and to my horror, I had a front row seat.

First, a little back-story: At the district convention, held in April, I had been reprimanded by a couple of my local Republican leaders for having the insolence to make an attempt to garner enough votes to get myself to the national convention. The night before, I had printed up about 160 fliers, and that morning I canvassed the place, distributing them, shaking hands, and being cordial. I didn't realize it at the time, but doing this meant that I wasn't a "team player". Apparently I was supposed to ask the club president for permission before taking any such action (by the way, she hadn't asked me for any such permission, and as far as I know there hadn't been any vote or agreement making her our county's sole eligible delegate). Regardless, I did manage to get nominated to a slate (the club president told me to decline my nomination, I refused), but wasn't elected.

The state convention began early on a warm Saturday morning. I sat and waited while people filed in and slowly filled the place. A lady sitting next to me suddenly turned and said "You know, I'd really like to go to the national convention". "Yeah, that would be cool. Me too." I responded, unsuspectingly. "You really overstepped us. I was insulted that you thought you could just come in and do that" she spat, with curt precision. Surprised realization struck me, and I blurted out "well, it was open to anyone, I just thought I'd see what I could do..." She continued, explaining that one must volunteer time and donate money over course of many years - as she and the club president had - to be considered for such an honor. I maintained a sort of wide-eyed innocence, and a mildly apologetic posture, mainly nodding to indicate I was still listening, as she told me how disrespectful I had been. As she wrapped up she assured me that she just wanted to clear the air, so there wouldn't be any hard feelings or talking behind my back. I wasn't particularly comforted by this, but was extremely relieved when the exchange ended. Six hours to go.

Eventually, we got down to business, and maybe an hour in, we reached the part where the convention rules were to be voted on. Two motions were made, questioning different rules.

1) It was suggested that the line "All persons agreeing to be listed on a slate of delegates and alternates must pledge to vote for the winner of Missouri's Presidential Primary on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention" (Section 12: Nomination and Election Procedure) conflicted with a previous rule regarding "unit rule", which states "In accordance with the Republican National Committee, no delegate or alternate shall be bound by any attempt of any Congressional District to impose the unit rule." (Section 10: Unit Rule). The claim was that according to the definition in Black's Law Dictionary (?) the section twelve rule violated the section 12 rule. This was dismissed by the chairman, without vote, on the grounds that the rules addressed different parts of the process (section 10 relating to the District level, and section 12 to the national level), and therefore didn't conflict.

2) It was suggested that the line "Motions to amend the Platform shall be in order only if submitted in writing and distributed to all delegates and alternates prior to the presentation of the report of the Platform Committee." should be amended to read "Motions to amend the Platform shall be in order only if submitted in writing and given to the chairperson prior to the presentation of the report of the Platform Committee."
I thought this was a reasonable request. After all, this, the morning of the convention, merely an hour or so ago, was the first time that this draft of the Platform had been made available to us. It seemed ridiculous to expect anyone to be able to read the whole thing, compose an amendment, go out and make 2000 copies and distribute them, before the Platform Committee did their thing in a couple of hours. Especially since we, as delegates were expected to participate in the convention during those hours. I believed that this was designed to negate any opportunity for individuals to question the Party Platform, resulting in something just being railroaded through. So, I voted to change it. I was the only person in my county who stood up. I felt pretty confident about this one though, it was all right there in black and white. A matter of logic and fairness. I'm not sure why, but this is where they really began to turn on me.

The layout of seats within each congressional district section was arranged alphabetically, by county. There were something like 40 seats to each row, and our county filled the last quarter, or so, of one row, and the first few seats of the one behind it, so there was a large separation between our divided segments. I was near the end of the row in front, the club president was somewhere on the other side in the row behind. Though it seemed to me that the vote had pretty clearly gone to the "no" crowd, we were to be standing up and sitting down several times for recounts. After the first vote, the lady to my right asked me why I was voting to change the rule. I told her that the wording was unreasonable and seemed intent on ramming the Platform through with out the possibility of a challenge. She disagreed that we needed to be able to challenge the Platform, explaining that there was a committee that puts it together who know what they're doing, and any changes that anyone would want to have made should have been submitted long ago, somewhere else. I countered with the argument that many, many amendments had been submitted long ago, somewhere else, but nobody knew at this point which of these had been included, rejected, or re-worded. Officially, there had been 170 amendments added, I'm not sure how many were submitted. She was unshaken by this argument, but saw that I was firm in my position, and gave up her counsel. About this time we were preparing for the club president's arrival to take the individually counted vote.

On her way down the row I could hear her proudly telling people about dealing with "that bitch" who kept getting up at the microphone, making motions and asking questions. Apparently, she (the club president) had seated someone who would "really keep her in line" right next to the outspoken "bitch" delegate. I was sitting down when she got to my seat, so she stood over me and asked why I was voting for the rule change. I responded, and a very similar exchange to my last one was made, though she was more insistent that the Platform Committee carefully considers the amendments and doesn't just throw things together. She also explained that the reason the Platform isn't made available before the convention is so the Democrats don't get ahold of it and say bad things about it in the media. I told her "if it's a strong platform we shouldn't have to worry about that", which she didn't seem to like. When called, I stood again, and was counted. The club president worked her way back down the row to her seat, which cued the man to my left to begin talking to me.

The man on my left, I'll call him Bob, and I shared a brief, but significant, history. Two months earlier I had come out of nowhere to attend the county caucus and make an attempt at becoming a delegate (my first foray into politics). I had no idea what to expect, so I just got there early, took a seat and paid attention. The members of the local Republican Club had already decided on the slate of nominees, and I heard several people say that the caucus would probably only last for 30 minutes or so, since they just had to vote that through and go home. As we neared the vote, a man I had talked to earlier in the day stood up and told everyone that there were a couple other people who'd like to be involved. There was some discussion, we (the "other people") spoke to the group briefly, and were considered. After some uncertainty and thrashing about by those in charge, Bob took initiative and stepped down from his delegate position to allow me to take it, resolving the issue. He said he was happy to see a new face, and excited to have some new blood in the party. That's how I got in.

At the convention Bob was not pleased with my choices. He began by telling me that I need to follow the party's lead more, because there are a lot of Democrats trying to sneak into the Republican party and disrupt things. If I could be good for at least a year, donating and volunteering, I might be allowed to start questioning things and expressing my own opinions. "Otherwise, no one is going to respect you", he said. My response, which would have worked very well in a TV movie, was "Well, I could see that they might not like me, but I would think that they would have some respect for me". "No" he quickly countered, "actually, what you're showing me right now is I shouldn't have done what I did for you, and I'll never do it again. I took a lot of grief for doing that." Ugh. Bob was one of the few people from the club/party who seemed reasonable and truly supportive, beyond his allowing me to take his delegate spot, and even after I "insulted" the club president by seeking my own nomination at the district convention. Paranoia about sharp kidney punches crept up my spine as I stood there before him. I told him that I appreciated his sacrifice and was sorry he felt that way about it. I sat back down and he asked me why I was voting for the rule change. In short order, I delivered my side of the debate. To my exasperated surprise he did not rebut my argument, but agreed! What he actually said was, "I think the rule should be changed, but I just don't want to be here all day voting on amendments". I didn't know how to respond to this. The convention was moving on around us and, at the time, his comment just evaporated away. Thinking about it since, I've come up with two comebacks I wish I would have had at the ready:

1) "Why didn't you stay home?" (or the variation) "Maybe next time you should stay home."

2) "Weird. I thought that's what we were here for. That's why I came, anyway. You know, to be involved in the process, to have a real voice and exercise my rights. I relish the opportunity to more directly address our handling of the issues facing our society. I'm sure the gala and exclusive lunch were nice and all (though I didn't pay to get into them), but I thought I was getting involved in a political party, not a social club. Why are you here?"

The voting continued with some committee people being nominated, discussed and elected. I abstained from voting on a couple of these because I was unsure who they were or what they were being elected to do. This elicited another comment from the woman on my right (she was voting regularly), indicating that I wasn't "in lock-step with us on anything". During a lull, she also mentioned that she thought this would be her last convention, and that she had always hoped to go to the national convention, to have "seen them all". I asked if she was going to go this year, and she reminded me that we'd already elected the club president to go. "We always send her", she said. I hadn't forgotten, but I was pretty sure there was room for visitors, and that's what I had meant. This raised a new question for me. "How many times has she gone to the convention?" "Two or three", she answered, I didn't detect any animosity, but maybe a hint of withdrawn sadness. I clarified my previous question, asking if she planned to go this year as a visitor. She didn't think so, and she wasn't sure if that was even possible. I asked Bob if he knew what the rules were regarding visitors at the national convention, because I was thinking about going. "I have no idea", he said. "Do you think you'll go this year?" I asked, assuming he might, as a person of high standing in the local party. "I probably will, but I don't really want to" he sighed.

My stomach was trying to push its way out of my upper chest by the time we got to the main event, the election of National Delegate slates. I knew that I was down a couple friendlies since the beginning of the convention, but things had mellowed between us, and we were at least back on speaking terms. The thought of another lone, against-the-grain vote and its future repercussions made me dizzy. The slates were announced. One was called "The Strong and Faithful Republican Slate", the other was called "The Fiscal Responsibility Slate". The names of delegates on each slate were read, "Strong and Faithful" first. It included Three Senators, the Governor, a Congressman, a gubernatorial candidate, Senator Jim Talent, and in an unexpected twist of the blade, Bob, the man sitting to my left, who, you'll remember, only moments ago had told me he didn't really want to go to the national convention. Ignoring that sad absurdity, they might as well have called it the "Holy Shit! Republican Establishment Slate". The "Fiscal Responsibility Slate" had no notable names of high ranking Republican officials. The merits of each slate were presented by representatives for each. Voters for the "Strong and Faithful" would be voting to maintain their precious status quo (no specific issues were addressed), while voters for "Fiscal Responsibility" would be voting for delegates in support of a return to the upholding of constitutional law, lower taxes, smaller federal government, fiscal responsibility, rational monetary policy, and protection of our national sovereignty, all of which received appreciative applause. The speaker went on to mention that these ideals were held and promoted by congressman, and presidential candidate, Dr. Ron Paul, after which the slate was referred to as "The Ron Paul Slate".

Announcing this was a risky move on his part, because the anti-Paul sentiment had been heavily circulated around the place. I, on several occasions, had overheard concerned whispers about "these Ron Paul people", and there were at least a couple times in which some louder voice would either proudly mock Paul's primary vote percentages, or insert his name into some recycled political joke. There may have been some strategy in this revelation though, as it appeared that most of the convention goers had previously gotten their knowledge of Ron Paul from the aforementioned whispers and amateur punditry, and this honest representation may have awakened a few. Bob surprised me again at this point, saying "a lot of what Ron Paul says is good, but he's just crazy on other issues, like pulling our troops out of Iraq." I was glad that he at least had a reason he could articulate, though I didn't agree that the idea was so crazy. Regardless of the the candidates to be supported, anyone listening to the arguments for each slate should have been able to determine which one actually stood for something, they had equal time to state their cases. Nope, you guessed it, there was overwhelming support for the big names instead. I remained seated while everyone around me rose to their feet. I'm sure I was gritting my teeth. Bob looked down at me and I made a sort of noise, as if to indicate that I was in some physical distress and unable to stand. He saw right through this, and said, "you're voting against the guy who got you here", and I stood up. This may have been my first real step into politics. Selling out. In case you're wondering, I'm not proud of that. I thought about voting for the second slate too, to cancel myself, but I didn't. Instead, I congratulated Bob on his election. I was ready to get the hell out of there. Mercifully, soon it was lunch time.